Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Everybody knows Gordon

I tend to get a little crazy when it comes time for cake. No Publix special for my peeps, be they 4 or 40. So when it came time to make Daniel's birthday cake, I got out the jelly roll pan and made a character from the Thomas series. All the kids in Daniel's generation recognized him immediately - see if you do!


A plethora of plush

My living room floor is covered in stuffed animals, numerous Barbies and baby dolls. We sorted them in piles last weekend as we tried in vain to reduce the clutter in our home that continually congregates in my daughter's room. After a friend's house burned when stuffed animals spontaneously combusted in the attic, my husband has been on a mission. We tried dividing them into seasonal batches - bunnies, chicks and barnyard animals for Easter; teddies and holiday animals at Christmas, lovey-dovey toys around Valentines. But we still have too many to store in the house. I am virtually no help when it comes to deciding which animals will stay and which will go to live with someone else. For some reason, my brain retains the origin of each and every one of the dozens of creatures. I feel guilty parting with any of them as they were gifts from people we love. Where's King Solomon when you need him? Faith held up a small stuffed tan dog. "That means absolutely nothing to me," my husband declared. Faith didn't have a clue, so I intervened. The little pup was a baby shower gift from a dear friend from whom we got our dog. The little pup looks just like Daniel. It's a keeper. I'm not getting very far.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Grandma's revenge

About the fourth time I stepped on a stray Matchbox car (which my son received a 50-pack of for his birthday), I turned to my mother, the generous gift-giver and asked: "Did I leave my Barbie shoes out as a child or something?" No, she replied, her children were well-trined to pick up their toys. Sigh.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

breaking routine

It seems any break in Daniel's routine is enough to set off a round of wailing and "I don't want to!" Which makes it a challenge to plan the good stuff - like a long-weekend trip to great-grandma's. Even though we've talked about it, and he's excited about it, I know getting him up early to get in the car is going to be no picnic. I guess it's true what an old comedian once said: "No one likes traveling. Everyone likes visiting where they go once they get there." The visit's great. The getting there and back? Not so much.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Boy and his dog lost in the Toe Zone

My daughter's first pair of school shoes almost made it the whole year. With a minor Velcro replacement, they could have gone the distance in pre-kindergarten. I was pretty attached to those shoes in a holy grail kind of way. The search for athletic-type shoes, that she could fasten herself, lasted for days as we trotted across town late last summer. Do you know how difficult it is to find non-lace athletic shoes that aren't made for a toddler? Throw in the fact that I wanted these shoes to look good with her uniform jumper and skorts. That personal requirement upped the search ante toward Indiana Jonesesque proportions. Alas, in one of those strip-mall shoe stores, I found a solid navy, hipper new, soft-soled mary jane - and discovered an old friend, too. When I took Faith's shoes out of the box at home, I noticed "Buster Brown" written inside the heel. But where was "Buster" and where in the devil had his dog Tige gotten off to? A picture of the pooch and his pal had been in my own pair of school shoes - and on television, too, four decades before. "That's my dog Tige, he lives in a shoe. I'm Buster Brown, look for me in there, too," the commercial would say as the actor froze into place on the shoe's insole. But the familiar logo of my youth has been replaced with the words "Buster Brown with Toe Zone." Some shoemaker somewhere devised a system to measure a child's foot against the base of the shoe. Little markers show you're in the "Toe Zone," and the shoes will fit. Some how I just don't think "Toe Zone" has near the sentimental tug that little Tige had. Can you picture Faith picking up her daughter's shoe and saying, "Oh look, there's "Toe Zone." I'd much rather have a dog living in my shoe, preferably a shoe that lasts all year.
- Liz Fabian

little pitchers, big ears

big mouths, too. I would guess that every mom has that moment when she realizes she's said something she shouldn't because those words come back out her child's mouth. I've known this time was coming since Daniel was about a year old, and I'd cover his ears whn my husband let fly with "*%^&$#."
The best story I have about this is from when I was pregnant and my husband and I went to a party. I got tired and went to lie down in the host's guest room. I could hear all the kids at the party in the next room, watching "Shreck." Of course, Shreck uses the Biblically accepted name for Donkey, and the kids were all giggles. "oooh, he said A!"
And the hosts' daughter pipes up "so what, he said a**!"
"Oooh, you said a bad word!" the other kids were astounded.
"So what, we're not in school," came the sage reply.
From my listening post I thought, smart kid.
Actually, smart mom. She'd taught her children that some language is not appropriate for outside the home, or in "polite company." And in a society where our kids are bound to be exposed to "bad" language (sometimes by dad and pop-pop), we moms might as well start teaching politeness and etiquette while our little pitchers' ears are still delicate.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

guilt-free mommy

Twice in the last 24 hours, someone has expressed to me both the desire for a break from their kids and the guilt they feel at even saying such a thing. If you haven't guessed by now, I'm a big fan of mommy "alone time." We all need to recharge our mental (and physical) batteries from time to time, I mean, have you ever put half-dead batteries in a flashlight because the lights were out and the ones in the RC car were the only ones you could lay your hands (or stub your toes) on? The flashlight doesn't work so well, does it? And when the power comes back on, thos batteries will certainly no longer run the RC car! So whats a woman who's on call 24-7-365 to do? Take your break. Don't feel guilty. Don't even think about feeling guilty. Because when you come back, rested and refreshed, you'll be a better mom. Promise.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Hip Mamas take on Mother's Day

Mother's Day: Up and At 'Em, Mama! by Hilary Selden Illick

When Mother's Day was first born in 1872, breakfast in bed, Hallmark cards, store-bought bouquets and being taken out for brunch wasn't anywhere near the point. Then called Mother's Peace Day, the holiday was supposed to celebrate the values represented by motherhood -- peace, mercy, charity, and patience -- and the broader social and political implications of those values.

When Julia Ward Howe first conceived of Mother's Day ... a million moms marching in our nation's capitol to protest gun violence is precisely the sort of celebration she had in mind. Howe, who had written the Battle Hymn of the Republic during the Civil War to encourage demoralized soldiers, had an epiphany once the war was over. She was surrounded by mourning mothers who had lost their sons. Overseas, the Franco-Prussian War broke out, brutally claiming lives. Howe suddenly saw this war as "a return to barbarism, the issue being one that could have been solved without bloodshed." And a question occurred to her, one that would determine the course of the rest of her life: "Why do not the mothers of mankind interfere in these matters, to prevent the waste of that human life of which they alone bear and know the cost?"

By the early 1900's, another version of Mother's Day was gaining popularity, and in 1914 was adopted by Congress as a national holiday, to be celebrated the second Sunday each May. The holiday proposed by Anna Jarvis owed its origins to her own mother's Mothers' Work Days, whereby mothers from her hometown in Grafton, West Virginia would go into Appalachia to work on improving the poorer community's sanitation. Originally this Mother's Day, like the one proposed by Julia Ward Howe, was intended to inspire mothers and non-mothers alike to transcend individual family life and work towards a better world.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Becareful what you ask for

Last week, all I wanted was for my mother to accept my invitation to join us for Mother's Day. This week, she's coming, but she has to. Doctor's orders. Her Mother's Day ended with a trip to the hospital in the predawn hours of the morning after. She was having trouble breathing after getting up to go the bathroom. She thought she was dying - and she was right as fluid was pooling up in her lungs. Doctors have been able to make up for the shortfalls of her aging heart, lungs and kidneys this time. And in spite of an initial protest, she's coming to recouperate at our house. The nurse is going to brief me about her care and medicines. She hasn't had the chance to open the king-sized blanket I gave her for Mother's Day, but I'm looking forward to wrapping my arms around her instead.
- Liz

A mom moment

I sat across from Daniel while he got his summer haircut yesterday afternoon, and for the first time I could see the young man he will become. Up to this point, I've always seen the baby in him - perhaps it was the last remanants of those chubby baby cheeks. But yesterday, my son gazed back at me with intelligence and humor in his eyes from a lean face atop an athlete-lean body, and I saw the future instead of the past.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

AAA and Parents rate cars

Every now and then something comes across my desk that I just have to pass along. This time, it's the AAA Auto Club South's report on the best cars for families, by category. Keep in mind I haven't driven most of these vehicles and can only tell you what I think is cool.
Top o' the heap - the Dodge Charger. If it's good enough for the police to give up their Crown Vics, it's bad enough for me. Tons of space inside. Also on the list of top sedans: the Mazda 6, which has features I enjoy (like radio controls on the steering wheel) and a remote that lets you open the windows to let the summer heat out before you get anywhere near the car. And the Ford Fusion, which AAA likes for standard features such as grocery-bag hooks and an MP-3 capable CD player. All I know is it's nimble on the road. Other small cars and sedans on the list: the Honda Civic (which I almost bought once), the Mazda 3 - excellent value model - and the Kia sportage, which will last until about the time the family needs something bigger.
Minivans: AAA likes the Toyota Sienna, the Honda Odyssey and the Chrysler Town & Country. I'm SO not a minivan girl.
Wagons: AAA likes the Subaru Tribeca, which I have to admit has a neat profile. The report cites seating for seven (see, who needs a minivan?), reclining seats (naptime anyone?) tons of cupholders and power outlets (hello personal DVD players for everyone!) and standard side impact and curtain airbags. It just screams "family roadtrip!"
SUVs: My peronal favorite made AAAs list: the Ford Explorer. With five, six, or seven-seat options, roll-stability control, and an engine that keeps on tickin' long after 200,000 miles with proper care, this would be my choice. Ford has worked out the early kinks, put in comfy seats (whichever row you're in) and kept the price (and gas mileage) as reasonable as you're going to get in an SUV. Also on the list: the Chevrolet Equinox, which AAA cites as "comfy as a minivan inside" - see my comment about minivans - and the Jeep Commander, which is a good multitasker for those days when your car is full of groceries, mountain bikes, or large dogs instead of kids.
For more information, see Seated, Safe and Secure at aaa.com

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Happy Mother's Day to my mom

My mom has the kind of guts most people wish for. As in, ‘I wish I could, but... .’
My mother changed her life and mine for the better.
With a 3-year-old in tow, she flew from Grand Rapids, Mich., to Honolulu to marry a man she'd met a handful of times. This Mother's Day is also their 28th anniversary.
As I approach my 6th anniversary with my husband and my son nears his fourth birthday, I wonder at the sheer chutzpah it must have taken for her to get on that plane.
It takes nerve to be a mom these days.
In a society where marriage is not an iron-clad guarantee of partnership, where other people have a huge say in how a parent can raise a child, and in which children seem to grow up faster than ever before, having a baby is a huge responsibility.
Moms take advice from everyone. Their own mothers and mothers-in-law are chief dispensers, but add pediatricians, other moms, day-care workers, schoolteachers, parenting magazines and the government, and a mom learns early on to nod and smile, then forge her own path.
Moms live with the awareness that their children are reflections of themselves. And modern moms live with the knowledge that any anonymous phone call to DFCS can turn their families inside out in an effort to prove that a spanking is not the same as a beating and that when a child cries it does not always mean he or she is being abused.
Moms have to deal with the fear every day that when their child walks out the door, he or she might not make it back home. Yet, when a mom tells her child to check in, or be back by a certain time, she's a mean mom.
It takes nerve to be a mom. It takes nerves of steel to be a mean mom.
They make us wash behind our ears an brush our teeth. They make us study our multiplication tables and do our homework before going out to play. They enforce bedtimes and make us clean up our rooms.
They teach us to live with the disappointment of not having a second piece of cake and to live for the pride in earning our first paycheck. They teach us to laugh, cry and love.
Mean moms expect their children to follow rules, even if it means both mother and child cry about it. One of the hardest things a mean mom does is discipline her child following a major rule infraction.
Mean moms expect their children to achieve, and mean moms cry when the kids do well. One of a mean mom's greatest moments is when her child graduates. Kindergarten, grade school, high school, college. To really make a mean mom cry, make albums of photos and mementos from her child's greatest moments.
Then give her a grandchild.
Because a mom's happiest moment is when she knows her child is going to go through all the worry she did, but that they will have the chutzpah to make it.
I moved to Macon instead of Hawaii.
It's a 12 hour trip to visit my family, and my mom watches her grandson grow up the same way her mother watched me grow up: through pictures and phone calls. Oh, e-mail and a digital camera make it easier to send the pictures, and I can scan in my son's artwork for her to see. But it's not the same as getting a big hug and sticky kiss every day.
And I am learning to respect what my mom went through.
I can call every day, or five times a day, thanks to modern cell-phone plans that don't charge for long distance. She didn't have that luxury.
My husband is home with our son while I am at work. My mom married a Navy sailor. At his retirement, we figured he had been deployed nine of the first 15 years they had been married. She was home with two daughters while her husband went to a war zone.
It took 30 years, but I have finally come up with a word for the way my mom has lived: chutzpah.
Happy Mother's Day, mom.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The gift I wish Mom would accept

My mind has been consumed with what to give my mother Sunday. Mother's Day doesn't hold many gift options anymore. My mother's furniture has reached its surface capacity for the current stock of knick-knacks and do-dads, which are already exceeding her ability to dust. Mom doesn't get out much these days, so perfume, jewelry and clothing seem to be a waste. Her closets are overflowing with outfits that might not see the light of day again. And she still has enough perfume to choke a horse, just ask my nephews. So, I picked up the phone and went to the source, herself. I learned gift cards are out because she no longer goes shopping to spend them. Besides, she still has a stockpile from other occasions, she said. How about a blanket? She said she needs a lightweight one for her bed. Simple enough. I'll hit the online sales right now and have it shipped to her door, which is about three hours by car from mine. Of course, I'd love for her to agree to come see us this weekend, but I knew what her answer would be. "No." It always is, just the reason changes. In the winter it's too cold, in the summer it's too hot. This time it's her allergies that have her down. She even stayed in bed this morning past "Live with Regis and Kelly." Next week, she can watch from under her new blanket. If only she'd prefer to watch "Live with Matt, Liz and Faith" surrounded by our love, instead.
- Liz

congrats to Moms of grads

As high school seniors prepare for "the walk," their moms are busy dealing with party arrangements, welcoming out-of-town family, and, oh yeah, college paperwork. Applications and acceptances may be done for most, but scholarships are yet to be had, orientations yet to be attended, and one last summer to get through. All the while, there's a bit of separation anxiety happening. And this time we're not talking about a toddler clinging to his mom on his first playdate, we're talking mom clinging to her baby as he stretches his wings in preparation to fly. As joyous as the next two weeks are going to be, there's a little bittersweet in them from mom's perspective. So I say to you mothers, as your kids become young adults - congratulations. You have successfully shepherded a new generation into young adulthood. You have cared for, taught, tended, disciplined, and loved your child from birth to high school graduation. Your baby can legally drive, vote, and live on their own. He or she will enter the work force, pay taxes, find love and break hearts, continue learning, and live to the fullest - because of the beginning you gave, mom. So take a moment, weep a little, pat yourself on the back, and know that you're not alone. And there's a generation of moms aspiring to be exactly where you are.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Hip mamas, unite!

During the course of writing my own blog, I've prowled several other Web sites on the hunt for good advice and like-minded women. So in addition to Vicki Iovine's "Girlfriend's Guides" I'm adding "The Three Martini Playdate" by Christis Mellor to your summer reading list. And for giggles, I'm going to add some links to your "favorites" list - most notably, hipmama.com. Check 'em out!

Monday, May 08, 2006

It's Monday. Need to recharge?

If you, like I, spewnd your weekends keeping up with the husband and kids and catching up on household chores, Monday morning at work finds you dragging a bit. By Monday afternoon, you're a little hazy from shifting gears, and Monday night the hardest thing to do is respond to "Mommy I want..." with a smile.
So here comes "Energy Coach" Jon Gordon with some tips to recharge your inner battery (and wear out the kids while you're at it).
1) Play "Red light, green light. Start with the kids across the room, across the yard, across the playground. Green means run as fast as you can toward mom and the popsicles in her hands. Red means stop. Everybody (mom included) stretch up on your toes, arms above your head, and take two deeeeep breaths. Slowly. Then relax, and green light. Sometimes, we moms just forget to breathe. and focus. And hey, the popsicles will give you an extra three minutes of peace to complete your stretching and centering.
2) Teach the kids about positive reinforcement - for mom. "Hey - a thank you would be nice!" We all think it, but how many times do we say it? Teaching your kids - even two and three year olds, to say please and thank you will not only go a long way for their lives, it will help you, too. Imagine how much easier it would be to make dinner or fold laundry if the end result was greeted with "thank you, mommy" instead of "I don't want to eat that" and "what do you mean, put them away?" My guys have been taught the fina art of gratitude by a couple of well-timed mommy strikes. As in "What's for dinner?" "You're on your own tonight, I'm outta here!"
3) Mom is a lady - treat her like one. That means let the kids hold the door for you, carry some groceries to the house for you, and pick flowers (even the roses from your garden and the weeds from the yard) for you. As an independent woman and a rose enthusiast, that's a high hurdle for me to jump, but I'm willing to give it a try if occasionally it makes me feel like the guys really do value me.
Gordon has more advice - and some flat-out cheerleading, on his Web site: www.energyformoms.com

Sunday, May 07, 2006

How much is too much?

I read with interest this morning the article about "Dr. Dad," the new Mercer med school grad with 7 children. And I read the one line about his wife: "who works nights as an emergency room nurse." And I wondered: how do you define "having it all?" And how do you know when you're simply trying to do too much? For me, it was when I wasn't doing anything well, including parenting. So I stopped, took a breath, and let go. I stopped trying to control so much, I handed over household duties to my husband, changed jobs, delegated my group activities, and reprioritized the things I really wanted to hang on to. I now have a stronger marriage, know more about my kid and have more say in how he is growing up, have a job I love, and can even carve out time for myself. So, yeah, I have it all. I just had to redefine "it all."

Friday, May 05, 2006

Music 4 Mommies

Ever think that if the wheels on the bus go 'round and 'round one more time you'll go 'raound the bend yourself? Here's your cure. It's Music for Mommies and it's alternately funny and sweet. You'll laugh, releasing some of that tension, then you'll tear up, remembering why you haven't locked the little buggers in their rooms until they turn 30. Yet.
Just click the link at right.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The new write way

As I printed my name on a school board ballot, I noticed the change. My penmanship made a paradigm shift to the present. Gone were the boxy, straight letters I made in school. They had been replaced by a kinder, gentler, curvier cursive wannabe. Once Faith started learning her letters in school, I found out there's a new right way to write. Now I'm having a flashback to my mother's frustration over "new math." Just what was new math anyway? Well, the new penmanship has little curves at the end of "a-d-h-m-x," etc. As her teacher explained, the tiny flips are designed to ease little minds into cursive writing. Apparently the shift from stick-like letters to smooth flowing script was too much of a leap. Now I'm making the jump back to the future. I had slipped into the habit of writing in all capital letters anytime I printed something. As a result, Faith learned to write her name as FAITH, which is not the correct way. In an effort to get my child off the straight and narrow and into the new swing of things, my own writing is evolving. Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks? Just leave math alone until she graduates from college.
- Liz

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Mother's Day blitz

Advertising for Mother's Day sales and specials finally permeated my consciousness yesterday. It kind of snuck up on me, because I am busy with other things right now. But as I listened to the ad, I thought, "I don't want the guys to BUY me something. I'd rather they clean the house!" So here are some (mostly inexpensive or free) Mother's Day gift ideas she's sure to thank you for. (Moms, pass this link on to your men, because it's mostly for them.)
1) Send her on vacation. I don't mean to a tropical island, but to the loacl park with a picnic basket and a paperback novel. Or to the movies. While she's gone, clean the house, do the dishes and the laundry, and cook dinner (or get take out).
2) Give her the afternoon off at home. So she's the type who prefers the house cleaned HER way. Take the kids out - to the park, to the movies, to grandma's. Leave mom at home for an afternoon of peace and quiet.
3) Detail her car. If you like, let JT's Madd do a sneak ambush at her workplace.
4) Hit her emotions. Gather up her favorite photos of the kids and get a small scrapbook. Add little notes from the kids, their handprints, funny things they say... You get the idea. A scrapbook doesn't have to be elaborate to pull at her heartstrings.
5) Spa day. My favorite - and the most expensive on the list (I'm high-maintenance like that). Even women who don't have acrylic nails like the pampering of a massage, manicure and pedicure - especially during sandal season.
So there you have it, five foolproof way to win mom's goodwill this mother's day - without fighting the crowd at the mall.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

She's the big girl now

I watched with a quiet smile as my daughter led her 18-month-old cousin down our hall. Faith still had her hair pulled back in a bun from her dance recital as she took little Erin by the hand. Faith, who looked so elegantly grown up, reassured her visiting cousin as they slowly tottered together toward the guest bedroom. "Come on, Erin. It's OK. You're brother's coming too and we're going to watch a movie," Faith told her. It was one of those moments when I didn't even need a Kodak. It will be etched in my heart and memory forever. Faith was so gentle, so patient and so mature. There's nothing like having a wee one in the house to see how big your little girl really is.
- Liz

Monday, May 01, 2006

too big

Up to now, when Daniel has a bad dream and comes tip-toeing (like a box of rocks) into our room, I've just hauled him into the bed with us and gone right back to sleep. It has been kind of nice, having that little snuggle time first thing in the morning when we're all still sleepy. But physically, at least, he's too big for that anymore. I discovered this Saturday night, when I found myself kicked out of my own bed. I stood at the side and blearily gazed at my two guys sprawled across the blanket and mentally gave up. After all, there's a perfectly good double bed not in use in Daniel's room! So I finished the night out with Thomas the train and assorted teddy bears. And you know what? I slept great. But from now on, when the herd of elephants comes stumbling into my room at 3:30, he's going to get a quick hug and sent back to his own room.