A Perfectionist's List of Resolutions for the New Year


I'm a definite Type A personality.  I'm hard on myself a lot, and I'm a perfectionist.  I know this is a part of my personality that I need to work on, but it's hard to dismiss it when it has helped me earn much in life.  For example, being a perfectionist helped me get excellent grades in college, scholarships, my teaching and administrative career, and, I think, my great husband.  Still, there are times when my desire to be "perfect" gets in the way or gets me needlessly upset, especially when life throws those unexpected curve balls that interfere with everything.  Instead of being someone who is strong and can handle these challenges, I end up being the one ready to have a nervous breakdown because these challenges weren't part of "the plan."

As a perfectionist, I LOVE New Year's Resolutions.  You see, for me, starting a New Year is all part of my plan to throw away the old year and start a new "perfect" year.  Yes, every year around this time, I create a list for myself (usually of 10 to 15 New Year's Resolutions) that I believe are vital toward my happiness.  Last year, they were anything from losing weight and being healthy to being the best mom ever to being the best wife, daughter, friend, etc. etc.  For the most part, I actually kept up with most of these resolutions until maybe August when other, unexpected life situations came up that made my perfect world turn into one huge belly flop (you know--the one that stings enormously and even makes you get water up your nose.)

Perhaps one year I'll actually surprise myself and dismiss New Year's resolutions altogether.  Then I'll be forced to let go of this desire to live a "perfect life," and I'll actually teach myself to just "go with the flow."  Unfortunately, this isn't the year.  This year, I'm still making New Year's resolutions, but I've decided to cut back, and even more, I've decided to make them about helping me curb my desire to be the best.  Here they go...

1.  To be a kinder and gentler person with myself and others.  
I'm hard on myself, and because of this, I have the same unrealistic expectations for others.  This, to me, is not a good quality since it can make me seem judgmental and even a little bit critical.  My husband over the years has created names for me and this behavior.  I've been called "a judgmental nerd" and "the fun police" (e.g.  "Watch out Little Lewie, here comes the fun police.  Don't let her catch you having too much fun.")

2.  To be grateful and to continue my gratitude journal.
I found I was less envious of others and more appreciative when I wrote in my gratitude journal every few days.  Once I stopped writing, I found myself returning to my old ways--wanting more money, a bigger house, a better job...the list goes on and on.  Oh, I don't want to give up on particular dreams, but, at the same time, I don't want to forget about all the blessings, both small and big, we've been given as a family.

3.  To be a good mother and then a good wife and daughter.
I had a similar New Year's resolution last year, but I gave up the word "best" for "good."  If I use the word "best" I'm comparing myself to all the other mothers, wives, and daughters out there.  I have to be realistic with myself...I'm not always going to be "the best" mom.  I can't always expect to get a gold star of achievement.  In fact, during these past few days that I've been sick, I haven't been "the best."  How can I when I'm hunched over in pain?   My goal is to be a good, patient, and loving mom as much and as often as I can.

4.  To practice good health.
Again, I changed my verbiage here.  Last year my goal was to lose exactly 20 pounds and to be in stellar health.  Well, I have to pat myself on the back for losing weight, but I haven't exactly did my best to eat a well balanced diet, get enough sleep, or follow a regular exercise routine.  I can try to do more in this area, but again, realizing that I won't be "stellar."

5.  To create a budget we can live with.
Last year, I didn't do well with budgeting at all.  I don't think I had one in place, and still, I had unrealistic expectations about how much money I wanted us to save.  Instead of saving money, we actually took a lot out of our savings.  I have to be thankful that both my husband and I have jobs, but at the same time, I need to plan for life's unexpected moments, so that I don't have a mental breakdown when we need a new transmission, new tires, a new furnace, etc. etc.

6.  To work on my e-book.
This year I came up with a plan to write an e-book to help high school students plan for college success.  I've completed about half of my project, but like always, life does get in the way.  To me, both this project and my blogging are my hobbies.  I'll always do my best to make time for them, but I also need to recognize that I need to keep a healthy balance and understand when other priorities have to come first.

7.  To savor life's both big and small moments.
Amen. This is something I seem to forget when I'm constantly planning for a perfect future.

Okay, I still have a pretty long list, but I thank you for taking this journey with me.  Whether you have some New Year's resolutions or none at all, I wish you many, many blessings in 2011 and always.  One thing that I will never forget about 2010 is all the great friends I made through blogging.  And this wasn't even on my New Year's resolution list.  To all of my friends, thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your lives, your advice, and your kindness.

These Final Days of 2010


After a wonderful Christmas, the sniffles started, then the headache, and then the all out chills and body aches.  Oh yes, while we were having a blizzard outside, a storm was brewing inside the house too.  My little boy started with a bad cold; then, my husband complained of flu like symptoms, and now I have the flu.  So, the three of us for the past few days have been shut inside our germ infested house wallowing in self pity. 

To be honest, we have a lot to be thankful for...neither my husband nor I have to go to work this week.  It's just that we feel tired, miserable, lazy, and overall, beat-up.  My poor little boy, proclaiming "Outside!  Outside!" every few minutes is wrestling with cabin fever, while I'm wrestling with a dirty, disorganized house that needs some desperate TLC.  For now, my only hope is that this bug leaves our systems soon so that we can begin picking up the left over pieces of 2010 and start the New Year with a brand new, clean, organized slate.

In honor of Wordless Wednesday, which I know I've already said more than my fair share of words, here are two pictures that describe this week's events.  (No more words...I promise.)

Highlights of Christmas 2010


Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house were old toys all over the living room that mommy had to put away to make room for the new.

I had to tiptoe putting the Santa presents underneath our Charlie Brown Christmas Tree because my little boy hadn't been sleeping well--not since we inflated his Christmas Caroler friends outside our window.  (He's afraid of the larger than life Santa with his Frosty and Reindeer Friend.  Even though we haven't inflated them since the first week of December, he's still afraid...)   

Then, when it seemed not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse, my little boy woke up.  "Mommy, mommy, mommy!" he shouted in his typical past midnight routine.  He was screeching, which could only mean one thing...he was thinking about those spooky inflatable Christmas Carolers again. 

My husband rescued him from his crib and brought Lil' Lewie downstairs..."...but what if he sees his presents?" I asked, worried that Christmas morning was going to be completely ruined.

Daddy decided not to put any lights on, and so he put Lil' Lewie in his playpen where he fell fast asleep with Daddy lying down next to him on the couch.  Yay!  Christmas was saved!

The next morning, Lil' Lewie woke up, thrilled to see presents by his playpen, and he played, and he played, and he played...

Then, if life wasn't already very, very good, I made brownies and let little guy lick the batter...

And finally, after visiting with both my family and my husband's family, I got a few pictures of my little guy in his Christmas outfit.

Here's to a wonderful holiday that honestly couldn't have gone any better...All the anticipation and days of preparation were well worth it.  If my little guy didn't know what to expect this year, he now sure does know about the magic of Christmas. 

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday!

Thanksgiving Thursday


Today, only a few days before Christmas, I thought it'd be nice to join Mama's Little Chick and do one of her famous Thanksgiving Thursday posts.  At this time of year, it's easy to get caught up in the insanity of it all.   I become so obsessed with wrapping gifts, budgeting (or not budgeting) bank accounts, and last minute cleaning and baking, I start to forget the important things.  I need to sit back, relax, and know I will get everything done...

1. I'm thankful for the love and support of my family and friends.  I mean I'm really thankful.  Each of my relatives or my friends elicit a special memory in my life and each support me in different ways.  For example, I have mom friends that offer "me-time" and toddler advice, single friends that inspire me to get dressed up and want to go out on the town, college friends that remind me of the antics we pulled as teenagers, work friends that challenge my intellect, a mom that inspires me to be generous like her, and a husband that (usually) brings calm and balance to my world.  I'm thankful for each of their roles and how they, without even knowing it, help me to be my best every day.

2. I'm thankful for a warm house.  Yesterday, I literally ran back and forth from my car as I was bringing in last minute shopping bags filled with Christmas presents.  I wasn't running because I was in a hurry; I was running because it was COLD, and with a wind on top of the cold, it felt like below zero temperatures.  I can't say enough about the feeling of stepping inside a warm house to let your fingers, nose, and toes thaw.

3.  I'm thankful for opposites.  At this time of year, during the darkest and coldest days, it's easy to get into a slump.  I find myself going to bed much earlier at night, not wanting to go outside much, and not having a whole lot of energy.  Without the holidays, I think "seasonal affective disorder", for many of us, would start much earlier.  Still, without the dark days of winter, I would forget to appreciate the warm, glowing days of spring and summer.   You need the dark to appreciate the light; you need the rain to appreciate the sun; you need the tears to appreciate the laughs, and really I do appreciate it all.

4.  I'm thankful for living next door to my mom.  My husband and I live in a duplex or two-family house where we live on one side and my mother lives on the other.  (It's the same house I grew up in.  At that time, my mom and I lived on one side and my grandparents lived on the other.  Now we live on my grandparents' side.)  When my husband and I were getting married, I wasn't sure about moving here.  For one, there was a part of me that wanted "my own" house, and also I wasn't sure if I'd be able to live where my grandparents did--would it make me sad all the time because I miss them so much?  Still, I'm so glad we tried out this living arrangement!  When my husband wants to visit family or friends, I have an instant friend next door to visit myself, and...now that Little Lewie's here...we're always going next door to visit Gramy.  He loves going back and forth between our two apartments, and he's become so close to my mom like I became close to my grandparents.

5.  I'm thankful for my little Christmas helper this year.  My little guy, for the first time, has helped me put up some Christmas decorations.  He still doesn't quite understand what's going on, but I sure am enjoying trying to explain it all to him. One of my favorite days was showing him some of my old Christmas tree ornaments.  I gladly took out my favorite--Mr. Peanut Elf.   I've owned him since I was in elementary school, and even to this day, he still makes me chuckle.  He's got a little felt hat with pom pom for the top of his peanut head, pipe cleaner arms and legs, and one of his pipe cleaner arms is holding a pipe cleaner candy cane.  Oh, and of course his face is a simple smiley face with a dot nose drawn in marker.  I LOVE IT!

Happy Holidays to Everyone.  With Love Always.   XOXOXOXO.

Top Ten Tuesday: Christmas Bloopers Revealed


This week is one of those times of mild insanity.  Last minute presents are bought, gifts are waiting to be wrapped, Christmas cards still need to be mailed, and by the time we should be getting ready to eat dinner, I'm passed out on the couch, too tired to lift myself up.  (Even my little two year old can't seem to wake me from this coma, even though, lately, he likes to crawl on top of me and smoosh his face into mine...)

Yes, right now, I'm doing everything I can to hold it all together.  I smile on the outside, but on the inside, I feel like screaming...perhaps even running away from it all.  Still, since running away isn't an option, my only other survival technique is to let things go and have a good laugh.  Yes, this year, I'm pretty sure this Christmas will be far from perfect, but hey, at least once it's over, I know I can have a good laugh about it.

Here are a list of top ten Christmas bloopers to lift your spirits and tickle your funny bone.  Remember if things don't go exactly as planned, you can always blame the Christmas elves.  Why not?  Since Christmas is a holiday of magic and imagination, anything can happen...

10.  You have one of those really bad gift wrapping days.  You know, those days when you can't measure the right amount of paper for the life of you.   Every single time, you either overestimate the amount of paper or underestimate.  Thus, the end result is a present that looks like it was wrapped by a two year old.  (Hey...what a great excuse.  Yeah, I was letting my two year old wrap presents--with scissors and all.  It works.  Don't judge.)

9.  The blasted Christmas tree won't stand straight.  No matter how many times you readjust the stand or turn the tree around to face a different side, you still have the Leaning Tower of Pisa standing, no leaning, directly in front of you.  The answer is to overcompensate with Christmas ornaments.  Perhaps smothering the tree with lights, bulbs, garland, and tinsel will do the trick...Now instead of guests whispering about your leaning tree, they can snicker at the hideous decorations.  Great conversation piece!

8.  You buy your Aunt Gertrude another lovely Christmas sweater again, only this time she calls you out on it..."Don't you think I have enough Christmas sweaters by now.  You've only bought one for me...let's see...every Christmas for the last twenty years..."

7.  You get caught re-gifting.  Let's explain.  You see, you were very smart in making sure that the re-gift goes to a different person, but your child sells you out..."Mommy...didn't Aunt Gertrude buy you that candle and you said it smelled funny?"  (Right from the mouth of babes...)

6.  You drink too much brandy eggnog, and now you've decided to perform some Christmas karaoke, only you don't know the words to most of the songs and there's no karaoke machine.

5.  You literally fall asleep during midnight mass--head tilted backward, mouth open, drool and all.  Or, instead, you perform the Christmas bob.  Yes, throughout mass, your head is bobbing away as you repeatedly catch yourself falling asleep and try to reposition your head to the "alert" pose again and again.

4.  Your child discovers his "Santa presents" weeks before Christmas in the trunk of your car.  "Are those my presents?" he gasps.  "Why yes," you answer.  "Santa's having surgery this Christmas, so he can't deliver them himself.  I offered to drive up to the North Pole to get them."  (Hey, in this scenario, you come out looking heroic.  Yes, you helped Santa and saved the day by making that grueling trip to the North Pole.  Score!)

3.  Your cute inflatable, Christmas Carolers lawn ornament is the source of night terrors for your two year old.  Ever since he first saw them inflate, he's been deathly afraid of them to the point where it causes him to wake up in the middle of the night screeching while pointing to the outside window.  (Wait a minute...this is really happening to me right now.  Not funny!)

2.   At one a.m. when the little ones are waiting for Santa all snug in their beds, you're wrapping gifts only to learn that you've run out of Christmas paper....What's left?  Well, you decide to go with a "Happy Birthday" theme.  After all, Christmas is the birth of Jesus. 

1.  You start handing out gifts to all of your relatives when you realize...gulp...you forgot to buy a gift for your Great Uncle Arthur.   Ordinarily you would never lie on such a sacred day, but how can you tell him that you actually forgot him this year?   "Oh, Uncle Arthur...it looks like we may have left your present at the store.  I knew we should have double checked our shopping cart before leaving Wal-mart.  Damn!"

Remember Christmas will come again next year, so if things don't go exactly as planned, you always have the chance to make things right in 2011.   I hope it's a happy holiday for you no matter what bloopers may come your way...

Monday's Mommy Moment: First Visit to the Rainforest Cafe


The Rainforest Cafe is a rare treat.  There are only a handful in the country, but we happen to have one only 45 minutes away from us in the Westfarms Mall.  If you're not staring at their incredibly large fishtank filled with some of the most beautiful, exotic fish in the world, then you're staring at the larger than life, mechanical butterflies that open and close their wings or the wild, mechanical gorillas beating their chests, or the large elephant swatting his trunk.

The ceiling is a starry sky, which becomes cloudy every 30 minutes when a "thunderstorm" sweeps the rainforest.  Then, the lights dim, thunder rumbles in the background, and the gorillas go wild (just like real ones probably do when looking for shelter.)  

Yes, the Rainforest Cafe is a fantasy land where you can eat a delicious mango salsa burger or yummy chocolate lava volcano cake in the midst of all these mechanical jungle animals and pretend thunderstorms.

My mom forewarned me about taking Lil' Lewie there too early.  "You don't want to scare him," she said.

"No, of course not," I replied.

I heeded her warning during the first year, but now that he was two, I thought he might actually enjoy the restaurant.  After all, there's a lot of cool things to look at and watch, and I've seen numerous toddlers come with their parents.  In fact, some toddlers actually hold their birthday parties there.

With that said, we took the 45 minute trip, and brought Lil' Lewie to the restaurant.  He seemed to like the fishtank as we waited in line to be seated, but he didn't like the first seat we were given too much.  It was next to the gigantic elephant, which even without moving, seemed to intimidate him.  We were finally given a seat at the front of the restaurant near the bar.  It wasn't a great seat, but the restaurant was better lit there and far enough away from all the mechanical animals that could potentially scare him.

Pretend fruit hanging above our heads.
We seemed to be doing fine until our first thunderstorm hit.  Out of nowhere, the lights dimmed and the monkeys started freaking out.  Of course, they weren't the only ones.  My little guy started freaking out too as he started screaming for us to take him out of his seat while pointing to the restaurant exit. 

"We haven't even started eating our meals yet," my husband pouted.

"I know," I answered faintly.  "I guess my mom was right."

Somehow we did manage to get him to stay in his highchair throughout our meal (and three thunderstorms later), but we were highly disappointed that this wasn't a trip that he enjoyed.  I only hope that his fear wasn't so strong that this will be a frightful memory that stays with him for life... If he's twenty and still deathly afraid of monkeys and thunderstorms, then we'll know why.

Rewarding Mediocrity


This week was the dreaded "final exam" week.  I didn't have much time to dedicate to blogging because I had to proctor final exams, correct them, and then issue final grades.  I also had to clean out my old office this semester because I will be working for another college...a decision that still frightens me a little because while the pay is better, this new part-time position brings a lot of uncertainty.  (I see another post in my future.)

Teaching was a challenge for me this semester.  I had a group of eighteen-year olds that, in a lot of ways, fit the stereotype we have of teenagers these days--you know...entitled, unmotivated, self-absorbed, and totally dispassionate.  Dr. Phil has been talking about this "new entitled generation" for quite some time, but it didn't really hit me until I had them in my class. 

This semester, my goal was to instill enthusiasm and passion.  I let my students, for the most part, pick their own topics in the hope that they would find something to get "fired-up" about.  I wanted them to question the government, the media, pop-culture, and their ethics.  I wanted them to think critically about the world around them and think of possible solutions to problems.  I wanted them to learn that nothing really great in life is ever accomplished without passion and motivation.  And yet...I feel like I failed miserably.

As I started tallying up the grades for my students, one truth became apparently clear--I was rewarding mediocrity.  You see, none of my students "pushed the bar" this semester.  Yes, I did have students that completed all their assignments, but none of my students showed a real interest in the class.  While I gave them pointers on how to be good speakers, how to create successful PowerPoint presentations, and even how to research information and cite their sources, none of my students pushed themselves to learn something new.  They also didn't push themselves to do a lot of research or to try to memorize their speeches.  At best, I was giving "A's" and "B's" to students who really only prepared their speeches the night before class.  In reality, they probably deserved "C's", but since every class needs to have a spectrum of grades ranging from A to F, I had to "reward" the students who at least did the assignment.

The phenomena I'm talking about is "grade inflation."  Every college I know these days have debates about it, and yet, none have come up with a real solution to remedy the problem.  My guess is that the "grade inflation" starts in earlier grades like elementary school and then moves on from there.  When students reach college, they have learned that they can get "A's" and "B's" by doing the bear minimum.   Therefore, they set the bar low for themselves and do very little.  

In the past (even as recent as ten years ago when I first started teaching), these students who did the bear minimum received "C's."  "A's" were only reserved for the students who went above and beyond the expectations of the class.  They were given to students who showed outstanding achievement by demonstrating their very best efforts.

Now I sit in front of my list of grades and get discouraged with the system.  In reality, only one or two of my students put sincere effort into my class this semester.  Most may have done some work, but I question whether the work they did really helped them learn anything new.  Will they be leaving my class with a new skill in persuasive speaking and reasoning that they didn't have before?  Probably not.  

All classes must have their ranges of "A's" to "F's".  If I don't issue any "A's" or only one "A", my teaching gets criticized, and I become a  prime target for grade disputes.  Since colleges are now a "business," they want to keep their students (customers) happy.  Even losing one student can cost the college anywhere from $10,000 to $60,000, and since they want to keep this money in their pocket, they will sometimes "encourage" the professor to reissue a grade or to give the student "another chance."   Plus, if we receive too many bad evaluations for being "too hard" on students or have too many grade disputes, our employment is in jeopardy.

Our system has created this mess.  In a lot of ways, we are a culture of complainers.  If we don't get things our way, we threaten people or places with lawsuits or negative publicity.  Parents sometimes do this to see their children do better in school  or extra-curricular activities.  After all, they want to see their child get an "A"  or receive a "trophy" too, even if it isn't deserved.  In fact, I had one student this semester that was completely reliant on his mom.  If he was going to be absent, she called in for him, and if he needed an extension on his assignment, she'd ask me to let him do it a week later.  Yes, she wanted her child, in essence, to be rewarded even though he showed no responsibility or initiative of his own.

Education is a tricky business.  Grades don't have the same meaning that they once did, and while the number of "A's" are going up, the quality of learning is depreciating.  Yes, at times, there are teachers/professors that are unfair, and for them, it's appropriate to question their methods for teaching and evaluating their students' performance.  Still, a number of us are trying to do our best by teaching the skills that are needed in today's society, and yet, sadly, we are bullied into rewarding mediocrity... 

Monday's Mommy Moment: Christmas Memories


The holiday season is magical for kids, especially when they believe in Santa Claus and notice all the beautiful lights and decorations around them.  I'll admit I was looking forward to this year.  I thought my little guy at age two would start to enjoy and appreciate all the activities.  He does, for the most part, find the Christmas tree fascinating, but he's still not a huge fan of all the decorations--he either doesn't notice them or, in the case of the outside Christmas lights, he's downright afraid of them.

In years past, he didn't quite understand the hoopla either.  Of course, that didn't stop me from torturing my little guy and making him dress in special Christmas outfits, etc.  Here are some of my favorite holiday photos:

Four Months-Old--"What's all the fuss about?"

Four Months-Old--"Are you Santa?"

Four Months-Old--"I like my presents."

One Year-Old--"Help!  Get me away from this creepy man!"

One Year-Old--"Please Daddy.  Please come get me, please."

One Year-Old--"My first Christmas Party."

One Year-Old--"I'm waiting for my Christmas cookies..."

One Year-Old--"Really Mom.  Am I just a pawn for your amusement?"

One Year-Old--"Hey, I'm really getting into this whole reindeer thing."

Yes, it will be interesting to see what memories I will be able to capture this year.  At least, knock on wood, he won't have a horrible bruise above his eye like last year's unfortunate incident...

A Christmas Story


Once upon a time, long long ago (okay just last year actually), in a far off land (okay in Connecticut) lived a little one year old boy who was going to meet Santa Claus for the very first time.  His mother was very excited and took out his best linens (a cute Christmas outfit I bought on eBay), and bathed him to prepare him for the big event.

The little boy was confused about what was going on.  Why all this special attention? he thought.  Still, he took his bath and let his mother dress him up, completely unaware of what would happen next.

"You are going to meet Santa Claus," said Mommy excitedly.  "He has traveled from the North Pole to the Milford, Connecticut Mall just to meet you.  His eight flying reindeer may be there too."

Santa Claus?  Who is this Santa Claus? thought the little boy.

As his mother started getting dressed in her finest linens for the big event too, she let her son play with the closet doors.  He always enjoyed going in and out to play "peek-a-boo," and a few times she joined in the fun too.  "Peek-a-boo, I see you," said Mommy as she hopped into the closet to tickle him.

The little boy, in all his laughter and excitement, ran out of the closet, lost control of his little feet, and boom--crashed into the bed post.

"Oh my," (Okay insert cuss word here) said Mommy.  "How could this have happened?"  She cuddled her screaming boy and discovered he was bleeding above his eye.  "Oh no!  It's worse than I thought," whined Mommy.

She immediately took out her first aid kit to stop the bleeding and the swelling.  She was able to calm down her infant toddler, but the cut above his eye would not be disappearing anytime soon.  "Maybe I can put an elf hat on his head to hide the cut" thought Mommy, but the idea didn't really work.

Soon Daddy came home from work to partake in the big event too.  Upon seeing what had happened, he took a long pause.  (Okay it was about 30 seconds.)  "It seems to me that we should save this event for another day," said Daddy.  Now Daddy often was the voice of reason in the household, but Mommy often had the last say.

"We can't save it for another day," said Mommy in great angst.  "We need to do it today.  You already took time off from work, and we only have a week left before Christmas."

So off went Mommy, Daddy, and Little Lewie to see this wonderful, magical Santa Claus, and just as promised, he sat on his high throne in all his splendor waiting to meet good little boys and girls.  Although his reindeer did not come along for the ride, he did bring his snowflake village of larger than life candy canes, Christmas ornaments, and nutcrackers. 

"Here we are," said Mommy rushing to get a place in line before many of the other mothers with their children.  "Excuse me lady, but we were here first," she announced, knocking one woman to the floor.  (Okay, I really didn't do this, but hey, I probably felt like it at one point.)

So there stood Mommy, Daddy, and Lewie waiting to meet the great, wondrous Santa Claus.  The anticipation was enormous for all, especially Little Lewie who was fighting to get out of his stroller.

"Do you think we should have brought him to the hospital to get stitches?" asked Mommy, surveying the cut above his eye. 

"No, it stopped bleeding," said Daddy, "so I don't think there'd be a need for stitches."

As other moms looked at Little Lewie's bruise in disgust or curiosity, Mommy stood strong, for she knew the bruise was only from an unfortunate accident.

Finally after a long 45 minute wait, the moment to meet Santa Claus had finally arrived.  Mommy and Daddy took their son out of the stroller and proudly placed him on Santa Claus's lap.

 "He's all wet," mumbled Daddy, "he must have peed through his outfit." 

"Shhhhush," said Mommy trying to get a glorious picture of this momentous event.

"Wahhhhh," screamed Lewie fighting with Santa to get out of his grasp. 

And in a few short seconds, the moment the family had all been waiting for had ended.  Yes, the moment had ended with zero pictures, a flustered little boy, and a Santa Claus with (most likely) a wet lap.

And so, the family fled the mall having learned a great lesson--Don't bring your child to meet Santa after he's hurt himself and has already had a bad day.

The end.  



For a while now, I've been worried about my two year-old's speech.  At six months-old, he started to say the famous "daddy, daddy, daddy."  "Ma ma" didn't come until he was closer to a year old.   And after that, well "hi," "bye," "no," and then...nothing.  He was always interested in watching us communicate, and he was particularly fascinated with the phone.  Since he couldn't say our words yet, he started his baby gibberish, and now, another year later, he's still hooked on his baby gibberish. 

For some children, baby gibberish actually sounds like something.  One of Lewie's playmates speaks very softly with a whine.  To me, his words didn't sound like anything until his mom would repeat them, "Oh, you want chicken nuggets?"  Once his mom repeated his words, I realized that her little guy was actually speaking.

I tried listening more carefully to Lewie's gibberish, "Ma lay ba ba ti um oom gee?"  Nope.  I got nothing.

Another one of my friends pointed out that her son actually made up words for things.  "Yeah, he doesn't like to say the word truck, so he calls them 'gagas'."

"Really?" I asked.

Sure enough, her son would point to the truck and say "gaga."

Once again, I'd listen to Lewie's gibberish carefully to see if he invented some words to mean things...but since his words came out as full, long sentences, with tone inflection and everything, I realized he wasn't interested in connecting words to things.  He was just doing his best to pretend he was having a long conversation with us like a big person.

"What did he say?"  lots of strangers would ask me as we passed by them at the store or mall.

"I wish I knew," I'd answer in response. 

As Little Lewie's friends started saying more and more words, I became concerned.  One of his younger friends already had about a 50 word vocabulary, another friend was saying sentences, and still another already knew how to count to ten in both English and Spanish.   These were all boys.  I didn't even dare try to compare his linguistic skills to any girls.  They were even more advanced.

So, as concerned as I was, I started listening to people's advice--you know, the well-intentioned people that think since their children know more than yours, they must be better at parenting than you.  Some encouraged me to read books to him.  (Um, yes, I've been doing that since he was a month old.)  Another told me that I shouldn't let him have something until he says it.  For five minutes one day, I held his sippy cup in the air trying to make him say the word cup.  He screamed, he cried, and after thinking his ma ma was the meanest woman in the world, I finally gave it to him.  The advice succeeded in tormenting my child; however, it didn't actually work in getting him to say the word cup.

Several weeks ago, a friend gave me a copy of her Baby Babble DVDShe said it had helped her son say more words and thought it could help my little boy too.  So one evening, I played the video, and while it seemed rather amateur (with very simple pictures of toys moving and people making funny faces and sounds), my little boy was hooked.  Not only was he hooked, but he started taking an interest in repeating words and sounds.

 How is this possible? I said to myself.  I've said the same words and sounds to him a million times before, and he never showed interest in repeating them.

Now that he's watched this video half a dozen times, he's now been trying to say our words.  Every day, a new word or two seems to be added to his vocabulary, and although he might not repeat the same word again if we ask him, he's at least trying.  Now, new words include   car (kar),  cookie(gookey),   butter (butr),   bath (baa),   baby (babe),   up (uh),  down   (own).   His sound effects have improved too.

Yes, milestones are fun because they are a sign that your little one is growing into an adult, but at the same time, I've also learned that milestones can instil fear, especially when your little one isn't meeting the same timelines as other children.  On the one hand, I want my little guy to stop his gibberish and start saying our words, but I have to admit...Oh how I will miss the days when his baby gibberish is gone!

Am I THAT Mom?


I still remember the days when I was young and single.  I'd be out in the mall shopping or eating at a restaurant when suddenly my shopping or dining experience would be interrupted by the sound of a screaming toddler.  You know the sound or, at least, variations of it:

Wahhhhh!  I don't want to.  I don't want to.  No. No. No.

Okay, and if the child was still too young to verbalize his or her feelings, then the meltdown would sound more like screaming and shrieking. 

In any case, usually at times like this, I'd roll my eyes.  Perhaps I would even glare at the exchange between mother and child.  I almost always had an opinion.  Wow, that mom can't handle her kid.  I know my kids would never behave like that. 

Oh, if I could ever take back those words or those ridiculous judgements, I would.  Really, I was young, single, and never had any siblings.  I honestly didn't know what it was like to have a toddler, and so, like many people, I sat on my high throne, casting disapproving glances to others.

Fast forward.  Now I'm the one with the screaming two year-old having meltdowns in stores, restaurants, and even at my place of work.  It doesn't happen all the time, but there are a few...um...interesting moments like--

The time I placed a monkey backpack leash on him at the airport.  He revolted so tumultuously that he made my husband spill a smoothie on the plush new airport carpet.

The time that he screamed, kicked, and almost tried hitting me while I was trying to pull him away from the elevator at work.

The time that we had a heated exchange in the parking lot because he wouldn't go into his car seat and kept sneaking around me to get to the driver's seat.

Yes, these are less than stellar moments for the baby books.  And all of a sudden, like magic, it became roll reversal.  I had my audience of judges, and I was THAT mom.  I was now the mom that people were glaring at...I was the mom receiving scolding looks from passerbys.  It was embarrassing, frustrating, and humbling all at the same time.  Was this karma coming back to get me?

Today, I now know what it's like to be a mom with a toddler.  I've now learned that toddlers don't always listen, and their anger and stubbornness only become amplified when they haven't taken a nap.  When I see a mom in this meltdown situation, I cast a sympathetic glance and maybe even call out, "Oh, I've been there."   It's the least I can do.  After all, you know the mom doesn't want this kind of attention.  She's not deliberately trying to ruin everyone's dinner.  Her child just doesn't know any better.

I've now made a promise to myself.  Even when my little boy is older and grown, I will not block out those less than stellar toddler days.  Yes, they might not be fun at the time, but they carry a life lesson--a lesson that sometimes we all need to sit back, chill, and not take life so seriously.  The moment, the tantrum, the screaming will pass, and in the end, we'll always love our toddlers just as much as we did before they started to misbehave. 

Oh, and to those onlookers who are still casting disapproving glances, especially those who have been moms themselves...please, be patient. The interruption will pass...I promise.

The Toy Project


It's that time of year again.  The time for 'Santa' to start assessing Little Lewie's toys.  Since most of his toys are scattered around our living room, I begin to make piles--the first pile are the toys he still likes to play with and the other pile are toys that he hasn't touched in months.  Since he's not old enough to make a list for Santa Claus, I need to start playing a little guesswork.  A million thoughts run through my head... 

My living room on a 'good' day.

Since he really loves to play cars, maybe I should buy him a few more...Although, maybe he has enough cars already.  Does he really need more than four cars?  Maybe I should buy him something educational--maybe something like a LeapFrog Laptop that teaches him his alphabet.  Or, maybe something crafty?  Well, he doesn't like clay, so play doh is out for the moment...He already has enough crayons and markers.  Does he like to build?  Maybe Legos.

The list in my head goes on and on, but at the end of all the considering, I usually come to one main conclusion:  We already have enough toys.  We already have educational toys, crafty toys, building toys, bikes, cars, and trucks.  Do we really need to buy more stuff?  What is the limit?  When does an innocent holiday like Christmas turn into a day of materialism and greed? 

I've been to Christmas get-togethers where children have so many presents that they don't even get excited when they open a new one.  In fact, if it's not something they wanted, they simply throw the toy in a heap of other 'misfit toys.'  When this occurs, the holiday is no longer about the feelings of love and appreciation; it's more about "Did I get what I want?"

For now, I think I've narrowed down the list to four Santa presents.  (Of course, he will get more from friends and family.)  I want the holiday to be magical, but I don't want to go overboard.  Besides, there simply isn't any space left in our living room.

How about you?  Will Santa be leaving a lot of presents under your Christmas tree?

Monday's Mommy Moment: Beware of the Christmas Carolers!


My little boy has always been cautious when it comes to new things--our sunflower spinning lawn ornament, the mounds of leaves piled in our yard, Santa, and now the carolers...

Yes, if you haven't guessed it already, this year we added a new addition to our normal Christmas light routine.  We thought the carolers were adorable and would excite our Little Lewie.  Well, I guess you can say it excited him alright...it excited him to the point that he's terrified of them.  After Daddy first set them up, we plugged them in and watched the unit inflate from the window.  Little Lewie wouldn't stop watching them from the window, so we naturally thought he was curious.  We bundled him up, held him in our arms, and brought him to see the front of the display from the driveway.  That's when we noticed that the curiosity turned to utter and complete fright.

Over the next few days, we've been showing him that we are the ones that control the display.  He sees where we plug it in, and he's witnessed us walk up to it on many occasions.

"Hi Santa, Hi Frosty, Hi Penguin!" I say in the merriest of voices.  "Look how cute they are Lewie.  It's just a decoration.  It won't hurt you."  (I even poke Frosty a few times just to show that he's not real.) "See."

Consequently, over the last few nights, Lil' Lewie hasn't slept well either.  The first night that the display was set up, he refused to go to sleep in his crib, and the second night, he woke up screaming in terror as if he had a terrible nightmare. 

We're hoping he'll eventually grow to love the carolers, but if not, they might have to retire early this year and wait to send holiday greetings in 2011...

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Signs that the Holidays Are Here!


I love the holidays; it's a joy to spend time with family, to decorate, and to spread love and cheer.  Even more, I enjoy trying to make the holidays magical for my little boy.  Still, as much as I love this time of year, I also cringe a little.  Right around now is when I start creating my to-do list, and each day, it feels like the items on my list grow exponentially.  From now until January 2, 2011, I am on a race--a race to buy presents, decorate, spend time with family and friends, and create memorable, ever-lasting Christmas traditions.  It'll be fun (for the most part), but there may be a nervous breakdown along the way...

If sometimes you feel overwhelmed by this holiday crunch time, then this top ten list is for you...  Ten Signs that the Holidays are Here...

10.  You've already given up on any diet that you started during the year.  How can you begin to count calories after you've just downed two pieces of your aunt's famous chocolate cream pie (in addition to snacking on the sugar cookies, the cheese and crackers, and that delicious pumpkin tart)?

9.  Each day, you're afraid your mailbox might possibly tip over from all the holiday catalogs and coupons that come in the mail.  Even worse, you're afraid the collection that has now overtaken your living room might present a real fire hazard.

8.  Your DVR/VCR is already set to record all your holiday favorites--How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Charlie Brown's Christmas, etc. etc.

7.  You literally have no place left to write on your calendar.  Every single square is covered in notations about sales, visits with friends and family, and other holiday parties and events.

6.  You've already mapped out your Black Friday route.  Not only do you have a list of stores to visit on your agenda, but you've also created a list of areas within each store to visit.  You'll be camping out at 3 a.m. so that you have access to the best selection.  You're on a mission!

5.  You've already started to drop subtle hints to friends and family about what you can use-- a new car, a new Apple iPad.   (Oh, and you've started asking the not so subtle questions yourself..."So...you're favorite restaurant is..."  "And you are a size....larrrrggg, no medium.  That's right.")

4.  You've already figured out what bills you can scrimp on this month.  "Hmmm....let's see.  If I don't pay the electric company this month, they will still have to wait for another full month before they threaten to shut my lights off..."

3.  You've already made your family crazy about buying and coordinating matching outfits for the dreaded wonderful yearly Christmas photograph--you know...the photo that you share will all your friends and family members that you never get to see in person anymore.  That's right.  If they didn't receive a holiday photo of you every year, they probably would have no idea what you or anyone in your family even look like anymore.

2.  You've already started testing all the outside and inside lights.  Hey, you don't want to go through the actual trouble of setting up the decorations only to learn that your beloved lighted Rudolph is now missing a few limbs.

1.  The kids' TV commercials have pushed you over the limit.  If you see one more advertisement for that (fill in the blank) toy, you're going to hurl the next object that winds up in your hands directly at the TV.  Of course, these commercials have delightfully persuaded your kids that the meaning of Christmas is...TOYS.

Bonus: You've now started assessing the past year...you know...what you've accomplished...what you didn't accomplish.  The guilt of what didn't get accomplished will always make the top of your New Year's resolution list for next year...guaranteed.

Monday's Mommy Moment: Clay Time


I actually haven't introduced my little boy to play dough or clay just yet...mostly because I was worried that I'd spend more time scolding him not to eat it instead of just playing with it.  Still, a few weeks ago, Little Lewie's daycare sent a notice home to everyone to let us know that our toddlers would be playing with clay on Wednesday and that all parents were invited to come and make creations with their tots too!

Needless to say, both my husband and I were excited, and we both changed our work schedules, so that we could make our own projects help Lil' Lewie with his project too.

When the day finally arrived, we learned that we would be working in the special art studio.  Under normal circumstances, this would be great, but for us, it wasn't.  See, the art studio is located right next door to the elevator.  And since Lil' Lewie prefers the elevator to anything else...toys, playtime, even food...we could not peel him away from it.  At one point, I literally dragged my little boy into the art studio, but he wouldn't stop kicking and screaming.

"What are we going to do?"  I asked my husband, both flustered and embarrassed at the same time.

"Well we can't force him to play.  I guess we just need to leave."  My husband was equally disappointed that we wouldn't have "clay time" as a family.

I tried to put a little ball of clay into my son's hand, but he wouldn't take it.  To him, clay was not nearly as exhilarating as being able to press a button, watch it light up, and then have a magic set of doors open for him to step inside.

Fortunately, the women at the daycare were willing to give us some clay to take home. In fact, they would still put it in the kiln for us if we sent his project back within a few days. Since that was the case, this weekend we decided to have a little "clay time." It lasted long enough to get a few photos; however, with Lil' Lewie's continued aversion to getting his hands dirty, it wasn't his favorite activity. I guess we'll have to try it again when he gets a little older...

"I guess this is unique."

"I'll smile for you Mom, if you promise to take me down now."

"See Mommy's, I mean, MY creation."

Versatile Blogger & Lovely Blog Award

A few weeks ago (okay, it was probably more like a few months ago), I received the Versatile Blogger Award and Lovely Blog Award from some amazing bloggers.  I love receiving awards not only because I get a self-confidence boost but also because I get to share the love too. 

This post is to thank some incredible bloggers who were so kind enough to think of me for these awards and to pass on these awards to some other incredible, well-deserved bloggers. 

First, I'd like to thank my good friend Amber from Nater Tot for The Versatile Blog Award.  Although I received this award once before, it was like getting it for the first time all over again because it came from a friend and blog that I truly admire.  Thank you Amber! 

For the Versatile Blog Award, you are asked to...
1.  Share seven things about you.
2.  Nominate 15 newly discovered blogs.
3.  Let your nominees know about the award.

Since I received this award, I won't bore everyone with another seven things about myself.  (You can see the original seven here if you're interested.)  I will, however, use the opportunity to nominate a few blogs with this award in addition to my original 15.  These two blogs are honest, fun, and written by some sweet, authentic bloggy moms.  Please check them out!
Then, all of a sudden, I received The Lovely Blog Award from a number of bloggy friends:  Tessa at The Shopper Gal, Liz at From Chalkboards to Strollers, Gina at It's How She Rolls, and Leigh from The Holistic Health Maven.   Wow, did I feel honored, and I still do. 

Since this is the first time I received The Lovely Blog Award, I would like to follow the following rules.

1. Accept the award.
(Post it on your blog with the name of the person who has granted the award and his or her blog link.)

2. Pay it forward to 15 other bloggers that you have newly discovered.

3. Contact those blog owners and let them know they’ve been chosen.

So here, in no particular order, are some creative, inspiring blogs written by some wonderful ladies.  Please check them out!

In the end, receiving an award, whether it's our first time or fifth time, is a reminder that we belong to a wonderfully supportive community of blog friends.  I love blogging and am so appreciative of the many friends I've made through this process.  I hope by sending out these awards, I will be able to spread the same sunshine and cheer I felt when receiving them :)  Congrats to all!

Friday Fun Flick: Daddy's Size 14 Shoes Are Hard to Fill!


A few weeks ago, I showed footage of my little guy scuffing around in my heels.  It was hilarious to watch him and hear him clippity clapping all over the kitchen floor.  I was quite impressed.

My little guy, of course, also has a fascination with Daddy's shoes, that is...Daddy's very large size 14 shoes.  If some of you are unfamiliar with this size, let me give you a brief highlight.
  • We usually have to go to special stores to buy his shoes. (Most large chains like JC Penney's and Sears do not carry his size).
  • Just one shoe alone, feels like a 2 pound weight.  If it's a work boot, then it feels more like a five pound weight.
  • Just one pair of shoes fills up an entire duffel bag.  Thus, I usually limit the number of shoes my husband is allowed to pack on a trip.
  • His shoes make his suitcases very heavy--sometimes making us pay extra on a plane flight because his baggage exceeds the allowed weight limit. 
With that said, my little guy still insists on walking in his shoes, which means, in all honesty, he is one strong little boy!

Top Ten Kid Friendly Thanksgiving Jokes


Okay, my little boy is still too young for jokes, but I thought I'd start collecting them for when he's older.  Some are favorites from childhood, and some are from some great online resources I listed below.  I plan to torment entertain my family with some of these treasures next week...

1.   Q:  If April Showers bring May flowers, then what do May flowers bring?
      A:  Pilgrims

2.   Q:  Why didn't the turkey eat any dessert?
      A:  Because he was stuffed.

3.   Q:  Why did the Turkey cross the road?
      A:  It was the chicken's day off.

4.   Q:  Why did the turkey decide to drum in a band?
      A:  Because he had the drumsticks.

5.   Q:  Why can't you take a turkey to church?
      A:  Because they use such FOWL language.

6.   Q:  What's the best dance to do on Thanksgiving?
      A:  The Turkey Trot.

7.   Q:  What kind of music did the Pilgrims like?
      A:  Plymouth Rock

8.   Q:  What did the turkey say before it was roasted?
      A:  Boy, I'm stuffed.

9.   Q:  Should you have your whole family for Thanksgiving dinner?
      A:  No, just the turkey. 

10. Q:  When did the Pilgrims first say, "God Bless America"?
      A:  When they first heard America sneeze.

Bonus:  (I'm sure you may have heard this one before...)

The Turkey, the Parrot and the In-laws 

Martha had a parrot called Brutus.  The only problem was that Brutus cussed something awful. Now Martha was having her in-laws over for Thanksgiving, and so she needed to train Brutus quickly not to swear.

Just before her mother-in-law arrived, Brutus cussed terribly, so Martha put him in the freezer for 2 minutes to literally cool off. Then she opened the door and took out the parrot along with the turkey.

"And have you learned your lesson about cussing?" Martha asked the parrot.

Brutus the parrot took one look at the dead turkey and said: "I sure have. But pardon me, I just have one question, 'What did the turkey do?'"

Complements of Kaboose, The Holiday Spot, Activity Village, and Will and Guy's Humour.

Monday's Mommy Moment: Beware of the Shark!


Who would have thought a simple shark head on a pole would provide years of entertainment?   Yes, you heard me right--years.

In 2006, my husband bought a shark snapper toy on our honeymoon in Hawaii.  (For those of you who are still unsure what it does, there's a lever at the end of the pole that makes the shark snap--a great device for tormenting unsuspected souls.)  My husband, at the time, claimed he was buying the toy as a souvenir for his six year-old nephew, but as the snapping shark head often peaked around the shower curtain while I was rinsing my hair, I soon learned it was my husband's new toy.

He had fun tormenting me during the rest of our honeymoon, but I was smart.  I knew where the shark toy was packed, and once I unpacked it, I hid it--in a secret place not to be disclosed--(just in case my nosy husband is reading this.)  From this point forward, I now have control of the shark snapper, and from time to time, (usually once or twice a year) he will come out to pay my husband a visit in the shower.  (Hey, my husband's the creative one...I'm just the copycat.)

This weekend, I surprised my husband by showing Lil' Lewie how to pull the lever and use the shark.  Now, I wasn't the one bothering Daddy...instead, I had a partner in crime...  Oh, and it was so much fun!