Experiencing the "Happy" in Happy Holidays

As the holiday is upon us (like - TOMORROW!) my wish for you is that there have been moments where the simple joys of the season have seeped in. For the majority of holidays since I've been a Mom (16 to be exact), I've spent most of the time in execute mode; a slave to the list of things to do. Working myself to exhaustion decorating, shopping, wrapping, baking, planning and cooking dinners. Often too stressed and tired to actually enjoy the fabulous holiday I put on for everyone else.

This year has been different. Like many families I know, circumstances dictated that this would be a smaller holiday. What a blessing it has turned out to be! By focusing in on what my kids really wanted/needed, there was less shopping, wrapping and stressing about collecting everything on their wish list. Instead of decorating with everything I own, I chose the things that really meant something to us to be displayed. The things my children made in preschool and kindergarten really stand out as the treasures of my heart and I've enjoyed them even more this year because they are not surrounded by other holiday clutter.  We've accepted a gracious offer from family to share their Christmas Eve celebration which has freed me from doing the usual big dinner at my house.

At first I felt unnerved about a new kind of Holiday; would my children be disappointed, was I a failure because I couldn't do the things I've always done? But as tomorrow comes, I find that this is, in some ways, one of the best holiday seasons because there has been time and space to really enjoy the things that are important to us. Like gold pine cones with pom-poms, hand print Christmas trees and remembering when my girls were small enough to drink cocoa out of their own pint size, special mugs.

Wishing you a beautiful Holiday filled with wonderful moments big and small! Please post your favorite holiday moments or treasures made by children below ♥


Meeting Calvin Klein

If you are lucky and so inclined, you will perhaps have at least one dog in your life. And when I say "a dog" I mean "the dog."  You know the kind -- the one that is special, becomes a member of the family, that you love and who loves you beyond measure. The one that inspired a bumper sticker that reads, "I wish I was the person my dog thinks I am." I am in my first such relationship with a male Maltese.

I have good reason to know the difference between "a dog" and "the dog."   Before our current dog came along, I took in a stray and unfortunately, she was the WRONG dog. She ate the shutters, tore up the down comforters in a way that seemed almost psychotic, and piddled in her kennel every single time I left the house requiring a full scrub down of her and the kennel upon my return. She also had zero interest in interacting with us. No fetching the ball, no petting her, no cuddling...nothing. Although it is not politically correct for me to say, when she jumped the fence and took off, I breathed a sigh of relief.

So the search continued. I looked online at animal shelters, rescues and breeders for months for the right dog. Almost a year later, I came across an ad in the local newspaper that looked interesting. I decided it was worth taking a look and asked my girlfriend if she would come with me as she had much more experience with dogs than I did. As we drove over I said a little prayer asking for a sign that would let me know if this was the right dog for us.

An older woman answered the door and invited us into a small, dark house. She went to get the dog from the kitchen where she was keeping him penned in with gates. Out ran a small, fluffy, white ball of fur that seemed very glad to see us. He jumped up, was friendly and adorable! We started to ask some questions - how old was he - only 9 months old, how long had she had him - only a month or so, why was she looking to sell him? Was there something wrong with him? - nothing wrong, she had been talked into getting him by her visiting daughter. She realized that at her age she was not up to raising a dog that would live for many years - he was only 9 months old. We asked if she had veterinary records for him and she did from the people she had bought him from. He was healthy and his shots were up to date. When my friend asked, "What's his name?" and the lady answered "Calvin" it was the smack in the forehead sign I had asked for on the way there. Calvin was my father's name. I knew he was meant to be ours. She was firm on the price, $350. Knowing him as I do now, it was a bargain.

My girls had asked at the beginning of our dog search if we could get two and name them "Abercrombie & Fitch". When I brought our new dog home I said, "meet Calvin Klein." My lack of dog ownership experience made it a little like bringing a baby home. I rushed to the pet store to buy everything I thought he needed. Much like with babies he didn't need half of the stuff I bought! I didn't know how he would acclimate to our household and I was nervous.

It was smooth sailing right from the get go with Calvin.  He has never chewed anything up or piddled in the house. He is sweet, cuddly, never far from my feet or next to me at night. He never meets a stranger. He dances on his hind legs for everyone who stops by our house or anyone we meet on the street.  When we go for a walk and come across other dogs who might start barking and pulling on their leash, Calvin just keeps quietly walking along. He looks back at them like "what are they getting all crazy about?" The best part of Calvin is his smile. That's right, he actually smiles. I can't believe we were his third owners within a year. I don't know how anyone could give him up, but thank goodness they did as he was clearly meant to be the "one" for us.  How wonderful it is to have someone look at you with unconditional love, be excited every time you come home (even if it was just 10 minutes ago!) and be your pal through thick and thin. I can't decide if it's a plus that he is the one person around here who can't talk back to me or if I wish he could so I knew what he was thinking.

I would love to hear your comments on who the "ones" for you are or have been (rest in peace). Pets can sure help make life worthwhile, can't they?



Modulating Motherhood

Webster's New World Dictionary's definition of the word modulate1 to regulate, adjust, or adapt to the proper degree  2 to vary the pitch, intensity, etc. of (the voice), often specific. to a lower degree  3 Radio a variation in the amplitude, frequency, or phase of a wave in accordance with some signal. I think this describes the effort of mothering perfectly.

As my girls are entering and in the midst of their teenage years (11 and 15), I find that it's often hard to know which way to turn the dial on mothering them. When they are small the dial is set on high in terms overseeing their, well, everything.

As they grow, we work on teaching them to be responsible for themselves. This is where the modulating gets interesting. Since responsibility occurs with kids in varying degrees,  it's a challenge to, as the definition above suggests, regulate and adjust the amount of direction and support to give kids and in what sort of pitch and intensity of voice. That's a nice way of saying how many times do you have to repeat yourself? And are you able to maintain a calm and patient tone of voice or have you finally lost your mind and your yelling like a woman on fire? The best part is when the kids act like they have never met you before and have no idea how you got into this state.

Remember when all our parents had to do was give us a telepathic look of their directions? And if we somehow missed that message a smack would bring it all home for us. Ah, the good old days, pretty low impact on the parents. When did the rules of engagement change? Because today's kids are definitely not afraid to engage. When I think about it more, I guess this is what it takes for kids to learn to survive in today's adversity. They have to try it out in the comfort of their own home so they're prepared to take on the world. I've decided that kids have to take a swing and hurt you so that you can coach them on the protocol of avoiding that in later life with others. No matter how you embrace the logic, it hurts and sometimes you feel like you're sporting a shiner!

Number 3 in the definition of modulate surely applies to living with a teenager (or           pre-teenager). It's all that it implies about the variation in the amplitude, frequency, or phase of a wave in accordance with some signal. Guess what? YOU DON'T KNOW THE SIGNALS! Major league baseball pitchers and catchers have better signals. One minute you can be having a perfectly fine conversation about something and the next thing you know, it's taken a turn, to a place where you are an unwanted stranger. With no warning, you have become someone who is asking too many creepy, ridiculous questions. If you don't walk away immediately, it becomes an argument. The best thing to do is remind yourself that you have many people in your life who enjoy your company and yes, respect you.

It sure is about finding the sweet spot on the dial. Because when you do, it's sublime. The love and joy you feel for your children is unparalleled.

Buckle up Buttercup, because it can go from the sublime to the ridiculous in 2.5 seconds. It's like that old show The Wide World of Sports, where the skier slams into the wall and the announcer says, "it's the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat."  It's all that and more and yet, we wouldn't trade the experience of raising our children for ANYTHING. It's what we were born to be, what we are grateful to be...parents.

That's Gonna Leave a Mark

Acquiring a scar is an interesting proposition. It's the end of an era - the era of your body being perfect, unscathed.  Perhaps how it's obtained determines how the process of assimilating a scar will go. Where the scar lands on your body maybe makes a difference. You know what they say: location, location, location. I wonder if scars won through epic pursuits like mountain climbing, hunting on safari or sky diving feel like a badge of honor. An unintentional tattoo of a once in a lifetime experience. Proof of belief in the mantra, "Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather a skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO what a ride!" (This saying is a favorite of mine, BTW).

What about the other kind of scars? The kind that involve accidents and surgeries. The ones we wear with less pride of ownership because they were obtained in unpleasant circumstances, often beyond our control. These are the ones that beat up our self-esteem and are harder to accept as a part of ourselves.

I've had it both ways.    

The cesarean scars won through the epic event of giving birth to my two daughters do feel like a badge of honor.  I'm sure their location helps me keep perspective since they can't really be seen. They have zero effect on my vanity or self-esteem and I am proud of them.

Last summer I had surgery to repair two herniated disks in my neck caused by a car accident.  I thought they would go through the back of my neck and my hair would cover the scar. Nope, they approach from the front, head-on. So the prize I won for someone rear-ending me is a metal plate, four screws and a 2 inch gash across the front of my neck. The surgeon told me, "no problem, I'll blend it in with the wrinkle of your neck, you'll barely notice it." EXCUSE ME! I don't have wrinkles in my neck, at least not yet.

It was noticeable alright and not just to me. I had a guy at 7-11 ask me if I was assaulted, that it looked like someone tried to cut my throat (all this opinion while I'm just trying to purchase a pack of gum). I also had the pleasure of being questioned at McDonald's by the gal ringing me up who pulled up her sleeve to show me her scar and said, "at least I can cover mine up." I already disliked McDonald's, now I swear I'm never going back!

Bottom line, it was ugly and it messed with my head. I was angry that someone's actions had caused me to be scarred and I didn't feel like myself, I felt unattractive. Intellectually, I knew that I was more than a scar on my neck and that I would have to accept it as a new part of myself. Plus I knew that it wasn't that bad, others are dealing with much worse.

Nine months and ALOT of Bio-Oil later, the scar has faded and I am used to the new me. I guess I can see it as a badge of honor, something I overcame and didn't let define me.