Monday, October 31, 2011

Having a Hard Time Lately

My husband and I have been having a hard time lately. 

It feels as though our focus on the kids and work has been consuming.  When all is said and done and the kids are in bed, the dishes are done, the laundry is put away and the house is quiet, my husband and I are exhausted.  And when we have a few moments to breathe, we yearn to "zone out" into our favorite past reading the New York Times, he listening to a pod cast or both of us falling asleep...sometimes in our clothes.

We certainly don't have it hard.  Sure we have three children under the age of six...but I stay at home which means when I don't have a jewelry party, I'm in sweats most of the day.  Sam and Kate's respective schools are near by.  Ray has a minimal commute to the office and often he is able to flex his schedule to help out with most anything that comes up.  I know that other families are tackling far more complicated sets of circumstances.

In short, I think the kids are doing more than fine. But my mom once told me that it's not the kids that you need to worry about, it's the parents.  Because when mom and dad aren't as connected as they should be, that's danger zone for the kiddos. They need to nurture a strong foundation. It doesn't just keep itself afloat.

And so how do we get back to that?  You know what I mean.  Date nights.  Long kisses.  Engaging conversations about community, politics, family, what's going on the news.  Opportunities to run, jump, walk, talk and be silly together.  Do you simply do away with that part momentarily when your kids are little?  Is it possible to reinvigorate it when they're a little older and more self sufficient?

Thankfully, our dilemma is not one that has to do with a lack of love or seems to be a lack of time, energy and stamina.  I have faith that this is a phase.  I simply want to make sure that it's addressed, nipped in the bud, and moved through.

Anyone out there know what I mean? Ideas? Suggestions? 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Crazy People are Maddeningly Interesting

Today, Maureen Dowd, Op-Ed columnist for the New York Times wrote a fascinating article on Steve Jobs soon-to-be released biography entitled "The Limits of Magical Thinking."  The piece explores the theory that Jobs was a brilliant lunatic who embraced a mild bipolar existence allowing him to create often at the expense of those closest to him.

Walter Isaacson, Jobs's biographer writes “Sometimes Jobs would be ecstatic, at other times he was depressed. There were Rasputin-like seductions followed by raging tirades. Everyone was either a hero or bozo."

I found Isaacson's description of Jobs intriguing.  I started thinking about all of the truly mesmorizing creatives that I've known in my members, my children, friends, co-workers, or ex loves.  Those that were/are amazing innovators were/are huge pains in the asses.  They see the world through a set of lenses that is intricate, delicate and often never enough.  They push me with their ideas....floor me with their expectations and frustrate me with their perfectionist ways.  And while, my tail feathers are often ruffled in their mind is ultimately awed and my soul stands in admiration.  I don't fancy myself a creative by any stretch...but I definitely know it when I see it.

My hope is that we can harvest, harness, and encourage the creativity that comes with this unbelievable talent.  Unfortunately, often our "results oriented" culture wants to squash it, especially in our children.  So, while it may be maddening, I hope that I can adopt Jobs' mindset...
and famous ad campaign for Apple, “Here’s to the crazy ones. ... They push the human race forward.”  

Monday, October 24, 2011

Journeying Across the Heartland

So the past five days, I've been enjoying some family time in the great state of Oklahoma with my parents, my older brother, sister-in-law and their four little boys who are around the same ages as my kiddos.

They have a really cool acreage that is an absolute mecca for children who love to run, jump, drive cool contraptions, dive into sandbars by the river, take glow in the dark hay rack rides and experience a slice of country.  We eat meals, joke with each other, let our kids run amuck and smile at the memories that they're making.

The hardest part is the drive.  It takes eight hours to get there and with a baby, it takes even longer.  My husband and I have a fantastic arrangement.  He knows that I'm the control freak and let's me do the driving.  He enjoys making up fun games with the kids, reading books, discovering new apps on the iPad, and talking about what we'll do when we get to our said destination.  I, on the other hand, view it as a challenge.  How fast can I get from point A to point B by maximizing gas, time, energy and bathroom breaks?  I also get a chance to sort of day dream in between entering into games with the kids.

But on the way home today, I thought, "I'm really tired, I just want to zone out to my iPod and pray that this car autopilots us home."  Instead, I decided to really pay attention to the scenery.  It was a gorgeous fall the 70's for most of the way.  The sun was shining.  The trees are at the end of changing colors and the sky was blue.  It reminded me of being little and going on trips with my family looking at license plates and playing the memory game.

I'm sure that to many a trip from Nebraska to Oklahoma is uneventful, boring, and prolonged.  And, to an extent, they would be right.  But a shift of perspective and a focus on the present, helps me to realize that the heartland is beautiful, that these times are few and far between and that I should cherish my son/daughter asking me if I would rather live in Asia or Antarctica.  Here's to family road trips....a cornerstone of childhood.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Little Sprucing Up...

On Monday afternoons, I splurge and have our sweet babysitter come over and stay with the girls.  She colors with Kate, watches the baby crawl around and reads to the both of them.  For three hours, I can do what I please.  It's usually a combination of errand running and winding down...but always, it's blissful.  A time to rejuvenate, regenerate, and regroup.

Today, I decided to park myself at a local eatery and have a cup of soup.  A hot, comforting, dunk of deliciousness with a warm baguette.  While I was eating, I couldn't help but eaves drop on a fascinating conversation between who I'm assuming are family members...grandmother (a stately woman), mother (the spitting image of her elegant mom) and a fabulously dressed, incredibly flamboyant son/grandson who has recently moved home from LA where he sold his home for a mint.

He was describing the bathroom decor of his former abode to his grandmother and I was salivating.  He talked about his plans for the pad had he stayed and his excitement over taking the holiday season easy.  And then he said that he was looking for the next project.  He wanted something fresh, fun, and interesting...something that he could really sink his teeth into.

And immediately, I thought, "Me...take me on."  Like a mini-"What Not to Wear" TLC could come to my home...give me ideas on decor...rifle through my closet and help me to make combos that work for a busy mom of three.  He could do it all pro bono, of course, now that money is not a concern post his house sale.

So, I dropped him my business card and told him that I could be his pet project...fresh, fun, exciting and definitely in need of sprucing up.  Grandma was thrilled, mom hugged me and he...well...gave me a high-five.

Or so, I'd love to fantasize. All of this works out well in my fairy tale dreams.

But seriously...wouldn't that be fun?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

What a Day...

Do you ever have one of those mornings when you're positive that the day is just going to suck?

I'm not talking about a little bit of a suck...I'm talking about you can't get over yourself, your attitude is dismal, your outlook is bleak, your pissed at the world, and more than anything you just want to scream.

Yep, that's how I spent most of my Sunday.  Instead of basking in the beautiful autumn weekend day, I stomped around pissed at the world. Angry that my house is always a mess...angry that my kids were terrorizing each other...angry that I can never seem to make progress on my "special" projects...angry that I always have too much on my plate...angry that I still have to many handles on my hips...and angry just for the sake of being angry.

And then I did it.  While my husband was winterizing the back yard, the kids were having it out in the tree house and the baby was sleeping in her crib...I went down into the basement and screamed my damn brains out.  It was frightening.  It was freeing.  It was soothing.  It hurt and felt good all at the same time.

And the house is still messy, the projects are still on the to-do list, the kids are still pestering each other...but all of the sudden, for a brief moment, I didn't give a shit.

Scream.  I dare you. It works wonders.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

I Wish We Lived Closer

Because my parents are divorced.  Because I married a man who's home is 1700 miles away.  Because I went to undergraduate school in Chicago and graduate school in Ohio.  I have a lot of family and friends who live far away.

My husband and I try to do our best to keep in touch with our loved ones via phone, Face Time on the iPads, facebook, and text messaging...but the reality is, we really wish that we could just grab a cup of coffee and see them face-to-face.

Both of my sister-in-laws that live far away have boys.  One has two boys and the other has four.  So, I love to hear their rough and tumble stories about having a house full of testosterone while they get to hear the fun melodrama of managing princesses, fairies and ballerinas with my two little girls and dinosaurs and legos with my son.

My best friend from college lives in New Hampshire and runs a bed and breakfast in Maine.  She has adorable twin babies that are close to the age of my Claire.  We are lucky if we get to see each other once a year and now that we have more children our odds are even less.

It's a beautiful thing to wake up, grab a cup of joe, log onto facebook and see a photo of someone I love being themselves.  Likewise, I enjoy sharing our crazy family moments.  I am grateful that technology has made it faster, easier, and less expensive to share memories than it ever used to be.  I am also grateful that social networking tools like facebook and blogs help us stay connected to people we may have never known how to locate otherwise. But I really miss seeing their faces, taking in their smiles, sharing our lives and building memories in real time. 

While all of these gadgets have made our lives more connected, I wish that there was a time machine to quickly and cheaply transport us in physical space.  That would be amazing and so very appreciated.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Power of Literacy

My mom loves to share that I came out of the womb reading.  Apparently by the age of four, she and I sat in the backyard and interchanged swinging with reading lots and lots of books.  My early childhood experience entailed she and I reading all the time to one another.

So, I have to say that it warmed my heart to discover that my oldest daughter is a reader as well.  She always has been.  Ever since she started sleeping in a "big girl" bed at the age of 18-months, she's gone to nap and to bed with a night light and a book.  Consequently, it shocked others, but not really me, that she was fluently reading by the age of three.  However, it can be embarrassing when she corrects her preschool teacher for paraphrasing stories when she's in a pinch for time. 

And now, on a daily basis, we all read to each other pretty voraciously.  Kate is a fan of Dr. Seuss, "Fancy Nancy", "Pinkalicious," and any book that we bring home from the library which is typically in the dozens.  Sam is a fan of chapter books...primarily, "Magic Tree House" and "Beast Quest" and anything that has to do with dinosaurs or sea creatures.  I chew on my Sunday New York Times as well as a library or book club book and Ray, well, he's constantly reading something online or listening to a podcast.

It struck me not long ago that reading is not a given.  Literacy is not a right.  Not all children are born into environments where it is encouraged or honed.  This is the greatest tragedy on the face of the earth.  I can not imagine not being able to navigate my way around a city by reading street signs.  I can't fathom being in a grocery store and not understanding a nutrition label or a sign pointing to the cereal aisle.  Most of all, I can not imagine being a parent and not being able to read medical or educational information on behalf of my child. 

When I first moved back to Omaha from undergraduate school, I became a tutor at the Literacy Center and developed a relationship with a girl who was only a few years younger than I was.  She was a high school graduate who couldn't read.  And, she was getting ready to expect her first child with a father that was in and out of the picture.  We started with phonics and moved to words, simple fragments, small sentences, magazines that were of interest, and then baby books.  The day we read "Good Night Moon" brought me to tears and the day I arrived to meet her baby girl, I was weeping with joy.

Since those early days in my 20's, I have never underestimated the power and the importance of reading.  It is a gift that every human being should receive and nurture. If you have the opportunity, share the gift of literacy with another.   

Monday, October 10, 2011

Am I screwing it up?

Sam and Kate have a wall in their half chalk board, the other half cork board.  They use it to hang up art creations, to play hang man, to keep track of their work jobs and in general to have fun.

The other night, while putting laundry away, I noticed that there was a thumb tack on the floor...a straggler that probably fell off while someone was rearranging their masterpieces.

Because we have a crawler, everything on the floor is fair, just as I spotted the pin, so did Claire.  We both motored as quickly as we could to be the first to get to the safety hazard.  Luckily, I won. The experience called to mind all of the crazy things that we do to keep our kids safe and all of the ways that we go overboard to keep them stimulated and engaged. 

From a safety perspective, we have five-point harness car seats, booster seats, baby gates, plugs for electrical outlets, water floating suits for the pool, organic fill in the blank (swaddling blankets, cloth diapers, baby food, formula).

From an engagement perspective, our babies are listening to classical music in the womb, not being exposed to sugar, caffeine, wine, beer or second hand smoke.  They've mastered, "Little Einsteins" as infants and are now learning American Sign Language, French and sharing sushi with their parents.

Don't get me wrong, I happily subscribe to most of all of the above.  It's just sometimes crazy to think back to when I grew up in the 70's and 80's.  My parents smoked with the windows rolled up in the car.  I don't remember a seat belt being a big deal.  After a bowl of cereal, my brother and I were sent out to play for the day.  We got on our bikes and trolled the neighborhood looking for friends and places to build forts.  No one enrolled me in a specialized music class or recited flash cards in French.  And, I think I turned out fine.

So, when I worry about all of the things my kids are or are not being exposed to, I pause and wonder, how am I screwing them up?  Because I'm sure that the fact that they didn't have organic toilet paper is going to have a lasting effect.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Gratitude for the Fall

Even though I was born in the spring and have always held a soft spot in my heart for the season of renewal and rebirth...I've got to admit, I am enamored by the fall.

Like many, there's something about the change of the leaves, the rustle of the wind, the smell of the air and the ushering of the quiet that makes me pause.

The other morning, Kate (4), Claire (baby) and I took a walk to enjoy the beautiful autumnal day.  We're blessed to live across the street from a really beautiful park with gorgeous, mature trees and breathtaking ravines.  While collecting pieces of bark, pine cone, and leaves, we noticed a huge crane in the process of cutting down a mammoth tree.

And just like that, the tree made a huge thud as it hit the earth.  You could feel it in your belly, the rumble and reverberation were immense.

I looked over at Kate and she started to cry. "Mama, why did they do that?"  To which, I unexpectedly became emotional and said, "Well, I think the tree was dying."  And she said, "Did the tree know?" and I said, "I'm sure he suspected."

It's strange, but I've been having these kinds of cool, philosophical conversations with my kids a lot lately.  We've been aware of mortality and the seasons of life.  We've been praying for friends who are sick and for those who are dying.  We've been grateful for our health and trying not to take it for granted.

However, the reality is that life is comprised of seasons...a time to be born, a time to live and a time to die.  Fall reminds me that it is time to hibernate, to cling to those I love and to "settle in" a bit.  I am mindful that the colder temperatures and the shorter days give way to reflection and quiet.  It's not so much of a time to go-go-go as it is an opportunity to stay, to pause, and to be grateful for that which we are and that which we have been given. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

No One Wants to Die

Like most of you, I've been focused over the last 24-hours on paying homage to the life of Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple and modern day Newton.  

After watching his 2005 Stanford University Commencement address, I am overcome by a singular message, "No one wants to die."  For Jobs, his world came to a stand still when doctors diagnosed him in 2004 with a rare form of pancreatic cancer and told him that he had 3-6 months to live.  In those moments, of "getting his personal affairs in order," he knew that he had lived an amazing life, but still very much wanted to live. 

He regularly asked himself the question, "If I were to die today, would I be happy doing what I'm about to do?"  If the answer was "no" for too many days in a row, he knew that it was time to make a change.

Jobs was blessed to live for seven years following his diagnosis and his mantra of, "Stay Hungry...Stay Foolish," probably ensured that he followed the call of his heart on a regular basis.

So, what is the call of my heart and am I answering that call regularly?  Because the truth is, I want to live.  I don't want to go through the motions.  I want to watch my children grow and witness who they become.  I want to grow my marriage and build my partnership with my husband.  I want to live out my purpose.  And as much as I want to grumble about how all of that would be easier with more money...the truth is, it wouldn't.

Jobs' life was a roller coaster of triumph and loss.  He was at the top of his game and in the trenches for the world to see.  But he never stopped believing.  You can't go wrong investing in what you are passionate about and that which brings you and ultimately, others joy.

Hats off to you Steve Jobs for making the world an amazing place and for having fun doing it.  Thanks to you, I smile whenever I turn on my iPod, iMac, and Macbook.

Monday, October 3, 2011

In a Perfect World

Once in a blue moon, I get sick.  It's not a good thing for the main caretaker in the house to be ill, so it's a huge blessing that when it coincides with a weekend, my better half can take care of the littles.

Not sure if it should be chalked up to food poisoning, stomach flu, the Husker game or a subconscious desire to be under the covers for the better part of the day...I found myself spending a beautiful Sunday in bed feeling sorry for myself and day dreaming.

I told a friend recently that I needed to have a "Bucket List."  In only the way that JM can say it, she expounded with, "Good God, Kelly, you have way too much guilt over all of the commitments that you currently have, I would say that you more aptly need a Fuck it list."  And maybe she's right.  But for now, here are a few things that I would love to do before I keel over.

  • Run a marathon...preferably in Hawaii
  • Surf...preferably near an island
  • Sing on a stage...Broadway would be very cool
  • Dance topless (again) in Greece
  • Skydive (I'm deathly afraid of heights, so I can't imagine this one happening...but what the hell)
  • Publicly address a really large crowd of folks on a significant social issue
  • Spend a summer at a beach house in New England
  • Quilt a keepsake to give to my children
  • Roam the streets of Tuscany with my husband
  • Explore vinyards in Europe with my children
  • Write a book
That's all I've got for now.  Funny how it's hard to dream big when you're focused on dishes, laundry, progress reports and baby food.  The beauty is the list will change again and again.  I suppose it's just liberating to put it on paper and out into the world.  

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Mother, may I?

Picture this.  It's Saturday afternoon before a Husker game, I'm in the grocery store with my 6-year old and 4-year old munchkins (which was a moronic decision, I know).

Our cupboards have been bare for a few days, so our list is long and my attempt at using coupons is still a work in, I'm fumbling a bit, no pun intended.

And then, all of a sudden, the devil invades my kiddos and the consummate, "Mother, may I?" comes out at every turn.  First it starts with normal things like, coconut, mango, apple juice, crostini...and then, it turns into shit, marshmallow, Husker popcorn balls....multi-colored string cheese (who on God's green earth thought that was cool?) and pretty soon...we're in an all-out negotiation battle field. 

"Come on, Mama, it's Claire's birthday soon...let's get this pink icing."  "How about this 'Explosion Cheddar Cheese Sodium Laden Macaroni?"  "You LOVE coffee...what about this Caramel, Chocolate, Vanilla Nut Swirl blend?" 

I began with, "Not today."  Moved to, "No thank you."  Transitioned with, "Absolutely not."  And somewhere near the dairy section screamed, "The next child who asks me for another thing will get thrown into this cart with the groceries."  To which Sam replied, "Sweet!" 

Holy Mary, Mother of God.  I was about to beat them with my bare hands when a sweet man turned to me and said, "You're doing a great job...cut her a break, kids."  That's right, cut me some slack....or no food for you...or maybe, I'll make you eat that nasty marshmallow thing.