Conquering Mountains on Fire Bikes Without Stabilizers

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Today, friends, we climbed a mountain. Well, not literally. But I am so proud of our little family for what we accomplished today.

It started as a balmy, quiet morning. We ate breakfast, started running laundry, and we began to talk about the day. Then Scott announced that he wanted to go to Dunham’s Sports Store. My ears perked up. I had been (not so subtly) suggesting that we get a new bike for Noah since April.

Now as you’ll recall, Noah has been crazed over wanting a dragon for weeks. I told him then that maybe we could get him a new bike without training wheels because it would feel like riding a dragon when he would “fly” across the driveway and down the road. He was very adamant that he did NOT want a new bike. The bike he had been using was our next door neighbors’ son’s. He outgrew it years ago and they very kindly gave it to us. Noah loves this bike. He has skidded over the driveway to the point that both tires are bald and are about to pop. And now his knees are over the handle bars when he peddles.

“I’m thinking maybe we can go to Dunham’s today.” Scott said looking at me but talking to Noah who was eating a bowl of cereal at the kitchen counter.

“What’s Dunham’s, Dad?” Noah asked.

“It’s a sports store. They have all kinds of sports equipment,” Scott said nonchalantly. I stayed silent for fear that Noah would catch onto us.

“Can we go, Mom?” Noah asked obviously not understanding what Scott’s intention was.

“Yeah, you guys can go to Dunham’s,” I said. “I am going to take Gracie to the grocery store later.”

“Yeah! Luke, we are going to Dunham’s!” Noah yelped into the living room. They ran and got dressed.

When Grace and I got home from the grocery store a while later, Scott was in the garage with his baseball hat on backwards, screwing Noah’s brand new bike together. Noah was helping by holding things in place when Scott asked him to and was very proud of himself for being such a good helper.

“Look, Mom! It’s a fire bike.” He pointed to the flames painted on the bars and showed me how the hand breaks worked. “And I got a new helmet,” he beamed shoving it on his head. Luke showed me his new bike and helmet too.

“Wow, guys! You look awesome! I can’t wait to see how fast you can go!”
“But Mom, it doesn’t have stabilizers. I don’t know how this is going to work,” Noah hung his head. I had to fight back a laugh. He has always called training wheels “stabilizers” although I have no idea why.

I bent down to him setting the grocery bags on the ground. “Noah James. I KNOW you can do this. You are ready.” I hugged him. He pushed me away.

“Mom. Don’t hug me, please. I have to think about this.”

“Okay, okay,” I said picking up my bags. “Call me when you think you’re ready,” I added over my shoulder.

I’m not even exaggerating. Twenty minutes later, there was a rapid knocking at the door. I flung it open hoping there wasn’t a skinned knee or elbow. Noah was drenched in sweat. “Mom! Come watch me! I can do it! Without the stabilizers!”

I ran and got the video camera in one hand and hooked Gracie on my other arm and raced out to the driveway where Noah zipped around the driveway like he’d been riding a two-wheeler forever. I pointed the camera at Scott, “Good job, Daddy!” Scott smiled. We reached another milestone today.

Tonight when I was tucking Noah into bed and asking him what song he wanted me to sing to him, he said, “Wait a minute, Mom.” Then he sat up and wrapped his arms around my neck. “Thanks for telling me I could do it,” he whispered in my ear.

“You’re welcome, angel. I am so proud of you. You did a great job today.” I fought a fierce lump in my throat and blinked back tears. Cool moms don’t cry.

“Can I ride my bike again tomorrow?” I nodded.

I know it’s not anything really newsworthy, but in our little world today, we conquered a mountain on a fire bike.

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Worst Gift Ever

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So I am not sure who invented “Morphix Playdoh,” but if I ever meet him or her, I am going to punch him or her square in the face. I have just spent easily twenty-five minutes vacuuming and mopping my floors to get all of the tiny “sand” pieces cleaned up. You thought regular Playdoh was a pain to clean? Just wait until you see this stuff. It is crumbly, doesn’t stick together and just gets EVERYWHERE.
If there is a kid whose parents you can’t stand, buy this set for them for the kid’s next birthday:

Crayola Create 2 Destroy Dino Destruction Play Set, Metropolitan Mayhem

It comes with three tubs of Morphix! Seriously, a terrible gift to really make a mother want to drink at 10:30 on a Wednesday morning. It got great reviews, but I am thinking the people who liked it live in a desert climate where their homes already have a lot of sand. There is no other explanation for it. Or maybe they have maid who cleans everything else in the house for them so this was no big deal. But I have other things to do! Like needing to get my blood pressure back to normal!

Crayola Create 2 Destroy Dino Destruction Play Set, Metropolitan MayheIt comes with three tubs of it! Seriously, a terrible gift to really make a mother want to drink at 10:30 on a Wednesday morning.

Before She was a Mother

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Once upon a time, there was this girl who lived her life almost completely the way she wanted it. She had a responsible job with health benefits. But other than that, her life was on her own terms. She visited friends and went on road trips. She and her friends had grand plans for changing the world someday but not any time soon. They were having fun and there wasn’t any rush. They’d throw back a few drinks at bars on the weekends sort of wondering if they’d meet someone worthy of a serious relationship, but never really caring much if it happened. She spent any extra money on clothes and her social life. She went to at least a dozen concerts a year. She played softball for a work league. In her mind, she was content with life.

The idea of having kids was sort of in her periphery, though not really a priority. That was a million years away and something that happened for other (older and conventional) people. Besides, even if she wanted to have a kid, she had to meet the right guy and her last boyfriend had done a fantastic job of inspiring her to never want be in a serious relationship again and left her wondering if a conventional lifestyle was even something she wanted. Maybe marriage wasn’t her thing. She didn’t know if she was on board with being Ms. Suzy-Homemaker.

When one of her co-workers handed out invitations to parties selling Tupperware, or kitchen gadgets, she politely declined and couldn’t help but think, “You will never catch me going to or hosting one of those things.” When her friends with children talked about their kids, it occurred to her that she wasn’t that much younger than they were. Maybe it would be a good idea to start considering the possibility of finding someone someday…

…Then someday came.

Now here I am with three kids. I am a stay-at-home-mom. I make fancy dinners using my kitchen gadgets from Pampered Chef, present them on lavish platters from Southern Living, and put the leftovers in Tupperware. I have organizational bins from Thirty-one. I am a poster-child for these home parties!

And still it is so hard for me to let go of the person I used to be. I think I may have actually been “cool” or at least fun to hang out with about ten years ago. Scott jokes that I tricked him into marrying me. I used to drink beer and humor him by listening to country music (he forgets that I also teased the crap out of him about his musical tastes). But he even notices a change.

Obviously, this isn’t just an accurate portrayal of my life, but many women who choose to get married and/or have children. We lose a significant piece of who we are, at least for a little while. Sure, many women continue to work and keep that part of themselves, but there are always new things to add to the resume; Head of the PTA, Girl Scout Troop Leader, Birthday Party Planner, Block Party Organizer, etc. We do these things not because we like taking on the extra work or responsibilities or want to further forget who we are, but because we chose this life, so we might as well make the most of it and do something that will mean a lot to the people we do it all for.

Most days if you ask me how I’m doing, I will confidently tell you my life is fulfilled and that motherhood and marriage have enriched my soul and brought purpose I never knew existed before. But I do have off days when I am feeling sorry for myself and days when I cling to my past pretty hard. I will masochistically peruse Ticketmaster or grab a copy of MetroTimes and see that Foster the People is coming to Detroit for a concert on a THURSDAY night and I get so annoyed because the kids have school the next day and I have to be up at 6:00 a.m. to make their breakfast. So then I don’t go and the day comes and goes and no one knows any differently besides me. And that will be a bad day for me. I feel like I work so hard every day doing the same job, don’t I deserve a break?!

When I watch Scott put on his suit and tie for work I suddenly realize it’s been a month since I wore high heels or weeks since I last wore make-up. I wonder when did I start living my life for everyone else? WHEN DID I LOSE MY INDEPENDENCE?

So I fitfully lie in bed and dream of the easy days although in the dream, I am looking for something. And when I wake up, I am trying to understand why I feel a little hollow. And then I piece it together. This all happened because of my independence. This was what I wanted more than my life meeting my expectations every day. I chose to allow myself to fall in love and I chose to get married. I chose to have children thereby allowing the chaos; the possibility of my day not going the way I expected. This life is exactly my doing because of my choices. And then…
I am OK with it all.

I mean, these kids are pretty awesome to be around all day long. Way cooler than seeing Jack White or the Lumineers from the front row of an intimate venue or doing karaoke after softball on a Wednesday night and showing up for work Thursday morning with a splitting headache.  

And I will get to do road trips again, only it will be with my favorite people in the world; my family.

Giving the Snow-Globe a Shake

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This summer has been scary-easy. The kids have been running around the yard from dawn until dusk. I think the temperature has only broken ninety degrees one or two days. It’s been a summer illustrated with chalk drawings on the driveway and glow-sticks floating through twilight as the kids chase each other on the wet grass. Everyone goes to bed later than usual, thinking that we’re cheating time since the sun takes so long to sink below the pines to our west, but then we are yawning our faces off when Noah and Luke thump down the stairs at their usual six-thirty a.m. hissing at us for juice and cartoons. Still, we can slowly wake up with the windows open, listening to the birds, while eating over bowls of cereal or plates of eggs and toast.

We’ve had a handful of barbecues with good friends and family and after we swim for a few hours getting pink and prune-y, we wave our banners of relaxation, hanging our bright blue and red beach towels around the fence to dry in the late-afternoon sun. It’s been all bonfires, bubbles and backyard fireworks, just weeks of simplicity which is exactly why I should have known that change was coming.

It’s always in those times of complacency, when our snow-globes get shaken just a little. Now, this wasn’t anything earth-shattering by any means, but it was enough to put my stomach into knots for the past week.

I won’t go too much into detail because I know that no official announcements have been made but basically, we are pulling our boys from the school they have gone to for the past two years and putting them in a different school on the other side of town.  

It was a decision that was literally painful to mull over. I went to high school at the school we’ve been sending them to. The same principal oversees it. Many of the same teachers are there. I feel like a traitor on some level but when I look at our kids, I feel in my heart we are making a good choice. While I believe the school will provide a quality education, it just isn’t a good fit for us anymore.

Still I am sad. Our entire family has made some great friendships with the students and other parents. We have even found Gracie and little friend who was born twelve days before she was and would probably be in the same class if we’d have stayed at the school. Her mom and I used to wait outside the preschool classroom every day and commiserate over our pregnancies.

Change always sneaks up on us, doesn’t it? I write about that a lot. I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised. C.S. Lewis put it so well when he said, “Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different…” I find myself thinking of that quote a lot lately.

I am so wary of change. I did read recently that one difference between positive people and negative people is that optimistic thinkers usually embrace change. They see new opportunities, not obstacles. And it’s true! Change can be great. For instance, when I try a new route during a run and find a really beautiful stretch of dirt road I haven’t been down before, it becomes a good motivator to get me out running more. When I decided to stop eating meat, I was nervous at first, but now I am really happy about it. It’s been almost three years since I had a piece of chicken or a hamburger.

And I really believe this is another one of those times when change is going to be a good thing. So, I am going to really embrace everything this decision is leading us to. This is also an opportunity to be a true friend by doing my best to keep the good friendships we’ve made.

Side note:

Speaking of good change, Scott surprised me a few minutes ago by taking me out to the garage and there in between our cars was a…

 RUNNING STROLLER!!!!

I am so excited to start using it! I have been wanting one forever! Grace is going to love it! I can’t wait to take her for a spin tomorrow!! My whole world feels like it is bursting with opportunity!! How am I going to sleep tonight?!! SO MANY EXCLAMATION MARKS!!!!!!!

Boiling Point

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We just concluded a play date with a friend from Noah’s and Luke’s preschool class this morning. Gabe is a sweet little guy whose energy level matches that of my own children so they get along like three amigos. They were all sweating and running around the yard, building Lego towers, chowing down on chicken nuggets and having a riot. And it’s awesome because Noah and Gabe will both be in kindergarten at the same school this fall. I am crossing my fingers that they’ll be in the same classroom as well.

Gabe and his family were just blessed with their second child, Oliver earlier this year and as most second-born children are, he was a little angel. I kept forgetting he was even here. It’s probably because of Jeanne, Gabe and Oliver’s mom. She is one of those people whose spirit I wish I could embody all the time. I’ve never heard her say a mean word about anyone. She appears so calm and easy-going. Even when she was walking around the back yard with Oliver in his baby carrier, she just looked relaxed (meanwhile, I sweated and reprimanded Noah for being sassy to Luke). Which is why I found it to be such a relief when she said she struggles with patience at times and she worries about many of the same things I do. Although I didn’t see her once raise her voice because Gabe was behaving so well, I have no doubt that Jeanne has trying moments just like I do.

Earlier this year, I wrote that my New Year’s resolution was to make my home a loving haven for my kids. It kind of makes me laugh some days because I catch myself needing a time out myself when I hit that overwhelming feeling of discouragement. I’m not even angry with just the kids. I am angry at myself for not being better at this. I read so many articles on “Working with a Strong-willed Child,” or “How to Empower Your Child,” etc. They make it seem so easy! I even think, “Yeah, I can do that!” But something else just happens in the heat of the moment…

I secretly love it when I hear a parent flip out on their kids at a store. Not in a physically or verbally abusive manner (well, not too verbal anyway), but it brings me an inappropriate level of satisfaction when I hear a mom or dad yell from the next aisle over, “What is wrong with you?” or “Just wait until we get home!” or “NO! NO SPECIAL TREAT!” or “Do not even think about touching your sister again! Don’t even look at her!” My personal favorite is a stress-induced stutter which I frequently suffer when I am at a total loss for coherence or a smart remark which doesn’t involve swearing to halt the bad behavior. It’s like all those good-parenting tips, constructive disciplinary tactics and extensive research about the damaging effects of saying, “no” to your kids go right out the window when you’ve reached that point of no return.

On some level, it’s music to my ears. It’s like verses of the Frustrated Parents’ Anthem when I hear someone else freaking out on their kids. We all get to that point. I’m going to just call you out and say you’re a liar if you tell me you don’t. I think of parenthood as a common denominator in many ways with the rest of society, or at least the people with children. Maybe we don’t all parent the same way, but I am willing to put money on the fact that we all go through the same emotions triggered by mischievous behavior or having to repeat ourselves ten times. We’ve all been there no matter how well-behaved our kids are.

My cousin’s wife and I were talking this morning and as we were talking, she discovered her two-year-old daughter had taken a lime green marker and a permanent marker and drawn all over the walls and a heat register on the floor. I could feel her frustration and anger through the phone. Because I have also had this happen or something very similar. So her stifled expletives were just a refreshing validation to me that yes, even this wonderful mom with adorable, well-mannered children feels like this now and again.

You’re not a bad mom or dad if you yell at your kids or if you don’t give choices when discipling. And you’re not a bad parent if you don’t yell or do give choices. You’re still ok in my book even if you spank your kids on occasion. I have spanked my kids before when they have done something potentially harmful or life-threatening to themselves or someone else. It’s not beating. To me, it’s a quick effective way to get your child’s attention and to let them know that their action was a poor choice. We also talk about it afterward. I let them know I still love them and I explain why they were punished. I don’t think you’re a bad parent if you don’t spank your kids either. I know a mom who has her kids do wall-sits while they think about what they’ve done. It’s all about what works for you.

The only time I think you can fail as a parent is when you stop trying to be one; when you walk away and quit. And I haven’t met anyone like that. Just waking up every day and trying to be a mom or dad and to be present in your children’s lives qualifies you as a good parent. I don’t think we prove anything to anyone by pretending that parenting is a breeze or that we never get frustrated. It doesn’t make me doubt that you love your kids just because you yell at them or complain about them. It makes me feel like I’m not losing my mind. So THANK YOU to all you normal parents, for losing your sh*t now and again. I salute you.

Reality Checks and a Whole Lot of Kleenex

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My dad and I were awake early before school one morning. It was a dark winter day and licks of icy snow kicked up in the back yard against a purple sky. One bright strip of pink was streaked across the horizon where the sun was peeking through.

“Look at that, Steeny,” my dad mumbled tiredly over the rim of his coffee mug. I was also struck by the beauty of it all, but being sixteen and quite angst-filled with a deep resentment towards my over-protective, megalomanic father, I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction and rolled my eyes then walked away.

Fast forward to now. I was crying fat tears into my pillow just moments ago because of how much I love my dad and mom and the life they made possible for me to live. Quite a switch! I guess what brought it on was my mom and I having this frighteningly-real discussion today about the not-so-distant future when she and my dad might consider selling their house, my childhood home, for something more manageable. In my head, I could hear a pin drop even though the kids were running in circles around us. It’s not like we’ve never talked about it before. We have. But she’d said, “You know, maybe in another ten years…who knows?”

TEN YEARS?? I swear to you, I blinked at 22 and suddenly I am 32 with a husband and three kids. Ten years is a heart beat! I could literally hear mine echoing in my ears as we continued the conversation.

“Your dad always says they’ll have to take him out in a pine box,” she laughed but then grew serious. “I don’t want to be a burden to you kids. I want to be independent and not have such a big house left to take care of when we’re not able to anymore.” The rest kind of sounded like Charlie Brown’s mom then and I spaced out a bit.

I was remembering our family picnic when I was a little girl. My dad had brought us out for the afternoon to show us the field which would soon be the place of our new home. We ate fried chicken out of a paper bucket. We flew a kite, I think. Maybe I am making that part up. I was four, but some things just stick with you. Then I remember the spring that we moved in. We had a picnic table as our kitchen table. All of our relatives came over to celebrate and we didn’t even have carpet yet. In fact, all of us kids were out in the garage climbing on top of giant rolls of carpet which had yet to be installed. We had pizza. We ate on paper plates because there were so many cousins and aunts and uncles over to celebrate, we didn’t have enough of the other kind. We picked grape leaves in true Middle-Eastern fashion from a vine nearby our house. This place was the Milford mother-load for stuffed grape leaves! We had found our little slice of happiness because of the vision my parents had.

My dad built that house with his own hands. My mom added the warmth and coziness and together they gave it a heart. They made that field into a house with a big hill in the back which we used to sled down in the winter. We grew a vegetable garden every year and ate our own food from it. We were sick and comforted in those bedrooms right up the stairs. We listened to James Taylor, Paul Simon, Tom Petty- SO MUCH MUSIC- and danced in that family room. My youngest brother Nick was born and raised while we lived in that house. I remember getting ready for my wedding day with my mom and my sister in my parents’ bedroom and walking down the stairs and bursting into tears when I saw my dad at the bottom of that staircase. My brother Kevin and his wife Sara had their wedding reception at that house on a 95 degree day which included a thunderstorm. My babies have run around that yard and know that house as Pops and Lulu’s house. All of these things plus a million other distinct memories flooded me as my mom kept talking and I can’t even say it wasn’t logical. Of course all of it made perfect sense! They are (probably, though impossibly) going to get older. They might not be able to keep up their yard.

So in spite of how devastated I would be if they decide to sell that house, I suppose I could get over losing it. But the thing that is still making me tear up, even as I continue to write all of this, is thinking about a day when my dad or my mom aren’t here on this earth anymore.

There are three infallible truths that are branded into my heart:
1. My mom can make anywhere feel like home. She is gravity. She is what keeps me grounded. If she is gone, I will likely float away.
2. Nothing in this world is impossible for my dad. His determination and passion are unparalleled. I can’t think of anything he has wanted to do in his life which he hasn’t accomplished. I am certain that he will find a way to escape even death.
3. Mom and Dad, Cindy and Jim Rashid, are soul mates. One cannot exist without the other. Their love is such a force and is so absolute that nothing can break it. There has never been a day in my life when I thought my parents would be apart. Their love created heaven and earth for me and my siblings. Besides the memories I am making with my own kids, the happiest days of my life have happened because of them.

I know time marches on and we never know when our clock is done ticking. I hope I can live my life as purposefully and with as much meaning as my parents do. They won’t die because they will live on forever in the hearts of those who know and love them.

And Dad and Mom, I am sorry for being such a dramatic brat during my life. I am sorry for any day I didn’t tell you how much I love you and how wonderful you are. So much of who I am is because of you. Dad, thanks for this stubborn streak and Mom, I will never stop trying to be more like you.

On that note, and also because I’ve wiped out about half a box of Kleenex, I am going to give this a very poor edit and head to bed. I apologize for the many grammatical errors and typos. I really should get an editor, one of these days…

 

Mom and Dad at their Senior Prom. I wonder if they'd have been able to predict the rest of their lives would be spent together.

Mom and Dad at their Senior Prom. I wonder if they’d have been able to predict the rest of their lives would be spent together.

My parents and I together during the last summer I would spend as an only child.

My parents and I together during the last summer I would spend as an only child.

Here we all are in front of the home my parents built together.

Here we all are in front of the home my parents built together.