Suit Up Parents…Our Kids Are Worth It!

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Ahhhh…..the lazy days of summer. Well, not so much lazy as they are relaxed. The mornings begin around seven, but instead of the obnoxious blare of the alarm clock, we wake at our leisure. We would be heading out at 7:30 a.m. for swimming, but, thankfully, it has been rainy and cool so we have skipped it. There have been no lunches to pack nor planners to sign. It feels so good to not feel like I have to be “on the muscle” making sure this assignment is progressing or that vocabulary list of words is understood.

How refreshing it is to not feel distracted by a lengthy laundry list of to-dos, but to actually feel present in conversation regarding the myriad of interests about which my ten-year-old randomly chatters. I can still hear the conversation with my own mother when I was about her same age. I would be rambling on and on about who-knows-what before realizing that she was tuned out. Indignantly I said, “Mom, you aren’t listening to a thing I am saying!” She’d say, “Lauri Ann, you haven’t stopped talking for twenty minutes straight!” It’s so nice to get a little glimpse of what it will be like to be a grandparent who gets to put life aside and enjoy nothing more than the sweet simplicity of their company.

There must be something about sleeping in a parent’s bedroom that makes it extra special. I must admit after three consecutive movie nights in mom and dad’s room, I have declared it to be a Kid Free Zone tonight. I will say that I do enjoy watching a movie laying on the bed, as tight as sardines (yes, after his big sigh, even the 56-pound Portuguese Water Dog snuggles in with us), with everyone laughing together at the funny parts. What I don’t enjoy is when my husband reverts to his younger alter-ego and hands out “monkey bites” where he takes great pleasure grabbing the fleshy part of your thigh and squeezing. The kids do much better than Mom at laughing during this torturous exercise…I get mad. It hurts like the dickens, and this self-proclaimed delicate flower finds no humor in pain.

Though I welcome the break from supervising her rigorous academic calendar, there are still parenting responsibilities that can’t be disregarded. I was reminded of the importance of those details when I was at my daughter’s voice lesson yesterday. Her homework for the week was to read the lyrics of a song on which she is working and articulate them as well and as clearly as she could, both reading them aloud and singing them. We used the dead time driving in the car to go through the exercise.

I told her voice teacher about this and he thought it would be very impactful. I said, “In our culture today, good articulation isn’t stressed. Kids aren’t talking to one another, they’re texting. Sometimes you will see them all sitting at a table together and no one is having a conversation. They could be texting the person sitting next to them. Worse yet, it is even happening at our own dinner tables and parents don’t want to battle their children about their phones (I will be doing a post on kids and cell phones at a later date). If they are talking, they think it sounds hip to say “yeah” instead of “yes” and “What up?” instead of “How are you?” He said, “Kids feel uncomfortable articulating clearly amongst their peers.” I agreed, and told him the same applies to table manners and modesty.



In our house, bad table manners aren’t an option. There is a level of expectation even if the television is on. We have repeated the rhyme “Mabel, Mabel, strong and able, get your elbows off the table!” so often that all we have to do is say, “Mabel” and it works like a charm. Sometimes all I have to do is clear my throat for a little unspoken “Heads up…your chewing with your mouth open.”


Recently, my husband had a great opportunity to show an example to our daughter when they stopped at KFC on the way home from swimming a few nights ago. Some muscle-head from the gym across the street got his food and sat at an adjacent table. He tore into his food like a ravenous bear and Grace literally pointed at him and told my husband, “Dad, look at his horrible table manners!” Of course, then my husband had to correct her on not pointing at others because it TOO falls into the bad manners category, but it was good for her to see first hand how bad table manners look to others.


As for modesty, the boys’ shorts have gotten longer, while the girl’s have gotten shorter… WAY shorter! I have seen shorts and wondered if the inseam was any longer than an inch. Why not wear underwear? They give a whole new meaning to the hot pants of the sixties. Historically, hemlines don’t get longer. It makes me shudder to think about it. I think many parents just get tired of battling their daughters and relent to these fashions. I say suit up! Here is what a concerned father did to discourage his beautiful daughter from wearing her shorts so short…love it! (For the record, I am not married to the man pictured below. I think my husband is the Best. Dad. Ever.)


Though it is nice to have a reprieve from our usual harried schedule, I will continue to fight the good fight, because one day she will be interviewing for a job and will need to articulate clearly. She may someday have to take a customer to dinner to land a big deal and will be able to feel comfortable in the most refined of settings. When she goes to meet the parents of her future husband, she will know that they will be more likely to welcome her to the family if her undies aren’t spilling out of the bottom of her shorts! I guess it’s official…I am old-fashioned!

A Bittersweet Passage

This week, my daughter finished her elementary education, and it has reminded me that our children are really God’s children on loan. Starting out in the womb, every milestone is a step further away from us and closer to their independence. We carry them in our wombs and then give birth; we are separated. They are weaned; we are a little more separated. They begin to crawl, walk, and eventually run, all gradually increased stages of separation. I think with each of these stages come bittersweet sentiments that another chapter in their lives has passed and is written in the history books. We breathe a sigh of relief to see some of these stages end: the early days when they don’t sleep through the night, teething and drooling, the Terrible Twos, the days before they learn to swim when we can’t feel relaxed when they are around water. Other stages, we hate to see come to an end: reading them bedtime stories, holding their hands, girly dresses with ruffles and bows in their hair, T- ball and Tonka trucks.

I am very fortunate to be a stay-at-home mom, so I kept Grace at home with me until one year before she went to kindergarten. Many times, I second-guessed myself because I didn’t put her into pre-K3 or pre-K4 because all the other moms were doing it. Would she be behind academically? Socially? It seems like just yesterday that I was shopping for her first pair of sweet little Mary Jane shoes and lace-trimmed socks for her to wear to school. I remember people asking me If I was going to cry on her first day. I said, “Really??? It’s a preschool! She is only going to be in school for two hours a day, three days a week! How ridiculous!” The big day came, and we were so excited! I walked her into her class room, and we were both grinning from ear to ear! We found her cubby hole where she placed her pink canvas tote embroidered with GRACE on the front. She turned to me, I leaned down, and she squeezed my neck as only she can do, saying, “Bye-bye, Mommy.” That was all she wrote! She bounced off, smiling, looking forward to her new adventure. I, on the other hand, blindly rushed to my car so I wouldn’t publicly fall apart. Who knew? It still brings me to tears as I think about it now.


The next year, she started kindergarten. Again, people asked me if I would cry on the first day. “No way! It is only half-day kindergarten! Plus, I got that out of my system last year.” On her first day of school, I parked the car and walked her to her room. Her lovely, smiling teacher greeted us by the door. We went in to find her desk (she was so excited to have her first desk) and her cubby hole. I gave her a hug, told her I loved her, and walked out the door. Whew, that wasn’t so hard! Her teacher handed me an envelope that had a letter inside. SOOOO…..I opened it. It should have come with a warning! It read something like this:


Again, I blindly raced my car to my car, and eventually, and thankfully, collected myself in the solitude. Thank the Lord for tinted windows! Now that I am entering the much dreaded menopausal state of my life, I have noticed that tears seem to hang out right behind my eyeballs, waiting anxiously to betray me without notice.

Last week, we attended my daughter’s Pathway celebration when the school commemorates the fourth-grade passage from Elementary School to Middle School. The Elementary School principal tearfully gave a tribute. My daughter kept looking at me for signs of any waterworks. I was really proud of myself to keep my composure. Regardless, I had the Kleenex at the ready. Each of the children’s names were announced, then they would hug Principal Past, walk under the archway adorned with green and purple balloons, continue toward the Middle School, and shake the hand of Principal Future. We ended the ceremony in the Middle School cafeteria where the kids enjoyed an ice cream social. This is a stage to which I am sad to say goodbye.


One of my favorite things about the elementary school was testing children
on their Bible Memory Verses. Hearing God’s words in a child’s voice is beyond precious. Every Friday the children in Pre-K3 thru 4th grades would gather for chapel. Sitting behind 400 children not only singing songs about Jesus, but doing it in sign language as well was, more often than not, too much for this bladder-eyes to take. There weren’t many chapels that I sat through that didn’t require a Kleenex. I remember one chapel in particular, when the kids were singing and signing The Revelation Song (tears) before the showing of a video of a football team being taught a life lesson (more tears). I looked at the lady sitting next to me, and she also had tears streaming down her face. I gave her a Kleenex from my purse and asked, “What’s next….Brian’s Song???”

Gone are the days of the backwards 3s, 5s, and Es. No more new boxes of crayons to open up and deeply smell( I love that sweet fragrance…it reminds me of innocence and being a little girl). Left behind are the happy little smiley faces and “WOW!”s on her worksheets. Time to break out the scraper to peel off the old, stubborn tape remnants that were used to proudly display her sweet handprint art (turkeys, Christmas angels, and shamrocks) on the refrigerator doors.


Now, we are off to Middle School. Hello, hormonally-driven mood swings, braces, and pimples! Here comes the girl drama, not to be outdone, I am sure, by the boy drama! It’s time to steel myself for the plethora of adolescent issues that will have to be addressed so I don’t go completely insane! I just hope there’s enough Chardonnay to get me through it!


By Not Giving Honest Feedback, Are We Creating Generations of Wimps?


My daughter had a swim meet this weekend. After every event, she excitedly strolled over to her coach to check in. Her coach would tell her what she did well (ear-to-ear grin), point out any weaknesses in her stroke (shoulders slump), and conclude with a high five telling her, “Nice job!” She then came to check in with my husband and me and she said, “How did I do?” WELLLLLLLLL….We too would tell her she did very well at some aspects of the swim, point out her areas for improvement, and tell her nice job. However, after one of the heats in particular, as I was telling her things that she could work on, she said, “Mom, are you criticizing me?” (She is so clever). “Well, yes, I guess I am. I would rather call it feedback. I have already told you how well I think you did. I also told you how proud I am of you. Regardless, you still have areas to improve. Mommy and Daddy give each other feedback, ahem, on a regular basis.” (Of course, I am not about to let her know that neither of us readily accept it. She will figure that out on her own at a later date.) Why is it that her coach can give her feedback, but if we tell her anything, it is criticism? As individuals, why do we take feedback from employers, customers, etc. more receptively than a spouse or parent, who loves us and truly has our best interest in mind. We bristle with defensiveness often retaliating by pointing out one of their flaws.

In our “everyone-gets-a-trophy” culture, are we doing a disservice to our children by not allowing them to receive an honest evaluation of their performance? Taking it a step further, are we preventing them from experiencing disappointment thus disallowing them to learn essential coping skills they will need throughout adolescence and even adulthood. Without feedback, how are we to get any better? I believe these actions are creating generations of wimps. To my point, in recents months, I heard of schools that were no longer going to have special receptions honoring those who achieved academic excellence, because they didn’t want the other children to feel bad. BOO HOO!!!! WORK HARDER OR GET OVER IT!!!


A lack of feedback, i.e. not giving a trophy to the best prepared team, can potentially disincentivize individuals from giving their very best effort. If they know beforehand that they are going home with the same hardware as everyone else, what is the motivation to bring your “A” game? It reminds me of an interview I watched where college kids, having grown up in this culture of everyone getting the same regardless of performance (i.e. wealth redistribution), being asked if they would mind averaging their grades with others who didn’t do as well. For example, would an “A” student mind taking a “C” because another student, who made an “F” hadn’t made a good decision to study and prepare himself for a test, but, instead, decided to stay up all night partying like a rock star? The looks of shock on their faces were priceless. There was a mixture of flabbergasted horror and incredulity. “No way! I earned that grade!” Interestingly enough, having had no real life experience, they don’t equate that scenario with the progressive income tax rate. Due to Liberal indoctrination and propaganda, many college students believe those who have made good decisions, studied hard, taken great risk, and worked their whole life sacrificing family time and even their own health to achieve comfort in their later years should “pay their fair share”.

My husband does everything with high energy and great attention to detail. He is particular about keeping a well groomed yard. He is the lawn guy, I am in charge of keeping watch over the flower beds. A couple of years ago, we opted to pay a more expensive landscaping company because their reputation warranted it. He came home recently from a meeting and the landscaping crew were there working. He wanted to discuss a few brown, bare spots that were randomly scattered in our lawn. Mind you, he schedules his day such that there isn’t a lot of leeway in between one task and the next. In his dress shirt and slacks, he walked around the yard pointing out different things that were concerning him about the lawn. For him, he was just checking off his mental list of areas that he wanted to be addressed.


A few days later, my husband received a text from the owner of the landscaping firm telling him that his employee felt my husband had berated him, and his employees will not be subjected to such treatment. Granted, I usually am the one dealing with the crew and have more of a warm-fuzzy personality; he is more direct. I am more about relationships, he is more about finishing a task….we complement each other well that way. For example, it takes me thirty minutes to say my farewells at a party; it takes him 5 minutes tops.

Luckily, I was outside watering my flowers, so I heard the tone of the conversation. My husband was merely giving feedback to an employee of a landscaping firm that he pays considerable money to maintain our yard and landscaping. He didn’t make it personal. Doesn’t he have the right to give input? Are people so thin-skinned that they cannot accept it as an opportunity to improve? In the workplace, most employers give an annual review assessing your performance for the previous twelve months. If there is an area that the boss thinks needs improvement, you either get better or get overlooked for a raise or a promotion. In a worse case scenario, you get demoted or get your walking papers.

Feedback, a.k.a. criticism, is a necessary element to a productive and thriving society. We should all put on our big boy/girl pants, sift through the information, and use what applies to become our best selves. Come to think of it, maybe we should think about an annual review in our marriages. Just kidding! I somehow don’t think that it will lead to matrimonial harmony or bliss.

Psssst…Can You Keep a Secret????

Psssst….don’t tell anyone, but my daughter went to Fourth Grade Camp and I miss her already. How is it possible? How many times have I silently longed for a break from the tedious responsibility, the endless chatter, and the countless questions? It has only been ten hours, and I have smelled her pajamas before I threw them into the washing machine! I already miss pulling up to the carpool line and seeing her beautiful smiling face as she proudly waves a paper blazing a brightly circled grade of 100. I miss her getting into the car and me asking her how her day went. She cheerfully responds, “Fine, thank you. How was yours? Tell me all about it. I want to hear every detail.” “Wow! Grace, that is so sweet of you. You are really becoming quite the lovely young lady!” Seconds later, the light bulb goes off, and I say, “Grace, did you get a bad grade?” The purge then begins.

She was so excited to go to camp. It is a rite of passage for every fourth grader. As soon as the packing list was sent home in her classroom mail, she anxiously awaited gathering all she needed for the excursion. By the time it was all said and done, her bag was the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. The camp said that they are a bed bug free camp and they will put the childrens’ bags in a heated room to make sure there are no bed bugs that enter the camp. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?????? IS THERE A CHANCE THAT SOME CRAZILY INDESTRUCTIBLE BEDBUGS HAVE AN AFFINITY FOR WARMER THAN AVERAGE TEMPERATURES??? Of course, a friend mentioned that they have no tornado emergency plan, SO as the currently massive storm system trudges across the area, it makes me a little nervous to think that my baby is exposed to the elements (of course, they are staying in air-conditioned cabins…not exactly roughing it). It was especially disconcerting when I recently stepped out of the shower to hear the severe weather sirens shrieking with alarm.

My mom was just visiting and I took her to the airport this afternoon. She said, “Enjoy your day tomorrow. Indulge yourself. You won’t get many days like this. Try not to get too lonely.” I thought, “Right.” She wasn’t even talking about today, she was talking about tomorrow. How pathetic am I???? It reminds me of how I feel when my husband goes out of town to a convention in Las Vegas. I look forward to the break, but as soon as he leaves the area code, I start missing him and look very forward to his return. Amazingly, as I sit and write this, the silence in the house is deafening. My husband is at a meeting and the dog has been fed. I am joining my girlfriend for dinner in twenty minutes. I finish getting dressed, and I look over to my bedside table and I see a picture of Grace dressed in her very first Halloween costume practically illuminated in its frame. I think it is God telling me to slow down and hold those who are dear very close. Enjoy these days because they are flying by in a blink. The last ten years have been a blur; I have no doubt the next ten will appear to pass even more quickly. As they say…Life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer you get to the end, the faster it goes.


Swiper, No Swiping!

Let’s face it…it doesn’t take long for children to learn that if they are at risk of punishment and they bend the truth a little, i.e. lie, it keeps them from realizing consequences. As egocentric and selfish as our little angels can be, they can become little masters at nudging the truth to get what they want. If it isn’t nipped in the bud, is it a sign that there are bright orange jumpsuits in their futures? Knowing that little children are notorious fabricators of fiction, should we accept it as a commonality and overlook some of their twisted tales, choosing instead to “pick our battles”? I can clearly remember telling stories when I was little, and, just as clearly, my mom flipping out and exacting a tough penalty. Thankfully, at some point in my maturation, I evolved into someone who abhors dishonesty, sneakiness, and manipulation. Did it happen when I became an independent adult and could do as I please? Was it because I no longer had the need to twist the truth to get my way?

This past Saturday night, I sent Grace to bed at 11:00. After reading my e-mail, I went to check on her to make sure she was all tucked in. The little stinker was laying there with my still-lit iPad (the screen shuts off in 20-30 seconds) pretending to be asleep. I took the iPad without saying anything. The next morning, I told her that she had lost the privilege of using it and my iPhone for the week because she didn’t go to bed when I asked. It was a pretty minor offense, but if there isn’t a consequence, why would she bother with obedience the next time? She said, “Mom, I was asleep!” After demonstrating how quickly the screen shuts off, I said, “Look at me. Do you think I am stupid???” My very literal child said, “No Mom! If I thought you were stupid, I would tell you!” I told her that she might sadly find herself on the losing end of that statement. During my daughter’s swim practice a couple of nights ago , I relayed the story to another mom. She said, “Good for you! I can’t make it more than a couple of hours before I give in and return their devices so I can have my peace and quiet!”

Teaching a child lessons about honesty takes firm tenacity and follow-thru.
A few summers ago, my husband, daughter and I went to visit his family to celebrate the Fourth of July. His dad and stepmom have a lovely lake-front home with irreplaceable towering shade trees that are worthy of a silent prayer for protection during a violent storm. They are very old and sprawling, offering the perfect amount of shade and respite from the blazing sun on a hot summer day. There is a sandy beach that has traditionally been the source of hours of entertainment for high school buddies, college kids, and in more recent years, grandchildren. One child, Cameron, had brought with him little cars that were modeled after the clever characters in the animated film Cars. The kids would bury them and then dig them back up, only to bury them in another spot.

When it was time for Cameron to leave, he was very sad to realize that two of his cars went missing. Grace said she buried the cars and they must be under the sand. From the deck, I looked out as her dad, her grandfather and Cameron’s mom were raking the beach in an effort to find the missing toys. Dripping with sweat, they raked one spot after another while Grace stood by pointing to different areas trying to direct them to the sunken treasures. After 30-45 minutes, they gave up and decided the missing objects would eventually reappear. They eventually reappeared alright… God works in beautiful and mysterious ways.

Early the following October, my husband “suggested” that we get rid of some of the old sporting equipment in the substantial and overflowing toy bin in the garage. There were old footballs and basketballs that were low on air, old baseball gloves and bats, including a Dora the Explorer softball set (it is always a little sad letting go of old toys). I think when I went to Goodwill, I dropped off 10 balls, 3 bats, rubber baseball bases, etc. This toy bin was like the great abyss. When I reached the bottom of the bin, I saw two little toy cars. I would have thought they were remnants of my stepson’s youth, but the cars had eyes eerily familiar to those from Cars. As a matter of fact the one car had “SHERIFF” on its doors. EUREKA…I have found them!!!!


When I came back into the house, I could hear my little angel singing happily in the shower, while my husband was on the back patio enjoying a magazine. When I explained to him that I found the missing cars from Fourth of July, I asked what he thought we should do. (I am a little ashamed to admit, I am still quite impressed with her marked stealthiness. I think I see a bright future for her in the CIA.) He suggested that because there were two cars that she took that were someones favorites, we take two things that she holds near and dear. I thought it was ingenious and couldn’t wait to confront my beautiful little liar.

I went into her bathroom where she was gleefully belting out a tune while gallons upon gallons of hot water wastefully ran down the drain. She was drawing sweet little stick figures on the steamy glass doors. I said, “Grace, do you have any idea who these cars belong to?” Looking like she was seeing a ghost, her smile faded as she said, “No. I have no idea.” I said, “Really? If I were to send pictures of these darling little toys to Cameron and ask if he recognized them, do you think he would say no?” She stepped out of the shower, draped a towel across herself and stood there like a deer in the headlights dripping a small pool on the floor. The dams burst, and she cried, “I am so sorry Mom! I was a lot younger then!” Vacillating between anger and laughter, I said, “Grace, that was only three months ago!” I had to regain my resolve because she did look pretty pathetic. I steeled myself and said, “Hmmmm. Because you took two of Cameron’s toys that he really liked, your dad and I are going to take two toys that you really like. Would you like to help me pick them out, or would you like me to do it myself?” She hung her head and dejectedly said, “I will help you.”

Of course, the items she wanted to give up wouldn’t have made her flinch or leave any impression. I said, “Nope, those aren’t going to be painful enough for you to lose.” Resignedly, she gave me her green puppy; it is her lovey that she sleeps with still to this day. I scanned her room and landed upon the much-awaited, mail-order Geisha Girl Halloween costume that she had proudly draped across her chair. I pointed to it and said, “That is mine.” Still soaking wet with the towel draped across her, she wailed, “NO!!!!!! Not my Geisha costume!!!!! I love it!” I said, “I am sure that Cameron LOVED his cars that you thought you needed to take from him.”



After letting her stew on it for a a couple of weeks, I said, “Here’s the deal…(after doing this for years, I have created quite a keen negotiator…I think I am going to have my work cut out for me). You may earn them back ONLY after you write a letter of apology to Molly, your dad, and Grandpa telling them what you did, and that you are very sorry for making them rake the beach when you knew that they weren’t really buried in the sand. You need to wrap the cars up so that we can mail them back to Cameron with a letter of apology. When all of those letters are finished and in the mail, AND I feel that you are truly sorry, I will let you have them back. If it isn’t done by Halloween, I guess you won’t be going as a Geisha Girl. Until then, they are mine.”


I sent a text to all of those involved, letting them know what had been discovered and signed off as “Swiper’s Mom”. She took her punishment and paid the “fine”. In retrospect, that I found those two little cars in the dark recesses of that toy bin all those months later was truly a gift. Who knows, maybe it saved my little dumpling from a future life of high crimes and misdemeanors.


A Day Off…in the Life of a Mom


The past three weeks for me have been a crazy pace. Those with high energy love to have a schedule that is booked to the max. They spring like a pinball from one appointment to the next, not allowing a lot of leeway for any deviations. For example, when my husband and I were interested in having a child, I had some anatomy issues that could possibly have caused complications. To eliminate sterility as an obstacle in our getting pregnant, the doctor recommended we get “his count”. Who but an overachiever would book a haircut fifteen minutes after his scheduled appointment for leaving “a specimen” at the doctor’s office twelve miles away???? Talk about performance anxiety!!!!! Unlike my husband, I do NOT like an overstuffed calendar. I don’t mind it occasionally, but these past few weeks have been an avalanche of commitments. I felt that I finished with one week and took a big sigh only to look at my calendar and have to suit up for the following seven days. The alarm would go off, I’d trudge to the kitchen to put on a pot of coffee and the whirlwind would begin.

Almost every afternoon my daughter finishes her school day, she has anywhere between one to three lessons based on a myriad of extracurricular activities that include swimming, piano, voice, ballet, choir, and competitive dance. We also have to regularly and consistently practice her piano and voice as well as stay on top of any homework she may have. By the time we get home, between 7:30 and 8:00 every weeknight, I am pooped! If my day has been filled with appointments that are beyond my normal household chores, it is safe to say that when I finally, and thankfully, get home, any enthusiasm for creating a family supper has waned.

My daughter loves those foods that all kids enjoy so she starts to hound me about the dinner menu as soon as we get in the car and are heading for home. “Mom, I’m starving!!!! What’s for supper? Can we have pizza? How about homemade cheeseburgers?” Many nights, when we come lumbering through the door, my husband has finished working and is anxiously waiting for us so we can spend family time together. Don’t get me wrong, I love family time. Perhaps, I’d be a little more enthusiastic myself if I hadn’t been doing it for most of my day. He runs his business out of the house, so I get to do family time when he is home even though we don’t necessarily engage one another very much. I have family time with our daughter driving her all over town as she pursue all things Grace. As a matter of fact, as I write this, I am doing a little family time here and now breathing in my dog’s rancid gas that he just passed while lying right here on the floor next to me. UGH!!!

Last night, enjoying a glass of Chardonnay and a moment of solitude with my iPad in my bedroom, my husband, who had been hitting golf balls, came home, walked to the back of the house and said, (in one breath I might add), “What are you doing? What’s for dinner? You need to bathe Jax before we go to my parents house, because he stinks.” I smiled at him, took a sip of wine, and he left the room. Shortly thereafter, I walked to the kitchen and my husband asked, “What’s up? Is there something wrong?” I said, “No. I am just really tired. I am really ready for a break. It has been nonstop for the past three weeks.” He said, “That is what achievers do; they work nonstop. (Make me gag!!!) But the good news is that you have the day off tomorrow so you can just relax.” His words gave me pause. Our daughter was off school today so I didn’t have to drive her to school or pick her up, agreed. But having the day off??? Do mothers ever really have a day off unless they are out of town without kids? So on my “day off”, I decided to keep track of all those things that I did.

Under the best of circumstances, I am not much of a morning person. As a matter of fact, growing up, my mother hung a picture in my room that said, “Start Each Day in a Happy Way”. At 6:45 a.m. this morning, the alarm went off and my husband wanted to snuggle with me. He remarked about the pleasant sound of the birds chirping outside our bedroom window. I opened one eye, looked out the window, and murmured something unintelligible in agreement. He said, “I’m not getting a lot of feedback here.” Duh! It is before 7:00 a.m. and I do not have to get up early. I thought I was doing well to even grunt something positive about the birds! I really wasn’t feeling it! I came out to the kitchen and our daughter was watching Sam and Cat on Nickelodeon with all the artificial, canned laughter. Really??? At 7:00 a.m.??? I put on my coffee and made them both a hot breakfast. I made my husband scrambled eggs with jalapeño sausage and fresh avocado and my daughter requested a cheese omelet with half of a toasted bagel and cream cheese.

After feeding them both, I cleaned the kitchen and then threw down some Greek yogurt and a granola bar while writing a bio for an upcoming Board position at my daughter’s school . I went outside, filled the bird feeders and removed our dog’s “mines” left scattered randomly on the back lawn so they wouldn’t be squashed into the grass when the mowers came later that afternoon. I went back inside, made my bed and then bathed my dog that apparently had leftover “eau de vomit” wafting from his furry self. I thought I had taken care of the problem when I washed his face with some Bath & Body Works Warm Vanilla Sugar foamy hand soap (he didn’t look like he was very fond of it), but according to my husband, he still reeked. After bathing him in the Jacuzzi tub, I dried him thoroughly, and then had to clean the tub and surrounding area to get it back to its original state. I got the first of five loads of laundry started before heading out the door to Costco with our daughter Grace.

I didn’t have much to get at the wholesale store, but when we arrived, I spotted hibiscus trees that I wanted to put in my flower pots outside. I picked out three and then added three small boxwood plants to put in my newly extended flower bed out back. After what seemed to be an interminable winter, the thought of getting my hands in the dirt and seeing colorful flowers blooming was too powerful an urge to resist! As I was checking out at the register, one of the kind gentlemen working there offered his assistance with getting them to my car. As we approached my vehicle, I realized I was in a bit of a quandary: 1.) I had forgotten that I had brought my 55 pound freshly bathed black furry burpbag…I mean pooch (I’m still not happy with him vomiting on the rug). 2.) My car is much smaller than those I have had in years past. Seeing my dilemma, the man chuckled, scratched his head, and said, “I need to get back inside.”


Because it is a new car, I had to call the dealership to figure out how to remove a retractable cargo screen that was prohibiting my progress. As they say, where there’s a will, there’s a way. Once Grace and I loaded the car with the three trees and three bushes, we went back in to have lunch. After lunch, we drove to Kroger to pick up the items that we were unable to find at Costco. We finally got home and unloaded the overstuffed car. What an absolute mess!!! Luckily, I keep extra blankets and towels to throw down to keep those kinds of mini disasters somewhat contained. I brought the groceries into the house only to realize that I had forgotten to get the blueberries at Kroger because they didn’t have any at Costco. They always have blueberries at Costco!!! What’s up with that? I hopped in the car, flew through the produce section and was back in no time.

Finally, I was able to start the Blueberry Sour Cream Coffee cake to take to my inlaws for Easter. It came out of the oven beautifully, and then I cleaned the kitchen. I folded my forth load of laundry before going outside to start putting the trees in the pots. When I got finished planting the last of the trees in its pot and watering them thoroughly, I put everything in the garage and then got started on dinner. I cleaned up the kitchen and then sat down to play a little Words with Friends…Though I feel worn out, there is nothing better than having a day off…I highly recommend it!!!!


Today, I Turn Fifty and My Cup Runneth Over.


Wow…today I turn fifty years old. This week I have felt so sentimental having flashes of images of those who have crossed my path at one time or another. I have found myself humming the song that Paul Anka sang years ago titled “The Times of Your Life”. In 1975, he wrote the song as a jingle for a Kodak commercial showing a life through pictures. Though I have had some parts of my life that were painful, I have such a sense of gratitude this week as I look back on my first five decades.

First, I am so grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who has sacrificed His Son to forgive my sins, because Lord knows there have been plenty. I mean, really…how great is it that He loves us in spite of our many imperfections??? I also thank Him for His guiding hand in helping me to make great decisions, whether popular or not, that have gotten me to exactly the place I have found myself.

To my parents:  I am grateful for raising me to be responsible, caring, and loving toward others. To my mother:  I am eternally grateful for the example you have given me. Your ever-present, loving hand has always been close to help guide me through good times and bad. You have taught me a true appreciation of beauty through relationships with others, music and art, and things as simple as the smell of rain. Because of you, I can throw a mean dinner party or stay up all night sculpting cupcakes that look like schnauzers, dachshund hounds, Yorkshire terriers, or miniature poodles for your five-year-old grandaughter’s kindergarten birthday celebration. I thank you for the gift of all the meals you cooked leaving a legacy of showing others love through the labor of cooking. My cup runneth over…


I have been blessed with a brother that felt an innate need to protect and defend a whiney little sister that aggravated him beyond words. Amazingly, he has been one of my biggest cheerleaders and always one of the first to celebrate any milestone that I may have achieved. Mark, you are truly a gift.

To my husband, David: My gratitude for you runs deep. When you already had two children, you thankfully chose to have another child with me. Before I had a child and realized the immense responsibility associated with parenting, I didn’t know how great a sacrifice I was asking of you. True to your nature, you stepped up to the mound and threw a perfect game!  I am blessed to be parenting such an amazing little girl with you. You took a leap of faith, and she has not been a disappointment! I greatly admire your commitment to me and our family.  We are extremely fortunate to have you as our Commander in Chief.


To my friends and family, I am so blessed to have shared wonderful and memorable moments with you. These fifty years have flown by quickly. I thank you for sharing your time with me and mostly for the joyous memories that I have deep within my heart and soul. To those I haven’t yet shared time with, hopefully a future son-in-law or a grandchild, I look very forward to making treasured memories with you.

Lastly, to my beautiful daughter Grace: I made a wish, and YOU came true! After having nearly forty years of what was almost a storybook life, God and your dad, gave me the greatest gift of my life. You are loving and kind; you are determined and tenacious. You are teaching me to be the best me that I could be. Just like with my mom, I find holding your hand to be a privilege and a reminder of how we are with one another only fleetingly. I go to bed at night and thank God for my many blessings and especially for you. “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like for always. As long as your living, my baby you’ll be.”


It Was a Perfect Day NOT to Feed My Dog Brown Rice and Quinoa!

The day started out beautifully! I woke feeling rested, didn’t have to wake to an alarm, and got a shower before having to meet anyones needs. Awesome! Our morning was of the usual sort: scrambled eggs, oatmeal, and fruit. I packed a PB&J lunch for my daughter then drove her to school. I then came home and got dressed for my busy day. My husband and I shared a lovely lunch in downtown Cincinnati enjoying relaxed conversation over a delicious, split, grilled Cuban panini sandwich with a juicy, crunchy, dill pickle and Harvest Cheddar Sun Chips. We shared light, flirtatious, conversation before a scheduled meeting with an attorney to discuss Living Wills and Power of Attorneys…all that good stuff no one likes to address. We stopped in Saks Fifth Avenue to kill some time before our appointment, and it was a markedly relaxed moment that is all too rare in our busy day-to-day lives. Fantastic!

He had a meeting downtown so we drove separately. I retrieved my car at the valet and in my romantic glow, went shopping for a snazzy new set of readers; some people refer to them as cheaters. It is heck when you have to squint to see the print on a page. Luckily, they do have some pretty darn cute glasses to ease the pain of wearing ” granny glasses”. UGH!!!! I tried a few pairs on, but I haven’t found any that scream “You Sexy Thang!” Undeterred and undefeated, I left Nordstrom and drove to pick up my daughter from school. Of course, she was not curbside but MIA. After another circle through the carpool line, lo and behold, THERE SHE WAS!!!

We attended her 30-minute piano lesson, then dashed off to her swim practice. Knowing my husband was still downtown at a CEO Roundtable meeting that was adjourning around five o’clock, I sent him a text inviting him to come to her swim lesson because I love her new coach’s enthusiasm and dedication to teaching, and he hadn’t seen her before. Again, the day was just awesome! He came to the practice, our daughter lit up like a Christmas tree at his presence, and she amped up her level of effort. It was all good!!!

Our church this weekend spoke of an outreach initiative that involved making a sacrifice of eating beans and rice for a week and pooling that money to help solve problems like the heroin epidemic, the sex slave trade in India amongst other things. It is truly a wonderful way to use resources from which we, in our indulgent day-to-day existence, can seamlessly refrain. Feeling great!!! We got home from swimming and threw together a dinner of packets of brown rice with quinoa, leftover grilled shrimp shish kebobs with red onions and red and yellow peppers and black beans. We dressed it all up with sour cream and Frank’s Hot Sauce and Tabasco. Honestly, it tasted awesome! We were saying, “This isn’t so bad!” Granted, this was only day one of six. Stay tuned for more to come!

The unexpected twist of the evening happened when my husband went to throw away a near-empty packet of the brown rice and quinoa from which we had eaten. I asked if it was empty. He even said, “I will show this to you against my better judgement.” He said, “There is MAYBE a little over a tablespoon in here.” I said, “Okay…you’re right. Not very much in there. Throw it away. You know how I feel about “waste not, want not”. He then proceeded to call our Portuguese Water Dog, Jax, who is known for loving food though it doesn’t always love him, to serve duty as “the clean up man”. He dumped that tablespoon of brown rice with quinoa onto the floor and Jax enthusiastically licked it up with great relish. After dinner, we cleaned up the kitchen, and then we moved on to making sure Grace’s schoolwork was finished. Again, a Norman Rockwell moment! It doesn’t get any better than this! My husband excused himself to the bedroom to wind up his evening, and my daughter and I were sharing some quiet moments finishing up her math work. All of a sudden, I heard it, and IT wasn’t a good sign!

If you have a dog or cat, you are all too familiar with the sound of them vomiting. It is distinguishable and unmistakeable!  I have been known to wake from a dead sleep, run across the mattress, and leap from the bed doing a tuck-and-roll while dragging the spewing dog with me to the tile.  I will do just about anything so as not to have to clean the bilious yellow stain from the carpet. So…that said, at the end of my nearly perfect day, not that I expect them in my mature way of thinking, when I heard that ghastly sound coming from the other room, I knew exactly what it was, and I was NOT in time. I ran to the other room and grabbed him before he could make more than one spot. Before me stood a yellow stain with brown rice and quinoa. I stood over my new little task and assertively said, I LOVE CEANING DOG VOMIT!!! I LOVE CLEANING DOG VOMIT!!! I LOVE CLEANING DOG VOMIT!!! I then heard my husband close the bedroom door. It was just me and my stain ready to do battle…AGAIN! Note to self: if I have a little over a tablespoon of brown rice and quinoa leftover, THROW IT AWAY…DON’T FEED IT TO THE DOG!!!! 20140415-231441.jpg

Family Snapshots: No Airbrushing Here, Folks…Purely Unadulterated Truth!

20140411-142338.jpg                   20140411-142955.jpgWriting this blog has given me more joy than I ever could have imagined. I have been able to reflect on some very dear memories of times that have gone by in a blink. Part of it has been to go through some old family photos to use as little visuals that help to paint the images of these captured snapshots of my life. Sifting through can be painful if you are going through a difficult time. It can also be a delightful reminder of happier times, especially if you are in the throes of teenager madness. Something that I have noticed in flipping through 50 years worth of photos is the fantastic documentary that comes to life.20140411-142404.jpg       20140411-142824.jpgTo say the least, being a new mother just short of forty was a rude awakening. Who knew how demanding and stressful parenting could be? I had years of babysitting under my belt! What else was there to know? I had the adult thing down pat, but parenting??? Holy Cow, Batman!!!! To create a perfect storm of tension in my early years of motherhood, my husband worked out of the house (still does), and he had two children from a previous marriage. I loved his children dearly and was thankful for the segue into what was soon to become the biggest responsibility I had ever known. We had visitation every other weekend and one night during the week. On those weekends, we would mix it up with having family game night, catching the latest kid flick, and sometimes it would be eating fondue or pulling homemade taffy. It was for the most part a “fun” environment on those weekends. Creating rules and structure in blended families can prove to be quite difficult, especially if one house believes in a more stringent code of conduct than the other. Therefore, our efforts at discipline were mostly focused on merely instilling table manners. It was ideal for me, because I felt exhausted and stressed a large part of the time. 20140411-142840.jpg   20140411-142622.jpgWith a first child, a new mother doesn’t know all the tricks of the trade like those who are more seasoned. When Grace would cry, I would go through a mental checklist: Diaper? Check! Hungry? Check! Why is she still crying? I felt extra tension because her nursery was only a foyer and a flight of stairs away from my husband’s office. As if that didn’t create enough angst, when our daughter Grace was a year old, we decided to throw in a rambunctious, VERY SMART Portuguese Water Dog puppy, Jax, to befriend MY child from a previous marriage: a loveable 14-year-old, deaf, blind Shih Tzu named Scooby. At times, I wasn’t sure if there was enough Chardonnay to get me through such a blissful stage! Yikes! The doorbell would ring, the dogs would start barking, it would wake the baby and she would be crying, my husband would be on an important conference call looking at me with blood squirting from his eyeballs…sip, sip, gulp, ahhhhhh! Is it really only 10:00 a.m.???? Darn, this wine tastes good with coffee!!!!” Just kidding! I never had to resort to that, but you get the picture! 20140411-142636.jpg   20140411-142801.jpgI think it would be safe to say that I am not the first parent to lay awake at night wondering if I handled this situation right or feeling that I was too stern handling that situation. I have questioned myself many times, especially now that I am in full correcting mode of a “tween”. Am I squashing my child’s spirit by making her be too responsible or too accountable? “After all”, I tell myself, “She is only ten.” Shaking that doubt from my mind, I quickly snap back into reality. When she exhibits greater signs of responsibility, I feel affirmation in choosing to take the firmer path.

The years have whizzed by, and I look back and remember myself not being a very relaxed mother. My memory is of Grace not being a smiley child because of my feeling stressed. In my search through all of these old pictures, a different story is told. I honestly and tearfully said out loud, “She was a smiley baby!” It was so comforting to see that the images that I had wrongly painted in my mind weren’t anything like those before me. The same applies to teenagers. Teenagers don’t like to have to adhere to rules of any kind, especially if there is a path of least resistance to which they can turn. Family pictures often show such a smiling, happy, cohesive family until the teenage years. What changes? Do fathers and mothers morph into unbearable, unrecognizable monsters, or do hormones cloud a teenager’s reasoning? With great certainty, having been a teenager, I say the latter.


I have often said that if I had had a second child, I would have been much more relaxed. With additional experience and motherly wisdom, I would have realized that all those little stages are only temporary; each one offers a unique perspective of selflessness and even an opportunity for gratitude. Nowadays, in the early morning hours when I am lying awake and full of second guesses, I have a new reel of smiling photos flashing through my mind that brings a smile to my heart and gives me determination to stay the course. That…and the sweet sound of a ten-year-old’s lilting voice as now that baby’s cries have been replaced with a lovely, indistinguishable melody (my guess is that it involves a mermaid).

My Mother has Been Abducted by Aliens!


I am extremely blessed to have a very close relationship with my mom. She has been my best friend now for about the last 27 of my near 50 years. I arrive at that number, because she hasn’t always held that position. Before our relationship evolved, she held a much more important status…mother. She was, and is, an excellent example of the mother I strive to be. She was certainly no pushover and was always a little skeptical, justifiably I might add, of whether or not I was telling the truth. Sadly, I was horribly inept at adopting a poker face. I just learned it was never worth it; she always knew! To this date, it is probably why I hate anything to do with lying!

During my daughter’s school year, my mom and I have a little ritual. I drop my daughter off at school and then, before leaving the parking lot, I ask my phone to “Call Sandy!” After the usual niceties, we get down to business. I share what transpired in the 24 hours since we last spoke. It isn’t always that long, because I sometimes call her on my way back to school just to check in. Some days it is a conversation in which I lament; other times, I laugh with her while sharing funny stories about something that my daughter has done. Many times, they are more than familiar to us as flashbacks to MY childhood.

As a matter of fact, this morning I was sharing with her about the pleasant and ambient music that filled my ears during the car ride. This quarter at school, the much-awaited Recorder Karate has begun, and my daughter was diligently practicing the oh-so-beloved instrument trying to breeze her way through the white belt, bypassing the yellow, and getting her hands on the prized orange belt. My, my…she is such an overachiever! Now, I have a LOVE of music! The only music I can say I truly abhor is Rap (although, I’m not gonna lie…I fondly remember roller skating to Rapper’s Delight! What the heck happened ?) I can so remember my own thrill when I came of age and finally got to play the recorder! Regardless of my excitement then, I truly do not hear any musicality when it is played…pure cacophony!

When I talk with my mom about something for which I corrected Grace , she will sometimes cheer me on. If it is a safety issue, she won’t hesitate to say, “Honey, you are absolutely right! She has no business being out after dark!” Yeah Mom!!! If Grace gives me a hard time about having to practice her piano, “Honey, you can’t give up! Stay the course!” Yeah Mom!!! If it is about her eating a cupcake with orange icing and getting it all over her pink fleece coat, “Gracie, was that delicious, or what???” When she wore a brand new neon green outfit to play by the lake and ruined it after wiping a dirt-covered stick all over her pants, I said, “What were you thinking wearing that to play down by the lake???? It is ruined!!!!!! You have Georgia clay all over it!!!! Do you know how hard it is to get Georgia clay out of laundry????” ( I am estimating this was about a 3 on the Medusa scale, and Grace stood looking horrified that I had become so upset.) My mom looking like she was ready to cry for my daughter said, “Honey, she is just a little girl.” What??? “Who are you? What have you done with my mother?” At times when I have had to scold my daughter, this woman, who has an amazing likeness to my mother (she even wears the same fragrance), has been known to be in a heap,wringing her hands, ready to cry for my little naughty pants! She shows so much empathy toward my precious little rapscallion!

I have come to the conclusion that my mother has been abducted by aliens! For several years now, I have stealthfully tried to catch her when she isn’t looking, knowing that at some point I am going to catch a glimpse of green skin. For the life of me, she has been really good at keeping up the disguise. Come to think of it, I noticed the change that very first night at the hospital. My mom stayed with me in the hospital after I had Grace, and I am convinced that is precisely when it happened! It must have been when I dozed off!


She is definitely not the same woman that made sure that I didn’t eat a snack that might ruin my dinner: “Honey, she is hungry. She is so active!” or “Oh Honey, you don’t like squash? No worries, get some more mashed potatoes and gravy!” If my child sees a Barbie that she “has to have” because it is from the movie “Barbie Fairytopia: The Fifth and Final Journey (Until Next Time)”…”Sure Sweetie, Nana will get it for you!” What?????…ALIEN!!!!! My mother would have said, “Absolutely not! Keep moving!”

From what I understand, this is what happens to most mothers when they are fortunate enough to have grandchildren. “No rules at Grandma’s house!” After raising teens, I think mothers’ minds are just vulnerable enough for them to be lured to the “Mother” ship and swapped out for a look-alike. My daughter is just starting the “tween” years and I can see how, after another fifteen years or so, this mother might be ready to take a ride on the “Mother” ship and be replaced by a sweet, playful, no-rules, no-schedules grandma…or Nana.