Tag: parenthood

Writer at Work: Meanwhile, Meet K J Dell Antonia!

Hello All.

While I get back into my blogging seat check out K Js work. She has a wonderful blog that you can register for at the end of this shared post. Enjoy this wonderful insight to the joy of moving the ball down the family field, everyday.

Sometimes it helps to celebrate the very little things.

Last night, as I closed the dishwasher, knowing that the last kitchen straightening was done, that I’d taken the final things off the counter and wiped the sink (the one thing the kids never manage to do when they clean up after dinner), I set its fancy timer and shut its door and happily said “Yay!”

My daughter happened to be standing there, and she looked at me in shock. “Yay what?”

Um, yay everything is done? Yay another pretty good day? Yay bedtime and more summer tomorrow? I don’t know. Just, yay.

I like to celebrate these little things, and apparently I don’t even try to do it in my head any more.

I’ve been talking a lot about How to Be a Happier Parent lately. I’m lucky–I get interviewed, get to be on some podcasts. I get to tell people about it. And they often ask, what’s one big thing you do differently? And I haven’t exactly said, well, I say “yay” when I load the dishwasher, but that is kind of it. It seems to be the side effect of Mantra #10: Soak up the good. I’ve been working to notice when things are going well, and it’s paying off, at least if you don’t mind becoming someone who says “yay” without thinking.

I don’t mind. Because I have a dishwasher, and healthy kids who mostly load it, and pretty much everything material that I need. Of course, there are little things that are less great, but as I learned while talking to a couple of pretty brilliant experts last year, they aren’t tigers. Most of the stuff that plagues me on a day-to-day basis just doesn’t meet tiger level. No bankruptcy, no death, no illness.

At least not right now. Because of course, bad stuff happens. Nobody gets to go through life without some extremely lousy miserable tiger-level stuff. But I’m not there as I write this.

So, yay. Yay for an ordinary night loading a dishwasher. I’ve had other nights where that was all I wanted to get back, so I’ll take this.

If that’s you too, say yay.

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Hey–I HAVE A BOOK COMING! How to Be a Happier Parent lands August 21, and you can absolutely pre-order it right this minute on IndieboundAmazon or Barnes and Noble.

If you feel like sharing this week’s e-mail, you can click HERE for a fun, customizable tweet about this post, or HERE for one about the 10 Mantras for Happier Parents. Also, Facebook for the POST, and Facebook for the MANTRAS. I’m always thrilled by the generous shares–you all are the best.

That’s it from me this week. If you’ve got a friend who’d love to get a vaguely sort of semi-weekly note about How to Be a Happier Parent (even when I’m not), please forward this, and if someone forwarded it to you, sign up here for more like this one.

KJ

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A Balloon Tale

Time flies. And then there are days that seem jet propelled. And in months that I haven’t written I’ve: visited ten independent New York City schools, attended 30 related events‑open houses, parent interviews, child interviews…opps I mean play dates, diversity nights, curriculum nights—mixed in with Christmas shopping, then the holidays with friends and family, and fought to assembled a two thousand piece, three-foot-tall My Pretty Pony Castle that Santa brought, and won.

( Okay, I was Santa, and it wasn’t that bad, in fact it’s pretty cute.)

CASTLE_SHOT
My Little Pony Castle

http://www.amazon.com/My-Little-Pony-Canterlot-Playset/dp/B00SOG4Q6G/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1459965785&sr=8-1&keywords=my+little+pony+canterlot+castle

Cooking Christmas dinner for my family, hosting the Holmes Family Annual Jenga Tournament on New Years Eve, MLK Day, Presidents’ Day, and tax filing. So the time and attention that frequent went to my blog, went to, say, my life.

Then came 100 day at Julia’s school.

A day I’ll never forget. Not because I’m a closet arithmomaniac, but for the creation Julia and I made for the event.

“Remember Mommy we have to make our 100 project,” Julia reminded me at breakfast, in celebration of 100 days of school.

“I do. I’ll have Natasha pick up the materials to make our project.” Then I grabbed my purse, plucked out my wallet and pealed out twenty bucks then slid the bill on to the dinning room table‑‑for the purchase of a Mylar balloon and a bag of 100 count cotton balls.

We would make the sky.

The only hard part of the day I anticipated was ditching my annual co-op board meeting so I’d have the mental bandwidth to work with Julia. The meeting is held in the building’s lobby. And there’s one way into the building, through said lobby. So one has to do the walk of shame past the board members and the other owners, just to get home, to your child, to your second job.

The hardest part of being a single parent is my inability to divide myself. And while I wanted to attend the annual meeting which covers a deep dive into the building’s finances: how many gallons of heating oil the boiler burned this winter, healthcare costs of the doormen, future projects and more all that data would have to wait for me to receive the published report.

I had a date with my daughter.

I came in the house ready to dive in. As Natasha gathered her coat and purse, she said, “I purchased quick dry glue to make it easier,” then she headed to the front door.

I couldn’t image why she’d bought glue since we had glue in the house. About twenty cotton balls in, I understood. Cotton is surprisingly unwieldy. After an hour of teamwork, and the support of a glass of Cabernet for mommy, the blue sky with clouds was really taking shape. Another half an hour, Team Holmes had completed the job. By then Julia’s bedtime had arrived. Pajamas on, teeth brushed, when I went to tuck her in, I found her room empty.

“Where are you?” I called out.

I heard her patter down the hallway and pop into her room, all smiles. “I was saying good night to the sky.”

The next morning Julia shook me from sleep with a latest balloon report, “I checked on the balloon sky,” she said. “It’s dry!”

Quick dry glue indeed.

We had breakfast and dressed, then I searched for a large enough plastic bag to transport our work of art to school.

“No! I want to carry it,” Julia said, hugging the cloud to her tiny chest.

“It would be easier to carry in a bag.”

“No, Mommy, pleaseeeeee.”

Minutes later Julia was clutching the balloon like a baby seal walking out of the elevator into the lobby.

“Oooohhh, I like your balloon,” Carlos the doorman crooned.

“Mommy and me made the sky!” Julia announced.

Then we walked out of the building and into the bitter cold March morning. Our twelve minute walk to the subway station on Broadway wasn’t looking so fun.

“Let’s take a cab,” I said.

Seven minutes later we prepared to exit the cab in front of the school. The building is very close to the Hudson River so it’s always quite windy, even on mild days, a fact that I forgot although the taxi was being pushed and shoved by an invisible gale.

I passed the driver a twenty then instructed Julia to “get out and go to the curb,” while I waited for my change. And few seconds later I heard the sound of screams blasting against the taxi’s windows. Julia. I leapt from the cab and found her hopping up and down on the cement in a frenzy. No blood in sight. But silvery tears streaked her brown face, as she pointed down the block, at the sight, the Sky Balloon, tumbling and falling down west 120th street in the gale.

I’ve seen some shocking things of late: The rise of Donald Trump in his own global reality TV show, Pluto’s demotions from a planet into a plutoid, and Bruce transforming into Caitlyn the Vanity Fair Magazine pin-up girl, but seeing my child’s 100 day project manhandled by the wind, hemorrhaging cotton balls across the sidewalk, my daughter sobbing, crushed me beyond belief.

“Grab it!” I yelled.

Julia and I took off after the blue balloon tumbling across the grey cement. For a good fifteen feet I scrambled to collect the white wounds as the battering winds shoved The Sky towards Claremont Avenue, towards the destruction that passing car tires would levy.  Fear clutched my throat. I quickened my pace. Julia would not recover from seeing the death of her Sky. I had to stop it. I sprinted harder. But The Sky was too fast for me.

I spotted a man standing at the corner waiting for the walk signal, about twenty feet ahead. “Hey, HEY!” I yelled. “Grab that balloooooonn!!!!”

The man snagged the sky like a soccer ball, scooping it into his arms. I ran up to him and had to fight the urge to thrown my arms about him.

“Thanks so much!”

The man nodded, smiled then moved away. I sensed he was a parent, he knew the baby bomb was about to go off.

“It’s ruined!” Julia moaned, her face reddened and wet. “I’m the only one who won’t have a project!”

“No! I brought the glue! I can put them back on!”

“But it won’t be 100 cotton balls,” she sobbed.

I reached into the pocket of my jacket, and pulled out a wad of white.

“No, I got them all,” I lied, eyeing a few victims trapped in the near by storm drain.

Ten minutes later, after I dried Julia’s face and dropped her at the gym with her class, I was hard at work reapplying lost bits of cloud, using the top of her clubby as a work station. Passing parents eyed me curiously. I hardly noticed, my mind focused on the thoughts running like bulls through my mind. One in particular stood out, the most important balloon lesson of all: There will always be something, a lost balloon, a lost job, seemingly lost chances. There will always be something that threatens to upset the day, the child, the mom. Such is the life of a parent, especially a single parent. All I can do is make sure I have glue, and good prayers.

IMG_0959.JPG
The Sky Balloon finally at rest.

Twenty minutes later, I slid into The Big Sing, a monthly event the school holds, just in time to applaud the last two songs the children sang with my sticky, shiny, gluey hands. When the Head of School announced it was time for the grown ups to leave, and the children started singing and the “Goodbye Grown-Ups!” song, I made my way through the throng of people over to where Julia’s class sat.

“Have a great day, your project is on top of your cubby.”

“Why I didn’t see you here before?” Julia asked.

(Well her last name is Holmes, but still I found the question surprising.)

“I was upstairs fixing The Sky for you.”

“The whole time?”

“Yes, the whole time…Can’t be in two places at once, Jules.”

She thought about it for a moment.

“Well I guess putting the sky back together is more important than The Big Sing.”

I wanted to tell her that she would use that observation to put many things back together during her life, that she would use her spiritual glue to repair broken dreams and smashed goals. That she would one day again watch another beloved tumble way from her, trampling heart, and would have to decide whether to chase it down. Or let set it free. That wild winds would blow her good away, along with her faith in right and proper outcomes. And that she would have to make a choice every single time. Let it go. Or get out her bottle of glue and remake the sky.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 9AM Mommy Basil Injection

“By praying for one another, we’re giving each other insulin,” my friend A says after we’ve dropped off our kids and dashed over to the near by cafeteria, half a block from our kids Upper Westside school. We selected the side booth, to the right, our go to position, permitting us to set our backs against the room, against the outside world, for a time.

“This is our praying booth,” A says, her head cocked, causing her long, chestnut hued locks to tumble around her small shoulders.

“Just like a confessional,” I answer. “But only with more crying.”

We chuckle, motivated not by humor but from truth.

I’ve always been a praying sort. First I prayed for a child, and then I prayed for that child’s good health. Now my praying has taking on a smorgasbord quality, prayers sent up here and there, from the time my feet hit the floor to midnight when I turn down the covers and I launch my final salute just before sleep. They run from, “Please God let there be enough milk for breakfast and coffee”; to “Please God let the subway come now so we can get to school on time,” to “Please God let my Spanx smooth out my pouch enough that I don’t regret wearing this dress out of the house.”

BecomingScreen Shot 2014-11-12 at 11.22.50 PM a mom may have ramped up my requests. Through my friendship with, A I have lifted up my prayers to mystic levels. Praying for others will do that, taking you out of your own head, your perceived quagmire of troubles and problems. Once upon  a time I’d believed serious trouble stalked me. Not anymore. Sure, I have bad days. Living a faith-based life does not make you immune from crampy-hit-me-with-another-bar-keep-days. But whatever thorny briars I land on are more of the artisanal variety, handmade by my or another’s neglect, or circumstance, or my miscalculation. Now I pray for right out comes on a higher level. For you see, through witnessing A’s journey, her worries, her journey, I know I have everything. A healthy kid is the greatest gift any parent can have.

“We happened to visit our old church last week,” A says as she takes on the jet-fuel of caffeine, “and we happened to met a nurse advocate, one we could never afford. She’s going to help us get the equipment we need.”

“That’s God at work,” I say.Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 10.44.47 PM

“She only works with private diabetes clients, so she’s really a gift.”

A’s mouth says the nurse advocate is a gift. But it’s her eyes, gray-green and still that contain oceans of worry, dark half moons set below that tell of her long night that speak the loudest.

Ever since my friend’s four-year-old daughter, a bright shining child with dancing eyes just like her mom, received a diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes there have been odd gifts that have come her family’s way through this new upside world. The first gift came when A and her husband took their daughter to the hospital after the child started vomiting with such a force on vacation than it moved them toward the nearest emergency room rather than to the airport to board a flight to the east coast as planned. After the EMS team stabilized their four-year-old, five days later, the doctors informed A and her husband that if their family of three had boarded the aircraft for the east coast, only two of them would have exited the plane in New York City.

Now A lives in a world where she wakes her kid throughout the night to test her blood sugar levels, a land where the poking and prodding and worry has no end.

“Forgive me for saying this,” another mom at our school moaned in the sealed, privacy of the elevator car as we descended to the first floor and headed into our day after drop off, “But it’s not like her daughter has cancer, I mean people don’t died from diabetes.”

Heat crackled on my skin. Like gas and electricity. “No, actually she could die,” I blared back leaving off the “you asshole” final punctuation to my statement. “She could fall into a coma if her blood sugar level plummets, while sleeping and not wake up.”

“Oh, I didn’t know, “ the mom said to the back of my head as I huffed off down the street.

Only in New York does one need to qualify just how bad of a time you’re having. Across America, when you share news of this level, people just give their condolences. Ask if they can help. Send out prayers if they are the praying kind. In Manhattan folks want you to prove just how bad it is, say, on a scale from one to ten because, hey they could be working on an eleven situation you don’t know about.

Since last August A and her family have always hit an eleven.

“Getting your kid up school is equal to executing a military operation every day,” a mom once said to me. But at least troops will listen to their general; they’re trained to listen. A four-year-old? Forgetaboutit. And wrangling a four-year-old with Type 1 Diabetes is like the invasion of Normandy. Every damn day. A bad start to my day is finding Julia in the kitchen, just as we need to leave the house, chortling, “Look at me Mommy, look at me!” standing buck naked. (Yes, it happened last week.) A’s bad day has her kid sneaking a piece of candy, or a carb and A discovering this news when she tests her blood sugar, Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 10.54.54 PMor when her daughter starts to go pale, or body’s wild ride of natural insulin that still thinks it can drive the car, shooting out wild spikes. Mayhem. Then A and her husband must bolt from their home and dash to the hospital in the middle of the night. (It’s happened three times since August.) An even worse day on the heartbreak scale, an epic four-year-old melt down on the kitchen floor crests with, “Mommy I don’t want to have diabetes anymore.”

“Type 1 Diabetes typically affects young people and only represents about 5 to 10% of the population,” says Ron Rosedale, MD, author of The Rosedale Diet, and co-founder of the Colorado and Carolina Centers for Metabolic Medicine. With Type 1, the pancreas is unable to produce insulin.” So just as a young body starts to grow, a break occurs. And lasts throughout life. First A must get her daughter an insulin pump, and then to respect the pump then living with the pump, working it into her teenagehood into adulthood, into both of them feeling confident enough that her child won’t experiment in the ways most of us did. Typical teenage hubris could take her daughter’s life.

So, I up my prayer game. I remember that God is always at work whether I can see God or not, kind of like electricity, or the subway or Kevin Bacon. I recall that my job is to be there for A through our gangster mommy lives in the Big Apple.

“Life is tough,” Pastor Paul constantly reminds his New York Flock  “and if you’re going through hell don’t build condo there.” But there are times when you, whether you want to or not will have a motel stay, suffering long-term durations in hell.

“I understand how this can strain a marriage,” A says.

“But you guys are strong,” I say.

I know that A and her husband cling to God as much as one another. I love that about her. When their nerves fray, she’s the first to say sorry, no matter who launched he first stone.

So far, I’ve never married. Never taken the vow. But I know the promise of friendship. Real connection. And more than through bad dates and broken relationships, and random layoffs I know what I friendship needs. I know how to be a good friend through a bad medical report, and cheating husband, alcohol rehab, and the murder of a child.

So I come a sit with my friend in hothouse of illness and motherhood in the crying booth and offer up cool drink of water by listening with my full on heart.

 

 

The Price of Parenthood

The cost of Parenthood, according to The Wall Street Journal

This week The New York Times published an essay on the cost of  feeding,  housing and educating a child into adulthood, and beyond. The post by Nadia Taha, The Cost, in Dollars, of Raising a Child covered every element of child rearing one could think of from braces to college to providing healthcare to the child into his or her twenties. The negative effects of Motherhood aka. “The Mommy Track” against a woman’s career and total lifetime earnings was also detailed. This extraordinary break down,which came to $435,030 in a conservative estimate to $ 776,000  and upwards to a cool 1.6 million by The Wall Street Journal’s cost analysis can be found here: http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/13/the-cost-in-dollars-of-raising-a-child/

But what the writer missed while covering the monetary benefit of not having children is this: Parenthood is rarely so simple and clear. Statically, more than half the children born are not planned, the result of  the “oops factor.” However, human nature and foibles didn’t come into the writer’s reasoning and neither did, it seemed,  did the heart.

As I read the break down my heart hurt. I thought of the parents, the singles and couples, who agonized over having children, and yet found themselves staring at an EPT test strip with two purple lines. I thought of my grandfather, the second man my maternal grandmother married, a woman who brought five children to the marriage and added two more to their new jointly formed family. No one in that house, I believe, conducted a dollar cost analysis to having additional children or the act of raising children produced from another man’s gene pool, an idea lost on me, sadly until the funeral of my Grandpa Joe, ten years ago. I missed thanking the one super hero that ever bounced me on his knee but I can be proud of my brother Jeffrey who followed our Grandfather’s example and married my sister-in-law, a mother of two, and added two children to their union, creating as close that I’ve personally seen to a black Brady Bunch.

As with many things in life you can look at the bottom line or you can listen to what your heart tells you. And somehow, I believe at the end of my life, the calculation made by my heart, to become a mother, to adopt a child, to step into the life I wanted, will yield the best return on investment.