School Days: Two More Mondays of Peace

Happy Monday!

How was your weekend? Mine involved finishing school projects with Issa — my thirdgrader — a pool party and a girls’ night out. Summer break for my students begins Friday, June 14. So, I am counting my Mondays; and the number of days I have to enjoy peaceful moments on my patio drinking hot coffee while writing a post or two.

Remember how I said changes were coming in my post last week? Well, the end of the 2012-2013 school year is one of them. I look forward to the break from planning outfits on weekday evenings, packing lunches, homework, and strict schedules. But, I also dread losing weekday hours I have to exercise, write blog posts, run errands, and accomplish household tasks without interruption.

Parenting is a non-stop adventure that continues to give me a never-ending supply of blog post ideas. It doesn’t matter whether school is in or out.

Have a great week!

Kate

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.

Related posts …

In Honor of All Mothers

7 at 12:25: Things to Know About Me and New Kreativ Blogs I Love

Being Irish and the First Day of Spring

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.

Real Housewife Business Advice

I am going to start my post with a confession. Each Tuesday night I watch the Real Housewives of Orange County (OC). It is usually pure escapism with some jaw-dropping shockers added to feed my addiction. However, a portion of the episode this week actually connected with something I experienced myself when I became a new parent.

The newest cast member to the OC series, Heather and two of her girlfriends (not cast members) want to maintain their professional talents while also carrying out duties as full-time, stay-at-home moms. This encouraged the three to consider opening a restaurant in OC, which prompted them to seek advice from a successful chef/restaurant owner in LA as well as from cast members Vicky and Tamra.

Heather and her girlfriends continuously said their motivation to open a restaurant stemmed from the desire for more time out of the home, with each other, and away from their children. Vicky and Tamra both shuttered when it became evident Heather and her girlfriends did not have a business plan or anything in writing hashing out what their roles would be, a marketing plan, or other details pertinent to running a business. Despite Vicky’s repeated attempts to offer insight on the realities she experiences as a business owner, Heather and her girlfriends appeared to see her very valid points as a negative attitude.

I can relate to Heather and her girlfriends; and I can relate to Vicky. When I was new to parenthood, I took sought the same life balance: full-time career plus full-time parenthood. Heck, there are plenty of women business owners out there who make this balancing act look like a cake walk. But, what I didn’t acknowledge is that many of these women employ help at home and work; we’re not all blessed with the same treasure trove of superpowers; and owning/running a business is much more than a full-time career. It is a lifestyle that one must embody and stick with.

While I can appreciate Heather’s need for a sideline of cheerleaders, Vicky’s advice was spot-on. A dose of honesty when one is looking to make a significant financial and personal investment is necessary. Vicky asked pointed questions about developing a business plan, about writing a basic legal document to divide business ownership responsibilities, and about the time commitment required to achieve success.

While I have never pursued restaurant ownership, I did pursue a small business venture with my husband. Upon giving birth to Issa more than nine years ago, we started off in the right direction. We drafted a business plan, marketing strategies, branding ideas, and ownership requirements.

Upon finishing the business plan, my husband and I made our first serious misstep. We did not have experienced business owners read through our plan; and we did not solicit their advice on the goals we set for the business. Had we taken this step, I am confident our plan would have been rewritten to contain realistic, achievable, measurable goals. Instead, we became impatient to just get on with business and ignored this very critical part of the business development process. This decision ultimately doomed our business to failure.

I learned owning and running a business was both rewarding and tough. The rewards included an active social life with opportunities to become acquainted with leading private and public figures in my community. A tough lesson involved a reality check about the intense time commitment required. Had I been more realistic about the time commitment involved, I would have delayed any kind of business ownership until my children were older. For me, owning a business and being at home full-time just didn’t click. I could not afford the necessary outside help at home or work; and the stress of juggling business, family and household demands became unbearable.

A choice had to be made: keep the business and be an out-of-touch parent; or close the business and be an active parent. My choice was the later. This doesn’t mean my choice fits every women faced with making a similar decision. The way I describe my choices is probably a bit harsh because there are women out there who stay at home and who are successful business owners. Also, I am not adverse to trying my hand at business ownership again; I just need to be mindful of reality was well as the necessary steps to ensure success.

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.

Storytelling with Issa: A Dragon in My Backyard

My daughter Issa and I sometimes opt for storytelling at bedtime versus reading. Last night we pretended a dragon lived in our backyard. For a visual of the dragon, think Night Fury from  How to Train Your Dragon.

The dragon living in my backyard . . .

flies me to school every morning. On the way, he picks up my friends Keefer, Ashley, Ally, Emily, Paul, Brandon, Alex, Gino and Ella. At school while parked in the bus lane he receives curious glances from the principal, teachers and parents. But, everyone stays cool. They all know there is no reason to freak out. My dragon is friendly.

Until school dismisses, my dragon plays hide-and-seek with my younger brother, Riff, and eats lunch. My dragon’s favorite food is fish. His meal includes crab legs, water and double-chocolate cake.

At dismissal, the dragon returns to pick my friends and I up. He drops everyone off and then flies me around the neighborhood. One afternoon we went to Debbie’s Dollar store. My friends Justin and Andrew came along for the ride. We bought him some little plastic dragons to play with.

Before returning home for dinner, my dragon flew us to DQ. Justin, Andrew and I ordered chocolate-fudge sundaes; my dragon ordered fish-flavored ice cream with sprinkles. Yummy!

A Seemingly Harmless Flirtation: Angry Bird

Angry Birds
Image via Wikipedia

It all started before 2011 came to an end. I was basking in some much needed downtime after dinner. As I read through the front-page headlines at Huffington Post, cheers, giggles and snorts from the other room penetrated my thoughts. Once again, Riff and his dad were captivated with the silly, obnoxious Angry Bird scenes playing out on my husband’s Droid.

Disgusted with reading — for the 364th day — about gridlock in D.C., GOP primary speculations, and tabloid fodder, I succumbed to the temptation to check out Angry Bird. It was just a harmless flirtation with a pop culture segment that I define as a plague on human productivity and time management.

I told myself one peek would not plunge me into an abyss of addiction. Looking was not cheating on my responsibilities as parent, wife, writer or friend.

But then, a quick look turned into a wink and a smile. Before I knew what happened … a link developed. Those comedic angry birds must have known about my preference for a good sense of humor and pretty feathers.

I took the flirtation a step further and clicked on the “play” link. Again, I told myself, one game wasn’t a step toward a demise of my professional ambitions or attentive parenting skills. It was just one game.

Let it be said. The decision to “play” is not one that would make my list of Top 10 Brilliant Moves. One click lead to a second, third, fourth, tenth and a … I quit keeping track.

Perhaps it was the feeling of instant gratification. Pigs exploded all over the screen. Each dead pig earned me 5,000 points. Plus, there were bonus points for destroying walls, taking out boxes of TNT, and pulverizing watermelon. Good, life-saving deeds were rewarded generously as well. I earned 10,000 points for each bird saved from sudden death as a suicide-bomber.

Whatever these angry birds have that my husband, children, family, friends and writing do not is beyond my comprehension. But, a wink and smile has now turned into a toxic love affair. My daily desire to free my pretty-feathered friends from a world of snarky pigs is constantly nudging at my resolve to make dinner each night, share my desktop with my children, write blog posts, and pay attention to my husband.

Wednesday at 10:49: So Much to Write

There is so much to write, so much to say and so much to do. Here I sit. The notes from this morning are there. I went old-school and grabbed a pen while listening to Riff sing the Mat Man song during snack time this morning.

As ideas and phrases came to mind, I jotted them into my journal. After all, I live with children, a husband and a dog. If I don’t write it all down, I’ll forget those precious thoughts.

But, now, I’m not loving the ideas or phrases I did back at 10:30 am. Maybe that’s because I’m in a different place. I’m always thinking.

Here are some thoughts…

Keeping up with Issa and her evolving interests is equivalent to tracking technology advances. It’s nearly impossible. Change occurs so quickly. But, it is so exciting to witness and to participate. Her interests are so academic and mostly trend toward the sciences. In chronological order — from earliest to now — it was the alphabet, ducks, elephants, mice, dinosaurs, space, and now snakes.

Laughing matters. It breaks up the stress and makes living with children survivable. I sent Riff to his time out spot for a five-minute respite. He was pretty pissed off and began throwing things that were within his reach.

He eyed a pair of my shoes and said, “He’s going to throw your shoes.”

Three inches of snow is finally being forecast for Southeastern Michigan. We have experienced nearly three weeks of 40-plus temps and sunshine.