Frontline Mom

Mother’s Day is Everyday

Happy Mother’s Day!

Today we celebrate being a Mom. It is a very special day…breakfast in bed for some, brunch out for others..presents, guests, special outings and the like.

I was delighted with the special crafts and plants my little kids made and grew for me at their school. Today, they woke me up with a special card and their smiles were enough to make my heart melt. All week my daughter and my son kept reminding me of my special day…obvious that they both were looking forward to it as much as I was.

The last two weeks have presented a serious challenge for my own Mom, who lives in another state. With short notice, I found out that she has cancer and while I’m not going to write about the details here, her condition was a shock to us all. She is a fighter, and I’m glad I spent time with her over the past few weeks. I will continue to visit her often as she will continue to get the care she needs and as her only daughter I want to make sure I’m there to help as much as I can. Forty something years ago I was making crafts for my Mom on Mother’s Day, now I’m ready to make breakfast, serve up pain medication, clean house or do whatever it takes!

What is going on with my own Mom does not take away from the smiles and laughs I plan to have and am having with my own kids today. I’ll call my Mother-in-Law who lives overseas and enjoy some great conversation and laughs with her too. However, what has happened in the last two weeks reminds me – of what I always knew but sometimes forget – Mother’s Day is not just a once a year occurrence – it really is a philosophy of life.

Today – and everyday – I plan to celebrate being a Mom, celebrate the Moms in my life and of course celebrate my own Mom. Life has a funny way of teaching us that a special day can’t just be a once and done yearly occurrence.

All that said, enjoy the day! My special homemade brunch just arrived…I’m ready to do just that.

The Toys of Childhood

My kids have been enjoying all the great gifts they got from their relatives and from Santa. Enjoying with them all the last Christmas loot to arrive in the house got me thinking about all those fun holiday gifts I remember I was lucky enough to get as a kid,

Legos, Lincoln Logs, TinkerToys and simple wooden blocks made for countless hours of city and building building outside my apartment building with my neighborhood friends. I also loved the the Little People, particularly the School, the Castle and the Garage. By the time the city with all its Little People was through it looped around a big bush, down the stairs and around the corner. Talk about imagination gone wild.

My first Atari set, while certain to be continued a prehistoric instrument by five year old, was the absolute best. Asteroids, Space Invaders, Pac Mac and Donkey Kong let to countless hours of fun and an occasional fight with my brother who often wanted to play his favorite games first.

The arrival of my Big Wheels finally made me one of the cool kids on the block. I loved braking it as it raced down the hill near my Grandma’s home. WIth the right level of braking at the right time, it made an amazing turn that was the envy of my neighbors (not that I always made the turn…)

I don’t think anyone forgets their first tricycle or bicycle. Even President Obama has released a now-famous picture of him riding one as a child. My favorite bicycle was by far my yellow, banana seat bike although my red Ten Speed I got at age 12 was also a top memory. Lots of toys are fun but as kids, what we often play with the most is what stays in our minds whether its the dollhouse, the skateboard, the very first baseball mitt, or maybe the swing set.

Playing board games with my kids has given me a great excuse to buy the games I loved as a kid – Hungry Hungry Hippos, Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, many make the list. I’m looking forward to Battleship, Trivial Pursuit, Monopoly and Clue when they get a little older.

Growing up, I suppose that to this list of toy treasures, my first Valentine’s heart candy should be added; the first time I received flowers from a special someone, and the first time I bought myself my own album (Billy Joel’s Glasshouses)with my own spending money.

What toys or games do you remember most from childhood? What makes them special?

Cabin Fever

I can’t complain about the winter this year. It has been particularly warm, March-like most of the season. Except today, after a light snow dusting yesterday, the cold hit. So much for my 4 mile run outside – 13 degrees is too cold for me to run outside. The last time I ran outside in this kind of weather my lungs froze…looks like it will be the treadmill today.

Living in the Midwest means getting used to inevitable snowstorms and regularly getting somewhat stranded in your home on account of bleak weather panoramas. In Chicagoland, its more the cold and wind that stops – less the snow. In Michigan, with their lake effect snow, its a whole other story.

So what’s a family to do when taking a drive, or even a walk, is out of the question? The only answer is to bring the outside indoors. Games become a key appeal – board games, video games and any made-up game that my five year old invents with her princesses, legos, blocks or other toy. We often build forts with pillows, create picnics in the living room for my children’s stuffed animals and make crafts with snowflakes and other wintery-themes.

These unexpected “holidays,” when everyone is at home with no plans for going out (understandably), is often a good time to call the relatives on Skype. Another fun activity is baking cookies like I did with my my Mom and brother when we were snowbound as kids. Something about snow seems to bring the family together.

Its also a fun time to curl up with the cats and read a book but quite frankly with two kids under five this doesn’t really happen too much.

Now, giving the kitchen an extra scrub or getting an early start on the week’s laundry duties are also options for being productive while stuck indoors, but why not use the time to do something that’s not a chore? Somehow when its a snow day outside the last thing I want to do is create a work day inside.

One friend gave me an idea to make a home movie about the experience of living through the storm. Most people don’t think of recording their homes’ interiors because they can come to seem extravagantly ordinary, but one’s ordinary experiences are usually what future generations find most thrilling to learn about. So why not also make a time capsule or a scrapbook? It’ll be interesting for the kids to consciously think about what they would like to say to family members or to themselves in the future. And it might just make for some fun viewing doing a snowstorm a few years from now.

What’s your favorite thing to do when “homebound” because of weather?

Giving Thanks…after Thanksgiving

Tried as I might I did not get a post up at Thanksgiving time talking about how much I am grateful for and how I’m working to ensure my kids are grateful for their blessings too. Good news is that at this start of the New Year, I could transform my blog draft into a post about being grateful all year long – not just focusing on the big Thanksgiving day. That makes more sense anyway – gratefulness should be yearlong state of mind.

There are so many things in my life that make me grateful but one is spending the holiday season together with family and friends. My family has made the most of this holiday season – Thanksgiving, Christmas and now the New Year. We’ve had our family time, movie nights out, game nights in, shopping sprees, cold walks around the local lake to see the geese and visits to family and friends. At each key holiday I do my best to explain what the spirit of the holiday is about. My kids are still very young, but I know by teaching them small lessons and traditions early my children will be more likely to appreciate the holidays as they grow.

Thanksgiving is a very special American holiday. For one thing, it’s secular and anyone, whether Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, or Jewish, can join in the feast. Many people like to comment about how Thanksgiving is the introductory holiday for new immigrants. These folks certainly have a point, but I’d like to extend it just a little: The attributes that make Thanksgiving appealing to new immigrants are the same ones that make it understandable to children. Expounding on the reasons to give thanks for having a family and a community is an idea that inherently makes sense – to the young and the old – to the new arrival or the long time resident alike.

This Thanksgiving, I talked to my kids about how the Thanksgiving break gave us time to spend together, tell one another how much we love and appreciate each other, and to celebrate this beautiful phenomenon with an equally winsome dinner. Whether it’s called l’Action de grâce or Día del Pavo, it’s a day of celebration with an incredibly resonant and inclusive message, no matter your age. Don’t get me wrong, I love the trapping and trimmings of the holiday season too – from the turkey and stuffing, to the Black Friday deals and the lights on the tree, but in the end I just enjoy being with family and friends, all grateful for being together.

Discovering Bike Trails With the Kids

We moved into our new home last November, so this summer was full of discoveries. Besides being introduced to many new places to eat or visit during date night, I discovered some great bike trails near our house. Just minutes away from our new home we found the trails of the Cook County Forest Preserve and they’re amazing. Along these local nature paths my family found terrific views, lovely single-track bridges to heighten our journey’s sense of adventure, and many little parks equipped with swing sets. These last were perfect for comfortable stopovers along the way.

With so much nature in easy reach, my family decided to invest in a trailer and in an attachable bike, just in case my oldest daughter, who’s four, thought the trailer wasn’t spacious enough. When we go out bicycling, we don’t ever really get very far, but my kids love the adventure, and I do too. Once the bike trailer has been properly deployed, my kids sometimes like to crowd in together in its tight quarters, but other times my daughter ventures onto the attachable bike. Regardless of the way they chose to travel, they have a great time on bike trips.

When you first start out biking with kids, all the gear can seem a little overwhelming. As both you and the children get the hang of getting on the bike and getting off it, the trips will become more comfortable. Something that’s crucial is explaining safety points to your kids. Convincing them of the importance of a helmet can take persistence, but don’t give up or put off the trip for another time. Getting your kids biking at an early age can get them passionate about it for life.

How do you enjoy biking with your children?

The End of Summer, Bummer!

It seems it was only a few weeks ago that I was feeling a bit short on summer clothes, but it’s already time to think about my long sleeves again! Labor Day, the symbolic end to the summer, has come and gone. Every year, saying sayonara to the warm weather makes me wistful because I live in the Midwest, where it gets super cold as early as October. It’s inevitable for such climatic conditions to demand that our outdoor pools close early, as most already have. However, this year we’re feeling a little extra special by association (and big time lucky!) because our neighbor invested in a heater for her pool. Everybody’s hoping this will be just the thing to prolong our summertime fun. In the meantime, the weather is still nice enough for regular strolls through the park and for games on the lawn.

Like so many other families enjoying days that remain before the cold sets in, we’ve been asking ourselves, individually and as a whole, if we’ve done everything we hoped to have done during the summer. It’s a fact that we ran out of time to go camping. We were sorry about that, but feel that for the most part we enjoyed this summer to its fullest. Thinking back, it was jam-packed with family activities. Some of the highlights included a movie night in the park, the Fourth of July parade, blueberry picking, multiple zoo visits, and several fun pool parties. In addition to hosting and preparing a number of BBQs at our own home, we also participated in a huge Block Party, where neighbors of all ages gathered. We shared dishes, bounced on the inflatable moon bounces, played Tug-o-War, amongst many other fun activities. In late September we we also enjoyed a visit from Grandma, which I blogged about in an earlier post.

I’m sure the fall and winter will provide their own rounds of fun and togetherness but nothing beats summer bonding.

Now that Labor Day has come and gone how were you able to make the most of your summer?

Three generations of summer fun

This week my Mother is visiting our family from New York. She was supposed to come in the winter months, but the trip got cancelled due to inclement weather. Now she is here and we are enjoying the fun of summer showing my Mom the enjoyment of summer in our new town of residence, a smaller town in the suburbs of Chicago.

We have enjoyed the zoo, family day at the Race Track. the local swimming pool, pony rides, the Block Party, the Food Festival in the quaint downtown and so many other things. We have strolled the neighborhood, taken bike rides, walked aorund the local lake, indulged in one too many ice creams and checked out favorite books and movies at the library.

The time has been a great chance for my Mom to bond a bit more with her two Grandchildren, ages 4 and 17 months, who she doesn’t see her typically more than 3 times a year. The kids have loved extra Grandma time and the great stories and treats she brings. What I have most enjoyed is remembering my summer fun as a child, now through the shoes of my own children and the stories of my Mother. Together, my Mom and I are remembering summer trips we took the zoo, park or swimming pool when I was a kid, laughing at the fun my brother and I had running at the park, just like my own kids now are enjoying. I am also discovering books that my Mom read to me or fun games we used play, again through my Mom’s stories.

Summer is fun for many reasons but summer fun shared across the generations is even better.

What are you doing to have fun across the generations this summer?

Why Didn’t My Daughter Just Ask Me in High School?

My four year is every day more intrigued by what is going on in the world. Her questions are cute, frequent and at times – simply just stumping. Many of her questions would have been easy to answer when I was in high school but now answers to questions about Earth Science, Biology and Geography don’t always come easy to me anymore. It is almost as if my brain has been flooded by new information from my job, from my daily hussle as a Mom, and for a ton of other factoids that capture my attention every day.

Here are a few of her recent questions (wonder if you all know the answer and it is just me that was a bit stumped):

Why can you hear thunder and see lightning only sometimes when it rains?

How exactly do the wisps of “cotton” (pollen) that blow in the air create new plants?

Why do certain planets not have oxygen? And what is oxygen anyway?

Why is a computer virus called a virus anyway? Is the computer sick?

As I tried to answer the above questions, I found myself stumbling through the explanation. I tried the famous “great question I don’t really remember” a few times but my daughter would not take no for an answer. In other cases what I thought was a solid answer triggered more inquisition.

Now I know why Old Wives Tales did so well – sometimes it is just easy to fudge an answer than to admit you don’t know. But who wants to be the parent to tell your child something now only to have her find out in school the answer was complete rubbish!

I’m just grateful for mobile phones and Wikipedia and Google. With a little searching and a little spin – I can usually get to an answer good enough for “Little Miss Why, Why, Why.”

What question stumped you today?

A Mother’s Grief

On Friday, after a long week of work and happiness of having accomplished a ton, I received a Gmail that the Shedd Aquarium’s beloved newborn dolphin had passed. The Shedd is one of my most favorite places on Earth and days before I has shared the birth of Tique’s offspring on my mobile phone with my own daughter, age four. We saw the video of how Tique, who had lost a previous baby dolphin, gave birth and instinctively brought the calf to the surface to breathe. What a beautiful, life-giving moment. And one proud dolphin Mom.

Upon further inquiry, I was very saddened to learn how that in the past years the only four offspring of Pacific Northwest Dolphins at the Shedd did not survive (due to either being stillborn or failing to thrive due to difficulty with nursing).

I’m not sure what is the root cause of this most recent tragic loss (unfortunately the calf failed to nurse effectively) but I do know one thing for sure, I can empathize with one Mother’s agony. Some may minimize this by saying Tique is just an animal but I will simply say, “sorry Tique – I feel your pain.”

And I will also say: please know that Shedd fans, and many Moms (and Dads) everywhere are routing for you. We saw in that first video a Mother’s love and that’s what matters. My kids and I are coming back to visit you soon – but in the mean time I’m going to curl up, be proud and appreciate my children as I know you have appreciated (and been proud) of yours.

The Top Three Principles of a Front Line Mom

As I’ve mentioned before in previous blog posts, I’m a busy woman. I’m a wife, a mother of two young children, and an active marketing professional. With so many things on my plate, it can seem impossible to maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle without going nuts at the end of the day. And I know I’m not the only one. Whether by choice or necessity, millions of moms work outside the home and handle this demanding juggling act.

This is why I’ve created the Top Three Principles of a Front Line Mom; they’re for the woman who’s chosen family and career, because, why not have it all? Whenever I’m feeling tired, overwhelmed, stressed, or just plain uninspired, I read these principles and get back to work.

Take care of yourself, first We are all familiar with the rule on an airplane during an emergency which says to place the oxygen mask over your own mouth and nose before assisting children or adults. The same principle applies in life. It is very important to take care of your own health before you can expect to have the energy to help others. This means being responsible for your own physical, emotional and spiritual needs. So take that warm bath, watch your favorite TV show or read a chapter in your favorite self-help book without feeling guilty about it.

Avoid the superwoman syndrome  There are simply not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything on your to-do list. Acknowledge this fact by setting realistic goals or lists, delegating a few tasks to your husband or children (even if they are not done the way you want them to be) and you may even find time to rest. (See principle #1).

Simplify complicated tasks Examine your regular chores and create new ways to accomplish complicated tasks. For example, instead of preparing every meal and side dish from scratch, consider slow-cooking meats in the Crockpot, buying ready-made salads and quick steaming fresh vegetables. Tip: I often ask my husband how he would do a task. More often than not, his method is much simpler than mine.

What frontlinemom principles do you embrace?