Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Loving Liam

"I don't understand it. Why does everything with him have to be so...hard?" I asked of my girlfriend, tears pooling in the corner of my lids as my voice choked out the words, laced with incredible amounts of guilt.

It was one of far too many conversations I'd been having with loved ones lately, contemplating better ways to parent, strategies for wrangling a strong-willed child and how to get back to appreciation vs. frustration, fatigue and misunderstanding. This was a new place for me, and I didn't like it. For me. For him. For our love. For our relationship. The stories I told, the words used to describe his behaviors and the frequency in which I turned into a mom I hardly even knew weighed heavy on my heart. It was time to turn it around.

All 10 pounds of Liam came screaming into this world and for more than three months, never stopped. For nearly 12 hours a day he was cradled in colic, his dairy allergy still undiscovered married with the mystery that is the "disease." Today, with 19 months under his belt, the hours of unrest are far fewer, but still more frequent than the average. Half toddler behavior, part of what he's born with and a portion of growing into his own, he's finding his voice through aggressive movements, loud screams, significant tantrums, using only the word "no," and fighting every battle and bribe that's available. By definition, he's a strong willed child. He's hard. He's a fighter. He's tough. He's a lot of blood, sweat and tears. He's shocking. At times impossible. And even trickier: he's smart with it all. The examples and routines we run through daily to illustrate this are endless. Please join me and my friend A in our texting war regarding what our toddler is crying about to learn more...

But you know what else he is?

Absolutely charming. A momma's boy. An incredible sleeper. A learner. A smiler. A bright-eyed, handsome little one. A kiddo with a million, gut-splitting hilarious expressions. A dancer and fan of music. HEALTHY. Growing. Surprising us with little miracles daily. A lover of running through the halls in his fast shoes. Curious. Bright. An adoring brother. A big fan of eating and milk drinking. A dog advocate. A friend. An excellent high fiver. An avoid book reader, complete with counting anything he can among the pages. In fractions of seconds, a warm snuggler. Fearless. Trusting. Able to hold his own with the big kids. A baller. A joyous screecher. A strutter. An entertainer. A picker-upper. A lover.

In short: he's awesome.

And he's my boy.

And I wouldn't change him for anything.

So go ahead, momma. Whether you have a "strong-willed" one or not, be real about it. This stuff ain't easy. And you don't always have to be grateful or think about how quickly it will all go. Sometimes, it just plain sucks. And that's ok.

And then there's those moments where suddenly all the junk in between no longer matters. The first time he says "I wuv you," (today!), when he masters the stairs, the moment he seeks your tall legs for comfort, the quiet of evenings with just you, the faux stars above and a book, the look and squeal he gives you when you walk in the door and all the other magic in between. THAT'S the space I'm going to work harder to live in. Frolic in. Cherish in. And the rest? I'm going to work harder to love it too.

Because I love you, Liam, for all you are and all you're meant to be. May you feel that in every inch of your soul. I will carry you. Stand up for you. Fight for you. Sweat for you. Embrace you. Try to understand you. And love you. Unconditionally. For I can't think of anything else that's more important than this, for you...

I love you and am thankful for every last inch of you.

Children embody what is best in life. They live in the present moment. They are part of its exquisite bloom. They are pure potentiality, embodying vitality, emergence, renewal and hope. They are purely what they are. And they share that vital nature with us all and call it out of us as well, if we can listen carefully to the calling.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Rollin', Rollin', Rollin'...

"Wait, what?! You’re on that one,” my husband firmly stated, clutching a colorful invitation stamped with a large roller skate. Visions of slow jams, backward gliding, neon lights and terrible carpet flashed before my eyes. That feeling of exhilaration from a song dedication, holding a boys’ hand for 10 seconds, and giggling with girlfriends while you compared skate poms flashed through my head. And with that, I said:

“I’m in.”
For these great inventions, yet another genius use for PVC pipe.

Before the big day, most of our car rides consisted of a zillion questions, ranging from the difference between roller and ice skates, what the floor was like, how hard the task was and my plans to be engaged with the event. For me, there were inquiries also, like: “how the hell will I survive this 100 pounds larger and 15+ years less coordinated?!” Needless to say the anticipation of THE FIRST SKATE PARTY was in full effect.

Entering the non-descript door, the smell of carnival food, warm bodies, and plastic prizes greeted us. Immediately transported to the 80’s/90’s, the patterned carpet met my vision, the brown skates with orange wheels exactly as I remembered and a crew of workers that looked like they could have been the same as the ones I once feared for skating through the middle at the Omaha rink. In short, it was a weird version of awesomeness.
Big L was immediately on the move, ready to take on the feat, growling at me for the pace of tying up his skates, then immediately trying to find his footing as they slipped from beneath him time and time again. Not knowing if his heel had even made it into the skate, I tried my own legs with the four wheels beneath, finding it surprisingly familiar but more painful than what I remembered when I was 12. And with that…

We were off.
Then we were back…

And thank goodness Big L wanted to use it for a crutch, because gah knows mama needed it too.
From there it was a blend of determination, groin-splitting falls, lots of laughter, keeping up with the competition (aka his classmates in attendance), rescue missions, cruising, sweat and tears.

At the point I was dismissed because “he doesn’t need me and can do it on his own” (knife to the heart), I contemplated the following learnings regarding this skating soiree:

1.     There are muscles, tendons and gah knows what else in your rear and feet you never knew you had, that can be discovered with skating.
2.     The theme music will longer be Madonna or Chicago, but rather tunes that remind you of Kim K’s latest photo shoot. You may also have a long pause when you discover your child may know Gangnam style song, including the moves, along with Megan Trainer’s “All About that Bass.”
3.     I wished I had once again invented the simple PVC pipe puzzle pieces with wheels on them.
4.     Serving as the rink DJ may have to go on my list of “worst jobs ever” list.
5.     Scratch that: the skate distribution and cleanup guy is the worst job ever.
6.     Speaking of guys – who was that one hot one working there and why?!
7.     This activity is not for the weak of heart. Or core. Or legs. Or arms for that matter.
8.     Proper attire is acquired: the stretchy tank, loose sweater and crack baring jeans (not by choice, but by fit) were NOT the answer.
9.     Stopping is not a learned skill – it must be practiced. Or improvised.
10.  There is still a place for glow accessories. The rink is one of them. Fourth of July and Kenny concerts are another.
I could go on, but I think you get my point.

Needless to say, it was a memorable afternoon and an activity I’d do with my Big again. In fact, he’s got LW on the list to ask this weekend. We’ll see if her Mom is yet recovered…

Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ – a throwback activity good for the whole family.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Why My Toddler is Crying

"Get this one: my toddler is crying because I gently picked a piece of lint off his back," my girlfriend said, taking her turn on our weekly banter on why our near two year old sons were on the brink of meltdowns.

Here's a look at today's submission from our household:
He's crying because he'd also like to lay in the dog kennel.

Shame on me for considering that this would be the moment our neighbor or DFS would come by, even though he'd likely be happier doing this than surrounded by toys in his very own playroom.

Other events from this week include: irritated he couldn't sleep UNDER his crib, the fact I was trying to apply jeans, that his brother looked at him with a half-smile from 30 feet away and that we were serving applesauce at dinner. Oh - and that I didn't wear the red shoes on his asking.

So,what's your toddler frustrated with today?

Be Fun. Be Well. At Work!

“This is awesome…just what I was hoping for in a new culture!” I exclaimed as I rolled sticky play-dough through my palms, the green tinting my freshly painted nails.

It was the start of Mental Health Wellness Week, the perfect time for behavioral health companies like our own to practice what they preach. And so we did with:

Monday: MOVE
Employees were asked to submit pictures of how they move their bodies during the week to keep their minds healthy. And although chasing a toddler and working to avoid screeching at the top of my lungs at times may not be the healthiest of choices, I forwarded this little fella:

Winners announced Monday, but I’m hopeful this is a creative twist from the treadmill pics submitted.

Tuesday: PLAY
Colleagues arrived at work to find a colorful tub of delight placed at their keyboards with the directive to partner with their teams and photograph their works of art. The results were incredible! Our team was yearning for warmer temps and a break from the norm, so went with the beach theme:

Wednesday: THANK
“Someone forgot to sign this card for me!” my cube mate replied, confused by the blank note that shouted “thank you” on the front. An email was quick to follow, asking employees to send some words of appreciation, unsigned to a pal within the building to be distributed by end of week. With all the support and awesomeness experienced in my first 20 days, it was a tough call on who to thank, but a fun exercise nonetheless.

Thursday: LAUGH
Given laughter is the best medicine, a video was streamed to employees featuring the senior leaders on why working in behavioral health is awesome. Just like the movies, the outtakes were the best and was a nice insight to the head honchos’ personalities.

Though the eve of the weekend is not yet here, a cookie contest and white elephant exchange is on the books. I’ll be whipping up those delicious
Oreo Blondies disguised as cookies to see if they stand a chance. And Magic Mike’s glowing gloves from a Halloween costume two years ago will make it into the elephant exchange pile.
It was fun. It made me feel well. And all at a work. Awesome!

Wishing you wellness at work, home and everything in between!


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Monday Momfessions: November 10 Week

"That Moment" Issue

1. That moment when you realize you're the only parent who dressed up on Halloween and showed up as such at the school party. #anythingforthekids

2. That moment when you realize those parents that put their kids on leashes may be on to something.

3. That moment you have to call the school director and ask if your children have been picked up yet due to your awesome communication skills with your spouse.

4. That moment when your son decides to plant one on a friend's kisser while all the parents watch from the soccer sidelines. Two hands like the romance movies and all.

5. That moment when you go ahead and announce to the entire Panera restaurant that you are sorry for your child's behavior and decide to leave a tip for whoever may be scarred nearby given the lack of servers.

6.  That moment when you find yourself straddling the park slide to accommodate the stuck five year old and eager 18 month old. That next moment when your realize you're still in your work dress of the day.

7. That moment when the 11 minutes of whining regarding thirst finally gives into handing over your Tervis Tumbler. The one that's been in your car for four days. Of note: there's was water in it. Of note 2: it never hurts to sniff first.

8. That moment when a new co-worker asks about your children and you find yourself listing the youngest as "hell on wheels."

9. That moment where you first bail on date night, then bail on family night, only to bail into your bed by 7:45 p.m. out of shear exhaustion. The next moment when you awake and remind your husband that he has to take both children to the dentist, the youngest for the first time, and begin to think your husband may just bail on the marriage at this point.

10. That moment when you start a new job and both children get sick on different days. The next moment when you forget to tell the teachers the side effects of the medicine and they call said new work with an extreme concern about the contents of the Little's diapers.

What's been your moment this week, parents?

They Were Right About Those!

"So then, just rub the top of your nail for a bit and wa-la - a beautiful, natural set of nails you don't have to wait to dry!" the sales gal says, her own set of snazzy digits gleaming in the show lights.

It was toward the end of the Holiday Boutique lineup, and after some sustenance and story swapping, my shopping buddy and I were still going strong. Currently we were at the Jamberry Nails booth, delighting in all of the unique patterns, doing ok with the price, but questioning our motivation to actually do the cuts to our own. That and my tiny man hands require the junior designs, which as you can imagine are closer to "Frozen" themes than iKat. Regardless, they were a great find...perfect to tap into your own creativity and expression ofself through your fingertips and an awesome stocking stuffer for any female on your holiday list.

Among the dozens of fabulous booths we stumbled upon, there was also the Younique stop, that rockin' mascara you've seen all over Facebook, been invited to a houe party by a friend or seen on the latest style blogs. And though the gal working couldn't define the "shtick" nor offer a sample, I went on a whim, trusting my even most cynical friends and found the promise of no clumping and 300% longer lashes to be true. Yay! And at a decent price point and in a darling case with a built in rep - sure, why not?!

Finally, Oragami Owl was in attendance as well, making it nearly a one-stop shopping extravaganza for those on my Christmas list. Plus a lanyard for my new job to boot.

So kudos to Holiday Mart and Holiday Boutique for hosting these home businesses and mainstreaming them for the lazier and harder to commit, have to see it in person types. We love it!

Related: Holiday Boutique was almost as fantastico as Holiday Mart, crossing off half my list with ponchos, wild leggings, personalized magnetic boards, that fabulous olive oil dip and more.

Catch it next year if you can! And believe your friends if they offer you one of these awesome products or invite you to a party. They're a pretty fabulous splurge for you or yours!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Starting Over Checklist

"Sweet heezus, of course you googled 'how to be at your best in your first week of work,' my husband said, a grin and chuckle of should be disbelief but I already know you well enough escaping from his mouth.

This week marked the first of starting in a new company after 10 comfortable, familiar, love-filled years at the same one. A career built fresh out of college to now a mother of two. A place that houses some of my lifelong friends, familiar politics, more perks than you can shake a stick at and a pretty sweet gig.

Needless to say, starting over is nerve wracking.

Perhaps Thursday was a little late to start web searching for how to be successful week one when the start date had been Monday, but nonetheless it was an exercise of measurement so far. And I was please to find I was on par with most tips:

1. Build relationships early: be friendly, smile, meet as many people as you can and open up your little heart and soul (appropriately). Listen. Reciprocate. Share. That and offer candy at your desk. CHECK

2. Learn the neighborhood haunts: know your drugstore, soda run spots and where to hit up for lunch. Given I lived just 10 blocks from the place in my previous life...CHECK.

3. Connect with your old colleagues in a new way and let them know you're thinking of them. Suggestions included updating your LinkedIn and scheduling some "play dates." This may have included picture and text messages like crazy as well. CHECK

4. Be yourself...but lay low. Give what you got, but don't go trying to change the world all at once, Miss Know It All. Biting my tongue and benefitting learning from others, but...CHECK.

5. Get familiar with your team: learn about their background, what makes them tick and their roles. Try to assimilate and help them anyway you can without stepping on toes. Bond. CHECK

6. Learn the coffee station: for me this was about water and ice, but knowing where that, the bathrooms, supplies and printers are make for an easier transition. That and the day in advance warning of that fire drill tomorrow! Of note: bring my own Kleenex. CHECK

7. Strut your skills...but don't overdo it: prove you were worth hiring, without being overconfident, violating cultural norms or stepping on toes.

8. Set expectations early: don't be afraid to ask the hard questions or share where your priorities are if you're truly willing to be flexible, work hard and get the job done. Within three days, we moved a trip to NYC so I could meet the needs of my asking! Reciprocate this with your boss and team - ask what they expect from you, hot buttons and their needs and work your best to meet them.

If I had to add to this list, I think the last four days have taught me that transitioning with some experience under your belt and by choice is much more comfortable than not, giving you a bit more confidence and ease to be yourself and deliver the best you can. Give it time. Find peace and balance. Continue to trust your gut. Do your best. Give yourself some grace. Learn the business. Contribute where you can. Be fearless. Take breaks to smell the fresh air. Stretch your perspective. Mourn. Be curious. Be helpful. Be kind. Don't compare. Lean on your loved ones. Don't second guess. Just be for a bit. In this new awesomeness. In this new way. Smile, nod, soak in, learn, build, thrive. And don't blink when you have the most flair dress and desk wise already. You're a colorful personality and they (ok, some)  knew it. It's ok! Maybe it's even what they wanted.

Thanks to Business Insider for this easy to retain list (ok, maybe I picked it because it affirmed I was on the right track) and big hugs and high fives to any of you going through a significant change.

Hour at a time, smile at a time, experience at a time -I'm with ya.

Cheers to the journey ahead!

It's Time

That's right, it's time! You've stowed the pumpkins, gourds and whimsical wheat away and are already furiously plotting your Thanksgiving menu and Christmas decor. Which means, of course, that 2015 is right around the corner, which calls for none other than:

The MomAgenda.

Yeah, yeah - it's 2014 and everyone has all their trendy data in their iPhones, but this girl still has an attachment (maybe a disorder?!) to crossing things off with a purple gel pen. And nothing is more gratifying for we list makers than having a column for each child, large space for our to-dos and evening obligations, gift logs, vacation plans (ha!), financial planning and more.

So don't forget to snatch yours up before this disappear this year! Kansas Citians: your regular stops aren't getting them in stock, so make mom your friend.

And maybe score the animal print. Pretty fancy, huh?

Happy planning!