Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Party of Princesses

I heard from our neighbors how charmed they were by Marissa's birthday party Saturday morning.

Marissa had asked for a princess themed party, so the invitations went out with a request to have the guests arrive wearing a princess or fairy costume. One, then two, then suddenly 7 and then 8 little girls in pink and purple were flitting around our house, and flitting down the street. (Her friend Chitra came a bit later and wasn't in the picture above.)

I loved watching the girls play. They were so sweet together, pulling out toys and imagining worlds filled with princesses, horses and monsters needing to be conquered. My friends who have boys would be shocked at how quiet the party was at times.

They made tiaras from craft foam, stickers and glitter, then my friend Paula and I facepainted. Neither of us had done that before, and you could tell which kids had been painted first as we began to develop some skills as we went along. A lunch of pizza, and then some cake.

A perfect princess party.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Our New Neighbors

Our next door neighbors moved away while we were on vacation. It was strange to come back from vacation and see different people driving in to the driveway, driving cars we weren't familiar with.

If you ever lived in a metropolitan area you understand how close you are to your neighbors. Even if you aren't close as in "friends," you are physically close. Sometimes you need to pretend you don't see them coming and going from their house to give them the perception of privacy. Or you ignore the yells or laughs or whatever noises emerge from open windows. And that requires some courtesy and diplomacy.

Then there's me.

Here's the deal with me: what you see is what you get. And what you get is a messy, disorganized working mom, who sometimes yells at her kids to get them to do what she needs them to do, or lets them scream and cry and have their tantrum. Occasionally that tantrum is outside, because I do not allow screaming in the house.

I don't wear make up when I'm not out, I wear what's comfortable and don't care how it looks, as long as I'm not leaving the house. And that means that you, my neighbors, get to see that questionable taste in style. Don't turn me in to What Not to Wear: I didn't go out, I'm home.

My hair is messy and crazy, and I kind of like it that way. But let me know if I've got spinach between my teeth, thanks.

You don't have to like it, just deal with it.

I hope we get along with the new neighbors.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Happy birthday, Marissa!

Today was Marissa's 6th birthday.

She awoke to her mommy singing "happy birthday" in her ear.

Her day began by ripping into presents from her family.

She spent the day at camp, where her group sang happy birthday to her.

A bouquet of flowers and cards awaited her arrival at home.

We all went out to eat to celebrate, and a small dessert was brought to the table with a candle on it. We all sang happy birthday to her, softly, because she was "too shy."

While in her bed wearing her pajamas, she played with her new toys until she finally fell asleep.

Now THAT is what I call a special birthday.

It must be awesome to be six.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

You Are So Beautiful

I've read a few posts and studies recently about the challenges girls face in our modern, "equal opportunity" nation. The latest debate has been sparked by a recent study by the University of Central Florida which shows that half of girls ages 3 to 6 think they are fat. This is chalked up to the collective impact of a multitude of images of women sizes 0 to 6 which proliferate the media: billboards, TV, internet, you name it, there they are, those skinny, photoshopped women whose beauty is not even possible in the real world.

One parent's response was to praise her child's intelligence and talents, and to not praise her for her looks. Her belief was that if girls, like boys, were praised for their skills then they would value those skills and wouldn't care if they were "pretty" or not.

And while I agree with one on one part, praising girls for their talents, I do not believe in the other, which is not praising them for their beauty.

Because until we can get the photoshopped models off the billboards, off TV and out of our girls' lives, it won't matter what we say to them, they will see what the world values in women. I believe the worst thing a mom can do is comment on the beauty of those images in a jealous or wishful way.

"Did you see the legs on that model? My legs could never be that thin."  "Look at how gorgeous her eyes are."

You may hear me say things like: "Honey, her skin isn't really that perfect, they used a computer to make it seem that way."

So yes, praise them for their intelligence. But also praise them for their beauty. Because it doesn't matter if they are beautiful; if they feel that they are it will give them a confidence they can draw from.

I have always looked in the mirror and seen a pretty girl, because that's what my parents told me they saw. I know my nose is big. My eyes are small. And don't get me started on my complexion. But it doesn't matter. My belief in my beauty (mistaken or not) has helped me be confident in situations when I didn't have much reason to be, when I was trying new things I'd never done before, or in the company of people smarter and more experienced than me.

Here's the best thing moms can do for their daughters: love ourselves in the skin we are in. Our own self-confidence will translate to our daughters. They will do as we do and not as we say. If we spend our days "tsking" over our poochy tummies or sagging chins, our daughters will watch us. They will see the standards we hold ourselves up to and will hold themselves to the same.

Accept ourselves as we are: love the way we look, and our daughters will love themselves.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Michigan Wedding

There are vacations we take for ourselves. And then there are vacations we take for our family.

There is the drive time.
Time for discovery.

And time for relaxing.

Time to visit with those who knew us before we knew ourselves.
And the reason for the trip.

And perhaps, if we're lucky, a little time for ourselves.
We are thankful for the laughter, for the time spent with loved ones we don't get to see often enough and for the happy reason that brought us all together. And after a long drive home, we are thankful for our own beds and for the photos to help us keep the memories.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Long Road Ahead

This is a photo of my dear friend Anita, as taken by her eldest daughter. Anita was hit by a car while riding her bicycle on July 3rd. She sustained a severe brain injury and had to have emergency brain surgery to save her life. She then spent several days in a medically induced coma. She is still in the hospital today.

She is on my mind constantly. She is one of the first people I think of when I wake up in the morning and before I go to bed at night. If I'm enjoying a beautiful sunrise while skating in the morning, I think of her and know how much she would appreciate the view.

If you knew her, you would know what an amazing person she is. She has a powerful calm about her, if those two adjectives can go together. Her patience with her three young girls abounds; joy surrounds her. Her generosity is legendary and is coming back to her ten-fold during this time, with friends coming out of the woodwork to watch her kids, feed her family, relieve her husband of bedside duty or mow their lawn.

She is slowly, slowly recovering, but has a long road ahead. Her family was thrilled when she finally squeezed her sister's hand on command. She will have to re-learn how to speak. How to walk. And she may never recover some skills, though we are all hoping that she will regain her ability to do henna art, her passion in life.

One of the many bedside watchers wrote this update in her Caring Bridge site a few days ago:

Must share a quick update. At 6:00 this am, the neurosurgery team came bursting into the room and turned the lights on. One particular doctor was talking to Anita in a very VERY loud voice. He was trying to get her to follow commands. She doesn't make a whole lot of facial expression, but I think she might have been glaring. She pointed at the light and we turned it down a little and then she shushed the doctor with her finger. I quietly mentioned that her hearing was ok. He lowered his voice and she proceeded to follow all of his commands. It was pretty awesome.

Really, neurosurgeons should know better than to startle a person with a brain injury. They had given the family lots of instructions on keeping her calm, on not getting her excited. And then they rudely burst into the room, switch on the light and start barking commands. Leave it to Anita to set them straight.

What is obvious is that she has not lost her fighting spirit, and that is what is making her come back to her family, day by day.

Update: Anita is a founding member of a nonprofit group in Milwaukee called "Extreme Moms." From now until the foreseeable future, any donations made to Extreme Moms will go directly to Anita and her family to help her pay medical bills and other expenses. They really need your help. If you can, please donate to Thank you!

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Our Littlest Neighbor

Someone left me some treats, I wonder which one I should try first?

This looks like a good one.

I've never encountered a nut like this!


Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Two Points of View: 4th of July Parade

Monday morning the girls and I took in the Edina 4th of July parade while Wayne ran the Red White & Boom half-marathon. I spent half the parade watching my girls watch the parade, which was, of course, just about as entertaining. I thought I would try to re-enact here in an abbreviated way the points of the parade that we commented on, at least in our heads if not aloud.

Kids: Mom, is that an old-fashioned car? Did they have those around when you were a little girl? Did you have to out-run dinosaurs in it?

Me: Wow, class of 1951 is having their 60th reunion. That's amazing. I hope I make it to my 60th reunion.

Kids: Look at the horsies! They have gold glitter on their toenails. How do they put that on?

Me: Please don't poop in front of us, please don't poop in front of us...(more on this later)

Kids: That gun is scary! Are they going to shoot us?

Me: Look at that veteran in uniform waving at us. I am so thankful that men and women like him have served our country. [clap clap clap wave wave wave]

Kids: Look at the super heroes! Wow, are they going to use their super powers on us? What can they do? Maybe the girl in green can kick people with her boots.

Me: I'm glad that supergirl doesn't have a muffin top this year like the one did last year. That was awkward to explain.

Kids: Laura Ingalls Wilder! Laura Ingalls Wilder!

Me: Laura Ingalls Wilder! Laura Ingalls Wilder!

Back to the horse:

Near the end of the parade the mounted police went by and a few of the horses decided that the spot right in front of us was the place to poop. They went a few more feet and then one decided it had to piss like a racehorse. And now I know where that saying comes from: that's a lotta pee. So much so that it gained momentum and started heading toward the curb on the other side of the street. Spectators sitting on the curb with their feet in the street leaped up and had to find new places to sit.

One older gentleman was sitting in a wooden chair on the street and was looking the opposite direction as the ominous river made its way toward his feet. Finally a kid next to him warned him and he managed to get himself and his chair out of the way just before the river reached him.

The best part was the rider's reaction: As his horse was relieving himself he shook his head resignedly and appeared to take some good-natured ribbing from his cohorts.

I am 90% sure that that's the most memorable part of the parade for my kids.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Fitting It All In

Some of my family members who have come to visit us are amazed at how much our family does. To those who aren't accustomed to the pace, it is exhausting. But here's my deal:

My girls are only their current age for 365 days. I will be working for approximately 234 of those days, which leaves 131 days a year to spend time with them. During that 131 days I have to fit in chores, time with friends, with family, and sleep. Come summer time, when the days are long and the weather beautiful, I want to squeeze as much in as I can.

So yes, I am up early in the morning on days I could sleep in, getting in a few miles on inline skates, putting a load of laundry in or catching up on dishes. I'll spend my evenings doing something similar to what I'm doing now -- writing, uploading photos, reading or watching TV. And I'll spend my days squeezing every moment in that I can with my family.

I'll sleep come winter. Or our girls' high school years. But I am going to catch every smile, every hug, every joyous moment I can while they want to be with their mom. Because some day sooner than I would like, they will be calling their friends and making arrangements to go out Friday nights, catch a movie, go on a (gulp) double date, or other things. It won't be cool to be with mom and dad.

I got a small glimpse of this on Saturday as we planned to go on a biking outing to Hopkins, to eat lunch at Pizza Luce and bike back. We were getting the bikes out, pumping up tires and finding helmets that hadn't been used since the prior year. Lindsey pulled out her helmet and tried to put it on. She eventually got it on, but it clearly was a tight fit and she has pretty much outgrown it.

Her helmet was embarrassing, she said, since it had Disney princesses on it. I said, "What?! Aren't you my little princess? Don't tell me you've outgrown princesses already!" and I hugged her, thinking that we went to DisneyWorld not even 12 months ago.

She pushed me away and said, "Mommmm!" and looked around, in case one of her friends saw her. "I am too old for princesses." And then she adds, "I'm growing up, you know."

I know, honey, all too well.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Urban Lake Getaway

My girls and I were introduced to Bryant Lake Park in Eden Prairie. It's all of a 15-minute drive from our house. And like a lot of places around the Twin Cities that I've never heard of, it's a gem.

A beautiful beach with huge beach umbrellas ready for people to park themselves under, clear, sandy-bottomed water, great amenities and a playground nearby. What more could a family want?

Since it's run by the Three Rivers Park District it's not impacted by the Minnesota state shutdown, so the girls and I spent the morning there with friends.

They swam.

They built sand castles.

And moats.
They topped it off with an ice cream treat from the concession stand.
It's Fourth of July weekend, amazing weather and it wasn't incredibly packed. What a find.

Thanks to my friend, Jennifer, for showing us this great place. Want to know anything about the Twin Cities, historical factoids, hidden surprises, or the I-would've-never-thought-of-that outing that your kids will find entertaining, just talk to Jennifer, she knows it all.