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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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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