Scenes from Life: Being a Mom (Parent)

Go with the flow. Be flexible, agile, patient and open to experience the unexpected. Live on minimal sleep. Drink plenty of caffeine. And, some wine after the kiddos go to bed. Eat standing up while making breakfasts, packing lunches and taking inventory of backpacks. Exercise to keep stress away.  Stay organized. Two planners — traditional and smart — are what it takes; for me. Support systems of family, friends, teachers, neighbors and virtual connections for stability; and comic relief. Listening to music does wonders, too. The Killers, When You Were Young, is pumping me up.

It takes a human with a balance of love, stamina, strength, intelligence, fortitude, compassion, calm, resolve, persistence, resourcefulness, creativity and many other attributes to be a mom (parent). Prior to being a mom (parent), I spent most of my time helping Syntel, a global information technology solution provider, generate new business leads and land multi-million-dollar contracts. It was a pretty intense, fast-paced, always-changing, not-for-sissies life.

So, 12 years ago, I sat at my desk in a cubicle at the 525 office building on 16 Mile in Troy, Mich. I was prepping for the next leg in life. 22 more days. The calendar did not lie. My temporary replacement baulked at the project list he would inherit and support. Could he keep up in this needed-it-yesterday environment? That was the least of my worries.

My plan was to work from home until Issa — my eldest child — made her début. Then, maternity leave. But, my first lesson in being a mom (parent) was about being ready for and managing the unexpected. Issa arrived early. Work-from-home projects had to be delegated. Maternity leave began earlier.

What to do? Give Issa all the love and attention she needed to thrive.

The second lesson was about adaptions; survival of the fittest. Before Issa, I easily slept until 9 am. Unfortunately, Issa gravitated toward her dad’s wake-time of 6:30 am; even on weekends. In the beginning, I unleashed a few snarls of discontent at my husband; especially when he claimed not to hear her crying for some attention.

What to do? Wake up! Drink coffee. Play.

Now, early wake-times no longer phase me. In fact, I accomplish more. I stay on track with work, school schedules, volunteerism, socializing, and wine time.

A third lesson, which I am still in the midst of learning, is about resilience and resourcefulness. As Issa entered preschool, we (my husband and I) discovered she had ADD (attention deficit disorder) as well as global development delays. Riff (my youngest) also has learning challenges and development delays.

What to do? Learn. Make friends with school district decision-makers, teachers, therapists, education consultants, pediatric non-profits, and peer parents. Advocate for whatever Issa and Riff need to be on a path for current and future success. Actively support them through participation in their activities, tough love and understanding.

Finally, the most important lesson is the one of patience. Before Issa, patience was not a natural virtue. It still isn’t. It’s just not in my DNA.

What to do? Self-imposed time-outs, calming strategies, and positive self-talk.

Home life is peaceful. Well, maybe I went a little too far there. My home is not synonymous with church. There are daily moments when I snap into a being I do not recognize. I swear, yell and use not-so-nice sign language. Imperfection at its finest; beautiful chaos.

So, now what?

Go with the flow. Be patient. Experiencing the unexpected is one of the greatest gifts of being a mom (parent); and it is not for sissies.

 

Celebrating Birthdays: A Mother’s Memories

Memories from those first 24 hours of parenthood will never leave me. A little baby and miracle named Issa made her début 10 years ago. All those weeks during my pregnancy with her had been preparation. I made time for breakfast, remembered to take my vitamins and did my homework. Indulgences such as caffeine, alcohol, sushi and stylish shoes had to go. Frequent bathroom trips during the night trained me for late-night feedings and diaper changes. Shopping sprees were to buy splurges and necessities for Issa; not me.

Upon gazing into that little newborn face I knew becoming a mom was a blessing as well as challenge; a life-long challenge. But, still, I wondered. What she be at 5; 7; and 10? Would she like going to school? What would her likes and dislikes? Could I camouflage my Type A personality with the patience of a saint? Would I handle illnesses, injuries, upsets and academic hurdles like a warrior; or a wuss? Finally, would I be a worthy advocate, protector and friend?

At 5, I knew Issa was a miracle child with some challenges that would make some physical, academic and social activities difficult. But, I also knew her love for learning; and her determination to succeed would carry her. Issa loves going to school. She hates to miss a day. Her desire to learn was the key at 7 and still enables her success. She strives to do her best every day.

I still do not have answers to many of my parenting questions. There are days when I start feeling like the supermom, but then end up in the dunce corner. Parenthood is unpredictable. Likes and dislikes change. When Issa was five she loved elephants and sought all information she could obtain to learn more about these large, magnificent animals. But, then, her fascination with elephants morphed into affection for mice, then dinosaurs, then outer space and now snakes.

Each birthday I celebrate with Issa, I feel intense joy and love. I recall those first 24 hours of her life in vivid detail. God blessed me 10 years ago when Issa was born.

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.

My “A” Team: At the Helm With Mom

Remember my post, Good People Find Good People? I just can’t stop reflecting on these words. Maybe it has something to do with how blessed I am to be surrounded with family, friends, neighbors, teachers, therapists, medical experts, and creative forces who love, nurture, help, care, and inspire. Collectively, I call them my “A” Team. All contribute — or have contributed — significantly to the person I am and strive to be.

My mom and dad with Issa at her First Holy Communion.

The person at the helm of my “A” Team is without a doubt my mother. I believe anyone who truly knows her would define her as a loyal, helpful, outspoken, classy, friendly,  organized, willful, persistent, caring, selfless, generous lady who demonstrates — through action and words — love for her faith, family, friends, Irish heritage, football, the Detroit Tigers, travel, playing cards, Neil Diamond, Tony Bennett, Cheez-Itz and ice cream.

My mom’s helpful, organized and outspoken nature are the three traits I admire most. She helps so many in need — me, my children, my sister, my niece and nephew, her older sister, my dad, my husband, friends, and neighbors — no matter what — with great sacrifice to herself at times. I cannot name one other person who is a more willing, committed helper than my mom. Organization is a trait brought to the US from her Duris and Gehringer family members who migrated from various counties of Ireland nearly a century ago. I have not met a Duris or Gehringer who has not been recognized for attention to detail, hard work or willingness to question. Finally, I consider my mom to be very brave due to her willingness to speak up — even when she knows the words needed might anger or hurt. Her points are often valid and worth considering.

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Nine Years Ago

Nine years ago, I waited. The medicine the doctor gave to induce labor had started to work. I was told, it could take hours or even days before I would meet my baby. I was about to become a mom for the first time.

Up until the previous day, my pregnancy had been a breeze. I felt good, could eat anything and still maintained a fairly active lifestyle. But, at 38 weeks and at my weekly OB check, my blood pressure was way up and there was protein in my urine. My doctor directed me to the hospital. While I felt a slight twinge of fear, I was optimistic. Surely, the hospital staff would check me out and send me home.

Upon my arrival at the mom/baby unit at the hospital, a nurse promptly informed me of my situation. I had developed pregnancy-induced hypertension (i.e. pre-eclampsia or toxemia). Symptoms included high blood pressure, protein in urine and swelling due to water/fluid retention. I would not be leaving the hospital until after I delivered my baby.

While my ordeal with toxemia was scary, my husband who also served as my delivery coach, kept worry out of my mind. He helped me focus on breathing through labor pains, staying still while receiving the epidural, and enjoying the first few moments of my daughter’s life.

When I delivered my beautiful, baby girl, Issa, she was incredibly sweet, just like she is today. I was thrilled to be mom to this little angel who continues to  grow into a smart young lady who loves her family, friends, planet, snakes, roller coasters and the solar system.

Recovery from toxemia took longer than I expected. I suppose I really didn’t appreciate how sick I was. Prior to this experience, the only illnesses I ever experienced were brushes with common ailments such as the flu. This experience taught me to count my blessings: family, health, faith, and a positive outlook.

Isn’t it interesting how the birth of a child can teach us so much about ourselves and about the world?

Happy Birthday to my Issa!

Nine Irish Kids and the Power Codes

My mom is one of nine Irish kids who grew up in Howell, Mich. The tight connections among her siblings — my aunts and uncles — make for mega family reunions and for volumes of stories.

One story is about family population tracking and keeping peace during family meetings. My Aunt Kate — a mentor in all things Kate and the youngest of the nine — generated and assigned — in descending numeric and alphabetic power codes — to help everyone remember their “pecking” order in the family.

Numeric codes were assigned — from eldest to youngest as follows:

  1. Diane
  2. Susan (my mom)
  3. Gerry
  4. Betty
  5. John
  6. Steve
  7. Julie
  8. Dan
  9. Kate

Single, alphabetic codes were then matched to the number of offspring or pets each of the nine introduced to the family. For example, my Aunt Diane has four children. Their codes are 1A1, 1A2, 1A3, and 1A4. My mom had just two — my sister and I. So, we are 2B1 and 2B2. My cousins and I have learned our power codes do little to help trump discussions, decisions or euchre contests.

How do in-laws and future generations fit into this power code scheme? I am sorry to admit this. But, I lost the memo at my Aunt Gerry’s in Melbourne, Florida. It’s probably matted to the bottom of that empty keg we drank on St. Patrick’s Day 10 years ago.

So, how much of this story do you think is blarney and how much do you think is fact?

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!