Life Lesson from Mom

advice-from-momLast Sunday I had the honor of participating in Listen To Your Mother Chicago (LTYM). When I told my own mother that I was going to be reading an essay I wrote about motherhood on a stage in front of hundreds of people her response was pure beauty: “I hope you don’t talk too fast.”

Typical Mom.

You see, my mom doesn’t get too excited—or too upset—about anything. I grew up in a house where birthdays were celebrated with a simple cake and nice dinner with your siblings and weddings were special days we got to spend with family and friends. And when sad things happened, my mom would give a brief teary-eyed talk before launching us into the plans that would move us forward.

I used to believe this lack of emotion over big life events meant we, as a family, didn’t really care about them. However, as I have gotten older, I realize that isn’t the case at all. My mom didn’t let us get too caught up in the celebrations or the sorrows in an effort to keep us focused on the big picture of life. If we spend all of our time focused on specific events and activities, we will miss our opportunity to enjoy—and appreciate—the overall experience.   After all, as Rose Kennedy said, “Life isn’t a matter of milestones, but of moments.”

So, here was my milestone. I had written an essay about motherhood and was selected to be part of the cast of LTYM. It would have been really easy to get caught up in the celebration of it all, but, thanks to my mother, I focused on the experience. I appreciated every moment, every story shared, every relationship built and when it was over, I had a brief teary-eyed talk with myself as I made plans to move myself forward with more great storytelling opportunities.

Here is the great life lesson from Mom: Don’t let the big milestones of life keep you from appreciating the everyday moments. Oh, and don’t talk too fast.


“Vacation is really over”

After two weeks of ‘no camps and ‘no school’ (thus the reason for ‘no blog posts’), my kids finally started the new school year yesterday.  We have one major change in the household this school year–my middle son has moved on to the high school which means I have gone from juggling the start time of 3 different schools to 2 different schools.  I know this doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but it is–I smile just thinking about it.  But, not everyone is happy with the new schedule.

This morning, my youngest was enjoying the left over pastries from yesterday’s “Back to School/Birthday Celebration Breakfast” (yes, my youngest has the great fortune of sharing his birthday with the first day of school) when he turned to me and said, “I guess vacation is really over.  Now I eat breakfast alone.”  His sad little face reminded me that not every ‘new beginning’ is filled with excitement and joy–sometimes a new beginning means leaving something we really loved behind.  And, for Jack, that something was having a brief opportunity to share a bowl of  cereal or a bagel with his big brother every school morning.

I can already tell this school year is going to be an emotional challenge and yes, Jack, “vacation is really over.”

But, let’s think about next year’s summer of fun, shall we (I hate ending a post on a sad note)?  This past summer I had great fun working with the amazing team of Banner Day Camp.  If you are unfamiliar with the camp, it is a little piece of kid-fun located in Lake Forest, IL–giving kids the opportunity to pack a whole lot of adventure into one summer.  While the camp ended its 2012 season weeks ago, they are still busy at the campsite gearing up for a great fundraising event being held on Sunday, August 26th.  The Amazing Raise 4 Campers is an opportunity for you and your family to have a fun day at Banner Day Camp–enjoying all that they have to offer (think swimming, bungee trampolines, zip line & food)–while supporting a great cause.  Proceeds from this event will go to the Bradley Schwartz Campership Fund, an organization that helps send children in need to nonprofit overnight camps. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling 847-295-4900.  Tickets will also be available at the door.

For additional information, checkout the invite below or CLICK HERE

And while you are looking to have fun during the last weekend of summer, checkout some of my blog friends who spent a summer morning with me enjoying Banner Day Camp with our kids.  They have great stories and information for moms of Chicago!

Tiaras & Tantrums

Toddling Around Chicagoland

Sassy Irish Lassie

“I wish I had crutches”

That quote pretty much sums up our family vacation—a vacation where a sprained ankle during a lacrosse game served as the catalyst for a three-day whine about how we have failed as parents to shower the appropriate attention on each and every one of our children.  Jack was enjoying his time as an ‘only child’.  With his sister in Mexico and his brother hanging out with his team, Jack was living the life he had always dreamed about—a life where he got his own bed in the hotel, had full attention of his Dad while playing in the pool and even got to choose his own snacks for the car trip.  While Jack knew that the bulk of our first two days of vacation would be spent watching Nate and his team on the lacrosse field, he was looking forward to those moments in between games when, as it should be, the world would revolve around Jack.

Then, Nate got hurt.  And, not just the regular cuts and bruises that come from playing a contact sport with sticks, but really hurt.  A severe sprain in his upper ankle put him on crutches and left him out of the rest of the weekend’s games.   Our schedule suddenly changed—a Saturday afternoon at the beach was replaced by finding crutches and icing/elevating a foot and our Sunday evening out became ordering takeout and watching the Olympics from our hotel room.  Yes, it was not the ideal vacation for a 9 year-old boy who began to remind us of his own ankle “injury” that happened just months ago while he was playing basketball in the driveway. “You didn’t do this for me,” he said as he sat on the hotel bed wishing desperately for the sprained ankle and his brother to disappear.  “You just made me come inside and take a break.  I wish I had crutches.”

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence and that statement was never more clear than when a boy who loves sports wishes he had crutches.  We did our best to accommodate Jack’s wish list of activities without making Nate more miserable (sorry, Jack, the climbing of the sand dunes just couldn’t happen) and in the end, we discovered that what Jack really wanted was our time and attention—preferably without him having to sprain a ligament or break a bone.


“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.


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.