This Month's Topic: Focus on Finance

A Lesson in Stillness

Over the weekend, we were hiking through some woods in Asheville, North Carolina, the golden leaves above us forming a kind of halo against the crisp November air. It felt wonderful to walk, to feel the crunch of rocks and sticks and leaves beneath our feet and to feel unfettered, completely free of schedules and plans.

For the beginning of the hike, Anna was clambering to keep up with her big brother at the front of the pack but, after awhile, she fell back, and I found myself holding her hand, bringing up the rear of our meandering little train.

Anna and I would walk a few feet, then she’d notice a shiny rock on the forest floor or an interestingly shaped stick or a giant leaf and stop, examine her treasure and decide whether or not it was worth keeping. She’d smile at me as she jammed another stone into her coat pocket and ask me to hold her stick while she checked out something “sparkly.”DSC_0157

At first, I felt compelled to hurry Anna’s dallying along. The other people in our group were getting farther and farther away, until I could only just make out a jacket or swish of hair. But then I’d feel Anna tugging at my hand and calmly explaining something to me about a fallen tree, and I’d grow still.

Why did I have to hurry her?

There was nothing we had to rush to after our hike; no plans at all, in fact. And wasn’t that the reason we’d come? To have a change of scene, break up the daily grind, spend time with family?

And it was there, when Anna and I were still together, contemplating something as mundane as the uneven path we were walking, that I realized something about my daughter: She likes stillness. She likes the calm. She likes to go slowly.

She eats her meals slowly, carefully. She talks quietly. She notices things and wants to discuss them in a serious way.

There in the woods under the leafy canopy, I wondered how it felt for her, having a brother who speaks loudly and constantly, who, I swear, came out of the womb running. To have a mother always ushering her and her high-energy brother toward the next item on a never-ending to-do list.

No wonder she throws fits, I thought, when I’m trying to move her along faster than she’s ready to go, when she’s trying to tell me something and I can’t understand. She doesn’t adapt like her brother does. That’s his personality, after all, but that doesn’t mean it’s hers.

I grasped her hand a little tighter and listened to the trees rustling, the leaves crunching and swirling around us and didn’t hear any of it. We might have only been lagging behind for a few minutes, but it was long enough to teach me something about stillness and something about a personality I’d puzzled over but had yet to piece together.

Maybe it won’t make “all the difference,” but I do believe I left those woods wiser than when I entered them.

I’ll Be Thankful Tomorrow

kidsI know tomorrow is Thanksgiving, THE day to give thanks and count your blessings for what they are – blessings. I know I have much to be thankful for and many blessings, but I’m hoping that tomorrow I’ll feel more like counting them.

Today, when it’s still not technically Thanksgiving, I’m feeling sad, worn out and more than a little angry.

Yesterday, I took both kids to the doctor’s office because they’ve had nasty colds for a week. While I was checking in, they ran to the waiting area and proceeded to gallop in circles around a woman sitting by herself. We had recently changed insurance, so I was trying to help the receptionist process our new information while simultaneously shouting ultimatums at Brayden and dealing with Anna, who had decided to go back and forth between running over to hug my leg and logging circles around the poor woman in the chair.

By the time I was finished with the receptionist, the nurse had already come out to call our names. “That’s us,” I said from the other side of the waiting room. “We’re coming.” I bent down to pick up the strewn coats and gloves the kids had thrown about the room and ushered them into the hallway, turning around to look at the woman in the chair as I went. “I’m so sorry. I know they were running circles around you… .” I trailed off, not really knowing what else to say. “I’m really, very sorry.”

The woman, who looked to be my age and seemed to be waiting in the pediatrician’s office without any kids, merely shrugged. “They’re your kids. Not mine.”

I was stung. And chastened. I mumbled, “Yeah, good for you,” in reply and forced myself to erase it from my mind as the nurse instructed the kids to get on the scale.

This morning, I took the kids to the Cincinnati Museum Center where we met friends. I had figured either no one would be there or it would be insanely crowded. I was dismayed to find it was the latter. Brayden, in his excitement to hang out with his friend, wouldn’t listen to me and kept running ahead, getting lost in the crowds of children and parents.

“Brayden!” I found myself yelling over and over again, searching for his orange sweatpants amidst the throngs. “Come back here! You have to wait for Mommy!”

kids2He never listened. If I did catch up with him long enough to grab hold of his arm and remind him – for the millionth, unenforced time – that if he didn’t listen to Mommy, he’d have to ride in the stroller, he’d push me off and take off again. I stressed. I raced the stroller along after him, usually while carrying Anna, who, if I wasn’t holding her, was by my side crying and whining, “Mommy, carry you me.” Over and over again.

When we stopped to eat lunch, the kids ate for five minutes before getting up and running circles around the perfectly put-together and perfectly well-behaved family of four sitting next to us.

“Brayden! Anna! Sit down and eat or no… no… .”

Suddenly, I realized I had nothing left to bribe them with and no nearby bedroom to foist them into for a time-out if they didn’t listen. So, instead, I sat down on the bench, watched people watching my ill-behaving children run laps around the tables, and shoved Cheez-Its into my mouth.

It was at this point that the real fun began. And at this point that I should also mention that Anna has been having seizures again. She had had a month and a half where she hadn’t had any, but all that changed last weekend. She’s been having staring spells in the car again – long, worrisome ones – with her head usually dropping into a seizure shortly after. She’s also been having screaming fits about nothing at all that can last for up to a half hour. It’s impossible to discipline her when this happens because she doesn’t remember what she was screaming about in the first place and seems to lose consciousness while she’s having them. It’s also impossible to discipline her because the line between what is caused by epilepsy, what is caused by her medication and what is kids3caused by her being a 2 year old is oh, so blurry.

So, it was at this point that she started throwing a fit about nothing at all. I had to wrestle her to the ground to get her coat on, and wrestle her into her stroller straps, all while the perfectly put-together and perfectly well-behaved family of four sitting next to us watched. And judged.

She screamed and kicked as I called Brayden from where he was running on the other side of the room. “Brayden! Now! I mean it!” I swear he was laughing as he finally inched his way toward me.

Anna screamed the entire way to the car, struggling to get out of her stroller straps. She screamed as I wrestled her into her car seat. She screamed as I pulled out of the parking lot and pleaded with Brayden to just leave her alone, that it wouldn’t help.

And then she wasn’t screaming anymore. She was staring out the window and not moving. “Anna!” I yelled. I fished in my purse for the sunglasses I sometimes remember to put on her in the car to try to stave off a seizure and that she also, thankfully, loves to wear. “Here, Anna! Put your sunglasses on!” I held them over the seat to her, but she didn’t move, didn’t even blink.

kids4I swatted her leg, pinched her ankle. Nothing. I tickled her knee. Nothing. Finally, I squeezed her thigh. Hard. She opened her mouth and began wailing again. And I began sobbing. In relief. In sadness. In anger. In disbelief over the fact that I’d rather have her crying than staring.

We both sobbed the whole ride home, with Brayden (finally) quiet in the backseat.

So, tomorrow, I promise I’ll be thankful. I’ll rejoice in what I have. I’ll know that it’s all relative and so many families have it so much worse. But today, I just want to be sad, and wish that maybe, just maybe Santa will bring us some magical potion this Christmas that will make my son listen better and my daughter not stare or drop her head anymore.

But tomorrow, I’ll be thankful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miscarriage Shouldn’t Be Taboo

I recently read this article on Facebook about women and miscarriages and found it fantastic!

As a woman who has experienced a miscarriage, I remember feeling exactly the way it is described in this article: embarrassed, like I’d done something wrong, and just flat-out not wanting to talk about it.

Although, surprisingly, the more I did talk about it, the better I felt. I would mention it to someone and they would say, “Oh yeah, I had one, too.” I would immediately think, “Really??” And then I would (almost immediately) feel better and not so alone and a little more aware of the fact that miscarriages are very common. The author of the article also mentioned how she thought her miscarriage was her fault. I 100 percent understand that feeling!Jill's blog

I found out I was pregnant in January of 2012 and was so excited, I called my family and everyone I knew in a matter of 10 minutes.

At the time, I was traveling for work and, a few weeks later, I was scheduled to go to Charleston, S.C., for a few days. I didn’t think anything of it and prepared for my trip. I was scheduled to fly into Charleston, work the next day and then take a connecting flight to Charlotte, N.C. I worked in Charleston, all excited and wanting to tell everyone there that I was pregnant, and left for the airport around 3 o’clock in the afternoon to catch my flight to Charlotte.

As I was headed into the airport, I started to feel weird. I was having pains, and it felt like I was getting my period. I tried to stay calm as I went through security, but I think deep down, I knew what was happening. Once I got into the terminal, I ran into the bathroom and, sure enough, it was happening. I sat in the stall crying, calling my husband and my mom and finally deciding that I needed to fly home and not continue my trip.

I boarded my flight to Atlanta, crying the whole time, bleeding through my pants and having an hour plane ride to really process the cold, hard reality that I was having a miscarriage. In Atlanta, I talked to the Delta representatives for an hour, explaining to them that I needed to get to Cincinnati as soon as possible. I must have looked like quite the mess because they put me in a row by myself and, apparently, listed me as a “medical emergency.”

I remember sitting in the bathroom in Atlanta and just crying. I couldn’t wait to get home. When I finally arrived in Cincinnati, my husband, Kyle, was waiting for me at the gate and, as we made our way to the car, I discovered I was exhausted. We called the doctor on the way home and he said that there was really nothing he could do and that I needed to just go home and rest. I felt drained. I felt like something had been taken from me, and I think in a way it was.

As Kyle and I start talking about expanding our family again – obviously, we were able to get pregnant again and now have a nearly 1-year-old son – I can’t help but feel terrified that the same thing will happen to me all over again. I wonder if this is how all women who have experienced a miscarriage feel. When you find out you’re pregnant, you immediately feel nervous instead of excited. When I found out I was pregnant with Austin, I cried weekly until I was 12 weeks and even then I don’t think I ever relaxed until I was holding him in my arms.

Miscarriages shouldn’t be taboo. It’s OK to talk about your experience. In fact, I found it tremendously helpful when other people talked about their experiences and I shared my experience with them.

It taught me how strong I am, how much I can handle, that there will always be storms and, God willing, I’ll always be able to weather them. I guess that’s all the preparation you can really do when you’re getting ready to start again: Remember it, put it away and look forward with hope.

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! Nope, it’s a Finger…

I think my son might have a future in reconnaissance.

When I went to Dictionary.com just now to double-check that what I thought “reconnaissance” meant was, in fact, correct, I found this definition used by the military: “a search made for useful military information in the field, especially by examining the ground.”

So, while I was correct about the meaning of the word, I am now thinking Brayden should actually go into military reconnaissance if that’s a subset of reconnaissance because he’s very good at examining the ground. Literally. As in, examining the ground.

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Brayden asleep on his upturned chair… and the diaper bag

Every day during nap time, he resigns himself to an hour and a half of “quiet time” in his room, which he usually passes quite quietly. He plays with his cars, he stuffs all of his animals and blankets in his closet, he researches the chemical makeups of various ointments in his dresser drawers, he flips over his chair and then promptly falls asleep on it (see picture), but whatever he does, he does it (mostly) quietly. 

Unless I dare to tiptoe down the hallway, of course.

We live in a ranch and the bedrooms and bathroom are all across from one another, so if I – God forbid – decide I need to brush my teeth during nap time or get my address book or my checkbook from my purse, I have to walk the wooden floor past Brayden’s room. And suffer the consequences.

“Ooh,” I’ll hear him inform his cars/animals and blankets/ointments/chair. “There’s Mommy.”

I’ll cringe, my already tiptoeing toes frozen to the spot, waiting to see what he’ll do next. I’ll hear shuffling, some crashes and then I’ll hear him snuggling into place against the bottom of his bedroom door.

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A comb sticking out from under Brayden’s door

I’ll then berate myself for making noise, even though all I could’ve made was a tiny squeak, and then lament the fact that I can’t stand there – frozen in place – forever. No, waiting him out just isn’t a viable option. The kid would lie there forever.

Sometimes, he’ll stick objects under the door at me – Legos, which then get stuck underneath the door and lead me to give myself giant bruises on my hips when I try to open the door and find it’s stuck, his comb (see picture), his finger (see other picture). It’s usually a “Come-on-down-and-let’s-see-what-you’ve-won” kind of moment every day.

Sliding my feet over the not-even-mildly-creaking floor – I figured out where all of those faulty floorboards were when they were babies! Seriously, how can the kid hear me?! – I’ll sneak out of the hallway and close the doors that separate our dining room from the bedroom area of the house behind me.

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A finger sticking out from under Brayden’s door (fingers crossed it’s Brayden’s!)

I’ll always hear a few words following me: “Mommy, is nap time over? Mommy, what are you doing? Mommy! Answer me!” But, unless he says he has to go to the bathroom or needs help or there’s some screaming emergency going on – like he discovered the chemical makeup of one of his ointments and the results weren’t pretty – I leave him be.

And I think about the possibilities.

What could Brayden’s superhuman hearing mean for me? Could he hear the thoughts of women running by us à la “What Women Want”? Not that that would probably be helpful unless he heard someone thinking, “Woah. That girl has a giant black thing stuck in her front teeth.” Or, “The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!” Or, “It’s a great day for some breaking-and-entering fun.”

I mean, those could be useful.

Or, more practically, maybe I could put him and his sleuthing ears to work outside Anna’s bedroom door in the mornings so he could pinpoint the exact moment when she wakes up so I can guesstimate about how much time I have before she starts whining for me to come get her.

I don’t ask for much. Just to be able to walk to my bedroom undetected during nap time… and for someone to let me know if I have a giant black thing stuck in my teeth.

 

Am I Talking to Myself Here?

Ever since Noah hit the terrible, terrible 2s, he and I have been getting into “fights” – his words and, apparently, mine, too, because let’s face it, where else could he be coming up with that?

It’s not just my power of deduction that tells me it’s me, though; I’ve actually caught myself saying the word “fight” while talking to Noah. It usually goes something like, “Noah, I don’t want to fight about this. Come over here so I can put your shoes on.” Or, “Noah, we are not going to fight right now. Come in here and go potty on the toilet.” Or even, “Noah, we don’t have time to fight about it right now. Mommy already put Sophia down and her precious nap time is slipping away.”

My little stinker.

My little stinker

You get the drift. Noah and I fight. We battle. He throws everything in the book at me and I keep trying new techniques to win the game.

I’m not going to bore you with all the things I’ve tried. Believe me, it would be a list. And, for the most part, they do work. For about a week. And then he becomes immune to my ways and laughs at me. Yeah. It’s a real hoot.

So, this week, I’ve found that I’ve developed yet another “trick” to snap Noah out of his fabulous fits. And it’s working. The problem is, I’m starting to go insane.

Conversationalist #1: Sophia

Conversationalist No. 1: Sophia

My trick: talking to Sophia, Zimri and Donald, our Elf on the Shelf, about Noah and hoping to God he listens. Not God, but Noah. OK, let’s be honest: God, too.

It’ll go like this: “Sophia, I don’t know why Noah is so upset. He’s a big boy, he knows that he has to wear shoes. He’s usually so good about putting his shoes on. I’m sure he’ll make a good choice. He knows you’re watching him and he’ll be a good example because he’s your big brother…  .” And on and on and on I go. Until he stops crying on the floor and eventually slumps over to me and does what I ask him to do.

Yeah, it’s all fine and dandy talking to Sophia. We’re supposed to talk to her. That’s how she learns. Plus, one of these days, she might respond with a “Get it together, Noah!” Wouldn’t that be amazing?

Conversationalist #2: Zimri the dog

Conversationalist No. 2: Zimri the dog

But, I’ve started to bring Zimri into my little one-act play. “Zimri, can you believe that Noah is so upset just because I made him put his crayons away? Geez. I hope he settles down soon. Maybe he’ll take a deep breath. That should help, don’t you think?” Yep, I’m asking my DOG questions. And honestly, sometimes, I wish he’d respond.

The last straw happened today. Our Elf on the Shelf, Donald, started his visits to the Stulberg house. That’s right. We called in backup.

Well, I was trying out my new tactic in my attempt to get Noah to go poop on the potty before nap. [Have I blogged about how Noah pooped during nap last week and took his diaper off and greeted me with a poop collection on the bench beside his bed when I came in? No? Well, I’m not going to. After today, it will be blocked out of my mind. But you now understand why I was insisting Noah try to poop before nap time. It was life or death, people! Because, truly, a little part of me died that day when I found that poop pile.]

Conversationalist #3: Donald the Elf

Conversationalist No. 3: Donald the Elf

Anyways, I had strategically placed Donald the Elf in the bathroom for such an occasion. I figured Noah would want to show off his mad pooping skills to Donald. (He wants to show everyone else!) But, when he started to throw one of his awesome fits, I employed “Operation: Converse with someone else. Anyone else.” So I turned to Donald.

“Donald,” I said. “Donald, I wonder why Noah doesn’t want to show you how well he poops on the potty like a big boy? I know he can do it. I’m sure you want to see him do it, don’t you, Donald?”

“I sure do!” Donald answered. But he didn’t talk. Because he’s a doll. I talked. For him. I had just had my first conversation with Donald the Elf. And it didn’t feel good. It felt kind of scary. Kinda Chuckie-like. It didn’t help that I gave him the Chuckie voice. I don’t know why I did that.

Yessiree, I had my first conversation with an elf. And, seeing as how Christmas is still five weeks away, it won’t be my last. I need serious help.

Second Child Syndrome

“Oh, Sophie, you’re so easy-going. You don’t ask for much, do you?”

I was sitting at the table with my parents, my family, and my sister Jill and her family. We were finishing up dinner and Sophia was still gobbling up any item of food she could find on her tray. She was quiet in her little corner, save for the occasional thump of her sippy cup dropping to the floor as I, absentmindedly, continued to put a few more green beans and noodles in front of her.

From this weekend. She sat in that leaf pile, just laughing…

Some pictures from this weekend: She sat in that leaf pile, just laughing…

My mom’s words woke me from the daze that is the end of dinner, and I responded with, “She’s pretty great,” followed shortly after by, “I guess that’s what happens when you’re the second child.”

Sophie’s quiet way stood in stark contrast to my son sitting nearby, shouting, calling – at times even singing – just to get attention. On the other side of me, Austin, Jill’s son, was grabbing things left and right and always moving.

She’s a different breed, my Sophia.

Until we tried to get her to participate, Sophie sat, ate and drank quietly, just watching the group. When we did get her to look at us, she’d smile and give a dainty wave.

It’s not just at dinnertime that the difference is obvious. During playtime, Austin and Noah are a constant state of motion, jumping from one thing to the other, while Sophia? She’s more of an observer. Don’t get me wrong, the girl moves. She’s even crawling and pulling herself up. But she hesitates. And she’s very purposeful in all her actions. So glaringly different from her cousin, Austin, who’s two months older and shows no hesitation.

I find myself watching them and wondering: Is this just her personality or is it because she’s our second?

I could argue that it’s all personality because, when she was a baby, she was as good as gold. Truly. I would actually say to my little baby, “Sophia, this is how babies get neglected! You have to cause a little trouble!” She was never very fussy, wasn’t a constant eater, and slept very well. I wish I could say we had anything to do with it, but she was just born that way.

But then I could argue that it’s also BECAUSE she was second. If she had been my first, I wouldn’t just ENJOY the good baby that she was, I would stress about it. Is she sleeping too much? Shouldn’t she be eating more? Why isn’t she making us work harder for this? And I did do that from time to time, but not nearly as much as I would have if she’d been the first.

Even when Noah tossed his 15th leaf pile on top of her.

…even when Noah tossed his 15th leaf pile on top of her.

I guess the whole nature versus nurture argument never gets boring, does it?

Even though Sophia hasn’t given us much to worry about, I still do. I worry a lot. I know I will never neglect my little girl, but I worry I will never be able to pay as much attention to her as I do to my boy. And that’s just a fact. He had a whole 21 months alone with us. Sophia has not. And now that she’s an easy-going, quieter child, Noah is still holding most of our attention.

I was the second, the middle child, but I don’t believe I was ever this easy-going, ever this content to sit back and watch things happen. I had to be involved, I had to be heard, and I was always begging for attention.

My mom reminded me of that tonight. When I was about 5 or 6, I would walk around the mall with my family and pretend to be a mannequin when people walked by. I sang in front of movie theaters before the show started. My sister, when I was in high school, gave me a real shock when she started shouting at me. She said, “SARAH, YOU TALK LIKE THIS! Everyone else talks like this.” I talked (OK, fine, talk) that loud just to make sure I was heard.

(Wow. I was STARVING for attention. Attention that I’m sure my mom and dad tried to give me as often as they could. And, if they didn’t, I’d make a scene.)

Gosh, do I love her.

Gosh, do I love her.

So, here I am (and I’m sure my 40-year-old future self is so mad at me right now because she’s dealing with a teenage daughter), but here I am, praying that my daughter makes a scene. Not all the time. She doesn’t need to do the mannequin thing in the mall – that would be embarrassing – and she doesn’t need to shout-talk. But I pray that she will speak up when she has something to say, and I pray she knows her thoughts and beliefs are just as important as everyone else’s.

Oh, my sweet Sophia, you don’t have to change and you certainly don’t have to be as loud as I am, but when you need to, make some noise! You’ll always have my attention.

There are Worse Things

Austin has recently decided he only needs one nap a day. I fought it for awhile, but, eventually, I decided that maybe it was for the best.

Honestly, I now think it was a great decision. Not only do I no longer have to listen to Austin fight his morning nap, but we have freedom that we’ve never had before. We can go shopping in the morning, go for play dates that we used to miss, and the morning is actually less stressful without a nap.

Austin has adjusted beautifully to only taking one nap a day. He goes down around 1 or 1:30 and usually sleeps for at least two hours. It’s fantastic, and I couldn’t ask for anything more.

Just watching a little football with dad :)

Just watching a little football with dad :)

In fact, I’m the only one who seems to be having difficulty adjusting to the one nap… When Austin started taking two naps in his crib, I was ecstatic. I was able to shower in peace, and it was a wonderful thing. Now, my shower time is gone. I have been super lazy this past week and have been waiting until Austin’s afternoon nap to shower. Not great. The thing is, Austin is now sleeping in until 8 or 8:30 each morning. (I almost don’t even want to write it because I’m afraid I’ll jinx it.) I can’t for the life of me get my butt out of bed to shower before he wakes up. (Let’s be honest: I haven’t slept in until 8 in almost a year, so I’m taking a few days to really enjoy myself.)

The issue is that I have to get ready for the day without a shower and with a nearly year-old baby wreaking havoc through the house. How do people do it? Well, I’ll tell you what I do and I’m beginning to feel pretty guilty about it. I place Austin in his Pack ‘n Play, with some toys and a wooden spoon that he loves to bang against the wall, and I turn on a cartoon. No, I don’t feel good about it. I, meanwhile, run around like a crazy woman trying to get dressed, do my hair, put on some makeup, brush my teeth and finish my coffee, which takes about 10 minutes.

So, how bad is this? No, don’t answer that. I know there are moms out there who don’t let their kids watch TV and more power to them, but what is my other option? Letting him go crazy through the house while I’m trying to get ready? I’ve tried it and he gets hurt almost every time. (Remember those days when you could lie your baby on your bed while you got ready? I miss that.)

Deep down, I know what I need to do. I need to get my tired self up before Austin wakes up and take a shower. I would feel better, and I promise I will start doing it soon. But, for a few days, I’m going to enjoy my “sleeping in” and Austin is going to watch 10 minutes of cartoons a day. He’ll be fine and, even if he starts saying “mouse-ka tool,” there are worse things.

Taking Over the World One Cup at a Time

Apple

I was reading a book review on a flight home from the Bahamas today – Yay! The Bahamas! I know! – and it hammered something home for me that it took a trip to the Bahamas to fully appreciate: Starbucks, Apple and Facebook are taking over the world.

I’m not joking, and, honestly, I suspect you believe me. The book review, by the way, was for “The Circle,” a novel by Dave Eggers (read a review by The Boston Globe here) that I haven’t read yet but plan to, about a unified operating system that combines all social media and banking/purchasing for a person into one account. Apparently, the book is about transparency, privacy, democracy and the “sinister sides of the internet.” And, at the end, Eggers pleads that we all should have the right to disappear, something his book says we no longer do.

OK. Sorry for long-winded explanation of the book. But, truly, that captured exactly what I saw while in the Bahamas this week, and every day, if I’m honest with myself, back at home. All Starbucks, Apple and Facebook need to do is harness their power trifecta and combine it into one unified operating system, and we’ll be walking zombies.

Case in point: We traveled to the Bahamas without the kids (yay!) but with another couple (also yay!). As soon as we arrived at the Dayton, Ohio, airport and sat down to eat lunch before boarding, we had at least four online devices on the table and the majority were Apple products. (Darn my Droid that mutes people every five seconds!) The tables surrounding us were covered similarly. The conversation centered around what we were going to do in the Bahamas without our phones/computers/iPads. We’d be unplugged for three whole days. Scary!

We boarded the plane an hour later, only to walk through first class and see rows and rows of people getting a few, final texts and e-mails sent out before take-off. It looked like rows of zombies. It was a little disconcerting, so I turned to my friend and told her Apple is taking over the world and then sat down and sent off a few, final texts and e-mails myself.

StarbucksCase in point: I had woken up insanely early the morning we left and decided I wanted to stop at Starbucks on our way to our friends’. I called them to let them know, and they said they wanted to stop, too. On our way to the airport, we joined a line of at least 10 cars to get our fix – a line I now join regularly two or three times a week at home, griping about the length of the line each time, but staying in it all the same.

When we arrived at the Dayton airport, we found a Starbucks we could’ve patronized instead and saw countless people walking by who had.

When we arrived at our resort in the Bahamas, we found at least three places where you could buy Starbucks coffee, including one storefront that had a line every day, a line that included staff members from the multi-million-dollar yachts anchored in the nearby marina.

Case in point: As soon as we touched down in Atlanta on our flight from Nassau this afternoon, all four of us – and, I suspect but was too busy to notice, the rest of the plane – immediately turned on our phones. I looked up what Mi Sueño meant, the name of the yacht we’d been ogling all weekend and had vowed we’d research as soon as we landed, and informed everyone it meant “my dream.” Our friends responded by asking if we’d checked Facebook yet, that it had snowed while we were gone. (So not yay.)

We then proceeded to spend the majority of our three-and-a-half-hour layover checking our e-mails, catching up with texts, checking voicemails, making Facebookphone calls, looking up sports on our iPads and working on our Apple laptops.

That was in between trawling the airport for a Starbucks, of course.

Case in point: While walking along the beautiful Marina Village of the Atlantis and admiring the multi-million-dollar yachts anchored there, we saw one staff member or yacht owner – we couldn’t be sure which, but I would guess staff member – sitting on the dock with his Apple laptop in front of him, browsing Facebook. At 9 o’clock at night. On a Saturday. In the Bahamas.

We also passed several yachts where we could see people working on laptops. In fact, we saw one guy sitting at his computer every single time we passed him. On his yacht. On the computer. On a weekend. In the Bahamas. Scary!

I guess I’m not investigating anything that isn’t already known here. But, even though I’m as guilty as the next person, I do now find myself wanting to go back to the Bahamas. For multiple reasons, sure, but mostly for that unplugged feeling. We had such a fun, carefree time while we were there. We played cards, we rode water slides and rides, we laid by the pool, we sat in hot tubs, we went out to dinner and got massages. We relaxed. Totally and completely. We disappeared for a few days. May we always have the right to do so, and the desire.

A Slice of Humble Pie

It never fails and I should really know better by now. Let me explain.

Noah had his very first “class” this past Friday. The class was Tumblebees at the YMCA, and it was the first time Noah would be with a group of kids, listening to a teacher and following directions.

My crazy, always interesting little boy.

My crazy, always interesting little boy.

Yes. I was nervous for him. But mostly I was excited. Like all moms, I think my kids are the greatest things since sliced bread and I can’t wait to share how wonderful they are with others. I know, gag me. But, if you’re a mom, you understand. I know you do.

So, yes, I was nervous about how it would go, but I honestly thought it was going to be just fine. Wonderful even. Noah is a sweet little boy. He doesn’t give me too much trouble at home and he enjoys climbing, jumping, and rolling so I didn’t think it would be a tough first day. I was able to sit with Sophia and watch the class, so I was really looking forward to seeing how the whole thing played out.

Usually when he has too much fun, this happens.

Usually when he has too much fun, this happens.

OK, I’m going to be honest here. I was feeling a bit smug walking in. Again, like most mothers I know, I think my kids are pretty amazing. Walking through the doors of the gymnasium, I couldn’t wait for Noah to show everyone what a great kid he was. I wanted to show-off a bit. Or a lot.

So, Noah sits down with the rest of the group, 7 girls and 1 other boy, and things are going well. The teacher, this kind older woman who must have drawn the short straw for having to teach a bunch of two year-olds and keep order in a large gymnasium filled with all sorts of fun things to climb on, began to show the kids different stretches.

Noah was doing great, if I may say so myself. He was listening and following directions. I was beaming. I was also looking around at the other parents because there was this one little girl that wasn’t following along. She was wandering around the gym and her mother was calling to her to pay attention. I chuckled a little to myself. Poor mom. She must be embarrassed. I decided to give her a kind smile and a shoulder shrug that says, “What are you gonna do? Kids will be kids..” all the while thinking, THANK GOD MY SON IS BEHAVING.

We all do that from time to time. Most of the times, it truly is showing camaraderie, I swear. Most of the time, I really do want that mom or dad to know it’s ok, we’ve all been there and you’re in good company. But sometimes, sometimes, there’s a little bit of a gloat behind that smile.

And those are the times that I end up eating my “kind” words and thoughts, and getting kicked in the you-know-what for being just a little too smug.

This was one of those times.

The instant the kids were asked to stand up and move to the next activity, Noah went A-wall. He started doing laps around the entire gym. I laughed to myself, holding Sophia a little tighter on my lap. Noah, what are you doing? I thought, through clenched teeth. Stop!

I held off correcting him for a while, and then I finally set Sophia down and marched over to Noah. I said, very sweetly, “Noah, honey, you’re going to miss all the fun! Go join the class.” I took him by the hand and brought him with the rest of the group (who were all behaving, by the way. Even that one little girl..)

He stayed put for about 30 seconds. Then he took off again. Now, he was not only running, he was singing too. And loudly.

I chuckled out loud a little, you know, to let everyone know that I was a good sport and taking it all in stride. And that’s when I noticed I was getting those looks I was so quick to share earlier. I had the entire group of parents smiling at me, nodding along, shrugging their shoulders and all the while, being so thankful it wasn’t them.

Always the performer, my kiddo.

Always the performer, my kiddo.

I jumped up and this time, not so sweetly, told Noah to join the class. I pulled him to his group and went back to Sophia, who had spit up all over the gym floor in my absence. Awesome.

When I finished cleaning up the spit-up, Noah was at it again. I swear, I think he truly believed that he was performing in his very own one-man show. He was running around the gym, singing very loudly and waving his arms like a crazy person.

At this point, I think the parents had gotten past the whole “show her camaraderie” thing and were just plain embarrassed for me.

I got up, picked a yelling Noah up, and placed him with the group.  No words were said because I didn’t trust exactly what would come out.

Fortunately, the group was doing something that actually interested Noah and so I had some semblance of peace for the rest of the class. But all in all, if Noah were to be graded as a student based on his performance during the class, he would have gotten a D-.

This photo is from a entire year ago, but my exasperated face remains the same.

This photo is from a entire year ago, but my exasperated face remains the same.

I was crushed. All my hopes and dreams of Noah being this star pupil: gone. Afterwards, we went to thank the teacher and I found myself apologizing to her about his behavior. That was such a crazy moment for me because, as a former teacher, parents used to come up all the time to do that sort of thing to me, and I’d just shake my head and reassure them that it’ll be fine, all the while thinking, Good Lord, parents can be so crazy sometimes. Well, here I was, one of them. Tripping over myself to get in the good graces with the teacher and feeling so embarrassed about my kid’s behavior.

The teacher did what all teachers do, God bless them. She shook her head and told me it was “totally normal”, that he’d “get the hang of it”, to “give it time”, and he’s “fine”. I got the entire teacher/crazy mom run-down. She gave me the whole thing. Yikes. I must have looked really distraught. And I was.

I walked out, feeling extremely humbled. And so it goes. Anytime I feel the slightest bit smug about anything having to do with myself and my parenting skills, something knocks me back to where I know I need to be.

Don’t get me wrong. Confidence is important as a parent. It makes us do crazy things like take everyone to the zoo on your own or do a project that involves paint. It also transfers to your kids and they need that sense of self-worth and self-reliance.

Humility, however? That what keeps you working hard to be better. That’s what helps to make the friendships with others. And that’s what keeps you grounded.

So, as I always seem to do, I received my slice of humble pie on Friday. It tasted awful but I needed it.

This coming Friday, I will be more prepared. I will brace myself for the worst and I will certainly show others nothing but camaraderie if they too have hard to manage “students”.

I may also put Sophia in daycare during the class so I’ll have no trouble “guiding” Noah in the right direction.

I might even bring cookies for the teacher and parents.

Is that going to far?

Nah.

Soaking It In

As Austin is currently screaming in his crib, on day two of no nap, I’ve decided to write about how much fun it is to have a 10 month old. (No pun intended.) I need to remind myself right now, with the screaming in the background, of how much I love this stage. This might just be my favorite age.

Austin is currently working on walking and talking. I can’t wait to hear what my son is going to say, what his voice is going to sound like, what he’s going to want to talk about. I am so excited that after 10 months of talking to him, he will soon be able to talk back. He is starting to say “car,” which sounds like “crrrrr” but I’m putting it in the baby book because, to me, that counts. He is cruising around furniture like a little drunken man and it is fantastic. It is so much fun to watch him discover how to move his feet and arms to get to where he needs to go.

He never lets me cuddle with him...thank you Wiggles!!

He never lets me cuddle with him. Thank you, Wiggles!

Yesterday, we went to the museum center, which, up until now, has not been very much fun for us. But yesterday, he had a blast! He was crawling from one toy to the next, pulling himself up, cruising around the place. It finally felt like I belonged there. I saw a few moms with young babies and I thought I would be nostalgic, but I wasn’t. I didn’t have to stop to breastfeed Austin, or worry that he was going to poop through his clothes, or that he would, God forbid, wake up and then I’d really be in trouble. My son was loving every minute of it and, when I finally went to put him in the stroller, he cried.

Austin asleep

I can’t believe that Austin is becoming a toddler. I am realizing now that before he becomes old enough to throw a tantrum, I need to soak it in. Before he figures out how to say no, I need to cherish every moment. I know that sounds mean, but I also know that those tantrums are coming and that, for just a little while, I still get to enjoy my sweet, non-speaking, little baby boy.

So, sure, he may be giving up one or both of his naps (still crying by the way), but I guess that’s just part of growing up. I think that just like me, he is excited about everything new that is happening. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself. I know that when I’m excited about something, I don’t sleep. Either way, I think it is important that I remind myself that I am incredibly lucky and blessed.

And there, he’s finally sleeping… only took 45 minutes after I put him down.