Thursday, June 28, 2012

Momsensical: No-kids-allowed movement growing in popularity

Published on KSL (click HERE for the link)
Published on KTAR (click HERE for the link)
Published in Cross Timbers Gazette (click HERE for the link)

I ran into a grocery store with my three young kids. My youngest, a toddler whose mood changed with every passing box of cereal, was particularly volatile and I remember thinking that I would have to be quick about this.

He took advantage of me not buckling him into the cart (huge mistake) by hopping in and out of it at one second intervals. So I tried to wrestle him into the belt, which he resisted with body contortions, kicks, screams and various other unpleasantries. In the end, I hoisted him over my shoulder, secured my left arm around the back of his legs, and used my right arm to navigate the cart and my two other kids through the aisles.

At this point, I should have left my bread and eggs (completely overrated at times like these) and exited the store with a teeny shred of dignity. But I was young(er) and wonderfully optimistic and had not yet experienced — well, what I was about to experience.

So I stayed while both my son’s behavior and my optimism deteriorated at the speed of light. Feeling utterly defeated, I was finally ready to swipe my credit card — after which I planned on retreating to my car for a good cry.

But then, as with the most memorable learning experiences, things took a turn for the worse.

My son chose the very second I was swiping my card to try something brand new. Using a weapon I had left unsecured and readily available — his teeth — he clamped down as hard as he could on the back of my shoulder. A vise grip, if you will, that he seemed intent on holding until he reached his next birthday.

Cussing like a sailor (a bit out of character for me), I barely made it through the transaction.

I would never choose to repeat that experience. But here’s what made it bearable.

Although I am positive that there were people in the store who judged me or my son on various levels (before I had kids, I would have judged both me and my son), no one was openly critical. Moms gave me empathetic looks and wide berths in the aisles. Customers in my line were patient and helpful with my other two kids. The cashier was kind despite being somewhat alarmed at being in such close proximity to my son (for which I can hardly blame her).

An employee even opened the door and offered me assistance to the car — unprecedented for that store. This was very likely on account of wanting to get rid of us as quickly as possible, but the gesture was appreciated nonetheless.

Even though my kids are older now and I am no longer in danger of being bitten by one of them (knock on wood), I value the general sentiment of public support for what I’m doing as a mom. For the most part, the attitude I experience when I’m out and about with my children is that kids are pretty awesome and totally worth it — even at their most annoying.

So I am conflicted about the “no-kids-allowed” or “brat ban” policies that are growing in popularity (click HERE for an interesting article on the subject). Not surprisingly, it all began with adults-only resorts. But now, a wave of restaurants, movie theatres and even airlines have established policies that either ban kids altogether or stipulate times when kids are allowed and when they’re not.

This got my wheels turning. Should our kids (and, by definition, their parents) be banned from local movie theatres or grocery stores? In Texas, one cinema chain has even reversed the model and completely banned kids under six, except on specified “baby days.”

I understand that it is difficult for businesses to ignore revenue from the increasing number of childless adults, the group fueling this movement. But I hate to see society becoming less kid-friendly. What does this mean for the future?

Does this mean that my kids might be raising my grandkids in a society where their families are banned from as many (or more) places than they are welcomed? Does this put parents in danger of becoming second-class citizens?

There are certainly times when I’m on a date with my husband and would rather not be seated next to a screaming (or, heaven forbid, biting) child. And someday I hope to be able to confirm reports that vacationing at adults-only resorts can be quite lovely.

But I’ll more than tolerate — I’ll even be kind and helpful to the parents of — tantrum-throwing kids if the alternative is a society that doesn’t welcome them. The way I see it, all of us adults — even the ones who choose not to have children of their own — were once kids ourselves. And for the most part, we were totally awesome and completely worth it — even at our most annoying.

In your opinion, where (if anywhere) should businesses draw the line on these types of policies? What do you think about the growing number of “no-kids-allowed” bans? 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Wherein I decide that turning 43 and being an average, not-famous mom is where it's at

There is a certain celebrity who happens to be exactly my age. For as long as she has been famous (20 plus years), the media has not let me forget that she always looks perfect and tanned and toned.  And that she always smiles.

There have been times in my life when I have envied hers.  A few weeks after I brought my third child home from the hospital, I remember wiping poop from three backsides within a 60 second time frame (my oldest was potty-trained but there are times when assistance is absolutely necessary), and then sitting down to breast-feed my baby in front of the TV while my other two crawled like ants back and forth over my legs.

Not surprisingly, this particular celebrity’s beautifully tanned body appeared on screen.  She was vacationing on a picturesque beach in an exotic location with one of this world’s most handsome men (according to People Magazine – I only know this because I spend a lot of time standing in the checkout aisle of Wal-Mart).

I considered my bread-dough belly, my stretch marks, my everything else that was far from perfect.  And the fact that I was the same age as this most gorgeous and fortunate of creatures. 


I sighed, thinking how lovely it would be to switch places with her, just for a day.  Or even a few hours.

Eleven years later, she is as fabulous and famous as ever.  Just last week, I heard an author of a diet and wellness book discussing her in an interview.  About how she (and celebrities like her) spend inordinate amounts of time on their bodies (said they train much like Olympic athletes).  And that they eat next to nothing.  This is the only way to achieve the results I see plastered on magazines every time I turn around.

I do not want to disparage how this woman lives her life.  I’m sure she’s fantastic.  If we lived next door to each other, I’d be willing to bet that we could find a common interest and maybe even become friends.

But it’s been a lot of years and two more kids since I’ve sighed when making a comparison between the two of us.

Oddly, I'm proud of (while still not loving) my bread dough belly and stretch marks and am OK with the fact that I will never in two trillion years look like her. 

In short, I simply don’t choose to spend my time the way she does.  The huge majority of my waking hours are spent preparing my kids to enter the world standing on their own two feet, knowing that there is a God in heaven, that they are loved by their parents, that nothing will work unless they do, and that this world is full of people who could use an extra measure of kindness along the way.

This undertaking is far from easy.  It’s demanding and exhausting and downright heart-wrenching at times.  And I rarely get it completely right.  But if I were given a chance to switch places with this gorgeous celebrity - but had to exchange even one teeny part of my life for the switch - I wouldn’t take it.  

I wouldn’t have taken it on the day wherein I wiped three backsides, either.  I just would have sighed a few more times whilst declining.

Because what I do matters, and is always worth it.

On my 43rd birthday, one of this world’s most wonderful men (according to me – I know this because I’ve spent a lot of time with my husband over the past 19 years) took me to an exotic location (a restaurant with ethnic flare qualifies as exotic) to celebrate.

I ate too much, so took my cue from the alleged eating habits of celebrities and decided not to order dessert.  But our waiter brought me crème’ Brule anyway, as it was, after all, by birthday.  I ate the whole thing.

My husband took the one picture of the evening on his cell, and it’s a pretty lousy picture to boot.  So I guess it would be a stretch to claim that the paparazzi stalked me.

And I sighed the very best kind of sigh, thinking that somewhere in the middle of my immensely imperfect life, my life is pretty much perfect.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

2012 Summer Writing Prompt #4: Most Awesome Book Reviews

I'm making two assumptions here.

1) Your kids are reading books over the summer

2) Your kids have opinions about the books they read

If these do not apply to you, skip this prompt.

Or better yet, give your kids and kick in the pants and a book or two to read.  Then you can re-visit this prompt in a week or so.

My incoming 4th grader took it upon herself to make a chart that rates the books that she has read.  Here's her rating system:

***** Most awesome
****   Pretty awesome
***     Pretty good
**       Not good
*         Really bad

I am going to suggest that she also leave room to write a review of sorts.  I'm thinking that short and sweet is best for the summer.  Dredging up book report memories from past school years -- that may or may not be positive -- would probably be counterproductive.

A reading incentive idea to link to the kids' book reviews is to make a goal of the number of books to read by the end of the summer, at which point the kids receive a reward of some kind.

Any kind of reward, of course, but since it's summer here's a visual to get your wheels turning:


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Learning to love (while still hating) my dad's cancer diagnosis

Published on (click HERE for the link)

Me, my parents and my sister on Memorial Day weekend -- right before Dad began treatments
I was sitting across from my dad in a restaurant several weeks ago when he told me that his cancer (which had been eradicated a year ago) was back. As if that weren’t bad enough, a different kind of cancer had been discovered elsewhere in his body.

Dad then explained how devastated he had been at the diagnosis until the phrase “come what may, and love it” ran through his mind repeatedly. After an intense inward struggle, he had decided to embrace that concept and would be at peace with — would even love — whatever might come his way.

“I’m ready,” he announced with a smile.

I looked at him over taco salad and enchiladas, trying to let his words sink in — especially that one word that didn’t fit.

Love that my dad has stage 3 lung cancer? And will soon be undergoing aggressive radiation and chemotherapy treatments and surgeries? And that his hair will fall out? And that his golf game will surely suffer? And that his statistical chances of living beyond the next five years are suddenly 23 percent?

I cried and prayed and shook my fist at God (just a little). I acknowledged that it could be much worse but it sure could be better and that I most definitely did not like this.

Once the fist-shaking subsided, my kids came immediately to mind. From the second my first child took her first breath, love has been a given. But I certainly don’t always like them. In fact, I can honestly say that I hate some things that happen to or with them, some things they choose to say or do.

I even cry and pray and shake my fist at God (just a little) on account of less-than-ideal circumstances with my kids. Somehow, though, the word "love" always fits.

Come what may, I love my kids. There is so very much to love.

So here’s the short list of what I can love about my dad.

I love that he is a great man — honest, good, kind and faithful. I love that he cherishes my mom, his kids and grandkids. I love that he attends a staggering number of my kids’ extracurricular events, and that he calls and invites them individually to go fishing or shooting hoops or to lunch. I love when Dad frequently shares his stories, convictions and faith.

I am also glad for the cancer-related experiences that I can love — or at the very least laugh at.

Like when my parents and their friends went out to lunch, dubbing it Dad’s "pre-biopsy lunch." The very idea of such a lunch made me smile, but what made me laugh was when my mom, upon telling me about their party of sorts, inadvertently called it Dad’s "pre-autopsy lunch."

And I laughed even more when my brother (who lives on the East Coast and sees my parents once or twice a year) flew in for a surprise visit, knocked on my parents’ front door and was greeted by my dad. “Yes, sir?” my dad asked, very politely.

As luck would have it, Dad had just finished a chemotherapy treatment. So the fact that he didn’t recognize his own son was quickly and irrefutably chalked up to chemo brain fog (which, it turns out, is an actual side effect). Still, we all know that Mom will never in a million years — or even in five years — let him live it down.

Cancer or not, some stories are simply too good not to tell. And love. And laugh at.

I’ve decided that I don’t have to love Dad’s diagnosis. I even think it’s OK if I hate it sometimes.

But come what may, I can still love.

There is so very much to love.
Dad and my brother who surprised him at the door.

My parents with grandkids in Florida on spring break

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

2012 Summer Writing Prompt #3 - Father's Day Fill-in-the-Blanks

I've always loved open-ended statements about dads  that kids can finish.  You can fancy these up by adding pictures & putting them into cute notebooks, or you can simply have the kids write.  Either way, they're priceless.

No matter the age of the kid, these always turn out precious, poignant, surprising and downright hilarious.

*Tip:  Don't let the kids hear their siblings' answers.  The power of suggestion can often prove too strong.

My dad is special because:

What matters most about my dad is:

I like it when my dad helps me with:

My dad can do many things!  I think he's best at:

My dad has a great smile!  I like to make him smile by:

My dad is as handsome as:

My dad is smart!  He even knows how to:

2012 Summer Writing Prompt #2 - GO! (Top 10 Lists)

"Begin with the end
in mind."

With that fabulous advice in mind (i.e. dreaming, making goals.....) write AT LEAST ONE Top 10 List -- a few would be better.

Here some ideas to get your wheels turning:

  • Top 10 Places I Would Go this Summer if I Could Go Anywhere (and why I want to go)
  • Top 10 Things I Want to GET DONE this Summer
  • Top 10 Books I Want to Read this Summer
  • Top 10 People I Want to Spend Time with this Summer
  • Top 10 Things I Want to Learn More About this Summer
  • Top 10 Songs I Love

Once your lists are done, put a big star next to the ONE ITEM PER LIST that you want to do first.  

Start NOW getting them done.

It'll will probably be easier and faster than you might think.

It'll definitely be way more fun and interesting than you might think.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Book List: Moms Weigh In - Books We Adore

I polled oodles of moms across the country to come up with this list.  If you have favorite titles that aren't here but absolutely must be, please comment on this post or email me at 
and I'll get them added.  Remember, only ABSOLUTE FAVORITES!  My goal here is quality, not quantity!

Author Title Comments
Cambell, Rod Dear Zoo:  A lift the flap book  
Boynton, Sandra Moo, Baa, La La La  
Boynton, Sandra But Not the Hippoptamus  
Wood, Audrey The Napping House *  
Wood, Audrey Silly Sally  
Carl, Eric The Very Hungry Caterpillar * anything by Eric Carle
Donaldson, Julia Night Monkey Day Monkey  
Love, Marianne Cusimano You Are My I Love You humor with heart
Brown, Margaret Wise Goodnight Moon  
Konnecke, Ole Anton Can Do Magic  
Gag, Wanda Millions of Cats  
McGee, David Elmer  
Thomas, Jan The Doghouse New favorite
Willems, Mo Pig and Elephant Books * awesome for acting out while laughing out loud
Henkes, Kevin Kitten's First Full Moon All Kevin Henkes books are great
Wilson, Karma Bear Snores On several books in this series
Wood, Don Little Mouse  
Wood, Don The Big Red Ripe Strawberry *  
Wood, Don The Big Hungry Bear *  
Ahlberg, Janet The Jolly Pocket Postman interactive book
Feiffer, Jules Bark, Geroge!  
Cronin, Doreen Click, Clack, Moo Cows that Type  
Cronin, Doreen Diary of a Worm (or Fly)  
Wilcox, Leah Falling for Rapunzel  
Barnett, Max Guess Again will have your kids laughing
Fox, Mem The Magic Hat anything by Mem Fox!
Gannett, Ruth Stiles My Father's Dragon  
van Allsburg, Chris Mysteries of Harriss Burdick wordless picture book, the pictures are amazing and the kids have to create their own stories to go with the pictures
Osborne, Mary Pope Magic Treehouse Series *  
Polacca, Patricia Pink and Say her other books for older kids are also great
Park, Barbara Junie B. Jones series * hilarious, can start girls reading chapter books, mixed mommy reviews on Junie's bratty attitude & sometimes poor grammar
Rey, H.A. and Margaret A Treasury of Curious George  
Long, Melinda  How I Became a Pirate delightful illustrations by David Shannon
Dahl, Roald Charlie and the Chocolate Factory favorite read-aloud; anything by Roald Dahl
O'Brian, Robert C. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh  
Burnett, Francis Hodgson A Little Princess  
Cleary, Beverly Ramona Books other Beverly Cleary books
Burton, Virginia Lee Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel anything by Virginia Lee Burton
Scarry, Richard Cars and Trucks and Things that Go any orinigal Richard Scarry is fantastic; his son took over for him and the newer books aren't quite the same
Lobel, Arnold Frog and Toad Books  
Macdonald, Betty Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle Series classic read aloud
Juster, Norton The Phantom Tolbooth classic read aloud
Banks, Lynn Reid Indian in the Cupboard  
Warner, Gertrude Chandler Boxcar Children Series*  
White, E.B. Charlotte's Web anything by E.B. White
McKissack, Annie Never Forgotten Caldecott committee missed this one
Shea, Susan Do You Know Which Ones Will Grow? delightful
Spinelli, Gary Maniac McGee  
Sachar, Louis Holes  
Gaiman, Neil The Graveyard Book  
Mull, Brandon Fablehaven Series  
Lewis. C. S. The Chronicles of Narnia  
Fitzgerald, John D. The Great Brain  
Peck, Richard A Long Way from Chicago  
McKinley, Robin Beauty *  
Levine, Gail Carson Ella Enchanted  
Hale, Shannon The Princess Academy  
Hale, Shannon The Goose Girl *  
Clements, Andrew Frindle* any other Clements book
Riordan, Rick Percy Jackson Series * can be the catalyst for kids to graduate to longer chapter books
Haddix, Margaret Peterson Shadow Children Series similar to hunger games but less violent, thought-provoking and exciting
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter Series * last two books in the series are more violent and disturbing as the characters get older
Carter, Ally Gallagher Girls Series delight for early teens (girls)
Whitesides, Tyler The Janitors looking forward to second book coming out this fall
Lin, Grace Where the Mountain Meets the Moon * one of the best examples of storytelling anywhere, fantastic read-aloud
Montgomery, L.M. Anne of Green Gables Series  
Rawls, Wilson Where the Red Fern Grows  
Rawls, Wilson Summer of the Monkeys  
Sweet, Melissa Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Pupeteer of Macy's Parade Outstanding NF ook of 2011
Lane, Andrew Death Cloud Sherlock Holmes as a teenager; sequel is 'Rebel Fire'
Selznick, Brian Wonderstruck  
Gantos, Jack Dead End in Norvelt one of best new books of 2011, Newbery Author, great for boys
Carter, Ally Gallagher Girls Series delight for early teens (girls)
Clements, Andrew Frindle  
Fitzgerald, John D. The Great Brain  
Gaiman, Neil The Graveyard Book  
Haddix, Margaret Peterson Shadow Children Series similar to hunger games but less not violent, thought-provoking and exciting
Hale, Shannon The Princess Academy  
Hale, Shannon The Goose Girl *  
Levine, Gail Carson Ella Enchanted  
Lewis. C. S. The Chronicles of Narnia  
Lin, Grace Where the Mountain Meets the Moon * one of the best examples of storytelling anywhere, fantastic read-aloud
McKinley, Robin Beauty *  
Mull, Brandon Fablehaven Series*  
Peck, Richard A Long Way from Chicago  
Riordan, Rick Percy Jackson Series * can be the catalyst for kids to graduate to longer chapter books
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter Series * last two books in the series are more violent and disturbing as the characters get older
Sachar, Louis Holes all other Louis Sachar Books
Spinelli, Gary Maniac McGee  
Taylor, Theodore The Cay  
Whitesides, Tyler The Janitors looking forward to second book coming out this fall
Stiefvater, Maggie Scorpio Races fav teen book of 2011
Bragg, Georgia How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awful Famous Awfully Interesting