Friday, March 28, 2008

Maybe life really is a beach

Because I've been in a beachy mood, I recently took Fly to the beach.

Typically, people go to the beach to relax. Like the retiree who was sleeping in her beach chair when Fly threw a handful of sand on her and woke her up.


But when you take a toddler to the beach, it's not very relaxing. The waves weren't a concern -- Fly wasn't too interested in them. Fly eating sand? I'm already over that. It was the constant getting-off-the-beach-towel and running to the under-repair pier (lifeguard: "Hey lady, watch your kid!" as I'm already standing up to go after him), navigating the jellyfish obstacle course on the shore and preventing other beachgoers' beverages from being slurped that made our beach outing exhausting. And keeping Fly away from the mean lifeguard's stand, which Fly was drawn to like a grain of sand to SPF lipgloss.

No, to get any relaxation out of the beach, it's going to be virtual. During our recent stay at a beach house, I started reading Truffles by the Sea, blog-friend Julie Carobini's follow-up to Chocolate Beach. But -- come to think of it -- Truffles wasn't exactly relaxing, either. (But the reading was. I just hardly ever pick up a novel and start reading anymore, sigh....) Chocolate Beach was about Bri Stone, but Truffles tells the tale of her best friend, Gaby Flores, after she loses everything in her apartment to a fire and the contents of her flower shop have been stolen. What else could go wrong? Her car won't start. She gets sued. It's trouble piled up on trouble for poor Gaby.

Fortunately, Gaby's friends and neighbors help her survive and put her business back together. Bri lends Gaby clothing (and a sympathetic ear), and friend Livi helps out in Gaby's flower shop. Gaby's new landlord Jake -- a hunky restaurateur -- leaves her meals even though he's out of town opening restaurants, while Max -- a friend of Bri's husband -- takes Gaby out for romantic dinners and repairs her car for free. New neighbors provide more than enough gossip. But still, Gaby is just scraping by and wonders how she is going to support herself. Going back to her mama isn't an option because she knows her mama would stick it out and make it work, and Gaby should do the same. "Flower girls don't quit," her mama once told her, and those are words Gaby lives by.

Gaby keeps telling herself this is her chance to start fresh. But she still has to take care of herself -- including guarding her heart. She feels herself falling for Max, but her heart races whenever Jake is around. In her early 30s, Gaby dreams about finally having what her friend Bri has: a loving husband and a family.

When Gaby finally gets away by herself for an afternoon to slow down, pray and savor some truffles, she knows the direction she needs to take with her life -- but her heart doesn't catch up until the very (satisfying) end of the novel, on the beach.

Truffles by the Sea is a great continuation of the story of the friendship between Bri and Gaby -- and the restorative powers of the combination of chocolate and the ocean!

If only chocolate didn't melt, maybe that's what would have made my day on the beach with Fly a little more relaxing....

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Mothering with my ears open

When you're expecting your first child, you get caught up in the idea of a new little life. A soft baby to bundle up and hold. A tiny human who will look into your eyes. You plan to give this child only the best. You know it's not all going to be sunshine and roses, but you know the good will far outweigh the bad, and ohmygoodness, isn't your baby going to be the cutest person who ever graced the planet? Surely that cuteness will make up for any of those vague stories you've heard about not sleeping or diaper explosions or constant crying.

One of my friends, who has two children of her own, dared put a damper on my swirly mama-to-be giddiness when I was still pregnant with Fly. She even tried to talk to me about the hardships of motherhood at my baby shower. At my baby shower! We were supposed to be celebrating Fly, not worrying about things that hadn't happened yet. I told her I would be fine and actually wished she would leave the party a little early. It was a subtle alternative to putting my hands over my ears and singing to myself so I didn't have to hear any negative things she was trying to tell me.

But slowly since then, I realized some of the things she has warned me about are right. People laugh about how new parents don't get any sleep, but there's nothing funny when you're suffering the hazardous effects of sleep deprivation. Nothing can really prepare you for when the tiny, helpless creature you know is related to you cries for hours nonstop. People weren't meant to listen to other people suffering (or at least sound as though they're suffering) for long periods of time. It wears you down. That baby grows into a toddler with a strong will who protests almost everything including things he previously enjoyed, and seeing him throw himself on the floor and writhe, screaming, for the 12th time in one day has a way of warping your mind. If I'm not careful, I can get a negative tunnel vision with Fly's scrunched-up, red face at the end of that tunnel.

Maybe I would have been more receptive to my friend's warnings about some of the down sides of parenting if she had had better timing (at a baby shower? seriously?) or if she had approached me in a different way, maybe set the scene first. I realize now she was only trying to be helpful, in her own way.

The truth about motherhood is that there are amazing, even rapturous, moments with your child that make being a parent so enjoyable, and those times will be cherished memories. But your child is a small person with a lot of learning and growing to do, and sometimes learning and growing are a painful process. Children can exasperate you, make you call up every bit of strength in your emotional reserves, sometimes even make you want to hand them off to someone else so you can take a break from them for a while. I think it's how they figure out how the world works, all part of their learning process. The responsibility for shaping another person can be overwhelming, but eventually, I think, it's also rewarding.

What do you wish a friend had told you about parenting, before you became a parent? You can write your own post this weekend as part of a Parent Bloggers Network blog blast.

I know my "parenting education" is far from over, and sometimes I still want to put my hands over my ears when friends tell me what's ahead: stories of maple syrup poured on the carpeting, poo scrubbed on walls and the crib, hitting siblings, boys thinking they don't have to listen to women, fake IDs and sneaking out of the house at night. I'm just going to take this motherhood thing one stage at a time. But now I know better to listen.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What I'd Wear Wednesday: Fancy jewelry

What I'd wear today if I could: this starfish necklace by Tiffany. It's just perfect. It's a beautiful shape, it's casual, and yet it's Tiffany. If I had it, I might never take it off.

A friend was telling me how her husband had bought her some jewelry from Tiffany in the past few years, and I was just like, "!" Really? I was so impressed. I thought the little blue box place was all about engagement rings and cocktail necklaces with large stones and stuff. So I was surprised to find this beachy necklace. I've been in a beachy mood lately ... and who really wants a jellyfish hanging from your neck?

But you know what? Even though I sometimes like fancy things, I'm really not a fancy girl. I'd take a knockoff. Any old silvery starfish necklace would be fine. And Mother's Day is coming....

Do you have a favorite piece of fancy jewelry? (Or do you like to say joo-ler-ee?) Or a knockoff?

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Proof of my child's genius

I really don't like to brag. But sometimes you have to. All in a mama's day's work....

I got a set of alphabet flash cards for Fly. On each card, one side has a letter, and the other side has a picture of something that starts with that letter.

Last night while picking up, I noticed J was missing.

Silly me, I should have known where to look....

....being Easter and all....

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Flatter me, and you just might get hugged

At the playground, I met a woman with a 12-month-old boy who is expecting. We ended up talking about ultrasounds and to-amnio-or-not-to-amnio, which I'm familiar with because I had Fly past the magical age of 35.

So she asks the inevitable: "How old are you?"

"Mumble mumble," I said.

"Oh, I'm a year older than that!" she said. "I thought you were in your late 20s!"

"Bless you!" I said.

And even though she was a complete stranger, I hugged her.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

What I'd Wear Wednesday: Easter

What I'd wear today if I could: this fun skirt from Charlotte Russe. I got it last week on a hunt for something to wear for Easter. I'd wear it today, but I'm planning on taking Fly to the playground -- and I'm not really a skirt- on- the-playground kind of mom.

One of these days, I'm going to grow up. It was a tradition in my family for us kids to have a new outfit for Easter. I guess I never grew out of that tradition. I didn't understand the reason for a new outfit at Easter was that last year's Easter dress didn't fit and my fall school clothes weren't dressy enough (yes, those were the two times a year we usually went clothes shopping). Now, that's usually not a problem for me at this point in my life.

But still I shop.

Easter might not be that big of a deal if JP's aunt and uncle didn't invite his family to their club every Easter. It's kind of a big deal. This skirt doesn't really say "yacht club" to me, but sometimes I feel a little rebellious and like to poke fashion convention in the eye.

Oh, yeah. A rebel in a flowered peasant skirt. "Stand back, everyone in a suit or Lily Pulitzer dress! There's a bohemian in our midst!"

I'm still not sure what I'm wearing for Easter . . . . But I'm keeping this skirt.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Making faces

There is a virus meme going around where you're supposed to post a photo of yourself first thing in the morning. I found out from Janet at Three and Holding.

Heh. Um, har. Trying to see the humor in this.

But in my new spirit of trying to have more fun, I changed my mind....

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Newbies on the doodies

Let this day go down in Fly history.

He made a poo in his potty.


We only just started trying (after reading the Montessori method is to start toileting between 12 and 18 months, when the child shows an interest) -- and it could totally be a fluke or beginner's luck, and I don't expect Fly to do it on a consistent basis -- but it's a landmark anyway.

What I really want to know is, er, um, what do you do with the potty after it is, ahem, used? Right now I've got it soaking in the kitchen sink after disposing of the solids . . . ? Right along with Fly, oh, I am such a newbie . . . .

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Learning and living through strengths

It might have started as a way to keep track of how much Fly nursed and how much he slept as a newborn -- yeah, I think that was it.

Then it evolved as a way to fill in the first year baby calendar I got as a gift at a shower.

After the first year was over, I still made notes about him in a computer file. Every week for the first six months, I cataloged Fly -- his first smile, when he sat up, crawled, walked, what he liked to eat, what his daily routine was like, which toys he enjoyed playing with. Then I went monthly with those details. I still like to write down when he learns new words or understands something new!

I know, I know, it sounds a little anal. But from month to month, I can see how he is growing and changing. The person he is today won't be here again. And I know it's so easy to forget the little details moms cherish....

I am keeping track of Fly's growth and traits, and this will eventually help him discover his strengths, it turns out, after reading Your Child's Strengths: Discover Them, Develop Them, Use Them by Jenifer Fox. She actually recommends keeping a record of your child's preferences, activities he enjoys, tendencies, quirks and personality traits because they will help uncover strengths.

Fox's book takes a look at the ways many students are shortchanged in their education because our typical education system is set up to focus on a student's weaknesses, not her strengths. For Fox, strengths aren't talents or skills, but something that makes you feel strong when you're doing it -- and that is the key to learning and to living.

What she says makes a lot of sense, really. Do you remember the scene in Pretty Woman when Julia Roberts tells Richard Gere that the bad stuff people say about you is easier to believe than the good? Fox makes a similar point in many places throughout the book, including her own experience as a student, giving anecdotes about students who were having problems in school because their strengths weren't being recognized.

Most of Your Child's Strengths seems to focus on children who are already in school -- this is a book about education, after all -- but there are some sections that mention things parents of very young children can do to help their kids find their strengths, like family traditions and rituals that help kids form memories and projecting a positive attitude yourself as a model for your child.

This is a book I'm going to hold onto and read again when Fly is ready for school. I will need a refresher on the three kinds of strengths (activity, learning and relationship), and I will use the workbook in the back to help uncover those strengths.

One of the things I loved best from the book: "Knowing your own strengths will help your children understand theirs.... You will teach your child how to live a full life by living one yourself."

Sounds like something that is more caught than taught.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What I'd Wear Wednesday: Safari

My 500th post!

What I'd wear today if I could: a safari dress sort of like this one, which is from Old Navy.

I don't know about you, but it seems to me the safari look is everywhere lately. Oh, the khaki! Even if you never venture outside of your own town, though, it's fun to dream about taking an adventure.

A safari dress or shirt has a look that is tailored and simple, but yet not boring. I envision this with a bold necklace or wrist bangle, comfy shoes, a tote ... pith helmet optional. It's easy to move around in, which is important for a mom, especially when your toddler appears not to have any sense of depth perception and thinks it's OK to step off a four-and-a-half-foot-high platform on the playground, and you have to rush over to him to help him down before he breaks his neck. Completely hypothetical, of course....


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

An education for a burnout

Lessons learned while stepping out of the blogosphere:

Bloggers are, on the whole, a gregarious, generous and loyal bunch. I'm touched and overwhelmed by the comments you left me on my previous post when I said that I needed to take a break. (Of course, I didn't really need to take a break to learn this....)

Staying in a beach house is an immensely delightful pleasure. I highly recommend it. If you can rent or borrow a beach house some time in your life, do it! Even if (or especially if) the beach house doesn't have Internet access!

I miss hearing about how you and your kids are doing!

There are many more things I am interested in besides blogging. (Gasp! Blasphemy, I know.) I have given blogging too much of my free time, and that's why I was feeling so burned out. (Hee hee, now I can call myself a burnout.)

Perhaps the most telling revelation: I think the reason I gave blogging so much of my free time is that it felt like work. And apparently, I miss work. Or at least, work is a habit. I mean, I've been sitting in front of a computer monitor to write for 20 years. (That's when my first real article appeared in a newspaper.) Then along comes baby, and what made me think that could/would/should change? I enjoy writing here at Growing A Life, but I can't let it be the only writing I do -- the only thing I make time for.

So I'm going to be posting and commenting much more casually from now on. As many wise bloggers have said, blogging should be fun. I don't want this blog to become another point on my to-do list -- another chore. Like probably all moms, I need more fun in my life.

Here's to fun!

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