Monday, May 20, 2013

Top Ten Birthday Party Tips

This weekend we celebrated Lily's fourth birthday. And we did it with a bang. Because I really really love birthday parties. I love planning for them. I love shopping for them. I love creating them. The whole process makes me incredibly happy.

Oh. And something about making Lily happy too. 

I wrote about my love of birthday parties as I prepared for my very first party as a Mom. (You can read that post here.) My obsession has only grown, and I'm starting to be known for my skills among our Mommy circle.

So here it is- Mindy's Top Ten ways to throw a successful birthday party.

1.Pick a theme and go with it.
This is pretty easy these days. A trip to Party City makes this easy. You can find party supplies for nearly every theme you can think of. (except cats, as I discovered this year...) And I think most moms have this party down pretty well.

But here's the tricky part....

2. Put the kids in the world of the theme.
Here's where my theatre background comes in handy. Rather than buying tons of party supplies with the character's pictures plastered all over, think of what your main character would have in her world. For example, cats don't eat off of plates with pictures of cats on them. But they do eat out of bowls. So I bought little plastic bowls and letter stickers. I had the children tell the adults how to spell their names (see tip #9), filled the bowls with goldfish crackers, and encouraged the kids to put their faces right in. I had them sing "Happy Birthday" as cats, and provided ears and tails. Think of how the kids can spend the time as the theme, rather than just looking at the theme.

3. Spend as little money as possible.
For our family this is just a necessity. If I want to throw a great party, I have to do it on a budget. But my need to be thrifty gets my creative brain going. And that gets me thinking like a kid. Rather than buying 20 sets of cat ears at $3.50 a piece, I bought 4 6-packs of headbands for $3 each and made the ears from pipe cleaners we already had. Rather than rent out an expensive party place, we have our parties at the park. (Granted, this is possible because Lily's birthday is in May. But there are indoor options as well. The library, for example.) I make the cupcakes myself every year. They usually come out crazy looking. And nobody cares. You do not need to spend a lot of money to make a kid happy.

4. Think of what the kids will do.
I've been to a few parties where so much care was taken with decorations and food, but little thought was given to what the kids will actually do. Make sure you have some activities and a timeline in mind. If it's at a place like the park, or a party facility, you're golden. But if it's just at your house, chances are they will find something to do. And after a while, with that many kids and that much sugar, you may not like the choices they make.

5. Don't have stuff for the sake of stuff.
Two different kids asked me on Saturday where the goody bags were. "There aren't any, but you may have your ears and tail and cat bowl" I answered. This is my own personal preference of course, and I may get nasty comments about how necessary they are. But in a world of excess, I  have trouble participating in all the plastic stuff nonsense. The kids at Lily's birthday parties never go home empty-handed. But I think about what role the stuff I'm sending home might play in their lives.

6. Remember the grown-ups.
We attended a birthday party a few months ago that served wine and ended up with an after party that went until close to 10 PM. This is my kind of birthday party. Serving alcohol isn't necessary. (Although we usually do. A carefully-labeled punch for grown-ups only. It's not strong. It just lets the adults know we were thinking of them.) But keep in mind the adults want to enjoy themselves, too. Preschool parents, in particular, are getting to know each other, and forming relationships that will last the next fifteen years. Give them an environment where they can chat without constantly chasing after their kids. Because often, this is how they spend their whole weekend.

7. Follow the kids' lead.
I always have specific activities in mind. But my schedule is loose. I watch the kids to see what they want to do. This weekend, for example, I was going to have the kids run an obstacle course as cats. But you know what's really not necessary? Showing kids how to play on a playground. I also hadn't planned on having Lily open her presents while everyone was there. But several of the little girls really wanted her to. So we did. And they sat and watched politely and oo'ed and ah'ed over each gift. Have a plan. Then be willing to abandon it. (see rule #10)

8. Play.
Again I fall back on my theatre and education backgrounds for this one. But the kids want to see grown ups be silly. Be ready to play with them. Demonstrate how a cat might sing "Happy Birthday." Show them how to eat from the bowl without using your hands. Wear ears and a tail yourself. Get involved.

9. Find the teachable moments.
While kids don't want to sit and have a class during their birthday party, they are always learning. Think ahead of time about some things your child is working on right now. See if you can incorporate some of those things into the party. Have them help you count. Have them spell their own names on a nametag. (examples, of course, for my 4-year-old. But kids of every age are working on skills.) But more importantly, work on social skills with them. Be sure your child greets every guest and says good bye to each person who is leaving. Teach her to say thank you and to be a gracious host.

10. Let it go.
At the end of the day, it's a two-hour party. It should be a lot of fun, and yes, people will appreciate your work. But it's kids and sugar and activity and presents and really, it's pretty hard to mess that up. My Lion King cupcakes were pretty crazy-looking. And for the second year in a row the cupcakes didn't really make the trip very well. But they were still tasty. I had some things planned that got skipped because it started to rain. So we moved to the gazebo, the parents kept drinking sangria and chatting, and the kids got excited about presents. No big deal. Let it go.

It occurs to me now that I have never written about the birthday parties of the past. And this is already a pretty long post. So I'm going to make three separate posts- one for each party- and come back and link them. If you're someone who reads these the moment I post them- thank you! And know that I'll edit this whole paragraph once the individual party posts are ready. So check back in a bit :)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Baby Weight: It's Not Just for Biological Mothers Anymore

I know. You're rolling your eyes at me. You know me personally and you know I'm teeny tiny and you're shaking your head because seriously? What could I possibly know about weight gain.

Laugh all you want. But my pants don't fit.

I've always assumed that since I was never pregnant, I escaped one of the more notoriously frustrating parts of motherhood. Baby weight. But here's the part they don't tell you. The weight isn't from the pregnancy.

I mean, it is. It probably is. And I don't mean to take the unique experience of pregnancy weight away from the breeders. Growing a person inside of you is, of course, a factor. But there are other factors I hadn't counted on. Age. Clocks. Kupcakes.


(OK spelling friends. I had to misspell cupcake. But I've been sitting here looking up words to make this work, and I couldn't find any. And Acc looks like an abbreviation for account. Which is not what we're going for here. Plus it's cute. Time to move on.)

I had always heard that metabolism slows with age. But I never thought it would happen to me. I've been able to eat whatever I wanted my entire life. Well, up until the past two years or so. Now, as I approach a "zero birthday" (it's not the next one, but it's the one after that...) I notice some pretty big changes. All of them at my waist.  I just have to face it. I'm getting older. Ack.

They just keep ticking, don't they? My responsibilities as a Mom are pretty overwhelming sometimes. And that's without the responsibilities of being a teacher and writer and musician and person. Sometimes I forget to eat. And then I'm starving. And then my choices are processed crap. (Although I did just find an amazing juice bar here in Greenwich. I thought I had found the answer. And if it's just me and I just need a smoothie it's perfect. But last Saturday I stopped to get a few snacks for Lily and I for the road. And it was $40. Seriously?)  I would love to make grocery shopping and meal planning a priority. Then I would always have healthy snacks on hand, and we would never have pizza for dinner. But I just don't have time. Ack.

(That K is still really bothering some of you. Now I think it's funny.) Lily has an extremely active social life. And you know what they serve at kids parties? Cupcakes. And candy. And cookies. And they look so good. So I'll just have one. Because I can eat whatever I want without gaining weight, right? Ack.

Now a few of my fitness friends are ready to have heart attacks (but they won't. Because they are so healthy.) over this. Find the time! Work out! Make meal planning a priority! Don't let your kid eat that processed crap anyway! These friends of mine, by the way, do not have children. But I hear you, healthy friends. Spring is the busy season in the music education business. And all three of our family birthdays fall within a month. Plus Mother's Day and Father's Day. When June is here, I pledge to make some healthy lifestyle choices. Maybe I'll blog about it. K? (As in kupcake.)

Yes, my metabolism is slowing down because I am getting older. Yes, my schedule is out of control and I need to make health a priority. And yes, I could say No Thank You to the cupcakes. But there is one other factor to consider here.

I might have been too small before I was a Mom.

Now you're really pissed at me. But honestly. My depression was at it's worst. And it's not like I was making healthy choices before. I very well may have been underweight.

So my pants are too small. Which makes me have a muffin top. This is unacceptable. And I need to make better food choices regardless. But you know what? I also might just need to buy bigger pants.

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

And now, a word from our sponsor.

It's birthday week. That means party planning and shopping and cupcaking and cleaning. Multiple parties. Lots of presents.

It also means pictures. Which means haircuts. More on all of that in the days to come.

It's also the week of my concert at the school where I teach the choir. We only rehearse once a week, aside from the extra rehearsal time I'm given the day or two before. (And I'm extremely grateful for this time. Most schools strongly resist that sort of thing.) So I'm rehearsing and shopping and singing and coffeeing. For two days straight. At a secondary private school for students who have special needs.

It's also the week of the Art Auction at Lily's school.

As well as a special project I'm doing with my piano students.

And a few lessons in the city.

I'm tired.

I have lots to say about all of the above. And it will be said. All in neat little posts with neat little topics and neat little titles. But not today. Maybe tomorrow. The day after seems more likely.

In the meantime, I'm hoping you'll check out my indigogo campaign. It explains what I have in mind for the future of Thoroughly Modern Mommy. I could really use your help. Check it out. Spread the word. Let's take this thing to the next level.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Soccer Mom

I love Soccer Saturdays.

It's partially the poetic fulfillment of my true Mommy Self that I enjoy. I love getting the family ready on Saturday mornings. Loading up the car. Getting coffee. Standing on the sidelines with the other parents. I am now an actual Soccer Mom. With real soccer games and a cute little uniform and everything. (The uniform is for Lily, not for me. But if you think I haven't considered making myself a tshirt too, you don't know me very well.)I've been waiting for this for a long time. And I plan to enjoy every single second.

But Soccer Saturdays are about more than my rite of passage as a Mommy. They're just good entertainment. If you had a bad week, I highly recommend starting your weekend by watching preschoolers play soccer. It is impossible to leave in a bad mood. A typical "game" goes something like this.

9:00 The players arrive- most of them in the arms of Mom or Dad- in maroon jerseys. Soccer balls of every color dot the field like confetti.

9:05 Practice begins. This involves drills like "think of the ball as a puppy on a leash," and "don't touch the ball with your hands." They also practice defensive tactics  like "try to get the ball away from people wearing a different color" and "stand in front of the goal if they try to kick the ball towards it."

9:15 The "game" begins. One or two kids on each team who know how to play chase after the ball that has been selected as the game ball. Whoever owns this ball cries because it's HIS. Coaches shout advice like "no, the other way!" and "come back to the field, we need you!" Occasionally the whistle blows, followed by reminders like "don't touch the ball with your hands!" Every few minutes the entire game drifts over to the neighboring field. Sometimes someone scores a goal. Sometimes it's in the CORRECT goal. Parents cheer. The kid who kicked the ball jumps up and down.

9:30 Halftime. Players get water from parents. Some sit down, never to return to the game. Others get encouragement and reminders like "don't touch the ball with your hands" and "your goal is THAT one."

9:35 The second half begins. Parent conversations get more involved and drift further from the topic of soccer. Every dandelion on the field is picked and delivered to mothers. (Who have to hold the dandelion and keep it safe because it's special.) Two little girls who have been holding hands and wandering around the field together the whole game decide to rest in the goal where they can play tea party in peace. More goals are scored. More whistles remind players not to touch the ball with their hands.

9:45 The game ends. No one has any idea who won. (Except for the one kid who has been keeping track. "It's five to two!" he yells. "I scored four of our goals!" Everyone wants to believe him, but knows that three-year-old counting skills are not always reliable.) Parents encourage the kiddos with "Maybe next week you'll get out there and help your team play."

And the next Saturday, it starts all over again. It's hysterical and adorable and amazing. And while die-hard soccer fans may be bothered by the lack of skills and understanding of the rules, parents can see what's really going on. These kiddos are learning to play. They're learning the rules. They're getting exercise. They're taking turns and sharing. They're developing a community. They're getting a little better every week. They're being encouraged by their own parents and the parents of their teammates.

And THAT is what I love about Soccer Saturdays.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

An Open Letter Concerning Mother’s Day, from Those Who Wish We Were Celebrating

When I started writing more seriously six years ago, it was with a specific mission in mind: to tell the story of infertility. What it feels like. What it can do to you. How it affects you every single day. A few things have changed since then. First, I have expanded my topics to include parenthood, mental health issues, adoption, and whatever strikes me on a particular day. Second, I no long categorize myself as a person dealing with infertility. While I never got pregnant, I am a mother now. I am not actively trying to get pregnant, nor am I involved in the adoption process. My journey came to a happy end when our daughter came home.
But I hope the community of women who long to become mothers will still allow me to speak on their behalf. Not only do I remember vividly that longing, I still get pains in my heart when I see pictures of sonograms, or mothers holding newborns immediately after labor. Or when I see children who look exactly like their parents. This is my right to feel that loss, and I will defend that right. If you are interested in arguing with me, please find a different blog to read.

So I find myself now in what feels like an ideal position to be a spokesperson. I remember the pain. I still feel it occasionally. But I am- for the most part- healed from it. At the same time, I have joined that elusive Mommy Club. So I speak the language. I understand their needs too.

With that in mind, I address today the latter group. Those who will be celebrating Mother’s Day as Mothers this Sunday. We have some things we want you- and those celebrating you- to understand.

An Open Letter Concerning Mother’s Day, from Those Who Wish We Were Celebrating-
Mother’s Day is the hardest day of the year for us. It feels like the whole world is celebrating the one thing that is missing in our lives. The one thing we would do anything to have. And the one thing that is entirely out of control. Even so, we do not wish to take away from your celebration. We want you to be honored on Sunday. We want you to be recognized and pampered, and to feel loved. If we do or say anything in the days leading up to your big day that you find hurtful, please consider our acts with grace and patience. We are simply in a lot of pain, and dealing the best that we can.

There are a few things you can do to make the day a little less difficult for us. First, if we choose to stay home, please honor that. Many of us choose this day as a holiday to mourn the loss that we feel. But if we are out- at church, or at special events, or even just dinner or shopping- know that this took courage. We know that you want to support us. But there honestly isn’t a single thing you can say that makes this day hurt less. We understand that things like “Your time will come,” or “It’s in God’s timing,” or “Try to celebrate the other mothers in your life,” feel helpful. But the truth is, they only feel good to you. It is best for us- truly- if you do not bring up Mother’s Day to us at all. We know what day it is. We know that you are thinking of us. We do not need to talk about it. Not today.

One more thought. You do not necessarily know who we are. We may be the career woman who seems to have it all after “choosing” career over family. (…who would give up her career in a heartbeat if she could manage to get pregnant.) We may be the young couple who has secretly been trying to conceive for years. We may have experienced multiple pregnancy losses without sharing the information. We may be in the adoption process but for whatever reason a match has not come through. Please error on the side of caution. If you do not know where we are on our family journey, please do not mention it today.

We know this sounds like a lot. And we do not want you to feel like you’re walking on egg shells on your special day. We also know it sounds more dramatic than could possibly be necessary. We do not ask you to understand. We only ask you to trust. Please be gentle with us today. We are hurting.

Happy Mother’s Day. We hope to celebrate with you next year.

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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Mother's Day for the Childless

If you are a Mom, this post is not for you. You may read it if you like. In fact, some of your friends who are struggling with being childless may appreciate it. But I will not attempt in this post to explain to you how those women are feeling or how you can help them. Please return for that post tomorrow.

Today I speak directly to those who are childless- and not by choice. This is a tough week for you. And I give you permission to be grouchy.

But before we discuss this permission further, I have a disclosure and a qualification.

Disclosure: I am no longer childless. I have a beautiful little girl who celebrates her fourth birthday next week. She happens to have been created by people other than my husband and I. And she has skin very different from ours. But she is ours. I am a Mom now. So if you choose not to read what I have to say, I get that. But I will always identify with women who want children and do not have them.

Qualification: I am not giving you permission to be mean and nasty. There is a difference between how you feel and how you behave. You have permission to feel lousy. You do not have permission to try to make others feel lousy.

So. Let's discuss.

This week. Man, this week, right? I'm watching The Today Show and every-other segment is about mothers. I remember how this week felt a few years ago. It's awful. It's everywhere you look. And the thing is, it's going to be awful. Because your situation is awful. And I'm so sorry you're going through it. But unfortunately there isn't really a way for this week not to suck. The best you can do is take care of yourself. That includes permission to be grouchy.

Of course you are going to feel badly this week. Of course it is going to hurt. So schedule some fun for yourself. Go to lunch with girlfriends. (girlfriends who don't have kids or know enough not to talk about them.) Go shopping. Have a chic flick marathon and cry fest. And on Sunday, if you're able to make it your own person holiday, do it.

For some people, this is impossible. You have family responsibilities, and I get that. Ideally, your family would understand and excuse you from Mother's Day festivities. But if that's not the case, see if you can make an appearance and then get the heck out of there.

If you're one of the lucky ones who isn't expected to be anywhere, for goodness' sake stay home. Make your favorite foods. Watch your favorite movies. (Not on TV. That will be a Mom-fest.) Spend time with your husband. And cry if you need to.

This week as Mother's Day approaches, set yourself up to be healthy. Stay away from the internet and TV. Know that it will hurt. Try to focus on the positive, but give yourself permission to grieve.

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Monday, May 6, 2013

Grace Under Pressure

... OR How to Survive Contest Weekend Without Losing Your Friends Or Your Marbles.

I have been attending Sweet Adelines competitions since I was in the womb.

I know that sounds like a cute hyperbole. But nope. It is indeed a fact. My mother was pregnant with me in Minneapolis. That's right, friends. I was part of a gold-medal-winning performance before I was born. (I never got my medal, btw. Someone ask headquarters about that for me.)

Since then, I have gone to contests, both regional and international, as nearly every kind of participant. I've been in the audience. I've competed in choruses. Small choruses. Great big choruses. Medium-sized choruses. I've competed in a quartet. I've been an outgoing champ. (regional and international.) I've gone as a coach. I've been a quartet hostess. Two weekends ago I went as a member of a quartet whose other three members were competing but I'm CAL so I was designated cheerleader. You get the idea.

Participating in Sweet Adelines was a driving force behind my career choice. After spending my whole life watching my mom coach quartets on our couch, only one choice seemed logical: Music Education. Now, after earning a Bachelors Degree in Music Education and Masters Degrees in Secondary Education and Vocal Performance, I freelance as a music teacher in the Greater New York City Area.

I tell you all of this only to explain that I attend contests with a unique point of view. I've done it my whole life. I have some professional training behind me. And since I am now in a different region as my more famous mom ;) most people have no idea who I am. I slip through contests undetected, able to observe. (Unless I'm in the big fancy recliners at the front of the international audience. That was me in Nashville.)

One of my specialties as a voice teacher is the psychology of singing. All of these aspects combined- my lifetime (literally) of participation, my training, and my psychological approach- help me get through a contest weekend in a zen-like state. And I have to tell ya, it's the most fun way to do it.

So, how do I do it?

Practice. Lots of practice.

But I've outlined some rules below to help you achieve contest zen. I'm not gonna lie to you. They're tough. And they take commitment. But I promise you, if you follow the rules below, you'll leave contest with even more friends and marbles than you had when you arrived.

1. The Five Block Rule
As students at NYU, we were taught the Five Block Rule. Thou Must Not Say Anything Bad About Any Performance Within Five Block of the Theatre.
You just never know who is a producer. Or mom. Or friend. Or Actor no longer in costume. Get five blocks away. At least. THEN discuss.
This is tough at a Sweet Adelines event because, let's face it, you never get one block away from the venue, let alone five. So for Sweet Adelines events, I have adjusted it to be The 24-Hour Rule.
I am serious.
Not even quietly.
Not even in your room.
24 full hours.

I have this rule for a few reasons:

A. You are not as subtle as you think you are.
Friends, I love you. But you are in sequins. And if you and other people wearing the same color sequins immediately put your heads together and whisper the moment a competitor takes the stage, it doesn't matter that we can't hear you. We know what you're saying.

B. It is good for your soul.
You'll just feel better if you spend the weekend being positive. I promise.

C. You'll learn more.

Which leads me to...

2. Look for the Good
It is far more difficult to state what someone is doing correctly. Challenge yourself. Actively LOOK for the good. Make it a game. Can you find three specific things to say about each competitor? You will learn MUCH more about the craft this way. If you can't find three things, ask a director or a judge or a coach. It will change the way you watch contest.

3. Thank You!
There is only one correct response to a compliment. "Thank you!" That's it. Period. If someone compliments your performance, thank them. Listing all of the things you heard that went wrong is essentially telling the compliment-giver that she is incorrect. Is that what you meant to say? Probably not.
This takes practice. I make my students practice in their lessons. Practice complimenting each other at rehearsals. Practice responding with "Thank you."

4. Be the Light
Another tough one. It is human nature to want to criticize. There is going to be a lot of criticism around you. It will be extremely tempting to join in. So have a response prepared. When I'm pushed for criticism, I say "I know it seems silly, but I have a rule for myself. I only say positive things about performances for 24 hours." It's tough to argue with this. And others may even join you!

So let me answer an objection I hear in four-part harmony singing at me from across the world.
"But we want to learn from our experiences!"

To this, I have three responses.

1. See Rules 1C and 2 :)
2. That's why you get those handy DVD's and score sheets. To review things when you are in a better mental and emotional place to do so.
3. Carry a notebook. That's what I do. Then you can write down all of those less-than-nice things without sharing them out loud. (Guard that notebook with your life.)

I know I'm suggesting a lot, and that- as I admitted- it takes LOTS of practice! Maybe I'll post some practice tips as International approaches! But I promise- PROMISE- that you'll leave contest without losing your friends or your marbles.

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Friday, May 3, 2013

Reflections on A to Z

...or how the A to Z Challenge may have changed my career...
Don't worry. I'm  not going to stop teaching music. Not ever. But participating in this challenge has had results I never anticipated. The first piece of advice most established writers give to novice writers is.... go write. I know this. But I've had a lot of trouble making it a priority. Writing is not my primary career goal. And I'm a Mom. And a wife. And.... all the other things that most women my age are. I didn't have time. Or so I told myself. Participating in this challenge forced me to be accountable. I was writing every day. And a lot of cool things happened.

First, I got more and more comfortable with my voice. I've been working on it since I started writing "Hope Springs" in 2007. But after a month of writing every day, it comes much more naturally now. This shouldn't be a surprise, of course. It's what I teach my music students every day. But sometimes teachers are slow to learn our own lessons.

Second, it helped me push through writers' block and perfectionism. Just come up with something that starts with the next letter. Anything. Go. Some entries are better than others. But they all exist.

Third, I expanded my reader base. And I got some crazy feedback. I had friends and strangers responding to my writing- particularly in the areas of mental health, adoption, and infertility. I did interviews! Three of them! Here's the other one! (Full disclosure. That first interview was from February. The other two were in April. But they're all related, and I was able to draw on my blog for the second two. Just don't want anyone to think I'm being sneaky.)

All of the above led to an exciting conclusion. I need to make this thing bigger. And was born. (Note: it was just born as an idea. I own the domain name but there's nothing there yet!)  You can read about this special project here. If you feel inclined to donate, that would be awesome! If you want to help but don't have the extra money, (because really. I get it) perhaps you could spread the word for me. And regardless, look for the big launch sometime in early July :)

Thanks for reading. And thanks to a-to-z challenge for kick-starting my writing again.

Oh! One last note! I have had a few people express sadness that the series is over. Which is so sweet. But trust me. I have a list of blogs to be written. I'm gonna keep at this daily thing :)

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Z is for Zebra

Lily got one of those "Sophie the Giraffes" for her first birthday. It's supposed to help with teething. I don't remember if she ever chewed on it. But she has always loved it because, well, we know how she feels about animals.I wanted to find it and take a picture. But our home is currently in a condition where... well.... let's just say I couldn't find it.

Recently, Sophie the Giraffe resurfaced. She started carrying it around with her in her rotation of animal friends. And she called it zebra.

For a while, I let it go. But one day, I finally told her. "You know that's a giraffe, right? It's not a zebra. Zebras have stripes." She picked up her giraffe and left the room, grabbing a pen on her way. I was too tired to ask her what she was doing with the pen. Plus the apartment is such a mess right now she's have a tough time doing damage I'd even notice.

A few minutes later we were headed out to run errands and she told me she wanted to bring her zebra.

"Giraffe," I corrected her.

"Zebra," she corrected me.

She had drawn several lines on each side of the giraffe. It was now striped. And, I suppose, by my definition, a zebra.

Sometimes it's hard to argue with a preschooler.

Y is for YMCA

Lily loves the YMCA. LOVES.

We've been members less than a year. But it is already like a second home to her. She learned to swim there. (It took her about three weeks of being in the water with Mommy and Daddy every day before she could swim entirely independently.) She continues to work on her swimming there. (Big arms! Put your head in! Kick! She can swim the whole width of the Olympic-sized pool.) She goes to the YMCA school. She knows everyone who works there. Her friends are members. She goes to every kids' event they have. It's within walking distance for us so a trip to the YMCA is an easy way for her to burn off energy.

A few months ago it became a place of shelter and rest for us during Hurricane Sandy. We were extremely lucky. We had no property loss at all. But we were without power or water for a week. The people at the YMCA opened their doors to anyone who needed a place to go. We showered there, we played there, we ate there, we plugged in our iphones there.

We've lived in Greenwich for nearly three years now. And a good part of the first year was extremely lonely. We've made friends that have become like family in a variety of places. But the YMCA is certainly one of them. And I'm grateful for that.

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Sunday, April 28, 2013

X is for X-ray

Last year at this time I wasn’t feeling so well. I had been coughing for a few weeks and it was getting to where I couldn’t sleep. Allergies, I figured. So I took a cough suppressant. Then the next day I broke out in a rash. Must have been allergic to the cough suppressant, I figured. But eventually the rash got so bad it became a serious concern. So I went to the ER, assuming I needed some Benadryl or something. A few hours later I was admitted to the hospital. With pneumonia. It’s actually kind of a funny story. It’s just not the story I’m telling today. The point here is that I had pneumonia last spring.

There was only one logical, healthy reaction to this: assume Lily had pneumonia every time she coughed.

The biggest problem with this reaction is that she coughs. Like, a lot.

We’ve realized quite recently that her cough really IS allergies. (We are grateful for this discovery, as we- and doctors- thought for a bit that it was asthma. Toddlers with inhalers are sad.)

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Back to a few months ago, when we were constantly convinced Lily had pneumonia.

It was another one of those days when she was coughing so hard she was throwing up. We decided enough was enough. So we took her to the ER.  The doctors in the ER insisted it was nothing. We insisted it might be something. They finally agreed to do a chest Xray.

Again, I feel the need for a disclaimer. There are a lot of judgey Moms out there. Shame on you.  But just in case, you still feel like judging, here’s the disclaimer. We do NOT run to the doctor for every little thing. I have a rough-and-tumble kid, and I let her be rough-and-tumble. We insisted on the x-ray because it had been months of coughing. (Literally? Yes.) And I was convinced that I gave her pneumonia. (Which isn’t really how that works. But. Mommy guilt and all.) This was her first x-ray ever, and they will continue to be saved for emergencies. K?

And now, a word about our Lily. She is TOUGH. She loves the doctor. She is brave. So we played up this whole x-ray thing. She was going to go into a room where a robot would take a picture of the INSIDE OF HER BODY!!! So cool!

She was skeptical.

Then she was taken inside the x-ray room to see the robot and put on a special vest. Then she was left in there alone, and the lights went off. Then the robot made terrifying loud noises.

And then I saw it from a 3-year-old’s point of view.

Her parents had just put her-alone- in a room with a robot who could see her insides.

She. Screamed.

It wasn’t just a sad scream, or an angry scream, or an attention-getting scream. It was a terrified scream. She was really, truly scared. And we couldn’t go in to help her. It was awful.

Fortunately for her the technician couldn’t get a clear picture because she couldn’t stay still. That gave Daddy the opportunity to go in, put on a vest and join her. She didn’t love it, but she tolerated it.

That was one, tiny moment. And it made me want to put Lily in a bubble so she would never be sick or hurt or scared again. I can’t imagine how I’ll make it through another moment like this, let alone a lifetime full of them.

But if I had put her in a bubble, I wouldn’t have watched her play her first soccer game yesterday. And I couldn’t watch her swim the entire length of the pool. Or climb to the top of the rope spider web, hang from the top rope, and drop down.

And the magic of those moments is worth the fear.

We interrupt this alphabet...

I have "X" all written. And I'll post it later tonight, I promise.

But I have fun news! In just a few minutes (7 PM EST) I'll be speaking on the Jennfer Keitt Show on FM 104.1 in Atlanta. Tonight's show is "Guess who's coming to dinner," and it deals with trans-racial issues. I'll be speaking on trans-racial adoption. I'll also be tweeting live: ThrlyMdrnMindy with the hashtag #GuessWho

Don't live in the Atlanta area? You can listen online at

Friday, April 26, 2013

W is for Words

I feel like Lily will never learn to read.

Now, before you decide I'm one of those Moms who goes crazy with the early-reading business. I assure you I am not. I have a Masters Degree in Education. I know what is developmentally appropriate. So it's not that I am impatient. It's simply that I am in awe of how someone could learn to read from the very beginning.

So far, she reads three words.

Lily. Zoo. Ohio.

It used to be that they had to be in a particular font for her to read them. Ohio, for example, needed to be in block green letters. As in Ohio University. (How proud are Mama and Papa that one of her first sight words is their alma mater? Pretty freakin proud.) Lily needed to be handwritten, and just by itself. She didn't identify it in a sentence. Same with zoo.

Now, though, she can find these words anywhere. She brought me my birth certificate the other day. (which was on the counter from the great Car Inspection Debacle.) "Mommy? Does this say Ohio?" Yes. Yes it does.

She can also type these three words on an iphone or computer. Lily. Ohio. Zoo. If you ever get a text from me with a lot of random letters and those words thrown in, you'll know who it's really from.

But despite her having three sight words, it is just beyond my realm of understanding that she'll ever truly be able to read.

It reminds me of the time I thought she'd never truly be able to speak. Like, real thoughts. Which she most certainly does. From the time she wakes up until she is fast asleep. I wrote about her words in January of 2011. She was 20 months old. For the sake of my own nostalgia, and as a mark of how far she's come, I present to you "Out of the Mouths of Babes." If her oral language development is any indication of how her reading and writing will develop, expect her first novel soon.

Out of the Mouths of Babes (January 6, 2011)

My daughter is learning to talk. As a voice teacher and writer, this is about the coolest thing I have ever witnessed in my life. I have outlined her current vocabulary below. To me, this is fascinating. If it’s not fascinating to you, go read something else. is pretty funny. Try that.

Words that you would recognize, that mean what you think they mean:





No (or, N-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-no)



Bye-bye (used as the thing that is said when a person is departing, and the act of the departure itself)

Juice (not just something to drink, but juice, specifically. Always phrased as a question)

Shoe (used for shoes, but also socks and feet, always phrased as a question)



Hot (almost always accompanied by blowing on something imaginary, even if the thing she’s describing as hot is not food)

Yucky (pronounced yuh-KEEEEEEEEE with a giant glottal stop between the syllables)






Exclamations. This could go in the category above, but is fun enough that it gets it’s own category:

Oh no!

Uh-Oh! (these two are interchangeable)


Whoa! (these two are NOT interchangeable. “Wow” is reserved for the impressive or exciting, or when she just feels like saying “wow.” Whoa, on the other hand is only for things like almost falling down but then catching ones’ self. As in, “Whoa, that was a close one.”)

Boo! (It is important to note an expectation here. “Boo” is always terrifying, and the listener must exclaim how terrifying Lily is for having said it.)


Whassat? (What’s that?)

Whaaaaaaat? (always accompanied by hands held out, palms up.)
Note concerning these questions: they are generally completely out of context and do not refer to anything in particular. She just think it’s funny.

Words that are pretty close, and you’d get it if you really thought about it. Or if we were there to translate:

Nah-nah (night-night, or bedtime)

Bah (bath)

Daw (dog)

Da (dance)

Elwo (Elmo)

Dah (down. Yes, dog, dance, and down sound an awful lot alike. Context clues, people)

Peace (please)

Hep (help)

Buh (book)

Kee-kee or Kih-ee (kitty)

Bee-butt (belly button)

Num-num (food, or the way she feels about the food)

Words that sound sort of like one thing, and mean something else entirely:
Mooooooohhhhh? (more. This is her most common word for food, regardless of whether she has had any yet. Origin, I think: “Lily, do you want some more?” This word is starting to mean she just wants something. And it’s up to the listener to discover what that thing is. Always phrased as a question. Always.)

Bah (back. This is her word for containers. Origin, I think: “Lily, put that back.” Often she is explaining she wants not the thing, but the container that holds the thing. Or both.)

You’d never have any idea what she was saying, but it’s cute and she’s using it consistently and correctly so give her a break:
Kee-kew (Thank You)

Uh, *random syllable*, *LOUDER RANDOM SYLLABLE!!!!!* (One, two, three. That’s right, my kid can count. Uh, sort of.)




Baaaaaaaaaah (complete with vibrato)


Beep- beep

Vvvvvvvvv (the sound an engine makes)

Shhhhhhhh (which means be quiet but is also the sound of running water)

Zzzzzzzzz (the sound of zippers and bees)

And our favorite Lily-ism:
Deedle-eedle-eedle-eedle-eedle! (Which doesn’t mean anything except that she’s really happy.)

I would suggest printing this guide and keeping it handy, but a translator will be provided when you visit if you are not yet fluent in Lily.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

V is for Veterinarian

Lily has decided she wants to be a veterinarian.

Of course what she really wants to be is an animal rescuer, like Diego.

But since that's not a thing, she will settle for veterinarian.

She told me of her plans the other day on the way to the Bronx Zoo. She couldn't remember what you call a person who helps animals when they're sick. So I told her they were called veterinarians. And then she told me she wanted to be one.

I think this is a brilliant idea. She loves animals, has a heart of gold, and an interest in education. My instinct- I'm not kidding- was to find a vet who would let her job shadow for a day.

As a reminder, Lily is not quite 4.

I like plans. I like knowing what is going to happen. I like being on a path. And truthfully, my career training started at 6 with piano lessons. But I don't think we knew then that it would be career training.

I wish I could look into a crystal ball and see what she's supposed to be. Then I could make sure she has all the right opportunities and experiences.

But I guess it's also pretty cool watching a kid change and grow. Odds are pretty high she'll become a professional Something-That-Doesn't-Exist-Yet. So while we wait, I do the only thing I can, given my lack of crystal ball. Every night I pray with her that we help her become just who she's supposed to be.

That's better than a crystal ball anyway.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

U is for Unimpressed

Lily makes amazing faces. And she poses for the camera. When she feels like it.

Last summer we stumbled upon an event downtown. We asked Lily if she wanted us to take her picture. This was the result.

She has never seen the McKayla's Unimpressed meme. This is just what she was feeling.

We have a serious diva on our hands.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

T is for Things You Can Never Ever Say to Someone Struggling With Infertility

...Even though you really want to.

Like, Ever.

This week, April 22-29, is Infertility Awareness Week.

To recognize this, (Not celebrate. Just recognize.  Infertility is never celebrated.) I've decided to bring back an oldie, but a goodie. Or at least, a relevantie. I've updated it for our purposes here.

Much love to all of you going through this <3 i="">

In May of 2010, right around my daughter's first birthday, I posted a brief history of her adoption. Minutes later, I panicked. What kind of Pandora's box had I just opened???? I braced myself for the unsolicited advice.

Then I realized I didn't have to accept it. (The advice. Sadly, the infertility is out of my control.) I had a forum. I'd just rebut the comments before they came in. Here's what I had to say:

- Maybe it was your thyroid, that can often lead to infertility. (My reaction- it was not. That is only true if your levels are off. Mine are not, they are regulated quite well with medication. It's been checked. Lots of times. By lots of doctors. But thanks.)

- Maybe all of the trying and worrying was the problem. (My reaction- it was not. There is actually NO scientific evidence to support this. None. I guarantee I have done more research about this than you. But thanks.)

- My friend... (fill in the blank with a thousand possible scenarios)... You should try that. (My reaction, most likely, is "I have." But thanks.)

- Everything happens for a reason, also known as It's all in God's Time. (My reaction: I know. No, seriously. I know. Doesn't make it hurt any less now. But thanks.)

- Now that you've adopted, you'll probably get pregnant. (You don't want my unedited reaction to this one. Seriously. But I can tell you that what I hear is "Now that you've stopped all that trying and worrying, you can have the baby you really want." Don't want me to have this reaction? Then don't say it. Thanks.)

So. Two sections. Why We Don't Want Your Advice, and What You Can Do Instead.

Why We Don't Want Your Advice

We know you don't mean it, but when you give unsolicited advice to someone dealing with infertility, it comes with the following implications:

1. You have thought of something she hasn't thought of. This is seriously so very unlikely.

2. Her difficulties in getting pregnant are somehow linked to her actions. Not only is this probably not true, but it only adds to the guilt and shame she is already feeling. I'm sorry to tell you, but this is especially true of the "Just relax/ don't worry/ stop tryin so hard" variety of advice. I'm begging you. Don't say it. Ever.

What You Can Do Instead

Aside from avoiding unsolicited advice at all costs? Here are some general ideas:

1. Don't ask about it. We know you're curious, we know you're thinking about us. But a) it's kinda none of your business, and even worse b) you may have caught us in a rare moment when we were not thinking about it.

2. Understand why we might not come to your baby shower. I promise you that we feel worse about it than you do.

3. If we want to talk about it, let us. But just listen unless we specifically ask about something. (which we probably will not.)

I know it sounds like a lot to ask. It's difficult. Not nearly as difficult for you as it is for us, but difficult. Just remember to support us as people first, and try to remind yourself that it's not your problem to fix

S is for Smitty

This is Smitty:

Smitty is a monkey from Build-A-Bear. So he's a Build-A-Monkey.

We got Smitty to commemorate a very important day. The day we went to court and legally became a family.

We became a family the minute we got the phone call that Lily was coming to us. But this was the day it became final. We had the same run of emotions that most adoptive families have. Worrying that something will go wrong. That some unknown blood relative will appear. This is a myth, by the way. And a harmful one, if it scares people away from adopting. First, a blood relative would actually have to 1. Know about the proceedings and 2. Show up. Then, that person would have to prove that they are a BETTER fit than the adopting family. Not. Likely. (Primarily because, uh, where ya been til now?)

So we had all these worries. And additional silly ones with no legal basis. Like, the judge deciding we didn't make enough money. Or her bedroom was too small. Or that we shouldn't have given her peas without cutting them. (a real question asked in our home study, btw.)

But this was all unfounded, of course. So we were relieved as we realized how easy this was going to be. Then overwhelmed when the judge said she found that we were the best family for Lily, and that we now had all of the same legal responsibilities as a birth family.

It's a common story. Because frankly, that's how adoption works. Nia Vardalos tells a very similar story in her book "Instant Mom." But it's special when it's your own family going through it. Five minutes in court that change your lives forever.

We needed to celebrate. So we headed to Build-A-Bear. Lily had very little idea of what was going on. I'm not really sure who picked the monkey. She may have pointed to him. But she was fascinated by the stuffing process. The picture above is when she put in his heart. She kissed it LOTS of times, and we said a prayer over it and promised to love each other as a family forever. And that was it.

For a long time Smitty was just a monkey. But we always told her he was special. That we got him the day a judge said we were a family forever. And after a while, she could repeat it by rote. "We got Smitty when we went to the judge!" And we looked at pictures from that day. And she would repeat more and more as her language developed. Always by rote.

Then the other day something new happened.

"Can we look at pictures of the day you got me? And when we got Smitty and you adopted me?"

She's starting to understand. Not just repeat, but understand.

So far our adoption discussions have all been beautiful. I know this will not always be the case. I know that the more she understands, the more she will question. And I know that she'll have moments of anger and rebellion- just like every teen.

But for now, Smitty's story is one of my favorites.

R is for Routine

There are a lot of people who benefit from routines in their lives. Among those people are those with mental illness, and preschoolers. Since our family has both, naturally we have routines that cover our whole day, week, and month.

OK, Mom, I hear you laughing all the way from Ohio.

I said we had routines. I didn't say we followed them.

I've been a flybaby with Flylady for seven or eight years. Her routines have changed my life. Or at least the way I look at things. But I still strongly resist sticking to it. Why do I avoid something that is so helpful?

I think a lot of it has to do with my perfectionism. If I can't do the entire routine perfectly, I don't do any of it. Holy Not-The-Point, Batman.

But some of it is because- newsflash- I try to do too much. I over-schedule myself and over-commit myself. And the best routine on earth couldn't account for all of that activity.

I have been trying very very hard lately to learn Nancy Reagan's Just Say No philosophy on life. I may not have peers offering me drugs, but I have things offered that are just as toxic. Even fun things that seem like they'd be helpful are hurting me when they make my life so full of activity that there's no time to do laundry.

Since my Lent commitment to finish "Hope Springs" by Easter (which I totally did! Yay for me!) I've been starting my mornings with a cup of coffee and my laptop. Writing first thing in the morning seems to set me up for the rest of the day. Aha! A clue!

So. I hear-by commit, publicly, to stick to the routine. To write first thing in the morning. To Just Say No. (There is no slick way of saying that last part without splitting the infinitive.)

We'll see how this goes.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Q is for Quiet

...which I don't get very often.
I don't even have a lot to say about this one. But I need quiet. And I don't get it very often.

I am a music teacher and the Mom of a preschooler. There is almost always noise in my life. I can block it out to some extent (a skill developed during my career) but then I find myself slightly removed from the world. "Did you hear that?" (song, siren, person screaming...) a friend will ask.

"Huh?" I answer.

So I usually tough it out and let the noise in.

But if you ever want to give me a gift, it would be a few hours of total quiet.

P is for "Progress, not Perfection"

I am a perfectionist.

In fact, I sat for a moment thinking through the title of this blog. Because it said P is for Progress, not Perfection.

But P is for both Progress AND Perfection. Which is not what I was trying to say.

I'm irritated that I'm a few days behind. I almost wanted to chuck the whole idea of blogging through the alphabet.

I'm irritated that my apartment is such a mess.

I'm irritated that my nails have polish that's left over from a manicure three weeks ago.

This has been a life-long problem. And when I say problem, I mean paralyzing one. (Problem and paralyzing both start with P, which I didn't do on Purpose. But it makes me happy.)

When I was in high school and we got an assignment for any sort of long term-project, once of two things would happen. I would be struck with genius immediately as the teacher was talking, work on it deligentlty, and turn in something the teacher would use for years as an example (much to the annoyance of my little sister.) OR- I wouldn't have any ideas immediately, I'd put it off until the last second, half-ass something, and squeak by with a C. A+ or C. Those were my grades.

I almost missed a few football games as a cheerleader in high school because I couldn't get my pony tail perfectly straight.

If I can't clean the entire apartment and have it be spotless, I'm likely to do nothing.

I don't do mediocre. Because I can't. Like, can't. At least, I couldn't...

This is not a humble brag. This is a description of my illness.

Ten years ago this week I was sitting at home crying. Yes, the whole week.

We're not really sure when it happened, but it started slowly on the evening of my birthday. I started to feel incredibly anxious. Then I started to look for the source of my anxiety. Finding none, I tried to make things up. Then, I started to cry.

When I had been crying for two days with no external source of distress, my awesome husband Ryan finally said what we'd both been thinking for years. "Sweetheart, I really think you have depression."

He took me to the Cleveland Clinic that Monday morning. I was dressed adorably. Because that's what I do. I was diagnosed with severe depression. As we chatted, I acknowledged that I showed symptoms as early as seven years old. But because I was smart and strong and came from a loving family, I was able to push through. But it was time for me to stop pushing and get some help.

For the next two months I only worked two or three days a week. I went to therapy twice a week and we found the right medication for me.

Ten years later, it is still the right medication for me. I've been to three different therapists long-term. And I feel better. It turns out, my perfectionism was a very common part of depression. Looking at things as all or nothing.

I am posting this blog today, even though it's several days late. That is progress.

I am taking my daughter to the zoo today, even though we didn't fix her ponytails last night and they are a mess. That is progress.

I am cleaning the apartment in baby steps. The living room still looks terrible. But other areas are getting visibly better, and I can see where it will all be clean eventually. (Thank you, Flylady!) That is progress.

Last Monday I had a really rough day. I was exhausted and Lily wasn't helping the situation. I finally called Ryan in tears, asking him to come home early. He did. And I took an hour or so to rest in the quiet. And then I came back and joined the family. That is progress.

It's been ten years. And I'll never be cured. I'll never be perfect. (It pains me to type that.) But I am much better. And that is progress.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

O is for Older

Yesterday was my birthday. I know, I know, your card must have gotten lost in the mail. It's alright. I had plenty of celebrations- an amazing dinner on Friday night, a sing-along party on Saturday (don't hate.) and another dinner last night. I got a birthday song from Lily and gorgeous prints of some pictures she took and all is right with the world.

But here's the thing about having a birthday. Yes, it means you get lots of posts on your facebook wall. And you get presents and you get to eat cupcakes and not feel bad. But it also means you get older.

Of course we're always getting older. I'm getting older as I write this. And you're getting older as your read. But the number changes.

And I wish I could find some significance to this.

But I can't.

Yesterday I turned 38. And I would love it if this provided any sort of information other than the fact that I have been alive for 38 years. I wish I could find some identity in this number. But there is none.

I am friends with a lot of people in their twenties. A lot of things in our lives are similar.And I'm friends with people in their thirties. And a lot of things in our lives are similar. And I'm friends with people in their forties. And, well, you get the idea.

I'm fairly accomplished for my age. And I look younger than I really am. (Not a humble brag. Or any kind of brag. Just a fact. Good genes.) And I'm teeny tiny, so people perceive me as younger. (Which makes me laugh. Because Estelle Getty was teeny tiny too.) But I've always been sort of an old soul. Last week I was at a dinner party at the Ritz-Carlton. And yesterday I was chatting on the phone about boys with my 22-year-old girlfriend. I'm a Mom. But I'm also a daughter.

So it looks like I'll have to look elsewhere to find my identity. Because the number 38 just doesn't have much to say to me.

Next year, though. I make no promises concerning my healthy approach to my birthday.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

N is for Nia Vardalos

...and what I learned from reading her book!

The other night I saw someone mention a book on facebook- "Instant Mom" by Nia Vardalos. (of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" fame) It's about her experience with adoption. So clearly it caught my attention. I had every intention of reading it. You know. Someday.

The very next morning I had an email from someone at HuffPost Live asking me to participate in a forum about the book where we could chat with Nia and ask her some questions.

Um.... yes please?

Always the good student, I purchased the book and plopped down in Lily's reading corner. About 24 hours later I emerged, laughing and crying and feeling like I had made a new friend.

Here's my review: if you're interested in adoption or infertility or family or friends or comedy, you should read this book. (Also consider the fact that I read a whole book- A WHOLE BOOK! in 24 hours. And I have a preschooler. The "whole book" part isn't unusual for me as a person. Not at all. I'm nerdy and a fast reader. It's unusual for me to make it a priority, though, at this exhausting point in my life.)

I got to be a part of the forum (which you can watch here!) and it was lovely to chat with Nia. I'm pretty sure if we were neighbors we would be friends. 

Instead of a review, (because seriously. Who am I?) I want to share a few lessons I learned from reading this book. In no particular order. But all kinda related.

1. My memoir is probably important. Nia discusses in her book the fact that she hates talking about her infertility. And don't we all? No one wants to remember that time. It's dark and yucky. I mentioned it in my post about infertility. But the fact that Nia and I both admit we don't like to talk about it reminds me. I have to keep talking about it. I don't want it to be The Forgotten Pain. And if all of us close that door once we're through it, there's no one to offer support to people on the other side. I want women currently going through it to know that I understand. That they're not alone. So. Good thoughts for me  that we find an agent, K?

2. Celebrities are people. This is probably obvious enough. But really. They have the same life situations that we have. The same struggles, the same celebrations. Just with a better wardrobe.

3. Be. Aggressive. B.E. Aggressive. But not too aggressive. Nia talks in her book about how she got her first job at Second City. She was aggressive. She reached out to people. And she treated celebrities like people. And HuffPost Host Nancy got in touch with Nia via twitter. If I'm going to make this whole Get Published thing happen, I'm going to have to be aggressive. (Remind me of that when I wuss out or when I'm crying in my martini over the 300th rejection.)

Monday, April 15, 2013

M is for Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy?

All I wanted to do was be a Mommy. For years.

Even now, if I had to choose titles, this is the one that would win.


There are times when I cannot hear the word Mommy one more time.

My own Mom used to tell us that she was going to change her name, and she wouldn't answer until we guessed correctly. We thought that was hilarious. But I get it now.

Today was one of those days when I wanted to change my name. I had several things come up that were demanding my attention. Lily was also demanding my attention. And the more stressed out I got, the more she called my name.

Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy?

I tried to answer her every time. But I was working on things with a deadline that required thought. And I was getting fatigued.

By about mid-day I was beyond fatigued. I could hardly keep my eyes open. I couldn't think straight. I could hardly keep it together. I cancelled our plans to go to the zoo. Not as punishment- she hadn't done anything to warrant that. But because I didn't have it in me. I couldn't pay any more attention to anything or anyone.

I came out of the bathroom in yoga pants and a tshirt.

"Mommy? We're not going to the zoo?"

I explained that we were not. That I was very, very sorry. But I just didn't feel well.

"Can I watch my new doggie movie?"

I couldn't believe my big girl was taking it so well. I told her that of course we would watch her new doggie movie. (Lady and the Tramp, in case you were wondering.)

"Mommy? I've been thinking about it. And.... maybe I want to go to the zoo."

I couldn't even answer her. I just looked at her blankly. I knew I had to be the grown-up. But I didn't have another "Mommy?" in me.

Then she laughed. "Oops. I said I wrong word! That's OK. I meant maybe I want to go to the mall. When Daddy gets home."

And I laughed too.

Today was not a good Mommy day for me. (More on that tomorrow) Which is probably why this post is so disjointed. Even now, Lily is demanding my attention. And I am having trouble finding the patience. I don't know why the doggie is eating breakfast. Because it's morning and he's hungry?

But I'm focusing on the fact that my little girl has a sense of humor about herself. She can realize she used a wrong word. That the wrong word will make Mommy and crazy, and she better change it to what she meant to say.

And even though I want to scream "STOP SAYING MOMMY! STOP ASKING ME QUESTIONS!" I'm focusing on the fact that Mommy is the best title I've ever had.

L is for, well.... L

Lily is learning to read.

OK, I don't mean she's sitting down with Dr. Seuss and reading a brand new book aloud. (Sight reading? What's it called for words? Man. How far into music education am I that I only know what it's called when it's notes.)

But she's learning the words and letters mean something.

And it. Is. So. Cool.

Today we were at Target and she saw a book that said "zoo." We had a mini party in the aisle at this recognition.

She thinks every word that starts with "L" says Lily. Unless it really says Lily. Then she KNOWS it says Lily.

But it's also exhausting. She wants to know what every sign means. Every. Sign.

I love reading. I love writing. I love words. And 95% of the time I love sharing reading and writing words with Lily. I love taking the time when we're reading to explain words and letters and sounding things out. But sometimes I feel too tired. That's what it says because that's what it says.

At least, that's what I say in my head.

But in reality, I tell her what it says. I do my best to explain. Because teaching a child to read (well, introducing her to it, anyway.) is something I waited a very long time to do. And I intend to make the most of every opportunity.

K is for Kiss

Lily gives the best kisses.

I know, I know. Everyone thinks their kid gives the best kisses.

But for me, hers are the best.

They can brighten my day and make me feel loved and calm me when I'm anxious and make a sweet moment even sweeter.

Since they are so precious to me, and since I am Mommy after all, I sometimes feel entitled to these kisses.

But sometimes, she does not want to give me a kiss. Nor does she want me to give her a kiss.

And then I have to decide.

Do I kiss her anyway, because really it's no big deal, I'm Mommy, and her cheeks are just so squishy?

Or do I tell her- out loud- that she is in charge of her kisses.

The answer is always the latter. Always.

It makes me sad that this is a lesson I have to teach.

And yet.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

J is for Jump

Lily is a busy kid.

I don't mean she's over-scheduled. I've worked hard to avoid that.

I mean she's busy.

She never. Stops. Moving.

Until she's asleep. Then she's OUT.

In fact, Lily is still sleeping right now. I need to take her to school at some point. But she's not exactly a morning girl. That's OK. Neither is Mommy.

We're both busy girls. She keeps me on my toes. She runs and twirls and kicks. And jumps.

Lily will likely be an athlete. At not-quite-four she can swim the length of the pool. She swims in a class of 5 and 6 year olds. She's working on her technique. Maybe she'll be a swimmer. Maybe it will be something else. But she will likely be an athlete.

A few days ago she told me she wanted to be a cheerleader for Go Ohio (Ohio U. Not Ohio State. Just so we're clear) and the Angry Birds. (She thinks the Cardinal for the local high school looks like the famous video game. She's kind of right.) As a former cheerleader myself, I would love that.

But I mostly want to be a cheerleader for her. I'll be the Mom with the printed sweatshirts and crazy bows in my hair. No shame. That's my kid. And she jumps.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I is for Infertility

I know. Just the title makes you uncomfortable. I get it. It makes me kinda uncomfortable too.

And I don't even have a really clear vision for this blog entry. But I know it's important to discuss it.

Actually, that's the vision, I think. The fact that we need to discuss it.

I have a friend who refers to infertility as The Forgotten Pain. People struggle with infertility. And then they get pregnant. (More often than not.) And then they kinda sorta forget what it felt like to live with the pain.

Or they adopt. And they forget.

I would prefer to forget. I really REALLY would like to forget. But there are a few reasons why it lingers with me.

First, I wrote a book about it. (Wanna read it? Think happy thoughts for me. I'll start trying to find an agent soon.) So it's tough to close the door on that chapter of my life. Well, ten chapters really. I continue to revisit and revise our first year of trying to get pregnant. And with each new draft it gets a little easier. And I know it will help a lot of women. But it makes it impossible to forget.

Second, I was "diagnosed" with unexplained infertility. Awesome. Helpful.

In layman's terms (because I know that was some serious medical jargon) the doctors (several doctors) told me "you've never gotten pregnant, and we have no idea why," So technically.... it could still happen. We're not actively "trying" any more (temping, charts, tests, etc.) But it's possible. Although that becomes less likely with each birthday.

Third, our daughter is at an age where she is asking about siblings. Tonight at dinner she actually asked for a sister. She would be a fantastic big sister. But we don't have the money to adopt another child. (We're still working on the money for the first one.) And it's bigger than that, too. Because please. If you are thinking of adopting, there are ways to come up with the money. But frankly, we don't feel called to adopt another child right now. We just don't. At least not yet.

I wish I had something helpful to say to anyone who may be visiting this blog for the first time. I wish I could tell you that you will get pregnant, or that you will be a Mom someday, or that it will all be OK. I wish I could tell you it eventually hurts less.

But I can tell you this. You do learn to cope.

There are a lot of us out there. And if we keep talking to each other, at least we don't have to feel alone.