Bathroom wars

A few weeks ago I had an afternoon that was just with my son. After finishing our lunch in the food court I decided I needed to use the restroom before we moved on to our next destination.  I was pretty familiar with this mall, however it was apparent that they had just recently done renovations.  In the past there used to be a family bathroom, which I never used to give much thought to, but now as a mother I find it a necessity.  To my surprise however in the renovations done to the bathrooms the family bathroom was no longer there.  I had a fleeting moment of, “What’s too old to bring your son in the woman’s bathroom?” but quickly pushed it out as I was completely uncomfortable with the thought of Liam waiting outside the bathroom for me.  This mall in general was very popular with high foot traffic and this was lunch time so it was even busier.

1401x788-42-25816125I held Liam’s hand as we entered the ladies bathroom and there was a line.  He was excited I had just bought him a balloon shaped like Spiderman so he was completely engaged with that.  I heard a woman say, “Oh you are one of those,” but I didn’t really pay much attention at the time as I didn’t think it was directed to me.  A stall emptied and I brought Liam in.  At home we had instilled a privacy rule as Liam and Ava had been notorious for busting in on anyone who was in the bathroom.  Liam closed his eyes without me saying a word (to be quite honest I hadn’t given it much thought), and he said, “Mommy I am giving you privacy.”  I smiled and thought how considerate that was.  I quickly went and then we left the stall.  I directed Liam over to the sinks to wash my hands and that’s when it happened.

A woman came up to me and said, “So you are one of those.”  Completely dumbfounded by what she was talking about I said “One of who?”  She replied back, “Making a political statement by bringing your son into the opposite sex’s bathroom.”

In split seconds I felt like my whole body was on fire.  I was so angry I felt like I was shaking.  I must have given off some impressions because Liam asked, “Mommy are you ok?”

I don’t often get like that, but when I do I rarely hold back, and this case was no different.  “If by one of those you mean, a mother who would do or say anything to protect her five year old child, then yes I am one of those.  I have no political agenda I am trying to make, except being a good mother.  And by the way, if I had left my son outside to wait for me, I bet you anything you would be the first one to say, where’s his parent?  How dare you!”

I was so flustered, angered, and oddly mortified I grabbed Liam’s hand and stormed out of the bathroom.  It wasn’t until we got to the car and Liam asked me, “Mommy did I so something wrong,” that I realized he didn’t understand what was going on.  As I placed him in his car seat I tried to explain to him what had happened and he had done nothing wrong.  Just as I was backing out of the parking spot he said to me, “But mommy I don’t get it.  If the rooms (he called the stalls rooms) have doors why does it matter.  At home we all use the same bathroom and we shut the door.  How is it different?”

And while I again I am not trying to make any political statement in this entry, Liam does have a point.  I struggled to come up with an answer and yet nothing in my mind sufficed.  I think either side of this whole bathroom wars would have a response to his question, but me I am just mom.  I am just looking out for what’s best for him and always will.

Swiper the Fox

So for some time now my son has had a little nickname that we have given him of Swiper.  This derived from a character on Dora the Explorer who takes things from people.  Liam on a somewhat regular basis tries to swipe any lingering desserts on the table.  Ava has fell victim to this many times as she doesn’t eat them as quickly as he does.

A few nights ago in the madness of what I call dinnertime I was cleaning up in the kitchen when Liam said, ” Look Ava I am having the last bite of ice cream,” as he scooped up the last bite and put it in his mouth.  Irritated I slammed my hand down on the counter and yelled, “Liam!”  I couldn’t believe he did it again.  He stole Ava’s last bite of ice cream and was taunting her about it again.  Liam froze, his eyes bulging out at me.  He finally in a shaky voice replied, “Mommy this was my ice cream.”  Now I froze completely stunned.  I quickly replayed in my head the last five minutes of dinner and to my horror realized Ava had an ice pop and Liam had ice cream, he indeed did not steal her dessert.  Complete and utter remorse and self-deprecation washed over me.  At this point Liam’s lower lip was quivering and I felt horrible.  I quickly rushed to him and scooped him up in my lap.  I apologized profusely to him and tried to explain to him why I jumped to the conclusion I had.  As he calmed down in my arms a heavy albatross grew around my neck.

A little while later while Will and I were finishing cleaning up the kitchen I was discussing my plans for our garden and how we needed to go to Lowes the next day to pick up some materials.  Liam interjected into the conversation how he wanted to be with me tomorrow and just me for some mommy and Liam time.  My heart melted and I felt a little better about what had passed thinking that he had forgiven me.  Will and I quickly came up with an idea that when we got to Lowes we would split up, so Will would take Ava and I would take Liam to pick up the items.

The next day Liam, Ava, and I got in the car to meet Will at Lowes after he got out of school.  As we were pulling out of the driveway Liam said, “Now remember Ava you will go with daddy and I am going to go with mommy.”  Ava said, “No why don’t we all go together.”  Liam said, “No we can’t. I have to make mommy feel better about her mistake.” That is when my ears perked up.  Mistake, what mistake?  Today had been a relatively low conflict day.  “Liam what mistake did I make?” I asked.  “Remember yesterday mommy when you yelled at me because you thought I stole Ava’s dessert.  I knew you felt bad and you were hurting so I wanted to make it better.”

12305814_10208286065415264_490324964_nI could not believe what I was hearing.  For a moment I was completely shocked, but I had to shake myself out of that as we were driving down the road.  I was in awe on how insightful and thoughtful and empathetic Liam had been.  Even now as I type this out it astonishes me how forgiving and loving he was.  It’s unbelievable how sometimes the littlest actions, the simplest words can have the most profound impact.  Liam in that split second reminded me on how as wonderful and great, grand gestures are sometimes, it’s the purest, smallest moments that can have the lasting effect.

 

 

 

April Fools

1910209_154024821671_6591091_n14 years ago tomorrow my husband and I went on our first date.  I try to think back to that day, but it’s fuzzy in feeling and blurry in memory.  I do know I was very nervous, but excited at the same time.  If only I knew then that date would turn into the man who:

said, “I love you.”

who held my hand and calmed me during my worse semester of college.

who watched every performance I was in, in my college performance of, “The Glass Menagerie.”

who cheered and clapped when I graduated college.

who bent on one knee and asked me to marry him.

who responded with, “I guess we need to get serious about buying a house,” when I said I wanted to start a family.

who didn’t even blink when I brought two stray cats and a rescue dog into our home.

who was all in when I decided to be a surrogate.

who responded by saying, “I am not sure how we will do it, but we will make it work,” when I told him I did not want to go back to my former employer.

who said, “Take the job,” when I said I found a job that I liked, but it was a huge pay cut.

who said, “I will help you study for the GREs,” when I said I want to get m12283107_10208297833629462_1258260469_ny MBA.

It is for all those reasons and more, that when I think back to fourteen years ago even though it is fuzzy and blurry in my memory, I can’t help but get a little giddy.  One date, one evening, one choice led me to where I am today.  A happy, successful, fulfilled, loved wife, mother, and woman.

Mommy Is Going to Get a Bookbag

For some time now I have debated about going back to school.  My husband and I have had many talks about it, but in the end I have always decided not to go back.  Primarily because I was…am….too afraid of missing something with my kids.  Even so, there has been this gnawing ache in me to go back.  Quite frankly I have wanted to go back since I graduated.  Now twelve years later nothing has changed except that I am older.

I look at my sister-in-law and my cousin who are both young mothers and are in school.  They amaze me how they juggle it and make it work.  The funny thing is I think no matter what, if you really want something, you make it work, and you find the time.   I know it isn’t going to be easy.  I am not going to be able to snap my fingers and poof have more time, but I do think if it is important to make it happen.  I know that there have been times I missed things with my kids.  I didn’t get to see Liam give his first love in preschool the handmade card he made for her (but I did sit with him the night before while he made it).  I did not get to see Ava at her dress rehearsal for her recital last year (but I took her to every class, picture, and was there for the day of the recital).   I will always have time for the extra hug before I run out the door in the morning.  I will always be late to work to miss my kid’s holiday performance at school.   In the end the important thing is that I am always there for them.  Every night my husband and I end the night with our kids saying how much we love them and no matter what we will always love them.

MEME.jpgI know I can give myself the easy out on why not to go back to school and it would it be a valid excuse.  But here in lies the problem.  I want my kids to see their mom as a happy, fulfilled, ambitious, hardworking mom.   It took me a long time career wise to be in a place that I can say I am happy.  And while everyone’s definition is different on what fulfills them and drives them, for me it’s going to back to school.  So this momma in the next year besides writing in her blog, selling her Avon, going to work, and soaking up every moment with my kids and husband, will also be studying for the GRE’s.   No more excuses.  It’s time to hit the books.

 

 

 

The Art of Roughhousing

In the last couple of weeks the new game Liam and Ava like to play with daddy specifically, is wrestling. My husband roughhouses with them and they giggle, laugh, and eventually they tire out (which is key). It’s funny that they inherently know to go to daddy for this interaction.   They have never approached me and asked me to wrestle them. Although some people might warn that someone could get hurt I think that this is a very important process to go through.

Let’s face it when you are roughhousing every once in a while someone is going to get hurt. However, I can’t help but think that this might make them a little more resilient. Although there are times that I worry that it is getting too rough (and that is why they pick daddy over mommy) for the most part it teaches them to bounce back. Will is careful in his play and the kids always come back for more. Even though, this physical play can cause a few playoff-payoffbruises now and then, I think it outweighs the alternative of them being less active.

I also believe that roughhousing can help sharpen reflects. Kids have to think fast as they are rolling, pillow fighting, wrestling with dad. They are constantly changing their approach on how to defeat dad. Of course this is all done in good natured fun, but it still does take some problem solving skills to overcome him. This kind of play also teaches boundaries of what behavior is acceptable and not acceptable.

I am not a worthy competitor. Routinely as part of the game my husband drops the kids on their beds and they giggle with delight. The truth is I have tried to do this and my height on dropping the kids onto their bed is not as exciting as dad, who can lift them over his head. Daddy takes chances that either I would not do or physically are unable to do. Sometimes it is good to push pass the limit of normal active play just a little bit to be challenging and entertaining.

My husband is very involved in all aspects of Liam and Ava’s lives; however this is one specific activity that he just does with them. I think it is important that both Liam and Ava feel a bond between themselves and their father. In creating this bond, Liam and Ava will recognize that they each have a distinct relationship with their father in which it can develop into a very special parent-child connection.

I guess in short, if you are one of the many mothers who anxiously watch as a bystander as your kids and husband roll around and wonder is this ok? Consider what your kids might be getting out of it besides a few laughs and a good time with dad.

 

The Top Five Things I Learned While Traveling With Toddlers

  1. It isn’t about you anymore. The two little people in my world called the shots on this trip. When they were tired we took a break. We rode the rides they wanted to go on (even if it meant the same one five times in a row), and we looked at the stuff they wanted to look at. Both my husband and I went into this trip not only aware of this fact, but happily followed their lead.
  2. Vacation brings on a new meaning. When my husband and I vacationed prior to children we slept in late, got eggs benedict for breakfast, had drinks with dinner, and went to bed late after seeing the sights. With kids it’s the exact opposite. Early wake up calls, waffles for breakfast, sight seeing till naptime or a meltdown whichever comes first, and dinner that evitably involves using your fingers to eat it. It might not be fancy and no passport is needed, but I can’t remember the last time I had this much fun.
  3. Like so many other things in life, it is the small stuff that matters.  I was so eager to experience Sesame Place with the kids and they loved it. But then there is the unexpected excitement as adults we forget.   When we got to the hotel, Liam and Ava ran around excitedly checking it out. On the second day when we needed a break mid-day we drove back to the hotel and went in the pool. They were overjoyed. As adults we unfortunately don’t get too many first time experiences so we tend to forget what it is like, but Liam and Ava quickly reminded me how great it is.
  4. There are lessons to be learned even when you aren’t looking for them. Going to Sesame Place was quite frankly a slam dunk for toddlers. The atmosphere and the whole agenda is geared to them.  I had a woman a couple of months ago scoff at me since it was not an educational vacation. Now having experienced this I would argue with her it was an educational experience. Maybe it was not one that ended in learning to read or multiply, but my children were constantly put to the test in patience as they waited on lines to go on rides, share with children in some of the interactive stations, and try new things. It might not be a book education, but I think we under estimate the importance of an education in manners and courtesy.
  5. It is Family Fun Time.   It was non-stop, all day, all night family togetherness. Now is the time to create the strong foundation of family. If we can establish a close knit feeling now, even when the going gets tough in the teenage years, they will always know that we have each other’s back.
    Liam and Zoe at Sesame Place
    Liam and Zoe at Sesame Place

    IMG_0426
    Ava on the Merry Go Round

I am not going to lie; vacationing with toddlers is not easy. There were temper tantrums, accidents, and full out meltdowns (all which happened in public), but if you can roll with the punches and move past those moments you will discover so many wonderful things. I know that for the kids they had a great time, but for me and Will we created some memories I know we will remember fondly for years to come.

The Longest Day

End Alzheimer's
End Alzheimer’s

I am going to go off topic today to discuss an issue very near and dear to my heart.  Tomorrow is coined “The Longest Day” in the Alzheimer’s community.  This day honors the 44 million people living with dementia, their caregivers and their families.  Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States and the only cause of death among the top 10 in the United States that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed. Every 67 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s.

Sadly I became more aware about this horrifying disease when my grandfather was diagnosed with it many years ago.  To say that this disease is not only extremely frustrating and cruel but unfair would be an understatement.  My grandfather was an extremely fit man who until the disease progressed along too far walked several miles a day, rode his bike to pay his taxes, and did yard work.  For all his physical strength he had, he was mentally sharp as well.  An avid reader who read the newspaper daily and did the puzzles within them, declined to the point of being unable to balance the checkbook let alone read an article.  It is devastating to see someone deteriorate and change so dramatically.  Alzheimer’s disease changes not only the physical and mental capabilities but also the person’s personality.  For the loving and supportive family members who are left behind it is at times hard to see or even admit.

In early stages of the disease, people may experience personality changes such as irritability, anxiety or depression. In later stages, other symptoms may occur, including sleep disturbances; agitation (physical or verbal outbursts); delusions (firmly held belief in things that are not real); or hallucinations (seeing, hearing or feeling things that are not there).

What the disease robs from the person, it also robs from the surrounding family members and loved ones. As you slowly become a stranger to that person you have known all your life it becomes increasingly hard to bear. It saddens me to think how my grandfather really never got to know my precious Liam and Ava. They were robbed of a great-grandfather much too young.

GrandpaIn honor of my loving and wonderful grandfather, David Adley Hague, I ask you all to just become more aware of Alzheimer’s and the many faces it has.

 

 

 

Happy Father’s Day

By definition everyone knows what a father is, but that really does not do justice to what describes a father.  A father is someone who helps the mother through the nine months of pregnancy without ever complaining about it.  A father is terrified and thrilled the day his child is born.  A father is the one who changes diapers, helps with feedings, and hands the car keys to the mother when he can tell she needs to get out of the house.  A father is one who praises and celebrates the first words, first steps, potty training, and all of the other milestones and is excited about it.  A father is someone who comes home from work and immediately drops everything to find where the kids are hiding (even if it is the same spot as the day before).  A father is the one who is completely exhausted from a day at work, but still takes the kids outside to play.  A father is the guy in the suit who rushed from his job to see his kids in their sport.  A father is the one who every year takes his daughter to the dress rehearsal of her dance recital and tapes it (he also on the way home will take her for ice cream, as their little secret).  A father is the one who with mixed emotions of happiness and sadness will give his daughter away on her wedding day.

I am very lucky.  The father examples I described above are the fathers that are in my life.  My husband, father, and father-in-law are all constant suppliers of love and support.  It is not an easy job and often exhausting with little shown appreciation. Take time to thank the father (or father figures) in your life and know that every step of the way he was proud of you.  Happy Father’s Day!!!!

happy-father39s-day-to-all-you-great-fathers

 

I Hate the Word Hate

I read an article this morning regarding the Westboro Baptist Church holding a protest at the Wilson High School in Washington DC regarding the new principal being gay.  As I read the article and looked at the pictures that went along with it many thoughts came to mind for me.

First of all, no matter what side you stand on in this issue there is something extremely upsetting about children holding signs that use the word hate in it.  HATE.  The Merriam-Webster defines the word hate as:

a :  intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury

b:  extreme dislike or antipathy :  loathing <had a great hate of hard work>

Do kids really hate?  Or do we teach them to hate things?  Liam doesn’t have in his vocabulary the word hate.  I do not use that word nor do I like that word.  However he has told me he doesn’t like tomatoes .  He came to this on his own by trying it (an educated opinion).  On the other hand Liam has also told me he doesn’t like pork chops (which I have never made because I do not like them).  Since Liam has never tried it before I have to assume his aversion to them is because he heard me say I do not like them (a bias opinion).  I can’t help but wonder if these children “hate” a certain sect of people or is it because that is what they have heard so much.  There is something to be said in regards to the saying, “Little pitchers have big ears.”  So much of our children’s reactions and feelings about things are learned from watching how we respond to things.

I really really dislike snakes.  I am scared of them.  However, I have run into the situation twice now while on walks that we came across one.  I don’t want to teach Liam and Ava this fear, so as calmly as I could muster I let Liam and Ava take a look.  We are shaped by our surroundings and the experiences we have.  Without getting into a religious debate because that is not the point of this post, I can’t help but come to the conclusion hate is learned and is that not the opposite of what any religion would want?

I guess my whole point to this is we really need to be cognizant of the message that we are sending our children.  Without throwing out too many cliché lines, our future is based on the children of today and I for one would rather live in a future of tolerance and love than prejudice and hatred.

 

 

Parenting Through His Eyes

I will never forget the day that Will and I witnessed a child being slapped.  My body was frozen unable to react to what was unfolding before me.  Somehow I rallied and finally was able to calm my then boyfriend now husband down enough to take a deep breath.

First let me explain we were at the West Point annual 1812 concert.  It is a wonderful event full of great music and fireworks.  A couple of blankets in front of us sat a family; mom, dad, and son.  As we sat on our blanket enjoying the beautiful summer day, we were people watching when by chance our eyes landed in the same area.  I have no idea what transpired prior to it, but the father’s reaction was a full force smack across the little boy’s face.

I think I might have literally gasped out loud, however I quickly realized Will was already on his feet; his gut reaction taking over and wanting to do something.  I quickly rose myself and pulled Will’s arm, in the opposite direction to take a small walk.  It was in that very moment I knew exactly what kind of dad Will would be.

From the very beginning I knew Will was good with kids.  In college he was a lifeguard and spent much of his time playing with the children at the local park.  I have to be honest that was one of the things I fell in love with.  It came so naturally and unforced for him.  But now here in that moment at West Point I knew something else very important about him, no matter what he would never hit our child.

A lot of people have different views on what is acceptable discipline for their children; however an act of violence should never be one.  I never understood the theology of getting a child to behave through hitting.  It isn’t respect you are establishing through that, it is fear.  Your child might not do something again but it isn’t because they understand, it is because they are scared.  Some people do not care about the reason as long as the end result is the child does not act up again.  To me it is more important that my child understands why instead of living in fear.

It still haunts me today about that little boy. Was that an isolated incident (I tend not to think so since it was done so publicly)? Should we have done something? I myself at the time was scared to get involved and maybe we should have. I am no perfect parent by any means. I lose my patience and at times have to leave the room to calm down, but I know I will never ever strike my child to get them to listen, understand, or learn. The only lesson a child will learn from hitting is fear and I promise that is not a lesson you want your kids to live with.