Monday, July 21, 2014

100 MPH through life...

My 13 year old daughter is booking babysitting gigs.  My 16 old is filling out job applications and considering college options.  I'm organizing play-dates for the 3 middle-ish kids, and potty training a 2 year old. 

Can someone man the wheel for a while I "enjoy" these moments... cause they're passing by in a blur.

I used to have some hard core rules for family time that I've recently had to break on account of height restrictions.  Neighborhood fests used to be a family "given" and we'd go together as a family, but it's kind of hard to make your oldest son, (who takes me now in both height and weight) ride the dragon roller coaster with his little brothers and sisters.  Actually, it's not just hard... it's more than frowned upon.  As a matter of fact, it's simply not allowed. 

My oldest is man-sized.  Sniff... :o(

But I won't waste a second complaining because so many parents in the world go to bed tonight wondering who their kids would have become, and wishing for one more day. 

I'm lucky and blessed for this 100 MPH life, and all that happens in a day.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Meeting Lauren! It's official... we are finally "real" friends!!!

I "met" Lauren nearly 9 years ago on a website called Cafe Mom when Eric was a baby.  I'm certain I was pregnant with Jason at the time that we kind of became a force of mom's to be reckoned with and our pack was formed. 

Lauren's daughter Myka was born somewhere in that mix... in addition to her two older daughters Lexi and Ashlynn.  And just about 6 years later... her son Isiah was born!

We quickly became part of a secret underground group of moms called Cafe Mom's on Facebook.

Cafe Mom is a real site all on it's own.  And there... I have made a lot of REAL life friends.

This group of ladies just happened to translate into a group of comrades that double as awesome human being in real life... and I've met all but one in real life.  (Oh Melinda... why does Alaska have to be SOOOO far away!?)

Well, most of them did anyway. We lost a few along the way... but that was part of their journey, not ours.

Lauren was one of the last 2 ladies I had yet to meet fact to face.  Ironically even though she lives in Arizona, she has ties to the Chicago suburbs.  Today I drove an hour and 20 minutes away to meet her for lunch with 5/6ths of my kids in tow.  She was in town for a quick visit and I'm so glad we finally got to meet!

Lauren and I spar over politics like no ones business... and yet she's still one of my best friends.  We don't agree on nearly 85% of the topics we discuss, yet strangely I feel like somehow we are always  on the same page.  I appreciate her arguments and value her opinions.  We don't sweep our opinions under the rug, we grow from them.  (oh if only we were FB friends you'd see our discourse in real time, lol!)  I love that she pushes me to argue for what I believe... instead of trying to make me change my mind. 

I was not at all surprised at how easily this day came... after 9 long years of solidifying our friendship with a good old fashioned meet and greet, we are officially no longer "Internet" friends! We are just as tried and true as old friends who spent every day together as kids who keep in touch by phone and social media... for what it's worth these days.

Thank you Lauren for your open conversations, and respectfully debating me when the opportunities present themselves.  Thank you for sticking with me over the years.  Thank you for letting me be ME and loving me even when we went to bed on different pages.  Love you lots girl!  I owe every ounce of being a photographer to you.  Thank you my talented friend!!!  I can't wait to see what the future holds!  Hopefully it means we'll be seeing a lot more of each other in the months to come!!!

Sister Love

Nathalie and Eliza are over a decade apart in age, but it hasn't stopped them from having a super close bond as sisters. 

Eliza is quickly becoming Nathalie's protege whether I like it or not, lol.  I'm still not so sure a 13 year old personality belongs in a 2 year old body, but she's cute... and she knows how to make it work.  She's adorable without being obnoxious, so as long as it stays that way... she's melting my heart with her adoration of her big sis.

Nathalie's the perfect blend of teenager.  A mix of 50% drives me crazy... and 50% steals my heart.

The "teenager" dance is delicate balance of understanding, give, take, compassion, forgiveness, empathy, nurture, and tough love.  And a lot of things I don't have words for, but that spin my heart in all directions.

Nathalie's such a great kid.  It's easy to go either way at this age, but I'm always proud of how well she does when she's on her own.  When her mettle is tested, she always passes with flying colors.

So far I'm 2 for 2...  as far as teenagers go.  Don't ask me for stats on the 10 and under crowd because they vary day by day, lol.  Especially with the 5 and under crowd.  I call the little ones "wild cards"!

I never knew if Nathalie would ever have a sister.  We never "tried" to have girls, even though we have a big family, we just got lucky to have these two little ladies in our life. 

And they are so lucky to have each other!

Sand Toy Diplomacy

I took the kids to the water park we have passes to this afternoon.  It was only the second time we've made it there this summer because we've been so busy, but the weather was perfect and we were long overdue.  I packed the towels, our "Puddle Jumpers", the snacks for the ride home, and our sand toys...

It was just me and the 5 youngest today.  I felt a little out numbered without Mark and my nephew Josh there to keep tabs on the "middle" kids.  Nathalie and Eric were big helps, but it was still overwhelming.

After I convinced them to take a break in the sand lot, I'm so glad that I remembered from our last visit that it's absolutely necessary to write your name in PERMANENT BLACK SHARPIE on all of you beach belongings.  Not that it mattered, because from the second we arrived with our "sand toys" in arms... it's like someone dumped blood in the water.  Kids came out of NOWHERE and "eyed" our gear from near and far.

I'm all for sharing, that is, IF you know that sharing means my kids are lending their toys to YOU and you realize it's YOUR job to be courteous with them...  and if you do happen to be too young to understand that... where in the heck are your parents?!

I get it.  We've all been new to the scene.  We didn't pack an awesome beach bag that included toys and shovels, and buckets, and sand sifters... but I ALWAYS remember being the adult that asked if it was okay to play with others toys.  And how it was my job as the mom to gauge the situation to realize when the generous "host" wanted one of their toys back to use because let's be honest... kids learn their manners from us.

It was obvious today that NO ONE was watching, or teaching their kids at the pool today.  I did have one very polite little boy ask to use out bucket who returned it and said "thank you" about 10 minutes later... when he returned a bucket that I let him borrow, but he was the exception to the 20 other kids that just tried to take things out of their hands or run up and grab what they wanted when one of my kids put it down.

It's not my job to babysit your kids, or provide their entertainment while you catch up on social media or devour a book from the library.  It's sad, but you're probably going to be the first person to sue the pool lifeguards when your 5 year old drowns because you weren't watching them, like... AT ALL!

The words "sand toys" are really just a synonym for keeping a close eye on your kids here...  I literally watched a mom tell a little boy and his sister that she was going swimming in the big pool and she'd be back later.   He was younger than 5 for sure.  No life jacket, no swimming arms... just left in an unsupervised sand lot indefinitely.  And guess who they decided to "stay" with the whole time until we left?

And what has "family time" come to these days?    Is interaction with our children a chore? Don't you care where your babies are at a crowded public pool?  It didn't seem like it today...

Why are so many parents MIA at a crowded pool?! I wanted to spend time with my kids but I felt like I was running defense the entire time they were trying to play with their OWN toys.  I even bit my tongue and tried to see the other side.  Maybe the kids were hungry for attention.  Maybe they craved the interaction from a family... but no, they just wanted our sand toys.  The second I said they could use any of them they tried to take off running until I told them they had to play with there and couldn't leave with them. 

I'm all for sharing, but I sure wish more people taught their kids how to behave when someone shares with them.  It makes me feel like it's better to be stingy when this distorted version of sharing means you can take, walk away with, or use until you feel like giving back what ever has been loaned. 

Actually come to think of it, sharing is when the person who has something offers it someone else as a gesture of kindness.  When your unsupervised, and bossy kid comes over to where we're playing, and demands to have access to they toys we brought from home to play with... well?  I'm not quite sure what you'd call that at all. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Addicted to Disney!

We went to Florida at the beginning of June.  It was our second trip in 2 years... last year we did Hollywood Studios, and this year I got my way.  We spent the day at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom!

I had not been back to Disney World since I was at least 13 years old... I remembered bits and pieces, but as a mother, nothing could have prepared me for all of the magic I was about to witness!  The electric parade, the rides... the light show!!!  It was ALL so amazing. 

Every single one of my kids were sucked into the magic. There is something truly magical about that place!  I used to think that everyone that came back from Disney all googly eyed over the whole experience were nuts... but I'm quickly becoming one of those people!  I love it.  ALL of it! 

I'm a total Disney newb... and did not pack right for the trip at all.  With a toddler still in diapers, I should have backpacked it with ONE bag filled with a few diapers and wipes that included my wallet and extra camera in the bag.  I was not all all prepared for my iPhone's battery to drain in 5 hours, (my settings must have been set on roam...) and I didn't take nearly as many photos as I wished I had!  If I could have afforded it, I would have hired a photographer to follow us around the park because I LOVED every moement of our magical day in Walt Disney World and never want to forget a second of it!

Eliza hasn't stopped singing "It's a Small World" since she first heard the song in line waiting for the ride to start... and she's just like her momma!  I have loved that song for my whole life.  I found a doll at our Disney Store back home that that sings it in English and a "native" language.  She picked a doll from Mexico so it's in both English and Spanish.  It's so cute.

AND... one other thing I have to say that I did that I am SO glad I did:  I got a new Chase Disney Rewards Credit Card right before we left.  About a week before we left, I got a $200 gift card FOR FREE to spend at the Disney Store and anywhere on the Disney grounds!  I'm not one to ever use a credit card, but this one has it's perks!  We went with the "Finding Nemo" card front by a family vote, but I love that you can change your cards design at any time FREE OF CHARGE!  How fun is that?

I love staying near the beaches in Sarasota, and spending time with my family, but I am really feeling the ache to get my Disney fix next summer.  You can't do Disney World in just one day.  You just can't....

Thursday, May 15, 2014

“The Münchausen by proxy Bully Victim Syndrome”... vs. the failure of social conflict resolution.

Münchausen syndrome by proxy is often talked about in cases of child abuse, neglect, and in some cases even murder.

The Wikipedia definition of the disorder is defined as:  is a term that is used to describe a behavior pattern in which a caregiver deliberately exaggerates, fabricates, and/or induces physical, psychological, behavioral, and/or mental health problems in those who are in their care.[1] With deception at its core, this behavior is an elusive, potentially lethal, and frequently misunderstood form of child abuse[2] or medical neglect[3] that has been difficult to define, detect, and confirm in order to in order to gain the attention of medical providers and others in order to perpetuate the medical relationship,

But I’m here to talk Münchausen syndrome by proxy in a way that it’s ever been discussed before… in terms of bullying.

“The Münchausen by proxy Bully Victim Syndrome” as I like to call it, seems to be the battle cry in of parents in elementary, middle, and high schools throughout the country.

Unfortunately there are countless children in the education system, who actually are tormented daily without mercy on merits they have no control over.  Taunts based on appearance, socio-economic status, and developmental disabilities which truly do take place in our schools every single day, but as the mother of a 13 year old middle school daughter… I’m starting to see an ugly new trend:

The imagined victimization of a child by a parent for the sake of seeking the sympathy and undivided attention of the staff and administration. 

I’ve already dealt with this situation once this year in my daughters second year of middle school, and now just two weeks before the final bell of the 2013-2014 school bell rings we get dragged into another social drama at the school escalated by a parent, who by every definition of the disorder is exaggerating, fabricating, and in encouraging dramatic behavior in their child for the sake of seeking to gain the undivided sympathetic attention of the educators and staff within the school.

According to Merriam Webster, to bully is to: frighten, hurt, or threaten (a smaller or weaker person) : to act like a bully toward (someone): to cause (someone) to do something by making threats or insults or by using force. 

But the last time I checked a quarrel of words among equally comparable teenage girls, cannot… by the very definition of the word, be considered bullying.  At some point in our life history, someone was unkind to us at the very least.  Most of us can recall at least 1 or 2 major arguments or disagreements with a friend or co-worker.  By calling on the schools to settle every score and social injustice imposed on our kids by a peer, we are creating an environment of hostility and angst that can never be resolved.

And if one of the children (who could by subjective consideration… be considered “weaker”) is actually instigating and perpetrating the situation by making derogatory and insulting commentary toward other peers, are they truly a victim of the situation?

In an exhausting attempt to end these social escalations, school administrators are engaging in sometimes questionable tactics to end these dramas for fear of being held accountable for the events that transpire as a result of parental over involvement over endless and often uncontrollable situations that transpire on social media.

Schools and administrators want the umbrella of protection over liability from a worst case scenario type of situation.  School districts are so fearful that an extreme situation of conflict is going to happen on their watch that they cater to every “Münchausen syndrome by proxy Bully Victim Syndrome” parent out there that the word “bully” has lost all meaning.

I’ve been to school with kids who were bullied.  They were mocked for the way they talked, the way they dressed, where they lived… and for what they looked like, and it was done so in a way to suppress their ability to stand up for themselves in a productive way.  They didn’t have an alliance of friends to support them, or deflect the ridicule. 

Today’s social climate in the schools seems to be much more antagonist, and with the evolution of social media acting as a means to berate and perpetrate a public take-down of another peer, and it has become increasingly difficult for the school and districts to avoid becoming involved in these conflicts… but acknowledging the difference between an actual conflict or disagreement AND bullying truly needs to be defined.

And caving to the thirsty needs of parents hungry for acknowledgement in their accomplishments in parenthood is a dangerous formula for conflict resolution in the school setting.

“The Münchausen by proxy Bully Victim Syndrome” pits child against child in a situation that has no true resolution.  When you make a child a victim you take away their power to become a victor in the situation and rise above adversity.  These are life skills that we cheat our children of when we steal their opportunity to resolve their own conflicts. 

I believe in my heart that most people are born “good”.  Humanity is an amazing thing.  By nature, most people will do what is right by their own virtue if they have been taught to treat others the way they would like to be treated. 

There are great examples of people doing the right thing throughout history based solely on the merit of being a good person and turning the other cheek.  We should be teaching our kids that our enemies only have power over us, when we give it to them.  Do we really need our kids to be micromanaged to the point of futility due to social conflict, just because the school district is afraid of being “bullied” by a parent who seeks the attention and sympathy of an entire school and administrative staff?

Stop stripping our kids of their natural conflict resolution skills and let them learn how to figure things out on their own.  With the exception of physical altercations, back off!  Stop sitting with these parents in the office for hours, or on the phone, trying to make them happy.  You can’t.  Every minute you give to an emotional “needy” parent you take away from teaching our kids… from investing in their education.

Stop catering to these “The Münchausen by proxy Bully Victim Syndrome” parents and focus on helping kids learn. 

The biggest difference you can make in the war on bullying is to identifying the kids who really need to be protected from being bullied… because chances are, they are the ones who won’t or can’t speak up for themselves, who won’t tell a teacher, and can’t stop it on their own. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Life on pause: Eliza's bedtime routine....

This is how we sleep.  Every night since she's been born.  She has a bed, she just doesn't sleep in it.

Can't you tell?  She looks awfully comfy.

Tony took this photo of us last week on his phone. I guess he thought we looked cute or something, lol, cause he sent it to me as a text message later that afternoon. We do look pretty cute, don't we?

Tony was probably being kind and pushed my snoring jaw closed for the photo-op, hahaha!  I totally snore, just like my dad did.  I'm surprised we look this peaceful since Leo is curled up in a ball at our feet and Marty snuck up on the pillow in Tony's place in our queen sized bed. 

She has to be touching me.  If she's not, her eye's pop open like one of those dolls that can open and close their eyes when you lay them down or sit them up. It's just like that, she's automatic.

She's still tiny enough to wrap her little arms around my neck to sleep.  She's still little enough to wear diapers. To suck on her beloved "didi" for comfort and when she's tired, and to cry for me when I leave to go anywhere without her. 

I have never prepared my heart to have my "last" baby... and I'm milking every minute of baby out of this girl, because for as far as I can tell she'll always be my baby, and for the first time in my life since I became a mother I think I'm okay with that... (and I can't believe I just said that.)

Take a minute to "pause" and enjoy right now.

I think "Life on Pause" might just become a theme on here every now and then.   What do your "paused" moments in life look like?