Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Right to Vote

Happy Election Day! It always feels like a bit of a holiday to me. I like the every four year tradition of standing in line, proving who you are, and then exercising your right to have a say in who leads this great country of ours. Growing up I was taught that if you do not vote, you have no right to complain and that forsaking your right to vote when so many fought before you to ensure you this very right was wasteful and disrespectful. Standing with the masses makes me feel like a part of the system and proud to be an American. 

Bryan and I have been looking forward to being able to walk to our Polling Place and to taking our daughter with us. Although we frequently (but not always) stand on separate sides of politics, we stand together in striving to teach our daughter to be independent, thoughtful, and well-educated. Learning early on that going to vote is a normal and responsible part of life is a part of this process. 

We walked through the leaves on this beautiful November morning and arrived at the neighborhood elementary school to a surprisingly long line (we purposely went later in the morning but were happy to see so many people out there voting). After 25 minutes, a volunteer asked if anyone was interested in using a paper ballot because there was no wait to do so. We turned down the offer and I continued to try and entertain our antsy almost three year old with pictures on my phone. 20 minutes later when they offered again, we raised our hands because our snacks, stories, and phone pictures were losing their shine. At first I was disappointed because it seemed antiquated and I was worried about how it would be counted (not to mention that there is camaraderie in that line!). However, it turns out that if you use the paper ballot, you sit down at a table and your darling girl can crawl in your lap. While quietly answering her questions about the ballot, I filled it out with my arms reached around her and it hit me. Women in this country have only been able to vote for less than a hundred years. 1920 was really not that long ago but there I sat easily exercising my right and teaching my daughter to do the same in the future.  Just imagine the possibilities that could be reality when it is time for her to teach this important lesson to her own children. Happy Election Day, indeed!

P.S. Not to worry, if you fill out the paper ballot, you then scan it into a machine. My visions of it being dropped in a cardboard box never to be seen or counted again were for naught.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Where does the time go?

Tomorrow is Teagan’s last day of preschool for the year. To be honest, I am not sure who is going to miss it more – me or her? She has LOVED every second of her Tuesday and Thursday mornings. I have LOVED having a moment to myself to accomplish things around the house, run errands, or just take a minute to use the restroom by myself.

I am truly in shock that the year has gone by so quickly…it does not seem possible that it was nine months ago that I came home after dropping her off and cried all alone on the couch. It also does not seem possible that it was an entire year ago when I was worrying if preschool was the right decision for her. I was worried that she was too young and that it was pushing things too quickly. It turns out that she was the youngest in her class by four months (which made her the youngest in the school) but that was never a problem. According to her teachers, she always “held her own beautifully.” Turns out she was ready…even if I was not. (She is nothing if not an independent little creature which can be awesome but also annoying. No crying when mommy leaves the building? Hooray! Demanding to do every.single.thing “by myself”? Not so much.)

While I will miss my little breaks twice a week, a tiny part of me is happy to have her all to myself again for a few months. Summer is my favorite season and there is much to look forward to – the beach, Michigan, July 4th, joining the pool, going for ice cream, chasing lightening bugs, going to the library to spend the hottest afternoons reading stories, running around the playground, and just letting her be a little kid. I am looking forward to enjoying the slow nature of summer that is caused by the heat and extra daylight. Because if this year has taught me anything, it is that time goes by much faster than I ever thought possible!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Spring Break: The French Edition

There were so many reasons not to go. The two main ones were money and our two year old. However, if I have learned one thing in my 32 years it is this – when dear friends invite you to stay in a chateau in France, you go. You figure out the finances, you find child care (thank you grandparents!!!), and you book your flight. Not necessarily in that order.
Upon arrival at Charles de Gaulle airport (I am certain Dante was thinking of this airport when he was exploring the levels of hell, however, that is another post altogether), we got our rental car and headed to the day hotel we had booked to try and become human again before the two hour drive to our destination. A nap, a shower, and a burger later, we were off. Once outside the Paris city limits, I could feel the stress of daily life, trip planning, and airplane travel melt away. I started car dancing (a sport at which I excel) to French pop music, Bryan looked at me and said, “There she is! There’s my wife!” And it was true. I felt like me for the first time in awhile. Probably longer than I care to admit to you or myself.

I spent the week drinking wine, drinking champagne, sightseeing, exploring small towns, jumping on the trampoline, looking at the stars, talking with friends, staying up late, speaking (well, trying) French, hanging out with my husband, eating delicious food, laughing, and taking more pictures than I thought imaginable. In short, it was Grown Up Spring Break and it was divine.

While at the Chateau, so many fun memories were made and life lessons were learned…here are my top six (yes, I did try to keep it to five…). Patrick, take a note!

1)      I can still rally. I can stay up until 6:00 am, get a few hours sleep, and then go drool over amazing stained glass that was created before America was even a thought. This may be an ability I only possess in France, however, it is still in there.

2)      Good friendship is hard to find and should be celebrated. Honestly, people who will sleep next to you on the floor, huddle together in the dark and cold on a trampoline, or stay up until 9:00 am because it seemed like a good idea at the time deserve a freaking parade! This trip made me realize I need to make more time with my friends. Really, is anything better for the soul than a glass of wine and awesome conversation?

3)     It is so easy to become entrenched in everyday life that you can forget you really like to just hang out with your spouse. Getting away from reality lets you remember why you fell in love, how funny your husband really is, and that there is nobody else you would rather be entrenched with back home.

4)     The French do food on a whole other level than we do. I want to eat like a French woman not just because it is better for you, but because it is also more enjoyable. This is a goal I am still pursuing.

5)     When you get locked in a beautiful cemetery because you are too interested in the iron crosses and dates that went back to the French Revolution, don’t panic. There is a back entrance.

6)     In life, you have to take chances. Fun isn’t going to seek you out while you sit on your couch and worry about the things that could go wrong. I was so worried about leaving Teagan for ten days but everything was fine. Sure, I missed her but she had quality time with her grandparents and Bryan and I were responsibility free for ten days which made us better parents when we came home.
After a glorious six days in the countryside, we then spent three nights and two days in Paris (with a quick detour through Versailles because the fountains were on and I have wanted to go back since the first time I saw them. And yes, I want to go back again so if you are looking for a travel buddy, you know who to call!). Among many things, we ate crepes in the morning next to a fountain in the Tuileries Garden, went in Notre Dame and got palms on Palm Sunday, ate croque monsieurs, took a river cruise on the Seine near sunset, walked forever to see the Eiffel Tower lit up at night, followed tradition and put a lock on a bridge to signify our love, “geeked out” over the French Revolution, bought watercolors from a street artist, and on the last night we had dinner at a delightfully small restaurant with 9 of our travelling friends. To me, there is no better city than Paris. Paris invites you to spend 30 minutes with your feet up enjoying the sun next to a fountain. Paris wants you to eat yogurt out of a glass jar and wash it down with bottled water that is somehow softer. Paris expects you to walk miles and miles each day in order to explore some of the most beautiful art and architecture. In short, Paris knows how to live.

We have been back for two weeks and the vacation hangover was rough at first (especially combined with a two year old who was not so pleased with me for having been gone). To console myself I have looked at pictures, bought Nutella, and laughed about stories from the trip. But you know what I really want to do? Plan the next adventure!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Clothing Conundrum

I no longer own grown up shoes. I came to this realization a few weeks ago when I was unable to find a single pair of simple black heels in my closet. Ballet flats? Check. Flip Flops? 5 pairs. Strappy party shoes? Yep. Heck, I even own cowboy boots. However, there is no sign to be found on my closet floor that I used to dress nicely on a daily basis.
This shoe realization brought to light my most recent fashion inspired dilemma (Lord knows I have been having these since I was 12 years old…you would think that I would have it together by now) – what in the world is an early-thirties-stay-at-home-mom-that-coaches-cheer-on-the-side supposed to be wearing? Believe me, it is tempting to wear yoga pants everyday. After all, they are comfortable and some even manage to make your butt look good. (By the way, when did yoga pants become a real term? I admit that I do not practice yoga. Ever.)  And let’s talk about “mom pants” for a minute – while I hate that name, you all know what I am talking about…pants in an unfortunate material and even less fortunate cut. It was a horrifying moment in the dressing room the other day when I turned around and realized that I was wearing the dreaded “mom pant.” In my defense, they did not look like “mom pants” on the hanger and I certainly did not buy them. This type of deceit MUST be why women actually purchase these pants because they certainly do not do your figure any favors. Nobody needs the button on their pants to come that high or the hem to be so short.  
I am only 32 – workout and ugly pants cannot be the only options left for me. To be honest (and to not be overly dramatic), there ARE days where I think I manage to put myself together but it is definitely more of an effort than it used to be. Because here is the catch – I feel like I am stuck in a clothing middle ground. Way too old for clothes that teenagers and college kids are wearing but way too young for a lot of what I see out there. In addition, I currently don’t need professional clothes. I need everyday clothes that are stylish but can serve double duty and weather the playground and playdough. My current dream is to have a closet full (or not so full really…there is a lot to be said for simplicity) of clothes I can throw on and feel good about. Clothes that remind me that a tiny part of my 24 year old self is still floating around…even if she is sleep deprived (and not because she had one too many drinks and danced the night away).
My first step is to get rid of some stuff – the clothes that no longer fit correctly, are no longer in style, or I no longer like. While there is satisfaction in purging, the second step is a lot more fun – buy some new stuff that makes me feel happy to wear NOW.
I plan to use the preparation for an upcoming trip as the time to start this mission. The clothing I can fit in my suitcase is the perfect microcosim for wardrobe tweaking. Vacation clothes often have to serve many purposes – sightseeing one day and dinner the next which is exactly what I need from my clothes at home (well…maybe not sightseeing and dinner but playing with my daughter and an occasional night out with my husband come to mind). I have squirreled away a few things I have bought to save for the occasion and still need to find a few others. And let’s not forget, vacation means requisite picture taking which is the perfect time to pull yourself together just a little more.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Parenting -- the good, the bad, and the vomit...

When I was pregnant, I pictured all of the wonderful things my daughter and I would do together. My mind was full of first steps, cuddles during story time, baking together, dance classes, prom dresses – you know, lovely Hallmark moments. I cheered for her like a crazed twelve year old at a New Kids on the Block concert when she walked at 11 months. We cuddle daily for many stories (some of which she and I have both memorized) and I love to bake her favorite blueberry muffins with her as my trusted sous chef. However, there are many moments I did not imagine and these are the moments that I have come to believe define being a parent. Motherhood is not spun in pink tulle and is certainly not glamorous. Some examples…
My daughter is not a great sleeper, however, she recently moved to a big girl bed and slept through the night for two solid weeks in a row. Two solid weeks of beautiful and uninterrupted sleep. This was a record and my husband and I were finally seeing the light at the end of a very sleep deprived tunnel. Well, we definitely counted our sheep before they hatched because after a terrible nightmare, she became terrified of her room (honestly, who wouldn’t be scared after dreaming about your sound monitors attacking your beloved penguin humidifier?). After much coaxing and lots of convincing, she ventured back to her bed. Bryan and I high fived our awesome parenting skills and then two days later she got sick. I’m talking double ear infection, screaming at night, can’t sleep, sick. Ugh.
Speaking of being sick, in the past three weeks, I have been sneezed upon, coughed upon, and thrown up upon. The best was when my husband just stared at us on the bathroom floor after she threw up in my lap. Just stared at us. For any of you that may someday find yourself in this position, fetching a towel is a nice gesture. In Bryan’s defense, he said that he was waiting for “direction.”
As a grown up, I frequently have ear infections but after three in six months, it was suggested I see an ENT. He asked many questions, reviewed my file, and thoroughly examined my ears and nose. After finding nothing out of the ordinary and declaring that I have excellent eardrums, he asked if my daughter was in daycare. I answered that she attends preschool two mornings a week and has since September. Six months ago. Yep, you guessed it. The lovely germs she is bringing home with her are causing my congestion and subsequent ear infections. Awesome.
I have also found myself doing things around the house that I never imagined. I now routinely vacuum the coffee table because it is the most efficient way to pick up all of the cheerios, pieces of play dough, broken crayons, and other miscellaneous debris. Our mantle looks like the holding ground for the world’s lost and misplaced objects because it is the highest spot to stash items out of Teagan’s reach. On that note, I frequently find strange objects in my purse while out and about – one stray sock, Minnie Mouse’s shoes, a broken barrette. I can only imagine what the sales people think of me while digging for my wallet when Teagan is not with me to prove my ownership over these items is not the beginning stages of hoarding.
But you know what? There is beauty in the sleep deprivation, vomit, ear infections, and random objects because they are real. They are the foundation and substance of daily life as a parent and it would be a shame to miss out on so much. Plus, I still have dance classes and prom dresses to look forward to.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day Redefined

For those of you that hate Valentine’s Day, I am here to tell you to RECLAIM and REDEFINE it! It is NOT a day about overpriced flowers, crowded restaurants, and jewelry boxes. It is NOT a day to be enjoyed only by those in romantic relationships. It IS a day to unabashedly celebrate LOVE. Family love, friendly love, neighborly love, love for your pets, love for yourself – well, you get where I am going.  
After a rough start involving an incredibly cranky toddler, a trip back to preschool to deliver a forgotten hat, and one killer headache, this is my plan for the day…I will bake brownies for my husband because they are his favorite (if you are reading this, please politely feign surprise). I will pack a special lunch for my daughter and enjoy seeing the obligatory pink hearts through her fresh and admiring eyes. I will reach out to friends and let them know how happy I am they are part of my life. I will deliver small surprises to our neighbors to thank them for being so welcoming and kind this past year. I will remember how patient my cat is with my curious baby girl and let her sit in my lap for an extra few minutes. I will treat myself to a small cup of pear sorbet made by hand at a bakery I just discovered near our house.
Could I do these things on an ordinary Tuesday? Sure (and perhaps I should). But I am a sucker for a holiday and Valentine’s Day is a great reminder to appreciate and celebrate ALL of the love in my life. I urge you to do the same and would love to hear about it.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Short and Sweet -- Lessons for My Daughter

My husband says, “Parenting is a full contact sport around here.” And he’s right. Parents spend so much time worrying and competing over stupid stuff. Cases in point…
Am I pushing the right stroller? Ummm…does it have wheels? Is your child comfortable and willing to spend more than two minutes strapped into it? Does it have a cup holder? If so, you are probably good.
Is my infant enrolled in enough enrichment classes? Full disclosure: Yes, I admit that my daughter and I did Itsy Bitsy Yoga BUT it was an awesome way for to me to acclimate to taking her out of the house by myself and I frequently used some of the techniques in the real world to successfully calm her down. Plus, I met two amazing moms that I still spend time with…okay, maybe I should not pick on the infant classes. Although, I stand by my stance that six month olds do not need art appreciation.
Why doesn’t my child sleep according to the schedule in the book? Maybe if you leave the book open for your child’s perusal during tummy time, they will pick it up.
Will my toddler’s preschool prepare her for an Ivy? All I am looking for is a safe and comforting place for her to get a little bit of socialization, play outside, sing some songs, and make a few crafts. Plus, the few hours twice a week help keep me sane. Everybody knows that a happy mom makes for an even happier family!   
I have only been at this mom gig for a little over two years but I am sure it just gets more intense from here. This area is full of highly educated, driven, and successful people, therefore, it should not be surprising that everyone wants their children to attend the very best schools (even if it costs $35,000 a year), be on the most competitive athletic teams, and go on to prestigious universities. With all of this nonsense in the air, it could be easy to lose sight of what is really important. With this in mind, I have been giving two questions a great deal of thought this week: 1) What do I want to pass on to my daughter? 2) What do I consider the truly important lessons? This is a work in progress but here is what I have come up with so far. Short and sweet -- much like my lovable toddler.
Use your manners. “Please” and “thank you” are a few of the words that keep our society from completely spiraling out of control. Do your part – yes, even at two years old. 
Make good choices. The popular one is rarely the best option.
Books are your friend. Losing yourself in the pages of a good book is one of life’s sweetest pleasures.
Relationships with friends and family can sometimes be hard work – do not be scared to put in the effort.
Fight for your own happiness. Nobody else can do it for you. (Ignore the people that say going after happiness is a silly pursuit. They will get it one day.)
It is not a bad idea to always have a snack with you. You never know when your blood sugar will need a pick me up. Plus, you will be able to share it with others and sharing your snack with a hungry friend will make it taste even sweeter.