Sunday, March 31, 2013

It's that time!

I'm a wee bit excited about something. Something that happens every year this time of year. Scan through the pictures below and see if you can figure out what it is!

Dear sons: Be sorry

Letter #19

Don't be afraid to say you're sorry. I know you don't hear that phrase a lot around our house. I don't say it very often. And your dad says it even less. I haven't been the best role model in that area. But, I know that when someone apologizes to me for something, it means the world to me. I know a lot of times I'll look back at a situation and see a need to apologize for something, but sometimes I put it off or I don't know how to say it and it goes unsaid. Or sometimes it does come out, but so much time has passed, it just doesn't have the same affect. Just like a thank you note you receive a couple days after giving a gift or doing something nice means a little more than one that comes months later. Whoever said "Better late than never" was likely a huge procrastinator.

Of all five of you, there's one who sees mistakes and immediately apologizes. Yes, sometimes it's to soften things a little in anticipation of a consequence and to elicit some sympathy, but it's usually more than that. It sounds sincere and makes me feel that you really regret something you've done wrong. For the other four of you - you know who you are - it's like pulling teeth to get those words to come out of your mouth, even if you know unequivocally that you were in the wrong.

It is important. Practice it. Learn to be apologetic. Learn to admit your mistakes and try to make them right.

Hearts at Home

A couple weeks ago, I drove down to Normal, Illinois to go to the Hearts at Home Conference with my younger sister. It was the second year that we attended together. I'm trying to look back at my notes and see what things I can apply to my life to make myself more of the mom I want to be. It all sounds great when you're in a seminar far from the kids and home responsibilities after eating a delicious made to order hotel breakfast that you didn't have to eat cold or cut up for a little one. But once you're back in the thick of it, it's hard to follow through.

I attended workshops on raising sons and how to relate to them, on getting yourself organized, on giving yourself permission to dream and on turning stress into an opportunity for connection in addition to listening to presentations by the conference founder and the keynote speaker, Candance Cameron Bure, who I also met at a book signing session. There were a couple more we were scheduled to go to, but by the afternoon of day two, we were both kind of exhausted and called it a day early. Getting away for a couple nights with my sisters (my other two sisters joined us on day two and three) was the best part, the rest was icing on the cake.

What did I take away from the conference overall? A few things:

1) That there's no such thing as a perfect mom and we need to embrace our imperfections.
2) That we need to stop being judgmental of other moms. We're all doing the best we can or doing what works best for our family situation.
3) Make sure you have people in your life that help to uplift you rather than pull you down.
4) That the biggest reason for clutter in the home is indecision - once in a while it may be the wrong one, but it's better to make a decision.
5) Be aware of those miracles in your lives.
6) Be more in tune to how members of your family react to certain situations and don't try to change or fix them, but learn to validate them and offer comfort.

The nicest part of this trip was just that I got to hang with other females. It's not easy living in a house with six men. It's hard to figure them out and understand where their coming from. And it's hard not to be driven crazy by trying to figure them out. It was great to have a chance to be with my sisters and eat and giggle and chat. And it was nice to be at the conference and be around 4,000+ other women. And then it was nice to go back home to my guys.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Step away from the computer

I have to make a confession. I spend way too much time on my computer. And I try to break the habit, but I really don't try hard enough. I still spend too much time on the computer. And it's hit me lately how much I am missing by doing so. Often I 'm doing work. But sometimes I'm doing pointless stuff -- watching a corny video or reading about celebrities and their kids or scanning other people's Facebook pictures or trying to clear out e-mails (by re-reading a bunch and deleting 50 only to find 60 new ones in the inbox when I'm done.)

None of this is earth-shattering information that I need. If I don't click on a link or don't delete some old e-mails, it's not really going to affect my life. But spending so much time in front of the screen is affecting my life. I need to wean myself off of the need to check e-mails several times a day and never feel like I'm caught up. My kids are in front of their own screen and I need to step away from mine and sit with them and laugh together over reruns of "Drake and Josh" or "iCarly." Instead of throwing a meal into the crockpot so I have more time to spend on the computer, I need to spend more time in the kitchen with them. They are growing so quickly and time is slipping away and I'm never going to say down the line that I wish I'd spent more time on the computer. I'm going to say that I wished that I didn't. So, I need to make that wish come true.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Being Fancy

The boys have been looking forward to their aunt's wedding. I thought I'd get resistance on dressing up, but it turned out they were pretty excited about it. Once one of them planned on wearing a suit, the others wanted to also.

One of them used the word "fancy" in reference to their clothes and it reminded me of the episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, when Squidward was all wrapped up in being fancy. :) I heard my husband tell them something before we left about how their behavior should match their appearance. It must have worked. They acted like civil human beings at the wedding. No brawling or teasing or burping out loud. They made me proud. Fancy suits them well.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Dear sons: Love who you love

Letter #18

I haven't posted one of these mom to son letters in a while. Once in a while, there's something that I think needs to be expressed and now is one of those times. There's been a lot in the news this past week about marriage equality. It can be a sensitive issue and some are really against it and some are really for it. My opinion is that I shouldn't have an opinion on it. That people outside of a relationship shouldn't have an opinion -- or an opinion that counts anyway. Why should anyone have any control over who someone else is allowed to be in love with? It just is a problem that really shouldn't exist. If you love someone and you want to marry them, why should others have a say in it?

One angle I've always looked at it from, as well, is that equal should be equal. Ok, let me explain a little more. I remember a few years ago when there were cases where employers began offering benefits, like heath and life insurance, to same sex couples. I didn't agree with that. Not that I didn't agree with same sex couples. And it wasn't that I thought that their partners shouldn't be eligible for benefits. My beef with it was this. I thought that if the partner in an unmarried same sex relationship would qualify for those benefits, then it was unfair to not extend benefits to unmarried opposite sex couples. And how could you discriminate on what partners could be eligible? How many people would list people as their partner just for those benefits where there wasn't a real relationship? What kind of financial strain would that put on employers if there was a sudden influx of non-married partners suddenly eligible to be on an insurance plan of someone they said they were in a relationship with? And imagine the paperwork nightmare as people bounced in and out of relationships. To me, it made the most sense to allow same sex marriage and make benefits available across the board for the spouse and require that there be a committed, legal relationship for eligibility.

But of course, it's an issue that is about much more than insurance legalities. It's about freedom. It's about freedom to love who you are attracted to and born to love. Isn't that the entire basis of the country that we live in? That we are all given the basic rights of freedom in many forms? I'm guessing that in a few decades your kids will not realize that this was such a big issue. Just like for me, voting as a women is just a part of every day life, but once women didn't have that freedom. Just like decades ago, a black man couldn't sit in a counter at a restaurant alongside a white man. Now all races live and work and eat alongside one another. I have no doubt that one day, two men or two women marrying will be a non-issue, but it seems like we're taking so long to get there.

I also want to urge you not to judge, even if you don't agree. I don't know what's in your head. You might not have the same view on it as I do. I hope you will be open-minded and have the courage to support what others may not think is right. I can't say that I've always been this supportive on the issue, but that's mainly because I grew up in a time when we were taught that it wasn't right to love someone you weren't supposed to and if you did, you were expected to hide it. We've made a lot of progress in the last three or so decades, but there are still generations who were raised to not be so tolerant. And many of them will continue to fight it simply because that is what they were taught and that is what they know and that is what they stubbornly believe is right. This generation is different and I hope you are able to recognize that and see its worth. Love who you love in your heart and don't let anyone tell you not to. And let others love who they love. It's up to them, not you.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Time flies

I should be sleeping, but I took a little nap this morning and now here I am up late with my mind racing. There's tons to get done...I got back from a meeting this evening at 8:30 and hadn't even eaten dinner yet. I have writing deadlines in the morning that I can't do until I get a response from a source, so that's stressing me out. I'm coordinating a dinner for about 200 veterans and guests next month and my phone is ringing off the hook with reservation requests. Last night was 3 hours of listening to voice mails, returning calls, checking e-mails and recording RSVPs. On Saturday my sister is getting married and I have tons to do. I don't think I have one complete outfit together yet for one person in this family. And tomorrow night my oldest son is going to graduate from the fire academy. I just can't believe it.

This is the boy who has been obsessed with firefighting since his dad joined the local fire department as a volunteer when he was 3. His dad enjoyed it, became a part-time, paid-on-call firefighter and later tested for full-time and has now been at it for a decade.

My oldest son had tons of fire truck toys and books and pajamas. He had memorized every piece of apparatus by kindergarten, including how old each vehicle was (the year it went into service was written on the inside of the doors, so he'd check each one.) He spent countless hours on his toy phone being a dispatcher. He'd start out making static noises just like on his dad's pager, followed by all the details of the emergency. "Lansing 162 respond to 2715 Ridge Road for an activated alarm. Keyholder indicates that it was activated by accident. Proceed with caution. KDK795." One year for Christmas, he got a set of real firefighter gear - made from the same material as the real stuff, just in a kid size. He LIVED in that gear until he couldn't fit it anymore. Then he'd get the next size. Each fire hydrant in town has a number on it. I could say, "Hey, where is fire hydrant number 168 and he'd tell me the corner of 181st and Roy Street or whatever...and he was usually right. And there are a LOT of fire hydrants in town. Sometimes he'd ask me to take him for a drive just so he could inspect the hydrants and make a mental note. So, he's been quite interested in it for sometime.

As he was growing up, he wanted nothing more than to be a cadet on the same department as Dad. At one time there was a very active cadet program and they took kids starting as freshmen at age 14. Wouldn't you know it...just before he turned 14, the minimum age was changed to 16. Then when he was almost 16, the program faded out. He was pretty bummed. He ended up being a cadet on a couple other area departments and then became eligible to be a paid-on-call firefighter with one of them. It's worked out nicely. In the fall, they sent him to the fire academy and he's actually had several instructors that his dad knows. A couple are his dad's co-workers. This year has flown by and I can't believe he's graduating from the academy.

I remember when his dad went through the fire academy and how excited he was when he finished up and when he got his pager and gear and when he went on his first call and went on his first fire.

A few weeks ago, my son got up one morning with the biggest smile I've seen on him in a while. He said that he'd gone on his first actual fire. He didn't get to go in the building until it was out and he helped with overhaul, but hearing the excitement in his voice as he talked about pulling down a ceiling really confirmed how in love he is with all this firefighting business. I guess I did have a little warning - like 15 years worth of warnings...but it's never long enough and you're never prepared enough to see you son grow up. Time flies!

Friday, March 1, 2013

What kind of old lady will I be?

Yesterday I dropped off the kids at school and then ran to the grocery store to pick up some things. At that time of day, it's usually quiet...a few young mom and a few seniors making their way slowly through the store.

One lady smiles and makes eye contact and we get stuck at an aisle intersection. As I'm pushing my cart away, I faintly hear her say something, but I think she's talking to someone else. A couple aisles later we meet again. She smiles as she approaches the chip aisle. "You didn't hear me back there. I told you I was going to buy the bad food," she says. Then she proceeds to tell me how good the buffalo flavored pretzels are. We chat for a minute and I move on.

Three more aisles away, we bump into each other again. More conversation. She gives an explanation on why she has two cases of Corona in her cart. :) She tells me how she's turning 64, but she stays active with her grandkids and goes to the gym almost every day and has a drink now and then to "stay loose" instead of shriveling up staying at home and being alone. She looked fantastic (African American women just don't seem to show their age). Then she asked me if I was married and asked if he was a good guy. She told me she had a boyfriend, albeit one who was nine years younger, and that she'd had bad boyfriends in the past, but that this one was worth keeping. She was sweet. After a couple minutes, she was on her way, pushing toward the dairy section as I went toward the check out.

I walked away thinking about her advice on staying active and like I often do when I meet someone like here, I think "that's how I want to be when I'm older." I turned 40 last year and I find myself in kind of a weird spot. Much of the time I feel so much younger than I am...I think I wrote in a blog post before that I still feel about 26 in my mind. There are times when I feel immature, like I need to act my age...stop turning up the car radio so loud, stop laughing so hard at crude scenes in Adam Sandler movies, stop procrastinating about things adults should be motivated to do, like housework.

But, at the same time, I've always felt like an old soul. As a kid I was independent. As soon as I started making my own money with babysitting and a paper route at age 12, I bought everything I needed on my own. I've always been intrigued by history and love listening to oldies tunes. I like to play bingo. I enjoy volunteering. If I could sit still long enough, I could totally see myself knitting or crocheting. As a kid, I always felt more comfortable interacting with adults than peers. By the time I graduated high school, some of my best friends weren't classmates, but women old enough to be my mother or even grandmother - they were co-workers from the district office. I'd worked in the school office for a year-and-a-half before graduating as part of the office education program. I spent my break time sitting among ladies who would chat about Medicare and the benefits of the upcoming early retirement incentive program. I joined the local historical society about 16 years ago...and I'm still the youngest member in the group.

One one hand, I'm starting to feel the affects of age creeping up on me - gray hairs popping up here and there, more wrinkles making their way onto my face, an ache in that left arm on cold days that I broke several years ago. On the other hand, I'm really looking forward to becoming an "old lady." I'm looking forward to the day when fashion will become less important and comfort will prevail. I'm looking forward to being a grandmother. I'm looking forward to the days when the pace will slow and I can walk through the grocery store with no place else to be and give advice to the young  moms I see pushing their little ones.

Also, I've gotten more of a glimpse into life over half a century as I've been writing for a senior magazine for more than a dozen years. Each month, I get a couple assignments to find someone 50 or older to write about - sometimes it's their occupation, sometimes it's an unusual hobby, sometimes it's for the sports section. I meet a ton of inspiring seniors and I often find myself thinking, "Gosh I hope I'll be like that when I'm that age."

Once in a while I encounter an older person who is just really grumpy and I just think to myself that they must have had quite a rough life to have that kind of outlook. I'm often right -- when I get more under the surface, I learn that they endured some tough things.

Most often, though, the people I meet are so kind and sweet and I wonder what kind of old lady I'll be. There are so many ways it could go. There are:

The adventurous type who goes cliff diving or para sailing or jumps out of a plane.

The grandmotherly type who makes cookies for all the children in the neighborhood and hands out dollars to them.

The kind who yells at kids to get off the lawn.

One who heads south for the winter.

The kind who sits back quietly in a chair and observes.

The church going old ladies who say "God Bless You" to everyone they meet and sing in the choir and join a bible study.

One who travels the world in old age, going places they've always dreamed about.

The crazy one who dances at weddings with the young whipper snappers.

The kind who will drive 20 miles to go to a store where bread is 30 cents less a loaf (burning $3.80 in gas along the way.)

One who gets 20 cats after she has an empty nest (no never mind - this isn't going to happen. I'm not really fond of cats and will never own more than one dog.)

One who takes up painting or ceramics or some other artistic form.

Someone who travels the country with my husband in an RV.

The kind that doesn't step outside their hometown.

I guess I'll just be me, but with more life experience and hopefully adding more things to the mix that I've wanted to do and put off. I do know that I'm looking forward to it more than I'm interested in finding a fountain of youth.