10 Life Lessons I Want My Children To Learn

PAY ATTENTION. The world has a lot of offer you. From the vast unknown out in the universe to right in your backyard. Your father has lived a very interesting and diverse life. He has so many talents to teach you if you pay attention. He’s an expert carpenter and handyman. He’s my modern-day McGyver and has a lot of tricks up his sleeve that will save you a lot of money down the line before you call a repair man. He will teach you how to install a Wood Stove, chop wood and save your future family thousands of dollars in heating bills down the line. He can fix that squeaking sound on your washing machine and even teach you how to build a deck or an entire house, if you want. He’s done it all. He also holds a degree in Business and History and can teach you in the importance of investing your money wisely, as well as how to learn from the world’s past mistakes so that we don’t repeat history. He has a vast knowledge in hunting, survival skills and raising animals on a farm. As a former police officer, he is an expert marksman and knows all the rules and regulations of the law. Ask him questions. Use him to learn, and pay attention.jeff-working

RESPECT & KINDNESS. Respect and kindness will get you farther in life than you may ever realize. Speak to authority with respect. When I got my license my father’s only advice was to be as respectful as possible to fellow drivers, and especially law enforcement. If you happen to ever get pulled over, you should always use the words “Yes Sir/Ma’am” when addressing a police officer. Same goes with teachers and anyone in an authority position, as well as  anyone are not on personal terms with, especially elders. You’ll be surprised where it gets you. 

Respect women. Always remember that “No” means “No”. Alternatively, don’t let anyone force into doing something you don’t want to do either. The first time you meet your girlfriend’s parents, make sure to offer a strong handshake, look them in the eye, and call them Sir, Ma’am or Mr. & Mrs. Wait until they correct you and invite you to call them by their personal name. Until then, stick with the formal Mr.& Mrs.  The first time I met your grandparents, they immediately stopped me in my tracks and said “Oh please, don’t be silly, call us Bev & Lou.”  Your father, on the other hand, is still calling my father Mr.Devaney, because even after ten years, he has never offered your father to call him by anything else. Life is funny. People are funny. You’ll figure out what makes people tick by using these respectful tricks, and in turn, gain their respect.

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS. Even though you should be respectful to law enforcement, my father reminded me that it is your right to not give consent to let them to search your car. You have the right to refuse.  This may end you up in more trouble down the line, but you do have the right to refuse.  Your dad can help clarify this for you.  You also have the right to say no to anything at anytime to something that makes you feel uncomfortable. If you find a time where someone is doing something or speaking to you in a way that makes you feel weird, you can say NO. It’s OK. I make this promise to you…you will never get in trouble for saying no to something you don’t feel is right. Your father and I will have your back no matter what.  When you get older, and find yourself in a situation that suddenly becomes too much, I give you full authority to use me as a scapegoat. “No, I can’t smoke that pot with you… my mom will drug test me.” Make me the bad guy, I don’t care.  Then call me, and I’ll be happy to play whatever “mean mom” role you need me to play in front of your friends to get you out of that situation… I don’t care if it’s 3 in the afternoon or 2 in the morning.  I have your back. The teenage years are tough; this way you can save some face, get out of a bad situation and blame me.  (I have a secret to tell you… I don’t give a shit if your friends like me… especially any so-called friends trying to make you do something that you don’t want to do.)  While on this topic, Here is a tiny little tip… I was a teenager once as well… and my underage drug and alcohol detection skills are KILLER. Don’t believe me? Try me. Don’t forget this. Oh yea, and your dad was a cop… if you think my detection skills are on par… he is the King. I wouldn’t test us.

FAMILY LOYALTY. Your family should always be top priority; whether you are 10 years old or 56. Life goes by in the blink of an eye.  At the end, all you will have will be your family by your side. Treat them well, and they will treat you well. Stand up for your siblings. Protect your siblings. Watch out for each other in life, in school and later on in life. You will need each other at different times in life. Be there for each other, without question.  Visit family members in the hospital, send cards of encouragement and make an effort to call your parents and grandparents. One day, you will meet someone who you fall deeply in love with and decide to spend the rest of your life with. Treat them with respect and treat them kindly. They will be your best friend, your ally, and will most likely be there for you during the most difficult and elating moments of your life. Don’t spend more time working than with your family.  Your children won’t remember the times you weren’t home, but they will remember those bedtime stories you read to them, the snuggles, the hugs and the words of encouragement you offer them.  Genuinely apologize when you mess up; really mean it, and make an attempt not to do it again.  Be good to your family… even when it is hard to be. Disagreements will come and go, but the cornerstone of all relationships and family is LOVE. Always bring it back to love.

LOVE.  This is simple. Do what you love, find someone you love, act out of love, and love will come back to you. When you’re married one day, a simple act of love may be helping your spouse wash the dishes. It’s as easy as that.  I’m jumping the gun a little, and before I get away with myself , when the time comes, I’ll share some mama knowledge with you… the cliché saying “Happy Wife, Happy Life” is true. Learn to cook. I will teach you. Learn to do your own laundry. I will teach you that too… ask your wife if she needs anything from time to time. THIS, my friends is the secret to a happy marriage. Appreciating each other and helping each other out with acts of love. Do this, and you’re golden.  You will thank me one day for these words of advice.

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SELF AWARENESS. Throughout your life, you are going to continually change. I am watching my little boys play with logos, dinosaurs and trucks right now.  In a few years, you will be onto new interests… then you’ll become a teenager and have an entirely new set of interests. I look at myself, and almost don’t recognize the person I was in college. (My wise cracking sarcastic attitude was and will always remain with me), but I have little interest in the life I lived then than I do now.  It’s alright to change.  Just make sure you stay true to yourself.  Deeply ingrained in you are a set of morals and values that will lead you in the right direction. Listen to those voices, deep down inside and make sure that regardless of what your interests may be at the time, you are always following the right path.

SAFETY. I don’t have much to say in this area. This topic is complex because you are so young now, but you are growing up so quickly.  For now, don’t run in parking lots without holding my hand. Cars can’t see your tiny chubby bum and I’d hate to see something bad happen.  As you get older, protect yourself. I’m going to leave most of the Birds and the Bees to your father later on… but I’ll be on the other side of the door to make sure to interject if I feel the need to. CAR SAFETY.  This is hilarious, seeing how I am quite possibly the worst driver in the world, but actually, none of my safety tips have to do when the car is even in motion.  Maybe it’s my city upbringing, maybe it’s the fact that I am a female and girls are told these things more often than boys, or maybe I’ve seen too may mob movies…. but here is the low down with the car.  When out at a mall or shopping place, I instinctively always try to park as close to the door as possible. Your father assumes this is because I am lazy. Contrary to what he thinks, it’s a ingrained defensive mechanism within me. When you return to your car, you don’t have to walk with a million bags in your hand, in a dark mall parking lot, distracted, trying to find your car.  Exit the store, look around for any shady characters and get to your car as soon as possible.  Don’t text, don’t get distracted and pay attention. Now here is where my city girl and female upbringing is really going to sound a bit crazy. Use your common sense. Before entering the car, check the back seats. Check under the car, get in, and lock the doors. Like I’ve said, I’ve seen too many mobster movies to NOT check the backseat of my car before getting in. (I’ve also been diagnosed with Anxiety and OCD, so this may have something to do with my car routine haha)- regardless… listen to your mama and just do it please.godfather-goodfellas-scarface-560

BE A LEADER. Don’t be a follower.Don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself and speak your mind. This doesn’t mean to bully people into believing your ideas, but offer them.   Don’t feel pressured to the “coolest kid”… I’ve learned after many years in High School and College that many of the “cool kids” later in life end up to be deadbeat balding men. Be your own person, a good role model, try your hardest at everything you do, and I promise you will succeed.  Believe in yourself.

REMEMBER THAT MOM & DAD HAD A LIFE BEFORE YOU. You are without a doubt, the best thing that has ever happened to us, but we weren’t the boring old parents you see now. We were silly, crazy and always had a good time.unnamed

It’s important for us to spend time together…alone; to go on dates together and spend quality time with each other. The stronger our marriage is, the stronger our family will be. And remember….we always come home after a night out… and the first thing we do is go into your rooms and kiss you goodnight. We both love you from the bottom of our hearts.

DON’T EVER FORGET HOW MUCH WE LOVE YOU. We absolutely love you from here to the moon and the back…. and we always will.moon

 

A Woman To Remember

It’s funny how life works out. Sometimes something tragic can turn into the biggest blessing. Today marks the 15th Anniversary of my grandmother’s passing. Born in 1921, she would have been 96 today. She lived through the Great Depression and was in her twenties when brave soldiers stormed the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944. She witnessed the Atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagaski a year later. 

She raised four children: 3 boys and 1 girl;  as television sets entered American homes, JFK was shot, the first man landed on the moon, and Martin Luther King Jr was killed. She survived the 60’s with teenagers, and was either cool enough (or clueless enough) to let her 17 and 13 year old attend Woodstock. (Her 11yr old begged to go but she said he could go “next year”). 


Reverting back to how a tragic situation can sometimes turn into a blessing is that my Grandmother, Grace Strachan; a young girl in her twenties before all of this, was engaged to one of those brave boys who went to war to defend our country. She was broken hearted I’m sure, when he did not return. This young man, who I do not know by name, changed the course of my life. He gave up his, defending our country and led my grandmother onto a different path. Without this sad course of events, I would not be here. There would be no 4 children to raise, and no one to debate over concerts with in 1969.

My Grandmother graduated from Mt.Holyoke College in 1943. This single fact is amazing. At the time, 3.8% of the American women were college educated. Can you believe that?! Throughout her time in college, until the day she died; she served as Class President. She met and married a college educated Dentist (who had also served in WWII), a decent and sweet man, who swept her off her feet and gave her the new last name of Arnold. From then on, they were Johnnie & Gracie- inseparable.


Despite her college education, my grandmother was a proud housewife, who was happy to stay at home to raise her four children…. and discipline them when they needed it, as well. 

A favorite family story is that when my uncle John was in jr high and Uncle Bob was still in elementary school, they had walked to the Jr High to see a basketball game. On their way home, John & Bob, and a few friends started some mischief with grocery carts at the parking lot of the grocery store. When the cops came all the older boys got away and the little 5th grader Bob got his ass hauled to the Police Department. They called my grandmother, who went right down and without any explanation went right in and smacked the crap out of Bob. When the Chief tried to explain the situation, she asked to use the phone. She called my grandfather who was home with John, who had innocently just walked in the door. My badass grandmother told her husband to tell John to wait for her… and to take his glasses off. She meant business. She promptly went home and clobbered him for leaving his little brother on top of causing mischief. As a mother, she didn’t take any shit. 
We recently found a letter, dated midnight in the winter of 1966, written by my grandmother, after arriving home to a mess in the kitchen.

To the Waldorf! Good for her. As a New Jersey native, she knew where to go, and how to make a point. I’m pretty sure she didn’t find the kitchen in such disarray again.

She taught my mother to be a lady, yet to stand up for herself. My mother is a phenomenal cook and baker; trades she both learned from her parents. As the only girl, my mother had a special bond with my grandmother. I know that to this day, there isn’t a day that goes by that my mom doesn’t think about her, or want to share something with her. My mother is married to a wonderful man. An avid golfer (just like my grandparents), he treats my mother with the respect and affection that she deserves. He takes care of her and is a true gentleman. After a tough marriage with my father, I wish often that my grandparents could see how happy my mom is now. Then again, there is a part of me that knows that they know- cardinals frequent their yard and I have no doubt they are looking down, smiling at how happy my mother is right now.

I met my Grandmother in 1983, the year I was born. The first grandchild, she was over the moon. I think of how much technology has changed since then and now. My children Facetime my mother on a daily basis and we live 10mi apart. In the early 80’s, she was lucky if she got a photograph from time to time. 

As time went by, she watched her family grow, and was not only the mother of four, but grandmother of twelve. Every single one of us were the apple of her eye- even my two cousins who joined our family when we were little and not blood related to us. She adored  us all and we all loved her.

I was the first grandchild to meet my grandmother, and the last grandchild to see her before she passed. I was living in Washington DC in college at the time and she stopped by with my grandfather and uncle on their way to Florida. I could tell she wasn’t herself. She barely ate at lunch and seemed out of it. I recall calling my mother after our visit to tell her that I was worried.

They made their way to Florida, and as the story goes, for three nights in a row, while she and my grandfather laid in bed, she made a point to tell him that the past fifty years of her life (yes they had been married 50+ years) had been the best of her life and she loved him more than words would say. She repeated this each evening. She knew the end was coming. She passed on that fourth day, after my grandfather had taken her to get her hair done. It was the right time for her. She died looking fabulous and telling her husband she loved him. She was a gem; a diamond actually. SHE WAS THE BEST.

15 years have flown by, and yet I still feel her presence. She is out there, watching over us all. I know she’s waiting for us. Until then, Gramma, you will forever be in my heart.

Toddlers: Such a Blessing

I’m a mom of two toddler boys and my life consists of going to work everyday and breaking up WWE fights the remainder of the time.  Whenever I do get a chance to go out, please excuse my awkwardness. I never know what to say when people ask what my hobbies are.  I am a mom… I enjoy trips to the bathroom alone and silence… and sadly, not much else.

I consider myself an intelligent person. I have a college degree and a professional job that requires a great amount of multitasking, juggling client details and ensuring that each event I plan goes off without a hitch, all while handling events equating to multi millions of dollars each year.  Yet,  there are relatively simple things that cannot seem to accomplish at home.

We own a nice flat screen television. For the life of me, I cannot teach my toddler that the TV is not a touch screen. No matter how many times I explain, they are children of the 21st century and treat everything as if it is an iPad.  The amount of fingerprints I clean off our television set is innumerable.

I’ve decided that there are certain types of toddlers…  yours may fall into one or all of these categories.  If they don’t, please contact me directly, so that I can learn your secrets.

TYPES OF TODDLERS YOU MAY BE LIVING WITH

♦THE NEGOTIATOR & MASTER MASTER MANIPULATOR♦

One of the more savvy of the toddler clan, and typically the first born; they never miss a chance to counter the deal you have presented to them. You announce that there is “One more TV show, and then it’s bedtime.” Immediately, without skipping a beat, they reply:

“Five. Five shows before bed.”…. “I said one. One more show.” … “Four. We need four more shows before bed.”… “That’s not happening. I said one.” …. “Four shows!!!! WE NEED FOUR SHOWS!!!”   …. “Fine, two shows and that’s it.”  TODDLER: 1 PARENT: 0

♦THE FINICKY EATER & THE BOTTOMLESS PIT♦

This includes a variable number of toddler eaters.  At one point or another, they all go through this stage.  The Finicky One:  One day, they’re in love with grilled cheese, the next day, it’s thrown from their plate in disgust. How dare you serve them something they enjoyed just 24 hours previously!

The Bottomless Pit: Snacks are required ALL OF THE TIME. Literally, every twenty minutes, snacks are demanded.  It doesn’t matter if you just served them a three course breakfast, gourmet lunch, or seven course dinner.  Dinner will be half way done and they will already be requesting a “snack”.  God help you when they are old enough to figure out how to open up the fridge. Our freezer is on the bottom of our refrigerator, and I have found my two year old eating frozen fish sticks in the middle of the kitchen floor at 5:30am in the morning. The other day, I found him polishing off an ENTIRE bag of butterscotch baking chips he found in the freezer at 7am.  When I threw the bag away, he asked when breakfast was going to be served.

♦THE CHAMELEON♦

The Chameleon is the type of toddler who changes personality based on whose company they are in.  Of course, at home, their true, wild selves are revealed.  Screaming, jumping on the couches and beds, plain old craziness. They’re always the worst with their parents.   Bring your child into the bank and have a stranger say hello to them, and they will immediately turn into the shyest child youll meet.  Anytime I have dropped off one of my children at any of their grandparent’s house, I get nothing but stellar reports: “What a well behaved child! He was so funny! He played so well alone!”  I almost want to ask them if they’re sure actually have MY child in their care and haven’t brought home the wrong kid from the playgroud.

THE POTTY TRAINER

This one is a tough one. When first had infants, I was truly disgusted to see what came out of that tiny body.  I was not prepared for the toddler years.  By the time they are toddlers, they are essentially eating the same solid food as you are.  Those diapers are a true joy to change, and I swear that the amount of poop that comes out of these little guys are more than I have ever seen in my career using the toilet. They say girls potty train earlier than boys, I am not sure, but I knew it took a full year of trying to convince my three year old to stop the diapers.  The two year old is on his way, but not 100% there yet.  Either way, there is a process that needs to be followed.   You’ll find yourself asking sixteen times a day “Do you have to use the potty?” You’ll also find yourself saying things that you’ll never have thought would exit your mouth in your life. I have sat my two year old on the toilet and coached him to repeat after me: “Poopy, I am in charge of you, I am the boss- not you. Go in the potty, poopy.” It’s hilarious to hear your two year old repeat these words and you’ll spend countless hours sitting in your bathroom, attempting to use ESP to WILL THOSE POOPIES to come out.  For boys, peeing is a different story. Getting them to pee on the toilet is the easy part…. Aiming,  not so much.

A full container of bleach wipes sits in our bathroom specifically for the use of wiping up toddler pee every single day.  When they are standing, it’s not so bad… If they have to sit, you can occasionally look forward to a five foot spray across your entire bathroom.  I was not prepared for this.

♦THE “I CAN DO IT MYSELF PHASE”♦

One of the most frustrating stages of all of them is when your child decides that he can “do it himself” This applies to everything. We will be running late for something, place my two year old in his car seat and all hell will break loose. “I CAN DO IT MYSELF!!”  I must patiently wait for him to climb all the way back down out of his seat, navigate OUT of the car, back onto the driveway and then start the entire process again. This can take upwards of three minutes-which may seem insignificant to you, but if you’ve ever experienced it, it feels like THREE HOURS.  Same goes with my previous mention of him helping himself to anything he can find in the freezer, and denying any help you may offer.   Would you like help putting that shirt on? “NO. I CAN DO IT MYSELF”… backwards and after a four minute struggle that you don’t have in the morning when you are trying to get out the door.  The “I CAN DO IT MYSELF” may possibly be the one that tests your patience the most.


 

 

Parents: Tell Everyone Else to STFU

I’ve got some Mommy Issues.  Issues with other parents, and issues with some strangers out there.  There are important things going on in the world right now politically, globally, nationally and right in your backyard that need actual attention. The amount of bitching I’ve seen about the following issues makes me question what kind of people I’m coexisting with in this world.

There’s quite a few things that people are complaining about in real life and online that need to stop. 

BREAST FEEDING IN PUBLIC 

img_2097For all of you against public breast feeding, I’m going to throw you a bone and assume that we can agree that these children at least need to eat. They are human, after all. So we can agree that they do have to eat… you just don’t want to see it. Your suggestion of making it private is not only insulting, but pretty ridiculous. Many of these mothers and their children are being socially pressured into feeding their child in places like public bathrooms.img_2100Have you spent any time in a public bathroom lately? And if so, how long did you want to just “hang out in there” for the 25-40 minutes it may take a mother to feed her baby? Next time you pick up your own lunch, I suggest you take your meal to the nearest public restroom  and soak up the lovely stench and atmosphere it offers you while you eat…. then tell me how you feel about it.

Is there something about women’s breast that offends you? I hate to burst your bubble; but whatever creation story you believe in whether it be religious or evolutionary; I can tell you that the breast was made for one thing and one thing only: to feed our young. It is the media and our own selves who have sensationalized mammary glands into sexual pieces of anatomy.  Any issue you may have with public breastfeeding is your issue, not anyone else’s.

Also, News flash, there is a 99.99% chance that the woman you’re seeing feed in public looks like the lady on the right here… I have yet to see Miss. Porn star to the left whipping out her boobs in public to feed her child.  The typical mother is tired, disheveled, overwhelmed and has a hungry, crying baby looking for nourishment.  img_2104That being said, if you do ever see the lady on the left out in public breast feeding… contact me ASAP. I am honestly curious as to how this would even work.

MOMMY SHAMING
Now that I’ve stated my pro stance on breast feeding, I do have to admit I have one small issue.

It’s the simple quote “Breast Is Best”.  This three word sentence offends me more than I can explain. I see fellow moms and mom friends use the hashtag #breastisbest while proudly displaying their breastfeeding on social media.  There are a multitude of studies showing that breast milk is the absolute best option for your child.  Some studies have quoted that it protects against diseases and allergies, lowers the risk of SIDS and obesity, infants are less stressed, and I’ve even read that it heightens children’s IQ.

I am not disagreeing with any of these claims, but guess what? Some of us mothers aren’t able to supply our babies with breast milk. For one reason or another, due to medical reasons or preference, breast feeding doesn’t work for some of us.  For those of us who cannot breastfeed, we have had to turn to exclusively pumping or taking out a separate mortgage to pay for formula. Are you aware how much formula costs?  Believe me, when my baby is crying in the middle of the night, it would be much easier for me to snuggle up to him and soothe him with my own nipple.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have that option… I had to endure listening to a wailing child in one arm, while I prepared and warmed up a formula made bottle.  I’ve pumped, and I get it: if you’ve ever cried over “spilled milk”, so have I.  If the baby spits up or you spill a bottle, hours of hard work pumping goes down the drain. When your child spits up formula, or you spill it, it is similar… it’s like seeing dollar bills fly out the window.

While Breast MAY be Best, it is offensive to some to see other mothers say this, as if we “bottle mommies” are subpar. Please do us the favor of stop using this sentence. It’s hurtful and makes us feel inadequate as mothers. Mother to Mother, please adopt this new slogan:fed-is-best

On the topic of Mommy Shaming, we honestly need to come together as parents and respect each other’s decisions when it comes to raising our own children. You want to raise your child without screen time or TV? Go for it. You want to serve your child a strict vegan organic diet? Be my guest. Please just don’t raise an eyebrow when my child is watching Paw Patrol, while eating a heated up frozen waffle for breakfast, as I get ready for work. Let’s all agree that we are trying our best to do survive and raise respectful, productive members of society, however we get there.

Speaking of feeding my kids waffles while I get ready for work:  Working Mothers vs. Stay at Home Mothers. I am a working mother. It is tough as shit. I feel like I can never get enough done and there is never enough time in the day.  In regards to Stay at Home Mothers, HOW DO YOU DO IT?!  I was raised by a stay at home mom, who had four children in a tiny apartment and I have great memories from this time in my life.  In retrospect, she was probably going insane, however, if she was, she never let on to any of us. I always imagined I would do the same, stay at home, living a blissful life with my children while my husband worked.  I’d have a clean house and dinner on the table each evening when he returned from work and we would all sit happily eating, discussing our day. I have two children and barely survived this past holiday week while they were off from school.  My house looks like a bomb blew up and I am pretty sure my kids ate frozen fish sticks, hot dogs and frozen pizza for many of their meals.

I give Stay at Home Mothers all the credit in the world.  You guys are saints. While it is hard juggling work and home life for me, I am not sure I could hack it. For one, my family needs a duel income to survive. It is not possible for one of us to stay home with the children. Secondly, contrary to what I thought life would be with children prior to having them, I am not sure I could maintain my sanity being with them 24 hours a day.  I’d lose it for sure.

I was recently verbally attacked (and yes, I am using the word “attacked”) by a member of my own family for being a working mother. I’m not naming names, but if you’ve followed previous blogs, you may have a guess at who this person is.  Regardless, I ran into this person unexpectedly one evening and it was unavoidable to say hello and sit down to talk.  We were in a bar, so I expected a bullshit  “what’s new” yada yada conversation.

Many things were discussed over the hour I was forced to speak with him, including how disappointed he was in me and what a great disservice I was doing my family by working. According to him, my children are supposedly suffering being stuck with strangers all day, and I am not living up to his standards as to what a mother and wife should be, by his interpretation of how life goes.  I should be catering to my husband more and not putting so much stress on him; having him to drop off the kids in the morning and expecting him to participate in an active 50/50 parenting partnership. A chilled cocktail should be waiting for my husband upon his return from work, and a homemade dinner should be awaiting on the table.  He made it clear that in my house, my husband should be the King, my children should be my Princes and I, essentially their Housemaid and Cook; all the while keeping a smile on my face.

The way I was living my life was simply not to his approval. Sorry bud, this isn’t the 1950’s.  (I should mention that he is currently divorced, sitting at a bar alone during this conversation, which only proves how far his life expectations and attitude has gotten him).   This, from a man who taught “auto mechanics for women” during college, you’d think he would appear to be somewhat more liberated.  Apparently not.  I’m pretty sure he was describing the life that he wanted while married, because there was sure as hell no cocktail waiting for him when he returned from work each day.  I believe the best way to describe that scenario was that he came home, ate a prepared dinner, and went to “nap” in bed while my mother continued to do the rest: aka cleaning up, bedtimes, making lunches, etc.   But I digress.

1950

I explained that in this economy; for our family in particular, it was not possible for us to live off of one income and continue to live the lifestyle that we want to live.  Furthermore, our children were not with strangers all day, but cared for by responsible adults that they have cultivated a deep bond and relationship with, and whom my husband and I trust. During their time in daycare and preschool, they have learned more social skills and gained more educational content than I could ever provide for them at home.  My three year old was writing his own name within a week of starting preschool, and three months later, I can dictate a Thank You note to him, assist with the spelling, and he can basically write an entire letter to an adult with minimal assistance.

I made sure to mention to my bar guest that he deserved no explanation for how my husband and I chose to live our lives and raise our children, and if anything, I was actively attempting to do anything in my power NOT to raise my children like he did.  I kept the conversation light on my end, but essentially wanted to punch him in the gut, instead of giving him a good bye hug at the end of the night.  The only good part that came out of that conversation was that he paid my bar tab. If you ask me, he owed me at least that after what he said.  It was that evening that I decided that I wouldn’t be having any more conversations with him- he isn’t worth my time and hasn’t a shit clue as to what my life is like.

For what it’s worth, I hope you don’t have assholes in your life like this one. Keep on movin’ on mama, do what’s best for you and your family and have NO REGRETS.  Do not let other people’s opinions and choices make you feel guilty or any less of the parent you are.  Only you know what works for you and your children. If you want to openly breast feed in the middle of the fanciest restaurant in your town, do it.  If you want to pack a bottle of formula, do it.  If you want to co-sleep with your children, do it.  Trust your gut and don’t listen to anyone out there telling you that you aren’t doing the best possible job you can.  At the end of the day, if you and your kids are alive, you’ve succeed.

It’s an exhausting, often thankless job, but remember PARENTS:

YOU ARE DOING A GREAT JOB.

Tell everyone else to STFU.

xo,

Coastal Mama

 

Advice From A 90 Year Old Woman

As you may know, my second job (after being a parent) is an event planner. I met a lovely woman, Dorothy today. She is planning her 90th birthday. What an accomplishment! We discussed her menu and details; most of her guests would be family or friends from the assisted living home she lives in.

As we went through her details, Dorothy mentioned to her daughter that she specifically wanted it written on the invitation “No Gifts”. I chuckled and said “You only turn 90 once, I have a feeling some of your guests may disobey your request.” Her response was shocking to me and quite profound.

“What I’d like more than cards or presents is for people to visit me more or call me. A gift is trivial. At this point, I want to maintain connections with those who I love.”

It made me instantly remember a phone call I received, almost a year to this date. It was a cold winter evening when my husband’s 85yr old Great Aunt called me. I didn’t recognize her phone number so I didn’t answer. She left a message and I called her back immediately, thinking something was wrong. I mean, why else would someone you don’t speak to often call you at 8pm at night? The thing was, she just wanted to talk- she wanted to see how things were and to say hello. She mentioned that she asked a few family members for my phone # and they all said “oh, you can just find her on Facebook.” She replied “I don’t know how the hell to use Facebook and I wanted to TALK to you, so I called you!”

It was sweet. We caught up, and it made me realize it was the first time I used my phone to actually SPEAK with someone and “catch up” with them in longer than I can remember.
What was wrong with this picture? I should have been the one to call HER.

It made me think of my own grandparents.

My Fraternal Great Grandmother made her way through Ellis Island from Ireland and raised five children , all first generation Americans with 100% Irish blood running through their veins. I recently found out through my uncle that her father was a sailor on a merchant ship out of Belfast Ireland. When the ship docked in NYC he jumped ship and was an illegal alien for 7 years before he gained his citizenship. He never returned to Ireland and always carried his citizenship papers on him until he died for fear of being deported back to Ireland. My uncle once asked his grandmother why she never returned to Ireland she replied in her wonderful Irish brogue ” Who’d want to go? There’s nothing there”

So much for the Irish Ministry of Tourism.

My Grammy had a thick New York/ Long Island accent and NO FILTER. At 5′ 10″, she could not only hold her own, she was a fire cracker. My grandfather died in the early 60s, a WWII vet. He left behind a wife and three young children under the age of 13. With no formal college education she became a teacher to support her family.
They never had much but they made it work. She never remarried and was an independent, strong willed woman. She once told my mother after asking why she never re-married that she “was a widow- not stupid!” She was old school- she lived alone for 50+ years and stayed in her house until her death in 2008, hosting card games and befriending the local Catholic priests.

As the neighborhood changed around her, she watched her Irish/Italian bubble evolve and had no qualms mentioning out dated terminology for the new, mostly ethnic people moving in around her (and out of respect I won’t quote her).

She answered the phone not with a simple “hello” but a loud, thick accented “Hi there!” Her favorite line when we would complain about something was “tough toenails- deal with it.”

Her house was always packed with Entenemmans coffee cake, cool whip and fresh NY bagels. She drank mini half cans of Budweiser. She requested no eulogy to be read at her funeral, as she felt that was too self indulgent. She was a strong woman, a pain in the ass at times and I loved her dearly.

My maternal grandparents were what I can only describe as living examples of the American Dream. It was the American Dream! They were happily married for over 50 years and produced four children, 3 boys and 1 girl (my mother).

My grandfather owned a lucrative dentistry practice and my grandmother was happily the quintessential 1950’s housewife, despite the fact that she graduated from a prestigious women’s college herself.  They lived down the street from Martha Stewart (if that gives you any indication of the ideal life they were living) and they truly gave all they had to their children. I have never met two sweeter or kind hearted people in my life.

My grandmother was the type to coordinate and host breakfasts for my uncle’s sports teams prior to games (which could be for upwards of 25 hungry teenage boys!) I recently heard a story where she arranged it so that for one breakfast she had special mugs to be made with each boy’s name and sports number on it, as a keepsake. She loved her children and later on, her grandchildren more than words can say.

My gramma saw the good in people, and sometimes her naïveté worked against her. The funniest story I’ve heard about her was that my teenage uncle was able to convince her to take his 13 year old brother to Woodstock and when the 11 year old complained, she said, “you can go next year!” I’d love to know what happened during that trip!

My grandfather worked hard and played hard. An avid golfer, he was out golfing in the middle of February just a month before he passed. He lived in plaid golfing pants and was quite the chef as well. He “retired” after living in New Jersey to Cape Cod, only to start up a new Dentistry practice once he got bored. If you couldn’t find him at home watching golf, he was out on the course playing it.

My memories of all of my grandparents are fond ones. Sadly, they all have passed. I think often how much my mother’s parents would have loved her new husband: a business man and avid golfer himself… they would have been over the moon to see her with someone who treats her so well.

So, what’s the moral of the story? I’m not sure I have one- if you’ve gotten this far reading, you deserve an A+. If you have elderly loved ones who are still around, consider yourself lucky. Pick up the phone and call them just to say hi. I’m positive you won’t regret it, and you’ll make their day too.

I’m Begging You… Don’t Buy This Stuff For My Kids This Holiday Season

Ah December. “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”... Re-read that last sentence and pretend I’m singing it to you in Andy William’s voice. (Click that link if you want to get into the holiday spirit… actually it would be awesome if you listened to it in the background while reading this post).  I can’t figure out if this song is sweet or some sick joke. I absolutely LOVE to use this song whenever something is going wrong or unplanned during this season. You know; when you’re in public, trying to get things done and your two year old decides to have a complete meltdown in the middle of the store floor.  My typical response is to just look at the nearest gawker and sing-song say “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” in my most sarcastic tone possible with a fake smile plastered on my face. This usually stops them from staring as they slowly back away in fear that I may snap at any moment.

Crap, even as I write this, I’m realizing I can be a real sarcastic bitch sometimes… even strangers aren’t safe from my wrath.

While all you friends, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and family members are out there shopping this holiday season, I want to help you out a bit.  Whether you realize it or not, there are certain gifts that while you may not give two thoughts to, can completely ruin a parent’s life. Between lack of sleep, work, general stress, cabin  fever riddled children, we’re already two steps away from volunteering ourselves to be admitted to the local psychiatric ward. There are a few things that you can help us out with this holiday season. While we appreciate everything you generously give our children, there are certain gifts, that if are received, may result in parents purchasing  a voodoo doll with many, many pins and your face plastered to it.

NUMBER ONE: A Musical Instrument.

Before purchasing this instrument, ask yourself a few questions. Do I know how to play this instrument? Is this something I can teach this child how to play? Am I willing to keep this instrument at my own house for them to “practice” on?  If your answer is not yes to all of these questions, then the answer is undoubtedly NO. DO NOT PURCHASE THIS ITEM.

 

 

The number one offender is a kazoo.  Let’s be real- is there a real purpose to this “instrument”? Can it even be considered an instrument?  I’m telling you, there is no parent on earth who wants to listen to their child play the kazoo one billion times over the course of the day.  The same goes with a harmonica and a recorder; both may just be that last straw to lead mommy to pour herself a shot of straight vodka, prior to 5pm.  Stay far away from these items.

A legit instrument (in my opinion…sorry recorder lovers), possibly may be a drum set or guitar. We have been on the receiving end of both gifts, but only because my husband is into both instruments and willing to teach my kids how to use them.  While it is adorable and sweet to watch my crew get together and “jam”, lets be straight. They’re two and three…. what I am listening to is NOISE. Not music.

drums-2

I dream of a day when they can all come together and actually play one song together, but for right now, they’re just banging away. Now, let’s set the record straight. I am not against children learning musical instruments at all, I encourage it. I just don’t want to be around while they practice. I have zero musical talent and the only thing I have to contribute to my family’s little band is my vocal talents… which could be equivalent to a  cat slowly dying a long and painful death. Do me a favor guys, and practice when I am not home.

NUMBER TWO: A Toy That Does Not Shut Off

I can’t even blame you for this one, because this one is a secret devil toy that does not advertise it’s capability for being obnoxious. There are certain companies that make toys to engage infants with sounds, etc. Once the child looses interest, it waits a certain amount of time and starts up again on its own, in an attempt to engage the child to come back to it and continue playing obnoxious sounds. 

Here is an example of such a toy. I have woken up in the middle of the night to this thing going off by itself, startling me.  When you are already sleep deprived, a toy that “turns itself on” by itself enrages you to the point that you want to act out this scene from Office Space and literally smash it to pieces at 3am in the morning with a baseball bat.
office-space

A word to the wise on these sneaky sucker gifts- make sure there is an OFF BUTTON before purchasing.

NUMBER THREE: Trucks That Make Obnoxious Noises

truck

There is minimal explanation for this toy.  Please just read the description that accompanies it. If it advertises lights and sounds- stay away.  I don’t need my kid pressing the “machine gun” button 8,000 times in a row just for shits and giggles at 6:30am. Just don’t do it.

NUMBER FOUR: Anything that Amplifies Their Voice

My kids would literally LOVE THIS. Just know that if you purchase this- it’s getting sent to your house.  Similar to #1, there’s already enough chaos going on in my house. I don’t need an excuse for my three year old to yell “You’re a Poopy Butt!” in amplified sound. I hear it enough as it is.

NUMBER FIVE: Ridiculous but “Cute” Gifts

 

A piggy bank that makes a fart sound every time you put change in it is just not cool. Furthermore, I may be reading too much into this, but anything phallic, even if it’s meant to be sweet, stay away from. I don’t want to see my child playing with what looks like a dildo, regardless of what it is.

And last but not least…

NUMBER SIX: “Fun” but Potentially  Dangerous Gifts

My sweet mother sent me this text the other day. I could tell she found something and was excited about it. She meant absolutely no harm and thought this was a cool gift.text

In am positive that in her head, she envisioned this fun activity:ice-skatingMy mind immediately went here: ambulance137I was cool with the idea, as long as she was willing to write a blank check to cover the ER Bill.

Bottom line? We are in the age of technology- if you are unsure of what to get someone for the holidays,  ask the parents for an Am azon wish list. You can’t go wrong there. Money is always good, contributions to college funds, and most importantly, it’s important to remember that the sheer fact that YOU are there spending the holidays with them mean more than anything else. They may not remember that coloring book you got them when they were 5 years old, but they’ll remember you being there to help them open it.

And don’t forget… It’s the most wonderful freakin’ time of the year.

Bah Fucking Humbug  

Christmas is ruined. For the first time since having children, I’m not sending a Christmas card out this year. My mother in-law is devastated. 


I honestly meant to! I would have, except we didn’t have a professional photshoot this year and I simply couldn’t get my 2&3 year old to corporate and look at the freaking camera at the same time; I tried when we visited Santa, I tried impromptu shots and then dressed them up in Santa pjs and attempted a half-assed photo shoot with some Christmas lights and my iPhone. I finally said FUCK IT, this isn’t happening. I’m too tired to put anymore effort into this. Actually, while I’m on a roll using profanity, I can’t wait for 2017 because I don’t know about you, but in all honesty, 2016 fucking blew. 

I’ve been in such a bah humbug mood lately, I actually sent this ridiculous text to my mother the other day:


I actually cursed out a patch of snow on my driveway. 

If you were a beloved celebrity, this year was especially cruel. We lost legends in 2016. David Bowie. Dave Mirra. Harper Lee.  Prince. Morley Safer.  Muhammad Ali. Gene Wilder. Arnold Palmer. Janet Reno. Florence Henderson. Peter Vaughn. …Just to name a few.

Donald Trump is our President Elect and people are legit freaking out. Who in a million years would have fathomed this? Our country has become racially divided and despite having a black president for the past eight years, there has been more racial tension and violence in this country during his tenure since the 1950’s. We are living in scary times. 

Work has been insane. At home, I’m dealing with one child in the midst of the terrible twos and the other is a complete threenager. It’s an emotional rollercoaster; one minute they’re angels and the next it’s WWIII in my house. If you’ve followed my previous blogs, I make no proclamation to have one damn idea how to parent. This is all new. Every phase is new. Let me make this clear: I have no idea what I’m doing. There is pressure on my marriage (because who is in a good mood after fighting two mini terrorists to go to bed for 2hrs each night?) and I’m pretty much ready to throw in the towel and run off to a tropical island ALONE and not return.

I’m not going to rehash my issues.  I was thinking about all these celebrities passing and my insignificant issues at home that pretty much anyone who has had young children at some point or are dealing with them now, have and are experiencing the same thing and there’s simply no words to describe dealing with a young family. The pressure to be a perfect parent, the work it takes to maintain your marriage, and oh yeah, I work full time too. I’m pretty sure anyone reading this who has or is currently experiencing this complete debacle of what I like to call “life with little kids” understands. 

As I was sitting at my home work computer tonight at 10:30pm, finishing some things I wasn’t able to complete in the office, something clicked. Maybe it was the Pandora station I was listening to, but I finished my work and got out some greeting cards. I realized I was giving myself some sort of stupid pity party, when in reality, there are so many other people out there that are actually suffering this time of year. 

There are children living in my area that won’t have presents under the tree this year because their parents can’t afford it. There are women (and men) bravely fleeing abusive relationships with their children everyday, going to secluded safe houses. I know friends  who have been trying and trying and then trying some more to get pregnant with out success and feel hopeless. I have friends who have spent more time in the NICU than I did, combined.

I know someone who is dying and in desperate need of a kidney transplant. I know someone else who I grew up with, living out his final days at home with his family, on hospice care. He’s in his 60’s. This is not his time to go. My friend recently said that he is having trouble maintaining faith and is angry with God. This has been a church going gentleman his entire life and yet he’s struggling with his relationship with God during his last days on earth.  I have family members who just lost their mother this past weekend after a long and tough fight against cancer, leaving 2 children, 4 grandchildren and one on the she way who she will never meet. It makes  you question WHY. Why is life not more merciful? It’s not fair.

I made a list. We have toys going to toys for Tots this weekend. One of our toddler beds got donated to a battered woman’s safe home and it gives me great joy to know that some three year old is sleeping in that bed tonight, without fear of his mother or he being beaten. He is safe… and he’s sleeping in our toddler bed. 

My mood suddenly started to change.

I grabbed my cards and wrote some traditional & proper hand written notes to some people that deserve to know how much I admire them before their time in this  world expires. Three full pages later, my letter to my hospice friend was complete. I knew that this may be the last time I will be writing to him and I wanted him to know what an impact he made on my life.  My letter to my friend in need of a transplant is now done and everything is ready to be mailed out tomorrow. 

WHY DON’T we do this sooner? Why do we have to wait until someone is dying until we say good bye and let them know how much we care about them? Shame on us. We should be telling everyone we love that we LOVE THEM every freaking chance we get.

If there is anything I’m going to learn this Christmas season, it is going to embrace my family more and try to be more appreciative of what I have. No more bah humbugs. My children and husband deserve better than this- and I deserve to be the best I can be; for them and for me. 

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays to you all

Xo,

Coastal Mama