Category Archives: Parenting

Making the Most Of My Mobile Home

Who knew that with motherhood, I’d also be gaining a mobile home? It’s got a dining area, a great place for the kids to play, nap and nurse, and there’s office space for Hubby and me.

My mobile home is my SUV. I’ve served breakfast, lunch and dinner in my Jeep Commander, changed the poopiest of diapers, napped alongside my children, blinded high school boys in the Kohl’s parking lot with my boobs while breastfeeding in the backseat.

I’ve edited stories, had conference calls, written blog posts, filled out birthday party invitations. The list (obviously) goes on and on.

My husband marvels at all that’s in the car. I’ve got diapers stashed everywhere, along with juice boxes, bottled waters, changes of clothes, a quart of motor oil,

Logan having breakfast in the Jeep this week. Bacon, blueberries and blackberries, yum!

Goldfish, a stroller, blankets, toy cars, trucks, binkies, “emergency” lollipops. (The “emergency” usually being I need Logan to not speak while I’m in the middle of an important phone call.) The most unique item is a small doohickey (the technical term) that if your car was submerged in water, it effortlessly breaks the glass so that you can escape.

Cleaning my SUV is always an adventure, I try to do it each week so that it doesn’t get out of control. I find preschool art projects, receipts, coupons, forgotten half-eaten snacks and half-drunken water bottles.

Why do I have so much in my Jeep? What am I afraid of? Getting stranded in a blizzard? Dust storm? Flash flood? I’m certainly prepared. More like, over-prepared. But at least I’m making the most of my mobile home.

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Pizza? Bedtimes? Whatevs, We’re on VACAY!!!

As you could tell from my latest posts, we’re on vacation. What started this 1,000+ mile tour de Midwest was my family reunion in Kansas City, Mo. I delegated to my husband to plan our trip. Next thing I know, a long weekend away turned into an eight-day adventure.

The boys outside Cracker Barrel.

But I’m not complaining, this escape from everyday is fun. I’ve spent much of the trip in the back seat between my boys. Not to mention all of the people who have seen my boobs by now. (Truckers along I-70, the old man at Cracker Barrel and Mizzou college students: You’re welcome.)

We left last Thursday and stayed the night at my best friend’s house in suburban St. Louis. Then we had lunch with my niece in Columbia, Mo. and moved on to Kansas City. After a few days there, we spent three days in Columbia. Hubby and I met at the University of Missouri, so we visited our old haunts, and bored Logan with stories of our youth.

Now we’re in St. Louis and will be here for a total of 3 days. The kids are totally off their schedules. We all go to bed around 11 p.m. (some nights as late as 1 a.m.!) and we have been getting up late in the morning. But we haven’t been stressing, just saying “hey, we’re on vacation!”

Same thing with eating. Pulled-pork sandwiches? Sure! We’re on vacation! Pizza? Yep! We’re on vacation! Dessert anyone? Uh-huh, we’re on vacation!

I’ll worry about getting the kids back on schedule and the excess calories later. I can’t think about it now, I’m still on vacation.

A Family Reunion: Laughs, Dancing and A Lot of Love

Ahhhh family reunions. Meeting new cousins, listening to stories about your parents/aunts/uncles and older people asking you “do you remember me?” The answer is always no and I never know how to politely say that.

I had my 96th Annual Tyler Family Reunion in Kansas City, Mo. last weekend. I can’t remember the last reunion I attended. Each year it’s in a different city, always on the Fourth of July weekend and it draws people from coast to coast. This year I thought that since it’s in Kansas City, about two hours from my hometown, let’s go!

It was Hubby’s first experience at a black family reunion, well any family reunion. (It’s not so popular to do those in Norway.) More than 200 people registered for ours and while walking through the Westin Hotel, if you saw someone black, we’d wonder, “Am I related to you?”

Logan was excited to meet new cousins because kids at his school have grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins who live near them, but he’s noticed that he doesn’t. After the interesting drive to Kansas City, we got settled and connected with my uncle because his grandkids were staying in his room and the youngest was Logan’s age.

Shortly after walking in their hotel room, we hung out with those three kids and I fell in love with them. Two girls and one boy, between the ages of  7 and 4. There’s a total of five of them, but the two older girls were off hanging with the other teenagers.

With the 7-year-old, I tried my new thing of talking to young girls about subjects other than their looks. I got the idea from a piece on the Huffington Post about not talking to girls about how pretty they are, but for their thoughts and accomplishments. This was a rewarding venture that led to the 7-year-old reading One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. I’ll always cherish that moment.

I’ll also cherish spending time in the hospitality suite with my aunt, grandma and an older cousin. I talked about how it was a tough transition from career woman to motherhood. They nodded and smiled. I talked about my current work situation and the challenge of balancing family and a career that I love. They nodded and smiled wider. They looked at me like I was a teenager talking about teen angst. Listening compassionately, but with a look of “This too shall pass.” I didn’t find it patronizing, but it was comforting.

Some of the lighter moments include taking Logan to the dance, where my boy worked it out so hard, he got into a dance-off with another kid and my mom went upstairs to give him a change of clothes because he sweat through his outfit.

At the same party, there was another dance-off that would put Step Up 2 to shame. My favorite move was when a girl jumped in the air and looked like she was firing a shotgun, kickback included. Then a woman entered the ring who was in her early 60s? (Hard to tell with us, black don’t crack…) and she schooled all the young dancers. It was amazing.

The whole weekend was fun. My husband’s favorite part was looking around at the family picnic and just taking in that everyone who you see is a part of your family. And isn’t that what it’s all about?

Trying Not To Kill My Child On Our Family Road Trip

It was around mile 454 that I first had the urge to strangle my child. It was Day 2 of our weeklong family adventure on the open road. I was in the backseat, sandwiched between two car seats, my feet were perched on a carton of juice boxes and my eldest was tapping my arms.

I logged many miles sitting in this seat between my two boys.

Incessantly tapping.

On the surface, tapping someone on their upper arms doesn’t seem so bad. Then 30 tappity-tap-tap-filled minutes go by and I start to wonder if my husband would mind if I break our no-hitting policy. (We don’t spank.) Tap tap.

Then I wondered how much time I’d serve for wrapping my fingers around his scrawny neck. Tap. Tap. Tap.

I threatened to take away his iPod and put him in time out. As the words left my lips, I knew it was an empty threat. Tappy-tap-tap.

The whole reason I was back there was to keep my overtired 6 month old from shrieking. (T-t-t-t-taaaap.) Following through on either threat meant that we’d soon have two screaming banshees in the backseat as we torpedoed down Interstate 70. That, tap, also was not a sustainable option.

Yet there I sat trapped like a caged rat, in the back trying not to kill my son.

“I have an unwarranted amount of rage right now.” I told my husband. He laughed. His son tapped.

“C’mon. You pride yourself on creative parenting solutions. Come up with one!” A little voice in my head said.

“Why do you want to tap my arm when you know I don’t like it?” I asked in the fakest nice voice that I have. (It was either that or hissing through clenched teeth.)

“Because your armies are so softy and I love to touch them.” (He calls my arms “armies” and is always petting, kissing or, as in this case, tapping them.)

I sighed. Then asked him if he could rub my arms instead since I liked it when he did that. “If you don’t want to rub them, then I’ll go sit up by Dad where you won’t be able to touch them.”

The tap-tap-tapping stopped, he kissed my arm and slowly stroked my bicep. We both smiled. I was still cramped in the back seat and my feet remained atop the carton of juice boxes, but at least I was no longer plotting my child’s death.

Families By The Numbers: How Does Yours Measure Up?

Do you know how many families are just like yours? We’ve all got aunts who can easily be referred to as the Cat Lady, or uncles and/or cousins who try too embarrassingly hard to be cool.

But how many U.S. households look like yours? Didn’t know if you peeped the graphic in The New York Times recently that gave us a glimpse inside our homes. The link of it is here.

After futzing around, I found that 8.1 million homes are similar to my own, meaning a husband, wife and two kids. Most of us have incomes between $75,000 and $150,000 and compared to other groups, a higher proportion of Asians live in these households.

Of course the graphic doesn’t factor in that my husband’s a blond-haired, blue-eyed boy from Norway and I’m a brown girl from Kansas. I’d love to see the interracial numbers though.

According to the U.S. Census, the number of interracial marriages has risen 20 percent since 2000 to about 4.5 million. And that number continues to grow.

The stereotypical nuclear family is constantly changing, what will it look like in the future?

With New York’s historic approval of gay marriage, I’m sure it won’t be long before other states follow suit. The New York Times’ family-o-meter now shows there’s 18,654 households with two men and two kids. Ten years down the road, what will that number be?

I love that our society is constantly evolving. It wasn’t so long ago that marriages like my own were illegal and people proclaimed that the Bible was against interracial relations. (The U.S. Supreme Court declared such unions legal in 1967.)

So I ask again, how many households look just like yours? None. We’re all unique and come with our own formulations. What we do have in common is beyond the numbers. It’s the good stuff, things like hope, love and happiness. And thank God for that.

Reveling In My Land Of Nod

Greetings and salutations from my own little Land of Nod. I arrived here on Jan. 4 and it’s the best place I’ve been in about five years. I believe you would refer to this dreamy locale as “maternity leave.”

Image by Erica Lynn Photography

I’m one of the lucky few Americans who has a job waiting for her after taking a maternity leave that’s longer than the 12 weeks granted under the Family Medical Leave Act. I recognize and am soaking up this blessing (and it’s so sad that my situation isn’t more common, but I digress…)

When Logan was born, I took off seven months and it was needed. He was colicky, I had breastfeeding woes the first three months and despite all of my reading to try to prepare myself, I felt completely inadequate and lost. In short, it was a mindfcuk.

This time, it’s been loads easier because Ethan is an easy-going kid and I’ve got second-time-around-mommy-know-how. Plus Logan is still going to daycare, so many days it’s just me and my smiley infant. And it’s perfect.

I spend my days chatting it up with the little guy (he’s a great listener,) lying on the floor watching him play and listening to him coo. When he first grabbed a toy, or rolled over or sat on the floor without tipping over, I whooped it up so much you would have thought Publisher’s Clearinghouse knocked on the door.

Where’s that ballsy journalist who sharpened her elbows tussling in the Chicago media scrums? Or the one who would push, push and push reporters to get the right context in a story? She’s still here, she’s just sleeping. I wake her up if something goes awry at my daycare or if a parent pisses me off, but for now, she’s sleeping.

And a more chill, happier me is in the driver’s seat. I’ve had time to catch up with my friends, toting my little guy to lunches, hanging out at friends’ homes or gabbing on the phone to my BFF every day. That hasn’t happened since college.

I have been hesitant to blog about how great it’s been, I mean, it seems like no one wants to hear about how happy people are… And aren’t working moms supposed to hate staying at home? You know, since poopy diapers aren’t as scintillating as Powerpoint.

My days aren’t sunshine and lollipops 24/7, but they’re pretty damn good. Though I love it at home, I’m returning to the ranks of the working. A couple of working moms I’ve talked to said they felt the same way with their second maternity leave. And maybe we love it so much because we know it’s temporary, so we’re milking the stay-at-home experience for all that it’s worth.

I’m not sure, I can analyze it later. Right now, I’m still enjoying the ride.

“Excuse Me, But Why Is Your Child Such a Bully?”

I could have asked the soccer mom that. Or I could have asked if she could make her kid stop terrorizing the other children. But instead I took the Mean Girls route: I glared at her.

Let me rewind. It’s Saturday morning soccer practice for Logan and I was flying solo with both boys. It was my first time at soccer since usually Hubby goes. And Hubby had warned me that one of the kid’s was very disruptive.

It didn’t take me long to spot him. His mom dragged his limp body onto the field. She hissed at him to get up. The kid, I’ll call him Ivan, labored to life and joined the rest of the 3ish year olds.

Enamored by my own child, I didn’t pay much attention to Ivan. Then half way through the class, Ivan started to go rogue. He refused to participate in any of the activities. Meh, he’s 3, no big deal, I thought, obviously my Hubby was exaggerating when he spoke of this kid.

Hubby told me a story of how Ivan was “going crazy” one day and then as Logan was drinking from his water bottle Ivan decided he wanted it. He snatched the bottle from Logan and Logan quickly swiped it back while giving Ivan one of my signature white-hot glares. Ivan looked at Logan and slowly backed away. (I’m secretly proud of this.)

On this Saturday, Ivan had kicked it up a notch, yelling at the coach, who was trying to corral him. I stole a sideways glance at his mom to see her reaction. She slowly turned her back to the field. That’s strange.

Things quickly devolved. Ivan started throwing balls at the other kids. I looked at his mom. She was looking at the ceiling. Seriously? I looked at the other parents. They all looked uncomfortable. It was the elephant in the room.

Logan was staying away from Ivan the Terrible. OK, my kid’s safe, but what about the others? When the coach’s back was turned, Ivan cornered a shrimp of a kid against a wall and pummeled him with balls.

“Excuse me!” I called to the mom. She ignored me. Meanwhile, the coach stopped the attack and sequestered Ivan for the remainder of the class.

I kept looking at the woman in disbelief. I try not to be judgmental, but sheesh, I’d never seen a parent so deliberately not watch their child. She might as well have started whistling and twiddling her thumbs. I tried to compel her to look at me, thinking if I caught her eye, I could strike up a conversation.

I switched on my white-hot glare, known for causing fear in the hearts of men. (It’s true! Ask my Hubby.) And nada.  Then I softened and for the first time I truly saw the woman.

She looked at her wit’s end and that this soccer class appeared to be her escape. I’m not making an excuse for her checking out, especially at the expense of the other kids’ safety, but I do understand when you’re just spent and want someone else to be in charge.

I remember once when Logan threw a huge, screaming, arm-swinging fit in the train station, I didn’t want to deal with it. I wanted to give him to one of the passengers. Instead I just grabbed his arms and confined him.

Next soccer practice, I’ll try to position myself closer to her and start chatting it up before Ivan releases his reign of terror so that when it comes hopefully I can gently prod her into action… We’ll see.

Or maybe I’ll talk privately with the coach about it. I don’t want to be a meddling parent and I’m new to the etiquette of children’s sports, but it’s just not in me to simply sit there and watch this kid push, shove and scare the others.

What would you do?