The 5 am Work Out

2018bitmoji

Happy New Year! Another calendar is turned to January. When I worked in an office, I always loved those desk calendars. I’d make notes all over it. By the end of the month, the page would be covered in notations, squiggles, or whatever. But when I ripped the page off and found a blank month waiting for me, all possibilities were open again. I’m in love with the blank page. Hence, my career choice as an author.

6814590289_6e48dbc7bd_z
Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

We all know I like to exercise. Naturally, I try to encourage the Noodges to exercise too. Noodge 2 does. She works out with a personal trainer for fitness reasons and to help with a medical condition she has. Noodge 1 will exercise, but usually with a little persuasion from me. I want them both to be healthy and happy. Exercise aids in both of those things.

Teens today have pretty tight schedules. The advanced classes they take so their college applications look good require hours of homework. They have extra curricular activities, jobs, and a social life. Noodge 2 wanted to increase her cardio time, but didn’t know how to fit the workouts into her busy schedule. I suggested to workout before school.

I’m an early morning exerciser. In fact, I’m a morning person. My best time for everything is early. Noodge 2 is a night owl like the Coffee King. My early morning exercise suggestion was met with an eye roll.

We belong to the local YMCA. I offered to go to the Y twice a week with her at 5. She agreed. A new habit was formed, and I couldn’t have been more excited. I’m honored my teenage daughter wants to work out with me. Teens usually want nothing to do with their parents unless money is involved.

I will say, getting up at 4:45 (the Y is three minutes from our house, thankfully) to the alarm clock in winter is no easy task. I might do mornings, but I don’t do cold and dark very well. But I won’t bail on her or on Noodge 1 on the days he joins us. (When both of my kids come to the gym, my heart swells.) If they want to skip the gym, that’s fine, but I won’t cancel.

I’ve made encouraging my children’s interests part of my mothering goals. I attend the opera because Noodge 1 wants to go. I’ve attended the Pride Parade in NYC with Noodge 2 and three of her friends because she wanted to see that parade. Have you ever been to the Pride Parade? I have certain images burned on the back of eyelids I can’t unsee. Growing up in my house our whims weren’t exactly indulged. I wanted to do things differently for my kids.

Hence, the 5 a.m. workout.

aruba2018beachchairsRecently, we vacationed in Aruba. I love Aruba. “One Happy Island.” Put a visit there on your bucket list if you haven’t been. You won’t be sorry. Of course, the resort had a gym. And Noodge 2 and I found ourselves on the treadmill several times that week. Me and my girl. I grew ten feet tall when I looked over and saw her working out – with me.

That’s the key. She wants to be with me. My children are about to embark on the real world. Noodge 1 is only months away now. Even though he must go, I will miss him dearly. In the meantime, while they are still mine, I get to soak up the small moments in their company. And if that company is 5 a.m. in the gym, bring it on.

With this new year in front of us, remember to hug your kids a little more. Make time for the things they like to do even if you don’t. Tell them they are amazing, because they are. And if you have to, set the alarm clock and go to the gym. At 5 a.m.

Happy New Year. Love to all.

Advertisements

Joanna Gaines Taught Me a Lesson

6004080070_ee94467a63_b
Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Have you ever watched HGTV‘s show Fixer Upper? Fixer Upper is a home renovation show hosted by Chip and Joanna Gaines. They fix up homes in Waco, TX. Chip is the brawn and Joanna is the design brains and beauty. I’m in awe of Joanna Gaines.

She is a mother of four, has a successful television show, a design business, a bed and breakfast, is a devout Christian and is younger than I am.  I have two kids. Compared to her I’m not really a parent. I don’t have the kind of successful business she has, I don’t feel at home in any religion, and I’m getting older by the second.

I’m not saying I would trade places with Joanna. I don’t know what her life is really like behind the cameras. Her kids might hate that she’s not around or their whole lives might revolve around the business and just once they’d like it to be different. She seems super nice, but maybe she’s a good actress. I don’t want to live on a farm with all those animals. Some days I’m not even sure I want the dog. But she sure does make life look clean, neat, and well-adjusted.

It’s hard not to compare myself to her when the laundry is piled taller than I am, dog hair tumbles across the hardwood floor, the mail needs to be sorted, kids need to be driven to a thousand places (that’s not much of an exaggeration) and I have words to write, clients to appease and appearances to be at. Joanna makes it look easy.

But it ain’t easy. In fact, even as I write this the laundry needs attention, again, I’m out of shampoo, I have to figure out how to grab both kids today at the exact same time from two different places, this blog post has been a thorn in my side for days, I need to write a blog post for my client, and I have a word count for the new novel I must hit. I did manage to brush my teeth, cleanup last night’s dinner, and set the house alarm before I left to go to the Starbucks and write. It’s a win, ladies and gents! It’s a win.

We all know social media and television make life look like it’s all homemade food and hand sewn clothes. It isn’t. Life is messy. I don’t believe half the posts I see from moms who go on and on about how proud they are of their children and how amazing this kid is and this mom can’t believe how lucky they are. Every parent (okay, not every) feels that way about their kid. We all love our children with such a fierceness it could blow up the universe. These same moms also want to pull their hair out of their heads from time to time, imagine a vacation alone on a sunny beach with no one yelling “MOM!!!” and have at some point wondered why they thought being a mother was a good idea in the first place. Oh, trust me, it’s true. (If you don’t have teenagers, don’t weigh in on that comment. Come back to me in a few years. We’ll talk then.) Doesn’t make anyone bad for thinking that. Perhaps our Joanna has glimmered that thought too.

Last night I was talking to a friend who had suffered the rampage of Hurricane Sandy. Long story short, she and her family recently moved back into their home. She’s expecting baby number two and the house isn’t ready, the room isn’t ready, boxes everywhere. I said, “It will all get done in time. Don’t worry about it.”

Why do women feel such pressure to be perfect? Me included. Is it because women before us burned their bras and fought for our opportunities to hold great jobs and raise families and own homes and not need the help of another human being while doing all of this, least of all a man? Or is it because the Joanna Gaineses of the world paint a picture we try to strive for? It would be easier to climb Mt. Everest than keep our stuff together in a picture perfect way without help. Heck, even the climbers of Everest have help. They don’t go to the top alone, why should we?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe in this whole it takes a village to raise a child business. No, your child is your responsibility. You raise him or her. The occasional car pool is one thing, but the constant watch my child so I can work and go on vacation in Disney mumbo jumbo doesn’t fly with me. Sorry, my opinion. (Before someone goes nuts, I’m not referring to the single mother working three jobs and living in a studio apartment trying to make ends meet. She needs the help. So, help her.)

But it is okay to say, I can’t do that right now. I can’t volunteer for one more group, or wash the car, or dinner is just going to have to be cereal. It’s okay to say to our partners, I need your help with the kids, the food, the horses, the bodies I’m trying to bury. And we shouldn’t feel guilty about it. Our home, children, job, and appearance don’t have to be perfect. And while we’re busy perfecting all these things we’re forgetting to better our souls. We should strive for more kindness, compassion, and generosity. We need to perfect our listening skills, because as a former Speech, Theater, Commmunications major I can tell you with assurance listening is a skill that can be learned. We need to experience things that make us feel better. Yoga, long walk in the parks, sunsets, coloring books, laughter.

When our souls are running over with warmth and peace we’ll be the better mother, wife, friend, business woman. Then and only then can we become the Joanna Gaineses of the world.

 

 

 

 

 

Why It Pays To Be a Helicopter Parent

160226620_e96c77740c_b
Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

If you Google “are helicopter parents bad” a huge list of articles from places like Forbes, Psychology Today, and the Huffington Post (Not a fan of everything coming out of HP) saying being a helicopter parent is the worst possible thing you can do for your child. I’m about to tell you why it isn’t so bad.

Some people may describe me one of those parents who do too much for their children. I drive them to the bus stop even though they’re both in high school now. (In my defense, the bus stop is not near our house, we don’t have sidewalks or street lights and the majority of the school year the bus arrives in the dark.) I do their laundry, make their lunches, I’ve been known to bring things to school when they’ve forgotten something. I have also been involved at school; Class parent, library volunteer, Girl Scout leader, PTA volunteer, Band Parent volunteer, and probably other things I’ve long forgotten. Oh, chaperone for class trips! And I wouldn’t let Noodge 1 fly with the marching band on his first band trip at the age of 14.

Am I ruining my children’s lives? Well,the verdict is still out on that. Ask them in twenty years.

But here’s what happened. Noodge 1 forgot his marching band uniform on the bus on Friday and didn’t realize he left it on the bus until 6 pm Friday night. He needed that uniform for a performance on Sunday. A performance, if missed, that takes seven points of his grade. Yes, they get a grade and credit for being in the marching band. This isn’t your average extra-curricular activity.

I could’ve let my son sink. In fact, many of you and all those articles say let him sink. It’s how he learns. Let me tell you what, you need to know your kid before you make that decision.

Because I’m involved in my kids’ activities I’ve had the great fortune to get to know people. Nice people. Moms like me. (And a few moms nothing like me.) So I sent a text. And we were able to get him another uniform. Mom to the rescue.

I rescued him because something bigger was going on. A more important learning lesson for both of us. Just the idea of losing seven points was enough of a consequence for him. You see, he’s my rule follower. Always has been. I keep waiting for that to change. Especially as he entered the teen years. It hasn’t. Most likely it won’t. Sometimes I wish he would, but he is and always has been an old soul.

His reaction to the idea of losing seven points worried me. Leaving a uniform on the bus wasn’t the end of the world and a very fixable problem since I knew the right person to ask for help. He didn’t see it that way. He had a committed an unthinkable act being so irresponsible. And he didn’t know how to handle how he felt.

Now we were dealing with the lesson; how to handle stress. Much more important in my book. Especially since I come from a long line of Italian people swimming in stress. What can I say? We’re hot-blooded passionate people.

Allowing him to blow a simple thing out of proportion, and punish himself over it, (the rule follower thing) without the tools to change that thinking process wasn’t worth my taking a stand not to help him so he could learn a lesson. He learned it. All by himself. I just saved him extra anguish he would’ve piled on over nothing.

Mistakes happen and what I think childhood often is a time when we’re taught mistakes are bad. “Don’t forget your gym clothes or you’ll get in trouble.” We all forget things. More importantly, we need to learn not to sweat the small stuff. Do we need to learn to follow rules? Yes. Should we make kids learn to fear making a mistake? No way.

Now, if you have a kid who could care less about making mistakes, doesn’t worry about the consequences, I don’t have answers for you because I’m not an expert. I know my kids. I try my best to be the best parent I can and pray everyday I don’t screw up too badly.

I may be a helicopter parent at times, but there have been enough times I wasn’t. My kids know I’m not an open threat. That’s good enough for me. I won’t let them go down for making an honest, harmless, fixable mistake.

What I hope I showed him was be nice to people, give of your time, be helpful because someday you might be the one asking for help. Show your appreciation for their kindness. (We gave our savior a big bag of truffles.) Don’t sweat the small stuff.

And mom is always near by flying her helicopter.

 

Is Back to School Night Worth It?

7266250916_891bcf9ab6_k
Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

It’s that time of the year again. Back to School Night. How many of you go? And those of you that don’t. You’re probably the smart ones. I mean, what can  a teacher really tell you in ten minutes? It’s kind of like conferences. They are completely worthless. If your child is doing well, the school doesn’t recommend you come in for a conference. Who needs to take up time telling Mommy that little Johnny is an A student, right? But if your child is having trouble a ten minute conference isn’t enough time to discuss the problem and figure out a solution. Oh, we weren’t supposed to figure out a solution? It was just a ten minute vent session (usually for the teacher.) “Why does your son drop his apple sauce on the floor?” Yes, I had a first grade teacher ask me that about Noodge 1.

But back to Back to School Night. The main reason I go is because the teachers give themselves away during their presentation. I can put money down on what kind of teacher my kid is going to have. (Let’s just say because you’re a teacher and stand in front of group and talk all day doesn’t make you Robert DeNiro or Meryl Streep. You get me?)

Some teachers you can tell right away are going to be fantastic. They say things like, “I love what I do. I can’t believe how lucky I am to teach Social Studies.” They have creative ideas on how to present material. They tell you they have extra hours for tutorial (high school level) or they pushed their principal to allow something new that particular year. Their energy is high, their cheeks are rosy, and their aura is glowing.

Then we have the others. Noodge 2’s first grade teacher on Back to School Night: “If you have a daughter and she has long hair you should pull it back because hair is distracting.” From the woman who has no children. And she made sure to let everyone know she hated messes. Can you guess what kind of a year that was?

Or the teacher who insisted the folders matched the notebooks because she color coordinated her clothing to her hangers. She also wanted us to provide her with tennis balls because she didn’t like the noise the chairs made when pushed back from the desks. (Tennis balls cut in half and placed under the legs stops that noise in case you’re wondering.) All that information was revealed on Back to School Night. This teacher said to me on the day before spring break: “Enjoy your spring break…oh wait…you won’t. You’ll have your kids.” Yes, she really said that. I knew on BTSN she was going to be a pill.

Another reason I go is because I want my kids to know I care about their school experience. It’s another opportunity to show them I’m involved, I’m present. It’s why I chaperoned when I could, volunteered for class mother, school library, and Girl Scout troop leader. It’s why the Coffee King coached years of Little League and Rec basketball. And sadly, my BTS nights are winding down. They will get tucked away in the memory file for pulling out when I want to visit them. BTSN allows me to hang on to their childhood for just one more night.

No, you aren’t going to learn a whole lot about the class in those silly ten minutes. It’s not a time to question the teacher about your child’s progress. Our high school is so large I’m not even entirely sure the teacher realized my kid is the class this early in the year, but I won’t miss it because in fewer years than I like to think about my babies won’t have a BTSN. Their public school education will be a thing of the past. I hope they will remember how I went when I could’ve done so many other things and they will think about it with a warm feeling knowing their mom loved them.

BTSN is worth it to me.

Editing Tip Tuesday on Wednesday

6557020987_b3c4b380a3_b
Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Life happens.

I let a Tuesday go by without offering an editing tip. Sorry about that. I remembered at 4 am that it was Wednesday and I hadn’t blogged.

I decided that would be my tip. Life happens. Don’t beat yourself up. We all have goals. Daily writing goals, blog posts, newsletters, social media expectations, deadlines. We plan and plan. Then life has a hearty laugh at our expense.

That’s been my whole week. Two sick kids. My work schedule for Monday took a turn when my son came down with a stomach bug minutes before the bus came. Put the brakes on and reroute. Because it’s not just my writing and editing I have to think about. There’s the food shopping, the house cleaning, the dog, doctor’s appointments and the health forms the high school requires incoming Freshman to submit for continued admittance. Not as simple as that sounds, believe me. I live in New Jersey. This state loves its regulations.

The other kid caught the bad cold knocking her school mates on their butts and now she’s home too. Deep breath. I can still juggle it all. Right?

Probably not, which is partly why I missed my own deadline.

This post might not be full of technical information to make your novel better, but knowing its okay to shift gears and start over goes a long way. I’m giving you permission. Go ahead, take that deep breath, walk around the neighborhood, drink that glass of scotch. Your writing will wait for you.

When I was writing my third novel in my middle grade series, Welcome To Skull Mountain, I struggled with the plot the whole way through. I sent the book to my editor and even with her suggestions the story didn’t feel right. I ditched the entire novel and started over. Life happens. The story is better for it.

 

Don’t fight it. Today might not turn out the way you planned. Just keep going. Don’t give up. If you don’t make your goals today, there will be tomorrow and maybe those scenes will better than you thought. Or find small snippets of time, like waiting in the doctor’s office or waiting for your kid’s dance class to end, to jot a few sentences down. You might get closer to your word count than you thought.

I’m shifting my goals today. A blog post. More pages in the novel, but I won’t be typing “The End” today. There isn’t enough time. My son returned to school and he needs to be picked up at the end of the day. It’s also Back To School Night. Can’t forget about dinner……

Life happens.

The Most Wonderful Time of The Year

Do any of you remember that Staples commercial for school supplies where the Dad takes the kids to the store, the shopping cart is full of school supplies, the Dad is riding the back of the cart down the aisle the way kids would, one foot in the air, and his two children are dragging up the rear, heads hung low? The music playing over the commercial is the Christmas Carol, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” One of my absolute favorite commercials ever.

It’s that time again and I love it. I love school supplies. It’s a weird fetish, I realize, but I can’t help it. When I was in school I couldn’t wait to purchase new notebooks, pencils and pens, a Trapper Keeper and on and on. I loved having folders or a binder to organize myself. New school supplies meant a whole world of new possibilities. I might turn out smarter, maybe the cool kids would like me if I had the best binder, ah, my imagination would run away with itself. Let me tell you what, there is nothing like a brand new notebook just waiting for you to fill it!

When I didn’t have kids and was no longer in school I’d still browse through the new school supplies bursting out of the aisles and buy myself a notebook. And then when I had kids that needed school supplies? Well, look out. The fun was back. I never say no to school supplies. While they searched for the right pencil case, soft with a zipper, I secretly looked for things I could buy for me. I did it again this year! I’m addicted to notebooks. I can’t help it. All that empty space just waiting for stories to tell. A blank screen in Word can’t hold a candle to a blank page in a notebook. Then there’s the sound of my pen scratching across the page as my hand soars from line to line. I’ll take that sound over the clacking of keys any day.

notebook
This year’s purchase.

As a matter of fact, I can’t wait to go to Staples because I need note cards to edit the new book I’m working on and hope to have published next year. It’s all I can do to control myself from running out when I should be writing. Though, Noodge 2 said just last night she needs additional supplies for schools. Yippee!!! I’ll be looking for those note cards for sure.

The start of the school year brings about so many emotions especially as my kids get older, but this time of the year is something like a birth. Everything brand new and smelling good. Endless chances to do it right. A clean slate. New experiences.

It is the most wonderful time of the year. (Next to Christmas, of course.)

More Stubborn Than My Dog

munson72016
Stubborn and untrainable. No wait. That’s me. But not me in the picture. At least not after I shave. 

I’m going to be honest here, so please don’t hold it against me. I’m one of those people who love their own children, but not all children. And I like/love my dog, but not other people’s dogs. Honestly, there’s plenty of adults I don’t like either. If I’m going to be honest I might as well get it all out. But I digress. And so soon.

We’re in the middle of dog training. Munson is two and he needs some tweaking. Well, it’s really me that needs tweaking. I know how this dog training business works. You’re really training the human. Munson and I have had our share of problems in the past year. I’ll spare you the details, but let’s say I wasn’t exactly thrilled with him either. Are we noticing a pattern here? I’ve always said the Coffee King is nicer than I am. Anyway, back to the point.

Dog Training. It’s overwhelming. Have you done it? The trainer comes to our house and shows us what to do. He makes it look so easy. I have to keep reminding myself he has over twenty years experience. It’s kind of like when I read a Stephen King novel and then wonder why I bother to write at all. I suck compared to King and the dog trainer. Has King written a book about a dog trainer? Well, he wrote a book about a possessed dog. I should check that out again. I’ll feel better about Munson. He’s not possessed. At least I don’t think so.

When the trainer leaves and I’m left alone with the dog all the things I’m trying to stop happen again. It’s like the dog knows to behave in front of guests, but the minute the guest leaves, ka-bam! Trouble.

I repeat to myself the cues like “eyes on your dog.” I start the process of “go to, sit, and down” over until he listens so he knows I’m not giving up until he does what I say. Guess what? He’s not giving up either. One stubborn husband and two stubborn children weren’t enough. Oh, no. I had to get a stubborn dog too! Does everyone have to have a mind of their own? Can’t he just listen to me?

The trainer says I’m better than I think. I don’t believe him. That feeling of “I can’t do this” creeps up my spine the second I take the leash. How am I suppose to get him to follow me around the yard when all he wants to do is eat bugs and the leash? The dreadful feeling of incompetence reminds me of when I first became a parent and had to bathe Noodge 1. If it wasn’t for my mother, he’d still be dirty. All right, that’s not funny considering his age. He would’ve been dirty for the first three years. How’s that? Better?

I have to admit, it’s pretty cool when I tell Munson to “got to the desk” and he knows exactly where that is. At moments like that I think maybe I can do this dog training thing. Maybe he and I will get to a compromise we can live with: I’m the pack leader and he’s the soldier. I understand this. Why can’t he?

I guess like everything, all in good time. Some day I’m going to learn patience. In the meantime, I have to be more stubborn than my dog.

Do you have any dog training tips? Please share. Munson really wants to learn.