To blog or not to blog....

A compilation of the thoughts in my brain, the questions I have and the journey of life. Not meant to educate, but merely to entertain and (hopefully) initiate some good discussion. Comments are welcome...come join the conversation.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The new school year

Well, it's begun.  A new school year.  S is LOVING 1st grade and M, after a few days of not really wanting to go into her class, is FINALLY warming up to the idea of her preschool experience.  I'm learning so many things about both of them just from watching this phase of their lives.  S seems so much more "mature" and grown up to us...using words and expressions that I would attribute to a much older child (some of which I could live without like "my parents are weirdos") and it's been fascinating to watch her grown both physically, socially and emotionally.  She is interested in everything...including the most expensive of extracurricular activities-karate, horseback riding, figure skating etc.  She is reading and LOVING that she can make sense of things now.  She's working her way through social situations and figuring out who she likes based on their treatment of others (not that it's causing her to be any nicer to her sister, but we're working on that).  I want to sign her up for every program and every class just to see her happy and trying new things.  If only money wasn't an issue.......

M, well M is a different story.  Physically, she has lost that baby face and looks more and more like a kindergartner than even (even though she's not there yet).  Her movements are more in control, her thought process is much clearer and her language is exploding.  Emotionally though, we're still on the roller coaster.  She has proclaimed to me that she "doesn't like new people/places/things" and it's never been more clear to me that parenting her is going to take some creativity and patience.  She still has extreme reactions to the slightest issues and is showing some signs of anger that are quite troubling to me.  Finding ways to help her through situations in ways that are completely different than S would have needed are a constant learning experience for me.  She is VERY particular about almost everything and we're hard pressed to find a situation where she just let's things "roll off her back".  Gymnastics was a huge success last school year and summer and she's going to do it again in the fall, but only after her birthday (per her request).  Both girls did swim lessons outside this summer and it was awesome, but when I went to sign her up for indoor lessons at the Y, she balked stating that she wanted to wait and do them outside next summer.  I don't want her over scheduled, I don't want her doing things she doesn't want to do, but I feel that she NEEDS these things (or things like them) to build up her confidence.  Sigh....

Speaking of birthday's...the girls have decided that they want to share a birthday party this year!!  On the one hand, less planning for me.  On the other...5 five year olds and 5 seven year olds in one room???  Going to take some creativity on my part to make everyone happy.  They've both agreed on a Jessie/cowgirl party.  Wish me luck!

As for me, after almost 7 years, I have consistent chunks of time during the school day to myself and I'm LOVING it!!  For 2-1/2 hours Monday through Thursday, I am alone and once the novelty wears off and I stop scheduling appointments because I "can", my focus has GOT to be back on running/getting back into shape. body senses a slight lapse in consistent activity and just jumps at the chance to add the weight back on.  In a less selfish endeavour, I'm also hoping to get involved in volunteering at a local school through our church's project.  A great opportunity to help young children with literacy/math etc AND great training for me as I continue to feel more and more strongly that being a teaching assistant is the path I want to take in a few years.  I'm looking forward to getting started!!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

And we're back...

Almost a year has gone by since I last blogged and I didn't think I missed it, but I was wrong.  Having this space to flesh out the thoughts in my head was pretty helpful before, so I'm hoping that it serves the same purpose now.  Plus, some friends have said that they missed knowing what was up in our lives, so I'm also using this space as a way to remember this time in our lives and update those that care to read about it. 

To update: S is now in First Grade and M has one more year of Preschool left.  Initally, she was going to head off to Kindergarten this fall, but after some careful consideration (and, let's face it, some pretty obvious signs from her that she just wasn't ready) we decided to hold her back.  Besides the money aspect of yet another year of Preschool, I couldn't be happier with the decision that we made.   We had a fantastic summer...complete with an amazing trip to Disney World, a few camps/swim lessons and general hanging out time.  Up until the last few weeks of the vacation, all was well but I feel like we all started getting on each other's nerves, so the start of school couldn't have come too soon.

M&S decided that they wanted to share a room for now, so we went and got them a bunk bed!!  My whole life (well, after I was 7) I said that I would NEVER, EVER get a bunk bed for my kids, but here we are and it seems to be working out just fine.  For those unfamiliar with the tale, when I was 7, I fell out of a bunk bed onto a concrete floor and broke my arm.  In all fairness to bunk beds, this was in the early 80's when the safety standards were, shall we say, lax compared to those today.  Slippery mattress, no railings, slippery sleeping bag...I never had a chance.  The cadillac of bunk beds that my children now possess is probably safer than the beds they slept in before
So far, the sleeping situation is a bit tricky, made even more complicated with S's early rising time (to catch a ridiculously early bus) and M's pre-school cold that has wiped her out.  All of my reservations and concerns aside though, I think it is such a special gift for them to be able to share a room.  They're learning to work together more to accomplish tasks and the laughter and creativity that comes out of their mouths makes my heart melt. 

Thursday, September 30, 2010


I am in a total funk this week.  Maybe it's that we've settled into our routine, maybe it's the turning of the seasons, but I am in a BAD mood and I don't know why.  It's just one of those weeks where I feel horrible and have woken up with a headache  The kids are getting on my nerves, EVERY sentence out of their mouths starts with "Mom", Jim was gone for 4 days and it's been raining. 

I just want to go back to bed and have everyone leave me alone.  For a week.  Or longer.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I'm taking a stand

As many of you know, we joined the Unitarian Universalist church two years ago.  While we're self-imposed "summer skippers", the time that we do attend, the community of people I've found there and the lessons I walk away with have become invaluable to me.  To further explore why I wanted to be a member of this particular group of people, when I had sworn off organized religion years ago, I joined a small group last year called "Soul Matters" which takes the monthly topic of the church and provides a forum to delve even deeper into the issue through "assignments", readings and spiritual practice.   It is through this group, and the amazing women that I share the experience with, that I feel the most connected to my own spirituality and need to give it a lot of credit for my recent summer of change and growth.

This month, the topic was "Grow" (appropriate, right?) and the assignment was to identify a way in which something in your life has grown.  You were then asked to bring in a symbol of this growth and share why you chose it.  I went with the seemingly obvious...a pint of grape jelly that I made from the grapes at my in-laws.  It grew, I processed it, we ate it.  But, what became clear to me as the summer of "abundance from my in-laws farm" progressed was that in addition to the literal growth of the veggies and fruits, my relationship with my in-laws, and specifically my brother in law grew because we now had this common ground.  I've never had a bad relationship with my brother in family drama (that I'm aware of).  We just have been 2 very different people with little to say to each other for almost 11 years but with my running and our shared appreciation of the "harvest", we now can relate to each other a little bit more.  Or at least, this is how I feel. 

The less obvious symbol of growth was ME.  I really feel like I grew up this summer.  Coming to terms with my past, feeling happy and appreciative for all that I have in the present and excited about the future.  More confident with my own opinions and thoughts.  Less worried about what people think of me should I make a social "gaffe".  I also really started to understand that the more I had filled my calendar with things for other people, the less full I felt inside.  Being a part of boards, groups, committees etc is a great way to get involved. I'm not denying that and I'm grateful for every single person I met because of my involvement in the things I've done since we moved here.  But, I really believe that I was trying to fill some sort of "void" within myself by taking on all sorts of responsibilities not directly related to my growth, my family and my relationships.  Maybe it's from all that moving around and never feeling secure so if I 'belonged" to a group, I've feel grounded.  Maybe it's hereditary to not be able to say "no". 

So, I'm pulling on the reigns. Hitting the brakes.  Putting requests of my time/energies under a more powerful microscope.  If it's not going to directly fill my soul and make me a better person, contribute to my children or my husband's happiness or growth, then I'm sorry, but it's a no.  If it's not going to help a friend with their growth/happiness or allow me to spend time doing things that I like/want to do, then I'm going to have to decline.  

All good in theory, right?  We'll see how it goes in real life.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A drop of this, a dash of that...

As the summer of change and growth comes to a close, we're slowly getting into the routines of getting everyone to school on time.  S is doing awesome with riding the bus and totally getting into the Kindergarten groove.  M's school does a staggered start so today is only a 1/2 day where Friday is her first "full" day (3 hours).  We've had two successful mornings getting out the door WITHOUT shouting (on my part),  constant reminding (again, my part) and no tears (their part).  I'm trying a new approach of giving them the end result of "we are leaving here at a certain time" and letting them work out the steps that need to be taken in order to get there.  So far, a total change from last year's attempt to get out the door where all of us would be upset or angry to start the day. 

A few weeks ago, I posted about setting expectations for the girls and a reader gave me a book suggestion...Parenting With Love And Logic (Updated and Expanded Edition).  Skeptical of yet another "parenting handbook", I checked it out from the library thinking that I really didn't need to add to the weight on my shelves of the other "parenting handbooks" I'd purchased with good intentions, read once and then neglected.   Almost immediately, I could relate to this book and plan to purchase my own copy so that I can continue to use it as a reference.  But,  a funny thing came out of my liking this book and it stems from some parts of the book I most decidedly did NOT like.  Some of the book has a bit of a Christian/Bible slant and while it's certainly offering good messages, it's not a genre that I tend to gravitate towards.  There are also some "recommendations" and anecdotes that I don't agree with.  What occurred to me is that my recommendation/liking this book sort of represents how life is working out for me as I try to find solutions to areas that I want to change.   It's highlighting that there really is no "one size fits all" solution to life and hard as they may, no author, pundit or guru has all of the answers neatly wrapped up in a book, website or promotional video.

For example, I currently own Screamfree Parenting: The Revolutionary Approach to Raising Your Kids by Keeping Your Cool, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk and How to Get Your Kid to Eat: But Not Too Much.  All great books that give good solutions for parenting.  But, the reason I own so many of them is because not one of them was the ultimate solution for me, so I picked out the bits that worked and felt relevant and moved search of the next spark of inspiration.

It's not just parenting where I've taken bits and pieces from different sources.  I've found the same experience in the never ending weight loss journey.  I've been doing WW for a few months now and have been less than thrilled with the results.  In my "defense", I didn't start out with a lot of weight to lose and I have been eating more or less the way they advise for almost a year before I started.  They are pretty "strict" in terms of how many points you can eat in order to achieve your desired weight.  Stay on the plan, they say, and you'll get where you want to go.  Well, almost three months in had me at only 7 pounds lost so I started looking around their site and the Internet and found another method to their "plan".   So far, success!

This lack of a "one size fits all life" has really opened up my eyes to all of the possibilities that exist for answers and options.  Not long ago, I was someone who needed  a plan to move through life.  Without having an understanding of what exactly I was going to be doing in 1 year, 5 years etc, I felt lost and nervous.   But, by approaching life as more of an experiment, where drops and dashes of experiences and ideas chart my course, I am excited for what there is to come and only a little bit nervous about not having a master plan.  :-)

Monday, September 13, 2010


This is a harder topic for me to post about, but it's been swirling through my brain and I feel the need to get it out on "paper" to make some sense of it.  Please understand that this is not a blame game or a "why didn't you" directed towards my parents.  It's more of a reflection of the actions I've taken to change (there's that word again) my situation.

It's about my childhood, and the childhood of my mom.  To start, I was not neglected, abused or beaten so it's not that I'm saying that my childhood was horrible in that sense.  I was loved, protected and cared for by my parents actions and I know that I am so lucky to have had that foundation.  What I've been thinking about is my experience within my family unit and how that shaped the adult I am today, in both good and bad ways.  For those that don't know, my family moved-a lot.  If you can follow this one, we moved from Albany, NY to Los Angeles, CA when I was three.  Back to Albany, NY when I was 10.  Albany to Farmington Hills, MI when I was 16 (middle of junior year).  And, then finally-MI to MA 4 days after my high school graduation.  Army brat, you ask?  No, all of the moves were direct results of my dad's advancement within his company.  As an adult, I get it and am quite proud of him and his accomplishments.  As a kid...not so much.  What was almost more challenging than the moves themselves was the way that it almost always seemed like it was 4 separate people moving and living these very different experiences and I can remember very few situations where I felt like we were a cohesive unit going through these moves together.   We were not a family who did things together, created lots of happy memories based on shared experiences or generally did more than live in the same space.   Writing that makes me so very sad.    My parents did their best for us.  I know this in my heart. 

I suppose in some ways, my parents were doing what their parents had done so I don't have to look very hard to see where this started.  From what I understand, while my dad had a fairly normal upbringing in the 50's, my mom had a situation that surely was difficult for her to cope with.   Living with her parents in Rochester, she had to contend with moving back and forth between Rochester and Death Valley, CA every 6 months for a number of years.  Talk about never being able to find your place with friends and/or with yourself!  To split the time between the two environments is 10 times worse than moving in my junior year of high school.  I can only imagine how damaging that might have been for a girl, in a time in your life when friends and your "social standing" almost defined who you were.   Needless to say, moving, getting settled and then reestablishing yourself every few months left little time for meaningful family interactions. 

And so, now that I have my own family, I have set out to "reverse" the past and create a wonderful childhood that they will hopefully remember filled with family memories, fun and laughter.  To J, I am constantly saying that I want family time so that we can be a unit.  We need to challenge ourselves together so we can grow from the experience together and individually.  I want family game night and date nights with my kids.   I want them to know that mom and dad have a special relationship and that fostering this relationship is important to a happy family life.  I will do all in my power to keep us here in Rochester so they can have a stable upbringing while showing them that there is a larger world that they can be a part of.  I want them to feel that when all else is wrong in their world outside, home is a place for acceptance, strong bonds and love. 

This blog post came into my head on Tuesday.  We took the girls to Cobbs Hill and went for a hike in the woods.  We were spending time as a family doing something outside, but this is not the moment that stands out for me.  At one point, we went down a steep hill into a valley.  M and S required some help to avoid slipping.  At the bottom of the hill, we all looked up and realized that to get back onto the path back to the car, we had to climb UP an even steeper hill.  So, we started to climb.  Some of us (okay, me) slipped and had to restart a few times.  But, with lots of dirty knees and hands, we all made it to the top...with M making the last part by herself and shouting "I DID IT, I DID IT".  Beyond the singular accomplishments of the girls climbing the "mountain" themselves, I think that the experience of all of us struggling together brought us one step closer to being the kind of family that I see in my mind.   So many good things come from the generations before me, but to change this one thing would make our lives together so much richer.

Can one woman reverse the trends of the generations that came before?  Not sure...but trying sure is fun!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Change and a bit of a "shout out"

It's been three years since we moved from Lexington to Rochester.  Three years!  I look back on these past few years and cannot believe how quickly they've gone by or how much has changed for me, my family and the way I look at life.  S is going to Kindergarten on Wednesday and it's really got me reflecting on change because that's a pretty big change in all of our lives (S: "I'm going to be in a grade!!!"...her enthusiasm always makes me smile).  This time of year always seems like good reflection time for me...end of a season, beginning of something new etc, so change is an appropriate topic right now.

Over the last few days, this particular post has been many things regarding change.  Along the way, it was a list of things that have changed in my life, a tribute to the Unitarian Church and a thorough analysis of all of the ways that I've made things different for myself over the past year or so.  But, as I went through all of these things, the one predominant thing that stood out for me was the impact that particular people have had on me and how their actions (whether deliberate or not) inspired me to be a better person.

Not long ago, I was focusing way too much time and effort on things outside my house, my mind and my relationships.  I placed way more emphasis on connecting with people in our new town, thinking it was way more important to be networked, busy and involved to feel fulfilled.   I signed up for everything..committees, boards, groups and my social calendar was pretty full.  So full in fact, that my home life was as empty as the calendar was full.  I felt disconnected from J,  didn't feel connected to my girls and while I had friends and acquaintances, I wasn't feeling a deeper connection with most of them (even though they are, and continue to be wonderful people and important to me).  

Then along came (and some of you remained) some people that became part of my day to day and by being themselves, "showed me the" way to a better me.  I've written in red the "area" of my life this person helped me change.  Each topic is almost a blog post in itself.  So, for the "shout-out" part....I've opted to use initials instead of names in this blog, but hopefully you know who you are.....

R.L.-Your steady friendship and sisterhood for 10 years has been a safe place for me to reflect my crazy ideas and theories and by babbling on about some topic or another, I've worked my way through so many issues and in doing so, changed my mindset, my attitude and my behaviors. (Life.  Big Picture.  Progress.)
M.P.Z.-Your passion and enthusiasm for all of your endeavours made me take a second look at my life and realize that I was missing that passion (remember our date at Starbucks where I envied all that you had going on?). (Hobbies, curiosity for life)
C.V.-Your positive outlook on life and way you make people feel good about themselves has changed how I approach friends and strangers alike.  You truly do get what you give.  (Friendship.  Happier self.)
H.L.-Your wit and strength (both mental and those darn kb's) continue to make you one of the most amazing people in my life.  When I am struggling with something, I often think "What would H do" (WWHD?? :-)) because I like how you think before you speak and truly seem to weigh the impact of your words.  (Choosing words more carefully.  Clarity of thought)
K.W.- Your insight into focusing efforts back where they need to be has helped me immensely.  By pulling on the reigns of outside obligations and seeing that I need to tend to the home fires first has greatly improved my life. (Family)
A.C.-Your quiet grace and demeanor with your children inspire me to be a better that is calm and able to get through the day feeling like I've accomplished good things for my children.  Plus, you inspire me to "put good things out into the universe" and I think it's working.  (Parenting. Self-esteem.)
J.R-Everyday, you accept me for who I am and support me to be a better wife and mother.  Your noticing what I do for our family and being my partner has made all of the difference in who I am today versus who I was when we met.  (Relationship.  Family.  Partners.)
M&S-You challenge me, forgive me, love me and make me work for a better future for you.  Your very being inspires me to act on your behalf and I make changes, both physical and mental, so I can be a better mother for you both.  (Parent/child relationships.  Love.  Struggle.  Future.)

And, I consider myself so very fortunate that those people listed are just the tip of the iceberg of a whole group of people that have challenged me, taught me and opened my eyes to different ways of seeing things while being something so simple yet so important...a friend.  I don't want to leave anyone out of this list, but to list everyone would take more room than allows.   :-)

I think back to not even 5 years ago and it almost startles me to think of the kind of person I was then.  Still fairly insecure with little confidence in myself or my opinions.  Pretty negative and unsure of my role in life.  Wife, mother, friend, daughter, sister?  None of those "titles" felt right even though I was all of those things.  But, about a year ago...something in me started to wake up.  Little by little, I was able to "dissect" aspects of my life and see where the negative thinking had gotten me (usually the answer was "nowhere") and I started taking steps to "fix" myself.  I started really thinking about being a parent and what kind of family life I wanted my children to have.  I started thinking about my role as a wife and what being in a relationship really means (accepting "quirks", taking the high road, turning the other cheek to maintain the peace) and as time has gone by, I've become a lot more comfortable in both of these roles and can finally say that my attention is focused right where it should be.   I've changed my body, I've changed my mind and I've changed my attitude.  Still more to do, but feeling like I'm on the right track.