Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My Thoughts on Tupperware and Other Home Parties

My OCD is *totally* becoming Out. Of. Control.Look how amazing junk food looks in these containers!

 Back in the day (which was a Wednesday, by the way), I did not enjoy going to home parties.  I also didn’t see the point of oohing and ahhing over vases and table settings at a bridal shower.

However, after oohing and ahhing over my own vases and table settings at my own bridal shower (almost nine years ago), I get it.  (I get it so much now, I am wondering why we don’t throw showers for milestones like ten year anniversaries.  Right?  Who’s with me on this one)?

In retrospect, I just didn’t understand the value of a home party.  When I was pregnant with Marie, I was pretty sure (and by pretty sure, I was 99.75% sure) that I didn’t want to teach.  I needed to find something else, a new beginning.

So I looked into selling Body Shop products at home parties.  This new beginning didn’t pan out (I’m not such a good sales person and the home party division disintegrated after the owner of Body Shop died).  However, besides a suitcase full of products and premium towels (that make the best cleaning rags EVER), I was left with the notion of how important it is for women to support each other in finding new beginnings.

Not only is it a chance to help women find a fresh start, a home party is the perfect time to get together with people that aren’t in my regular rotation (in which I always wonder why we don’t get together more often). I just threw a Tupperware party (with the best Tupperware lady in the whole wide world . . . and I’m not just saying that because we are related), and I was able to catch up with extended family that I rarely see and neighbors I want to get to know better.   It was fun to integrate my different social circles. 

I yearn for a sense of community that I feel is missing from suburbia, and I see this as a great opportunity to create it with people in the different areas of my life. Times have changed: Gone are the days when no one moved away from their families and everyone is still gathered together for birthday parties and weekly dinners.  It’s not like moms are getting together for coffee after the kids are at school. (At least not my neck of suburbia.  If your suburbia looks like that, let me know, I may want to move there).

So no longer do I roll my eyes, let out an exasperated sigh, and think of an excuse to get out of a home party.

I look at it as a chance to support someone’s new adventure, hang out with some friends, and chat over junk food and wine.

When’s the last time you went to a Tupperware party?  Have you recently hosted or attended a home party?  What do you think of them?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Past and Present: Making Peace with Full-Day Kindergarten

Reliving childhood: one of the best and worst parts about being a parent.

I feel all nostalgic for the times when, as a kid, I would watch Fragle Rock with a bowl of popcorn made from real kernels on a real stove with real vegetable oil.

I remember the not-so-cozy times when I was trying so desperately to fit in with hair that would not perm and not have a clue about how to tight-role my pants.

I think that when raising kids, it’s totally natural to revisit yours.  Some people want to give their kids The. Same. Exact. Childhood.  Others want the direct opposite.  (I, personally, am a health mix of both).

That’s what I see when people get all riled up by Full-Day Kindergarten (which has just been instituted by our school district.  I’ve written it about it here,and  here).

Kindergarten is not the same as it was thirty years ago.  Students are reading, and there is this phenomenon called sight words.  There are also weekly homework packets sent home, as well as projects galore.  It’s not learn a few letters, play for a while, have a snack, and maybe a nap.  Oh, no; they are taking care of business in Kindergarten.

When I talk about this new Full-Day Kindergarten with parents that are upset by this, I am able to infer that it’s because they long for the cozy feeling that they remember from Kindergarten.

But times change.  The world is changing, and so are standards.  I see that people are mad at the teachers for the changes and think that the kids are being pushed too hard.  (Believe me, teachers are not in charge of these changes.  And if you feel that your kids is being pushed too hard, then that teacher is feeling some big-time heat from the administration to come through with all these new standards).  (I have a lot to say about that.  Perhaps a post for another time).

I have to say that I am stuck somewhere in between wanting to curl up with my warm memories of show-and-tell days of Kindergarten and embracing the new Full-Day Kindergarten.  I really do want to fully accept this new way because my number one job as a parent is to make sure that my Babes are ready to be independent and sufficient members of society.  I don’t want them to be behind or hold them back from their full potential because my Kindergarten days were easy breezy and that’s the way it ought to be, damn it!

So I have come to the inevitable conclusion that my thoughts on this new Full-Day Kindergarten are totally and completely irrelevant.  Whether I like it or not, it’s happening.

I mean, it’s not like I don’t have a choice.  I could send Thomas to private school for a half day or enroll him in Pre-K.  (And things could change since he is not quite three yet).

But taking my emotions out of it so I can objectively look at each Babe and figure out what he and she needs: that’s my job.

Easier said than done, right?  Trying to take emotions out of parenting decisions is like taking salt out of the ocean: it’s so entrenched, you forget that they are two separate entities coming together to make one.

But isn’t that what parenting is all about?  Making best choices for our Babes without letting our fears and judgments and preconceived notions color their canvases before they show us who they truly are?

Well, that and having an excuse to watch Fragle Rock again, right?

What parenting decision are you struggling to come to terms with?


Thursday, February 16, 2012

What Do You Think Thursday with Skinny Scoop: Organic vs. Made in the USA

Running a household is not an easy job.  Yes, there’s lots of stuff to do (cleaning, laundry, organizing, pickups, drop offs, making appointments, having play dates, meal planning, cooking, grocery shopping), but it’s a whole lot harder when I attach research and emotion to these tasks.

I know.   I can hear you pondering: how and why is she attaching research and emotion to the most mundane tasks when she could be focusing more time on catching up with Watch What Happens Live on Bravo.   (Oh, wait.  That’s me again).

Although I won’t get into each task (maybe it’s time to go back to therapy), I am going to focus specifically on meal planning and grocery shopping.  These are totally emotionally charged tasks for me.

I feel this pressure to make sure My Babes are getting the best food that we can afford.  Here’s a sample monologue that goes on in my head while I am figuring out what to eat: Are they getting enough greens?  How about yellows and oranges?  Oh, wait; we can’t have pasta three nights in a row so let’s try quinoa.  They don’t like quinoa.  How can I jazz up brown rice?  And maybe let’s give kale another try.  Because I like to torture everyone in my family with health food.  It’s so rewarding to spend all this time meal planning only for everyone to hold out for a bedtime snack.

Seriously, I was a much happier person when I didn’t know about quinoa or kale.  I do believe I would be a much happier person if hot dogs were healthy.

When I get to the actual grocery store, I feel like am walking around trying to avoid traps with hidden high fructose corn syrup while trying to find solace with products made with whole wheat flour (not enriched wheat flour because that’s what the evil processed foods are made of).  I feel like I am doing a good thing by incorporating more beans into our diet only to find out that the cans are lined with BPA.


However this issue that causes the most emotional stress is buying organic or buying produce from the US.  Case in point: I was buying salad greens (the real green color, not my former favorite iceberg lettuce).  I could buy the organic from a neighboring country or the nonorganic from the US.   Or how about the organic frozen broccoli from China that you can get at Costco versus the nonorganic frozen broccoli from Mexico at Kroger?  And on a related note: how is it that I am forced to buy cucumbers and peppers from Mexico?  There is not one greenhouse in all of the United States that does not produce these two totally non-exotic vegetables?

And I’m afraid if I make the wrong choice, I can poison my family with either pesticides or E. coli.  (I still get all twitchy remembering the two different summers when tomatoes and spinach were tainted with E. coli).

So what do you think?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Reasons I *Heart* Valentine’s Day

I love Valentine’s Day.  I know some people get all uppity and cynical; they claim it’s a Hallmark Holiday.

I could not disagree more.

I am totally OK with a holiday that

A) Celebrates people I love.  It’s not that I need a holiday to do that, but there is something about this holiday that adds some fun and lightness to it.  Maybe it’s the fun décor or yummy treats without the stress of planning parties to accommodate everyone’s different and busy schedules.  It’s just fun.  (Side note: it’s not like we don’t buy presents and are nice to others only at Christmas.  Why does Valentine’s Day get the bad rap?)

B) Breaks up the monotony of winter. (Which has been especially monotonous with barely any snow and 47 days plus of sickness).

C) Revolves around eating chocolate in various forms.  Cupcakes, candy, whatever.  I love it.  (Except Hershey Kisses.  Ever since Thomas was born, that particular brand of chocolate tastes like dirt to me.  At first I was sad.  Now, I (and the scale) am totally fine with it).

Here’s the thing: I love holidays mostly because I love the tradition of it all.  It makes me feel happy and cozy.  I want The Babes to look back and say they had fun baking cupcakes and making cards.  I want them to remember eating their favorite meal (this year, it will be tacos) on the fun tablecloth. 

I have vivid memories of sitting around my kitchen table as a kid opening the Valentine’s card and some candy from my parents and brother.  Ordinary, yet special stuff.

Traditions, whether it’s shopping for Valentine’s Day stuff or baking Christmas cookies or eating pizza while we watch a movie together every Friday night, are what hold us together as a family. 

Hope you have a happy Valentine’s Day!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Edge of Civility – My Thoughts on Facebook

I love social media.  LOVE. IT.

Obviously, right?  I blog.  I use Facebook and Twitter to promote my posts and connect with readers.

I use Facebook to check in with my close (and not so close) friends and family.

To some, it might seem like I share everything, but that is not true.

As much as I love social media, I am old-fashioned girl at heart.  I still believe that a phone call is the best method to deliver important news to my inner ring of family and friends.

If I am close to you (or as I perceive to be close as in by law or by blood, which my perception might be the root problem), and I find out on Facebook that you are pregnant, a new mom, married, divorced, moving and/or dead, I will be upset.  Probably more like hurt since I have just found out in front of the whole internet that our relationship is totally not what I thought it was.

When it comes to important stuff like that, I still believe a courtesy call is best before making an announcement on social media platforms.  If I have a big personal announcement to make, I like to treat Facebook as a press release to my 170+ friends.  If it’s big and I perceive our relationship to be one that is close in nature, I will call you first to spare you the shock and/or humiliation that you “found out on Facebook.”

I just don’t think that the person I graduated from high school who I never talked to then but somehow are friends now should find out something personal at the same time and in the same manner as my mother, my close friend, or my husband.  

Social media is great, but boundaries and respect and, most of all, manners are essential.  I feel that the Over-Sharer or the Attention-Seeker or Cryptic-Message Sender abuse their Facebook right and are in breach of the common courtesy contract that we as all humans share. (Or should share.  Or what I believe is common courtesy.  Which again, my perception might be the real issue here).

Some people play it too close to the edge of civility where their social media updates are concerned.  It’s upsetting.  . .yet like a train wreck, I cannot look away.

So let me ask you this:

 Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Memories – A Rerun

Staying positive is important to me.  I work very hard at it. 

Very hard.

It’s not something that comes naturally to me.  Right before Christmas, I was on a good clip of love and light. 

I was working out, making good food choices, having fun with The Babes, and blogging.  Life was good.

And then January 1st of 2012 came and blew my positivity streak to bits.  In case you haven’t been reading in a while you can catch up with how the first forty-eight hours of 2012 rolled into one bad month.

I was staying all positive, believing that February would be when 2012 was going to start to turn around.

Not so.

This Sunday, I lost a very special uncle.  I am very saddened by this, and my heart aches for my aunt.

I am going to celebrate his life and honor my aunt’s courageousness in taking such good care of him by rerunning this post I wrote about them when they moved to Arizona.

I used to hate Change.  Not just hate, but detest Change, cringe whenever things were not the same.  If Change were a person walking down the street, I would avoid all eye contact and ignore it. 

After having kids, I’ve learned to accept change.  Because whether I like it or not, it’s going to happen.  So Change and I became like Facebook friends; acknowledging each other but not really committing to a real relationship.  Eventually that relationship evolved, and I would say Change and I are pretty friendly with each other.  Especially when Change means less sleepless night.

However, there are certain circumstances when I want to revert to my prior relationship with Change and look away when it comes near.

Like when my Aunt Nicki and Uncle Ned sold their house in Michigan to live in Arizona for six months.  I didn’t expect to become so emotional when I found out, but I did.  I have so many wonderful memories in that house.

Like the time when I was sixteen and home all alone overnight.  I thought I heard something, and they didn’t mind that it was midnight when I came over because I was scared.

I also learned to make golumpki (stuffed cabbage) from my grandmother’s recipe at her kitchen table.  I also gained a whole new appreciate for the effort put forth for our traditional Christmas entrée.

I will miss the Heritage Hallway.  There was a hallway filled with old pictures of my aunt and uncle’s family.  Whenever I would look at these photos, I felt connected to my family, especially my grandfather, who passed away long before I was born.

Aunt Nicki hosted my bridal shower at her house and worked together with my parents and other aunts and uncles to create a beautiful party.  And the next day, I went to Aunt Nicki’s house to visit with her and Aunt Karen.  I remember eating a giant bowl of cherries and just chatting with them.  Something so simple, but so memorable.

I also remember the time when Aunt Nicki and Uncle Ned came over to see me after Marie was born.  She made homemade chicken soup and chocolate biscotti.  A few weeks later, she helped me bring Marie, only six weeks old, to get an ultrasound of her head.

I remember feeling totally comfortable dropping Marie off so Aunt Nicki and Uncle Ned could watch Marie while I emptied out my former classroom with my Dad.  She was only 3 months old.

When Thomas was born, she came to see us and then dropped everything to watch Marie when there was a change in childcare plans.

I am not sure if Aunt Nicki and Uncle Ned know how much those moments mean to me.

It’s like this part of me and my family story is moving away, and it makes me sad.  When someone in the family network moves away, left behind is a gap.  I look back at all those important times in my life and realize the richness they have added to my life.

So instead of being sad because she won’t be in that home anymore, I am going to adopt a new saying.  Instead of saying, “Home is where the heart is,” I am going to change it to “Heart is home to our memories.”  

That house is not theirs anymore, but it doesn’t matter, because we all still have those memories with us.  They have done so many nice things for me and my family that I want to show my appreciation and support by cheering them on in this new chapter of their life.

Because that’s what family does.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


As you know, January has not been kind to neither me nor myfamily.  My poor Marie has hearing loss due to the horrible ear infection.  A rushed appointment to the ENT confirmed that it is not permanent.  She is not sleeping well.  She is emotional.  If I was sick for over thirty-two days, I would be a basket case, too.

Poor Thomas has a cold that won’t quit (and I am keeping my fingers crossed it doesn’t cause the fluid in his ears to become infected).

And that’s just what is going on under my roof.  Never mind the roofs of my family.  But that’s for another time.

I am overwhelmed. 

I am frustrated.

I am sad.

Motherhood. Is. Hard.

 Raising kids can be extremely isolating both logistically (like when they are sick and no one wants your icky germs) and philosophically (like when people don’t always share the same sentiments on behavior or kindness).

But lurking out there, in the places I least expect it and even under my own nose, I think I found some of my tribe members.   

I am rerunning this post because it serves as a reminder that I am not alone (neither online or in real life) in my philosophy of raising good people. 

Have a great Thursday!


On Raising Boys

Three years ago, I cried when I learned that I was pregnant with a boy.

Not tears of joy.  Tears of fear.  I was afraid that I would not know how to raise a boy.  Afraid that Marie would never be close to her brother and would feel alienated as the only girl among her brother and all-boy cousins.  Fear that our family would be divided as the boys went with the boys and the girls went with the girls.

In addition to all these fears swirling around my head, *everyone* was telling me just how challenging raising a boy would be.  Family and friends would go on and on and on about how easy I had it with Marie and how hard it was going to be with a boy getting into everything. 

After the initial shock, I analyzed each fear and found the root was within my own experiences.  I have had a tumultuous relationship with my own brother, and I often felt left out because my boy cousin and brother were so close.  In Harrington’s family’s, the boys went to hockey with the boys, and the girls stayed home.

After I wrapped my mind around these fears, I resolved that these experiences, though mine as I was growing up, are not my family’s destiny.

As soon as I laid eyes on my little boy, I fell in love. I felt all those magical, lovey feelings that everyone talks about, but I had never experienced (Marie’s birth was so traumatic).  As my son’s personality emerged, I could see that he was both more assertive and more vocal than Marie.

Now at two and a half years of age, his tantrums are Off. The. Charts.  My patience has reached its edge, as they say in yoga, and I understand how a parent can become unglued and yell at their toddler. 

But I am trying to find the strength to shelve my first reactions so that I can teach him a more positive way to express his emotions.  I want to nurture his fiercely independent spirit. 

But this route of emotional literacy?  Is far from being easy.  And sometimes it can be a lonely path. Fortunately, I met The Mother Company this year at BlogHer.  I did a review awhile back about their show, Ruby’s Studio, which helps parents teach emotional literacy.  I was happy to find a partner in the philosophy of raising good people.

As I struggle to maintain my cool in these intense situations, I try to remember it’s all a series of moments.

Thomas’s last two-minute time out seemed like an eternity. He kept getting off his marker and yelling at me that I was a bad mommy for turning off the TV.  There were a lot of moments in those two minutes.

I was angry and hurt.  And it took work not to react. 

After the time out, I explained it’s OK to be mad.  I told him that he can say, “I feel frustrated.”  I made sure to say that it’s not OK to say you hate mommy; we practice kindness.

Once we settled down for a story and cuddle time before a nap, I said, “It is hurtful when you say you hate your mommy.  Can you tell me what it looks like to practice kindness?”

Thomas said in a serious voice, “I don’t like taking naps.”

 I felt the clouds parted and heard a choir of angels burst into song!  A year of my practicing kindness mantra may have finally clicked!

I replied that it must be frustrating to have to do something you don’t want to do, but taking naps is part of being healthy and strong.  And he seemed OK with that.

I am hoping that he felt heard because it is my belief that teaching emotional literacy means practicing empathy.  I believe that people, regardless of age, just want to be heard.  I know that when I feel heard in a disagreement, I feel less defensive and more willing to be empathetic.

I am also not going to accept some antiquated standard that “boys will be boys,” implying bad behavior is accepted. 

Boys have emotions, and emotional literacy is not gender specific.  It is human specific. 

It’s my job as his mother, a job both frustrating and infinitely rewarding, to raise this person, tantrums and all. 

But after the glimmer of hope that shone through today, I feel that I can move forward with a bit more confidence.

So tell me; what are your thoughts on raising people?