School Days: Domestic Rituals I Despise

It took me long enough to become domesticated. For most of my 14-year marriage, washing dishes, doing laundry, and cleaning toilets were not top priorities. Not that I am a slob or completely oblivious to my family’s needs. But, let’s face it. I would rather romance my husband, play with my children, help out at school, write my blog posts, train for 5ks, socialize with my lady friends, read, and shop. In the end, these are the priorities that give me the greatest pay-off.

So, there are domestic rituals I despise; and will put off until my kids scream bloody murder and my husband booby-traps my writer’s chair. These must-dos are pure evil. No woman I call friend should ever have to endure the black magic swirling above when these duties are imminent.

1. Getting kids dressed for school. Issa is a diva who could care less. She barely looks at my suggestions the night before and moves at a turtle-pace to the task. Then, there’s Riff. He just entered kindergarten and the particular phase. He insists on wearing one of two favorite shirts and refuses to wear a jacket when it’s cold and raining outside.

2. Making lunches. I was fine with this the first week of school. The weekend prior, I  stocked the pantry and fridge with their favorites. Now, I try to stretch what I have for two weeks before the next major grocery excursion. For one thing, I hate grocery shopping. It’s boring, fellow shoppers lollygag, and I would rather spend the money on something fun like shoes. Another thing. Making lunches is the last item on my daily chore list before I am free to watch TV, read or catch up on Facebook with a glass of Garnacha. Sometimes, the lure of watching Once Upon a Time or re-reading Fifty Shades for the fortieth time is too much.

3. Bath night. I love sweet-smelling kids. But, mine fight me while my husband watches television and ignores their need for cleanliness. They don’t start moving for the bathroom until I threaten a spray-down in the backyard. Once they’re in, they don’t want out. They both claim a need to practice holding their breath under water. Go figure.

4. Cleaning out the fridge. I push my people to eat leftovers in a timely manner. The creation of unknown formations is never my intent. But, on occasion there is an ugly that appears in the rear that catches me off-guard. So, for the sake of my children, I hold my breath — until I turn purple — and purge without discrimination.

5. Weeding. My husband seems to think weed barriers will keep all ugliness out of our flower beds. I don’t know what gardening class he took. But, weeds invade and cling to whatever patch of soil they seek to claim. They don’t go unless evicted with vicious, continuous, strategic.

Moms’ Escape Night to Partridge Creek: PF Changs and Charming Charlies

I’ll tell you. I love my fellow moms. Kelly, one of my girlfriends, sent out the e-mail inviting a dozen or more moms to join her for an evening away from the rigors of parenting. Last night, she and I were the two who managed a successful escape. PF Chang’s and Charming Charlie at Partridge Creek — an upscale, outdoor, pedestrian mall — in Clinton Township were our destinations for the evening.

I truly enjoyed the respite from being chef, waitress, and table referee; and conversing with Kelly about grown-up books, summer plans and our children. Also, I was nicely surprised to see my favorite dish — caramel mango chicken — back on PF Chang’s menu after a multi-year hiatus.

After an amazing dinner, Kelly took me on my first tour of Charming Charlie, which offers just about every kind of styling accessory — handbags, clutches, bling, belts, hair accessories, shoes, etc. — a women — at any age — could possibly want; at a reasonable price. Thank goodness the store was almost about to close when we entered. This place could entice one to do some serious damage due to the selection in just about every color imaginable.

In conclusion, a big thank-you to Kelly who put the idea for this evening out there; and for making it happen. She and I met through a local moms’ club, which offered support to us and other women during the early years of motherhood. While neither one of us are current members of this organization, we — and several former members — still make a point of planning moms’ escape nights and occasional play dates for our children.

A Summer Preview: Coming to My Backyard in 13 Days

Buddy is the king.

Last night, we set the mood. Structured schedules were tossed to the recycle bin. Issa, Riff, Buddy (our Pekingese) and I played in the backyard until our tummies rumbled for burgers, fries and lemonade. Dinner wasn’t served until 7-something.

Riff is my music man. He sings and dances to just about anything.

School is out for a couple extra days to enable families to celebrate Memorial Day properly. But, it is also a preview for parents and caregivers of what is coming to our backyards, parks, beaches, malls, amusement parks, etc., etc, in a mere 13 days.

Issa was too busy to be photographed this afternoon. She was busy prepping and plotting  our garden. Our next-door neighbors were deciding on their veggie plant choices as well. Both of us are giving pumpkins ago.

Before I leave you for a weekend of lazy beach living, I wanted to direct you to some sites that might help with crafting some refreshing and/or savory treats for your long weekend  fiestas. These bloggers always leave my mouth watering. Some day, I’m going in my kitchen to try and replicate what they make so easy. In the meantime, why don’t you get an apron on and get busy?

Afternoon Popcorn Snack – her watermelon and fresh basil margarita, hill country salsa  and DJ’s spicy grilled red dirt chicken all have me drooling while I type.

Rantings of an Amateur Chef – check out his recipes for shrimp and tomato summer salad, grilled pork tenderloin, and grilled stuffed jalapenos)

Vivek’s Eipcurean Adventures – I need to spend more time at this guy’s site. Don’t you agree? My kids don’t complain about my grilled cheese sandwiches. But, this guy has me beat. His Mozzarella en Carozza has me making a list for my next trip to my local Italian grocer, Vince and Joe’s.

A Muse in My Kitchen – Her pictures say it all.

This Italian Family -I probably don’t need to admit this. Italian food is my absolute favorite. Could it be something to do with my DNA? Who knows? Her meatball bubble biscuits and little lasagnas look like ideal, kid-friendly finger foods. I also want to try the zesty steak salad.

Here’s to battles won to keep us free; and here’s to staying free.

A great beverage to consider on this glorious weekend of family, friends, relaxation and fun is Bell’s Oberon. The label on the bottle says it all: with the color and scent of a summer afternoon.

In Honor of All Mothers

Summer 2011 – Looks peaceful doesn’t it? What you can’t hear is the whining.                                                         Photo credit: kateschannel

I a mom. The job description is immense and forever changing. Rewards are plenty, but often come from sweat, tears and blood of being a warrior on one of the fiercest battlefronts ever in my history.

There is a part of me that wants to stay in all these glorious moments forever. But, it goes without saying. My children grow, mature and change. Once I figure out how to maneuver around one  set of challenges; another rears its daunting head. Nothing in life is constant. It continues whether I want to trek on or stay stuck in the mud.

The days of successful homework sessions, play dates, sports activities and dance classes make all those chaotic scenes seem like someone else’s challenges. Those are times I take steps with confidence and ease.

Then there are plenty of those moments — sometimes occurring with alarming frequency each day — when appropriate solutions are not at the ready. Sometimes these situations take some time and thought to work through.

A more distant view from fellow parents, teachers and therapists can bring objectivity to the picture. Ideas from other sources sometimes offer what I need to bring back peace and harmony to my home.

Second-guessing is not uncommon. But, whether I stay at home, work outside the home, own a business, travel, or advocate for others no one else walks in my shoes but me. I trust in myself to know what is best for me, my family and my situation.

That’s not to say views from beloved family and friends do not have merit or value. What they suggest is intended only to help. I consider myself fortunate and blessed to have such a caring circle of support at every turn.

The following are blogs I read written by moms who enable me to see how much in common we all have with each other.

The Laughing Mom

Life From the Trenches

afternoon popcorn snack

Dances with Chaos

Going Dutch

Leanne Shirtliffe — Ironic Mom

Mama’s Empty Nest

Teachers & Twits

Happy Mothers Day to all out there who call themselves, mom.

KISS: Keep it Simply Sweet

It’s funny. I sat down to write this post at 8:30 am. At first, I thought it would be a breeze. It is Valentine’s Day after all; and it’s my day for posting about parenting, marital bliss, friendship and things that happen at home.

But, despite a couple venti-size cups of coffee, the words just wouldn’t  flow. My brain wasn’t formulating any thoughts. It was stuck. I couldn’t even squeeze out some lines that might work in a Hallmark or American Greetings card.

Then, I remembered an adage — KISS — Keep It Simple Stupid — often applied while plotting to make my employers’ new business wishes come true. However, in keeping with the romance theme associated with this holiday, I changed the acronyms.

For today KISS is Keep It Simply Sweet. So …

Happy Valentine’s Day. I wish you love. Not just for today. But, each day of the year. Cherish your spouse, partner, children, parents, sisters, brothers, extended family, friends, neighbors, pets and circles of social media friends.

Oh! And, don’t forget to treat yourself to something special. That’s what today is about. Simple indulgences make life beautiful.

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.

Good People, Good Neighbors

I am a lifelong suburbanite of Detroit. With the exception of my college years, I have called this place one hour north of the “D”, home. Despite thoughts about skipping town for something more exciting in say San Diego or Turino, Italy, I can’t turn away.

The draw is more than world-class sports teams, superb shopping, exceptional restaurants, Stony Creek Metro Park, beautiful shorelines, scenic bike paths and cultural opportunities. The one reason I stay rooted here is the people.

While growing up in Rochester, I was fortunate to reside in a neighborhood where splendid friendships were forged swapping stickers and Tiger Beat magazines, pretending to be Charlie’s Angels, hanging out at the Rochester Cider Mill after school, or skating on a common ice rink in the middle of someone’s veggie garden.

I now live in a Shelby Township neighborhood that boasts the company of good, caring people. In addition to sharing dog and child sitting duties, a number are runners and fitness enthusiasts. I love how we all encourage each other to run those 5ks, attend boot camps training sessions and give Zumba a try. Plus, the bus stop just wouldn’t be the same without the exchange of parenting tips, recipes, and style ideas.

The love my neighbors have with one another is rare and irreplaceable. One plows the sidewalks so that school children are safe walking to the bus stop, another hosts an annual holiday open house to encourage fellowship, a third organized a meal plan for a family experiencing the loss of a spouse and mother, and a fourth is rallying all of us to save the life of a child.

I am in very good company, indeed. And, I don’t want to leave.

Four Truths About the Bus Stop

The time spent might be viewed as trivial. It only amounts to about five or six minutes each weekday morning and afternoon. But, waiting at the corner bus stop with my fellow parents is one ritual I look forward to rekindling on September 6. Four reasons include

1. Style spotting with fashion-forward, trendy moms with a mutual love for shoes, outer wear, bling and other types of eye candy.

2. Parenting tips and heads-up on school news from those with children who are older than mine; or who work in professions that make it easy for them to get advice that works.

3. Get to know my neighbors. During the summer months, there are neighbors I don’t see very often. So, when school starts in September, bus stop conversation lends itself to impromptu social planning as well as the opportunity to learn about the many hidden talents my neighbors possess: one is incredible at designing her home and at photography, another is very crafty and artistic; a third is successful at keeping her children healthy and in school; and a fourth is a wonder at time management.

4. New recipes. I have to admit my favorite new recipe came from Riff’s bus driver at the conclusion of the 2010-2011 school year. She’s the one who gave me that awesome recipe that calls for Nutella. I have made those cookies at least five times this summer.

https://kateschannel.wordpress.com/2011/06/22/favorite-crunch-time-treats/

https://kateschannel.wordpress.com/2011/06/16/my-year-in-school/

More Summer Please!

kateschannel - Meet Woody. Look at that face.

Hey there! Three more Mondays to go. It’s back-to-school for Issa and Riff on September 6. As the days click on, I realize I want more summer. This happens to me every August. I go through the same mix of emotions. Part of me longs for the structure school encourages as well as some consecutive hours to get “stuff” done. Another part wants to keep swimming, playing, reading and watching fireflies from my back patio.

As I started organizing my home this weekend for a new school year, I clicked through the photos on my camera. There, I took a second look at all the fun we had swimming, fishing, partying, taking nature breaks, visiting family and friends, and fixing up our landscape.

kateschannel - Riff cools off on a nature break
kateschannel - Catch and release at our local pond.
kateschannel - This happens at our tea parties.
kateschannel - Issa overcame her fear of jumping in the water at swim lessons.

No Place Like Home on July 4

There is no other place more alive and beautiful than my own home on July 4. Each year our patio provides an excellent location for viewing all the flashes of red, blue, yellow, purple, silver and green. This year was no different. Spectacular displays from our house as well as from neighbors celebrated patriotism and love for this country.

Sounds are of excited, innocent children — including my own — laughing and shouting in the last glimmers of sunlight. As the sunset, the jack rabbits, mandarin ducks, fountains, snakes and witch’s whistles started opened the show. Then, the noise became deafening but harmonious all at the same time with the more powerful rockets and bombs. Beautiful showers and sparkles lit the sky until 2 am.