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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Moment of the Week - 52: Read, Always Read

Read first thing in the morning.

Read last thing at night. (Okay, unless you're posing for a picture.)

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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Toddler Tricks - 52: Teach them for life

Problem: Your children are getting older, and you are doing more and more activities with them that require you all to wander far from your home. What if one gets separated. If they can talk, they're old enough to know to say a few key things to people should they, God forbid, get lost.

Solution: Teach them their name. Their full names. First and last. You can do this by calling them by their full names a few times a day. My husband plays a game with them when he comes home from work, where he'll ask them important questions in the form of a game. They have to come up with the answer, and if they can't, he goes over it with them. The first question on this list is "what is your name." Lilly and Dulce aren't good enough for this game. They need both names.

Problem: A name won't give someone a location or way to reach you, should something happen. It's a start, but if you can get your children to understand that they have an address and a phone number, you'll cut down on the time it takes for them to find you.

Solution: If you have numbers on your mailbox or apartment door, ask the kids to identify them every time you come home. They'll be learning letters and numbers anyway, so they'll get to know that a certain combination equals their address. At least, they'll understand that it's important. Phone numbers are tougher. We haven't been able to get them to memorize an entire phone number yet, but I plan on doing so with songs and games. If they can recite the alphabet song, they can recite a ten-digit phone number. I just have to work on it.  Three is old enough to be helpful in an emergency situation. If your child has a few things she knows to do when she's lost or hurt, that will also give her some power over the situation and may help calm her fears until you can find her again.

All this being said, let's hope they never have to use the knowledge.

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Friday, July 29, 2011

Forays into Facebook

I don't spend much time on Facebook, but every once in a while I can be sucked in for hours. I've got something like 300 or 400 friends on there. I never know when anyone cuts me. I only know when people add me because Facebook tells me through request.

So, am I getting involved in controversial political or religious debate? Am I increasing my realm of knowledge by clicking on links to thoughtful, provocative articles and prose? Am I attending online events for noble causes like curing cancer and ending poverty?

Unfortunately, no.

I'm creeping on your pictures.

Facebook opens a magical world of make believe for me that I allow myself to slip into now and again. It is a world of happy people, shining faces, adventurous and fun outings that I'll not be partaking in any time soon.

There's my oldest friend, of course. She's my age and childless. Her photos include pictures of her numerous worldwide trips every year. She's vacationing, she's dancing, she's partying on rooftops. I'm watching. It's glorious to be transported to those happy times, not only to pretend I'm part of the new ones, but to remember the old ones that we did together.

There is my young cousin...maybe she's 19 by now. Always dressed up to the nines, a flawless sense of fashion, on top of the world. She's smiling with her friends. She's duckfacing in the university hallway for a cellphone shot. Her hair is curly, straight, black, blond. She's on the beach, in a car prepping for a night out, playing beer pong in someone's basement. She reminds me of me when I was 19. A better me. A perfectly styled me (I've always had a bit of trouble looking completely trendy.) These pictures gratify me both as a person, and as a mother as they show me a light at the end of this toddler tunnel of doom.

There's my former coworker who just got married. A beautiful white lacy dress, cutting the cake, dancing with her dad. Her honeymoon. Sunsets off a cruise ship, kissing her new husband, fancy dinners, fourteen days utterly and enviably alone. Her pictures take me to a slice of life I missed out on, allowing me to live it vicariously and fill in the blanks with my own imagination.

There are the glowing pregnant women, pictured happily patting their bump, and then one day, the pictures a beaming mother, kissing her newborn on the head. Oh the happy days of joy surrounding the birth of a child. In the pictures, you see, there are no sleepless nights. There are no round-the-clock feedings. There's no colic or crying. There's only the happiness of the moment when that shot was snapped.

And I have to remember that those pictures are what other people see of me, too. Currently my profile picture is a childless shot of me in a pretty dress and make up. Gives the impression that I still have a life outside of my kids, which I guess I do, though I often feel I'm being swallowed up by motherhood. The picture serves as a nice reminder of who I am as a whole. Other albums show our family relaxing and playing on the beach, having fun at Nana's, fooling around at the pool, or just having fun in the house. The pictures don't show the colds we're fighting, the state of the house right now after a week of sickness, the cranky tantrums. The pictures show a family that gets out and has fun and loves each other.

People say photos don't show the real picture, which is what I tell myself when I'm feeling low about myself and jealous of others.

But so much more importantly, we must remember that photos DO show the real picture. They show slices of life that we forget as we're buried under loads of laundry, trying to keep our eardrums from splitting in half as our kids fight over a plate/spoon/block/imaginary speck of dust. Life so often seems dull and drab and boring and wasted.

When you feel like this, I suggest you visit Facebook. Look at the pictures. Not of other people. Look at your pictures. You see those beautiful children smiling into the camera? You see that laughing family outside enjoying the sun?

That's you. That's just as much you as the dishes you have to do while your kids pull each other's hair. You are interesting and happy and adventurous. I bet you've got the pictures to prove it.

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Day Between Sickness and Wellness

We've been sick here. Very sick. Having lived in a germ-free bubble for the most of the last year means that one of the twins invariably picks up a virus or two whenever we come into contact with the outside world.

This time I'm sure the culprit was water day held at the preschool's summer camp. What started like this:

Ended like this:

And this was only the first day. Back when it was still cute, and no one was losing their minds.

Today, we're perched on that precarious ledge between sickness and wellness. Yesterday, the babies were in great spirits, happy to be feeling even a little better and thankful for the reprieve. Today, they're already taking it for granted, plus they have cabin fever (as do I) and yet we're all too sick to venture out into the world again quite yet.

They have slightly more energy, but they still feel awful, and they blame me (of course). So that if they didn't see me cut the orange, then it's not the orange they want. If it's not the toast I buttered five minutes ago that's been eaten, but instead some shady replacement toast (of exactly the same caliber, in the real world that isn't a twisted toddler mind), the world has ended and the only appropriate response is to scream and yell and cry and carry on.

It's devolved to this:

It's cuter without the sound, trust me. So, it's going to be a great day. Just well enough to cause a stink and demand the impossible, not well enough to actually have the energy to play or do anything fun.

I pretty much feel like this:

But as captain of this sinking ship, I'm doing my darndest to keep it together.

Wish me luck.


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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Why I'm Going to Continue to Tell my Girls that They are Beautiful

Quite a while ago now, Lisa Bloom, blogger for the Huffington Post, wrote a piece outlining why we need to stop focusing on appearance in little girls. She made a lot of good points, and it gave me a lot to think about.

"ABC News reported that nearly half of all three- to six-year-old girls worry about being fat.

"15 to 18 percent of girls under 12 now wear mascara, eyeliner and lipstick regularly; eating disorders are up and self-esteem is down; and 25 percent of young American women would rather win America's Next Top Model than the Nobel Peace Prize."

I thought about these statistics, and I decided that I am not part of the problem, but part of the solution.

Bloom then stretches those statistics and comes up with this: "Teaching girls that their appearance is the first thing you notice tells them that looks are more important than anything. It sets them up for dieting at age 5 and foundation at age 11 and boob jobs at 17 and Botox at 23."

I don't agree with this. I don't think that complimenting a little girl on her looks chips away at her self-esteem. I cannot see how simply telling a girl she's pretty somehow translates into telling her she's not pretty enough. The problem, as I see it, isn't that parents or family or even strangers are remarking on physical attributes positively. The problem is beyond that. It's entrenched in a society that shows women with botox and boob jobs as prettier than the average girl. It's in the magazine spreads and celebrated celebrity lifestyles. It's in the television, as reality stars spend hours in the bathroom to get themselves ready for the next random hookup. It's not us. If anything, I think, our daughters need us to tell them they are pretty more now than ever.

When I say tell them they're pretty, I mean just that. If they look nice that day, if you like the way their hair is done, if they're your daughters and you just want to squish them up into you because they are the most beautiful creations inside and out to bless your world, you tell them that.

I don't mean saying things like, "You'd be prettier if...", or "Let's try to do your hair this way to make you pretty." I also don't mean dwelling on it. Once is enough, per surge of emotion. No need to repeat it a thousand times. That makes the words lose their meaning. They lose their context. If you are a broken record, your compliments cease to be compliments and they tread on the territory Bloom is talking about. Your compliments lose their object, the girl herself, and she begins to only hear, "pretty, pretty, pretty." This is what Bloom is scared of.

But there is another side of the coin that cannot be ignored. Our society, as it stands right now, is not blind to physical looks. To turn away from this does nothing to solve the problem. It will not help your little girl's self-esteem as she grows older. Yes, it's important to focus on her inner beauty and her skills, but there's no reason to pointedly ignore the physical. Because if you do ignore it, you'll be the only one. And you'll be leaving a gap where your daughter needs you most as she grows.

Because people are going to call her ugly. I don't care if she is the most beautiful, well-coiffed, poised young woman in the world, some jerk is going to come along and try to make her feel bad about herself. And while the thought that "looks aren't important, it's the beauty on the inside that counts" is true and important for her to know at every age, that's only going to help her when she's already a fully grown adult, when she's already determined who she is and what her personality is like, when she's already stable in her place in the world.

Looks aren't important, it's the beauty inside that counts. That's not going to help her when she's 9 or 12 or 15. At those ages, how the outside world perceives you is important, and a parent ignoring looks will become just another example of how "mom doesn't understand me," or "mom doesn't want me to be happy."

These are treacherous years. During them, your daughter is going to need to know in her subconscious that she is beautiful, inside and out. The way to give her that nugget of truth is to tell her when she is young. So that when that ahole comes along spouting filth about your daughter's looks, she doesn't have to rely on a philosophy too complex for her years to get her through. No, she'll be able to draw strength from a subconscious well of knowledge that she is, indeed, pretty. You told her so. Your friends told her so. Everyone she met from age 2 to now who is not this person (or these people, as the case may be) told her she was pretty. Her own self-esteem isn't developed enough to get her through the attacks unscathed, but with help from you in her growing years, she may find strength -- the source of which will not be clear in her mind.

Bloom is right. Little girls, teenaged girls and women in general should not have to worry about their looks, especially not obsessively like we've begun to do. But that doesn't change the way of the world, and your daughter needs your support in the world in which she lives, not in the ideal world in which you wish she lived.

So, yes, I will continue to tell my daughters they are beautiful. I will tell them every day. Because I feel it every day. And there will come a day when they no longer believe me. But my words to them now will be lodged in their subconscious minds. My words to them now, I hope, will form a base of knowledge from which they won't have to waver. I can only hope that they'll understand that looks are not everything, but that even so, they look beautiful. Always.

You know how my mother did that for me? She said "Looks are not everything, honey, and I think you might spend a little too much time caring about what other people think. You don't need to. You're beautiful on the outside. And more importantly, you're beautiful on the inside."

So, why not be honest with our daughters? Instead of ignoring an ugly side of society that we don't like, hiding in the sand, why don't we face it head on, acknowledge it, and give it its proper place in our daughters' perspectives as they grow? Because without our guidance here, without our acknowledgement and understanding of this part of life, our daughters will be forced to figure it out all on their own. And the only people they'll have for help are those magazine spreads filled with botoxed beauties. The only people they'll have for help are those kids at the bus stop calling them names.

We need to be a positive force in our daughters' lives as they live, not as we wish they could live.

 Link to original piece:

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Step Out of your Comfort Zone - It's Worth It

It was a lazy Sunday morning when I got a text from my friend Yasmin, who has a little boy, two years old.

"What are you doing today?"

Well, we weren't doing anything, yet. We had thought about maybe going to the springs or the pool, whatever we usually do on a sunny Sunday, usually only including our own family. We don't do much hanging out with others. We should.

They were going to a park that normally we wouldn't have access to, so we decided, sure, we would tag along. What time were they leaving?

12:30 p.m.

Oh. Nap time. Crap.

Well, we decided it was worth it to ignore nap time on this day, and that was a good decision. Of course, one of the twins was fast asleep in the car by the time we got to the park, but we woke her up and hoped for the best.

Our friends met us, along with a childless couple and a single woman, under a large wooden gazebo where grilling was allowed. Down the grassy hill there was a small beach area where children were splashing in a lake. Further to the right, you could grab a boat and paddle your way across the waters. There was a nice breeze, good conversation and amazing picnic food. And the babies (all three of them) were the glue that held the whole outing together.

If there were ever a lull in adult action, one of us simply commented on something the babies were doing, or another of us started playing with them, and the train of thought circled back around to the present, to what was right in front of us. It may have been a cop-out, but it was a natural one.

Things that would have creeped me out without them became little adventures. The cockroach laying eggs, for instance. Shudder. The kids were spellbound. It eased the gross blow for me. The huge red velvety ant. Again, the kids were capitvated.

Yasmin and her family got a boat, but we stayed behind. Someone had said there were alligators in the lake! I don't care if there hasn't been an attack in 50 years. Why would I enticed a gator with my tasty three year olds?

So, we went splashing and swimming instead, assuming with all the toddlers playing in the water that there was some sort of net apparatus separating the swimming areas from the gators. Only there wasn't. Once we found out, we managed to slowly move them away from water activities and we ate. Then we decided we'd brave the lake in a boat, and Yasmin and Osvaldo (her husband) showed us the ropes.

Until, of course, we saw an alligator. Fairly close. And we realized how very slow four inexperienced rowers are to one fast scaly swimmer. I got a picture of the beast, which shows him clearly when zoomed, but I don't know how to zoom it to show you here.

Anyway, Yasmin and I depended upon the strength of these fine gentlemen here to get us back to safety. Which we did.

Moral of the story: Go out of your comfort zone. Skip a nap, make new friends, go somewhere new. Don't go boating with alligators. There's adventurous and then there's too far, if you know what I mean.


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Monday, July 25, 2011

Recipe Monday - A Pizza for Every Day of the Week

Having toddlers means ordering in is just easier than going out, sometimes. When we first moved here, we tried all the local pizza delivery options. We didn't really like any of them. In fact, our favorite is Dominos, if that tells you anything about the quality of the pizza here.

One day, I had the excellent idea of picking up premade pizza dough from Publix. That was a game-changer. I don't make my own dough because that sounds like something I could really mess up, but if you are a better cook than I am, consider it. Otherwise, when you're cruising the bakery section of your local grocery store, pick up a wad of dough. It's worth it.

You can use anything as a topping on a pizza. Leftover night will never be the same.

My first attempt was your average pepperoni, onion, mushroom pie.

Buy a pizza pan. They're cheap. Spread the dough as evenly as you can over the pan. Put olive oil over the dough before any toppings. This ensures that nothing sops through the dough to make the final product mushy.

Preheat the oven anywhere from 375 to 425, depending on how crispy you like your pizza. Then you're ready for your toppings. Sauce first, if you are using it. Then I put on cheese, but you can save that for last depending on your preferences. And as much or as little toppings of each kind that you desire.  Cook for 20 minutes or so.

You can use leftovers to make gourmet pizzas. I made this greek pizza with kalamata olives, peppers, feta cheese, onions, mushrooms, and leftover chicken. It was delicious.

My husband doesn't particularly like marinara sauce, so lately I've been doing a lot of white pizzas. Ricotta cheese, tomatoes, basil, spinach, garlic, bacon. Any of these make for great white pizza toppings. You could also do a full veggie pizza without sauce.

Bored of pizza? Split the dougj in half and make calzones. Make two small circles out of the dough. Fill with mozzarella, ricotta, pepperoni, spinach, lunch meat, whatever you'd like. Fold the dough over, and cut slits in the top to release the steam. Put them on a cookie sheet. Cook it in the oven until the crust is browned.

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Moment of the Week - 51: Down by the Bay

Did you ever see a moose wearing a tie? Haha.

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Toddler Tricks - 51: Why Ask Why?

Problem: Your child has reached the age where everything is a question. They need to know about every menial task and action from the end result all the way back to the root of the idea. Usually this happens with "why." They can ask why, forever. There is almost nothing that stops the why. So what can you do other than invest in earplugs?

Solution: Take them seriously. Now, this is going to take place approximately a million times a day, so you won't be able to play every questioning jag out to its conclusion without most likely losing your mind, but as often as you can, answer them with the next answer, and the next answer, and the next answer. If you think of it as a game, yourself, and one that doesn't involve you down on your knees chasing them around, the whys really aren't so bad. It's sometimes fun to see where the train of thought will go. Be truthful, or as truthful as you can when you answer. They're not asking to bother you. They're asking because they want to know, and if you can give them enough attention so that they know you're taking them seriously, they'll give your answers due attention, so that when you actually get down to the nitty-gritty details, they'll usually be so astounded that they chill out and think about it for a while, giving you at least a ten minute break. Here's an example of this:

Dulce: "Why go bed, mama?"
Me: "Because it's nighttime."
Dulce: "Why nighttime?"
Me: "Because it's dark out."
Dulce: "Why dark?"
Me: "Because the sun went down."
Dulce: "Why sun go-ded down?"
Me: "Because the Earth rotates around the sun. Like this. See my finger? My fist here is the sun, and the Earth, which is this finger over here, turns on its axis, so that this side during the day faces the sun...that's the side we're on...but it keeps turning around so that eventually this side...the side we're longer faces the sun and we can't see it. And without the sun, it's dark. And these little circles happen over and over again until we get back to this same spot around the sun next year. See?"
Dulce: "Oh, okay."

Problem: You really don't have the time or the patience on that particular day to go around and around with your child, no matter how enthusiastic they are. You need an alternate answer to BECAUSE so that you don't end up shouting it at them.

Solution: Let them get a few why questions out so that they don't feel like you are shutting them down right away. Then instead of saying "because" or "because I said so," answer them with a question so that they have something to think about as the game ends. This gives them power and leaves them pondering.  Here's an example.

Dulce: "Whadda dooding?"
Me: "Cleaning the kitchen."
Dulce: "Why clean the kitchen?"
Me: "Because it has to be clean before daddy gets home."
Dulce: "Why hafta clean before daddy home?"
Me: "Because we make it dirty."
Dulce: "Why make it dirty?"
Me: "Because we do all the cooking in here."
Dulce: "Why do cooking?"
Me: "So we can eat."
Dulce: "Why eat?"
Me: "So we can live."
Dulce: "Why live?"
Me: "Why not?"

End of conversation.

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Friday, July 22, 2011

The Things that Annoy Me about Kids' Shows

Being an expert in educational children's programming, by which I mean I'm a parent who sometimes needs to clean or make dinner in peace, I have some gripes. Most are irrational, some are grudgey, all legitimately bother me.

The first is derived from a very unfair grudge I hold against Martin Short. I just hate him. I've never found him funny, and he was at his unfunniest on his little show there, Glick, or whatever it was. His voice irritates me. Therefore, the voice of the Cat from The Cat and the Hat affects me like the sound of nails on a chalkboard. Gosh, Cat! Shut up with your creepy cackle and stupid sayings. I can't handle it over here in the kitchen.

While we're talking about The Cat in the Hat, why do they bother showing the kids being buckled in every time if the buckles are 1970s-Olsmobile-style seatbelts? I can just see six year olds around the nation putting their chest strap behind their backs right now. If you're going to do safety, do it right.

And why does fish sound exactly like half of the other characters (including the bat) on the show? If you have the same voice artist doing different voices, try to make them different, okay?

Speaking of characters that sound the same, Disney is a prime offender. I didn't think I cared, but apparently I really need to know if the cartoon speaking is Pig from Word World or Smee from Jake and the Neverland Pirates. A line coming from Pete in Mickey's Club House has a completely different connotation than one coming from Tigger. So why is the voice the exact same? You're confusing me over here! Remember, I can't see the TV. Let's use a little creativity, shall we?

Max and Ruby is pretty much the most boring show I've ever seen, but for some reason, it evokes ever-changing emotions in me. At first I really disliked Ruby. She's so precocious. But then I realized that she's just a kid, and she's basically little Max's mom, and Max would certainly annoy any eight year old. I know if my kids didn't listen to me three times in a row, I'd be telling them about themselves. So, really, even though Max seems like a saintly toddler just doing his own thing, it's Ruby who has the patience. And one of my friends brought up a really good point. Why does he insist on speaking in only one word sentences? The point-and-demand is not a method of communication I want to encourage in my house.

And what started this whole rant is my favorite character, The Map. What a smug, egocentric, worthless tool he is. He always sends Dora the absolute longest way with the most obstacles, and his little song just sets me on edge. "What's my name? The map! SAY IT AGAIN!" Ooooh,  yeah. Wait, what? Enough, map, enough. We get it. You're the map.

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

How to Make Friends: The Mommy Edition

I am a horrible judge of character. I basically like everyone on sight and invite them into my home and give them my stuff immediately. I ended up with a lot of jovial troublemakers in my circle, which was all fine and dandy when I was on my own. Then I had kids.

And for three years, I couldn't make a friend to save my life.

I wondered often what had happened to me. I didn't remember hating people so much. Since when was I the type to stew in the corner finding possible reasons not to talk to people, especially other moms? I had gone from eagerly making conversation and talking a mile a minute to brushing off small talk attempts by those probably as apprehensive as myself. Why?

Then it hit me. It's not that I hate people. It's that I know I can't trust my instincts, and I don't want to make a mistake and force my family through an erratic friendship filled with trepidation and woe. So instead of working to improve my judgement, I simply shut down that area of my life. Good plan. Except that three years is an awful long time to go without amiable contact (well, I have a few friends, but that's because they're amazing, and they didn't give up on me even through my cold shoulder), and not only that, it's bad for the kids. There's no need to live in a bubble, even if you're like me and can't suss out the bad from the good right away.

If you want to make friends, you have to give people a shot. A guarded shot, but a shot nonetheless. So, how do you strike up a conversation with a would-be friend and keep it going without everything getting wonky?

1) If you have a thought about something, say it out loud. You could be wondering where a child playing nearby got her dress, or what kind of sandwiches that picnicking family over by the trees is eating. I used to shut these questions down as they arose, but why not just ask? It seems intrusive, but the responses I've gotten so far have been beyond positive. You'd be surprised how many moms want to share their recipe with an admirer, or love gushing about the fashion deals to be found at the local boutique. And if the person is not interested in talking to you, they'll let you know with little to know embarrassment. A short answer with an immediate head turn back to the activity at hand, and you just walk away. It's no big deal. At the very least you now know that pasta salad came from the Publix. Try again with the next person you randomly have a question or comment for. There's no reason to keep these things to yourself. Even if the mom doesn't want to be your new bestie, you probably made her day by complimenting those earrings.

2) Let the conversation flow naturally. We're all moms, yes, but that's not all we think about. If the conversation heads toward talk of the kids, embrace it, but don't force it there. Complimenting jewelry, for instance, will probably lead more naturally to shopping stories and style ideas, which will very soon make its way into playful bemoanment of kids in the shopping cart or whatever. The conversation will very often be about the kids. You don't have to get it there immediately. Most people enjoy remembering they have other facets to their personality as well, and by letting the conversation go where it goes naturally, you're allowing yourself to see a bigger snapshot of your new possible friend's life.

3) Keep it light. It doesn't need to be mindless small talk, but do you really need to know the person's views on abortion, attached parenting and formula feeding all at once? I didn't think so. Now, this isn't to say ignore incompatibilities. There are going to be things about other people that you don't agree with, that make you uncomfortable, or that are absolute dealbreakers when it comes time for real friendship, and you'll want to know about these things before inviting anyone over for a cookout. But you'll be sure to sour any budding friendship by asking about their political or religious views in the first few minutes of the first conversation. And if you bust out with "I hate formula," people are likely going to shy away.

Finding someone who agrees with, or at least accepts, your parenting style will be paramount to any friendship, but sometimes moms place too much emphasis on this in the beginning, as if trying to weed out the friendship before it's ever had a chance to bloom. If your new friend lets her child cry it out, that will come up. You don't have to ask right away. And if you can't be friends with that person because of it (or any other reason), then at least you've gotten a few good conversations out of the deal. It's practice for the next potential friend.

Really, it's all about being positive and giving yourself and others a chance. As parents, we do have to be really cautious about who we admit into our family's lives, but we don't have to automatically disqualify every person we see just because we're scared. Most likely, they're scared, too. Most likely, they would really appreciate someone bold enough to make a friendly comment and keep an easy conversation.


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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Confessions of a Bad Bath Taker

I've always wanted to be the type who takes baths. Even when I was a kid, it just seemed like a romantic, luxurious thing to do. Hot water, bubbles, candles, wine, a good book. Is this not a recipe for the best time ever? Well, for me, sadly not.

First of all, I'm tall. At 5'9", I just don't fit in a bathtub. I can sit up and stretch out my legs, leaving my entire torso exposed. Or I can slouch down to cover my navel with water with my knees sticking up awkwardly and uncomfortably. It never releases the tension in my neck because of the angle at which I have to hold my head. If I use a towel, it only ends up getting soaked.  I mean, physically, I'm just a bad bath taker.

My timing is always bad, too. First of all, it's summer in Florida. Sitting in hot water for any amount of time is not ideal. I probably should have tried this in December. But somehow I'd found myself on the Lush web site a few weeks ago, and I'd ordered some bath stuff. Stuff that was described as calming, luxurious, rich, sensual...I mean, I was sold. None of these things are in my life right now, and if a little ball of scent-ridden stuff can get it for me, well, a billionity dollars is a steal, isn't it?

Well, I'm not impressed. The little green ball smelled so strongly of pine that I could hardly stand it. The butterball was slimy. I guess it's supposed to be satiny smooth. And the bubble bath stuff didn't crumble all the way and gave me only mediocre bubbles.

Three failed baths. I think I'm done.

I don't know. Maybe it's that the first time I tried, it was during naptime. Not only did I feel like the twins would wake up any second and come upstairs to find me, I also felt like I was being a bum. Instead of shutting off and floating to a dreamy wonderland, my brain was ticking off things I wasn't getting done on my to-do list. I only have 90 minutes a day of kid-free time if that. I didn't want to waste it in a tub. I got out, rinsed off, and had to wash my tub of green residue. Not relaxing.

The second time, the babies actually did wake up. What I had thought would ruin the bath experience actually saved it. There I was, in all my slimy, buttery glory when I heard the loud elephant trample...I mean, delicate pitter patter, of little toddler feet up the stairs. They busted into the bathroom, stood in abject shock for a moment, and then recovered as if it were perfectly normal for mommy to be in the bathtub instead of them.

"Your toys, mama! Oh no! Your toys!"

Splash! In came the watering can, the rubber duckies, and the buckets.

"Now let me help you," they said.

And they "washed" my hair for me.

Not the relaxing, classy, adult experience Lush was advertising, but truly the best time I got out of their products by far.

The third time, I swore I'd do it right. I waited until 11 p.m. The babies were sound asleep. I was excited to use the bubble bath because the bombs don't fizz, and it turns out I'm eight years old in that if a tub full of water doesn't have bubbles, I don't consider it complete. It's just a boring old bath, slime, smell and all.

So, I stepped into the bubbly tub and tried to relax. I was going to think about really deep things, okay? I was ready to solve the problems of the world. I lit candles this time and everything. But my legs still stuck up, and the water was still too hot, and I still couldn't get my head in the right position. I sat there for a few minutes, restlessly, trying to get into the right mood. Instead of thinking deep thoughts, I ended up formulating a to-do list for the next day. I began worrying about all the writing I could be doing at that exact moment, instead of sitting on my arse in a tub. After 10 minutes, I decided to shave my legs. At least then I was doing something productive. But then the task was completed and I was back to staring at the ceiling. I got out. 

Baths just aren't for me. I'll stick to my stolen 10-minute showers during naps where I have to use one of those combo shampoo/conditioners to save time. I actually think I like those better. If I do venture into adult bathtime again, I'm not springing for Lush.  Oh no. If I try this again, I'm going old school. Mr. Bubbles all the way. Stick that in your classy-bath pipe and smoke it.


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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Babies Aren't Machines; Throw the Schedule Out the Window

One of my biggest problems with blogging is that many bloggers work for organizations that pass themselves off as news. They call their pieces articles. These are not articles. They're commentary at best (and this includes my own work. Unless I'm citing pediatricians and other experts and fully exploring and representing both sides of an issue, which I don't think I've ever done, this is not news. This is opinion.)**

So that when an "article" comes down the pipe on about putting small infants on a schedule and cites one pediatrician and a whole lot of anecdotal evidence, I get a bit miffed.

Sue Buchelt tells me that parents are supposed to start working toward getting their infants on a schedule as soon as they leave the hospital. Her methods include stuffing the baby as full as he can get so that he goes at least 3.5 hours between feedings (both breastfed and formula fed) and letting the infant cry it out if he wakes up before it's time.

But it's okay. She knows. Her pediatrician told her. Plus, she has four kids. A singleton and triplets, and it worked for them, so obviously she's an expert on everyone else's kids' needs, as well.

She suggests this schedule and says her singleton was on it and sleeping through the night at six weeks. Her triplets? By three months.

6:30 am feeding
nap after feeding (in bed)
10:00 am feeding
1:30 pm feeding
nap after feeding (in bed)
5:00 pm feeding
8:30 pm feeding

That right there looks more like a dream to me, and not the kind I'm getting while I let my children scream in bed for twenty minutes after they wake up (we'll get to that piece of advice in a moment). And if Buchelt was able to pull it off, more power to her. But what about you? What if your baby gets hungry in between 6:30 a.m. and 10 a.m.? What if he gets tired after his 10 a.m. feeding? What if he won't go down for a nap after his 6:30 a.m.?

Babies, especially very young infants, are not made to fit into your sleep schedule. If you expect to regiment them like this, you are probably in for major disappointment. You're setting yourself up for failure. Babies aren't meant to be scheduled so young. They're all so different. They get hungry at different times for different reasons. Feed them. They are tired early? Put them to sleep. They wake up crying? For God's sake, go to them.

Babies are not machines. They may not be able to express their feelings, but that doesn't mean they don't feel. There's not a damn thing they understand in the world that they just came into, and parents are supposed to leave them hungry because it's not 1 p.m. yet? Parents are supposed to let their infants fend for themselves in the dark, in a room alone, because they've woken up before the allotted time?

The baby isn't crying to annoy you. She's not crying to interrupt your sleep pattern. It's not about you at all. Your baby is crying because she's wet, or she's hungry, or she's scared. She's only just weeks old. She doesn't even know how to smile yet, let alone manipulate you to get some more mommy-time out of the deal. There's plenty of time for that when the children are three, like mine. It does not start in the first months of life. No. In the first months of life, they cry because they need you. Buchelt would abandon them because her pediatrician told her to?

She says, "You need to be okay with letting your baby cry for 15-20 minutes. Which can be pure torture, but if you are the type of person that needs to pick your baby up every time you hear a peep, this will never work for you."

There is a big difference between uninterrupted wailing for 20 minutes and "a peep," and to be quite honest, even if you are the type to check on the baby at every peep, it's okay. It's your baby. It's okay for you to be worried about him and check whenever you want to. You'll soon get to know your own child, provided you listen to your own intuition and your infant's cues, and you'll soon know when the child is resettling and when he actually needs something, be it a diaper change or just some reassurance that you are still there.

Because twenty minutes of listening to crying is hard on an adult, certainly. But how long do you think that twenty minutes is to the infant who is waiting for someone to come? The baby doesn't stop crying because she's magically become satisfied on her own. She doesn't stop crying because her little mind-game didn't work. There is no mind-game. The baby stopped crying because she gave up hope. So, in two months' time, if you've managed to train your child like this, you may very well be sleeping through the night. But you're doing so at the expense of your infant's trust. She needs you. Why not go check on her instead of "putting a pillow over your head"?

Now, if you're one of the unlucky parents who have a lively one who's not ready to give up after 20 minutes, Buchelt advises you go ahead and check on him. But make sure you don't treat him like a human being.

"Do not talk to your baby, and do not make eye contact. No, you’re not being mean, your just letting them know that it’s bed time, not play time."

Yes, you are being mean. You're baby is mere weeks old. He doesn't know bed time versus play time. He only knows that he needed something, he was scared and crying for 20 minutes, and no one came to his aid. He only knows that now that someone finally arrived, she's not there to comfort him.

Then Buchelt comes out with this gem.

"Now offer them some distilled/nursery water for 5-10 minutes. My daughter never drank out of a bottle, so she outright refused the bottle and 2 out of 3 of the triplets drank the water, but either way, it just another way to stall their feeding time."

Everything I've heard says not to give infants water. Ever. But barring that, why on Earth would you want to delay a feeding? If your seven-pound child is hungry, she probably needs to eat, and she probably needs to eat now. Filling her with water to trick her little body into thinking it's full does no favors for anyone. She's hungry because she needs nutrients. This is biological. You'd deny your infant her biological needs because you know better than her body? I don't know, it just seems off to me.

But, guys, if you don't think Buchelt's method will work, she's got irrefutable evidence. It not only worked for her, it also worked for her sister, who has four kids. That's eight children this method has worked for! Oh, and don't forget the other triplet mom for whom it worked. That's eleven children who responded to being bullied into a schedule. With those kinds of numbers in support of this method, I'm surprised everyone isn't doing it.

The point of this post is that mothers give birth to babies, not machines. Babies don't cry to piss their mothers off. There is, at that age, a very good reason for them to be crying. It's the parents' job to figure it out. If you can do that, you'll be sleeping again a lot sooner than those who spend their nights staring at the clock, waiting for their 20 minutes of screaming to be up so they can  go check on their hungry, wet, scared child.

Buchelt's article:

**Just to be clear, I understood that this piece was a blog.

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Recipe Monday - Rocky Road Brownies

You have a picnic or party to go to in an hour, and you've just remembered you're supposed to bring a dessert. The kitchen goes into crisis mode as you scramble to find something -- anything -- that means you don't have to bring a pre-made, I-just-stopped-at-the-grocery-store food item. Time is ticking. It seems as if you're done for.

Wait, not quite yet. There's a box of brownie mix in the back cupboard there. But everyone's going to bring brownies. They're the easiest. Plus, they take 45 minutes to prepare and bake, even from a mix.

Not anymore they don't. The other day, I accidentally found a way to make brownies in 15 minutes total, and not only that, to snazz them up so that they stand out in the sea of other brownies that will no doubt be crowding the table.


The rocky road brownie.

Here's how to do it.

Use any brownie mix you have available, or make your own (I found some great recipes online I'd like to try someday when I have more than a few minutes). I used Pillsbury family-size fudgey brownies. Make it according to the instructions on the box.

Family size is a joke, though. The instructions say bake 28-30 minutes in a 9x13 inch tin. There isn't enough mix for that. I knew as soon as I spread the gooey batter less than a half-inch thick across the bottom of the pan that 28 minutes would burn the heck out of it.

After I tossed the batter in the oven, I spent a few minutes making a rocky-road mix for the top. Half a cup of chocolate chips, a half cup of cashews (or any nut you desire, or no nuts), and two cups of marshmallows. Mix them up well so you just have to pour the whole mess on the brownies when you're ready.

I had planned on taking the brownies out half-done, and cooking the toppings for another 10-15 minutes, but when I took those brownies out after the first 15 minutes...they were done.

I poured the mix on top of them anyway, switched the oven off, and put the dessert back into the warm oven for a few minutes while I got the family ready to go out.

The result was great. Gooey marshmallows with a barely-toasted top, crunchy nuts and chocolate chips that were soft but had kept their shape. The thinness of the brownies worked out well for this recipe, making the brownie-to-topping ratio accidentally perfect. (Do you like my dark, half-blurry pictures? I told you, I was in a rush. Anyway, you get the idea.)

I'll be making these again for sure.

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Moment of the Week - 50: Chicka Chicka

My kids are "reading" more and more.

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Toddler Tricks - 50: Teaching Them to Swim

Problem: It's summer, and you'd like to go to the pool, but your kids don't know how to swim, and you're worried about them.

Solution: There are many products on the market that put my mind at ease when I take my twins to the pool. Since there are two babies against one adult, I have to be extra careful not to let one's little head slip under the water as I fuss with her sister. Buying a suit with foam inserted inside is a good option. The downsides are that the suits don't hold a child upright, so if your baby is quite young, she'll still go under without being held. They're also a bit hard to wash, and they can be difficult to take off as the water makes them quite tight on the skin. A small inner tube will keep the child afloat, but prohibits movement so that learning swimming strokes is near impossible. Noodles are advertised for ages 5 plus, but I've found them to be fine and fun as a supplement, so long as an adult is watching closely. My favorite floating devices remain the arm bubbles...seemingly the same ones I wore 25 years ago when I was a kid. Can't mess with perfect, I guess. Here are the babies in the suits.


Problem: Your kid wants to dunk her head, but doesn't understand to hold her breath.

Solution: Work with them slowly. It's actually easier if you have them in any one of the floatie devices I mentioned above. This way they feel confident that they will come back up should something go wrong. Practice the steps several times before actually having them go under water. Tell her and show her how to close her eyes, close her nose and hold her breath. After she's perfected the order and can do them all almost simultaneously, make sure you're holding her securely so that she feels safe, and lower her under the water quickly before bringing her back up even more quickly. She should be under the water for less than a second. This way, if she swallows a bit of water, she'll be able to recover physically and psychologically without become afraid of the water. Comfort and praise for everything, even mistakes. That way they know they're being brave and big and they'll be confident that they'll get it someday.

NOTE: I am not trained in water and kids AT ALL. This is not an idea from an expert or from someone who might actually know something. This is just what I happen to be doing with my kids.

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Friday, July 15, 2011

Parks in the Summertime

Summer is in full swing, and, living in Florida, the temperatures are getting awful hot.  Still, indoor amusements only last for so long before you need to get your kids out of the house or lose your mind.
As the sun swelters overhead, gone are the days of packing everyone in the car on a moment’s notice and heading to the nearest outdoor adventure. So, how do you get your outdoor time without everyone being burned, hot, cranky and bug bitten?

I've found it best to schedule an outing in the morning, before the sun has a chance to make it high in the sky. No matter where you choose to go, unless there’s water involved or ample shading, the sun’s heat will force you back indoors sooner than later. My kids are also better behaved in the morning, after a good night's sleep. They're more amenable to change and will go with the flow better. Anything that means fewer tantrums for me to deal with is a great idea in my book.

Child Preparation:
Sometimes we forget how important sunblock and insect repellant can be. Even if you're not swimming and the kids are mostly covered up, the areas of skin exposed to the elements need to be protected.
University of Florida pediatrician Stephanie Ryan recommends staying away from combination blocks, even though they seem to be more convenient.
“Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outdoors and remember to reapply every 2 hours,” she says. “Avoid the combination products of sunscreen and bug repellant because sunscreen needs to be reapplied often, but insect repellant should not be reapplied.”

Park equipment comes in all colors, but even the lightest cream-colored slides can burn the skin after just a few minutes in the summer sun. Be sure to dress your kids in full pants so that their skin is safe from the hot metal and plastic that comes with playgrounds.
I've also found that  sneakers and socks are the best park wear, even though they're warmer than sandals and a hassle to put on.  Parks tend to be lined with sand, wood chips or rubbery tire bits. The tire bits can cause unstable footing leading to twisted ankles and dirty feet. The wood chips can splinter or poke an unprotected sole. The sand gets ultra-hot and messy.

When looking for a park to suit your needs best, consider the age of your children and their personalities. Those with toddlers would be best suited for small, well-fenced areas with beginner-level equipment.  
“For playgrounds for little kids (under age 5), I'd say that one of the biggest safety aspects is a park that has a separate area for this age group versus the bigger kids,” says Ryan. “Kids under 4 should not climb any equipment that is taller than they are without close supervision.”

Before leaving for the day, decide how long you are going to be there. While some parks have a picnic area and public bathroom set up, others are not fit to accommodate a full-day trip. If you just plan on going to the park for an hour or two, you may want to choose a smaller park with fewer distractions, making it easier to leave when lunch or dinner calls. If your kids are potty trained, you'll definitely want a bathroom nearby. I've learned the hard way that sometimes we'll all spend more time in the john than on the slides.

Even in this stifling heat, my kids do better when they've had a chance to play outdoors. I wouldn't be able to do it if not for the considerations I outlined above. It took a year of trial and error, but now we're Florida-summer park pros. I still don't have any advice on the not-wanting-to-leave toddler meltdown, though. Hopefully I learn that next.

**Sections of this piece were published in The Gainesville Sun.
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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Franchise Flops

I hardly ever buy commercial icon stuff, not only out of any belief that my kids shouldn't be advertisements for a company, but also because that stuff is so damn expensive.

You take a $1 plate, you put Mickey Mouse on it, and it becomes a $10 plate.

I know because I got the kids Mickey Mouse plates for Christmas, thinking I was treating them.

Silly me. First of all, the kids don't care. They're just as happy eating from the plain pink or green sectioned plates I got for a buck at the Publix. Secondly, the set-up isn't even remotely practical. One big plate area, for the main piece of the meal (way bigger than necessary.), and two teeny tiny "ears" for the side dishes. Seriously, I can fit, like, three peas in those side dish sections. No good.

Most irritatingly, they're badly made. I get that I'm not supposed to cut bites on the plate itself due to the laminate, but sometimes it's just not practical to cut the meat on my plate first and then transfer. I believe I used a knife on these plates once, right after I got them. I hadn't thought about the laminate until I saw the results, which at the time were minimal. Now?

As you can see, the dishwasher was kinder to one of the plates than the other. Both need to be tossed out. Little pieces of plastic mixed in with food isn't ideal, now, is it? But, the whole plate came undone after just one cut-up pork-chop experience and lots of washes.

And now, I have to hear a million questions about where Mickey Mouse went, whenever the babies so much as catch a glimpse of these no-longer-used plates. It's unpleasant all around.

I recently stocked up on these, six of which cost less than half of what the two Mickey plates cost.

Perfectly-sized sections, stackable for storage, holds up well against a knife blade. They're great.

This franchise phenomenon doesn't end with dinnerware. My mother recently bought the kids some Dora underwear. The kids had been wearing underwear for quite a while before that, so I had plenty of regular pairs around already.

The Dora underwear pairs are shot. They're done. I'm tossing them. After less than three months' time, they're unravelling at the seams, tearing and breaking down. The underwear I'd bought months before Dora made her appearance, on the other hand, are still holding up strong.

Just because an item has a picture of some popular icon on it doesn't mean it's any better than any other item out there. In fact, it's probably worse. And it probably costs 10 times more.

No, thank you.  Back to generic babywear for me.

If you like this blog, please consider voting for me here! And if you really love me...Babble is the most important ranking to me, and I'd love you forever.  xxoo

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Rollercoaster - Guest Blog

My good friend Cassie, over at Mama Phrass, has had the journey of a lifetime. In a crash course of growing up, she's truly experienced more heightened highs and lows than anyone I've ever met. A few months ago, her struggles culminated in a dream job. That combined with her loving family, including a gorgeous little girl, gave her the sense that, yes, everything does happen for a reason. Even though when times are tough, that phrase may be one of the most hated. Here's her inspiring story.

I hate it when people say, "Everything happens for a reason." What a rotten expression. It is probably the least helpful phrase ever and when you're experiencing rough times to hear somebody it feels like a slap in the face.

At least for me.

My husband and I were going through some rough times not long ago and when I look back at our journey to where we have arrived I scratch my head and wonder if all the obstacles really did happen for a reason. I remember smack dab in the middle of our struggles telling myself that this HAD to be the bottom of the rollercoaster and things would start moving up soon only to be hit with another awful obstacle.

Our journey, and specifically mine, started when I was in college. I was an aspiring flute player, ready to conquer the world. On my first day of college I aced a music theory placement test. I thought I had this music school thing in the bag. Obviously, I was going to soar through college and become rich and famous beyond my wildest dreams. Obviously.

I was so wrong.

Things started to get rocky around my sophomore year. I was doing well in most of my classes save for one that I was having many problems in: Ear Training. One day I noticed that my ears were hurting a bit and my parents suggested I see an Ear Nose Throat doctor. I thought they were being overly concerned but it felt like my whole world came crashing down upon me on that day in the doctor's office. I was losing my hearing. There was no explanation as to why or how or when but a very significant chunk of my upper-range hearing (which is especially important to flute players) was gone. The words "profoundly deaf" rattled my brain.

As you can imagine, this sent me into a tailspin.

My life chugged along and I faced challenges that made me grow to be a better person but there was always a special part of me that resented my hearing. Why me? Why now? Why why why?

I did what felt natural, I moved away from music. I took my desk job, married a wonderful man, and moved on with my life. Occasionally people who knew me would ask about music and try to push me into music again, but I just couldn't bring myself to crack my flute case open with any amount of lasting enthusiasm. Sometimes I would think, "Screw it, I've just got to get back on the horse!" and start playing...but then I'd hit a particularly high note and feel devastated all over again. Too many emotions. Too difficult.

And you know what? Life was pretty okay as long as I kept my back turned on music. My husband and I were happy enough. We had a nice little house in a suburban area, to fabulous paying jobs...what more could there be to life?

We dreamed about moving to a small town. We were both raised in small towns and spent a lot of time traveling to small towns in Eastern Oregon and when a job at the school opened up, I encouraged my husband to apply. He got the job and we jumped on the chance to have an adventure.

The town had a population around 450. It was heaven on earth for me. I quit my job, and we moved into a small little house in town. I loved it. I volunteered at the school. I enjoyed running our by the big ranches down the road. I loved knowing everybody in town. I loved all of the new things we got to try. It was amazing to us how much we learned from being there. The small town atmosphere forced us out of our comfortable boxes and we were suddenly extremely active in the community. We would referee sporting events for the school, chaperone dances, and got involved with the school board. Unfortunately, the job wasn't as stable as we had hoped and after a year of living in the small town, we decided to move back to the big city.

It was a crushing blow. Especially since after a year of trying to conceive, I was finally pregnant. It was scary to be leaving our comfortable small town life for the unknown back in the big city. We were confident, though, that my husband or I would find employment back in the city.

Months later we were still unemployed. We were paying for insurance out of pocket and bills were starting to accumulate so my husband took the first job he was offered: a job at big box store. My husband is a teacher by trade so this was quite a downgrade but seeing as he was up against people with PhDs we were grateful for whatever we got. We also figured it wouldn't last very long. Surely something would come up.

Except, nothing did.

We had our daughter, who was the light of our life and the thing we both clung to for positivity in our lives. Money was tight, and we had to get creative when it came to grocery shopping and having fun (read: we went on A LOT of picnics).

The next summer we applied for jobs like crazy. The most logical thing was for my husband (who hated working at the big box store) to get a teaching job. He applied for 130 teaching jobs (in two states), had interviews with 15 of those jobs (for which we put countless miles on our car getting to), and he didn't get a single job.

This was another huge blow. I felt crushed after each one didn't pan out.

Then life took an even scarier turn. My daughter was born with a large cyst in her abdomen. We discovered it when I was still pregnant and the doctors decided to monitor it (which was accompanied by some very large medical bills). She was born perfectly healthy but the cyst continued to grow and in December it had nearly doubled in size in three months. Her doctor suddenly turned into a "team of specialists" and the decision was made to operate. We spent a whole week in the hospital. It was easily the most difficult thing I've ever been through. I found strength, though, that I never knew I had.

And I won't lie, things were rough. I felt like we were on the brink of financial ruin. One more bout of bad luck would send us over the edge. I cried so much and my husband and I fought more than ever but we communicated through it and kept trucking along. I tried to switch gears into accepting our fate but I just couldn't. I felt awful about the whole thing. I'm a planner. I like to be prepared and I found myself in exactly the opposite situation than I had ever wanted to be in. I tried to stay positive and keep a smile on my face and focus on my daughter. We found free things to do (hello library!) and took lots of runs and walks. It was hard to stay positive through it all.

One day, not long ago, my parents emailed me a job posting. The local community symphony in my hometown was hiring an executive director. I scoffed at the posting when they sent it to me. Me? An executive director? They had to be kidding. I told them thanks but no thanks and listed off a thousand reasons why I wasn't qualified.

Then I thought about it. And I stewed. Executive Director of a small community symphony? Basically my dream job. I can't think of a job better suited for me. After living in the small town I felt so strongly about communities and working as an executive director would take the pressure off me to actually perform music. I'd be able to enjoy the music from afar.

The next morning I emailed a good friend of mine who used to have a similar job. I asked him if I would be making a fool of myself by applying for this job. He was the right person to contact about it because rather than saying a blanket "Yes" or "No" he quizzed me on my qualifications. He asked hard questions and I spent a day answering them...and when I was done, I decided to apply.

I didn't want to merely apply, I wanted to put a huge amount of effort into the application to show the hiring committee that this job would be my heart and soul. I asked for four letters of recommendations from friends, I contacted people connected with the symphony, I spent DAYS working on my resume and application. My whole life revolved around it. I thought it was a pretty long shot but I also saw it as my only hope. I know that sounds dramatic but after everything that had happened it felt completely true.

You can imagine my shock when I was contacted for a phone interview, then invited to the next round of interviews and the next. When I got the call that said I had been chosen, I screamed. I cried. I jumped up and down. I danced. I hugged my husband.

The totally bizarre thing? That same week, my husband was hired for a job in the same town doing something more suited to his training. It was like fate finally decided to shine upon us.

Our lives changed before our eyes.

Some days I feel like creating a flow chart of how our past experiences lead us to this moment because I can pinpoint the obstacle that seemed so impossible back then but prepared me for some small trial on a certain day. It is almost spooky. That saying that I hate so much is ringing true. If I hadn't lost my hearing, I would have never had the chance to gain the experience to make me successful in my current position. The rough financial times forced us to learn how to be good with money. Even the surgery taught me so much about myself and really made my bond with my daughter stronger.

I never want to take it for granted and I try to pass our good fortune on as much as possible. I leave really big tips when I get good service. I pay for coffee for the people behind me at a coffee shop. I smile and enjoy every minute that ticks by. Every concert that I attend gives me goosebumps. Every sunset in my town makes me feel so lucky.

Here is the thing, I still hate that saying, "Everything happens for a reason" because, sure, things happen and when they are awful, they are awful...but, the things you experience in life, no matter how horrible, prepare you for the things that are yet to be and sometimes, if you use those experiences right, things pan out pretty well.

Be sure to check her out at Mama Phrass. She's truly an amazing woman, mother and blogger.


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