Magic In The City: A Love Letter for My Children


Daddy and Sydney watching the skaters and Rockefeller Center.

Dear Owen and Sydney,

It is a few days before Christmas, and it seems a natural time to reflect on things we are grateful for, and to look for magic in unexpected places.

As summer ended I told your dad that I was feeling festive this year, and wanted to do something magical in the week leading up to Christmas.  “In fact,” I said, “How about an idyllic city christmas?”

Your dad agreed.

There are two cities that I really enjoy being in around Christmas time, and New York is in driving distance, so we booked a hotel.

Our vacation began perfectly with pizza for dinner. We woke up on our first morning to snuggle in the hotel bed for hours.  We watched a little TV, but mostly chatted and tickled and cuddled.  All four of us.

We were all laughing and happy and relaxed.

We took in all of the sights and you both enjoyed every one of them.  The windows at Lord and Taylor were enchanting, and both of you laughed and squealed with glee upon seeing them.  I was amazed by how much of the detail you noticed.

Enchanted.

Amazed.

Entertaining (Sydney dancing to the music, enchanting all those who watched, of course!)

We spent a while in front of the tree at Rockefeller Center and walking up and down 5h Avenue.

The best night of the trip though, was our last.

Right across from our hotel was Bryant Park;  a city park transformed into an idyllic winter wonderland for the holiday season.  A Christmas tree beautifully decorated in blue and white lights overlooked the entire scene, and tastefully chosen holiday music playing at the perfect volume solidified the scene.

It was as though we had walked into an ideal “city Christmas”, one so perfect it seemed as though it were created as a set.

Owen, you wanted to go skating so badly on the rink constructed for the winter season that was right in the middle of it all- and daddy and I understood why.  It was magical.

Because it was so late, you were the only two young children still out.  Sydney and I watched as you and daddy skated and skated.  Sydney entertained the onlookers with her dynamic dance moves and chatted with all sorts of passersby.  She nursed while sitting under the tree, and every time you and daddy skated by us, you stopped to chat.

The smile on your face was breathtaking.

You were so happy to be ice skating here!

With few exceptions, everything about this Christmas vacation was exactly as I’d hoped for.

What was unexpected though, is that I did not spend much time looking at the sites we had come to see.  I spent my time observing something far more magical;  my two beautiful children.

I could not help but smile fully as I watched you two.  You pointed out interesting things to each other, instinctually picked up items dropped by strangers, and wished many a “Merry Christmas.”

I watched as you saw the carrousel turning in the cold Christmas air, and I inhaled your smile.

I witnessed your enchantment by the Christmas scenes displayed in the store fronts, and knelt down to put my arms around you and squeeze you.

I smiled with your awe upon viewing Rockefeller Center, with all of its lights and perfectly spaced Christmas angels, and kissed your cold, Christmas-y cheeks.

And it was all of these moments, and many, many  more that fulfilled my wishes for an idyllic City Christmas.  My joy did not come from where I expected, and I suppose it would not have mattered if we were in New York, Chicago, or Boise.

I left feeling grateful that these moments are endless for us.  We are at the beginning of our time together, and the joy that we will experience is limitless.

While I do not know what next Christmas will bring, I do know that the magic from this one has infiltrated me.  It has seeped into the deepest part of me, and I think it has in you, too.

When we go to Mass on saturday evening and daddy and I chase our toddler around, wondering if there is really any point in attending, I will know that there is.

Because I will be thanking God for each of you, and celebrating the birth of Mary’s child.  I will pray to Him that the joy of our little family continues, and that I always remember to look for magic in unexpected places.

Magic in the city.

The Motherhood Groove


I was blindsided by motherhood. I had no idea how much it would change my life.

Before my oldest child was born, I was committed to keeping my life as it was whether children were a part of it or not. I held fast to my commitment to read, work, keep up with the house, maintain my relationships with friends, and my husband.

Then Owen was born. And I was not prepared.

For the connection I would feel for him, the way that life was only right when he was peaceful and touching me, the fact that with the birth of my first child, my eyes would be replaced with new ones.

Every desire that I had before children became distant in my mind, seldom receiving any consideration.  All that mattered to me was that Owen was comfortable and content.

I am not embarrassed by this. I do not feel ashamed that my priority suddenly became my children. I feel grateful. Now.

But for the first months, and years, I tried to maintain it all. I tried to work, and stay connected with my “self” (the definition of which was my pre-child self) and not let life change.

Of course, life had already changed and I was just pretending.

Twenty six months later my daughter was born, and as she began needing attention I became a maniac. I tried desperately to meet the needs of both of my children all of the time.

I was constantly stressed. Even if both kids were sleeping, I was beating myself up over the way I had handled a situation, or I was prepping the house for when they woke up.

I was either making lunch, putting away toys, or planning an activity. Anything to free up my energy and time so that it could all be devoted to them when they woke.

Somewhere during this time I stopped working. Entirely. I tried to take my children on outings planned around nap times and snacks, and enroll them in music class.

My inability to accept that life had changed created both an inner struggle and tension between my children and I.  My life had no rhythm, and though I tried, I could not find a groove.

Then, without planning or realizing it,  Sydney’s napping became more predictable and Owen spent more time playing on his own. The house began to stay organized more easily as Owen began to consistently pick up after himself, and Sydney.  I became calmer. And several months ago, I realized that things were getting easier.

Owen and Sydney started playing together- frequently and for close to an hour at times. I often just sat and watched them. Amazed.  Mornings could be spent reading books, watching a movie or doing laundry.

Owen and Sydney joined in to help me prepare lunch.

As blocks were turned into structures, I sat on the couch in front of my children.  I read my book, or caught up with friends on Facebook. Music played quietly in the background.

Instead of cries of frustration and prayers of desperation, giggles and conversation became regular. Suddenly, it seemed that not only did I love my children, but that I loved Motherhood.

As I reflect now on life since Owen was born, I realize that there was nothing magical about this transformation. I gave up lots of preconceived notions about how things “should be”, and started doing what felt right to me, and made my children happy.  Expectations were altered or eliminated all together.  This removed unnecessary resistance and chaos from our lives and changed our dynamic.

We were no longer trying to force an outcome, we were going with what was in front of us.

This is not who I am at my core.  Or, not who I was.  I am learning.

Every day is not perfect and neither am I.  I cop to my weaknesses and shortcomings regularly.

But mostly now, I enjoy almost every moment of the day. Grateful for this amazing life. For spending most of my moments with my children. By choice.

And when Sydney turned two just a few weeks ago, instead of being filled with a feeling of bittersweet that she was getting older, I was filled only with joy, that my baby is so happy.

Because now I know that I am not fighting motherhood, that I am comfortable, gratefully sinking into it. That I appreciate nearly every moment and am giving my children the best part of myself.

The regret that I so frequently felt when Owen was two is now replaced with confidence. An assurance that comes from knowing that every day my children are calmly loved and appreciated.

Instead of ending each day thinking of how I will do better tomorrow, I end it smiling with the knowledge that I have finally found my Motherhood Groove.

Enjoying time with my children. Daily. Photo by Owen.

Overparenting. Is It Real?


20111219-084716.jpg

Sure, it's a challenge, but Sydney can handle it. If she couldn't have though, I would have helped her right away.

Reference has been made to “The Age of Overparenting” and admittedly I am not sure what practices this is referring to.

The term itself does concern me. In an age where activities, school and media disconnect us from our instincts and children, I fear that we will be further confused by thinking that we “coddle” our children too much-that we over love them.

Maybe even, that we are “spoiling” them.

But really, how can we “overparent” our children? We can overschedule their activities, overfeed them, and overlook them, but “overparent” them?  It does not seem possible to me.

Maybe this term means that we are overly involved in their lives. That though, would be nosy, not overparenting.

Perhaps it suggests that we are providing too much physical affection. But, that is impossible.

I guess the term could mean that too often we are caught starry-eyed gazing, basking in the love that we feel for this beautiful and wonderful being. Busted while thanking God that He thought us worthy enough to raise this, our beautiful child.

No, I do not believe that it is possible to “overparent” your children. To listen to them too much, laugh with them too often or over-encourage them when they need it.

Because it seems like parenting your children means that you know when they need encouragement, and when too much encouragement would simply be inflating an artificial ego.

And we certainly cannot make our children feel better more often than they need it.

It seems to me that really parenting your child means keeping them safe. Not keeping them in a protective sheath or bubble. And knowing your child well enough to know which you are doing.

That a parented child feels genuine love and respect from their parents, and that they can trust their mom and dad to teach them appropriate boundaries. And is there a way to “over”do this?

It seems to me that when we spend enough time with our children to know them well, there is very little risk of “overparenting” them. We will know that ballet is just too much for them, and that really, they do hate piano lessons.

When we have allowed ourself to be completely open to falling head over heels in love with our children, we want to remove unnecessary negativity, because we know that enough tough stuff comes from other places.

And that appropriately assisting them with challenges will strengthen them and make them intuitively compassionate, not cause them to lack fortitude and coping mechanisms.

If we permit ourselves to invest fully in our child, we trust ourselves, and we do not have to wonder if we should have made them honor their commitment to stay at a sleepover even though they were scared.

Overparenting is not something that I am worried about because I do not believe it exists. All of the other stuff we will struggle with, and will try to find the right balance for our family.

But too much love is not corny, it is just not possible.

Have I missed something? Do you think it is possible to overparent? Is the term confusing?

Mary’s Birth Story, Unsweetened. From The Archives, For My Grandmother.


I dedicate today’s entry to my grandmother, whom I love more than any other grown up in the world.  And whose relationship with our Mother Mary is unique, special and direct.  

Mary’s Birth Story, Unsweetened

Let’s put this in perspective.

I live outside of Boston.  Let’s imagine that in my ninth month of pregnancy, my husband Kris finds out that we have to go back to New Jersey or else we’ll lose our health insurance, or something of equal importance.   We have to go.

After packing up our things, our donkey pulls up out front.  I, nine months pregnant, mount it, prepared to ride for days to reach Kris’s hometown.  Except, his parents no longer live there, and he has no friends or family left there.

We know nobody.

As we set off for my husband’s place of origin, my faith- though not unshakeable, is strong. So is his.

After a long and tiring journey, we finally arrive.  I am medically exhausted.  It was too much for my pregnant body, and it requires rest.  Not necessarily out of chivalry, but out of compassion, and because he is my partner, my husband searches for a place where I can get the rest that my baby and I need.

My abdominal muscles, back, and legs all hurt.  I am having that ninth month of pregnancy pressure in my pelvis, and I am in tears because I just need to lie down, take the pressure off my body and sleep.

Each door that my husband knocks on provides the same answer: “We have no room for you.  We have no place that your pregnant wife can rest.”

My husband becomes more desperate as he sees the pleading in my eyes, hears it in my words and feels it from my body.  Finally, he comes back to me as I wait on the mule and says, “I have found us a place to sleep for the night.  It isn’t the most comfortable of accommodations, but it will have to do for tonight.”.

Now, what I have been suspecting for the last several hours is undeniable. I am in labor.  Though I try to stay calm for my husband’s sake, this is my first pregnancy and I am scared.  I am afraid of labor and possible complications.  Mostly though, I am terrified of the enormity of what is happening to me.

A tired Mary lay on a “bed” of hay or dirt, surrounded by animals that were dirty, and smelly, and who urinated and defecated all around them.  I’m certain though, that when Mary first held her baby, like all of us mothers, her surroundings were irrelevant.

I wonder if understanding that her child was the Son of God made her feel greater emotion.  As a mother, I suppose not.  I imagine that she was filled with the exact same emotion that I felt when Owen and Sydney were first put into my arms, and your children into yours.

That she looked at her beautiful baby Jesus, and wondered how she could be so blessed to have such love delivered to her life, and how grateful she felt that the man standing beside her was faithful and brave enough to protect her and her child so significantly.

I suspect that it was at least hours before Mary felt the itch of hay against her legs again, and once more became aware of the smells of the animals; that the swaddled bundle in her arms provided only a temporary analgesic from her surroundings.

I certainly can’t fathom Mary’s “birth story” having delivered my two children in a beautiful maternity unit with the most wonderful caregivers in attendance.   I have always imagined, or understood, that Jesus’ birth was serene, and lovely.

I probably believed this because songs like “Away in a Manger” are sung by angelic voices and accompanied by the finest musicians playing perfectly tuned instruments.  More so though, I know that this belief stems from the results of this birth. Results that were indeed beautiful, and awesome.

So this Christmas, when I sing I “Away in a Manger”, I will sing it as beautifully as I can. I will reflect on the images surrounding the birth of Jesus and the emotions that his mother must have felt.

This event, this birth, deserves not only my praise and gratitude, but also my admiration from one mother to another.

Owen and an amazing Mother, Grandmother and Great Grandmother, 90.

“A Gift-less Christmas”. From the Archives


My husband Kris and I both love Christmas and are quite traditional in how we celebrate. We decorate our house simply, but festively and have Christmas music playing both in the car and in the house. We talk with Owen, our four year old, and even Sydney, our two year old, about Jesus and his birth, and why this birthday is so important. We take as much time setting up the Nativity Scene with Owen as we do decorating our tree. We explain the meaning of the Christmas music that we sing, and talk about how important our family is.

Because Kris and I are both extroverted, type “A” personalities, we typically have our family on the go. But something washes over us during this time of year that allows us to enjoy slowing down. We pluck the best qualities portrayed on TV from the 1950’s, and turn into total “suckers” for our own version of a Vintage Christmas. We go to the Santa Parade, drive around to look at Christmas lights, attend a Christmas concert or caroling, and stroll through villages and shops whose halls are decked.

The second year that we were married, Kris and I decided to have a “gift-less” Christmas. This was as foreign to both of us, as eating Caviar is to this vegetarian. But, we wanted to eliminate the stress of finding a gift that wouldn’t be returned, paying the best price for it, and hoping that it was in stock.

Kris and I appreciated this decision so much that we eagerly agreed to make this same commitment with my extended family. This means that other than a couple of small gifts for my children, there is not one single gift purchased or exchanged within my family. I come from a large family, and this decision changed our Holiday significantly. No longer are Kris and I throwing back and forth possible gift ideas via text message, or aimlessly searching for the perfect gift for a sibling.

I do not spend my time in stores and traffic, frustrated with fellow shoppers who are feeling the same pressure that I am, as we share blank stares or frantic looks instead of holiday wishes. Instead, Kris and I are sitting on the couch, enjoying a glass of wine in front of our tree, listening to Christmas music, while Owen and Sydney play together. I know, it sounds idyllic.

It is.

The first couple of Christmases without gifts were strange. It seemed that none of us really knew how to shift the focus of the day, or what to do with the time that was usually spent opening gifts. But the vacuum from the missing presents filled in quickly and more fully, and we no longer even remember that they were there. Now our Christmases are filled only with conversation, fun, food and spirits; and it is these things to which we look forward.

The further away from exchanging gifts I become, the more I realize how much it detracted from our holiday. Now when I hear people talking about how much they have left to do and they wonder aloud whether their, parent/sister/grandmother/uncle will like the gift that was purchased for them, it seems as strange to me as the thought of a Christmas without gifts once did.

It has been several years now that we have practiced gift-less Christmases with my family. As with all changes in life, we have adapted, and not surprisingly, the holiday is filled with more quality time together. The focus of the night is on family, and the birth of one very special Baby.

 

Santa does not come to our house, but even Owen will sit on the lap of a pretend resident of "The North Pole".

Slowing Down The Crazy


Baby Owen had no idea how much he would "experience" in his first six months!

I am developing a new appreciation for calm and quiet.  I see how it benefits my children and family, and I relish it.

About six months ago, I began to take notice of how many “plans” I was committing the kids and I to on a daily basis.  Whether it was an invitation to a play date, an organized class, or time with extended family, I tried to become realistic about how much we could do before any of us became overwhelmed or stressed.

This is a vast change from Owen’s first six months of life.  Before Owen had lived through two seasons, he had completed music class, play group, swim lessons, movement class and group exercise classes with his mom.  And oh yeah, I was working part time, and bringing him with me.

It was nuts.

We progressed this way for quite some time.  I wanted to afford Owen every possible opportunity.  Not because I am competitive, but because Owen is my baby. I want to provide him any resources that I can in order for him to find his passion.

We maintained a frenzied pace right through my second pregnancy.

But when Sydney was born, a bit of calm seemed to be delivered with her.  She and I came home on Thanksgiving Day.  The family focus of that specific day combined with the winter months gave me a different appreciation for being at home with my family.

We started to slow down.

I noticed the effect this conscious effort had on all of us.  We were calmer.  The house was quieter. It was different, and maybe this new atmosphere could have felt a little strange at first.  But, it was…nice.

Really, really nice.

The more I began to read and research, the more I realized how wrong my initial understandings were.  My beliefs that Owen needed to be exposed to everything in order to grow, and that staying home with just me would not allow him to socialize, were unfounded.

The more I become comfortable with me being enough for my children -a new concept for me, the calmer our lives are becoming.  It feels like an improvement.

I am not suggesting that my house is a land of tranquility.  A frenzied pace is very much a part of me, and it often tries to surface.  Now though, it is easier to keep “the crazy” at bay. Because now I know that choices that make life too busy do not necessarily provide my children with opportunities.

But they certainly create an environment of chaos and confusion.

So I continue to work toward increasing the calm.  I evaluate each activity choice and think about how it will impact our mood and dynamic for the day.  Though Peace does not reign yet, we are slowing down the crazy.

And it feels really good.

Now, mornings are spent relaxed and interacting.

Removing The Artificial Lid


A Happy Guy

A new friend recently introduced my husband Kris and I to Sandra Dodd, someone I consider to be the ultimate advocate for children and families.  Sandra has encouraged us to know our children more deeply.  She is teaching us how to open ourselves up to seeing who our children are,  instead of trying to make them into who we want them to be.

Sandra Dodd’s writing brought to Kris and my attention that it was he and I who were deciding how our children should spend their time.  Without realizing it, we were molding them into who we thought they should be, instead of watching them develop into who they are.  We were putting limits on self discovery and joy.

For example, Owen has a new found love of superheroes.  Something introduced him to them, and there was no turning back.  He wants to read about, talk about and role play superheroes all of the time.  Each family member is a character (including Sydney, our two year old), and we play the part.  A LOT.  He loves everything about the worlds and is having lots of fun.

Though we have gotten pretty tired of playing, Kris and I have made an important observation from playing Super Heroes so very, very often.  Owen’s smile has grown immeasurably .

And while part of me is sad to write this, there have been times that his smile is so huge, I do not even recognize it.  And it is amazing.

Though we have been trying our best, for Owen’s four years of life we have unintentionally prohibited him from fully expressing himself.  We thought superheroes were too violent, and that books are the ultimate tool to ensure a successful child.

Without realizing it, we have been trying to contain the imagination of a spectacular little boy.  A profound imagination that should be celebrated.

These limits were always in his best interest, or so we thought.  We did not want him to be exposed to things that might be unpleasant, or turn him into a thief or sociopath.  We wanted him to experience things that were bright and educational and formed positive connections.  These are appropriate and honorable goals for parents, surely.

However, in the process we were sending him the message that his dad and I know what he enjoys better than he does.  That the stuff he was interested in was not really all that interesting, and that he should rely on others to choose how his time is spent.  We were conditioning him not to trust his own judgement.  We were capping and containing who Owen is.

But not anymore.

We have taken the lid off, and are letting him go.  We are allowing Owen to explore who he is.  We are encouraging him to try the thing he is curious about.  We are learning to be interested with him. To find new ways of playing superheroes when we are bored with the old ones.

I am grateful to Sandra Dodd for allowing us to learn this now, before our children are older and have learned from us that there are limitations on how much joy they can feel- that feeling that happy needs to be questioned.  I thank her for enlightening us before our children understood that a cap should be placed on their creativity and explorative nature.

Owen is learning a lot from Superheroes.  We are having interesting discussions about ethics and values and are having fun finding new ways to make all sorts of costumes and props.

Mostly though, Owen is learning that his mom and dad think he is one cool dude.  And that the stuff he is interested in is cool too.  It is becoming more evident to Owen that he is important to Kris and I, and can trust us to encourage him to explore what he is curious about.

So really, I do not think the superheroes have anything to do with the size of Owen’s smile.  I think it comes from an artificial lid finally being removed.  From knowing that his mom and dad love everything about him, and want to get to know who he is.

That huge expression of joy is a result of him sinking into the knowledge that he can trust himself to explore what he wants, knowing that Kris and I are here to help in whatever way we can.  And that we are excited to explore this really neat new world with him.

And that it makes him really, really happy.

d

An Amazing Smile.

Thank you for taking the time to read today’s Musing.  Pondering Jane’s home is in transition.  Please find more musings, activities and tips at http://www.ponderingjane.com, or subscribe down there on the right.

He Travels Again


Pinkalicious Cupcakes

Kris has been away this week.  All week.  As I shared in  yesterday’s post “Changing The Rules”, parenting the kiddos when he is away is becoming easier.

But he was supposed to be home last night, and his trip was extended by a day.  Owen was really disappointed, and Sydney keeps looking at pictures saying “hey, that’s daddy!”

In the interest of making the change a little easier on all of us, Owen, Sydney and I had a finger food dinner party last night.  Nachos, french fries, and popcorn made up the dinner of the night.  Complete with Pinkalicious Cupcakes that Owen has been eager to make since Sydney received the book for her birthday.

Don't let the little hand fool you. It can grab quite a large amount of popcorn.

We had fun, and cupcakes help everything.

A Happy Cupcake Eater

Today we will pick up Kris at the airport and continue our festivity seeking in Boston.  This plan made us all feel better and gave us something extra to look forward to.

We are grateful every day for Kris’s employment.  We have experienced the lack thereof and are able to feel gratitude even when he has to travel.  Sometimes though, I wish he did not have to travel at all.  It seems that it would be nice to know that every night for the next four months Kris would be at home in bed with us and here to say good night to the kids.

I have a friend whose husband never travels.  Ever.  She recently told me that it might be nice if he did, even just once a month.  So I guess there’s that.

And there are some advantages, we have lots of airline points, hotel points, etc. and we are fortunate that when Kris is not traveling he works mostly from home and sets his own hours.  This allows him a unique opportunity to do lots of things with the kids that a 9-5 job would not.  Like taking an hour long bike ride with Owen at noon on a tuesday.  Or walking hand in hand with Sydney to the playground at 10 am on a friday.

Still, we all so look forward to the end of his time away.  For me its nice to have a helper and partner and companion back.  And for the kids it feels like all is as it should be.

If I had been asked yesterday if I mind when Kris travels, I would have answered that it is getting easier and that the kids and  I plan extra fun things when he is away and that it does not seem like such a big deal any  more.

Today though if you ask me, I will say that I really wish he did not have go away ever, and that a week is a long time.

A day makes a big difference.

The kids feel it too.  I am tired, my energy level is lower and my creativity is virtually non existent.  Because of our parenting style, when Kris is away the kids are with me 24/7.  Literally.

Most of me loves this.  Especially now.  But after five days it is time for some reinforcements.  Just to help with things like bed time and diaper changes and cleaning the dried peanut butter off the chair.  Just so that I feel like I have  a purpose in life other than loading and unloading the dishwasher.

By sunday I will have recovered, and Kris has much of the next few weeks off.  That is what got me through last night.

That, and Pinkalicous Cupcakes.

Moments like this of course, make everything worthwhile.

Changing The Rules


This is how Kris travels to get his six pack now.

About a year ago I posted about House Rule #1, which basically stated that any minute my husband was not working, he must have  a child with him.  Whether he had to run to the store, had just walked through the door, or needed to take a shower, one of our children was required to be with him.

Our children were younger then.  We were with them around the clock.  Sydney was a baby, and still needed attention most of the time and it still took a good deal of time to get them to sleep whether for a nap or bedtime.  I was overwhelmed, it’s true, but also it was important to me that we define our family parameters early on.  That two parents were equally responsible for knowing our children.

My husband Kris was totally on board.  He needed some reminding once in a while that he was doing something childless, but he is a quick learner.

Our children are older now, and I am calmer.  Whole hours can go by where the children are playing independently. Bedtime is easier and requires less.  Owen is mostly self sufficient and our time together now is spent enjoying each other rather than meeting basic needs.

Even when Kris has been traveling, I am no longer burned out upon his return.  I am not craving ten minutes to take a shower by myself or desperately seeking Facebook connections.  Things have gotten easier.

Logically, I knew that this would have to happen, but in the early days of learning how to parent two children it seemed unlikely.

So we are shelving House Rule #1.  Technically.  But it has created the long lasting result of Kris consistently checking in to make sure things are all right at home before he ventures out sans children.  Even if it is just for a run or to pick up a six pack.

I know this seems unnecessary to a lot of people.  But each time he checks in it reminds me that we are in this together and that he understands that some days at home with the children are difficult.  More importantly it acknowledges how important it is that I am doing well.  That my role is important.

Feeling supported goes a long way.

Should we have another baby, House Rule #1 will go back into effect as soon as “morning” sickness strikes.  This time though, we would understand how very temporary it is, and realize in how many other ways this rule benefits our family.

But for now, most often when Kris asks if it is convenient for him to run out for a while without the kids, I say “sure” and sometimes even “take your time”.

More often though, Kris does not even ask.  He loves having one of the kids with him.  It is getting easier for him too.

Though I would like to claim that it was my wisdom and forward thinking that created this outcome,  when I instated House Rule #1 it was out of desperation.  There was no thought of how it might impact our family long term.

Either way, it does not matter.  We have made it through and are headed into the next phase of parenthood.  We know a little bit more about who we are as parents and know our children well.  I am grateful that we no longer need House Rule #1.

I’ve never been much for rules anyway.  (See next weeks entry House Rule #2).

To Venture or Not


These little villages were magical even to me.

I have the best of intentions.  Really, I do.

I want my children to experience things.  And I do not want either child’s age to limit the experiences of the other.  So I do things that are probably a bit more involved than my newly-turned-two-year-old is ready for.

Like making a significant drive to take my children to a gorgeous Christmas Shop.  One whose beautifully decorated rooms, and hallways that look like “main street”, hold fond memories for me.

I am feeling particularly festive this year and am trying to  “take in all the sights” with my kiddos.  I want to create some magic during this special time of year.  So yesterday we ventured north.

Owen felt the magic. Sydney, well...she was sure it was somewhere else.

Sydney’s eyes were nearly closed by the time we reached our destination- a calculated risk, but not a good state for her to be in when entering a zone known for its fragility.

We entered and Sydney was “eager” to check things out.  As I not so gracefully hollered for her to walk, I became quickly aware of  just how many breakable items were in this place.

We pretty accurately captured Sydney's movement patterns.

My visions of walking through this shop hand in hand with my children smiling, and Christmas music playing solely to enhance our magical experience was thwarted.  Not only by Sydney’s energy, but by the clerks at the shops’ entrance.

One employee sat in the beautifully decorated “Ornament Personalization” booth and the other stood in front of it.  Both dressed nicely and wearing tactful Santa hats, they were arguing loudly about what a waste of time it was for EITHER ONE OF THEM to be SITTING in the PERSONALIZATION BOOTH!

I tried to brush it off in order to fulfill my vision of Holiday Perfection.

I started to notice the price tags of the ornaments Sydney was ogling and “experiencing”.  The numbers: $248 on a single ornament quickly corrected my vision.

Lest you think me a complete fool who puts the importance of her children’s experiences ahead of small business owners turning a profit, I should tell you now that there is a toy shop in this place.  A HUGE and amazing toy shop.  Trains, blocks, stuffed dogs, grocery carts, beach toys, puzzles, space toys, classic toys, tunnels and toboggans fill the space.

We entered the toy shop and were all three amazed.  It was beautiful and expansive and perfectly laid out for children to explore.  Elaborate train sets lined the interior, complete with buttons to control the trains, gondolas and skating rinks.

See the Gondola's? They are above Owen's head and to the left.

It was awesome!

We spent lots of time in the Toy Shop.  Certainly the kids had fun checking out all of the toys, and I got a good idea of what they might like under the tree.

Playing with the Grocery Stand

And the trains were so cool.  The lighting, set up, and all of the extra and unique features (like gondolas!) made even me daydream about what it might be like to live in one of these village. The best part of all though, was watching Owen and Sydney operate and be enchanted by the villages and trains.  It was magical.

Just as I wondered to myself if this experience was really worth it, I got my answer.

Sydney, finally enjoying the magic.

And while it may not always be worth the effort, and some excursions may end disastrously, most times it seems like it is worth the try.

We have had our share of unhappy endings and we learn from each one.  I become better at choosing which experiences will be most enjoyable for all of us, and my children always learn more about the world and how it works.

Plus, that super-glued ornament hanging on our tree that cost more than all of our other ornaments combined has a good story behind it.

Just kidding.