“It’s good to be the little brother”

Wow, that is a statement I never thought I would hear from my youngest, but yet, last week there it was.  It was said the minute he got in the car after a morning of football camp at our high school.  He was sweaty & tired, but definitely happy.  His happiness was due in part to the simple fact that his big brother just happens to be a freshmen football player this year and, as my youngest walked up to check-in to camp, the football coach said, “I already have you checked-in Minglin—I saw you walk up with your brother.”

Yes, his brother.  His brother is the boy that terrorizes him on any given day of the week by taking away his baseball glove, pushing him off the couch while he tries to play a video game or hiding in the darkness of a hallway to scare him.  He is the boy who doesn’t want Jack around when he is hanging with his friends or when he’s watching TV.  If you were to ask Jack to describe his big brother in one word, it would probably be ‘mean’ or ‘stupid’.

Yet, last week, this was the boy who made Jack happy.  This was the boy who walked up to his little brother in front of all the really cool high school football players and coaches and said, “Coach, this is my brother Jack. He’s here to play football.”   It is one of those moments you cherish as a mom—a moment when you realize behind all the ugly words and fights, there really is a deep, loving bond between siblings.  And although there will continue to be brotherly turmoil in our household (truth be told, there was brotherly turmoil pretty much the moment we got home from camp), I am certain that Nate will always have Jack’s back in the real world—and that’s where it counts the most.

Jack’s right, it’s good to be the little brother.

 

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3 Ways I Will Keep My Worries in Check While My Daughter’s Away

This evening, my daughter heads to Mexico on a mission trip.  I have mixed emotions about her adventure–I am proud of her decision to go, I am happy she gets this opportunity, but I am also worried. I am worried about all sorts of things, but primarily, I am worried that she will be scared and I, as the Chief Bravery Officer, won’t be there to calm her anxieties. Truth be told, my daughter rarely needs my help in the “calming of anxieties” area–she was born with a very confident sense of self and doesn’t fall apart easily.  It is a trait I admire, and one that she gets completely from her father.  Let’s face it, the real anxieties that need to be calmed are my own.  So, today’s ‘Friday Finds’ are three things I plan to do to keep my worries in check while my daughter is off on this amazing adventure:

Keep a Journal:  This may sound crazy considering I’m not the one going on the trip, but writing has always been the one thing I can do to make me feel more control of any situation.  For this journal, I am going to write daily letters to my daughter–just detailing the things that are happening in our regular little suburban lives and how much we miss her being around for the usual bouts of family chaos.

Clean Her Room:  Wow, I hope she doesn’t read this post before she gets on the plane–the thought of me spending time in her room is certain to raise her anxiety level!  I’m not stepping into her room to snoop, but I want her to feel comfortable when she comes home.  I want her to experience the pure joy of just-cleaned sheets, clothes that are folded and hung and the calmness that comes from just being in a room that is completely organized.

Pray:  Regardless of your religious beliefs, daily prayer or meditation not only helps you sort out the day’s events and challenges, but it gives you the opportunity to focus on gratitude instead of worry.  I  have always struggled with daily prayer rituals–my mind constantly floats to some less deep thought such as ‘what kind of invitations should I buy for Jack’s birthday party”.  I have been told that by focusing on the reason for my time of meditation and prayer as well as my breathing, I will be able to avoid such ‘task-oriented’ thoughts.  So, this week, I plan to be more intentional with my prayer time–clearing out small interrupted chunks of my day when I can just focus on the true task at hand:  Making sure my daughter is healthy and happy on her journey and that this journey, brings her safely back home to us!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mothers Are All Slightly Insane

Source: via Patti on Pinterest

 

Never has a more true statement been spoken, or written, in the case of J.D. Salinger.  The quote can actually be found in Catcher in the Rye, a book that although required reading when I was in high school, may now be banned from most school libraries.  Scholars argue that the quote in context refers to the fact that in general, mothers love their children so much that they sometimes fail to see their children for who they really are.  Is this true?

When I think of that final statement, I think of the mom who insists her son loves baseball even though he cries every time he’s at bat.  Yet, I think it can go much deeper–especially as your kids get older.  There was a moment on my journey of motherhood when I realized that my daughter was not me.  She didn’t need the same things I needed when I was a teenager.  She didn’t necessarily like the same things I liked.  Regardless of how many times I tried to fit her into the “Patti Smith” mold of  teen years (seriously, my maiden name was ‘Smith’–I’m not just trying to hide my true pre-marriage identity), it never seemed to work.

And, we were both miserable. She was miserable because she kept thinking she was disappointing me for not being more like me and I was miserable because I thought being more like me would make her happy and content–after all, that’s how I felt when I was younger (or at least that’s how I remembered I felt until I found my teen angst-filled journals).

During that time, I believe I really was insane.  After all, Einstein’s definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  And, as mothers, don’t we do that a lot?  We do it with the little things such as repeating the mantra “Pick up the wet towels in the bathroom after you shower” to the big things like thinking your daughter wants to be just like you when she grows up.

It is sometimes a hard parenting pill to swallow when you give up the illusion and deal with the reality.   Which is why Salinger is right, mothers are all slightly insane.

“Your dress is in the toilet”

I was giving one of the best speeches of my life—explaining in great detail the seriousness of the situation and how our next steps would be critical in defining who we were as parents and who we were as a family.  It was a beautiful speech, filled with adjectives and adverbs that I so rarely use when just trying to get my kids to pick up their socks or bring the empty glasses up from the basement.  It was moving and persuasive and just as I finished, my husband looked at me and said, “Your dress is in the toilet.”

My ‘podium’ for this masterpiece of the spoken word was the kids’ bathroom where just moments before I began to speak, I was knee-deep in cleaning.  I seemed to disregard the fact that my hands smelled of Comet and that the edge of my dress had indeed fallen very close to the open toilet—after all, I was in the zone and was thinking of nothing but the seriousness of our discussion.  At least, until my husband uttered those words, “Your dress is in the toilet.”  That’s what he got from my speech?  Did he not hear the words I chose to use or the tone of my voice?

I sometimes choose the wrong place and time to have the big moment talks.  I get so caught up in how I am feeling that I forget that the significance of my words might get lost in the moment due to the circumstances and events around me.  Had I waited just a few moments to finish my cleaning project and sit down with my husband to discuss the issue at hand, that beautiful speech would have gotten much better results.  As they say, timing really is everything.

PS For those wondering why I was cleaning the bathroom wearing a dress:  I am not June Cleaver with pearls and high heels.  The dress was a sundress, thrown on prior  to cleaning, so I could quickly get out of the house to run errands without having to change.  Again, timing really is everything.

Friday Finds: Apps I Love

Like most moms, I pretty much live on my iPhone or iPad.  I have them with me wherever I go so I can jot down ideas while waiting for lacrosse practice to end, manage social media networks in between client meetings or try to beat my very Scrabble-savvy friends (I’m speaking to you Kelly King) in Words with Friends as I take the train home from a day in the city.

Mobile has made my life easier, but not all apps I have downloaded do the same.  Here are a few of my very favorite mobile apps (as mentioned above, I have an iPhone and iPad—not sure if all of these are available outside of the Apple world):

Awesome Note:  I’m not the most organized, so anytime I can find something that puts all of my things in one easy to find location, I grab it.  Awesome Note combines my calendar with my to do lists and allows me to break my lists into sub-lists so I can separate work, personal and even kids things as needed.  It also allows me to write down quick ideas, add photos and even share info with friends.  Cost:  $3.99 (iPhone)/$4.99 (iPad)

HootSuite:  In addition to being an avid HootSuite user on my computer, I also use the mobile app on my iPhone and iPad.  It makes it so easy for me to manage multiple social media accounts (I manage social media for clients as well as for myself) on the go—which, quite frankly, is when I do most of my social media management.  Cost:  FREE

Mint:  For anyone that knows me, they know that budgeting is not my thing—so, Mint is the perfect app for me.  It gathers all of my financial info (checking, bill payments, savings, etc.) into one easy to use location.  It also sends me reminders when bills are due, accounts are low or when I have been charged a fee for using another bank’s ATM.  Cost:  FREE

Zite:  This is my newest obsession.  Zite is a personalized magazine for your iPhone or iPad that automatically learns what you like and delivers all the great news, articles, blogs, videos that you want and makes it easy for you to share via Twitter.  Cost:  FREE

These are a few of mine–what are some of your ‘can’t-live-without’ apps?

She Took The Leap..

I’m really not one for inspirational quotes, but I was so moved by the one I recently found via the time-suck known as Pinterest:

I am the kind of person who really likes to know what is going to happen in any given situation.  But, the truth is, life doesn’t always work out that way.  We don’t always get to see the next chapter of our life or know that the very next step we take is going to be the one headed straight for a life changing moment.  There are times when we just have to jump–to leap–and have faith that (to quote the great Bob Marley), “every little thing gonna be all right!”

So, today, I leap. And, I hope you will leap too!

“But, this was the biggest thing in my life. I mean, I’m 8 and I’ve never had a bigger day. Except maybe when I got an iPod.”

Over the weekend, my youngest son lost the first game of his baseball playoffs.  This came as a crushing blow to the small boy who had dedicated his whole summer to becoming a better player.  He spent countless hours practicing pitches with his dad, searching the Internet for batting tips and grabbing the latest edition of Sport’s Illustrated to find every story and photo of baseball players.  At the age of 8, he was already starting his day by watching ESPN and every Lego creation he made had something to do with a ball field.

The kid was obsessed.

Which is why the loss during the first round of playoffs was so hard to take—for all of us.   I looked at his hot, sad face and I melted–I wanted him to know that this wasn’t the end of his baseball career, but just the beginning.  “But, this was the biggest thing in my life.  I mean, I’m 8 and I’ve never had a bigger day,” he said through tears as we loaded his gear into the trunk.  Wow.

My immediate parent reaction was to go through a litany of stories of how this really isn’t the biggest thing in his life, but I stopped myself and realized that in his young world, this really was the biggest day of his life.  He was playing on a real baseball field, with a real scoreboard and a real announcer saying his name every time he got up to bat.  This was bigger than when we got our dog, bigger than his cousin getting married, bigger than his good friend’s mom having a baby.  This was a very big deal–and a very big disappointment that hurt just like those very big disappointments I have faced in my adult life.

So, we did what we had to do—we took him for ice cream and let him stay out past dark playing with his friends.  It was over ice cream that he shared with me once again how this was the biggest day of his life.  “Except maybe when I got an iPod,” he whispered.  “That was a big day, getting an iPod.  Hey, do you think I can get a bigger iPod for my birthday?  And, what kind of party should I have?”

And just like that, the very bad ending to his biggest day ever was filled with hope for a brighter future of even bigger moments and opportunities.  We should all be so lucky to bounce back so quickly.