Saturday, March 26, 2011

Raising Boys? Has It Changed You? Are You Accepting Of Their Significant Others?

Are you raising boys? If so, how has it changed you? How do you get along with their girlfriends and wives? I didn't give these questions much thought until I read this quote from Joanna Trollope, author of the book Daughter-in-law

"I find that women who have daughters and sons and women who have just daughters are not the same as women who only have sons. It comes out of their reaction to being in this sort of testosterone household where they are the only woman. It seems to me that they can either be supportive and join in, do all the things that the boys do, or they can do a Victoria Beckham and become excessively feminine. I'm making a observation in this book and I'm not being judgmental or critical because it's down to chance how people cope with the hand they've been dealt." (An except from the Article, Accepting Son's Wives).

I am acutely aware that I am the only woman in our household of 5; even our cat is male, however, I have never stopped to consider if I have changed since becoming a part of an overwhelmingly male household. I think that I have become more loving and more patient.  I am also both stronger and softer. No one who knows me well would ever accuse me of being the "touchy-feely" type but I find myself constantly hugging and kissing the boys. As I write this, two of the babies are in bed next to me and I am looking at them adoringly and trying to resist the urge to give them a big hug.  I would like to think that I would be the same way if I had girls.  

In some ways, I have tapped into my softer side but I also feel a need to be stronger or at least appear stronger. My slogans for life have always have always been "live and let live" and "chart your own course" but boys need clear guidance and firm boundaries. Now I find myself being firm with rules and with timeouts, although my timeouts often end with a hug. When the boys sneak into our bedroom holding hands at 2a.m., I am just not strong enough to take them back to their beds. I leave that task to the hubby. 

My friends with older children tell me that around the teenage years, I will be eagerly awaiting the day that they move out of my house but I cannot imagine that day. At this point, I would be happy if they lived with me forever and bring their wives and kids. Yes, I know that I am looking through rose colored glasses and drinking too many sugary drinks. Can I at least follow them to college? Strangers often comment, "you must feel like a queen in your house!" Not yet.  Being a good mother and wife is hard work with little time to sit and relax. I do feel very loved and very blessed. Most days, I am happy if everyone picks up their socks from the floor. 

Ms. Trollope discussed how difficult it is for mother of boys to adjust to their girlfriends and wives. I am years away from that reality, but I have thought about it on occasion. I do hope that the person that they marry will be kind, a giver, strong but loving, compassionate, self-assured and optimistic about life and love. If not, I will resist the urge to say "If she doesn't treat you right, come on home, baby".  Instead, I will relax and reclaim my "live and let live" persona, knowing that I have raised them well.  

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Optimism Allows us to Live Boldly without Fear

Do you wake up every morning and say "it's going to be a bright, bright, bright sunshiny day"? Do you wake up wondering what wonderful opportunities the day will bring? Do you tell yourself that you can handle whatever the day brings? Is you glass always half full? If something bad happens in your life, are you thankful because it could have been worse? If you answered Yes to any of these questions, you are an optimist. 

Studies have shown that optimism keeps us mentally and physically healthy. Stress related illnesses have no room to grow in the mind and body of an optimist. What gets me really excited about optimism is that it frees us from fear. Knowing that joy, hope, love, success and all the good things that our hearts desire are possible and within our reach, gives us the freedom to boldly live our dreams. Optimism is not blind.  It is not burying one's head in the sand. Life is filled with blessings and tragedies. I just chose to be fueled by hope. If something doesn't go my way, I try to identify the lesson, learn the lesson and move on. Last week, as I was rushing to get the house cleaned, I slammed my toe into the door. As I sat down, holding my toe in pain and yes, swearing silently, I had a few minutes to reflect. As the pain subsided and my mind cleared, I realized that I was moving too fast, putting too much pressure on myself to have that sparkling house that you only see in magazines. The pain cleared my mind and gave me time to sit on the floor and reflect on what is really important in life.

Optimism is also contagious. If you are shining with hope from the inside, others notice and will often comment on your positive energy.  It is interesting that the universal language of all humankind seems to be the weather. We are all standing under the same sky and the same sun.  It is possible to get the grumpy person, the shy person, and the complete stranger in the elevator to talk about the weather. Even when the conversation start by complaining about the snow, the rain or the scorching heat, there is always optimism that tomorrow or next week being better.  Experience has taught us that if the kids can't go out to play now because it is too hot, they will be able to play later in the evening or tomorrow. If there is 6 feet of snow outside and you can't open your front door and your car is invisible, it will all melt away and soon you will have the opportunity to complain about the heat. 

We should allow ourselves to feel every emotion. One day we may be hopeful and joyful and the next we may be depressed and in despair. Optimism is knowing from the inside out that as human beings, we are strong and resilient  and like the weather, our dark days are temporary and the sun is always shining in our lives, even when we cannot see it. 

Here are links to a few more articles on the benefits of Optimism.

It is not always easy to approach life with hope and optimism. I start each day by telling my kids that it is going to be a "bright, bright, bright, sunshiny day" and telling myself that "it is an awesome day, it is great to be alive and nothing will happen today that God and I cannot handle together." How do you stay optimistic about life?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friendship Friday: No Reservations Needed

Do you have a friend that you love and who you know loves you and supports you?   I am declaring today to be Friendship Friday. Here is my personal ode to friendship and all the wonderful friends who make my life rich. Share this poem with a friend, post your own ode to friendship in the comments below and call that special friend and let her know how much she means to you.

No Reservations Needed

I love you my friend
You are the one that I call when I am feeling lonely
You will always get my jokes
When I want someone to be excited for me, I call you
When I want support, I call you
You keep me centered
You make my marriage work
You tell me that I am a good mother with conviction and make me believe
You make me smile when I would prefer to cry
You make me laugh when I would prefer anger
I am naked but never exposed
No reservations are needed with you
You make everything within me smile

© Autherine

Monday, March 7, 2011

Disney, the Lovely Elephant in our Backyard: Photos and Tips from our Visit

We lived in the Orlando area for over a year before we ventured to Disney.  We consider it the expensive, exotic elephant in our backyard.  A few weeks ago, we finally splurged on annual passes for the family and will be spending the rest of the year trying to get our money's worth. With 3 kids in tow, we pace ourselves, are we don't park-hop; we spend no more than 3 hours so everyone has fun and there are few meltdowns.  It is not unusual to overhear this comment at Disney,"we saved for this vacation all year, and you better have fun!" The best thing about the annual pass or multi-day pass is that there is no pressure to pack all the fun into 1 day.

Face it, young kids only care about Minne and Mickey, so our first stop was the Magic Kingdom.  Cinderella's Castle is mesmerizing!  Adults actually stopped texting and taking photos and just stared at it as if remembering the fairy tales of their childhood.  It really is that enchanting. Mickey and Minnie and the entire Disney cast of characters entertained the crowd with a happy and grand performance that you could only get at the "happiest place on earth."

Lions, tigers, giraffes, oh my! We wanted an exciting but not frenitic experience so we visited the Animal Kingdom. After about 20 minutes there, we saw only a handful of animals and later learned that in order to see the animals, we had to go on a Safari. Before we found the Safari, we encountered some large but friendly dinosaurs.

Am I the only grownup afraid of roller coasters? Thankfully, the kids don't meet the height requirement. If you dare, this is the Expedition Everest.

Finally, the Safari!

Beautiful but I was very nervous being so close to the tigers.

The Safari is accessed by visiting Africa so if you if your main goal is to see the animals, head straight to there. The timer at the entrance told us that the wait was 30 minutes and although the line move pretty quickly, it did take 30 minutes to get to the safari jeep. The tour takes about 20 minutes and our guide was an amazing actor because he was fun and animated and he simulated near crashes, a shaky bridge and attack from poachers.

I just wanted to go rub his belly.

The second most breathtaking view is of the Tree of Life, which rules the park. Look closely at the animal carvings.

Based on our experience, here are a few tips:

  • Arrive before 10 a.m or after 3 when the crowds are gone because it is easier to get on rides.
  • Get a Fast Pass so that your wait for popular rides will be shorter. 
  • When you enter, ask what time the parade begins. The parades are a wonderful way for the entire family to have fun. By the way, if you are not a big fan of parades, while the crowd is at the parade, visit your favorite ride b/c the line will be shorter.
  • If you have kids, rent a stroller at the gate. There are places to park your stroller next to the rides.
  • If possible, obtain a map of the park before you go and circle your "must do" rides/shows. Walking around Disney holding a map is no fun.
  • Food is expensive so bring snacks and water for the kids.
  • Everyone should wear comfortable shoes.
  • Steer the kids away from the gift shops, unless you can afford a $30 animal pillow. I had to remind the kids that tantrums are not allowed in Mickey's house.
  • If you go on Safari, sit the kids in the center because the ride can be bumpy and scary for young kids.
  • If you are Vegan, try getting some cupcakes from Babycakes in Downtown Disney before you enter the main parks.  The South African restaurant Jiko at Disney's Animal Lodge has a Vegan menu with great food but it is expensive.

Fun Times to Visit:  Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival (March to June), the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival (September to November), Mickey's Not so Scary Halloween. 

We are looking forward to visiting Hollywood Studios, Epcot and the water parks and will update this post with additional tips after we visit.  In the meantime, enjoy the photos.
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