Being Irish and the First Day of Spring

When Irish eyes are smiling, Sure, ’tis like the morn in Spring. In the lilt of Irish laughter You can hear the angels sing. When Irish hearts are happy, All the world seems bright and gay. And when Irish eyes are smiling, Sure, they steal your heart away.

— Irish Song Lyrics and Music Midi
Brought to you by The Information about Ireland Site

Happy first day of spring. My daffodils have all opened for a spectacular display of color at my front entry. It is rare for my early spring flowers to open in March. But, Southeastern Michigan has been kissed with several consecutive days of blue skies, sunshine and summer-like temps.

My Grandma with Issa in 2003
My late grandma with Issa in 2003

This weekend my family and I celebrated St. Patrick’s Day. My husband doesn’t really get into all of the hoopla. But, my children and I do. My late grandparents on my mom’s side are both Irish. In fact, Issa and I just studied my grandma’s ancestry for a presentation she gave at school, today. We learned my grandma’s great grandparents migrated to the United States and to Oceola Township, Mich., in 1849. This time period would have been toward the end of the Great Potato famine. While we are confident my Grandpa’s Irish heritage, his ancestry is a little more complicated to trace.

My mom, legion of aunts, and late grandparents

My mom and legion of aunts/uncles never miss celebrating Ireland’s national holiday on March 17. Each March they all migrate to Melbourne, FL where my Aunt Gerry and Uncle Jim treat everyone to a spectacular corned beef meal, spirits, March Madnesson every TV and sing-along sessions. Due to scheduling conflicts I have not attended since 2004 when Issa was just a year-old.

My sister, me, and Issa (one year) on March 17, 2004.

While the spectacular blue skies and summer-like temps in Michigan had my crew hankering for grilled steaks, I treated them to a corned beef feast, which included my infamous Nutella cookies with green M&Ms. I didn’t hear any complaints. But, I did drink a couple Smithwicks while the corned beef roasted.

Related previous post …

Nine Irish Kids and the Power Codes (kateschannel.wordpress.com)

 

Writing is My Therapy

I have the perfect mix of emotions fueling my post today. My daughter, Issa, refused to get dressed. Then, she went into meltdown-mode when she missed the bus. Consequently, she was tardy for school. Don’t you just wish there was a re-start or rewind button for mornings like this?

Anyway, one can assume I have my fair share of these tumultuous daily beginnings. If you read previous posts you’ll discover I write frequently about writing and my reasons for doing so.

Like exercise, I find writing to be an outlet for stress and negativity. I do all I can to minimize both. Once I put words on a page, I feel calmness. Perhaps it’s the acknowledgement of my feelings and reality that helps. Also, I believe writing enables me validate whatever I am experiencing. It’s just me and my words. There are not outside voices talking at me or trying to influence my feelings.

What about you? Does writing help you de-stress or rid you of toxic energy?

Outta My Chair

The one constant I love about parenting is being on-the-go from the time I rise until my head hits the pillow at night or in the wee morning hours. Before children, life was not dull. I was on-the-go until I arrived at my office cubicle. Once there, I sat for hours — sometimes until late evening — managing event details, carrying out lead generation strategies, and crafting presentations to incite prospective blue chip companies to pick my employer as their information technology solution provider.

When Issa was born nine years ago, my uninterrupted, three-hour sessions in my writer’s chair disappeared. That’s not to say I don’t write or work on professional ambitions. It just means I adapt to their schedules and needs. A lifestyle with children prompted me to get outta my chair, which is a change I embrace every day.

While I can do without the added housework children bring into the picture, I love the spontaneity they bring to daily life. Not one day is the same as another.

While outta my chair today, I worked out, helped Riff finish a craft project for his afternoon preschool class, went to the store, donated blood, took Issa to a reading tutor, played chase with Riff, made meals, babysat a neighbor’s children, and read stories to my children,

On-the-fly writing works for me. I write in the moment of whatever I am living. It gives me the opportunity to relax my posting schedule a bit so that I can learn a thing or two about myself, others and life.

We Are Family

This weekend I spent two glorious days with my younger sister, Tina. She and I are only 18 months a part. Through childhood, we had many of the same circles of friends. We have always maintained a close relationship.

The occasion bringing us together was pretty delightful as well. A cousin and his wife are expecting their first baby in about four weeks. My sister and I attended the shower Saturday afternoon. We gushed over the expectant mother as well as all the stylish wardrobe her future daughter assembled in a mere three hours. Other cousins and aunts attended the shower, which meant visiting and catching up on everyone’s busy lives.

Another highlight on Saturday afternoon was a two-hour visit with an aunt we have not been especially close to. My sister and I gave her a ride to the shower. Upon returning to her home, we had this amazing conversation about the status of public education, voter apathy, banking, family relationships, employment, books and travel. I marveled at the broad range of subject matter while also appreciating my good fortune in developing a better connection.

My sister’s visit wouldn’t have been complete without a visit to Shadbush-Burgess Nature Center. On Sunday, she went with Issa and I to meet our newest family member, Slim, who is a ball python. I adopted Slim for Issa’s ninth birthday. Slim continues to live at the nature center. Issa visits him weekly to observe his growth, to hold him and to help with giving him food and water. In addition to hanging out with slim, the three of us watched bearded dragons and bull frogs feast on their cricket lunches. Also, a very active tortoise roamed freely through the entire nature center.

I forgot to bring my camera to the shower and the nature center. Thankfully, Tina did a great job of capturing great shots from both events with hers. She will send me the photos soon; and then I will share them with you.

 

What I Learn From My Dad

My dad celebrated his 83rd birthday Monday. At first glance, most take him for being in his late 60s. I believe his youthfulness results from his northern Italian ancestry as well as a lifetime of organic gardening, home cooking, activity, traveling and learning.

In addition to sharing — with me — his enjoyment of sailing the Great Lakes, skiing and staying active, here are some lessons I have learned from him through the years.

1. Don’t sweat the small stuff. When life throws me a curve, I do my best to channel my dad’s calm demeanor. Keeping things in perspective leads to better problem-solving and keeps life from becoming overly complicated.

2. Patience is invaluable. I wish I could claim this attribute. But, alas, I still loose my cool when my children refuse to dress themselves, share or go to bed.

3. Appreciation for good food and drink. Both of my late grandparents were born and raised in Pinerolo, Italy. When they migrated to Highland Park, Mich. their passion for  organic farming and home cooking remained. There is not a chef on this planet who could out cook my grandma anyway.

4. Age is just a number. My dad doesn’t look or behave like a typical 83-year-old man. He travels, volunteers for his local Meals on Wheels charity, creates beautiful wood furniture, and stays informed with a daily read of the Wall Street Journal.

5. Enjoy the view. Much to the chagrin of his passengers on family road trips, my dad is a master at commandeering a car while also viewing scenic mountain vistas. Vivid, bare-knuckle, recalls of traversing switchbacks through the Alps and along Route 1 in California are common.

A WTF Moment: A Call From School You Do NOT Want

I have been battling my two inner voices on whether or not to blab about a WTF moment, I experienced one week ago. One voice keeps saying this is information neighbors need to know. It deals with a rather serious issue — the safety of children while at school — so it’s more than just coffee-break gossip about what so-and-so did at work one day.

A second voice says people make mistakes. It’s not right to blast their errors megaphone-style into the public. I probably would have sided with this voice. But, then, I did some on-the-street interviews at the bus stop. Two of my neighbors, who have children attending the same school experienced similar — but much scarier — WTF experiences, recently.

So, here I am. I am going with that first inner voice. A bonus with  this choice  is linking you to one of my favorite bloggers. Kelly, from Dances with Chaos, posts WTF moments she experiences during her trials as a parent almost each Friday. They are pretty humorous.

While my WTF recount is not humorous, it definitely deserves a replay. So, without further delay …

It’s 10 am on Friday, February 10. I am whizzing around my house taking care of Riff. He’s my five-year-old, son; and he’s been home sick all week. I called him in absent at 8:30 am. He attends a different school than my daughter, Issa.

The phone rings … It’s one of the secretary’s from Issa’s school.

School Secretary: Is Issa absent from school, today?
Me: No, she went to school
Me (thinking and checking my phone number list): I called Riff’s school to report him absent. Did I call the wrong school? I could have experienced a brain fart. I was up until 3 am helping him nurse a bad cold. But, I didn’t call the wrong school.
Me (out loud): She’s not at school? Where is she?
Secretary: Did she come in late?
Me (starting to feel a freak-out coming on): No, she rode the bus with her friends this morning.
Secretary: Oh. Let me double check the (attendance) sheet.
Me: Well, is she at school?
Secretary: Oh. There she is.
Me: Go check and make sure. Call me back.
Secretary: Okay.
Secretary calls me back: Yes. She’s here. I hate it when I do this.
Me (thinking): You’ve done this to a parent before?
Me (out loud): You just gave me a heart attack!

Do you think she’s still thinking about this little mistake like I am?

After considerable research and thought, I have decided something needs to be said to the principal. Here are some additional reasons fueling my blog as well as my fire about having a chat with school personnel.

  • Other parents with students at the same school reported receiving similar erroneous phone calls.
  • Just last week local news reported an attempted abduction at a bus stop, which a bus driver prevented. Also, in May/June 2011, local police alerted school officials about reported attempted abductions in our area.
  • Calls to confirm absences — not called in — are not made until 10 am ish. So, what happens if a child is abducted while walking to school or after getting off the bus. School starts at 8:25 am. That’s a scary amount of lead time to give a predator.
  • Parents said voice mails were left asking parents to confirm an absence. While I feel this step in the school’s process is reasonable and valid, I am questioning whether leaving a voice mail is enough. Perhaps calls to other numbers listed on the student emergency cards would be better protocol. One parent I spoke with said she and her husband were out of town when this voice mail was left. Fortunately, the student’s grandmother checked the voice mails and immediately contacted the school to confirm the child was there. A second parent received a voice mail. But, no one in her family heard the message until 5 pm that day. What if their child had been abducted? What kind of chance would this have given the parents/family of a positive outcome to that type of scenario.

Staying Home

One month prior to the birth of my daughter, Issa, who turned nine yesterday, I sat at the dinner table with my husband. We discussed the decision I had make: stay home or keep my full-time marketing communications position at an information technology company.

Part of me wanted to stay home because excelling at my current position often required long hours and overnight travel. Even with a new baby at home, I would still be expected to perform just as I did prior to becoming a parent. I knew I wanted time off to bond with my daughter. But, another part saw others balancing rewarding careers and parenthood simultaneously. After all, I spent nearly 10 years ascending the corporate world and achieving marketing communications success. Why would I want to leave all those accomplishments?

Part-time hours weren’t an option because the position really required full-time attention. The option of telecommuting was refuted despite my employer’s reputed success with helping blue-chip clients work with remote employees. So, I did the math on what it would cost to send Issa to day care. It just didn’t add up. After paying for day care, my take-home pay wouldn’t have compensated me for all those hours missed with my daughter. So, I kept thinking about why I would work just to pay for day care?

In addition to the internal voices talking the issues out in my head, there were — and still are — plenty of outside influences — from both sides — clamoring to be recognized. Some favored the more traditional choice, which was to stay home exclusively and parent, while others thought I would go nuts without an escape to my corporate cubicle each day.

My financial situation — at the time — gave me the option to chose. So, in the end, I took time away from the corporate world to stay home with both of my children. While I would not flip my decision, I still have conflict with my choice. Do you?

On the pro side I have time to volunteer at my children’s schools, write creatively, and advocate for a local non-profit. The con side says I will have to work years to recoup income loss and to regain professional ground. Plus, I miss the live daily adult conversations about business issues, current events, movies, television shows, and style.

Flurries of Flashbacks and Winter Fun

Flurries dance outside my windows. Like a child, I am eagerly watching them stick to the ground. I am hopeful inches will  accumulate for worthwhile playtime in the chilly air.

'70s winter memories at "The Rink".

Flashbacks from childhood in my parent’s backyard play in my head. I see longtime friends — still at ages 6-11 — sledding and skiing down our “bunny” hill. Snowballs zing through the air. School work and classes escape our thoughts for a couple hours of friendly, neighborhood snow wars. Then, there are the scenes from the  dormant veggie garden that served as an ice rink for several years. No one paid for ice time to perfect hat tricks, figure-eights or crack-the-whip skills.

For those of you who follow national weather news, the suburbs just north of the “D” have been without significant snowfall during much of this winter season. Christmas Day looked and felt more like Easter with bright sunshine and 40-plus temperatures. Then, two weeks ago I played 3-on-3 with some girlfriends and their children; outside on the driveway; with temps near 50. That’s unheard of in early January.

We have been loving this flirtation with spring-like weather. But, when I heard my neighbor rev his ride-on mower, I new something as amiss in the Mitten. I started to long for the crisp, cold air; and the snow. What if this was the winter without a snowman, sledding or taste-testing snowflakes?

Despite my fantasies about living it up in some tropical locale all winter long, I don’t think that scenario would ever last in reality. Don’t get me wrong. I get cabin-fever crazed like most of my neighbors; and plot escapes to the tropics. But, just the same, I have lived in the north since birth. I have adapted to finding outdoor fun in all four seasons.

There is fun to be had when the snow flies that just isn’t existent in the Bahamas or Hawaii. Also, my love for spicy rum isn’t limited to spiking smoothies, cola or juice. It’s a fantastic additive to warm-up drinks such as hot cider, chocolate and coffee.

My Love Affairs with Technology: The XBox Kinect

Where would you be without technology advances? I would probably be lounging on my couch watching subpar television.

As 2012 moves into its fifth day, I am feeling the love for a number of  technology advances. But, the devotion I have for my new XBox Kinect has penetrated deep into my heart. The other three — Kindle, social media, and my-time entertainment — will just have take  numbers. Perhaps, I will give them blog space later in the week.

My connection with the XBox Kinect all began on Christmas Eve when Santa plugged the device into my family’s entertainment system. He had good intentions. The XBox Kinect was requested to promote active family bonding and to rekindle the passion I once had for daily exercise.

Kinect Adventures  and Your Shape programs are just two of the four Santa left for us to try. Each time a session ends with either, I want more. Every muscle in my body feels my inability to just turn off the box and watch a movie.

I can truly appreciate why Microsoft had to post the following question/suggestion every 10 minutes or so, “Feel tired or sore? Take a break.” But, a permanent break from this new love, would probably result in posts about hiding in some closet while eating Hershey’s Special Dark bars.

Happy Birthday: Riff Celebrates Five Years

Five years and 2 hours ago, my husband and I welcomed Riff to the world. There are not words to express the joy I experienced at that moment nor the joy I continue to experience every moment he spends with me.

There is no other exactly like him. He is a blessing; a precious miracle gift. His beautiful heart shows in wide smiles and infectious giggles. As he continues to grow his personality evolves. Today, his interests include dancing, watching and playing sports, music, police cars and anything with buttons.

He is still too young to appreciate the words I string together in his birthday cards declaring my unconditional love. I didn’t appreciate the depth of this love from my own mom until I became one myself.

As I continue in the triumphs and challenges of parenthood, I realize there are no others that have taught me so much about life, love, people, and myself. Both of my children enrich me.

At some point, the rest of the world will see and know what I already do. Riff is exceptional. He is love and so very special.

Related previous posts …

Just Say It

Thoughts About Children and Multiple Choice

Charming the People

Time to Fly