Best Friends & Orange Soda (Gratitude – Day 16)

First thing's first – this is a judgement-free zone. So don't, you know, judge me.

Okay. Now. K and I have been looking forward to the new Twilight movie since the last one came out a year ago. It has been a long time. Strangely, our husbands do not share our enthusiasm or want to rush out to see it on opening weekend. Weird. 

I think we actually saw the last one – I know I did, anyway – alone. But that isn't fun and it feels kind of sad. So this time, we picked a movie theater halfway between our houses, enlisted our husbands to watch the tiny humans and saw it together. On opening day. With a bunch of other 30 and 40 something ladies and a handful of teenagers playing hooky. Best movie date ever.

And as if watching my favorite movie series with my best friend wasn't enough, she even went to get the snacks. When she returned to our seats, she was carrying a giant orange soda and a box of  Sno Caps – best movie theater snacks ever. Best friend ever.

So today I am grateful for my best friend and that she knows my favorite movie theater snacks. That is one of the only things about aging that I enjoy – as I get older, she gets older and our friendship gets older. And it seems more and more important to hold onto my people, especially the ones who knew me before I was a wife and a mama. 

I hope sometime in the next year or so (here we go New Year's Resolutions!) to take more time out from being a wife and mama to connect with my people as people. As the people we were and are separate from our tiny humans. It is important. Taking a break is important. 

Friendly Neighbors (Gratitude – Day 15)

This morning was not a good morning. The kids were up too early, I was up too late because R was coughing all night and then up too early with them. I was relatively confident that today would be "Phoning it In (Gratitude – Day 15)" aka the day where I say how generically grateful I am because I am tired and crabby and a constant "attitude of gratitude" doesn't fit on me for an entire month.

But somehow, we got ready for school, and we got in the car on time. My coffee even made it – thankyoujesusandalsomyhusband. We were okay, but kind of blah.  Oh, and I didn't yell. That much. Tiny gratitude.

And then I pulled out onto the main road, and I saw this lady and her husband and their dogs, and I immediately smiled. Because I know them. Okay, I don't really know them, but they are my friendly neighbors. They wave to every single car that drives by with these huge smiles on their faces. Like you are their best friend, and you made their morning by driving by. They are that enthusiastic. 

When we first moved here, I would see that friendly neighbor woman and her dog, and when she would wave I would think:

  • "Does she think she knows me?" followed by
  • "Um, is she crazy?" and then
  • "I don't care, I kind of like her. I'm waving back!"

And then one day, I saw her with her husband (man-friend, whatever), who turned out to be just as enthusiastic of a smiler and waver and I smiled and waved even bigger in return. Because I was all "oh my gosh, my friendly (possibly crazy) neighbor lady has a lobster! He loves her so much that they have set out on this wild smiling waving mission together. That. Is. Love." 

I think they aren't really crazy at all. Maybe a bit eccentric. But I think they are making the world better. I think they are AWESOME. Because I can't even tell you how many mornings I am in a terrible mood before I drive by my friendly neighbors and they turn my day around. And I am just one person who travels that road every morning. I bet they are making lots of people's day better, lots of times per week. 

And that, my friends, is a TRUE "attitude of gratitude." My friendly neighbors are living it. So today – and lots of other days – I am grateful for my slightly eccentric friendly neighbors. They totally rock. 

Going to the Gym (Gratitude – Day 14)

Last year at this time, I was diligently going to the gym. R and I were working out with a personal trainer and I had a great gym routine going – working out three or four times a week. I stuck it out through the New Year and well into the summer before I dropped off. Schedules changed, work got busy, and I quit my gym routine.

I also quit eating sensibly, limiting alcohol intake to weekends and lots of other healthy habits that I was practicing when I was going to the gym. Which is weird, I know. You would think that I would realize that I needed to be more careful with my food and drink intake since I wasn't working out at all.  But I'm an "all or nothing" kind of girl, so no gym routine goes hand in hand with no self control.

End result: less than satisfied with total body package. Not "fat", necessarily, just feeling unhealthy and like my clothes don't fit the way I'd like. (Also, when did I start gaining weight in my back? Not cool, 30's.)

So today, for the first time in a long time, I told A we were going to the gym. Sad, that I have to tell my 2 year old my plan so she can hold me to it. Because A likes the gym. There are other kids there, and super-awesome caregivers who think she is the cutest thing ever.

I would be lying if I said I loved every second of my workout. But I did love the feeling that I got after I was done – like I had accomplished something. I made smarter food choices than I have been and I even decided to forego my nightly glass of wine (or three). I hope I can get back into the gym routine again and try to maintain my weight through the holidays. 

Because I am thirtysomething now. My metabolism is slowing down, and dropping a quick five pounds isn't possible the way it used to be. And I want to be strong and comfortable in my skin as I get older so that A grows up with a mama who isn't self-conscious and unhappy with the way she looks. I want her to be able to love herself and know that she is beautiful; I think girls learn that first from their mamas.

Gratitude, day 14 – going to the gym. One small step toward getting back into the gym routine. (Hopefully).

Sweet November (Gratitude – Day Thirteen)

Gratitude is nice. But today I am grateful that November is almost halfway over, and that there is an end in sight to the gratitude postings. Because if I am being honest, I am not grateful all the time. I know I have a lot – so much more than so many others – and I like to think that I appreciate it. I love to send thank you notes and buy gifts "just because" and make my people feel loved and appreciated. 

I also like to complain. And be crabby. And the constant state of gratitude on the blog is starting to feel disingenuous. Because if you know me, you know I am not sunshine and roses all the time. Or even half the time, probably. I say please and I say thank you, but I often use four letter words in between. Loudly, sometimes.

I am grateful for this month, the opportunity to get out of my own way and start the holiday season with an "attitude of gratitude" that hopefully carries through the first of the year. 

And I am really grateful to go back to "normal" writing that feels more representative of the real me, beginning December 1. 

 

Veterans Day (Gratitude: Days Eleven and Twelve)

Double gratitude today. On the one hand because I didn't get to post this yesterday, the actual Veterans Day holiday. On the other hand, because it is something that deserves, at the very least, double gratitude. 

For those of you who have wondered "when is Veterans Day" or "what is Veterans Day" or even "is today a holiday", I feel like you should know. Veterans Day is every November 11, but is often observed on the preceding or following business day if it falls on a weekend. It is a day dedicated to honoring Veterans – those invaluable individuals who have served our country, past or present, in the armed forces. 

To me, Veterans Day is a reminder of my grandfathers and of a simpler time. While I know people of my generation who have served in the military, I don't associate them as veterans as readily as I do "the greatest generation." Not because they are any less selfless or I am unappreciative of their service; this is a different time. These wars are a different kind. 

I don't know whether the military feels supported the same way now as they did back then, in the first and second world wars. During a time when men were lining up to enlist not only because it was what was expected but also because it was right – and those things were not mutually exclusive.

Things seem a lot more gray now. I know people who enlisted in the military in peace time and ended up in Iraq or Afghanistan. People who went, and served, and returned but were never the same again. People who never intended to go to war.

Meanwhile, domestically, many people were questioning the war and who we were really fighting and why it was costing so much and taking so long. Why we kept sending troops and why men and women kept getting killed by things like friendly fire. 

I do not know much about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. I do know that since becoming a mother, I'm leaning left toward being liberal and pacifistic. But whether I support a foreign war or not, I will ALWAYS support the men and women of our armed forces. They are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of our country – on behalf of me and my family, to keep us safe.

For some things, there are no words. For families who have been forever separated by war, for spouses and children who live each day trying not to think about the "what-ifs", for anyone whose life has been irrevocably altered by their service or a loved one's – I am so, so grateful. There are few people who are so selfless and willing to make this type of sacrifice. It is not unnoticed and it is not unappreciated. You are, collectively, my hero. You deserve so much more than one Veterans Day per year and a few words on a blog page. 

Play Rooms (Gratitude – Day Ten)

On the 10th day, I am grateful for play rooms – and that our basement playroom is finally finished! I am not sure who is more excited – the tiny humans or me. 

I think play rooms are important for kids, and important for moms and dads, too. Here's why: 

  • Organized Disorder: When I was little, my parents rarely made me clean my room. They were great that way. But if they were trying to use reverse psychology or use immersion therapy or something, figuring "eventually she will gross herself out and clean her room already," they were so wrong. My room was a pit. I think my kids deserve the same freedom somewhere in their world.
  • Be Creative: I think the kids need a space where they can play with all their toys at once if they want to. Building block castles while dressed as superheroes and taking breaks to play musical instruments or whip up something in the play kitchen? Play room perfection. 
  • Teeny Tiny Library: Long ago, my kids lost privileges to having access to all their books at the same time. Usually because they ended up in a giant pile that resembled what I imagine a book-burning looks like. So we put them in a book shelf – a "novel" idea, I know – and put them in a different room. When they want to read a book, they ask to visit the "library" and take out a book. Until now. Now that they have a play room, there will be a "book nook" with baskets of their favorite books and comfy chairs to read in. Stay tuned for how well that works out. But I do think it is worth a try. Kids need to read. 
  • Keep it Contained: Play rooms need doors. To keep parents out and toys in. The end.

I appreciate the hard work my husband put in the finishing the basement and helping me create a play room for the tiny humans. Here's hoping the play room makes the tiny humans a little less stir crazy this winter – which is supposed to be on the long and snowy side this year. 

Brothers and Sisters OR The Bounce Zone (Gratitude – Day Nine)

Today, I am grateful for brothers and sisters. And the Bounce Zone. Both. Equally. Because "with their powers combined" (Captain Planet? Anyone? Anyone? Alrighty then.) those two things made for a happy and easy Friday morning for this mama. 

I grabbed a large coffee, a couple Groupon passes to the Bounce Zone and prepared for the worst. Why? Because our Bounce Zone experience in the past has included:

  • Weird Smells – Indoor play place for tiny humans. Need I say more?
  • Weird Air – Some of the equipment has previously been in questionable condition, so there are holes, and air from the compressor just pours out. Like weird subway air in the city.
  • Big Kids – I hate kids who are bigger than mine. Their parents don't watch them because they're all "my kids don't need me to supervise." Okay, maybe your kids don't need you, but I could use a little help when your kid is using my kids' heads as stepping stones to the top of the big slide. Yes, you with the iPhone, I am talking to you. Jerk.
  • Power Struggle – My kids rarely, if ever, leave the bounce zone nicely. And it's a loooong way to the parking lot. It is a miracle no one has called social services as I drag my kids out of their by their arms. Well…maybe not. They're too busy with their iPhones.

Also, T and A have been going through this phase where they are the stereotypical brother and sister. "Stop touching me. OW. Moooooommmmmm." Multiplied by a GAGILLION times every day. So today I was dreading the Bounce Zone visit, but I sort of thought about it out loud in front of the tiny humans and then I was stuck. I was prepared for the worst. Instead, it. Was. AWESOME.

It was as if they declared a ceasefire. For one moment in time – or, more accurately, 90 minutes in time – they ran around the bounce zone like BFFs. I think there was even hand holding. It was weird. And awesome. 

And as I sat in the middle of the Bounce Zone floor with my iPhone (don't judge me, there was no one else there so my kids were NOT bullying other kids) I thought to myself, "I am so happy they have each other. Otherwise, they might expect me to climb in that weird smelling slide, like last time."

So tonight I raise a glass to brothers and sisters and the Bounce Zone. We really desperately needed a morning like this morning. Cheers!

Second Chances (Gratitude – Day Eight)

Today, I am grateful for second chances with the tiny humans. Which super-sucks and is NOT what I had in mind for today at all.

It snowed last night. T woke up at 5 am SO EXCITED about the snow. And didn't fall back asleep. Even so, I was excited for him and excited about the snow. As a true lifelong New Englander, I get excited at the beginning of every season – first day warm enough not to wear a coat, first beach day, first "brrr it's cold enough for a sweater and hot cider" day and, yes, first snowy day.

I ceased to be excited about the snow 'round about the time he shoved his oatmeal away from himself at the table with a declaration that "it smells funny." I hate it when my children refuse food – especially food they asked for five minutes previous – because there are so many children in the world who have none. It makes me irrational.

A quick peek at the clock let me know that we were running late for ballet and school pictures. Awesome. I find myself in this situation often, and I rarely handle it with any type of grace. So this morning, like many mornings previous, I morphed into "mean mommy." There was yelling (me), there was crying (them), and there was avoidance (R). It was ugly, and it totally killed the magic of the first snow of the season.

In my mind, I wanted today to be "First Snow (Gratitude – Day 8)." I wanted to listen to Christmas songs on the way to school (too early? NEVER!) and make plans for playing in the snow in the afternoon and show the tiny humans that I was as excited about the snow as they were.

It didn't happen that way, and the morning was rough all around. T made it to school pictures on time, and A to her activities on time as well. I walked around with a yelling hangover, feeling guilty for ruining everyone's morning.

Then A fell asleep early for her nap, which meant I could leave her with R and pick up T all alone. He was thrilled to see me, and we talked about presidents and the snow and school. When we pulled into the driveway he said, "Mama, can we play in the snow NOW? "

Usually, I would say "sorry kiddo, I have to work while A is napping. Maybe when she wakes up." But today, that wasn't good enough. The snow had turned to sleet and was headed toward rain. I knew by the time A woke up, it was unlikely there would be much snow left to play in.

Instead of working, we played outside. We scrambled around and made snow angels and a (kind of sad, leaf and grass covered) snowman. We played until the sleet was definitely rain and we were soaked all the way through. Then we made hot chocolate and watched President Obama's acceptance speech – at T's request. A-mazing, all around. 

 

So today I am grateful for second chances, and that the kids are at ages where they are still sweet and forgiving. They don't hold grudges on the days that we have a rough start. They are gracious when I apologize and overjoyed when I make it up to them with something fun. I know my days are numbered with them being so forgiving, and wanting to be with me at all. I am trying to soak them up. Most of the time, my work can wait. But my kids' childhoods won't.

Proud to Be An American (Gratitude – Day Seven)

Sometimes, there are no words to express what I am feeling. Except, today, for these –

Proud of you, Maine. Proud of you, USA.

Today (and hopefully every day for the next four years at least), I am grateful for the election results.

 

Coparenting (Gratitude – Day Five)

Today I am grateful for my husband and a favorable balance of work and coparenting. Today. Not every day, but today.

People often look at me funny when I mention working with my husband – as in, we co-own our marketing agency – I get it. It usually goes like this:

"So what do you do?"
"My husband and I own a marketing agency that powers online growth for small to medium sized businesses."
"Wow. So you work together…all the time?"
"Yup. And most of the time we work from home, which is easier for me because I can work around the kids' schedules."
"So you spend a lot of time together." 
"Oh yes. We are together. All. The. Time." 

I would say most of the time the conversation ends there, and about half the time is met with the same reaction as if I said "well I am legally his first wife, but he has a few other wives and children that live with us as well because it really does take a village to raise a child and all that."

Is working with my husband easy? No. Did it take a looooong time to figure out how to work together without yelling (him) or crying (me)? You bet. But it works for us, and here's why – we believe in coworking and coparenting. He helps me with the kids more than 99% of the dads I know; I help him with the business more than 99% of the wives I know.

There are times where I think we are crazy. I miss having coworkers to grab coffee and gossip with. But I am endlessly grateful that when we had the kids, he listened when I said I wanted us to raise them the majority of the time and we found a way to make that work. And at the end of the day, I love working with my husband and coparenting with him because it feels like there is someone who has my back. All. The. Time.

Especially on days like today, where even though it was my turn to get up with the kids, he did. After the first full day of daylight savings – and we all know the second day is worse. Today, I am grateful for that.

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If you are considering working with your husband – and we have friends who have asked our advice on this – keep these things in mind.

  • Know Your Limits: This is probably the most important thing – I know married people who love each other but their relationships often benefit from time apart. Most people need time to breathe and be on their own. For many people, that means going to work and having a professional life completely independent of a spouse. If that's you, do NOT consider working with your husband or wife.
  • Leave It At Work: It is important to leave work stuff at work. This is a "do I say, not as I do" tip. We are horrible at this one, and I hate to admit how many nights we have dinner out or fall asleep at night talking about work. But with two tiny humans running around (see above, working from home) sometimes that is the only time we can get an uninterrupted word in. But try not to do it. Seriously.
  • Don't Take It Personally: It took us (me) the longest time to figure this one out. Any time R criticized me about something work-related, I would cry. And he would be like, "seriously? Crying? Have you ever cried when a boss yelled at you before?" For me it was a challenge, and for him the challenge was speaking to me like a coworker and not his wife. And we both still slip, but we have gotten exceedingly better at it.

Working with my husband is often work and always a work-in-progress. But it is the right choice for us, and for the tiny humans, right now.