Tag Archives: parenthood

Motivation Mondays: Don’t Steal the Sunshine

12 Nov

 

A good friend of mine recently shared this feel-good video and it was something that made me smile …

 

 

 

You see I desperately try not to steal my kids’ sunshine, their spirit, their juice, their rainbow of colors that brings them to life. I try to keep my neurotic parenting to a minimum as I’d like my kids to have some sense of awesomeness still radiate like the sun on ocean waves. As a parent I’ve seen this happen and in truth I did it myself a when they were younger, and I caught myself feeling crappy and ugly for it as I saw the immediate brightness dim itself a bit.

It was just water.

Jumping in puddles. What kid doesn’t want to do that? I was so worried about the car seats and rugs getting soaked that I forgot it’s just water. Mr. Clean Erasers work like magic and the moldy smell would eventually go away if I just aired it out.  I totally let the air out of the balloon.

That was me.

I deflated the little spirits when they were 6 and 3. The crazy mom just trying to get through the day, the “getting through” part was what I was missing. I was all about keeping on schedule so breakdowns wouldn’t happen later on. I was just trying to get through it, when I should have been present. Parent fail. Big time.

But I learned.

The person that helped me turn the corner was someone I hadn’t even met. Randy. I remembered Randy Pausch and his Last Lecture … and I remembered splashing in puddles was definitely worth it. Remembering Randy Pausch and his message helped me shift gears. Galoshes and raincoats were in full effect, and I was happy to see the energy and light come back.

I promised myself I wouldn’t steal their sunshine after that and to the best of my recollection I haven’t. I’ve done other crazy mom things, for sure, but that … that is promise I kept.

This touching short film, Alike, was another reminder of that, a reminder of what I could lose if I’m not paying attention, what I could lose if I try to mute their vibe, what I could lose if I forget they need encouragement even if I don’t have it. It also reminded me of what someone else can lose because of me.

It was a good reminder … and I was grateful.

Buen Camino my friends!

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Chocolate Treats, Pumpkin Seeds, and Charlie Brown

31 Oct

Halloween parades, superhero costumes, toasting pumpkin seeds, trick-o-treating, and It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown filled the day. I was suffering from the Blues after the World Series, so I took a couple of days off and decided to come back to life on Halloween.

This holiday always reminds me of my Uncle Erick and his pumpkin carving escapades with his kid. He liked to start his own family traditions and give his kid the things he never had growing up. So when it came to Halloween I remember him going all out, pumpkin patches, hayrides, Halloween decorations and toasted pumpkin seeds. He had the spirit and his kid, who is all grown up now, remembers those days and thinks about those pumpkin carving sessions at our house. She recently asked me for a picture of her seven-year-old self atop a ginormous Jack-O-Lantern she created with her dad, and it made me think of how much joy he liked to bring to holidays and celebrations.

I often wonder what kinds of celebrations and family hangout sessions we would have had if he had survived his battle with cancer years ago, but thoughts like that make me angry and sad, so it takes me a minute to turn things around. I try to remember what we had and not so much what we’re missing, and Halloween is one of the things I’m able to hold and keep.

I talk about my Uncle Erick with the kids and remind them of his toasted pumpkin seed recipes and how I never would have known to do that if it weren’t for Uncle Erick. I try to remember to do the fun things even if they’re messy, even if they make me tired, because hopefully in the end the kids will look back on those days and smile, just like his daughter … smile at the buckets filled chocolate treats, making Jack-O-Lanterns, and Charlie Brown.

Buen Camino my friends!

 

 

Hugs and Moments of Silence

10 Jun

He never knew who Michael Jordan was, but learned more about him this week.

You see, my son had to once again learn a life lesson, but this time it came through the world of sports.

Now not everyone is a superstar, but everyone has something to bring to the table. Some are offense, some defense. Everyone thrives in a different environment. But hearts can be broken no matter what side of the ball you’re on.

He loves hockey and baseball, and does really well in both. In fact, he often practices during the off-season, and while the big selection process took place this week, he’d been practicing his drills, skating, and watching videos online.

He was ready. He felt ready. He took the ice, just like Andre Agassi would take the court. A monster on defense. Now as a parent, I know many inflate their kids’ achievements and spread it on pretty thick. However, I know my kid. I know he’s not Wayne Gretzky  … he’s still a work in progress. But he falls in the upper levels of the spectrum there. So when he was not selected to the top shelf team and was chosen for what was considered the JV Squad, it was a serious burn. His spirit deflated, and his confidence crushed. He had worked so hard.

It was difficult to watch  …

I had to step up my parent game. This was when I needed my cape and superpowers in tact.

Keeping your head up when disappointment punches you in the stomach is hard. I’ve felt it plenty of times in life, so I knew what he was going through. I put my arm around his shoulder and we just sat there for a minute.

I had to bust out my best Friday Night Lights Coach Taylor Speech. But I waited until we  left.

I’m proud of you. I think you gave it everything you had and I saw it. Your old coach saw it. You saw it yourself. You walked off the ice knowing you had no regrets. And that’s how it should always be no matter what. You’re  a good hockey player.  And you’re an even more amazing person. Sometimes we just have to work a little harder because people don’t see what we see. They missed it. You know who Michael Jordan is, right? …”

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Everyone had this amazing picture made into a poster up on their wall … I was still  Magic Johnson fan. Always. But for the purposes of this story I needed Jordan.

 

We sat on the bench, outside the pizza place, for a little while longer. He listened to Jordan’s origin story, and how when he was a kid he got cut from the team. He wasn’t even picked. But that didn’t stop him from making a monster comeback. He knew they had missed it.

There wasn’t much to say after that. Sometimes as a parent, I’ve learned that hugging works well during moments of silence.

Buen Camino my friends …

Finding A Way

3 Jun

It wasn’t intentional but it happened anyway. I stepped away for a minute.

Apparently I’d been carrying a heavy emotional workload and was unaware of this burden. It was emotionally draining and produced an unexpected writing sabbatical.

The last week of school happened and emotions were fully charged in everyone’s hearts.  Some fifth-grade moms in tears, some fourth-grade moms with emotional anxiety of what was to come next May. I overheard countless conversations about how these moms didn’t know how they were going to handle their kids graduating from elementary school, how their kids turned 10 this year and how fast that decade passed. This realization hit them as the school-year came to an end.

But this wasn’t something that made me sad.

The year hadn’t gone by fast at all. Our family had the power to stop time when life was good, with gratitude talks at night and notes in The Jar of Awesome. We also found a way to move ahead when life was crappy and things didn’t pan out the way we had hoped. The year moved at just the right roller-coaster speed.

But I was happy the school year had ended.

While it was an amazing year of triumph, growth, energy, and awesomeness for my daughter, it was a time of heartbreak, rough edges, disappointment, and life lessons for my son. This year was the most difficult for him and we haven’t even gotten to middle school.

That seemed to worry me.

I was happy for my daughter, but sad for my son. A tough spot to be in for a parent, but I imagine not the first time I’d be feeling this exact feeling. I imagine it happens often for parents. The ups and downs of family life.

And I know we’re supposed to go with the flow, but in truth I was relieved when the year ended. I was glad that my son didn’t have to deal with the harshness of friends who were no longer his friends, of eating alone during lunch because he didn’t know any of the kids in his new class, of kids who friends with him when they were in the same class, but who turned into acquaintances that sometimes said hello and sometimes didn’t because they no longer sat at the same table, or because he was into sports and they were into video games, or of being with a teacher who didn’t see his potential and wasn’t as inspirational as Stand and Deliver, but he still managed to find a way to get good grades make it to the end of the year.

The thing was he seemed all right. These social difficulties didn’t dent his spirit, as he’s always been independent. I’ve always tried to tell him not to follow the crowd, but to follow what makes him happy whether it lines up with what’s popular or not. He often played sports at lunch and got along well with the underclassmen. It was just difficult to see him have to find a way to get through the year instead of it just being a good year. It was the finding the way part … I thought that would happen when he was much older, but this lesson came early.

The year ended and relief set in and I had to take a moment.

As a parent I tend to worry a lot about what’s going on with my kid, is he doing all right, what happens at recess, how’s it going in science, why is this kid not your buddy anymore, how’s it going in class. All these questions pop up when I think about him, but when I was going to school, I don’t remember thinking any of these things myself as a student. I just went to school. I learned. I played tetherball and basketball. I studied. I don’t remember wanting to be cool or worrying about playing by myself. I always just played. I found a way to make it through school.

I had to remind myself of that. I had to remember that he’s a strong kid and that sometimes I worry more than I should about the ups and downs. And although there were times when chocolate ice cream and hugs needed to be there after school, most of the time fourth grade was all right. It wasn’t a spectacular year, but it was all right. He found a way, we found a way.

This year will still mark a decade of his life, but just part of it, the part filled with love of science and math, of playing America Ninja Warrior, soccer, and basketball at recess, of eating alone at lunch sometimes and being O.K. with it, of working on more book reports and oral presentations than any other class but being great at it, of knowing enjoying board games and Pokemon cards, of trips to the beach on Sundays, of watching Wild Kratts, Animal Planet, America Ninja Warrior, Star Wars, and Forged in Fire with his sister, of Boys Scouts, hockey games and baseball practice, of still letting me hug him before school and giving him my blessing, and of him charging me and hugging me tight everyday after school.

As we reached a milestone I was reminded of his innocence and resilience, of his heart and of his strength. As life didn’t turn out the way we expected this year, he found a way, (well together we found a way) turn things around. Hope you’re finding your way …

 

Buen Camino, my friends …

 

 

Feel-Good Flashbacks, Dodgers Baseball, and Freshly Baked Chocolate Chip Cookies

26 Oct

As a kid there are certain flashbacks that warm your heart and make you smile, that give you that feel-good-feeling vibe … like freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.

Flashbacks you hope  last longer than a flicker. You try to hold onto them because they feel so good, they’re filled with love and peace, laughter and heart. You want to keep some of that. Unfortunately there were no Kodak captures of these nights, but I remember them and the pictures in my mind feel like old Polaroids. Faded, but cherished. And there are a few things that can help enrich their color and bring them back to life, to help me feel what I felt back then.

And it happened.

For two nights in a row, I felt the magic of the past.

The power of sports brought him back to me and I was grateful for the memory. I traveled through time and all it took was some Dodger Blue.

1988. That’s when it happened.

It was the biggest event of my city and everyone was watching. The world didn’t stop, but my city was focused on one thing and I was with the most important dude in my life when this happened. I was hanging out with my Dad watching the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series.

I didn’t realize how big that moment would be until I got much older and had kids of my own. But that game wasn’t just a game, it was a memory that would come back to me and remind me that family shares big moments, high-five moments that fill your heart when it’s on empty. They give you something to hold onto when you need a line.

Orel Hershiser took the mound and eventually pitched his way into a World Series Championship. I wanted Fernando, I’d watched Fernando for a long time and we were big fans. He was one of favorites, but that series belonged to Hershiser and I remembered my Dad’s excitement after the win. Witnessing something big like that brings you closer together somehow. You experience a magic that may not ever happen and it’s amazing.

Hanging out in our old apartment, the one with chocolate shag carpet and the television with rabbit ears antenna didn’t seem that special at the time, but it’s one of the most awesome experiences I’ve had. I remember beating Conseco and just feeling the wow in the air because of that victory. The city was behind them. Excitement was everywhere. We believed.

And I remembered it. I felt it again.

dodgers-beat-cubs-in-game-five-to-reach-world-series

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I remembered it when the Dodgers won the NLCS Championship game this year, I remembered it after their first 3-1World Series win over the Astros and after the second game where Houston evened it up in a most epic battle going into extra innings. I remembered it, because my son was sitting next to me, and my daughter was standing in front of me. I wore my Dad’s Dodgers cap and remembered it as I sat on the bed. I remembered it as my son watched the game with me and we rooted for the Dodgers to take the lead. I remembered the moment and tried to hold onto that flashback as long as I could, but it disappeared. But I was glad to have lived in it’s presence if only for a few minutes.

I looked at my daughter and son and hoped that they’d want many flashbacks. I’d hoped they’d want to hold onto them too. I hope that 10, 20, or 30 years from now they remember the time they watched the World Series with me and it was just as good if not better than freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.

 

Buen Camino my friends!

 

 

 

Cake Wars Reminds Me That I Need A Multi-Vitamin

20 Feb

The age of parenthood caught up with me as I fell asleep at nine o’clock on Friday AND Saturday night.

My nights of partying it up after the work week are a 20-something memory. I’m all about the Netflix now. But I couldn’t even stay up to watch Peaky Blinders. Peaky Blinders!!! My new obsession next to The Walking Dead. I couldn’t even manage to open up the computer and type out an idea. I wrote part of it on a piece of paper, but couldn’t remember what I had written the next morning. The times of writing into the wee hours of the moonlight, during the week ceased to exist, unless I had a shot of 5-Hour energy. Or a nap. Something I haven’t seen since pregnancy.

I think I need to start taking a multi-vitamin.

All my energies got swept up this week and then I was hit with the yearly Scouting Luau Extravaganza that required my kid’s troop to be in charge of games. We were also encouraged to participate in the cake baking and decorating contest.

So, we took out the flour and sugar, and since we wanted it to taste better than the rest we also took out Trisha Yearwood cake recipe. It was on. Cake Wars. Nick Jr. Edition.

 

All of them were actually pretty great, but these were some of the ones that caught my eye. Including my kid’s Lego version of an island with a shark swimming in shredded coconut waves. His sense of humor cracks me up.

But I can’t lie to you the whole baking process was a little stressful as we decided to do the baking and decorating on the same day, instead of being smart and splitting it up into two days. Baking usually calms me down, but there was nothing relaxing about this process, especially when we were on deadline and cups of flour were spilled, you barely had enough milk, eggs were poured in at the wrong time … you know when the mixer was on high and half of the yolky batter ends up on the wall and the clock is still ticking.

But I took a breath.

I didn’t want to be one of those moms, you know … the one that takes over their kid’s project and forgets what matters most is the process. So, I took our uneven cakes out of the oven and just made peace with the fact that we were going to be late and get the stink eye from some of the moms.  But it was all good. The shredded coconut covered the frosting disaster and the Moana and surfer dude Legos were rocking that beach cake. We had a good time at the event. We brought a cake. We didn’t win any cake decorating prizes, but we were happy with it, my kids were proud of it and I was glad to have put the brakes on my irritability.

But all that activity and buttercream frosting contributed to my lack of writing and parent exhaustion. Daily vitamins are definitely in my future.

 

 

Starting This Year on a Good Note … The Justin Timberlake Kind

24 Aug

And so it begins …

 

Another year of firsts …

The older kids playground and then entering kindergarten. Two kids, two sets of Ticonderoga No.2 adventures and I felt both excited and little anxious about this new season. As you all know last year’s academic year with Miss Viola Swamp was a challenging one filled with bite-your-tongue-and-pick-your-battle moments so we’ll see how this year pans out. New teachers, new experiences but I’m not so much worried about teachers this time around as something different came up.

Not a bad concern, just a parenthood observation.

As a parent you know they’re getting older because their pants and shirts and socks don’t fit them quite right anymore, getting a little snug. So you make a trip to Target. You notice their little faces and the expressions are still the same, but they’re not so little anymore.

And you realize the season is about to change. Granted it’s not a giant step into middle school, high school, or college and you’re not balling your eyes out, but it’s still a step ahead and you pause because you’re actually feeling it. You’re feeling the step and the growth right in front out you. Not in a slow motion, but just right in front you and you caught it. The kind of moment you want to save in those mason jars.

Pride and smiles because they seem to be on the good path. You’ve done a good job … so far. They know when to act crazy silly and when it’s serious Crayola Crayon time. So as always, first day of school love-you-you-can-conquer-the-world-notes in their Star Wars and Minions lunchboxes and a great feel good song to start the day, the kind that rocks you into a good mood and good grove. Ready for anything that third grade and kindergarten can throw your way. Starting this year on a good note …

 

The Justin Timberlake kind. It was a unanimous decision, we’ve been listening to it all week. Buen Camino my friends.

 

 

 

The Sandlot Moment, Fireworks, and Gas In The Tank

5 Jul

Sometimes it’s about the fireworks, about checking them out, about being able to see great ones, about being wowed, about barbecues and pie.

Most of the time it’s about getting together.

We forget about George Washington and those other cats and all the drama they went through, unless we’ve been watching TURN on AMC. Then you think about the significance of the 4th weekly. But for the most part you catch glimpses of it in between the hot dogs, carne asada, and the Yankee Doodle Dandy song while the fireworks explode into the night.

That’s what I caught — a couple of good Sandlot moments throughout the day. Sandlot. I love that movie.

We caught a baseball game last night and managed to eat overpriced hot dogs and popcorn with our lemonades and enjoy our home team beat The Orioles 7-5.  And we’d been to baseball games before but it was the first night both kids had seen fireworks on the baseball field. We’d seen fireworks before but nothing with Ray Charles singing O’ Beautiful in the background.

And while I was sitting there next to my kids I felt grateful. A sense of gratitude just covered me up like a blanket, being there at peace. Even with all the everyday drama and weekly failures that life brings me, breaking me down at times, wallowing in pints of Ben & Jerry’s or raging in frustration at my punching bag, right there and then, I was grateful for that moment. Grateful that I was able to have the freedom to hang out with my kids, at a ballpark, watch a baseball game, and enjoy fireworks. Simple stuff, I guess. I felt like I was having a small-town moment.  It was a Sandlot moment, actually.

And I tried to breathe it in. If I had a mason jar I would have tried to capture it and hold onto to it for a while, you know for the days where you can’t find anything to be grateful for. I would have held onto that one for sure.

 

 

And I was sitting there in parking lot traffic after the game, just trying to get out onto the freeway, the craziness of the scene didn’t bother me. Most drivers were honking, frustrated, and angry – building up road rage. 38 minutes will do that to you.  I was just sitting there listening to John Cougar Mellencamp, The Go-Go’s and the rest of the 80s lineup, thinking about my Sandlot moment. I had no worries … the kids were asleep, no one had to go to the bathroom, and I had gas in the tank.

Catching Moments

7 Aug

I catch them more often now.

The moments.

I catch them and they stay with me. Sometimes they’re amazing, spectacular, fireworks type of experiences. Other times they’re quiet. This one was simple. It was a pretty simple moment, something that might not be significant to others, something that might not even be Facebook or Instagram-worthy to others, but it mattered to me.

And the fact that I knew it mattered made me smile.

I didn’t miss it and that made me think of my Dad. He would have been happy that I didn’t miss it. I sat there and held onto it …

Do you see the jaguars? :)

Do you see the jaguars? 🙂

We hiked up hills and walked through sunlit pathways checking out zebras, orangutangs, hippos, silverback gorillas, meerkats, and elephants. We explored all kinds of animal behavior but it wasn’t until we reached a quiet spot in the rainforest area near the jaguar exhibit when it happened. That’s when I caught it.

We decided to sit on the bench, a place we all looked forward to, seems that with all that walking we developed a deep appreciation for the shade. I opened up the Batman lunchbox and passed out the mortadella sandwiches, Goldfishes, and CapriSuns. We talked about the favorite parts of the day and sat still in this man made environment that felt pretty real.

Then in mid conversation my daughter stood up and walked over to the glass for a closer look at a rainforest ambiance and then the Jaguars that everybody had been wanting to see, but couldn’t because they were hiding in their own awesome shade walked on over and stood in front of my daughter. She didn’t take a step back, she took a step forward. She didn’t turn away, she looked closer.

Jaguars are pretty amazing animals, they provide you with the stop-and-stare kind of moments. And just then things went in slow motion and I was grateful for it. Happy that my kids were discovering something that mesmerized them, happy that they had front-row seats (something that rarely happens for us), happy that I was part of that and grateful that I had noticed, I had caught the moment.

Here’s hoping that you keep catching yours.

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The Madness of Summer Signups

1 Jun

Just as I was feeling proud of my son for completing first grade, happy about his accomplishments this year, and surprisingly emotional about this first grade mini-life milestone, I realized summer was here.

The Summer of George! And I happen to be Costanza with two kids.

But that only momentarily stopped me in my tracks. What gave me serious pause was the race for signups.

Have you been a participant in this mad dash to be one of the select few to receive that amazing email that says, “…you have successfully registered your child for our summer program”? Have you gotten a few of these in your lifetime? They save your sanity when trying to entertain your kids during the summer. If I had a big house with a nice back yard, I assume summer would be easier. I’d have space to let my kids roam, and build projects, explore, and go outdoor camping inside our own home. But I don’t. I’m of the apartment people clan, where getting out everyday is a necessity.

Register_Now

So for me things began at 9:30 a.m.

I mean don’t get me wrong, 9:30 was nice. I was grateful that I didn’t have to rush the kids through their wake-up routine just so we could get to school on time. I was thankful I didn’t have to yell at them to get out of bed, to hurry up and brush their teeth, and to get dressed quickly just so they could scarf down their pancakes, Honey Bunches of Oats, or Eggo Waffles before we raced out the door before eight in the morning.

So 9:30 a.m. wasn’t a big deal. What happened to suck this particular morning was the stress I was feeling, the anxiety that was building, the teeny tiny headache that was forming in my brain that would eventually turn into Excedrin-worthy migraine if I wasn’t able to get my kids into any activities during the summer.

SoCal parents are crazy and have their kids in sports, music, acting, cooking and My Gym camps every day all day. I’m a part timer, don’t need to keep my kid busy from 9 to 5. I’m not like those moms you want to tackle because they go off bragging about how they got their kid in every single workshop and class available, because they knew someone, who  knew someone, who knew someone. Bitches.

Me? I’m all for down time, and hanging out with Legos, playing in the park, having our own Foosball tournaments, baking cookies, and tending to our makeshift garden in the small patio. But I can’t do that all day, every day in the summer. They’d get bored. So I was looking for some help from our local library, museums, community centers, aquatic center, zoo, nature center, bowling alley, and local firefighting station.

Summer signups started today, well in truth some of them started three weeks ago, but a lot of activities didn’t have signups until today. I was hoping my Internet connection was fast enough to get something. I just needed to get into two programs during the week. Three would be awesome, but two was good.

Last year I had plenty of parent failures during the summer. Nobody ever told me that summer signups were like buying U2 concert tickets. Things selling out within minutes of opening online. I sure didn’t want a repeat occurrence of my disaster with the AYSO.

So I was ready this time. I researched online, organized my flyers, and prepared my summer timetable of possibilities. I had classes and times highlighted, login and password information readily available, and a credit card ready for those that required payment. You would have thought I was preparing for tax season with all the papers on the table.

The clock struck 9:30 a.m., my timer went off and bam!

Needless to say I wasn’t the only parent in pajamas staring at their computer screen that morning.

No dinosaur outdoor explorer classes, no basketball classes, no guitar classes, no local swimming classes. But I did manage to score swimming classes twice a week at a pool 10-15 minutes away, depending on traffic, and I was able score spots in the Every Hero Has a Story Workshops which featured music and magic once a week for my kids.

Success!

I got something. Something! And that’s success here in the Guat household.

Nobody ever told me about the madness of summer signups. It’s not in any of those what to expect when you’re expecting books, although I never read them. But I’m sure it’s not in there anyway. I would have heard. This is something you learn. So I’m giving you the lesson free of charge.

Hope it helps.

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