About Melissa Moroni

Enjoying all the Miss-Adventures parenting throws my way and looking forward to what tomorrow holds. With my 'village' by my side, anything is possible! Learn more about me here.

Rediscovering Me

The summer is over and school is back in session for my children. Their school break was a whirlwind of vacations, summer camp and classes, with very little down time. To say I was anxious for the school year to begin is a major understatement. Add to that the extra several days that Tropical Storm Irene brought us and it was clear from both my children’s and my perspectives that school needed to start. When the day finally arrived, I packed the oldest three on the bus for their full days of school with smiles all around. I then settled down with the youngest of my brood, who is only three, for what she endearingly calls ‘Mommy school’. No rest for the weary, as the old saying goes. At least I was only going in one direction instead of four.
Then I got the game-changing email. My dear sweet three-year old was accepted into Playschool! Our town runs an absolutely incredible program though the high school in which they run a model preschool for the students interested in child development. One of my other children was lucky enough to be able to participate as well, so I knew what an opportunity this was. So now I anxiously prepared my youngest for school. New backpack, new lunchbox, new folder, new crayon box. She was good to go, and more then eager to kiss Mommy good-bye and walk off with her friends. I have to admit, as I left my three-year-old ‘baby’ at school I did get choked up. Another milestone. Another era over.
I went home that day and sat on the sofa, and then it hit me. I had the next precious ninety minutes all to myself. I could not tell you the last time I actually could plan to have time with no direct responsibility for any of my children. What would I do? There is always a long chore list in my house…laundry, cleaning, cooking, preparing for this or that. I sat there for about ten minutes trying to decide which chore to pick. I got to thinking. I had ninety minutes for me. What did that mean? Somewhere amid the science homework and soccer games and ballet classes, I lost sight of what I could spend my ‘me’ time on. I love my children, but the role of Mommy almost always comes first. Now, I was thinking about what I craved, needed, wanted to do. I thought of A Mom Knows Best…all the contributors have something exciting to offer you as readers, but also me as a fellow contributor. I am still sporting mommy jeans and sweats, yet I read with excitement Carrie Humphreys’ awesome fashion tips. I love a glass of wine now and then, yet I know nothing about it. Jessica Granatiero and her amazing shop, The Savory Grape, are always hosting tastings and informational get-togethers. Why haven’t I attended? Carla Izzard lives in the same town as I do, and we both share an interest in running, yet I couldn’t tell you the last time I slipped into my running shoes and hit the road. Maureen Umehara always has such wonderfully supportive and thought- provoking comments. I decided right then and there, when Cait was at school, I was going to take those precious few hours a week and work on me, rediscovering the me that is not the mom, the nurse, the educator, the volunteer…but the me that is a person with lots of ideas and dreams. And where better to look for guidance and help then the amazing group of ladies that contribute to this website. Each week I will be looking to work on something about me that needs looking at…and asking for the input of these amazing women. Won’t you join me? Look inside yourself and take a look at who you are, and who you want to be. I am sure the ride will be bumpy, with lots of twists and turns. The destination is a better me, a better us. I know the trip will be worth it.

Do you have a personal or professional goal you’ve been working toward?

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Parenting Roadblocks

What do you do when you have a well-meaning grandparent, aunt, sister, best friend, neighbor – you get the idea – who doesn’t necessarily agree with your parenting choices? Tread lightly, but stand strong.
There is something about a pregnant belly that attracts comments. Everyone knows everything about parenting, and their way is always best. This can put new parents in a very awkward position. As if the struggle to maintain basic hygiene in the beginning isn’t enough, many newly minted moms and dads find themselves defending their parenting choices. And often it is a battle with those they love the most.
When it comes to explaining your parenting choices to your own parents, the dynamic is interesting to say the least. They are usually more than ready to remind you that, “I raised you and you turned out ok.” Well, that is a tough one to argue. Today is not the parenting environment of 20, 30 or 40 years ago. Your intent is never to insult the choices your parents made. It is, though, your turn now. You need to stand up for yourself and claim this child (or children) for your own. Difficult, but necessary.
One suggestion that repeats itself through many aspects of parenting (and will find its way into many of my posts) is being proactive. In many of the parenting classes I teach at Women & Infants , I assign homework. You read right…homework. The homework is,  while you are still pregnant, have conversations–many of them–with your partner, friends, parents about the way you would like to raise your child.  Most importantly, explain the reason behind those decisions.  You might be surprised that you and your partner may not agree on some things. Are you going to use a binky? Do you let the baby fall asleep in the swing? Are you really going to take the baby for a drive to settle him/her down? Small things can make a big difference. I am here to tell you, too, that what seems like a small thing when you are sitting calmly will be a huge thing when you are sleep deprived and in the heat of the moment. Huge. By pre-planning, you can make reasonable decisions. Keep in mind, though, that flexibility is also key to your success.
So just how can you contend with well meaning people who don’t agree with you? It may be difficult, but it is in the best interest of your child, and your sanity, to take a stand. Politely, but firmly, share your parenting vision and ask for the opportunity to take the chance. It may be one of the hardest parenting tasks that you will face. You alone know what is best for your child. That is not to say that the people around you , your ‘village’ should be ignored. They can be a major source of information and help, if not just a sounding board for your thoughts. Honestly, it is honesty that is the skill that will serve you best.

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Milestones…and moving on

I stood staring at the teddy bear mobile hanging from the ceiling. It hung over our spare kitchen sink. Yes, spare. Our 111 year old house has a pantry on the second floor, complete with …you guessed it…a kitchen sink. The sink comes in handy. I soak white baseball pants in it. I clean up craft projects in it. And I bathe babies in it. It is the perfect size for that task. When I was pregnant with my first child I did what any respectable, first-time pregnant mommy did. I registered for baby ‘stuff’. I registered for sheets, onesies, a buggy…and a tub. Which we used. Once. From that point on, every tubby that my kids took, until they were big enough to bathe in the big tub, was in the sink. So when my ten year-old was just a baby, we hung this mobile over the sink to hold their attention. It was a crank kind and it played a rendition of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. We used it for all four babies. Now that our youngest has used the big tub for over a year now, I thought it was probably time to take down the mobile. No one needed it anymore. At least none of the kids did.

When the older three kids reached their ‘milestones,’ I was always excited. I looked forward to what was next. Never rushed, mind you. Just excitement. With my forth, things are different. Maybe because I am pretty sure there will not be anymore. Each stage we finish means a stage I will never experience again. And it almost seems like Cait knows. She cruises through the milestones with an ease that bites my heart. No matter how hard I try, I can’t get her to hold on to being a baby. Every day she figures out another way to be a ‘big girl’. What is her rush??? Slow down. With each proclamation from her that ‘I am a big girl’ comes the end of an era in our house. She potty-trained fairly quickly, so we returned an entire case of diapers to BJ’s. The changing station that had been set up on the first floor (because we all know that new mommies shouldn’t climb the stairs) ten years ago was dismantled. Each time I walk into our first-floor bathroom it is another heartbreaker. I thought I would ease her into her big-girl bed. In true Cait style she informed me that the crib was no longer needed. And another heartbreak. She feeds herself. She dresses herself. She makes choices for herself.  She is more than ready to let go…and I am more determined to hang on.
I know I should be happy that she is ready to move on. My mommy friends are amazed at how at ease she is with separating from me. As we dropped one of my sons off at kindergarten the other day, she turned to me and said “It’s OK Mommy. Cait stay here at school now. You go home.” She is not yet three. I know I will appreciate this. Some day. That day is not now.
So I have a decision to make. What do I do with the mobile? Do I leave it up as a reminder of the milestones that have passed? Or do I take it down and move on? You know, it really isn’t in the way…yet.

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Evolving as a Mother

As I laid there gazing at my little one, the roundness of her cheeks, her sweat dampened curls on her forehead, it hit me. This Mother’s Day would be different from all the others. My mind traveled back to what seems like so long ago, to my first Mother’s Day. My first child was only a few weeks old when Mother’s Day came around, and the discomfort of his cesarean birth was still very fresh in my mind. My husband and I had been married only a few years at the time. We got into the game a little late, and I was back at URI studying Nursing as my second career. People questioned the timing. “Enjoy married life,” “Wait until school is done,” “Establish your career first.” We had been together long enough before we tied the knot, and graduation was another 2 years away. We wanted a family, as soon as possible. We started trying with no regard for timing. Everything else could wait. School would still be there. I knew there would be plenty of time for me to work my life away. When the two pink lines appeared, we were more than thrilled. We were having a baby. I was going to be a mother.
Nothing dramatic happened that first Mother’s Day. That is the way I like it. I was a mom, and I had a beautiful little life to take care of. We celebrated, but for me, the real celebration was in the quiet moments where I sat and snuggled my baby. I had done it. I had achieved my biggest goal in life, I had climbed my Mount Everest, I gave birth to a beautiful and healthy baby. I had become a mother. It wasn’t long before we were pregnant again. The thrill wasn’t lost this time around either. It seemed to multiply. Again. And again…
We have been blessed to create, deliver and raise four beautiful children. This will be my eleventh Mother’s Day. All the others have been very similar. Flowers, heartfelt homemade gifts, nice meals. This year will be different for me, though. I am turning a corner in my mothering career. A corner I am not sure I am ready to turn. You see, our family is complete. Four is it. This will be the first Mother’s Day that I will not change a diaper, nurse a baby, plan for another. That stage is over…I am growing up as a mother. I am facing new challenges. My oldest would rather play his DS than sit and snuggle with me in the rocker. Even the rocker, my true and beloved friend for the last ten years will be different this Mother’s Day. My gift this year is a set of brand-new cushions for my dear old friend (since we don’t have to worry about baby stains anymore). Times they are a changing. Like it or not.
So those cheeks, those curls, they did something, stirred something. I cannot imagine life without my children. Parenting isn’t for everyone, and even those of us who have chosen this path have our moments of question and doubt. As Mother’s Day comes, I will be reflecting on the days of past, and dreaming of whatever lies ahead. Regardless of what the future holds, today I know one thing. I am many things. I am me first, and then I am a mother. I hope I do the title justice.

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Kids: What’s the Right Number? (and when to have more)

 

How do you know how many kids are right for you?
I always find this an interesting topic of conversation. Probably because almost everyone, from your best friend to a stranger on the street, has an opinion.
When my dear husband and I were blessed with our first pregnancy, and the baby boy that resulted, everyone was thrilled. “Oh a boy, what a way to start a family”. Then we were blessed again, this time with a beautiful daughter. She was not even in the incubator when the talk started. “A boy and a girl, now your family is complete!” For some odd reason, I thought that was a decision for my husband and I to make. Then, when we became pregnant a third time, people felt the need to remind us “They only come two ways, you know”. Yes, we are both well educated. We are well aware of the ways they come. A second boy it was, and now we had the heir and the spare. Life moved along swimmingly until, gasp, we decided to have another. Suddenly, the tone of the remarks shifted. When people inquired about my pregnancy and I replied it was my forth, their faces would drop. I would say the quips were about equally split between “What are you nuts?” and “Better you than Me!” A second beautiful daughter. Two boys, two girls. And then the winning comment became “Two pair, are you going to go for a full house?”

     So how do you decide how many?  Gone are the days of the white picket fence, car in the garage and 2.2 children. Families today enjoy a diversity that was non-existent just decades ago. We live in a completely different time and place than even our parents did, never mind our grandparents. Every generation faced their challenges. Our generation faces economic uncertainty, war, what seems like one natural disaster after another…why would one want to bring children into this world. The answer is simple…family.
     I was raised as an only child. I wanted nothing more than to give my children the gift…and I remind them daily that it is a gift…of siblings. I once had an acquaintance comment “Oh you singletons. You all feel the need to repopulate the world.” Not quite. I do know that my kids are never lonely and rarely alone. Although they find it a tad difficult to appreciate it now, my friends that have siblings assure me that one day, they will. And they will have best friends that won’t ever bail. No matter what.

     The decision about how many children to have is a very personal one. Can we afford to live on one income, or childcare if we both work? How many beds can you fit in one bedroom? Exactly how many car seats can a vehicle hold (and don’t forget the other miscellaneous gear associated with raising happy, healthy, well adjusted kids today)? Just how will we pay for four college educations (still working on that one). The questions go on and on. One of my favorite quotes from one of the parenting classes I teach is from a cartoon. The caption reads “This, as with all things, trust your instinct.” You will know.
     You just might be crazy enough to do it again. And again. And again…
Four is good for us. I certainly would never say no to another. Inexpensive vacations, two sets of bunk beds and a Suburban that seats eight answered the questions for us. The message I want to leave with you is this. Feel free to decide for yourself . Don’t feel the pressure of others. You will know when your family is…just right.

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‘Mommying’ in the Digital Age

“Mommy, Cait paint?” came the little voice. I replied not now Cait. A few minutes later, that sweet voice popped up again…”Please Mommy, Cait paint?” I finally gave in. We had been waiting at the doctor’s office for some time, and the books and crayons I brought were not cutting it today. So I reached into my pocket and pulled out my cell phone. I turned on Toddler Lock and handed it over to her. She was thrilled to make lines, shapes and splashes of color magically appear on the screen. Then, with a swish of her little finger, it was all gone and ready for her to try again. I thought to myself what has become of me that my child needs to play with a cell phone to be happy? My two-year-old was coming into the digital age faster than I was.

I have had a cell phone dating back to when they came in bags. I liked the security of being in contact. I always had the basic model…made calls, texted. A model back, I updated to one with a camera. I thought I was really stepping up in the world. I was comfortable with my phone. It held my contact list, made calls, took pictures and sent texts. I didn’t need anything else. Then it happened. One minute I was happily chatting away and the next…silence. The diagnosis was grim. The speaker was blown and I no longer had any sound. It was time to shop for a new phone. I have to admit…I had HUGE cell phone envy. I loved those jazzy models that had ‘apps’, played games, checked email. I am a stay-at-home mom of four kids. Not only was there no budget for a ‘data plan’ but what was the justification? What did I NEED a fancy phone for? My dear husband, knowing my longing for the fun gadget, told me to get a smart phone (even though he is still at the basic model he has had for 5 years). I went back and forth and finally did it. I bought the Droid 2. And much to my surprise…no owner’s manual! What was I thinking???

So now I had this fancy new phone with all the bells and whistles, and I didn’t even know how to dial a call. I was excited and exasperated simultaneously. Eventually, I got the hang of it, after a few lessons from my 10 year old who figured out how to get it to play games. I was still not sold on the fact that it was worth another monthly bill and then shazam. As we were driving down the street one afternoon my son asked from the back row where money was made. My husband and I started rattling off mints…Philly, DC, San Fran, Denver, Fort Knox…there were six…what was the last one? I told my son that we would Google it when we got home. That was my standard answer to questions my children asked that I didn’t know the answer to. Then my husband looked at me and said “Don’t you think you could find it on that fancy phone?” And I did. I Googled US Mints and there it was…West Point, NY. It was in that moment that I decided that this might be worth it after all.

So here I am 11 months later. I could not imagine my Mommy life without my phone. Google calendar is amazing, especially with its pop-up reminders of important scheduled events and its ability to tell me when I need to clone myself. I have apps for logging my diet and exercise, for updating Facebook and Twitter (although Twitter is still somewhat of a mystery to me), checking my email, finding the least expensive gas around, finding my way…you name it. I even have apps for games for the kids, including alphabet and counting games for Cait. Our favorite app of all is Geocaching. Anywhere we are we can see if there is a geocache around and with the help of the phone’s GPS, find our way to it (look forward to more about the fun of geocaching in a later blog). I now look forward to moving into the new digital age. Not for my kids, but with them by my side. I don’t think I could make the journey without them.

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Fast Food is Not the End of the World (and I teach nutrition)

 oatmeal cookies

The little voice came from the back seat. “Momma, can Cait have your tookie?” We had just left the grocery store and I caved for a box of my favorite cookies. I deftly handed half a cookie back to the eager little hand. A few moments later the little voice pipes up again, “Cait have MORE tookie?” I said no. It was almost lunch time, and the cookies were full of sugar (those are the best ones). I was strong. I held my ground. Even as I looked at the little pout in the backseat. I knew I was right, right?
I was so proud of how we fed our babies. Breastfed until they were old enough to drink whole milk. We made all our own baby food (thanks to a great ‘family’ farm). From the start there was a fruit or vegetable at every meal. When my oldest daughter was young she could stare down even the toughest of competitors for a piece of broccoli.AMKB brocoli                    

That is why, I can’t believe I am admitting to this…I have a dark secret. Are you ready…
I love Taco Bell. Yup, that is the secret. I love it. Now I know all about the controversy. Thirty percent what? I don’t care. I have taken classes in nutrition, I teach parents about good nutrition for their children. I read blogs about nutrition. And yet…I still love Taco Bell. Why? And even worse…this could put me in parental lockup…I feed Taco Bell to my children. And they like it.
My oldest child was four before he really enjoyed ‘fast food’. Then each successive child was younger and younger until my forth gummed French fries. I am not saying we follow a drive-thru diet, it is only now and then. (I promise)  I still cannot get over the guilt and shame that I feel when I feed my children fast food. Why have we put such pressure on ourselves as parents to always be perfect and always do what is ‘right’? Who decides the rules?

 I was sitting at the soccer field one breezy evening with two of my children while one practiced. Another was practicing a different sport at another field. We had just come from three different places to get here. And I fed my kids chicken nuggets (with apple slices and milk). One of the other parents, in front of several others, commented “Haven’t you seen Food Inc? Don’t you know what you are doing to your children?” I politely replied that no, I had not seen the now infamous documentary (nor will I) and that we had a busy day. Her reply to me was “If you think you need to feed your kids fast food, then you are not managing your time well”. Well now, I don’t think I will recite that quote in my next parenting class.  Grr…
Every topic related to raising ‘our’ kids is open to interpretation. I put ‘our’ in quotes because we all have an impact on any child around us, whether our own or not. As parents, we make the best decisions we can to raise our kids. We cannot put blinders on them and completely block out the outside world and its influences. It doesn’t matter if it is what we put on their plates, how we clothe their bodies, or where they lay their heads at night, there will always be someone who feels the need to judge our choices. How we handle it is our parenting ‘legacy’.
Now I am not saying that everyone needs to feed their kids fast food. Just don’t look at me cross because I do. How about we make a pact…you don’t judge me and I won’t judge you…fair enough? We the ones that love ‘our’ kids need to stick together. It really does take a village, after all.

What are your thoughts on fast food?  Are you strictly against it or do you think everything is okay in moderation?  I’d love to get your feedback!

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