Thursday, May 5, 2016

A Mom's Real Mother's Day

Written by Guest blogger
Shelle Lenssen

I know Mother’s Day is just around the corner because my first-grader is getting tight-lipped about the big project she’s working on in art class. She’s also nonchalantly asked if my favorite color is regular pink, light pink, or bright pink, and if I have ever eaten breakfast in bed. Likely my future contains a lovely pink handmade gift and my bed covered in spilled pancakes and orange juice. This reality of what my upcoming Mother’s Day will look like is a far cry from what I visualized before I actually had any kids.

Many proud parents just like you appreciate multi-cultural education for your children.  Find Eileen Wacker's award-winning family book series by clicking here.

Before children were in the picture, I imagined my future Mother’s Days would be filled with fancy brunches, pampering, extravagant gifts, and lots of love and adoration from my husband and kids. Now that I’ve got 7 Mother’s Days under my belt, I can say my real version of Mother’s Day is a far cry from the fantasy. We tried going out to brunch one year, but the crowds were overwhelming to the kids, and what was supposed to be a leisurely meal was actually rushed and uncomfortable. While my husband has surprised me with some very extravagant gifts, in recent years, they’ve become much more practical. Last year, for example, we decided a repaired air conditioner was a better use of funds over a new pair of designer boots.

Since my oldest daughter started attending preschool, she’s made me many fabulous gifts and cards that she’s presented to me with much gusto and enthusiasm. Over the years she’s given me handpicked flowers, macaroni jewelry, handprint art, a decorated picture frame, and a lovely “coupon book” filled with sweet intentions. My two-year daughter old isn’t quite up to speed on Mother’s Day, although I’m sure she’ll finger paint a project with lots of zeal and passion. Whatever gifts these two offer on that special Sunday morning, I will receive them gratefully and love on these two babies that bring me more joy than I can possibly contain. I’ll do my best to spend some individual time with each of them, and make sure they know I get to be celebrated because the two of them made me a mother.

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The most pleasant and enjoyable Mother’s Days have been the ones where I kept my expectations in check and therefore didn’t get disappointed when things weren’t perfect. Grilling steaks, eating out on the patio, and laughing at the toddler gnawing on a T-bone were the highlights of last Mother’s Day. If this year’s celebration is just as simple and lovely as last year’s, I’ll be more than satisfied. I enjoy my family more when we’re low-key and casual, and they like me best when I’m not stressing about unrealistic expectations, and having a loving, happy family really is the best Mother’s Day gift I could ever hope for.

Mother’s Day Memory

Guest blog by Kenna McHugh

“The phrase ‘working mother’ is redundant.” —Jane Sellman

My mother worked so hard as a single parent raising three kids on her own. Unlike today,  there were no government subsidies, tax credits, or other opportunities for help.  Yet, she instilled the value of sharing the joy of life.  

My mother worked 8-hours a day on a low salary, and she had a babysitter to help out. But, there was so much involved in raising three children.  She kept track of your school activities, our doctor and dentist appointments, we learned how to swim, and we were involved in sports.

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When I was 5 years old, my sister, brother and I had a very special Mother's Day because we truly wanted to acknowledge our mother. We decided to do the traditional “Let’s make Mom breakfast in bed!”

My sister and brother were older, so they fixed the pancakes, eggs, and orange juice. My job was to make everything look pretty. I set up the serving tray with a rose in a vase, cloth napkin, and our best plate and silverware.  The tray almost looked too heavy for my sister to carry, but she walked up to my mom’s bedroom. My brother opened the door and in walked my sister as I followed behind. My mom gradually woke up as my brother went to the right side of the bed. My sister went the left side where my mother slept, and I peered up from the foot of the bed.  Together we wished, “Happy Mother’s Day!”

My mother smiled and laughed with a hint of tears. She thanked us and ate the breakfast in bed as we watched. I kept giggling because I was so excited we were able to do something special for her. 
When my mom was done eating her breakfast, she paused, and smiled at us and asked, “What would you like to do today?”

The Moms Code author Eileen Wacker also writes the acclaimed childrens books The Fujimini Adventure Series Many proud parents just like you appreciate multi-cultural education for your children.  Find the book series by clicking here. 

We said, “Mom, it is your day. We want to do what you want to do.”
My mom looked out the window at the windy day, smiled, and said, “Let’s go to the park and fly your kites.”

We cleaned up, got dressed, and headed off to the park. For the first time, I was able to get the kite in the air for longer than 3 minutes. I didn’t get the kite as high as my sister or brother, but I did keep it up in the air for almost 15 minutes. While my sister and brother continued to fly their kites, I sat in my mom’s lap watching.  I felt very special being with my mom as we talked. I think I did most the talking, as she ran her fingers through my hair and listening. 

My mother made me feel special while I sat in her lap, and it made me proud to be her daughter. She is gone, now. But, she taught me the value of being with someone and making them feel special.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Mom's Code Chronicle #5 Celebrations and Mishaps

Written by Eileen Wacker

My most profound memories stand out as moments of extreme joy or pain. Many of the most joyous ones happened during celebrations when I embraced my family’s love, received gifts, ate favorite foods, dressed in new clothes, and felt perfectly carefree without school or other obligations.

But that was when I was young and sat on the fence as to whether unicorns are actually real. As a mom, I started to consider celebrations a chore.  They are endless: birthdays (including the dogs), Christmas, Thanksgiving, July 4th, Halloween, Easter, and Valentines Day are the headliners. Then there are graduation ceremonies starting with pre-school, piano recital parties and all those Monday holidays too numerous to list. So things can get a little out of control.

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It’s the end of April and I’m planning three kids’ birthday parties, an eighth grade graduation, and the family summer vacation. This is all in addition to the ‘normal routine’.

I put too much emphasis on creating perfect celebration events. As a mom of four, I feel like I own the traditions and should create memories to last a lifetime. But inevitably, a thousand issues push their way onto my perfect planning. I’ve had meltdowns at my kids’ carefully orchestrated and expensive birthday parties. One time an angry clown showed up and scared my son; to this day we avoid clowns.  Or when my daughter’s best friend ignored her during her party or yet another time when the dog took a big bite out of the Nemo birthday cake.

Then there are vacations, which are supposed to be times of perfect familial bliss. We’ve spent a lot of money and I’ve put a lot of time and energy into planning and creating the appropriate atmosphere of excitement. Then I yelled at my kids at the happiest place on earth, yes Disney. And at least one child has packed dreadfully wrong every time. One time my son took all his clothes out of the suitcase and packed only Halloween costumes for a beach vacation. We never all have the right bathing suits, and, sunscreen leaks in the suitcase are a common occurrence. When we ski during the holiday season, there is always someone who has no pants or forgot covered shoes.

I can mess up any holiday! I hosted a Thanksgiving dinner and the oven broke two hours into cooking the turkey. So we ate take-out Chinese food (and it was delicious). Now we eat a fine meal at an upscale hotel in Kauai every year. I know I’m in a good mood when all my kids resemble glasses of champagne. And then someone actually serves me one. I look at my husband and kids and feel festive and happy. Even when the kids eat the dessert first, order French fries off the menu, and the birds swoop in and eat food off our plates.

So now, in April, I take a deep breath and remember that it’s who’s sitting next to me that make it a celebration. It really doesn’t take a lot to have fun. I know what kind of cake my kids like by now. I can handle any birthday party with one Costco run. And iTunes cards double as a birthday gift or party favor.

The Moms Code author Eileen Wacker also writes the acclaimed childrens books The Fujimini Adventure Series Many proud parents just like you appreciate multi-cultural education for your children.  Find the book series by clicking here. 

I remind myself to celebrate smaller things; celebrate good moments. I pick up my son and he tells me he got a great grade in Spanish. “You got an A on your homework? Well that is worth celebrating!” I half yell in an inappropriately cheerful voice. He looks at me with raised eyebrows and asks if I’m okay. Then I pick up my little girl and she’s had a tough day. People on her group project are not getting along and someone called her small.

I put on my pretend birthday party hat. There is something worth celebrating every day. Life is not easy for anyone, adult or child. Kids have big schedules. They have to work through adversity at school, deal with insensitive teachers and coaches. Strive to establish their identity. I want to keep the atmosphere light and happy. My little girl loves an iced tea and a chocolate croissant from Starbucks. It’s all it takes to have her light up and feel completely happy. Someday, I’m going to kill for the moments when the price of a smile was an iced tea.

I want to celebrate the journey and all the accomplishments, big and small, along the way. After all this practicing of celebrating the small stuff, I’ll be a whiz at the big celebrations. My little girl says, “Mom, all you need is wrapping paper and cupcakes.” I ask her, “For the summer vacation or birthday party?” She smiles and says, “Both. I always forget my bathing suit anyways so I can wear wrapping paper. That would be funny.”

She’s right. It would be funny and we would have another entry for our family blooper reel of celebrations.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

How A Mom Helps When Holidays Go Wrong

Guest blog by Kenna McHugh
“When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things - not the great occasions - give off the greatest glow of happiness.” 
― Bob Hope

My children have always loved Christmas.
My sister-in-law announced, “We’ve decided to celebrate Christmas with the family on Christmas Eve. I know, we haven’t done it before, but we have an early flight to Mexico the day after Christmas, and we don’t want to be tired for the flight.” 
Looking at my brother’s wife, Karen, I never thought switching the date would adversely affect my family’s holiday celebration.  I said, “I am all for it. It will be fun celebrating on Christmas Eve.” 
My other sister-in-law, Cindy, voiced some doubt, “Don’t think Bob is going to budge. You know how he insists we go to his sister’s every Christmas Eve. I am just saying. I don’t think it will work."

The Moms Code author Eileen Wacker also writes the acclaimed childrens books The Fujimini Adventure Series Many proud parents just like you appreciate multi-cultural education for your children.  Find the book series by clicking here.
I lamented to myself, “Why couldn’t I be as wealthy as my brother, then my house would be large enough to accommodate the whole family. We could celebrate as usual on Christmas Day. His family can leave early, and nothing would change.”   
I informed my family about the change, and they didn’t want to budge either. My kids spoke of the tradition of opening the one present, new pajamas, every Christmas Eve. My husband reminded me that he usually works late on Christmas Eve. It’s one of the busiest days for his company.  
“It will be great because you will be with your cousins. We’ll open the pajama presents when we get home from the family’s party. Christmas will be our day together.” 
I forced a smile at my husband, “It will all work out.”
 On Christmas Eve the bad vibes arrived. My husband texts, “Snow is falling, roads are closed. I am not making it home tonight.” 
My kids were not happy, “Can we still open our pajama presents when we get home?”
“Yes. You can open your pajama presents. We still have our family to celebrate Christmas with, and Dad will be home by morning.” 
We arrived at my brother’s on time, and they were already opening presents.  My son and daughter looked at me like, “What is going on?”  
I quickly passed around the presents, confusion everywhere with my nieces and nephews playing with presents they already opened.  Their parents corralled them together to open our presents. 

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Cindy left with her family to go to Bob’s sisters house. We had no time to talk or acknowledge presents. My daughter’s favorite cousin left. She will have no one to hang out with, and she gave me the teary-eyed look, “My night is ruined.” 
My son ran upstairs with my nephew, and my daughter latched on to me.  I poured a red, and hoped for the best. Soon one of my brother’s clients and his wife and children arrived. I couldn’t control the sentiment, “I thought this was a family affair.”
My daughter and I were completely ignored, and we went home early. But then, my husband arrived in time to open the pajamas. Something as small as opening pajamas lifted the mood and we were truly happy to have Daddy back and our family together. Everything else melted away.
 The next day was wonderful, celebrating Christmas as a small family and grateful for the simple occasion. The kids, of course, loved opening the gifts and I appreciated my small circle of happy people celebrating. I changed my mind about the big house. Christmas is not about the size of the house, it’s about who is in it. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

How a Mom Handles the Holidays

Written by Guest blogger
Shelle Lenssen

As a kid, I remember holidays and special occasions being a these fun and magical times filled with family togetherness, my favorite foods, and exciting activities. Depending on the holiday, I looked forward to a house full of visitors, opening dozens of presents, drinking out of the “fancy” glasses, and dressing up in a pretty dress and donning new shoes. I don’t think I ever once pondered the amount of time, energy, and work that went into making these childhood memories. But now that I’m a mom, and the one in charge of making holidays memorable, I know exactly how much preparation and hard work go into one simple day or event.

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I’m a list-maker, so when a holiday is on the horizon, my lists just get longer and longer. Ideally I plan the guest list and menu first, and then fit in activities and any other extras that might make the event special. But ideal situations, are just that, ideal, and aren’t what typically happens.  Inevitably, a guest (or two) is added last-minute, travel plans change, a kid spills punch on their nice clothes, or someone suddenly decides they’re only following a vegan diet. Those are the times I’ve wanted to freak out, but instead I took a breath, kept a smile on my face, and tried my best to come up with a reasonable solution. An extra place setting can be added, dinner can be re-heated for tardy guests, children can wear different outfits, and I can always throw a bag of steamed veggies in the microwave. As much as I try for ‘ideal’, sometimes settling for ‘okay’ allows me to not put as much pressure on myself and actually enjoy the event I’ve worked so hard to create.

The Moms Code author Eileen Wacker also writes the acclaimed childrens books The Fujimini Adventure Series Many proud parents just like you appreciate multi-cultural education for your children.  Find the book series by clicking here.

My absolute worst holiday near-disaster happened last Christmas. I had planned an extensive menu for my family and out-of-town guests, with a large prime rib beef roast serving as the meal’s shining star. Midway through roasting, my trusty meat thermometer quit working, and despite my best guess about cooking time, the slices of prime rib looked raw instead of the medium rare perfection I’d envisioned. I wanted to cry, have a tantrum my toddler would be proud of, and lock myself in my bedroom and not come out until Christmas was over. My good husband has learned to recognize the signs of a pending meltdown, and swooped in with a resolution to save his drowning wife. Roast slices were quickly grilled on the stove and no one had to eat raw meat. The meal turned out just fine, and by the time dessert was served, everyone was laughing over shared jokes, pouring another glass of wine, and not at all thinking about the underdone roast fiasco.

I certainly don’t want to ever have a holiday disaster like that again, but if (or when) it happens, I hope I can be cool-headed enough (or have my quick-thinking husband nearby) to go off-script and improvise.