Build the Castle

I’m sitting on my bed, knees angled in a V, my back against the Robin’s Egg blue wall. My son is building a castle out of over-sized Legos on the table next to the bed.

I’m hopelessly sad. My mother passed away on Christmas Eve. She had a long illness and every Christmas was the “last” Christmas in my mind, but this Christmas Eve she really died. I posted this on Facebook the night she passed:

“When you see Santa in the sky tonight, know Betty’s got the reigns tonight. She died while I was on the phone with her 9:58 MST/11:58 EST (the nurse held the phone to her ear). 

Believe it or not, it gives me great joy and peace that she passed on Christmas Eve, exactly two minutes before midnight East Coast time. She has always been on EST as a New Yorker at heart. RIP Betty. No star ever shone brighter than you. I love you always.”

Photo Source: Mother Nature Network

Although her illness progressed slowly, I thought I’d be more prepared. I thought I detached from her more each year she declined in health, but I became more attached with every day she lived.

I took my son to meet her Thanksgiving 2010. She held him and kissed him in her arms. My mother didn’t die young; in fact, she lived a very full active life until the age of 77. Still, I am not ready to have my mother gone. I want to call her desperately.  I lived 2,500 miles from her. Now, the distance is immeasurable. The last year her health declined so much she had to live in a nursing home.  I visited her as much as I could.

Last May (2011), she had a close call (read this post for details); I received a call from the nursing home on a Thursday night and I was on a plane Saturday. I had to leave my son very abruptly, who was actively breastfeeding – he was one year old. This was difficult, but at the time I had to make a decision. I brought my breast pump and pumped while I was in Colorado.

My husband and in-laws took care of my son. When I arrived at the nursing home it was decided to bring my mom to the hospital. She had a severe bladder infection and was severely dehydrated.  When I went to the hospital, my mom was delirious and hallucinating. She said to me, “There are some folks from Heaven here who want me to go with them.”  I said, “Tell them to take a number. I just got to town.”

My mother was treated with antibiotics and given IV fluids. She beat the infection and recovered. I stayed a week out West and visited with my mom.

Now my son and I are reading a book as he pulls the zipper down to his jammies and says, “I don’t like my jammies.”  We read the book, Road Work Ahead about seven times. Each time we get to the last page he says, “Again. You read it again Mama.”

Now he is asleep in my arms, his little boy eyes closed peacefully. I think about my mother doing the same exact thing for me as a two year old, snuggled deep in her arms listening to her heartbeat. I’ve realized that being a mom made my mom so happy. She was so good at it and I’m lucky to have been blessed with a lively, loving mother.

She was diagnosed with two benign brain tumors in 2000. Her condition deteriorated slowly, almost unnoticeable, until viewed in chunks defined by years.

Now I am grieving. The shock has worn off and I realize she is gone. The grief work for me truly begins now, a little less than a month later.

She will be buried with my father’s ashes at Arlington Cemetery. I will drive her ashes up 95 North with my husband and son to our nation’s capital. I assume the closure of her funeral will help me detach perhaps, but I have not detached as I can’t really detach from her as we were very attached to each other.

I think I put it rather eloquently in a Facebook post about a week after she passed:

“This by far is the deepest pain I have ever felt. It is layered in my mind, body, spirit, for at one time I shared my mother’s body — and heart.”

It’s going to take time. In the meantime, I cherish the moments like this — my son snuggled in my left arm, the memories of my mom alive in my right hand as I write.

Here is her obituary:

Here is a post I wrote about her: Magic Mama.

My beautiful mom


Mother’s day will be the day to celebrate love

“Mother’s Day is your day to celebrate the way you choose. This day for us single women is all about recognizing the amazing life we have created. Celebrate yourself. You are a strong amazing woman. Take pride in that.”

Bouquet 2

I never wanted to celebrate Mother’s Day – I never saw much point in it. Not as a child and not once I’ve became a mother myself. What is there to celebrate? And yet – this year I decided to start celebrating it.

At first it seemed that a lot of women would agree with my negative attitude towards this holiday. For example, would you be looking forward to it if you were a single mom of a very young child? Would you celebrate this day at all?

“Mother’s Day as a single mom has been like a box of chocolates. And by that I mean the cheap kind.” One mom says. “It’s a hard day for me, quite frankly.”

Another woman shares, “because I have to do all of the work. I cook, I entertain, and I try to celebrate my own mother. I usually end up feeling exhausted on the day that I should be given a break”.

“I love my children more than anything, but to be honest, what I could really use on Mother’s Day, is a break!  A day alone.”

The number of moms dreading Mother’s Day is astounding. The grass is not greener on the married mothers side either. A survey by a gift retailer revealed that nearly half of mothers don’t like their presents, and according to ABC News, more married women join cheating websites the day after Mother’s Day than any other day of the year.

Are there mothers who actually enjoy this holiday? And if yes, what do they do or think differently? What is it that they are looking forward to? Breakfast in bed? Flowers? A recent poll by asked their visitors this question. The overwhelming majority of nearly 2000 participants wanted to spend a great day together with the whole family (40%) or to treat themselves to a day in a SPA (26%), closely followed by an entire day of napping (14%).

“With crazy schedules, school, sports, work, we use it as a time to be together, not for alone time. I can go to the spa any time I want. On Mother’s Day, I want to spend it with the person who gave me the opportunity to be a mother on Mother’s Day, my daughter!”

My best friend is a single mom of a 4-year-old girl. Her husband died two years ago and my friend is still not really over her loss. When I asked her about the upcoming Mother’s Day, I was quite surprised to find out that she was looking forward to celebrating it.

“Mother’s Day is your day to celebrate the way you choose. This day for us single women is all about recognizing the amazing life we have created. Celebrate yourself. You are a strong amazing woman. Take pride in that.”

When I looked around I quickly discovered that the group of dissatisfied mothers mostly was complaining about not getting the right present, or no gift at all. Those who felt that their families should thank mothers for all the hard work were disappointed quite often.

Women who were very positive about Mother’s Day focused on pro-actively celebrating their relationship with children, grandparents and friends. As one mom has put it,

“I think we should be celebrating our mothers, and even our sisters, daughters, grandmothers and aunts on Mother’s Day.“

The more positive accounts about happy Mother’s Days I read the more I want to celebrate it myself.

As one of the moms suggested to me, “go with your child and do something fun together. Go to a park and have a picnic. Talk with your child and let them know how much you appreciate them. Write a letter to your baby or child and tell them how you feel about being their mommy!”

And this is exactly what I am going to do this year – I will start a tradition in our house. Mother’s Day will be a day to celebrate love. The most selfless and enduring love on Earth – mother’s love to her children.

Of planning birthday parties

I don’t know if it’s simply because my kids are so social and enthusiastic, or whether it’s my influence as somewhat of a public figure here in town, constantly involved with activities and heading to parties, but planning our kids birthday parties is becoming quite a challenge. My son is turning 11 on Friday and we’re not only an AP family, we also believe that too much exposure to media / video / video games has a deleterious effect on their behavior and our collective happiness. (yes, I tried to word that carefully!)

And so my son’s initial suggestion for a birthday party was “my three buddies come over after school Friday, we watch a movie like “Transformers” (PG13), have a pizza, they all spend the night, then the next morning we can watch cartoons and play on the Wii for a few hours!”

Yikes. Not so much.

To find a middle ground, his mom and I (we’re divorced, coparenting) expressed our concerns and invited him to come up with a proposed alternative that respected our objections and would still be fun.  Mistake.  Now we have a two-day-long royal celebration of his birth (you think I’m kidding!) that includes his best buddies with us all day Saturday with go-karts and a movie, then a separate party celebration Sunday — after the same 3 boys spend the night — for all the boys in his class.

We’re working on finding a middle ground, but holy cow, does anyone else find that your kids want to have a national holiday for their birthday, with celebrations 24×7 and garlands flung from the parapets? 🙂

Looking Ahead: Parenting in 2011

Today we bid farewell to 2010 and welcome 2011 with open arms. While we take the time to reflect on the past 12 months, we also begin to look ahead to the future. One question that I have for everyone is will your parenting landscape be changing in the coming year?

  • Are you expecting the birth of a new child?
  • Will you have a child starting school?
  • Will you have a child going off to college for the first time?
  • Are you planning on moving to a new home in 2011?

If your parenting landscape is changing in the coming year, how will you manage these changes?

We are planning on moving to a new home in the summertime. We first moved into this home when my son, who is my oldest child, was only four months old. This is the only house that my children have known but we are now ready to move. I know that it will be challenging to maintain balance in both my life and my family’s lives during the upcoming move but we’re already starting to plan for this big change.

Parenting Resolutions?

If you’re the resolution-making type, I’d love to hear what your parenting resolutions are for the New Year. If you’re already involved in a local API Group, perhaps you think 2011 will be the right time to pursue joint leadership. Maybe you want to start a new API Group in your area to help support other families in their parenting journey.

Photo: ba1969

Holiday Discipline and Family

I live in a community of people. Sometimes I feel that I am raising my son in a fish bowl of sorts. There are some interesting challenges that come up that are particularly relevant during the holiday season. One of the most difficult parts about being around a lot of people, especially family during the holidays, is discipline.

I have a great example from my community that took place the other day in our kitchen. There was a normal (albeit very naughty, which unfortunately is the norm right now) interchange between my son and my sister. The interchange involved my son saying that he didn’t like my sister which of course isn’t true but I could still see her face cloud up with hurt. The reaction from my brother-in-law was what bugged me. My brother in law took it upon himself to tell my son that what he had done was wrong and then told him that he needed to apologize to my sister.

Now, I know since we live in such close contact with other people that they do need to the right to put my son down if he is mean or to walk away. I don’t think that anyone needs to be held captive by my son’s fits. But there is also a line where family or community stops and parenting begins and that is what brings us to the holiday season.

Have you and your partner discussed a plan of action? How are you going to handle family members who step in to parenting territory? How are you going to discipline your child in front of people? Are you going to let them get away with things that you are normally on top of because you don’t want conflict?

I had it easy the other day because my mother stepped in and told my brother-in-law that it was the parents choice as to what kind of discipline my child received. I had some back up. Unfortunately that probably isn’t going to happen during your family holiday so it is important that you and your partner are on the same page and that you stick with your pre-discussed “rules” if you will, no matter how uncomfortable the situation.

It is easy to just shrug off individual moments or to think “it’s just the holidays, after this things will go back to normal.” but life is full of little moments and those little moments are what make all the difference in your life as a parent and the life of your child.

So what is your holiday discipline plan?

Photo used from:

Strive for Balance this Holiday Season

As the holiday season approaches, we all need to make a concentrated effort on maintaining balance in our personal and family lives. To help prepare you for the upcoming busy season, read through some of our most popular posts on striving for balance.

Child’s Hierarchy of Needs – Parents often find it overwhelming trying to meet their children’s needs. With limited time, limited resources, and limited patience meeting all of their needs can seem like an impossible task.

How to Use Family Meetings – No matter if yours is a family of two or ten, taking regular opportunities to get together and talk about “business” helps families connect and communicate.

How to Beat the Dinnertime Disconnect – Meanwhile at our table, my family was abuzz; my daughter and I were doing the crossword on her place mat, my husband was playing the dot game with our son on his place mat.
Continue reading Strive for Balance this Holiday Season

What’s Your Parenting New Year’s Resolution?

2010Happy New Year!

Today is the day that millions of people around the world make a New Year’s Resolution. Losing weight, eating healthier, and working out more regularly are some of the more popular resolutions. I wanted to find out what parenting-related New Year’s Resolutions the AP community is going to make this year.

The following are a few of the responses that I received from API staff, the blogging team, and a few regular readers of API Speaks.

This year I am resolving to try to admit when I am wrong, including to my
kids.  I am also resolving to make more of an effort to include my kids in
 the housework, even when it would be faster and easier and more efficient
to just do it myself.

My resolution is to attend La Leche League meetings as I strive to breastfeed my daughter (currently 6 months old) for at least 2 years, as well as help to promote the goodness of breastfeeding in my community!

This year, I plan to make at least 2 meals each WITH my kids, teaching them kitchen safety and food prep.

I’m holding the intention to manifest a few things in 2010 for the benefit of my daughters, ages 3 and 1. One, I’m going to incorporate more self-care into my life so that I’m not running on empty most days and better able to be fully present and nurturing in our daily interactions. I’ll call it the “Happy Mama Trickle-Down Effect”:  Regular exercise.  More sleep which will mean going to bed before midnight. Dedication to eating greens every day. Development of sugar alternatives for desserts. My diet is essentially my girls’ so they will have direct benefit there. And, I have a strong hunch that sleep and exercise will influence, if not fully enable, my second intention for parenting in 2010:  more consistent patience with my 3 year-old.

I will engage in more self care this year so that I can have more energy, stronger health, and be a more patient and present parent.

If you’re the resolution-making type, what is your parenting-related New Year’s Resolution?

Photo: ba1969

Fully Present

Most parents are skilled at the art of multi-tasking. The busyness and pace of life with kids demands that you learn how to do more than one thing at a time. You have to be one step ahead, you have to be prepared, you have to learn to anticipate where your day is going to go next. In my life, multi-tasking meant breastfeeding the baby while also making a sandwich for my toddler (hurrah, Maya Wrap Sling!) or folding laundry while supervising bathtime. My list of things to do is always a mile long, and the only way it gets done is to make phone calls for preschool using a Bluetooth headset while also doing the dishes and helping my kids with an art project at the same time.

After so many years of perfecting my multi-tasking skills, I find that I no longer find it easy to do one thing at a time. Even when I don’t have to be doing two things at once, I do it anyway. I clip coupons while I watch TV, I make lists in my head while I life weights at the gym, I file paperwork when I chat on the phone with my mom. Sometimes doing one thing at a time seems like a dreadfully inefficient way to do things.

This sort of lifestyle works for me…except when it comes to time with my kids. Sometimes when I’m playing or interacting with my kids, my mind is three items ahead on my to do list. And after my son lamented one day a couple of weeks ago, “Mom, you’re not listening to me,” I realized he was right. I was listening to him…sort of. I heard what he said and I responded, but I wasn’t giving him my full attention. I wasn’t fully present and he knew it. I thought about how annoying it is to realize that someone isn’t really listening to you, and I want better for my children.

At this time of year, with so many things that need to be done, gifts purchased, cards mailed, cookies baked, I find myself struggling to remain fully present even more than usual. So my son’s comment was a wake up call for me.

The weekend before Christmas, we received a direct hit from a winter storm that dumped 20 inches of snow on our city. We had nowhere to go, the house was clean, and nothing to do but enjoy the enforced weekend at home. The snow was cleared by Monday, but we spent Saturday and Sunday taking turns shoveling, and just enjoying the time at home. And with no projects looming, nothing on my list that required immediate attention, I found myself consulting my day planner infrequently. For two days, I spent time with my family without thinking about what I needed to do next, what needed to be accomplished before the day was over. It was a refreshing break.

Of course, come Monday, life went back to its usual hectic pace, but I look at it with a different perspective. For me, one of the best gifts I can give to myself and to my children is to be fully present. To pay closer attention, to enjoy the time together, to focus on one thing at a time, instead of the endless list and the next project in the queue.

It will be there when I get back.