Sunday, March 27, 2016

Another Easter in the books

Holidays can kind of be bummer when you're married to a firefighter who has to work a 24-hour shift and is gone for the entire holiday. But, you can't be all bummed out and wallow in bed with a bag of Cheetos if you've got kids. So, these years where I've had to do it solo, I've tried to make it enjoyable for the kiddos.

Until a couple years ago, we almost always spent Easter with my inlaws. When my father-in-law passed away, it made holidays even more of a bummer. My mother-in-law has since moved out of state, too. And on my side of the family, each of my siblings usually does their own thing with their own in-laws. It's kind of gotten to be a lonely holiday as far as extended family. But...every year the Easter bunny shows up and leaves baskets of goodies and shows up in the wee hours to hide plastic eggs throughout the yard and I have traditionally cooked a big dinner. But last year, with hubby scheduled to work, I decided we'd have our big dinner the day before when we were all together and then splurge on brunch at the local country club. Hubby ended up getting the day off and we actually got to spend the day together, but I opted to keep the reservations. It was wonderful. And it got me a bit spoiled. When hubby worked on Thanksgiving, we did the same thing - our big dinner the day before and then I did a buffet with the kids.

This year, with hubby scheduled to work yet another holiday, I made a reservation for brunch at a favorite steakhouse. I've finally gotten to the point where I can take all of the kids out to a nice restaurant and actually relax. There were years and years of anxiety of eating out because toddlers and fine dining are a really bad mix or because we had to strategically seat certain kids apart from each other because we knew a fight would ensue if they were to close to one another. They've grown up to be pretty good guys. They know that it costs a lot of money for our whole gang to go out and are pretty respectful of me and one another...and their faces are often in iPhones when they can get away with it, which keeps them pretty quiet.

I knew that they'd probably want to sleep in and hang out in their pajamas in the morning, so I made an afternoon reservation. I didn't nag, but told each one that the dress code was nice jeans or khakis and some sort of shirt with a collar. All complied without complaint, except the one I least expected to. The youngest, who wears a dress shirt and tie twice a week to his 5th grade class walks in the kitchen wearing a Chuck Norris t-shirt and asks if he can wear it. I turned my head, gave him an "Are you kidding look?" and said "What do you think?" He returned to his room and pulled a Tony Hawk polo over his t-shirt.

Then we headed out to the van and my oldest discovered a little fun his younger brothers had at his expense - they had covered his truck in saran wrap. That was good for some giggles.

The ride was pretty pleasant. My 16-year-old drove. The kids filed in the back and left the passenger seat for me. Even after we got the restaurant to find out that they didn't have my reservation on their list - and waited another 35 to be seated, they were pretty good. A few jokes and laughs. I managed to get one shot of all of them standing together -- but only one out of five smiling. They ate like birds, making me question why I'd take them all out for a $185 meal. But it was a pleasant time. And I keep thinking that in the not so distant future, the kids will be scattering and we won't always be together on Easter. So, for now I'll take pleasant along with all the chocolate bunnies and eggs that they want to share with me. :)

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Firsts and Lasts

I recently posted this on my Facebook page:

When it comes to parenting milestones, there's a lot of focus on the "firsts." Right now it is a lot of "lasts." This is the last year of the Cub Scouts for my last child. Today's the last Pinewood Derby with the last car that he made with his dad. In a couple weeks will be the last blue and gold dinner. And soon he will be finishing his last year in elementary school. My eighth-grader also has science fair today. The last science project for him and his last time in the science fair. And soon he'll finish his last day in junior high. And my last time of running back-and-forth from place to place with kids because they always fall on the same day. Bittersweet. But at a point it gets tiring and you are ready to move on to the next phase. Next year will be back to a year of "firsts."

We focus so much on those firsts and there's so much to celebrate about them. And then, POW! You're recognizing a "last" in your child's life. It's sad, but can be a relief. It can be both heart wrenching and exciting. But it is necessary. Necessary for them to move on and necessary for us to move on. But the firsts never stop coming. Neither do the lasts. Here's to an ending to one thing and a new beginning to another.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Why I didn't buy a lottery ticket this week

Everyone has been buying lottery tickets this week. The multi-state Powerball jackpot had risen to more than $1.5 billion. Yep, BILLION. Like you don't know that. Unless you are living under a rock with access to no media of any kind, you heard about the jackpot. And you likely went out and bought a ticket - or many tickets - even if you don't play regularly. Or you got in a big workplace pool. Or something like that.

And then yesterday I saw that a Facebook friend posed a question on her page. Who HASN'T bought a Powerball ticket? And why not?

A dozen or so people responded. I was one of them that responded. I typed in a simple "Nope." I didn't elaborate on why. I had to think about it for a minute.

When we were growing up, my mom always played faithfully each week - the same numbers. And she always told us that if she won, she'd split her winnings equally among her kids, so I guess I always figured I didn't need to play since she plays for me.

I've bought tickets for gifts over the years, but rarely buy them for myself. When I was working in an office I did put in a weekly five dollars into a pool with co-workers. One year the jackpot was huge and my friend, MaryAnn, and I chatted one day and fantasized about what we would do with winnings. We said that we'd gather up all the homeless people we could find in Chicago and take them to a fancy spa where they'd get make-overs. And we'd shop for them on Michigan Avenue and take them out for dinner at a swanky steakhouse and then put them up for a while in nice downtown hotel rooms. We'd donate some of it to schools and charities. We'd buy things for our family members. I don't remember us even discussing what we'd get for ourselves. It was fun to dream. It's always fun to dream.

But, this time as I heard about the prize money going up and up and up, I really didn't feel the urge to go buy a ticket. I really feel that winning an amount like that would be more burden than blessing. No one needs that much money. Even someone who plans to go a lot of good with it. First of all, your name would be publicized as being a winner and that would be the start of an unpleasant road. Giving it away would be fun, but can you imagine being inundated by requests and the consequences there may be by those who feel entitled to some of it. It would most definitely cause a change in lifestyle, but not necessarily for the better. It would give you more freedom, but would it all be worth it?

I'd love an extra million as much as the next person. It would enable me to make big improvements in my life. A new house, the opportunity to travel, the relief of worrying about how to play for my childrens' education. It wouldn't necessarily mean I wouldn't have to work for the rest of my life. It wouldn't mean that things would be perfect. But it would be more than enough to ease the daily stress of paying bills. Truth be told, we have enough. We work hard. We struggle often. But we have enough. We have a roof over our head, warmth in this cold weather, shoes on our feet, food in our bellies and a house full of sons (who don't always get along, but who - when the going gets tough -would be there for each other.) We have healthy children and the security of having our whole family here at home each night. We are far from rich, but have the things that a million dollars couldn't buy.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Half way there


Ya know. I think I've hit mid-life. If you look at the numbers, I have. I'm 42. I am most likely at the half-way point, give or take a few years. I intend on living to be a sassy old lady in my 80's who still dances on tables at weddings. I say this as if I have ever danced on a table at a wedding. I envision my old self as myself now, but way cooler.

This realization brings with it certain questions. Like have I learned from the first half? Have I accomplished what I set out to do? What's left that I want to do? Is it too late to do some things? Am I doing the things I really want to do or am I doing them for other reasons? What else do I feel compelled to do? What kind of legacy do I want to leave? Am I making a difference in this world? Have I done anything of importance? Have I failed at what I've tried to do?

I think I'm kind of feeling that I'm in this weird space where I accomplished a lot of what I wanted to do too early. A lot of people fall into volunteering later in life when they have the luxury of spare time during their golden years. I started getting involved in my community and doing a lot of volunteering in my mid-20's. Now I'm getting burned out on it.

I wanted to become an author and I've so far authored six books. I should feel accomplished having met that goal and gone beyond it, but I feel like maybe I should have gone about it differently. I feel like the books should have been more successful or that I should have done more to make them more successful. It feels like it was so much more work than it should be for such a small return. Everything feels like so much more work than it should be.

It feels like at this point in my life I shouldn't have to work this hard for everything, but I feel like I'm working harder than ever to keep up. I don't want to have to work as hard hard in the second half. I want to have the luxury of time to do more of the things I really want to do and not what I have to or what's expected of me. But, you know how goes...if you have the time to do what you want, you don't have the money for it. If you have the money to afford to be frivolous, you don't have the time for it. And there's the whole anything worth doing is worth doing well and you don't get it without putting in hard work and sweat and tears....yadda, yadda. I don't know what's in store for part two as I go along, but I look forward to do. There's both a peace at this stage of being more relaxed about things, yet also a sense of urgency of running out of time. It's time to put all the cards out on the table and decide what I want to keep in my hand, what I should be holding onto tighter and what I don't mind letting go of.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Moving on

Wow. Just wow.

I now have a 21-year-old.

And I now have a 16-year-old.

When people tell you that kids grow up in the blink of an eye, they're telling the truth.

My two oldest sons have both hit major milestones this month.

My two sons are 5 years and 5 days apart. I can remember so well the day I went from being a mom of one to a mom of two. I still had a week of work to go before maternity leave. But, as I got up to go to work that Monday morning, my water broke. Uh, oh!

While I was trying to scramble through the house between contractions gathering things I hadn't packed yet, all I could think of was that in an effort to get things all squared away at work, I had important confidential files sitting at home that I had been working on all weekend that had to get back to the office and spreadsheets that had to be finished. My wonderful friend and co-worker stopped by on her way to work so I could try and go over them as best I could in four to six minute increments until I'd have to stop and do some deep breathing.

Later that morning, following some difficulties during labor, my second son was born via emergency c-section. I wasn't awake for it, so the first glimpse I got of him was as I was being rolled down the hall after recovery and they brought him out next to me. He looked just like his big brother and his big brother couldn't have been more proud.

At that time, I had no inkling that the 5 year span between the two would mean that one day I would be celebrating such big birthdays for them at the same time.

Maybe it's my longevity as a parent or the fact that I went on to have three more boys after them, that the milestones don't seem to be hitting quite as hard as they once were. I can remember sobbing at first days of school and watching one pedal down the sidewalk on a bicycle for the first time.

This year it's less sadness and more shock that I now have a full-blown adult child that can legally do anything I can. It's less teary eyes about my son driving alone for the first time and more anxiety of him driving for the first time, combined with anxiety over the insurance bill along with relief that it may lessen the load on me of driving him everywhere.

It's part of life. It's part of parenthood. The kids are growing up and moving on. It's just more of many milestones. Sometimes those milestones mean taking a first ride on a bike, other times a first time driving a vehicle. Sometimes it is a taking wobbly steps across a room, others times it's wobbly steps after a grown-up beverage. It's never easy, but you get more used to it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The best thing a father can do for a child is to love their mother


When we were kids my mom had a plaque hanging that said something like "The best thing a father can do for their child is to love their mother." It was fitting for my parents, where there were very frequently shows of affection. Like any couple, they didn't get along 100% but most of the time they were very loving. It was a great example for us.

They've now been married for more than 50 years and it's obvious that can drive each other a little crazy at times, but they are still crazy in love with one another. And that's been one of the biggest takeaways from their years of parenting my sisters and brothers and I.

As a parent I still believe in that saying that mom had displayed in the living room. Although we have no daughters, it's just as important for sons to see their father taking care of their mother, treating her with respect and being loving towards her. There are a lot of kids who don't get to see that.

And it really goes both ways, kids need to see that love on both sides - from father to mother and from mother to father.

Mother's Day just passed and that is a time of year when naturally a husband will do something kind for his wife. However, it's the kind things that happen spontaneously that also have a big impact. Like when my husband went out to exercise his new hobby of taking nature photographs and he returned with a handful of wildflowers for me. Or when he noticed a restaurant I like had a favorite soup on the menu and he drove there to pick some up for me. Or when he notices my car needs to be washed and spends a Saturday morning in the driveway scrubbing it. There are so many other things I could list. Some get noticed more than others.

I, in turn, reciprocate, although it's not something where you keep score. But I try to be thoughtful of him and do little things for him, too. I'll make a favorite meal of his. I'll give him a shoulder massage after a rough day at work. Honestly, I have an easier time coming up with nice little things he does for me than I do for him and I need to work on that.

Anyway, it's crucial that kids witness those nice things. It's also important that they see you holding hands and enjoying each other. When they see the love between their parents, it can make them feel more secure, more confident, more prone to repeat that behavior.

I have the luxury of being in a long-time marriage and I know that there are a lot of parents who don't. It doesn't mean that kids can't still witness little bits of kindness toward the other parent. While you may not still be in love with that person, displaying kindness toward one another can still have a lasting positive effect on the children.

Take those opportunities while kids are watching to display love toward the other parent. Show them what a partnership should be when everything isn't focused on feeding and changing and caring for kids. Give them a little glimmer into your relationship. And let them see that it's a two-way street.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Dears sons: Have respect



Dear sons:

(Letter #25)

This is the 25th letter added to the blog. I got the idea years ago from another writer and have added a few letters to my boys here as things arise that I think they should know. Maybe one day they'll look at these and realize that all of mom's advice wasn't that crazy and unimportant after all.

So, my thought for you today is to have respect for others. In life, you're not going to like everyone you come across. They won't all like you. You'll meet people who will have very different opinions than yours. That doesn't mean they are wrong. It doesn't mean you are right. It means that you have each had different life experiences and different influences that have shaped your opinions. You can still co-exist peacefully. That starts by having respect for the other party.

What is respect? When I looked online most of the definitions were along the lines of admiration for someone.

re·spect
rəˈspekt/
noun

a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.

Besides being a feeling, it's a verb, too. It's an act of showing admiration.


re·spect
rəˈspekt/
verb
  1. 1
    admire (someone or something) deeply, as a result of their abilities, qualities, or achievements.


You may wonder how you are supposed to admire someone you may not agree with. It doesn't mean that you give in to their beliefs. It doesn't mean that you try to convince them of yours. It doesn't mean you dismiss their way of thinking. It means you don't assume yours is superior. Part of the beauty of this world is that we aren't all the same. We think differently. We see differently. We feel differently. And despite, that we can still get along.

You can look at someone with a completely different attitude, yet admire how much passion they have for that cause. You can look at someone who does something well, even if it's not something you're interested in, and admire the work they put into getting good at it.

Showing someone respect involves listening. It means not assuming you know better. Not cutting them off and telling them what they're doing wrong. It means giving them the benefit of hearing them out. It means allowing them to express what they'd like to express just as you would like to do the same. It means not making them feel like less because you may not agree.

It applies in so many aspects of life. School. Work. Relationships. Social circles.

You don't always have to be right. And sometimes learning that you aren't can be refreshing and eye opening. Don't have negative feeling toward someone who is different, admire them for what it takes for them to take that path that may be different.

As you grow, remember that respecting others also means you are respecting yourself. It can make your world so much bigger when you respect others enough to listen to their views and open up your own.