The Confessions of a (Relatively) Perfect Mom

I love being a mommy – it is truly one of my favorite things. My four daughters are a joy in my life and I wouldn’t trade them for a thing in the world. Ask them and they will tell you – I am the best mom in the world. In fact, I do consider myself the perfect mom.

***Begin playing sappy music***

McDonald’s is not a staple of our diet. We have family movie night. I am cautious of the movies they watch, clothes they wear, music they hear, and the friends they have.  We discuss values and citizenship. We see the dentist twice a year and the doctor for regular check ups. We discuss stranger safety. Chores are a must. School work is priority – even in the summer.

***Record playing sappy music scratches to a halt***

Let’s get real…I am a great mom, relatively.  While all the above statements are true, let me let you in on some more truths.

We rush in the morning to get to school on time. They probably watch too much TV.  The kitchen isn’t always clean. I don’t read to them for 30 minutes every night. Sometimes I just want to be left alone. They brush their teeth at least once a day, but definitely not after every meal. There is always laundry to be done. We don’t always eat together. I am ready for summer break to be over. Sometimes dinner comes out of a box. Their room is a mess and I am tired of fighting about it. I have made the mad dash to Wal-Mart to get supplies for a school project that is due the next day.

Why tell you all this? Because I believe I am not alone. I believe that there are a ton of mommies – probably most – out there who feel overwhelmed and under performed most of the time.  I believe that these moms (dads too?) carry around heavy guilt that makes the hardest job in the world even harder. I believe that we think we are the only ones dealing with these feelings and ask ourselves why we can’t have it “together” like the super mom who lives down the street (who, by the way, is probably thinking the same thing about you.)

I believe there are far too many of us asking ourselves, “What’s wrong with me?”

The answer – Nothing, except being human.

I believe our children deserve the very best we can give them. I don’t think that looks like perfection. I think it looks like unconditional love. Kids don’t care so much about “stuff” when they feel protected and cared for. Don’t believe me? Watch a kid’s face light up when they get the one present they wanted most.  Then watch his heartbreak when you won’t play with him. The toy means nothing without the love.

We spend so much time trying to be a perfect mom to the world and then feel like a failure when we can’t pull it off. Wouldn’t that time and energy be better spent on something you can do – like being the perfect mom to your kid?

An epiphany

I wanted to know how people got where they are. I wanted to know what paths people followed. Why they headed in a direction, how they knew what to do. I guess I should clarify that I am speaking professionally and as a person of the community. So, I called the person who I believe knows the most about this sort of thing (Hi Lisa!)

She’s busy as she always is. She makes time for me like she always does. We chat for a while. It takes me a minute to effectively relate what my question of the day is. Lisa is spot on when she tells me it is a test of time. Can you put one foot in front of the other continuously day after day? Good, effective, productive people have perseverance and staying power.

Gotcha – that part I knew, but it helped to hear her say it. My fear is that after much of that time has lapsed, will I look back and realize if I had only known about this sooner, I could have gotten started, begun to develop, initiated the process? Maybe, she says. Depends on what your goals are. What are your goals, April?

Damn…

Am I just crazy…

…or is everybody else?  Sometimes I really don’t know. Is it a “silent majority” thing and I am the only loud mouth, or am I really in the minority? Are my opinions really that out in left field?

Feels like a rant is coming on and you, my dear friends, will have to excuse me while I try to stay on track.  This frustration is not one thing, but many things…this uniform thing is just the straw that broke the camel’s back.

The school system here is attempting to implement a uniform policy.  We had this when we lived in Chicago and it was fantastic. Mark and I both felt that if we had uniforms in school, we would have hated it, and our lives would have been much easier. However, some parents don’t feel this way and that’s okay. But, OMG (to use the cool, hip, text abbreviation) can we get over it already! Reading the newspaper, you would think Stalin was running the board and Hitler was poised to take over. I don’t get it. My kids have enough to deal with in their young lives with society being the way it is. Any attempt to remove some of those distractions while they are attempting to get an education is fine by me.

They say that the problem would be solved if the administration would just enforce the current dress code.  Are you kidding? Have any of you been shopping for school age girls lately? Now, I can’t speak to the boys, because I don’t have any, but girls I got and it is near impossible. What does my 5 year old or my 10 year old need with halter tops, short shorts, and platform shoes to round out the outfit? Sure, you can get them long pants and then contend with the provocative remarks the manufactures insist on pasting across the butt. That’s much better. You are basically limited to jeans, capris, and t-shirts (funny, sounds like a uniform policy). This is fine with me until I am getting the kids ready for school or shopping in the mall and I have to hear for the eleventy billionth time about what so and so’s mom will let them wear, buy, scout around town in.  No thank you. Get up, get breakfast, brush your teeth, and grab one of the approved uniforms that will be very much the same as anything else anybody else has on. Bypass the drama and get on to the job at hand – getting your education.

Speaking of the job at hand, a lot of jobs require a uniform, or, at the very least, a required manner of dress. Are they oppressive and limiting free expression of their employees?  Are we going to bash the boards of these companies for their abusive practices? No. We are probably working for them, collecting a paycheck, and happy for it.

I could go on. There are lots of things in the media that are absolutely driving me crazy – taxes, immigration, Iraq, and the list goes on.  But, I won’t. I will say this and be done. Don’t be a shallow thinker. Take opinions out to their logical conclusion. Pay attention to the society around you and compare it to what the media says society is. If you hear it on the news, don’t listen to what they say, figure out what they mean – it is all too often two different things.

My NewsBowl Champ!

The school year is almost over. We are participating in all the regular end of the year activities.  Today was the Awards Program for Madison.  I couldn’t have been more proud.

She received an award for the Honor Roll – we expected that. Her grades are usually pretty good. But we, and several other parents, got a real treat.

Madison participates in the gifted program at school. Every Friday, she and a few of her classmates go to their SEEK class and participate in various mind expanding activities. One of the programs they participate in is the News Bowl. This is a national program that looks to involve students in learning about current events.

Well, Madison’s team won 1st in the state and 6th in the Nation. Her group received the News Bowl certificate and another for the Principal’s achievement award.

Big congrats to the 4th grade SEEK!!  We love you, Bear!

 

Maybe I am wrong…

One of my dear girlfriends is a photographer. A very good photographer. Together with her husband, Diana Nash shoots some of the best pictures I have ever seen.

A couple of moths ago, she had a blog post about a new photo session called “dress trashing.”  Sometime after the wedding, after the dress has fulfilled its purpose, instead of shrink wrapping it and putting it somewhere in your closet for “sentimental value,” Diana asks you to put it back on. Then, she takes pictures.  These are not your clean pictures. These are your laying in a pile of leaves, climbing up a tree, wading in the water at the beach pictures.

Well, as you can imagine, if you know me at all, I LOVE the idea and the pictures were fantastic! Very sexy and artistic – and what woman doesn’t want to be photographed as sexy and artist? I have mentioned it a few times to a few people and I have been surprised. The response is about 50/50. While some feel the way I do, I was surprised at the number of people who just thought it was a bad idea. It seems that some still hold on to the idea that their daughter will want to, in twenty, thirty years, unshrink wrap the dress and wear it in their own wedding. While I guess that is a possibility, it seems uncommon. Most brides insist on a new dress that they pick out.

I dunno – I thought the whole dress trashing bit was a phenom of an idea. Of course, I must admit, I have never actually owned or had on a wedding dress. But, I can’t help but think that the dress in the leaves did that girl a whole lot better than the shrink wrap.

But, I guess I could be wrong…

My Beautiful Chaos

Chaos often breeds life, when order breeds habit.
Henry AdamsThe Education of Henry Adams

I have been asked about my tagline “Beautiful Chaos.”  Where it comes from and what it means.  It was born during a conversation with a girlfriend and is the perfect definition of my wonderful life. And I love explaining it and refuse to apologize for it.

I look down at my daily planner, cross check it with the one on my desk, then make sure I haven’t missed something on my Outlook. First thing that crosses my mind as the coffee touches my lips – “yeah, right.”

Some may think it is a defeatist attitude to start the day knowing that 10% of your “to do list” will still be left to do tomorrow. Not me. I am a busy woman with lots of priorities. I will get to them all – eventually. I will leave the “performance guilt” for somebody else.

My Fairy Godmother

I absolutely love getting dressed up and going out. However, as you can imagine, with four kids, it happens very rarely (read “never”). There is that time when the stars are aligned and the moon is producing the right gravitational pull, this opportunity presents itself.

It was to be an awards banquet on the beach. I wasn’t getting any awards, but who cares! I was getting an incredible dress (no more maternity clothes!), great shoes, and an appointment at the nail salon.

Get ready. Well, almost ready. Mark’s dressed, my hair and makeup are done. As an experienced Mommy, I know to wait and get dressed at Mom’s house. She’s watching the kids and I am sure I will get some kind of kid goo on me in the process of getting over there.

Ok, honey. Zip me up. Damn! Is that the zipper in your hand? Yep. What do you do about that? You don’t go. My heart breaks. My wonderful husband works on that zipper for 20 minutes. We were already running late and I am incredibly disappointed. He is really sorry. It’s not his fault. These things happen. Doesn’t change it. I go in the pool room with Mom and Dad to fix a drink and sulk.

I hear my Dad say, “If she wants to go, then she’s going.” He gets up and leaves the room. Mom and I look at each other. “He’s going to fix that dress. I hope you’re ready,” she says.

Dad can fix anything, but I am not getting excited. We are already late and my heart has already been broken once.

Half hour later, Dad comes out with the dress. He pulled stitches, reran the zipper, and stitched it back up! My dress was fixed. “Go get ready,” he tells me. Mom zips me up this time as Mark doesn’t want to tempt fate.

There I am, ready to go. Amazing! I walk out of the room and there is my Dad, beaming. Mark and I gather our stuff and walk out the front door.

Ready to hear about the great time I had? On the front porch, I stop my beloved and tell him I don’t want to go. He is obviously confused. I explain that my men had rallied around me and my crushed expectations; Mark, with his warmth and compassion, and my Dad, with his determination and a sewing kit. There was nothing more I wanted to do than stay here, in this house, and be with them.

Those who know, know that I put my husband first in all things, but I am still a Daddy’s girl. What an awesome Daddy he is. I wonder if he knows how special he makes me feel. He should – I must have told him a thousand times that night, and that was only half the times I thought it.

Go the Distance

If you stop this fight
I’ll kill you.”
Rocky Balboa

I am a huge Rocky fan – even Rocky V. I love his optimism, sincerity towards his fellow man, and his never-say-quit attitude. Even when he is beaten, he is not broken and he is not a loser. He doesn’t come from affluence, he is not educated, he doesn’t even have a plan. But he believes in himself when no one else does and in others when they don’t believe in themselves. Rocky gets his shot against the heavy weight champion of the world. They beat each other mercilessly. Even Mickey wants him to quit. Rocky then becomes the first man to go the distance with Apollo Creed. He doesn’t win the fight, but at this point,  who cares?

How do you define success? More importantly, what are you willing to do to get there? If the opportunity is not there, that’s just a fact of life. But, if the opportunity is thrown away because it becomes too hard  or we get lazy, then it is a waste. Commit to the fight. If it wasn’t worth it, you would have never stepped in the ring. You owe it to yourself to go the distance.

Imagination Sparks Creativity

“. . . you can’t depend on your eyes
when your imagination is out of focus.”

– Mark Twain,
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

Spring is here!  Aside from the pollen, it is a wonderful time of year.  The window at my desk finds more children playing now that the weather is nicer.  Work is slowed by the distraction, but the added inspiration is worth the wait.

A child’s energy can often spark the imagination.  They force us out of our “adult brain” box.  Trees become castles, bikes are fast horses, and bushes become the jungle of peril.  The art of make believe creates a wealth of ideas and problem solvers.

These are two of the things most of us would say we need more of in business and in life.  Many times we are paralyzed by that project that won’t wrap up or that issue that has no resolution.  Frustration makes it worse.  Productivity and success suffer.

Take a minute to enjoy the spring.  Watch the kids play, the flowers bloom and the sun shine.  Exercise your imagination and watch your accomplishments soar!

Azaleas

There is magic associated with springtime in the south. It is called Azalea. These beautiful flowers dot the bush unassumingly. They behave like beautiful young girls who pretend to be coy. They have perfected the art of modesty while all the while being completely aware of the spectacle they create.

In hours just before the sun begins its journey to regain its throne, powerful in the Southern sky, the azaleas sleep. The crickets sing the lullaby and the mosquitoes have not yet been forced to hide from the heat of the day. The dew begins to collect lightly on the leaves. A gentle cleansing for the fair maidens by the attending servants. As the sun warms the ground, the blooms begin to do their dance. They pretend to be shy. It looks as if they never want to open, self conscious of what they will look like when exposed. But it is the game that the sun and the Azaleas often play.

They are like teenagers who have just discovered the opposite sex and have begun their flirtation with desire. The flowers pretend to protest and the sun pretends to be convinced. So the courting continues. Eventually, and with great deliberation, the blooms open and the squares downtown burst forth with color. The variety of the sight proves that the rainbow is not the only spectacular natural creation.

They sit there, gliding in the wind, proud of themselves. They know what sparks they provide. They are the backdrop for the historical tour. They are the vision out the window at work that reminds of a simpler time.  They are the special something that makes the picnic with your lover special. They are the reason you chose to say your vows and kiss the bride outdoors.

Azaleas are the roses of the south and they guard their title with fierceness. The blossoms appear to be modest in their brilliance but are boisterous in their display. Do not let the subtleness fool you, for they are cunning. They are jealous little beauties and will not settle for anything other than center stage. Without regret or remorse – and with complete intention – they will steal your heart. If you encounter them on vacation, they will be the first thing you mention when you return home. If you have grown up around the flower, they will cast that spell that ensures they are what you miss when away.

They smile and preen. Anxious to be for you whatever you want them to be. The one beautiful thing in your day that makes you smile. Their effort is tireless. And they always try harder if they have been picked by the hands of a child. It is as if the pudginess in the young fingers provides a second life for the flower off the bush. They find the ability to make the color brighter, the smell sweeter and the enchantment deeper.

You would think that the flower would be devastated. Plucked from the root of life and thus condemned to wilt and die prematurely. One would think that such a proud flower would balk at the displacement. That it would be in revolt in spite of itself and wither to dust immediately rather than endure a slower, less graceful death. But the azaleas glow and rise to an occasion that they have waited for since the beginning of the blossom. Like an adolescent girl that has just been chosen for her first dance. They know they will soon be in the place that makes all their efforts worth while. They have begun the portion of the journey that takes them to that coveted spot. The spot of adoration and appreciation that only a child can provide.

The fat fingers hold tight to the stem and pull and tug till the blossom gives way. The child squeals with delight and places the flower delicately to his nose to feel the tickle of the soft petals. The smell is sweet and the child will not realize for quite some years that this smell has infected him for the rest of his life. The child’s only concern right now is the destination. With an energy reserved only for children, he dashes towards the house as fast as his small legs will carry him.

“Momma, Momma, Momma!” he shouts as he throws open the screen door with one hand and an outstretched flower in the other. The azalea knows the moment of glory is near. Momma looks down and sees the gift. The child’s wide eyes look up, searching with anticipation for what he is sure will happen next. Momma smiles with her whole face, gently accepts the token and kisses the child on his round, sweaty face. The child’s mission is successfully completed. With one movement and full of satisfaction, he is off again to resume his exploration of the southern outdoors. Momma turns around and places the azalea in that spot. The one spot that all flowers long to find. The place of unconditional love, admiration, and devotion. That stained glass vase in his Momma’s kitchen window.