Thursday, July 29, 2010

Potty training as a measure of success

Is there any greater accomplishment than getting a child, especially a boy, potty trained? Apparently not.  I was feeling great about life this week when my child's teacher reminded me that he is the only child in his daycare class who is not potty trained. Suddenly I felt dejected, but why? There is so much pressure on parents to excel in every tiny aspect of parenting.  Any parent will tell you that potty training is a big deal but we have to set our own goals and timelines.  So I tell myself that I will have a potty trained child and the process will be fun for both of us.  Happy, healthy child, that is my barometer for success.  This weekend will be filled with hugs, kisses and potty lessons but if it takes him a few extra weeks to learn - no worries. As a friend reminded me when I was potty training my first child, "he won't go to college in diapers." Thanks, friend.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A second chance at childhood fun

I had a wonderful childhood, having had the good fortune to grow up in a place when people loved and trusted each other. I ran free, played with friends for hours in our yard, ate fruit directly from the tree, and played hopscotch with friends. I am not sure when it happened but life took a serious turn and became about doing and saying the right things, working hard, and achieving.  What happened to the joy of playing just to have fun and with no agenda?  Then came kids. They can roll on the ground without being embarrassed; they can laugh without checking to see if someone is laughing with them; they can laugh at the same joke a hundred times; they laugh from deep inside the belly. For kids, play is just as important as everything else in life.  Yesterday, it dawned on me that I am having as much fun as I did as a kid, if not more. I play peek-a-boo with the boys over and over and over again and it never gets old. I have seen the movie cars at least a hundred times. I get to visit Elmo  and play in Legoland. I sing along to all the songs on Nick Jr.  How awesome is it to go to work and then run home to play ring around the roses.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Flying high but slowing down

Kids are really great at forcing us to ponder. On the flight coming back from vacation with my 5 year old, he had a million questions....mommy, when we are flying on the plane, are we closer to God? Is God a man or a woman? Was Abraham Lincoln the best President and if so, why is he on the $5 bill? Is a hippopotamus slow? It would be so easy to give a glib answer to a 5 year old. If I was not on an airplane, i would be tempted to rely on Google, but thankfully I was forced to slow down and focus on my son as well as the questions that were certainly very important to him. I may not know all the answers but I said, Sweetie, if we were made in God's image, he must be a little bit of both. What do you think? And so begins a great conversation with my son.

Old Friends

I just spent a few days with friends who know almost everything about me and still love me. What a wonderful feeling!!!! I recently relocated to a new city and meeting new friends has been like dating. "What is your name", "What is your sign", "What are your likes and dislikes". With every date, you have to sell yourself again. We should always be open to expanding our network of good, true friends but how awesome it is to fall back into the arms of old friends and know that you always have a safe place to land?

5 Reasons to Be Thankful

Today and everyday, I can’t help but thinking of Ms. Linett Wills, one of the mothers who raised me. Although we had little material things and couldn’t afford a feast for the holidays, she thanked God daily for her blessings. Although she passed away ten years ago, she is always in my heart and I try to live my life in accordance with her teachings. She always gave thanks everyday be saying to God, “thanks for waking me up this morning and starting me on my way.” This thanksgiving season, I echo her sentiments and I am blessed to be able to add a few more to her list.

1. Happy and healthy kids
2. Wonderful friends that are just like family.
3. A job in these tough economic times.
4. The ability to have a positive outlook on life.
5. The Gift of God.

What are you thankful for this year?

A taste of single motherhood

I spent the last three weeks getting a taste of what it would be like to be a single parent. My husband had to go on a three-week business trip - something that rarely happens in our relationship. Three weeks seemed like a long time. I know, for you single moms and super moms out there, three weeks is child’s play. Although I was raised by a single parent, we were surrounded by family members who could pitch in instantly. Today many families are miles away from the nearest relative. We rely on the good will of friends and a sitter when we can afford it. As a mother who works full-time, the thought of getting two young kids ready and out the door every morning, working a full day, picking them up, feeding and getting them ready for bed (neither sleeps through the night) and then doing it all again everyday for three weeks, seemed daunting. Below are the survival skills that I learned in the process.

    • enlist the assistance of friends and family
    • create a schedule and stick to it as much as possible
    • get a good night’s sleep, you need your energy
    • arrange play dates, preferably at your house
    • try to cook for at least 3 days and pack lunches in advance
    • order guilt-free meals for deliverykeep secret weapons (new toy, favorite snack) handy in case of an emergency tantrum
    • make a “to do” list and focus on the important things, everything else can wait
    • If you need to pick up a few things at the supermarket, enlist a friend or sitter to watch the kids; nothing can send a parent over the hedge faster than a child in the supermarket.
    • So what if your little prince pours an entire bottle of baby oil on the floor, or the baby throws up on you on your way out the door? The unexpected happens, just take a deep breath and go with the flow.

At the end of the three weeks, and lots of help from friends and family I survived. I have to admit that I am no super mommy but I at least both kids are alive and well. I hope not to repeat this experience anytime soon but now I know that if I had to do it, we would all survive, just like the millions of hand working single moms out there.

Traveling with kids can be peaceful and stress-free

I recently read an article about the challenges of flying with young children and was not surprised to hear that parents experience high levels of stress and anxiety from the experience; however, I was amazed at how much anger and resentment other passengers directed at the traveling parents. Some readers commented that parents were “selfish” to travel with young kids and that the kids should be “drugged” with Benadryl. Those were the nicer comments. Several airlines are now considering placing families with young children in the rear of the plane and there have been several stories of parents being forced to leave the plane because of a crying baby. No one is more stressed by a crying baby or a toddler in the midst of a tantrum than the parents. Our family recently survived a 2 day, 12 hour road trip in the car with a 3 year old and a 1 year old. We also survived a seven hour (delayed flight) trip to the Caribbean. I decided to resist the urge to focus this blog on the controversy surrounding travel with young kids, and instead focus on helpful ways to have a peaceful and stress-free trip with the kids.

As both trips were manageable, but not entirely stress free (one roll on the floor tantrum in the middle of the airport, several “are we there yet”, and “yelling and fighting in the back seat”), I asked a few friends with kids to offer suggestions. Below are the top ten suggestions.

• Buy a brand new toy and hide it until you get on the airplane or in the car. A new toy should buy you about 2 hours of quiet time.
• Even if the young child is potty trained, try using a pull-up for long trips. This will lessen the anxiety for both parent and child. No emergency stops on the side of the road or needing to go to the bathroom just when the flight attendant is blocking the isle with the drink cart.
• Give just enough juice and water to keep the kids hydrated. The last thing you need on a long trip is a child on a sugar high.
• For kids that are of TV/Movie age, pack a portable DVD player with at least 2 of their favorite movies.
• Bring their favorite snacks. Kids may not want those delicious snack packs offered by the airline
• Kids are weary of new surroundings, so bring a favorite toy, book, blanket, or stuffed animal – anything to make them feel at home.
• If possible, try to get seated in the same row on an airplane. If you have a toddler, seat her on the inside so that she will not be tempted to run up and down the aisle.
• If you are flying, take advantage of early boarding so that you will have time to get your bags stored and child settled.
• Whether you are traveling by car or air, travel light. No need to bring a case of diapers when you can pick up more at the local supermarket. Several airports/destination cities will have a place where you can rent a car seat and a stroller.
• If possible, drive or fly at nap-time. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if your child could sleep through the flight or road trip?

If despite your best efforts, a tantrum ensues, the child gets an earache from the cabin pressure, or something unexpected occurs, take a deep breath, don’t panic, and try to address the child’s immediate need. Drown out the little voice telling you that everyone is looking at you and judging you as a parent. Hugs, kisses, reassurance and maybe the promise of a favorite treat at the end of the trip can turn a frown into a smile.

Have a good traveling tip? Help out your fellow parents by posting it below.

Vacations: Free yourself to live in the moment

I am back from an extremely relaxing five days on vacation. We left a few days early to escape the path of Hurricane Hanna but didn’t leave without taking my oldest son in the ocean to ride the waves. There is nothing better than listening to him squeal with joy as we get hit by wave after wave. As I allowed my hair to get wet so that I could enjoy the moment, I began to reflect on all the things that I do on vacation in order to live in the moment. There are two rituals that I tend to live by. I skip the makeup (I cheat occasionally with eyeliner) and I keep my hair in a ponytail or a similar no hassle hairdo. You would be surprised at how much time this frees up to engage in other pursuits. Here are a few others that I love.

  • Downsize. Eliminate everything that is time consuming. No high-maintenance hairstyle, or long make-up ritual and definitely do not pack any clothes that will require ironing.
  • Shop at stores unique to your vacation destination. You can always visit the Gap and Target when you return home.
  • Try a new restaurant or a new cuisine. Save the trip to the Cheesecake Factory or Red Lobster until you return home.
  • Break the rules. Sleep late, let the kids stay up an extra hour, partake of that dessert you wouldn’t dream of eating back home.
  • Toss the car keys. Walk, bike, jog and meet a few new people along the way.
  • Risk embarrassment. Limbo dancing or karaoke anyone?
  • Break a habit. Stay away from the cell phone, laptop, CNN, blackberry and focus on your travel companions, new friends or new venture.
  • Experience something new. Always wanted to play golf, scuba dive, finally learn how to swim? Go for it!

It is often difficult to free ourselves from the walls that are built around us or those we build ourselves, but a week or two away is a fine time to try. A few years ago, I would have admired the ocean from afar because I told myself that I couldn’t go into water where I couldn’t see my toes, or I wouldn’t get in because I didn’t want to get my hair wet. Over the years, I have learned that vacations aren’t just “same thing, different city” but a chance to relax, release and sometimes even reinvent ourselves.

A vacation for the Soul

The wind is blowing a cool breeze, the ocean is playing a sweet melody and I am standing barefoot at the edge of the ocean with my 1 year old son in my arms. Yesterday, as we drove the 12 hours from Washington, DC to Hilton Head, South Carolina, I repeatedly asked myself why I was taking this long drive, with two young kids in the back seat of my car. A few days ago, my husband confirmed that he would have to cut our vacation short to head to Texas for training. This meant that I would have to do all the driving on the return trip. I am not a fan of driving, so why not just cancel the trip? Standing on the edge of the ocean, I discovered why I came. I felt joyful, at peace, alive and free to exhale.

I am so used to my daily routine of getting the kids ready for school and our nanny share, sometimes having a bite for breakfast, speeding through traffic to get to work on time, working a full day, picking up the kids, doing evening chores, having playtime with the kids, getting them ready for bed, and getting up and doing it all over again, that I didn't even realize that I was not exhaling. As I write this, I am sitting at a table in our little cottage looking out at the beautiful grounds. I have many of the same responsibilities, but for the next five days, I have time to stop and enjoy my time with the kids and inhale the ocean air.

For anyone who is thinking about skipping the vacation this year, remember that a change of scenery awakens the soul and it allows the mind to embrace new possibilities. When your mind is uncluttered and your soul is at peace, you are free to contemplate how to get that promotion at work, how to carve out more time for the family, how to finally find the time to unclutter your house, how to get your financial house in order and how to engage in spiritual activities that feed the soul. I can't wait to dip my feet in the water again tomorrow
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