Sunday, December 28, 2008

Silver and Gold

There was enormous joy spilling over my Christmas stocking this year. Mr. Claus was very good to me, leaving me smiling over my cookies and milk. I am feeling the pieces fall into place now.

Little girls rule.

There was very little we didn't bring into our home this year. The full throttle of peace was nestled between us and formed great big hugs around our shoulders.

The magic was alive.

Dress up attire, a new kitchen set, classic board games, big and small stuffed animals and much, much more. None of it, of course, meant more than the bright eyes of two little girls who now believe Santa Claus brought them a bunch of presents.

I believe, too.

Now, as we nurse a high fever and keep the spirit alive, we enter the last of this great vacation and the end of a year of conflict and energy. Everything and nothing is changing.

Time to set new goals; achieve new dreams.

There's lots on the horizon for us this year, I believe. I've entered a new realm of working motherhood, of being a a mother to twin toddlers, of being a daughter and a grand-daughter.

I am finally free.

Christmas pasts have finally found the place where they belong and that little girl who grew up with them, has finally come home. She is Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus. She is the mother. She is the wife. She writes the story of her Christmas, of her birthdays, of her Mondays.

She is at peace.

Happy New Year! Stay tuned for some new, peaceful Between the Lines blog posts.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

I want, I want, I want

Perhaps it's because I have one almost 3-year-old who is very in touch with her wants.

Perhaps it's because living on one income was so hard that being on two makes me feel rich.

Perhaps it's because after working so hard, for so long, we deserve some nice things.

Perhaps it's none of this, and just the stress of life pointing me toward things. Things.

It's been a juggle, a hassle, to walk the line of saving and spending. Of needs and wants. Of this and that.

What's harder is that if I enter a store for say, diapers, I see the girls' clothes clearing rack, then I think about how one pair of shoes isn't enough, or how they need snow boots now that we've encountered our third snow storm of the season and we're still a week from Christmas.

Then, I remember that I need printer ink, so I head to that part of the store, easily getting sidetracked by my love of books, which luckily haven't been easily found in my favorite big box store lately. But, it brings me closer to the toys, where I think I might finally find a toy that my two almost 3-year-olds will play with. I scour each shelf, high and low, smiling and at how much joy each one of those brand, spankin' new toys will bring such immense joy that is not currently in our house, relishing the thoughts, maybe even picking up one or two.

I sneak out past the home and garden section, where I long to buy more storage bins to feel more organized and less cluttered. And that reminds me that we need this and that for the girls' bathroom, which was recently painted and looks lovely, despite it's lack of anything in it.

I skip past the food, only going back a second later to remember to pick up that easy-to-fix dinner item that the girls, hopefully, will eat tonight. Turkey dogs. Chicken tenders. Cheese sticks. Annie's macaroni and cheese. Then, I rush past the snacks trying to grab just one more healthier-but-easier bedtime snack in the hopes that they will be so full they won't actually wake up, again, tonight.

By the time I make my entire circumfrance around the store, which started all because we were down to one last friggin' pull-up, I usually have a full cart. So, I swing into the make-up and beauty section, examining my goods, and tossing out what I know I don't need right now. Diapers? Yes. Turkey dogs? Yes. Paper towels? Yes. More girls' clothes? No.

As I pile what's left onto the moving belt, I realize that I've probably just saved myself a nice chunk of cash by impulse shopping, but with a final once-over.

But then the verdict is in: The bill is 80-something dollars.

If this isn't a vicious cycle, I'm not sure what is.

Which gets me wondering, does the American reliance upon THINGS have anything to do with wanting to get their kids to stop crying?? To get five minutes of peace to make dinner? To have just one more cute craft to hang up so that there is just one thing that proves we were somewhat productive today?

photo credit: Dan Halen for President

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

I heart Facebook

The many forms of me stare back at me on just one page.

Kindergarten friends. Elementary friends. Neighborhood friends. Cousins from long histories ago. High school best friends. College cohorts. Newspaper colleagues from near and far.

Best friends.

Past boyfriends.

Zen teachers.

Current friends that I've never met or only met once -- through blogging.

Even my boss, as of last week, became a friend on Facebook.

Each night, after we tuck the girls into bed, I climb into my computer chair for what I call Facebooking time. It's when I get to reconnect with people from my past and my present all in one sitting.

It's beautiful because with each facet of friendship and relationship and connection, I pick up the pieces of the woman I am with each face, each memory.

And, as I learn things about all of these people in an easy-to-read format, I am learning that we're all as much alike as we are different.

We're all new and old and learning together. I've rekindled girlfriend relationships, and even rebuilt a bridge over troubled waters (or two).

Signs that we're aging, yes, but that we're essentially who we've always been. Just with some character lines -- and some children.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Good-bye, Two ...

Dear girls,

You're girls now.

In just one month, you will begin your fourth year and I think that might be the year that we leave babyhood behind, even though you go at this reluctantly, urging me to still call you a baby. But, every day, just about, I see how you are seeing the larger picture of how the world works and how you fit into it. And I try to be patient, though, not patient enough, for you to learn and experiment and, yes, test the rules and boundaries around you.

The truth is that I love being your mom -- when I'm not busy intervening, putting things back together or moving things out of your reach -- because, let's face it, the child proofing wasn't necessary until now.

I love how your sense of wonder stops me in my tracks and wakes me up -- easing me right back into my childhood days, just like that. My eyes bulge and I remember.

I do wish I could help you slow down because I see your growing beyond your years already. You say things that not only amaze me, but leave me scratching my head in wonder. School has been good for you and I'm all the more impressed by your ability to communicate, to tell stories, and to speak your heart.

I don't like everything that comes out of your mouths, but I also know that there's no turning back now. I also know that the apple may not fall far from the tree and that my own character flaws are now yours. At least some of them.

I tear myself up inside not knowing if this is good or bad. You will speak your mind. I know this. I want this. But I also know the torment that can cause a young woman.

I also wonder what you will look back and think about your childhood with me. What will I be blamed for? What will I have done to cause you shame (and therapy?)?

Take care in these last four weeks of two. I know I plan to. Because finally -- just like those early days when people told me life with twins would get easier -- I now understand what the others meant when they said that you would grow up too fast.

You already have.

You're girls now.

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Monday, December 1, 2008

Hanging on 24 days

Has it really been a week since I posted? That just goes to show how out of the writing habit I truly am ... that time slips by and I don't even realize. I will say I made progress this week in that I started to THINK about writing, again. Like, how can I? Where will I? When will I be able to, again?

I have built lots of pressure for myself, again, this December. I have resolutions spiraling through my mind all day, and all night. Both for what I want to achieve this season, and for what I hope to walk away with as new, good habits for next year.

I'll start with saying that I will write again every day. Just like I have to get up and just force myself to work out now that I'm not getting ANY exercise.

For now, the next 25 days-plus are about one thing: Celebrating.

One of the awesome things about having the girls in school is that they have become so much more aware of the world around them. Perhaps it's the age, but there's no way we could have taught them as much as they know now, including their fondness and belief in (pretend) ghosts. The week after Halloween had me shaking in my heels when they were informing me throughout the day that there were ghosts, "Over there."

We hung an advent activity calendar on our mantel yesterday just like this one -- well, close. And, inside each stocking is an activity that will hopefully help us all enjoy this month a little more carefully and slowly. It is about the season -- not about the day, or the gifts or even the old guy with a beard. It's about us -- our family, the four of us.

And this year I get it. I finally understand my place, my roll, our purpose here. For the longest time, I've been trying to find happiness in other people when the holidays rolled around -- worked our schedule around theirs to be together, to make people happy. In every other aspect of my life, I create my own path and yet happy holidays always have been a chore.

No more.

This season, I finally understand that even the holidays are up to me. Even Christmas. Even Thanksgiving. Even Valentine's Day. Even Memorial Day.

I'm not a little girl any longer and everything has changed, including me. I am the mommy of two little girls who are so excitable right now that even the fact that I'm driving the car makes Jadyn yell with enthusiasm.

"You're driving, Mommy!!!!"

So, it's easy -- rather cheating, actually -- to make this Christmas the one to remember. The one where I finally grow up and be The Mom and take charge of the holiday spirit.

How will we celebrate? Each day a card in the stockings will read something like this:

  • Play Christmas music every morning and sing songs
  • Have a tea party with scones and tea
  • Make Christmas crafts such as this one
  • Bake cookies, and deliver them to neighbors
  • Go to a lights festivals
  • Camp out by the tree,
  • drink hot chocolate
  • and read our Literary Advent books.
  • Paint our toenails
  • Making handmade holiday cards, and wrapping paper
  • Wear red and green
  • Cover pretzels with drippy, gooey chocolate
  • Star gazing and drinking hot chocolate for Winter Solstice
How about you? Any unique-to-yours activities this year? Please share.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

And, what exactly did you do?

Thank goodness the Terrible Twos are almost over ... because I can tell already that the Thrilling Threes are going to be one big, fat Hair Pulling/Pinching/Spitting/Pushing/Screaming/Chattering Party. Who-hoo!!

And, I wanted to be a mother because ... ??? (It's a joke, folks. Really. Sort of.)

Despite the brilliance of how my almost-3-year-olds treat each other and us, their parents, we did manage to have a very good weekend that included starting to make our Advent calendar, which will hang on the wall on a string, their own holiday place mats and the cutest snowmen I've ever seen!

Not just that, I cleaned. I really cleaned, and that includes de-cluttering and tossing out stuff.

And then I baked. Granola. Pumpkin/Chocolate Chip muffins. Finally, I cooked risotto in the crock pot. I'm very impressed with myself. Perhaps this working-life-mother balance beam isn't so difficult after all.

I like weekends that result in some relaxing -- our second movie night went well but the movie was too old for the girls -- and productivity. In fact, I'm a results kinda girl in just about anything I do. So long as we have art work to display, I am cool with a morning of crying. Same goes for my weekends: I like to get things done. I consider relaxing one of those things.

This week's dinners will be super easy and ready instantly: Total working mom fare.

Sunday -- Risotto and salmon cakes (salmon, mayo, dried mustard, bread crumbs, cheese, egg)
Monday -- Quesadillas (beans and cheese served with salsa and sour cream) and salad, rice
Tuesday -- Burgers + Fries
Wednesday -- Butternut Squash soup, WHO bread and salad (leftovers for the girls)
Thursday -- Thanksgiving dinner -- Sweet potato casserole
Friday -- Homemade pizza (I plan to start making this and freezing)
Saturday -- Spaghetti with meatballs, salad and bread
Sunday -- Tuna casserole

I'm going with each breakfasts this week: muffins and yogurt with homemade granola, cereal and fruit bars and yogurt and eggs and toast. I'm growing quite tired of putting effort into meals for the almost-3-year-olds, frankly, and so as long as they eat a crumb of something, I feel I'm doing my job. Yes, the bar is THAT low.

For more menus, visit Menu Planning Monday. Please share a recipe of yours that's a no-brainer, on the table in under 15 minutes. Come on ... you know we all need new ideas.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

The Holiday Card Drama

I'm curious ... do you send out cards at the end of the year? What's your tradition? Read my holiday card saga here, which includes a review of Minted, a great online store where we got our cards this year. Thanks, Parent Blogger Network!

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Simple things

I'm working from home today, which means I'm not working as much as I should. But, to my credit, I am TRYING to work through this terrible sinus infection that even on Day 3 of antibiotics doesn't seem to be budging out of my system.

I'm falling behind in everything blog related, even linking to those great In 8 Years posts that a few of you did. I will update your list very soon!

In the meantime, I've been thinking about money, and spending, and Christmas/holidays and what it means to me this year. There's much more to this year than before.

First, the economy in which our first thought it so save our money and stash it away, in case ... of something worse. To protect it. But, then there's this argument she made so boldly that has me thinking differently.

Secondly, unlike many Americans, we're actually doing better right now. We have money to spend, to save, and to cover our expenses, even the most frivolous. This does not mean I want to blow it all, frivolously. Rather, I'd love to spend it on some quality things that in the past has only been used to replace the cheaper things that fell apart.

Thirdly, there's Christmas, and being a mother of two very silly little girls who just get so amazed by just about anything and wanting to truly go overboard with wowing them this season. Not just with presents on Christmas morning, but with the joyous traditions of new and old that this time of the year can only bring.

Fourthly, it's about family and wanting to have those movie-like moments with all our family around, baking cookies and singing songs and breaking bread and knowing that that dream will be just that, again, this year as family ties are so broken and scattered about with disregard.

I felt this way last year, but the stakes were much higher last year, and the girls were less aware, less involved in our decisions and more just along for the ride. I was at my peak of money-management learning in which I learned not only how to be frugal, but to truly go without for many things. It's a balance beam to stay in that mindset, even when the checkbook -- or Chunky Purse -- isn't as tight.

This past Saturday we instituted our first Movie Night, which included their first-ever movie: The Polar Express. It was a very wise choice for a first movie, both in the timing of the year and in the nature of the film -- it's spirit and gentleness, and gift to all. Both, especially Liana, watched in awe as the characters and everything around them came to life in ways they had never seen before. It was the power of film unfolding before OUR eyes. Daddy Dan teared up, and still does just thinking about it. It was a night to remember.

Which leads me to my last thought: I want more of those moments. More gifts that wow and leaves us in awe. Passion and lust. I want to feel free to want. I want to feel free to live. I want to feel content with wanting it all, and then some.

And, I want to feel completely wowed by nothing at all.

If it's possible.

That's said, I saw this cute necklace on Etsy and just wanted to pass it along as a simple gift to you, too.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

In 8 years

I admit that I'm still tearing up, on occasion, about Obama's win, and our future. A lot of it has to do with the anti-racist part of me, knowing that a large part of that part of our history has been wiped clean.

But, more than that, it's that I haven't really known anything else as a president other than Dumb W. I used the bad analogy to Daddy Dan about feeling like an abused child, who doesn't know any thing better in life.

I think people will soon wake up and realize we haven't had a real president in eight years. For some older Americans, who have lived through other presidents, that might not feel like a lot of time.

But, for me, my world changed under the reign -- and chaos -- of Dumb W. In fact, looking at this list makes me wonder exactly how much damage he might have done over the last near decade that we don't even know about.

In the last eight years I ...

Moved to a different state
Worked three jobs
Met a man
Got engaged to that man
Learned to be a wife
Traveled out of the country
Suffered through infertility
Got pregnant
Learned to be a mother
Was a working mom
Was a stay-at-home mom
Was a work-at-home mom
Became a working mom again.
Changed careers -- twice
Sold a house
Bought a house
Tried selling another house, but could not (thanks, W!)
And, now, I'm watching well-known businesses collapse before my eyes.

And much more.

How about you? What has changed in your life in the last eight years? Pass it on and link back to me, if you want for a sweet little, spontaneous writing contest. I'll link to everyone's post at the end of the week. Or, just leave your notes in comments.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Yes we did!

My nose is stuffy. The tears keep coming. All I know is that we're going to be OK now. We're all going to be OK now.

It's a Dawning of a New Day.

I've never felt more proud to be a Democrat. Never.

Thanks to all who made this happen.

Hope is alive, again.

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Monday, November 3, 2008

November 4, 2008

Vote for hope.

Vote for change.

Vote for yourself.

Vote for our country.

Vote for the thousands of white, black and brown volunteers making this a campaign about YOU, AND ABOUT ME.

Vote for your neighbors.

Vote for my neighbors.

Vote for Mother Earth.

Vote for humanity.

Vote for the future.

Vote for that smile.

Vote for That One.

Vote for the next generation.

Vote like your life depends on it.

Vote like your job depends on it.

Because it does.

If it rains, call for a ride. If it pours, run to the polls. If the line is long, just wait -- wait minutes, wait hours, but please just wait.

Just vote.

And, in honor of Obama's grandmother, who died just one day before she would have learned his fate in American politics, I give you this quote from him, a man too kind for his own good. From the New York Times:

“She was one of those quiet heroes that we have all across America,” Mr. Obama said. “They’re not famous. Their names are not in the newspapers, but each and every day they work hard. They aren’t seeking the limelight. All they try to do is just do the right thing. In this crowd there are a lot of quiet heroes like that.”

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Friday, October 31, 2008

When Mommy's an Obama-Mama

Dear Jadyn and Liana:

I know it isn't fair that after working a long 40-hour work week, I have left you a couple times over the last two weeks in the evenings and on the weekends. I'm sure you've hardly noticed it, but I leave with a heavy heart.

And, for the next FOUR days, I will do it more. And yet I am doing it for you. It's all for you.

You see, I'm working for that man -- the one with the smooth, tan skin and the incredible gift for speaking -- the one you call Obama!

I wasn't always a supporter of Obama. Mommy wanted to you to see the first woman elected president in your lifetime. She really wanted that now. But, the country spoke and they saw something in Obama, something special, something unique.

Now, just four days away from the election, I have done what many women have done and we have found excitement in seeing a beautiful, compassionate black man take oath in the Oval Office -- he will be the first black president, if elected.

Do not get me wrong, this election is important for many reasons.

What many in America do not get to see is what you and I see every day as we travel around our city, where 80 percent of the children live in poverty.

Our neighbors have hope, possibly for the first time in their lifetimes.

So, when I leave you this weekend, and when I'm gone from you all day on Election Day, please know I'm doing it for you, and for what I believe in:

I believe in prosperity for ALL.

I believe in peace.

I believe in being free to choose, free to believe and free to speak.

I believe handguns should not be in the hands of anyone but police officers.

I believe in putting humanity first.

I believe in the middle class and working poor and finally making government work for them.

Finally, I believe in Obama.

What do you believe?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Gathering splinters

I've talked a lot about how in just about any life, one can work writing into their lives. I've even talked a lot about how motherhood is the one thing that has gotten in my way.

Well, I take it all back.

Kids have gotten in my way. Kids have blocked my writing.

I can pinpoint the start of this nasty season to the third week of July. It was hot and we were preparing for our road trip to GA.

Jadyn got up one day from her nap and met me in at the computer. She had escaped her crib.

It's been over ever since.

We moved them that week to beds.

What used to be 7 a.m.ish risings around here, quickly turned into 6 a.m. risings, then 5:30 risings ... and I've been a mess ever since.

There is no break. No downtime. I used to at least have the mornings and evenings, but even getting them to bed has been nearly impossible before 8:15, at the earliest, and then I just






I've never been more tired in my life than I am right now. I dream of all the great things I can finally do for myself: paint my nails, soak my feet, read magazines, finally scrapbook, write, drink wine, watch TV ...

And yet none of it happens.

That's why I'm not blogging. Not because I'm working, but because the home life has been so tough ever since Jadyn and Liana got a bit of freedom.

Today is the first day I can think of where they are awake and staying in their room to talk and play!!!! It's a miracle. I could do this. I could be this mother. Not the one that is surprised awake too early or rushed out of the shower. I can live this life, that leaves me even just a few minutes of space to breath, relax my shoulders away from my ears and let my mind wonder.

The sibling battles have been tense, mostly for me. One or the other (mostly one) is never happy with anything: That frustrates me because I am, still, so emotionally invested in their well-being but also because their happy state usually means I can relax and let down a bit. It's just so rare now that I have become tense and grumpy and full of venom.

All of that isn't much fun to write about, let alone blog about.

So while I've found my groove as a working mother, I'm gathering many splinters in the process. And, their sticking to my skin like never before.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Potty Dramas

My name is Shawn and I am a potty training failure.

Not even Once Upon a Potty can help me. Sorry Parent Bloggers Network.

So very sorry.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Chief of WHAT????

It's a big title for a mom who can barely keep her head above water most days.

Many of you have been wondering about my work, what I'm doing and how I'm coping being away from my sweet toddler girls who bicker and fight about everything under the sun -- including whether or not the sun is up or not.

I am working as a chief of staff for a local legislator.

And, from what I can tell after a mere two months on the job, it's a really good fit for the woman I have always been and the one I've become since becoming a mother.

The lens of the old me is much more filtered now ... many of the passions I had are now followed with a but, and a what if and why bother: and it always comes back to Jadyn and Liana or just plain being a mother in this generation.

There isn't an issue or a law or a complaint that comes along that doesn't fire me up about my love and appreciation for humanity. But I can't easily forget where I've come from just that morning -- wiping snot from one girl's nose just seconds after wiping diarrhea off her sister's butt. Life is good.

Motherhood -- parenthood -- is very humbling. My boss likes to tell me about the night he finished law school and was ready to celebrate -- only to arrive home to a floor covered in vomit, the result of his young son's cold.

There's no manual; no law book. There's no play-by-play for this parenting thing. It's a crapshoot, really, of every day trying to blend the new and exciting and joy with the mundane, frustrating and ready-to-move-out-of-this-phase phase. And I often -- meaning, several times a morning and a hundred times a night -- feel like I do not know what I'm doing, or why I chose to do it all in the first place.

And then they come along and look at me with their sweet eyes -- because they are starting to show those, now and then, -- and ask me a simple question, "My have that, Mommy?" And, they're starting to do little girl things like sit in front of my bathroom mirror and pretend to brush and fix their hair, and they love to fix my hair, too! And, they play some serious kitchen-play that includes lots of pretend hand washing. These are glimpses for me that there is light ahead, that I will be able to have fun as a mother -- some day.

It's still really hard to manage life with twins. And, it is because they are twins. We've struggled with much more fighting and bickering than previously. At my wits end, I found some research online and it's helping slightly. When they are playing well, it's very good. When they are not playing together and have selfish needs, it can be rather terrible and upsetting for me.

I miss them terribly when I'm at work, but I'm starting to find a balance - at least on the weekends -- that allows me to stay open and awake to them at certain times when not slaving in the kitchen or at the stores. There truly aren't enough hours in the day, dinner is ALWAYS a disaster and I now truly understand why more and more convenience foods are ending up on shelves despite the inconvenient cost.

There's no chief in my cap in the morning as I juggle the line between being woken up too early --well before dawn -- and tip toeing around, worried they will wake any second even though dawn has already arrived and yet I'm not able to get much done.

I'm not the boss of anyone as we make our way downstairs and bicker over what to eat for breakfast, which pants to wear and who will put on their socks, their shoes, their coats. There is no staff to help load the car with all the stuff, to help them realize we have to move along now or to race them to the car or to stop to look at a slug.

Mostly, I'm starting to find the cool groove of working while mothering, but I've been a very slow learner. VERY SLOW, in fact.

No, sir, there's no chief here.

Just a mom. And a very tired one at that.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

5 Tips for stay-at-home moms

I already gave myself a little note about lessons learned as a stay-at-home mommy and now I'm flipping the roles around and sending some 20/20 vision out to my SAHM friends seeking a bit of a balance while in the trenches.

1. Act like you're going to work: Get up, shower and drink your coffee just like you would start a day of working outside the home. And then take it a bit further: put on make up, and dress up, comfortably. You'll feel better about yourself.

2. Enjoy your thoughts: The main difference, that I can tell, between a stay-at-home mom and a mother who works outside the home is the fact that most SAHMs have more time to think. This can be good, and this can be bad. Whatever the outcome, be thankful that you have that space to reflect on the good and the bad instead of just wading deep in a pile of sticky fragments.

3. Relish the Nap Time: The second main difference between a working moms day and a stay-at-home moms day is in the nap time. Of course, that's only when the kids are napping. After that, it's all the exact same. No time to do anything. At. All. It's not mommy wars. It's called motherhood. But, while you have a nap break, use it to your advantage -- and that means get off the computer, and do something quiet just for you.

4. Exercise: I honestly thought I never had time to exercise, and really, I didn't but now looking back I realize I really did have more time. It wasn't perfect. It wasn't ideal. But it was something -- and it was MUCH more than I can give to that important hobby now. So, even if it's just running at the playground or doing push-ups in the playroom -- it's better than sitting at a desk all day. Seriously.

5. Take. A. Freaking. Break: Yeah, you ... leave the child. With someone else. For a whole day. Or a half a day. But, leave them. Hire a sitter and just go. Live with it. Deal with it. Learn to let the grips of guilt fall to the side, learn to leave your white knuckles at home, with the dirty diapers and mealtime battles. You will not be a better mother just by being with her or him around the clock. Trust me. You'll all be better off in the end.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Between the Lines: (The Growing Up Edition)

Sharing giggles in bed before Mama comes in ...
Messing around with Daddy ...
Ready for school ...
Rock Star Baby Carter
More Carter
Sand Art
Dress up has begun!
These aren't even our Halloween costumes.
Two bags, heels, a princess dress and a weird hat.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Yes, I is

Me: "Liana, are you messing up Mommy's papers?"

Liana: "Yes, I is."

Me: "Liana, you're crazy."

Liana: "Yes, I is."

Jadyn: "Nani, are you crazy?"

Liana: "No."

This is a somewhat exaggerated and fictional conversation based upon real life events happening in our house daily. Hope you are all well.

Monday, September 22, 2008

It's your choice ...

From the New York Times:


"Mr. Obama said that despite the huge new government obligation, he would press ahead with his plans to overhaul the health care system to insure more people, make college tuition more affordable, give a tax cut to the middle class and raise taxes on those making over $250,000 a year.

“The problem that we have,” Mr. Obama said, “in part has to do with wages and incomes that have been flat. And so homeowners and ordinary families out there have been working very hard, but it’s tough for them to pay the bills and stay afloat with rising gas prices and health care.

“So if we don’t address our long-term competitiveness, if we don’t address some of the inequities in the tax code, if we’re not addressing some of the things that weakened the family budget, then we’re not, over the long term, going to solve these larger problems in the financial markets.”


"But Mr. McCain said in an interview here with CNBC and The New York Times that he would press on with his plan to extend the Bush tax cuts and to cut others. Contrary to the warnings of fiscal analysts, he said he believed he could do so and balance the federal budget, which was falling deeper into deficit even before the financial crisis, by the end of his first term."

"I believe we can still balance the budget,” he said. “I think that it is restraint of spending, and I think it’s growth of government and the economy, and the recovery of our economy. And anything you do that would take more money from the American people who are hurting more now, I think, would be a serious mistake.”

And, if you can tell me exactly what the latter in bold means, please feel free to leave it in the comments. I've read it five times and still can't figure it out. I mean, seriously. SERIOUSLY.

This is not a joke, folks. The next bail out is going to be us.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Rising up from the black hole

Besides reading and reviewing Patterson's new book, "The Dangerous Days of Daniel X," I'm starting to hit my working groove, I think.

I am no longer shrinking in the shadows. My name is slowly starting to creep back onto people's radars. I honestly feel like I have been living in a black hole in my own community.

People are sending me graduation pictures of their sons who four years ago were just leaving junior high school.

I've missed a lot of people's lives and they've missed a lot of mine but we're picking up the pieces as if I hadn't been holed up dealing with all babies, all the time for the last three years.

Our mornings and nights are still chaotic. I cry a lot in those times because they are not what I want them to be -- filled with sweet moments between two girls and their mommy. They are really quite the opposite and it's upsetting. It's been four weeks of "school" for them and I do see progress both with how they are falling into the routine and the loss of me, as well as with what they are learning.

When I'm busy at work, which is most of the time, I hardly have time to think about what I'm missing out on. But, those few moments in the day when I'm walking outside or driving, I have a minute to feel the grief inside my heart about being away from them for so long, for missing this part of their life.

When we finally reconnect, we hug a lot and we are giddy with joy. At least until we walk into the house and the crying begins. Why the crying at home? It's always been that way.

At night, when they need their blankets back on or a snuggle, I gladly hop up to do it, knowing it's my chance to get some peaceful time with them, breathe them in and feel their breath on my cheek.

It's not perfect and I can't imagine any working moms life being as such, but it's working. The job, the boss ... are very good. I'm finding my legs, again, as a smart, strong woman.

I'm still a mother, rising.

But there's a bit of that old Shawn rearing her energetic, passionate head -- the one who's always been on a mission to make the world a better place.

And, there could not be a better time to do this kind of work.

How about you? What's rising in your world right now?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

It's almost 9 p.m. ...

And this is the first real chance I've had at blogging in an entire week.

I'd like to detail how I went at it with the director of my girls child care center this week, or how we had painters in to paint the kitchen and hall and they sanded the walls and ceilings -- twice -- and we've spent the better part of the last 48 hours, cleaning everything from dishes and glasses to floors and windows.

I'd love to fill you in on how the days away from the girls, while still hard, are getting to be physically easier. I'd love to say that I love my job and I can't imagine returning to life as a SAHM ... but I can't. I just can't.

I'd love to say that working is easier, but it's not. It's so not. I can't think of the last five minutes I had to myself. I miss the quiet. Meditation may save me ...

The truth is that I feel less fulfilled about this life than I wish I did. I am going through the motions, knowing it's right for our family and that this "preschool" setting is good for my girls and that, ultimately, I hope I am doing the right thing for myself. This week I have an event with our governor and while that's cool, I'm too insecure and worried about what to wear (it's a groundbreaking ceremony so it must be ... dirt-friendly).

Honestly, being back in the working world has reminded me of one very harsh reality that I had forgotten over the last two years: That real life people are inefficient, average and often rather annoying.

My little third-floor attic office and work-at-home schedule -- though demanding -- and blogging and communicating with my best friends by e-mail put me in a bubble that erased this fact from my memory. I was the boss, and I didn't have to rely on too many people -- at least not for much more than a 20-minute interview.

Now I'm left to realize that we're all human and that human sometimes isn't even close to being perfect -- or even average -- in real life.

I blame all of you for appearing so perfect to me, for making me believe in humanity again.

Darn you!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A small giveaway happening today

Check out my other blog for a cool Yoplait Kids Yogurt review -- and a giveaway -- as part of The Parent Bloggers Network. You could win something -- or you could, at the very least, print off a good Yoplait Kids coupon.

And, speaking of giveaways. Have you checked out my good friend The Writer Mama's Back to School Giveaways? I won four or five books last year and, unfortunately, have been so overwhelmed with my new life haven't been able to enter. But that shouldn't stop you, now! Go. Here. Now.

Thank you for visiting today.

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Continuing Education

As someone who has been a part of that "media" we all gripe about, I must give a shout-out when I read something outstanding. I know the media has more in it than they have given over the years.

I don't know about you, but I am on a mission. A real mission. And it starts with me. And it starts with you.

Daddy Dan started in 2004 reading everything he could to be an informed citizen and an informed voter. That means more than reading your hometown newspaper and watching the morning and evening news. We must seek out all sources of information about everything personal to us. And, since what is personal to us is sleeping in the next room ...

I will read everything I can about this election to be sure that WE THE PEOPLE are going to be represented.

And this tells me a lot. Please consider it, and pass it on.

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Monday, September 8, 2008

The most important click of your life

I don't have time to write ... but, luckily, someone else has.

Go here to read my feelings, exactly. And more.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

These are the days of our lives

There should be a blog post here. Something witty or heartbreaking or, even, just tired prose. But, I have nothing. A long list of things I didn't get to do this weekend, a deep well of sadness that the weekend is over and a very weird feeling of not wanting to be a working mom or a stay-at-home mom or, even, a work-at-home mom anymore.

I just am.

I feel like a bug hitting the windshield of an 18-wheeler -- caught off guard with the full impact of this is what life is for mothers today.

The question remains: How will blogging fit into this new life of ours?

I wish I knew the answer. I'm pleading for the energy, the material and the time. This is the only thing I have and I want to keep it, even if everything else is a mess.

I'm sorry for not reading your blogs, or even if I have read your posts, I haven't commented. I'm sorry for being absent. For being melodramatic. For being sad. For being angry. For taking at least one coffee break each day at work and wasting money on take-out lunches because anything -- ANYTHING -- is better than peanut butter and jelly or grilled cheese right now.

To change all of this, I'm going to say this: Life is getting easier. And I still have a lot to say. I just don't know when and how I'll get to say it.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Where I am now

We survived last week.


Friday evening I collapsed in the arms of my two little girls and husband and cried. I've never appreciated a three-day weekend more.

I'm almost at a loss for words now. Numb, cautiously optimistic that this week will prove to be better.

By Friday, Liana was soaring without me. But, she was never the one I was worried about. I knew she'd thrive. She's a social butterfly ... someone who seriously needs to be around other people to feel her best.

She didn't even cry when I left Friday morning.

But, Jadyn ... she's a whole other story and just the thought of what I knew she was going through last week can send me spiraling down, again.

Still, she showed an ever-so-slight improvement Friday by not crying as long, and even played for most of the day. She still cried at pick up. She still didn't eat lunch -- but neither did all week. She was still so relieved to get back into her parents' arms. It didn't help that she picked up a small cold or something, too, but her weekend was all out of whack with what we believe was some night terrors and up several times a night wanting daddy, no mommy, no daddy. Helpless, knowing her pain, we did as she requested.

I'm sure tonight she'll sleep well and then the week will start all over again.

On a side note, both girls are talking non-stop now and it's so neat to witness it.

Highlights of this milestone:

In bed one night this weekend. The room was dark and we were doing our nightly petting hours. Liana said, "Daddy! I have gas."

Then, today at lunch:

Daddy: "Do you like grapes?" (Asked to Liana while she was eating almonds but preparing to eat a grape.)

Liana: "Yes." Pause. "I like nuts, too."

Thanks to everyone who has been trying to console me this past week. I do appreciate all of your kind words. I'm just going to let this play out for a while and see how it goes. There may be few postings in the meantime. Or, not ... you just never know.


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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

At the end of the day

I must be under some test of strength by the universe. If I can handle this, I can handle just about anything, right?

I take it all back. Every last word.

I'd take a full day of tantrums and whining and never getting anything done to never, ever have to drop them off at day care, again.

What was I thinking? This isn't going to work out. I don't have it in me. I'm going to cave.


But, I can't. I'm not working to make money. I'm not working to get away from my children. I'm not working to further a career.

I'm working to help people; to make a difference in my daughters' world.

It's hard right now to keep this in perspective. They didn't eat all day. They cried all afternoon. They sobbed, uncontrollably, again when I arrived to pick them up. Their little hearts bursting with emotion. They don't want me to leave their side all night afterward. We were each other's worlds for so long and now they feel like I'm going to leave them any second.

And, my God, I can't stop crying about it (when they aren't around.)

They are depressed. I can see it. And it's truly breaking every string of my heart. One by one.

I don't think I can take another "it will get easier" comment. This sage advice doesn't help as I have to slide their little tightly gripped hands off mine and walk away, leaving them crying so hard they sound like they will vomit.

My super cool boss said that I'll laugh about all of this in seven years and he's probably right. He's a father himself. And I take comfort that all of this will pass and we'll all be stronger for it.

I'm afraid, I might be the one scarred for life. I'm picturing all the working moms of the world and wondering, seriously, how they do it.

How do they do it and not feel totally, utterly, sincerely crushed?

And then this note from one of their teachers: "They have a lot of trouble transitioning from one activity to another."

Seriously? This is a joke, right?

I'm worried that my only children -- my first born -- my youngest and my oldest -- are getting basic needs, like, say food, water, sleep and that they are smiling and happy for more than 2 hours in an 8 hour day.

But, OK, thanks for sharing your concern about how to get them to ease right from playing hard into taking a nap ON THEIR SECOND DAY OF DAY CARE!

That will make everything better for my depressed 2.5 year olds who feel like their mother has left them and will never return.

But, whatever, tomorrow's a new day and like this morning I'll set out with a smiling, happy face that will have them fooled until ...

I get dressed for work.

Then, it's game over.

UPDATE: What 2 minutes can do.

In just two minutes they stopped crying ... 2 minutes.

I cried longer than that!!!!!



Please, just rip out my heart!

Seriously. Take it out. I don't want to feel anymore.

This morning was harder; the crying, louder; the clinging, tighter; the pain, greater.

I"m having trouble seeing the forest through the trees. Why am I doing this?

I feel so selfish.




Monday, August 25, 2008

Live blogging ... a heart breaking

Did you hear that? That loud crash ... the earth falling off its axis?

Nevermind it.

It was just my heart shattering in a million little pieces and falling out of the sky as two little girls cried and clung to my legs as I shoved them away and left them. With strangers.

That's all. Just their world changed in a single morning.

And, no they didn't stop crying after I left. Perhaps it is harder on me than them, but it's really hard on them, too.

Back to work.

EDITED: Who needs lunch? Or snacks? When you're depressed, right? Turns out, they didn't need a full belly to take a nap.


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Thinking Out Loud: Notes to Working Gals

I've learned so much these last two years as a stay-at-home mom and I certainly do not want to forget any of it. And, to be sure that I do not, I wanted to create a memo to return to time and again to keep myself in check. Just about any parent could learn a lot staying home with their children for an extended period of time.

Live on one income: Even if you make two, try very hard to live on one. Be frugal. Save a lot. And, keep things very simple.

Be creative: It's not about being able to go out and purchase a piece of art; it's about working within your means to create it and have fun doing so. This goes for just about everything, too. Pick up pieces of a wardrobe at thrift shops and then try to make them work. Spend more time at the craft store than at the toy store. In fact, do not even go to the toy store.

Think natural elements: Put rocks in your windows. Twigs in a bowl. Pick up acorns, leaves and pine cones to remember the place you visited. Spend more time outside than inside. Value Mother Earth and all the beauty she spins on this planet. Try to walk more; drive less. Stop to smell the roses, meditate and cherish a little piece.

Snuggle: Our kids need this. Even if it's just once or twice a day. Stop cooking and cleaning if they want held. Pick them up and do it. If you can't that second, let them know you know that they need it and work hard to make it happen.

Quality time: Take time each morning and each evening to really just be with your children. Period.

Remember, we're all busy: And, we truly are. The stay-at-home mom life doesn't offer much in the way of breaks or time to fix dinner, either. It also doesn't offer sick time or vacation. Nor, was it easy to get to a doctor's appointment. Motherhood is hard no matter which way you slice it. Suck it up.

Write, write, write: Between getting ready for work, working out, meditation, preparing breakfast and dinner and spending good, fun times on the floor, playing, you have to find time to reflect on this life. If you do not, it will pass too quickly and you will wonder where the time went. Write about it so you'll always remember. Just write. Even just a sentence like, "We ate ice cold ice cream in the scorching sun today -- as a family."

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Motherhood on a shelf

For nearly three years, I've had to fight to remember who I was before I became a mother. I had to wonder what I did with all my time.

For the last 2.5 years, I haven't been able to escape being a mother. I couldn't dream of being anything else. The simplest things led me back to two beings: My daughters.

I breathed them. I dreamed of them. I daydreamed about them. I couldn't imagine another child, another life ever being more consuming than my love for them.

I couldn't imagine anything -- nothing at all -- ever coming between me and them. Where I began, they started; where they started, I began.

Now, as I spend eight hours away from them each day, I have to fight to bring myself back to being a mother. When I'd normally be fixing their lunch, I'm fielding calls with complete strangers who now need my attention.

As I walk on short breaks around town, I wonder who am I now? Am I still Mommy? Am I still a writer? Glimpses of my old self have started creeping back. It's me, but very different.

Like a web spun by a spider, I'm feeling stretched from limb to limb to remember the person I've been the last two years, the one who has put creativity and art and nature before everything else. The one who values family and love and gratitude above all. The one with dreams that have been on hold.

And it is hard. I walk down the store-filled street, window shopping for exercise, and realize that I'm drawn to the natural elements as I have been lately. I long to sit in and do yoga, create an artful masterpiece to sit on my daughters' bookshelves, a small bowl wih a simple message. I want to drop in the all natural cleaning store and soak up the good vibes respectful of Mother Earth. So many things I wanted to do ... so many, many things.

And yet ... I want to grab a glass of wine and listen to some music. I want to browse at the library. I want to talk to random people because I haven't' talked to random people in so long. but I forget how to talk to them. How to speak. How to get a conversation started without my conversation pieces -- Jadyn and Liana. I have nothing to glance down to, nothing to push forward and say, here these are my girls! Look at me! I'm somebody!

It's just me. Feeling very exposed but thin and frail and a bit insecure. Like just learning to walk for the first time. Careful, cautious, considerate.

My first three days were spent nearly incognito in a town where many people would recognize my face, and know my name. But, I have even changed that. I'm no longer using my maiden name -- my byline, a name that illuminates that woman I used to be and who hardly exists anymore. Even my hair is different.

At 5:01, I lock the office door, and briskly walk-run toward the parking garage and swiftly make my eight block drive home to my husband and daughters who await my entrance with giddy laughter and big smiles -- something long, long overdue in my life.

This week has been easy. I know they've been happy and fulfilled. Next week, next week will be different. And hard. Perhaps putting motherhood on a shelf won't be as easy.

But, for this week, it's been an interesting experiment to just be a little bit of both of women I used to be.

Photo Courtesy of Luckychair.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Guest Post from Daddy Dan

I'm three days into my week with the girls. Here's what I've learned so far:

They are a little more overwhelmed by new environments than I might have thought. Liana's clingyness is especially surprising: She is so independent and adventurous around the house. We went to gymnastics Monday, and they were both stuck to my legs. Same thing at our new pre-school. Now, in both places, they did warm up after a few minutes. But the world is still a big - and sometimes scary - place. It's easy to forget that seeing them in their element at home.

Meals are the most stressful times of the day. They say they're hungry and then don't eat. They chew things up and then spit them out, and they don't always have a clear reason. They love to bang silverware and make messes. Exhibit A: The Working Mom made a special effort to whip up some chicken salad for chicken salad sandwiches at lunch. They were hungry. I brought out the sandwiches. And Liana very patiently took off every last bit of chicken salad and ate only the bread. Question for my mom: Was I like this at 2? Oh, never mind. I know the answer.

All the energy it takes to keep up with them, all the stress - it's worth it for the one or two moments each day:

Hearing them tell the story of their day to Mom when she comes home from work: "We saw cows. In the barn. Go milking. Cow peed. One cow pooped."

Liana crying from a scraped knee on her way to the car. Jadyn, from her car seat, unprompted, reaching out to hold her sister's hand while Liana got her knee cleaned and bandaged.

Seeing them with other kids and realizing they move pretty well on their own and make decisions on their own. In not quite three years, they have become little people. Not perfect by any stretch, but the most beautiful people I could ever imagine.

Any dads out there have a story to share about that first solo week at home with the kids?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Shiny new us

Dear Jadyn and Liana,

Two years ago, my heart was breaking in two just about every day because I missed you so much as we parted as I left you at day care and went off to my job. I missed seeing you. I missed hearing your cries. I missed everything about you. I worried, too, that I'd miss seeing some of those important milestones. All of those firsts.

In the last two years, however, I am happy to report that I've missed nothing.

I was here when you first crawled.

I was here to hold your hand when you lifted yourself to stand for the first time.

I was here to catch you when you took your first steps.

I was here, unfortunately, when you took your first spill and got a terrible boo-boo.

I was here to introduce you to a slide and a swing, to show you the early morning when the birdies come out to eat, to watch you learn to draw circles and lines and zig zags.

I was here to listen to teach you to count to 10, and listen to you do it successfully.

We may have had our rough patches, but I will forever be changed (and more improved) for the time we've spent together these last two years. I'm looking forward to what lies before us now. I promise to stay awake to this remarkable life change.

This shiny new us.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

How daring are you? Writing Project

It's time. Submit your Daring Group Writing Project entries here with Mr. Linky and let's get reading. I've decided to leave this contest open until Sunday at noon, EST. in case anyone had a bad week of sleeping like I did.

I will draw to names, at random, on Sunday evening and announce who will win the Starbucks gift cards.

Enlightened, for a moment

There's dew on the railing. A mountain of sand before me. I rub my eyes, clutch my yoga bag and head straight for her.

She's vast, open and lush with sea foam.

She's deep, harsh and scary, too.

I spread out my mat along the crystal sand specks along her shore and stretch my arms out to her, wanting her to wrap her arms around me. I breathe in everything she offers, and it is everything.

I sit. And wait.

Wait for the quiet inside to squelch even the sounds of her crashing waves, a sound I dream about, a sound I long to hear over and over. Seconds. No, no minutes, pass. Hours, maybe.

And then it happens.

Peace. A smile. Lost tension. Light as a feather. Filled with nothing but sea salt air, and compassion.

And a profound respect for my God, Mother Earth.

Then, like magic, I turn and we continue building the most awesome sand castle around.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A pot of gold during a storm

I've had a lot of time to think and prepare for this life change of returning to the working world. In fact, if I were going to continue staying at home, as is, I would be defending that choice.

But, I'm not. The only real disadvantage of working is lack of time with our kids. And, it's a pretty big one.

That said, right now, there's very little quality time going on between the three of us. It's squabbling time. It's bickering time. It's negotiating time. It's give-and-take time. It's cleaning time. It's making mess time. It's trying to please time.

And, frankly, very little of it is actually fun anymore. What came first the job or the difficult toddlers? I guess they both sort of evolved at the same time. And since I know my days left to tolerate this challenging period are nearly over, I have less patience than you might think.

Still, it will be hard. But, after a really great visit to their "school" last Friday I can attest to the fact that they will be MUCH better off there than at home with me. First of all, they are at an age when playing trumps everything and I am not sure I can step back onto another playground after this week for a long, long time. It's not just that, they want to do everything fun all day and so the things we used to be able to do, like crafts, are really boring to them now. I'm lucky that I had a really great almost two years since I know moms with boys have not had those great crafty moments.

My point to this post, which has gotten lost as I watch HGTV on the couch instead of at my office computer, is that working will be easier than mothering full-time. I guess that is what many moms have meant when they said they are better mothers when they work. I can see how that is the case now that my girls are in a challenging stage. This week in particular has been rough and I'm not feeling like a very great mom right now. I suspect that I'll miss them terribly next week when they spend the week with Daddy Dan and even more the weeks after that when they start school. But right now I can see the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and here's what is inside:

  • Relieve the pressure: Today's mothers have so much more pressure to deal with than our predecessors. Not only are we expected to mother without any village to rely on but we have to worry about serving our kids too much junk food and not enough organic; we have to worry about stimulating them and nurturing their creativity instead of just sending them off to play by themselves; we have to worry about pedophiles, car crashes, hot slides, plastic bottles and sippy cups and whether or not we're being a helicopter parent. Quite frankly, I'm looking forward to working all day and worrying about other stuff and letting day care deal with some of this stuff so that at the end of the day I can be what I wanted to be in the first place: A mommy who adores her kids.
  • No more lunch rut: One of the hardest parts of my days -- other than being on my own with two toddlers for about 12 hours -- is the hour prior to lunch. They are usually starving and tired, especially now that they are getting up too early. I will not have to make lunches for day care and, boy, am I grateful. I've already been able to plan out a monthly meal plan thanks to this change. Same goes for snacks. Meals have become such drama that I'm thankful to have to be in charge of one less.
  • Active entertainment: Related to the first bullet, but worthy of its own section is the fact that I feel so much pressure to keep these girls happy and smiling and learning all day. The fact that they are usually begging and crying for a car ride by the time we eat breakfast does not help. They are not satisfied with just staying home anymore. We must go, go, go ... home is boring. And yet playgrounds can make or break my day. They are much more adventurous now, which scares me when I'm only one person to spot two toddlers, and I have a REALLY BIG PROBLEM with moms who do not supervise their own kids on the playground. In fact, I stormed out with one toddler under each arm yesterday because of unsupervised kids blocking their path on the slide, the climbing wall and in the tunnel. There was nothing else to do so we left, in a storm. If you are one of those parents who stands in a moms circle ignoring your kids, your child is the one who is desperate for attention and doing anything necessary to get it. I assure you.
  • No more boring days: School is so wonderful that when we visited last week there was a bouncy house in the parking lot! That's how cool it is. I can't compete with that. And, if I did, it would cost more money than we already spend to go to places like Gymboree and the Zoo. I'm spending an easy $50 per month or more on new toys, activities, special events just to keep these girls entertained each day. If I wasn't doing this I might have lost my mind months ago. Day care will do all the right things that kids who are 2.5 years old need.
I know we will have rough patches as we deal with sick days and doctor's appointments. I know none of it will be easy or perfect and I might get into and realize that being home WAS easier. (doubtful). Who knows? All I know is that I have the ability to see the good and the bad in every situation and this is no different. I do know that I will always be one of those moms who sends in the cool snacks for the cool holidays like Summer Solstice and I will always be the mommy who is home after school.

But for now, I"m just going to be mommy.

Thank you for visiting today.

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Daring Group Writing Challenge

Somehow, during The Venture, we figured out that if we tell the girls NOT to do something -- like eat green beans -- they would, happily. It started because the girls would hardly eat on the trip and the result was that one of them -- Jaybird, in fact -- kept waking up starving in the middle of the night. Ack! Unfortunately, she's still doing that now that we're home. Double Ack!

So, it went something like this:

Don't you eat that chicken!

And, lo and behold, she'd eat it, smiling, and she'd eat nearly all of it.

That's now a game we can't stop, and I know it's a very bad technique in toddler-world. But, they're asking for it and while we're not delivering all the time, it's hard to resist, especially when they are hardly eating a bite of dinner and we foresee a night of little sleep and proceed to fill her little belly with anything we can find.

In honor of this first-class parenting technique, I'm thrilled to host my next (and long overdue) Group Writing Project. In the past, these contests have made my heart swell with pride for how awesomely dedicated my readers are, and I have gained such wonderful readers from these projects. I encourage anyone looking to gain readership to host their own project -- after mine is over, of course! Read the first three here, here and here. Some of the themes on this blog will change over the course of time as I try to figure out how to remain PRIVATE in a job that is not-so-private. I'm working for a politician, for goodness sake. But, these writing projects will remain, for sure. (And, I have three very cool elements I plan to add in starting in two weeks.)

So, here's the deal: The Daring Writing Project will be just one day this time -- Friday -- yet another pivotal day of my motherhood experience when my days as a full-time, stay-at-home Mama come to end, for a while anyway. So, for you procrastinators who fear deadlines, you have five full days to write and submit.

My heart will be bursting and breaking and sagging and leaping as this transition happens. But, I am ready because my core-being is to ready to serve something other than grilled cheese and carrot sticks. I long to make this world a better place, to make my community and my daughters' world a better place -- and not just by picking up a cigarette butt at the playground. I look forward to adult conversation, lunch breaks and time to actually get my annual Pap smear without having to hire a sitter or beckon the Husband home.

Your duty, my dear village, is to write in any style or genre that you like using a writing prompt about having your Third Eye, an idea I came across via one of my new favorite blogs, Doobleh-vay.

The second I saw this idea, I thought of so many situations in which I'd like to have a third eye, to understand more and judge less. I thought of my neighbors, and their families and how violence on so many levels is a part of their lives and how if I had a third eye what I might see. It would not be pretty or fun, I am sure. I also thought about the fleeting moments of time when I'm driving or walking and feel enlightenment -- mere seconds of pure bliss with the world and all of its imperfections as imperfect people swell my heart with compassion.

So, your job is to write like there is no tomorrow about what your Third Eye sees, or what it would see, or how it feels to be there. If you are a fiction writer, as several of my readers are, write what your character's third eye sees. If you are a mom, like most of us, you could write something funny or serious or memorable about what your Third Eye taps into about your toddler or teenager. It could be true stories about your community, or your family, but feel free to be poetic or dreamy or just plain simple. There is no wrong or right for these so long as you write, and write honestly -- and, of course, link to this here blog post in the process.

Mr. Linky will collect your posts as you submit them for the world to read and devour over coffee and scones next weekend. I will choose two participants, at random, to each win a $5 gift certificate to Starbucks, where you can gleefully indulge in something like an iced caramel latte or something else I often dream about when the sleep faerie visits. To be a valid participant you have to write your post, link to this post and/or Friday's post, submit via Mr. Linky in my Friday post and, above all, comment in the comments of Friday's post as well -- and all before midnight on Friday, August 15 EST. I know, I know ... lots of work but I've learned a few things in this blogosphere about giveaways. Winners will be announced Sunday night -- or when I get around to it. LOL Oh, and please spread the word so we all get some great visitors reading these posts!!

Next week, Daddy Dan will be filling my flip flops and managing the rascals the entire week so I can get used to my new job and we all get used to being apart from each other. Baby steps, I suppose. If he can swing a minute or two, he'll be guest blog posting here and, on Thursday, at How Do You Do It? Otherwise, follow me on Twitter for my "Oh, hell, what did I do?" moments.

See you all here Friday. I can't wait to read your entries!

Thank you for visiting today.

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