EVPHO

Executive Vice President, Home Operations

The Best Job You Will Ever Have

If I’ve heard her say it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times.  My mother and mentor is quick to tell me that “Being a mom is the best job you’ll ever have.”  Every once in a while, usually after I am griping to her about an extremely frustrating day with the Associates, she will modify it to say “Being a parent is the HARDEST job you will ever have.”  I hear the words but sometimes it is hard to really believe that endless laundry, dishes and diapers is the best job in the world.

I mean, I had a really REALLY cool job before.  I actually had a really cool career.  From 2002 to 2010 I worked in Republican Politics in Washington DC and for candidates across the country.  The work was hard, the hours long, but the perks were very cool.  I met Don King the night Republicans gained seats in the 2002 midterm elections (which almost never happens when the same party is in control of the White House) because you know he likes to hang out with winners ;)   I got to have after work drinks on the Speakers Balcony of the US Capitol Building overlooking the entire National Mall;  I attended White House Christmas parties, watched the fireworks on the fourth of July from the White House lawn, and even stood on the White House lawn to pay respects to President Reagan’s casket as it was paraded through Washington.  I had the honor of working for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mayor Rudy Giuliani, dedicating a year of my life to each of them (and yet I just had too google to spell check both their names – ugh MOMMY BRAIN!).  Most recently, I served as campaign manager and district director for Congressman Bill Posey, one of the most down to earth, honest statesmen the state of Florida has known, and in doing so was able to intimately learn about the community I lived in. I worked with all the community leaders, elected officials and CEO’s; I toured the big industries – from citrus groves to aerospace companies; and perhaps the coolest part of my job was being able to attend numerous Space Shuttle launches from the closest viewing area possible at the Kennedy Space Center.

Seeing a space shuttle launch has got to be one of the most amazing experiences in the world, no matter where you view it from.  But it was nothing short of emotional at these special VIP launch viewing receptions because the families of the astronauts where there, many former astronauts, scientists and engineers who worked on whatever program was being launched, and so much tradition and history that you couldn’t help but be in awe of the amazing accomplishment of sending humans into space and returning them safely.

Me with KSC Director and Astronaut Bob Cabana and my boss, Congressman Posey, and the stunning Atlantis Space Shuttle behind us.

Me with KSC Director and Astronaut Bob Cabana and my boss, Congressman Posey, and the stunning Atlantis Space Shuttle behind us.

KSC Director Bob Cabana telling the Congressman and I about the heat shield tiles and re-entry as we stand directly below one of the shuttle orbiters (Discovery or Endeavor?)

KSC Director Bob Cabana telling the Congressman and I about the heat shield tiles and re-entry as we stand directly below one of the shuttle orbiters (Discovery or Endeavor?)

Photo taken by the CEO of a Shuttle Launch from the VIP viewing area we were guests at.

Photo taken by the CEO of a Shuttle Launch from the VIP viewing area we were guests at.

Failure is not an option!

Me with Gene Kranz, fellow CCHS grad and lead flight director during NASA’s Apollo 13 manned Moon landing mission. (aka my personal hero)

These doubts were ringing loud in my mind one morning as I rummaged through my coolest memorabilia from the shuttle launches I attended.  Associate P’s class was learning about space that week, and I was to be a guest speaker and then read our favorite space book, Mousetronaut, by Astronaut Mark Kelly.  I couldn’t help but think, had I made the right choice when I left a job I loved and was passionate about, and had worked so hard to succeed at?

We were of course off to a hectic start that morning, and perhaps she could sense my mood, but my mom said her same old line to me again “Being a parent the best job you’ll ever have dear.”

The phrase floated in my head as we rode bikes to their preschool and I wondered what big important thing might I be doing right now if I were still working.  Would it be better than trying to inspire a few toddlers to dream about becoming a rocket scientist?

After a giving my thrilling presentation to his class, his teachers thanked me for sharing my career with the kids and I almost corrected them… “It’s my former career.  I don’t work for the government anymore.”  Instead I just mulled on that phrase the whole way home.

Needless to say at that point I was having a full on personal crisis. I love my boys and I love teaching them the ways of the world, but I missed feeling a part of something so big… and it doesn’t get much bigger than working for the Federal Government. ha!  Would I ever get that feeling of doing something big again if I am just a mommy.

The CEO and I decided their learning about space was a perfect opportunity to take the Associates to Kennedy Space Center visitor complex for the first time so they could see the now retired Shuttle Atlantis up close.  So that Sunday we loaded them up, plus my parents, and headed to KSC.  The boys loved it.  What an awesome, fun educational adventure!  I could see their imaginations take flight.  Associate P loved seeing the mission control room and announced he wanted to work at a computer like that one day, and my heart swelled with pride.  How proud would I be if he really did grow up to do something amazing like that!!!

Then it happened.  The circular moment that brought it all together.  The KSC bus tour took us to another of the special viewing areas, and my parents and I reminisced about the time, thanks to my job and position, that I was able to get them here, to this location to watch a shuttle launch.  BAM.  I could still see in their face how proud they were of me.

My parents had done something big.  They raised an Architect and got to walk up the gorgeous ramp of the Seattle Space Needle that he helped design.  They have been in homes their other son built with his own two hands.  They have supported two daughters who care for others daily, and have even saved lives, in their respective nursing and Optometric careers.  And they have gotten to enjoy the perks of my political career, from tours of the Capitol to shuttle launches.

Being a parent is the best job in the whole world, because you get to help mold and shape the next generation and see what amazing things they might do.  Behind every brave astronaut that prepares to launch, I bet there is a mother who is already over the moon with pride.

So since this epiphany it has been a little easier for me to see the long game.  To appreciate the little moments to teach, encourage, love and support my little Associates as opportunities to mold them into men who might one day do big things.  Then I know I’ll be over the moon with pride.

 

PS: Being a parent, especially a SAHM is still crazy hard, exhausting work.  So I might amend my mother’s phrase to instead be “Being a GRANDPARENT is the best job you’ll ever have” because they also get to enjoy helping raise amazing little Associates, but they can hand cranky Associates back to the parents and sleep all night long uninterrupted :)

My parents with Associate P at KSC.  They were pretty proud of our little Astronaut.

My parents with Associate P at KSC. They were pretty proud of our little Astronaut.

Riding the Emotional Rollercoaster

So we all know toddlers are crazy, right?  I mean you don’t have to be a parent to know this.   Anyone who has ever met a toddler has probably experienced their split-personality tendency when they go from screaming fury to pleasant contentment after their parent gives in on whatever it was the psycho-toddler was demanding.

Ok, maybe they aren’t crazy.  They are just learning how to control their emotions and figure out how their behavior can control their environment.  Everything is over dramatized, and because their energy is finite, they vacillate between euphoria and hysterical depression before collapsing from exhaustion.  I know they can’t help it, and I’m supposed to be the one to help them figure out how to manage these emotions, but it is so hard to be the even keel some times.

Supervising this learning process often feels like an emotional roller coaster that leaves my head spinning, torn between vowing never to ride again and wanting to immediately get back on.

I found some notes from December, when they had been sick, and one day the ride was so wild I had made an effort to write it down, positive I was so exhausted I wouldn’t remember.  Re-reading and reliving I see the funny, although it was far from it at the time.

Thursday 12:30am:  Exhaustion.  We normally go to bed 10:30/11pm, but the CEO and I had a hot date the night before and walked in the door at 12:30 am.  I could barely keep my eyes open.  As I fell asleep the room began to spin and I began to regret asking for a 4th glass of wine.  I’m going to pay for this tomorrow.

5:00 am:  Associate A’s meds have run out and he wakes in a fever spiking up at 102.  He is tired, but too miserable to sleep.  I spend the next hour trying to get him comfortable, but nothing seems to work.  He wants me to hold him, but at the same time pushes me away.  He’s shaking with chills but refuses a blanket.  He’s hacking but won’t drink anything.  He wants his lovie, but also doesn’t want it because it is wet from his own tears.

Sometime after 6am we both fall asleep on the couch.  This hour ends in bliss, as my little man is not usually cuddly, so I cherish the chance to hold him while he sleeps.

6:45 am: Associate P wakes up and his meds have also run out.  His fever broke yesterday, but his cough is worse than ever.  He is coughing to the point of gagging and throwing up.  He and I hang out the playroom, and try to let Associate A and the CEO get a little bit more sleep.  I am grateful because he is such a sweet kid.  After one vomit, wash up and new clean shirt on, he instantly coughs and gags up more, but looks and me and apologizes.  “I’m so sorry mommy.”  My poor, sweet kiddo.

7:05 am  Here comes the Cra Cra.  Associate P rolls around the kitchen ground, crying and refusing to drink the “special sick tea” that for the last two days he has been chugging down like a champ.  He is still coughing violently, but now, for some reason, won’t drink the warm water with honey and lemon that I know will soothe his poor throat.  This random refusal drives me insane, as his picky eating habits are growing out of control.  It also wakes up the CEO who stumbles in just in time to play interference before I really snapped on the poor kid.

7:50 am  Potty Bliss.  Associate A wakes up in a good mood (thank goodness) and even tells me he has to go poopies, BEFORE he does it, and successfully drops his first poopie in the potty!!! This is a huge deal as I just recently began encouraging him, and yesterday morning during some naked-time he pooped in the playroom then came and told me, and the night before that he told me as he dropped a big package in the tub.  Speaking up before is a BIG DEAL.

8:45 am Insanity.  Both kids are now adequately medicated and running around like the caged animals they are.  They’ve been cooped up for three days, and they are bored and restless.  They’ve also discovered the jingle bells I put out on the front door when we decorated the house this past weekend.  My head is pounding as I feel the pain of last night’s over-indulgence, and I do not appreciate them screaming Jingle Bells.

There is a rocket waiting to launch just 30 miles north of us at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, so I get them changed and head out the door to the beach in hopes of seeing it take off.  Words cannot describe how much I love living next to the beach – the giant free sandbox from God that keeps little boys happy and occupied for hours.

9:30 am  My associates don’t like my plan of “you two play in the sand while your hungover mommy lays on the blanket and naps” and insist I march up and down the beach finding shells with them.  I have a rough job, I know. You should feel bad for me.

The launch is scrubbed, which leads to the most annoying thing in the world… a three year old asking the same question over and over and over and over and over and over.  I try to explain why, after almost an hour and a half of talking about it and building up excitement, now we will not be seeing a rocket launch.  Associate P does not accept my answer (to windy) and would like me to put him in contact with mission control to get answer’s straight from the commanders mouth.

A 75 degree sunny day in December is reason enough to stay at the beach and we do have a great time.  In fact I’m so content after what had been a very long morning already, I lose track of time, and it is only when I see their noses start leaking uncontrollably again that I realize my launch window has closed.  I better get these kiddos home before they explode on the beach.

That is where the diary ends… and I honestly don’t remember the rest of the day, so I am glad I had typed that bit up.  It is also clear, in retrospect, that perhaps they aren’t really the crazy ones.  I think I am a little crazy for complaining at all.  If that was one of our worst days, life is pretty darn good.  Maybe I am ready to go for another ride…. hmm…

 

 

 

Top 5 Parenting Tips From UNBROKEN

(Spoiler alert – I do reference scenes and points from the book and movie “Unbroken.” proceed with caution)

This past December I read UNBROKEN, the amazing true story of Louie Zamperini, a US Olympic track star and Veteran who survived a as a WWII POW.  The CEO had read the book before me, and loved it.  We were both looking forward to seeing the movie, and made a date night out of it shortly after it was released.  We sat through the entire movie with no snacks, popcorn or drinks.  We wanted to be focused, undistracted.  It was utterly captivating to watch and we both left the theater in awe of the sheer reality that men can be so strong, of body and spirit.

We walked quietly our of the theater, listening to the conversations around us.  Both of us were a bit shocked by what we heard.  In the ladies room a sassy young thaang in her late teens had complained to her friends, “Well that was a drag.  I mean I get it, he was tortured and survived. Big Deal”  And on the way out we heard another young group complain “I just don’t get the point.  There was no plot.”

WHHHHAAAAATTTT?!?!?!?!

Needless to say the CEO and I were aghast.  Our conversation on the way home quickly turned to our disappointment in the response from those young adults.  Could they really be so numb that they don’t recognize true heroism when they see it?  Were they expecting Louie to have super powers and fight his captors in direct conflict with choreographed fight scenes and a dramatic escape?  Where there not enough explosions for them? Could it be they didn’t know enough about the Atomic Bombs to find that conclusion to the largest war in human history dramatic enough??  Really?

And I don’t think the fact that they didn’t read the book before seeing the movie is an excuse for their response.  I had not finished the book yet myself, and so hadn’t read about the insanity he endured in the prison camps in Japan.  I was still in tears during the scene where The Bird forces Louie to lift the huge pillar of wood above his head, and had to burry my head into the CEO’s arm because I simply couldn’t watch that intense, and long scene.  I whispered to him, “Did that really happen?” just to hear him confirm what my mind couldn’t fathom.  Yes. Yes it did REALLY happen.  To a man who had already endured over a year and a half of hellish starvation and physical abuse.  And yes, he really did stand there and hold it for an incredible, surprisingly long time, proving that while the body may be defeated the human spirit can endure.

So in the days and weeks since seeing the movie, finishing the book and thinking about those bratty kids from the theater, I have been obsessed with thinking about how I can raise our associates to be less like them and more like Louie Zamperini. Obviously those kids needed better understanding of world history, but since I can’t easily influence what is taught in schools these days, I compiled the top five parenting lessons I learned from UNBROKEN.   I don’t think Laura Hillenbrand intended to write this as a parenting manual, so I apologize in advance if my mommy-brain is misinterpreting her masterpiece.

5) “Dirty Food” and “Nutritional Meals” Are Relative Descriptions

Our family policy has officially been changed from the “5 second rule” to the “Does it have maggots or fecal matter on it” rule.  I’ve certainly already been more lax than most moms about food cleanliness and I never really flinch to let my kids pick something off the ground if in our home or at the park. A little dirt never hurt anyone, and Associate A still gets a majority of his fiber from mulch.  But when cookies fell on airplane seats, restaurant floors or most recently the sidewalks of a major theme park, and one of my kids picked it up and popped it in their mouths before I could stop them, I worried.  I even panicked a little, with a few stern words, grabbing his head and forcing open his mouth trying to dislodge the offending, contaminated animal cracker. NO MORE!  Seriously people, I know there are risks with eating germs, and I will continue to teach them that is not a good idea to eat food off the ground, but no longer will I overreact and mommy-guilt myself to death over this.  They will survive.  I may have to amend this rule if they ever get a bout of dysentery, but we will cross that bridge when we get there.

And the same is true for worrying about their poor nutritional intake. Associate P is in full on toddler pickiness, and he refuses to try just about everything but his short list of pre-approved meals, assuming they are served in the correct bowl and with the appropriate construction themed utensil.  I have spent countless hours worrying if he is eating enough or good variety.  NO MORE!  Reading what Louie and Phil survived on in the Ocean for 46 days is unbelievable.  The military directions provided with the rations on the lifeboat were to eat a (as in 1) square of chocolate and a few sips of water a day.  So from now on, if all Associate P wants to eat today is two squeeze yogurts so be it. As long as I can give him good clean water, I’m over trying to force him to eat or giving in and letting him eat crap.  I will wait it out, and then when he is hungry enough he will just have to eat whatever healthy ration I offer him…. its not like the options I present him are raw seagull or fish.

4)  You Do Not Need To Be a Cruise Director Mom To Be A Good Mom

Associate P has always been clingy to me (likely because his entire first year of life I spent every moment of his awake time entertaining him, talking to him and stimulating him) and Associate A is currently in a major mommy-obsession phase.  It is hard to ignore there cries for attention, help and assistance in providing entertainment for them, but NO MORE!   I hereby give myself permission to ignore their cries and begin insisting they occupy themselves.  It’s not that Louie’s mom ignored him, but she certainly didn’t follow him around everywhere and schedule his every waking moment.  Moms were not expected to be entertainment directors and chauffeurs.  If kids wanted to participate in an activity they rode their bike, public transportation or walked there.  And most importantly, kids then were allowed to roam, play and live in the world, not just in their own backyards.

Louie had a daring childhood, filled with frequent confrontation with the law, bullies, and adversities that he overcame on his own, or suffered the consequence of his actions.  I’m not saying I hope my kids are stealing, drinking and smoking while in elementary school like Louie was, but it is very clear from this story that Louie had an independent spirit, confidence and survival skills at a very young age.  He took responsibility for his choices because he was allowed to make them… something I don’t think we let kids do enough of these days.

3) Love Your Children, No Matter What

Number three comes directly from number 4.  Louie’s parents led a good life and were good role models, they loved their children and cared for them, but they didn’t try to manipulate their kids to be something they weren’t.  Louie was a handful, and wild and refused to follow the straight and narrow path as a young kid, and they accepted it.  He was disciplined when needed and they let him know they expected more from him.  But his mother still loved him dearly.  And in time, thanks to their unconditional love and the encouragement of his big brother Pete, Louie began to believe that he could be more than just the town thief.

I think all to often parents set a vision of what they hope their kids will be and try to manipulate them to fit into that dream.  Some are more dramatic than others.  I have only seen one or two Toddlers in Tiara’s episodes, but I got the gist of the show.  It was pretty clear those moms should spend a little 1:1 time with a therapist to work through their own body image issues rather than playing dress up with their own living daughters.

But I myself am guilty of this manipulation already… I’m scared to death of my associates wanting to play contact sports, and already hear myself telling them “You see how mommy and daddy like to kayak and row? Did you know it is a sport and you can do it with a team. That will be fun, right?!?!?!”

So NO MORE!  I pledge here and now to love my kids no matter what and to accept them for who they are, and trust that my unconditional love and support will help them realize they can do anything they put their mind to.  And if that means they turn into a soccer star, fine.  I’ll get over my fears.  If they want to play dungeons and dragons all day and DOOM! all night, cool with me.  For them, I will be willing to learn and play too. (No, that does not mean I am willing to learn and play with you CEO.  Sorry. You have to take me to dinner and on romantic dates)

2) Don’t Let Your Kids Be Numb To Real Bravery

Superheroes and legends of bravery have been favorite stories for all of mankind.  From Odysseus to Ironman, everyone likes a good hero story.  But I think more and more, in this society of abundant TV, movies and video games, kids are loosing sight of what real heroism is.  The more I thought about the reaction of those young adults in the theater, the more I began to think about the true subtlety of the violence, bombing, and struggle portrayed in the movie.  I thought the beauty of the movie was the realistic portrayal, and that they didn’t overdue it with fancy graphics, sound effects or gratuitous blood and guts. Maybe without all that jazz, those kids were genuinely bored.  But could they still not recognize that this was a “based on real life story” and that someone actually survived all that?

ES-Louis-Zamperini

Maybe the media doesn’t report the stories of everyday heroes enough.  Maybe society doesn’t celebrate them enough.  But I can’t change any of that.  What I can do is raise children who will know and respect real heroes – veterans, policemen, fireman and the brave citizens who step up in unexpected ways to prevent an accident, solve a problem or challenge status quo.  I want to raise my children to admire astronauts, and understand those REAL men strapped themselves to REAL rockets, filled with REAL rocket fuel, and most of them lived to tell about it and we honor those brave souls who didn’t.

1) The most important thing I learned from UNBROKEN is that the gift of faith in God is by far the best gift I can give my children.

“Though all three men faced the same hardship, their differing perceptions of it appeared to be shaping their fates. Louie and Phil’s hope displaced their fear and inspired them to work toward their survival, and each success renewed their physical and emotional vigor. Mac’s resignation seemed to paralyze him and the less he participated in their efforts to survive, the more he slipped. Though he did the least, as the days passed, it was he who faded the most. Louie and Phil’s optimism, and Mac’s hopelessness, were becoming self-fulfilling.”
Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

Phil’s father was a methodist Pastor, and how proud he must have been to know that his son was strong enough in faith, not just to save himself, but to share the hope that he found in Jesus with his friend in their hour of need.  The book goes into much more detail of Louie’s faith journey than the movie portrays.  It was more than just the conversation with Phil on the life raft that brought Louie to Christ, but it is that scene, if you will, that stuck with me.  When I think about the kind of men I want to raise, hands down I want my sons to be the one sharing eternal hope, not cowering in fear of human suffering.

It is so easy to feel alone and helpless in this world.  I imagine floating on a raft in the middle of the pacific is about as alone as anyone might feel.  But when three men looked up at the stars.  Two saw the wonder of the Lord’s creation and renewed their faith that all things are possible through him.  One felt small and insignificant, alone and hopeless.

“What God asks of men, said [Billy] Graham, is faith. His invisibility is the truest test of that faith.”
Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

If you haven’t read the book, I highly encourage you to do so.  But if you are an exhausted mom or dad and picking up a book isn’t in your immediate future, then I hope these five ideas can inspire you to raise the next Louie Zamperini or Russell Allen “Phil” Phillips.

I don’t think your daughter meant to pick a feminist fight…

So randomly reading my facebook stream tonight I see a link to this article.  This feminist-working-mom writer interprets her daughters question, “If dad made more money you wouldn’t work, right?!?!” with a wee bit of sass for my taste.  I don’t disagree with many of her points, but I’m pretty sure her daughter’s question was rooted in a desire to have at least one parent not, and I quote,

“hunched over the computer and planning my work day while the daily circus of morning family activity had played out.”

As humans our deepest desire is to connect with other humans.  We all crave it.  We all need it.  And while clearly this mom is very happy connecting with other adults in her working environment, and that is completely ok, it saddens me that in this article she doesn’t seem to consider the fact that her 10 year old daughter wishes there were a world where she could connect with her mom over breakfast, and mom not be worried about planning her work day.

I don’t want to pick a feminist fight either, as I have so much admiration for working moms. They truly work double duty and I am in awe of so many of my working momma friends and my sisters.  I am just a little surprised that this particular working mom doesn’t get that kids are very selfish, especially when it comes to getting attention and love from their parents.

“What unnerves me is realizing that somehow, my own daughter has picked up on the idea that for a mother to not work is the optimum situation, the one that, if money were no object, of course one would choose.”

I don’t think her daughter has “picked up” on anything in our culture.  Further, it annoys me that she wants to blame Modern Family or the SAHM’s who volunteer in her daughters school for planting sexist thoughts.  I think her daughter was only expressing her ideal world, where she, the child,  could have it all.  Where she could have a sense of security both in being provided for and being cared for by her parents.  Is it really that offensive that she wishes she had more of your attention in the mornings before she heads off to school?

The CEO and I have discussed often that one thing we both desired and appreciated about our parents, beyond even their unconditional love, was their time and how they spent it with us. It is true what they say, ‘time with your children is priceless’ …. to them.  As parents, we know all to well the price we pay for staying home, or leaving work early, to be with our kids.  But to our kids, the fact that we are there, with them, is priceless.  They would trade anything for more of that.

Working moms are amazing. They are.  And I really want to reach out to this mom and tell her not to be offended by her daughters comment.  She isn’t trying to offend you and what you’ve accomplished in your career.  She isn’t parroting a political statement from the SAHM lobby in the cafeteria.  And you are right, in a few years when she is off at college dreaming big dreams of her own she will probably be damn proud of you and all you accomplished in your career.

But right now that sweet 10 year old girl is simply telling you that she thinks you are amazing and the most wonderful thing in the world, and if it were up to her, yes, she would like to spend more quality time with you, without giving up the comforts she knows you and dad currently work to provide.  Because you are her mom, and that is the only job title she cares about.

It doesn’t have to change your answer:

“I like my work. My work is important to me. I want to work.” She looked at me, puzzled, and asked, “Why?” ”I always want to make you proud of me,” I told her that morning. “And this is how I do it.”

That is a great answer, and one she will grow to understand and appreciate.  But tomorrow, maybe put the laptop away at breakfast and spend a few extra minutes with her.  She’ll be glad you did.

 

 

 

Holidays with Toddlers

So yesterday was not my finest day.  I was, how do I put it…. mean, crabby, impatient, annoyed… let’s just say all of the above.  The Sunday after a long Thanksgiving weekend, and I was mean mommy all afternoon because I wanted to finish decorating the tree and get all the Holiday decorations out and storage boxes put away, but of course all my little Associates wanted to do was take things OFF the tree, climb in and out of the mountain of boxes in our garage and stay up in the attic all day.

I knew I was being mean.  They certainly knew it.  Associate P was telling me to “Calm down, calm down Mommy.  It’s ok.  Look you have lots more ornaments that I didn’t break.”  And of course, the CEO took notice.

I like to think normally I’m a better parent when the CEO is around, just like any employee is when their supervisor is watching them, but reality is I usually act the same and just make sure he doesn’t hear me whispering bribes or threats to the Associates.  (kidding.  kind of.)  But today, he heard it all, and it was all pretty bad.

When things calmed down a little and we were making dinner while the Associates played in the other room he asked me what was wrong.  I then let out my sob story of “I just want to be able to enjoy the holiday stuff like I used to.  Now it is all work, that I don’t have time for and can’t get done with them running around. I can’t take my eyes off Associate A for a minute or he ends up covered in dirt from digging up half the flower bed.”

He looked me square in the eyes and held my shoulders and told me I’m crazy.  That I have two young kids and I’m the one setting unrealistic expectations for Holiday decor, traditions, crafting and efficient shopping.  And then he emphasized the point that I should, under no circumstances, ever take my eyes off Associate A. Even for a Minute.  That kid is cray-cray just like his momma.

I know he is right – and it is so hard to admit when he is, especially if it means I was wrong.  This was the end of an amazing weekend.  We hosted Thanksgiving for our extended family, had a football watch party the next day, I had a girls night out Saturday night, and I did in fact manage to get 90% of our holiday cards mailed, lights up on the house, the tree decorated, a fun family outing this am, and even had time to empty and wash out the kitty litter box.  WOAH.  That is a detail I rarely do.  I must have really been in the zone.

Our Family Christmas Tree

Our Family Christmas Tree

So I tried to end this amazing weekend on an up note, playing with the boys and not worrying about all the other Holiday to-do’s that had been running through my head all weekend.  I am trying so hard to relive happy memories of big family Thanksgivings and decorating the tree with my family as a kid, that I’m focused on my enjoyment of these things, and making them perfect for me.  Not my boys.

I dunno.  I was a bit of a cleaning obsessed, Martha Stuart wannabe, not at all attentive momma the last few days, and looking back I can only hope they are young enough to either be oblivious or only remember the highlights… playing with cousins, singing Christmas Carols while helping me with the tree, and reading Dinosaur Rumpus a few hundred times.

After all, I only remember the good times.  It is possible that my mother may have been high strung, bossy and impatient around the holidays when she was playing hostess, but that’s not how I remember it.  I remember being thrilled she trusted me to dust the legs of the dining room table (very important busy work, right?!).  And I remember my dad always letting me help get the decorations down and back up into the attic.  I don’t remember him ever threatening to leave me up there.

So let’s go on assuming my parents are the saints I have built them up to be in my head, and that my little associates will do the same.  After all, they did get to spend a lot of time up in the attic this weekend, and that is pretty darn cool.

#youwanttostayuptherealldayfinewithme #noididntreallylockthemintheattic

 

So Now It’s My Fault He Won’t Go To Sleep?

Our two little Associates share a room, and have for about 6 months now, since the little one, Associate A was 15 months old.  His almost 3 year old big brother had super-cool bunk beds and it started with him napping on the bottom bunk and eventually moved in full time.  This was all against my better judgement, of course, but they loved sharing a room and I figured “Why not?  Child-led parenting is a thing, right?”

Associate A did surprisingly well staying in bed for the first few months, or if he did get out would walk to our room and gently knock on our bedroom door.  We took the bunk beds apart to two twins after he demonstrated he had mastered the ladder up.  By then Associate A was 18 months old and had already demonstrated his propensity for nighttime adventures.  Associate P had never once even remotely considered looking over the edge of the upper bunk railings. He is a good rule abiding first born.  A, on the other hand, laughs in the face of danger and would have jumped over the railings faster than I could dial 9-1-1.

So now they have twin beds next to each other, and they go to sleep and wake up at the same times.  Sounds awesome and super easy, right?   WRONG.

The quality of my day, workplace productivity and enjoyment is completely dependent on their sleep patterns lining up so I can have two happy well rested boys at the same time.   Something wakes them up too early, and Associate A will be exhausted by 11am… but if he naps then, Associate P isn’t ready.  P will start to behave like an exhausted psychopath just about the time Associate A is waking up, and I’m no psychologist, but I do know that psychopaths refuse to nap if they think their younger sibling is going to get 1:1 time with mommy.  The day then becomes a slow roll to hell, and by the time the CEO gets home from work I’m usually hiding in the kitchen and throwing snacks at the savages to keep them at bay in the playroom.

The alternative is they wake at a respectable hour, we have fun morning adventure – maybe a park or the zoo  – we come home and eat lunch in the 12 o’clock hour and everyone lays down for a nap together in the 1 o’clock hour – me on the ground between their two beds.  It is a win win, as I get a 20-30 minute nap and  an hour or so to myself before they wake up.  Then we play outside the whole afternoon, and when the CEO comes home we greet him with smiles and a nutritious, home cooked meal on the table.

Bedtime is usually pretty easy, and hands down my favorite part of the day.  But unfortunately, Associate A is teething (2 year molars… shoot me now!) and in a very needy phase lately.  He has become accustomed to mommy laying on the ground between their beds at nap time and so now, at bedtime, insists on the same practice.  He will point to the ground “You stay right there.”

For a while I have indulged this sweet little gesture, and even enjoyed falling asleep for a little evening siesta between my two boys.  They usually ask me to hold their hands, so I’ll lay there on my back, with arms stretched out reaching up to their beds.  Not at all comfortable, but it is sweet. So I’ll cherish those little moments and listen as their quiet breathing turns to adorable baby snores.

But not tonight.  Tonight we took the boys out to eat, and my stomach is fully rejecting the butter-soaked meal.  I’m miserable and just want to put them to bed and poop in peace.  I had tried while they were in the tub, but the P was all “ahh mommy I have to poop”  so I had to get up, get him out and let him do his business, and by the time he was done my opportunity had passed.   They are ready to get out and the next twenty minutes is a blur of toothpaste, wrestling them into PJ’s and wild giggles as mommy keeps farting and stinking up the room.

Stories, prayers, hugs and kisses – ok now climb into bed, everybody got your 15 lovies, toys, books and special blankets?  Great!!!  Good night.

Of course you know there is no way Associate A is going to stay in bed and fall asleep unless I am on the ground next to him… which right now is the very last thing I want to do.  So I’m going to be tough today and say “NO!  You must stay in bed.  Mommy is not in the mood tonight. Go to sleep!”  After another 20 minutes of tears and little feet pitter patting out of the room, I give in and go in to lay down.

At which point a very amused, and still a bit giggly Associate P tells me, “Mommy its your fault A won’t stay in bed.  Your farts are too stinky.  They made the whole room smell and he just wants to get out.”

I can hear the CEO laughing from the other room…. and when they are finally asleep and I come out he tells me this is one of the best days of his life and he wants to remember this forever.  Well here you go sir – may it live on the interwebs forever.

Associate P was right – the bedtime battle was my fault, but I hold firm it is not because of my stinky farts.  It is rather because I have indulged my kids in a routine (staying in the room while they fall asleep) that is unsustainable.

Eventually I will have to be strong enough to withstand the tears, stay firm and stay out. But for tonight, it was just easier to sit in the dutch oven of my own creation.  ugh.

 

Nothing Says I Love You Like a Dutch Oven

Nothing Says I Love You Like a Dutch Oven

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes We Can!

Ok – so I have to rant a little bit here, and some of you may not like it. In my previous career, I was a loyal Republican political operative, working for leadership offices in DC and campaigns in California and Florida.  From 2000-2010 I was pretty much obsessed with the national political arena and watched more C-SPAN than any young adult should.  I tell you this so you understand my utter and complete annoyance with Bob the Builder.

My boys discovered Bob and the Big Dinosaur Dig on Netflix, and for the last week or so their two loves – construction equipment and dinosaurs – have merged.  We have watched this little Bob the Builder 4 episode mini-movie a few times and so of course that catchy show tune is in all of our heads.  “Bob the Builder, Can We Fix it? Bob the Builder, Yes We Can! ”

It was cute at first.  One of us would start to sing and we would all chime in. Giggles all around when I mimic Lofty, “Uh, yea I think so!”

Well yesterday it started to turn South, and by the end of today it was like nails on the chalk board to me.  My sweet little Associate A is running around just singing “YES WE CAN!”  It is his favorite answer to every question, and he is so damn enthusiastic he is losing the Bob the Builder cadence and instead sounds like a little Obama-obsessed baby circa 2008.

Then tonight as I struggled to get them into PJ’s and to bed at a reasonable hour, I asked the question “Can you two please just sit still!” And in a calm patient voice he said it not once, but twice, like only then Senator Obama could….  “Yes we can. Yes we can.”

So now, guess what is stuck in my head?  Not cute Bob the Builder, but the Obama ’08 campaign slogan and catchy inspiring viral video that Will I Am made.

Awesome.  Kids are down at a reasonable hour, and rather than dive into half a season of So You Think You Can Dance that I had missed I have now watched it twice… wondering what in the heck went wrong and getting my political tail feathers in a tizzy.  So much hope and opportunity squandered by a promising but unprepared politician.  ugh…

I’ll stop there before this resembles a political rant.  My anger tonight really is at Bob the Builder.  I had successfully shut politics out of my life for the last 3 years until you came along… Bob.

Bob the Builder giving the politician's classic thumbs up

Bob the Builder
giving the politician’s classic thumbs up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top 5 Worst and Best Things About Moving

After a careful assessment of our facilities, needs and growth plans, Rudloff Family Inc. made a decision to move facilities in order to better accommodate the lifestyle goals established in our strategic plan.  The hunt for a new headquarters was exhausting.  What originated as an opportunity to cut cost, consolidate resources, and focus on lifestyle improvements was easily distracted by things like “updated kitchen” and “great for entertaining.”  It seemed like the more homes we saw, the more distracted we got from what we were really after.

We already had a large home with a great kitchen, baths and entertaining spaces.  Our home had amazing details, lots of space and would easily accommodate future expansion, up to my ideal vision of one day having 4-5 associates.  We loved our home, and always knew it would take finding something really special for us to leave it.  As the months went on and we visited more and more homes, we started to become jaded to the glitz and wow factor that were supposed to be selling points.  Many were legitimately amazing houses, but they didn’t feel like home.

But as they say, good things come to those who wait.  Eventually we walked into a home that was not only beautiful and spacious, but felt like home.  It offered us everything we wanted in outdoor activities – huge pool, on a great canal with quick access to the River and Samson’s Island park.  And best of all, the previous owners were OCD and took meticulous care of the house and had done some very nice, thoughtful and thorough updates.

We have been moved in for two weeks, and everything feels perfect.  We were meant to be here.  This is our home.  Our associates have transitioned nicely and the CEO has noted marked increases in satisfaction and comfort. All around, The Rudloff Family is enjoying our new location and realizing all of the house hunting was indeed worth it.

SOOO now that the dust has settled… here is my first ever EVPHO top 5 list… top 5 worst and best things about moving.

5 WORST THINGS

  • Getting started packing.  The excitement of an upcoming move fades very quickly when your mind starts going through a to-do list of everything you must do and pack.  Recovering from that panic attack and getting to work was ridiculously hard.  I spent at least a week Stress Paralyzed (it’s a thing!)
  • Being forced to deal with all the stuff you hide around your house.  All of the tucked aways boxes and bags of things you never really unpacked from your last move, unfinished projects that were buried in your messy garage.  you must confront all of it.  UGH.
  • Dealing with government bureaucracies , cable & phone companies, and 1,000 different accounts you must update.  Seriously, why does every website demand three levels of password identification?!?!
  • Trying to pack with toddlers in the house is like trying to clean a cage with the monkeys still in it. So far the list of things that Associate P and A helped pack that I haven’t found yet: my favorite bikini, 1/2 of about 4 pairs of shoes, the book that he NEEDED to read before nap time, the all in one tool that could fix everything. That one might be the CEO’s fault.  No credible witnesses though.
  • WHERE IS THAT THING THAT I URGENTLY NEED?!?! I know I packed it, I know I unpacked it… but where the heck did I put it?!?!  Or worse… I think I packed it, but haven’t found it yet, I hope it didn’t end up in the donation box, never to be seen again!!?!?!

5 BEST THINGS

  • Purging!!!  It feels so good to purge and cut some of the unnecessary stuff from your life… so you can focus on what you are passionate about.  Love that!
  • The excitement of a new adventure. The months of anticipation build up and fill you with dreams of what is to come in this next phase of life.  When you finally move in it is like a new chapter in your life story is beginning – so exciting!
  • Hearing your kids say they love the new house.  I was so worried about how the Associates would handle this transition, that these words have sent my heart ablaze with joy.  We have had a few “best day ever” from Associate P already –  being able to swim all the time, go fishing and eat outside can bring near euphoric joy to a little boy.
  • Moving into a clean house is like living in a hotel for a while.  And by “a while” I mean a very short while.  About a week.  My floors are already sticky and windows covered in finger prints.  Oh well.  It sure was a nice while it lasted.
  • Unpacking a box, putting all of the contents into nice neat orderly place in your new home, and then crushing the living shit out of that box and throwing it violently into a pile.  I am part Martha Stewart, part ‘Kat The Box Slayer”, and 100% productive!

Run In With The Law

So picture me driving home from a busy morning of activities and errands, completely spaced out thinking about my to-do list of emails to answer, doctor appointments to make, moving logistics to plan, what will be a quick and easy lunch for the kids and praying Associate A doesn’t fall asleep for the last 5 minutes of the drive home.   Transitioning a sleeping toddler to their bed is a complete fantasy that only happens to magical mommies and their fairy children. The rest of us end up with upset little dragons who did not want to be woken up.

Anyway, when I finally do look in the review mirror I see beautiful twinkle lights in the car behind me.  As I pull over to the side of the road, I am still in mommy la-la-land that I tell my associates “oh look guys, a police car is coming” assuming the officer was going to pass me and speed off to help some poor soul with real problems.

traffic stop

Nope.

He pulls over right behind and I begin to realize that I am getting pulled over. I shift it into park, and fire a quick warning to my Associates “A police officer is coming to talk to mommy, please be quiet.” That was Mistake #1.  Associate P then begins to get excited and spirals into a serious of questions that make my head spin.

While P is still babbling on in the back the officer approaches my window and asks if I know why he pulled me over.  I have no idea. It could be anything. Much of the last 5 minutes of my drive is a blur as I was thinking about everything but driving.  I couldn’t even remember if I’d checked my phone while driving… is that illegal in FL yet?

When he tells me it is an expired tag, I stare blankly at him.

Sure. Why not. If you say so. On my list of things to worry about, I promise you the little yellow sticker on the back of my car has not been ranked a in a long while.  The tag expired 3 weeks ago he informs me.  He takes my info and heads back to his car.

Associate P is still firing off questions, interrogating me from the backseat.  After the 65th “Why did he want to talk to you mommy?” I responded, “Because mommy messed up.”

“Oh no. Oh no. Mommy why did you do it? Was it an accident? You should apologize. Will you get a time out? Why would you do it mommy, why?”

At this point I am still calm. 3 weeks expired is nothing right? He’ll check my record and see I’m a great driver and give me a warning. Nope. Mr. Officer DoGood writes me a ticket – $119 – and strongly suggests I go get it taken care of ASAP because I can, and probably will be pulled over again by our overzealous beachside cops with nothing better to do.

At this point my lip is quivering and I am holding back tears.  He tries telling me a quick visit to DMV can have it solved today. I look back at the now sound asleep Associate A and Associate P, who is so excited he is almost busting out of his 5 point harness trying to press his face against the glass and look at the police man right outside his window.

Still composed, but feeling the frustration beginning to well up, I ask if I can be cited again for this if I can’t get to it for a few days.  “Oh yes, absolutely.”  Then I lose it. The quiet tears start to run down my cheeks.  This was mistake #2. I waited entirely too long to pull out the water works.

The guy melted like a smores in a camp fire.  I could see his composure change and he was no longer Officer DoGood, he was Officer I-Hate-these-Stupid-Quotas-I’m-Sorry-I-Had-To-Do-This-To-You.  He apologized for not giving me a warning.  “If it was only a week, I could have let you go with a warning. Please just get it fixed as soon as you can.”

As we parted, I was now angry at myself for letting the darn tag expire AND for not crying sooner.  Silly me to think he would let a little mistake slide.  The Man was imposing his authority on me because he had to, not because he wanted to.  Had I shown a little emotion a little sooner he would have backed off and let me slide.  I had it all figured out, I know how to beat The Man next time, I’ll just start crying and get away with whatever stupid little thing I did that was against the rules….

Wait a minute… that thought process sounds an awful lot like the antics my Associates pull 10 times a day.  Only I am The Man imposing the silly rules… hold a railing on the stairs, take turns with your brother, you MUST put pants on… and they are the ones who whip out the tears and all too often get me to let them slide on their bad behavior.

Well, well well.  This was an interesting little insight to the psychological warfare the Associates and I battle daily.  The odds of me getting pulled over anytime soon is slim to none (I did make the effort to get to the DMV and get a new tag), but the odds of my Associates trying to weaken my will is a sure bet.  So the question is, will I now be more motivated to remain firm and hold the line, or will I cave to the pungent guilt their alligator tears emit.

Only time will tell ;)

Break from Reality

This weekend I got to escape for a three day roadtrip with some girlfriends. We packed up pillows, M&Ms and our country music playlist to drive to the Florida Alabama state line for Kenny Chesney’s one and only concert of the year. We joined about 40,000 of Kenny’s biggest fans for a 8 hour beach party. FloraBamaJama

flora bama jamma 1

It was insane. Everyone had a drink in their hand at all times. People of every shape and size were half naked in their swim suits, frying like bacon in the unrelenting sun. The heat was so intense you couldn’t tell if people were wet from jumping in the Gulf for a swim (or bathroom break!) or from sweat.

But spirits were high and everyone was as friendly as a dunk hillbilly at a country music concert… Probably because that is exactly what they were. There was free water – both to drink and from the fire hoses that doused us every 30-40 minutes. And God bless the event organizes who ordered plenty of Corona and rum.

At numerous points in the day, I looked around and thought “How crazy is this! I can’t believe I’m here!! Am I sticking out like a sore thumb?! Do these people know I’m a boring SAHM? Can they tell I haven’t shaken my groove thang in a loooong time?”

Then Kenny played a song that put me right at ease… 

I looked around and realized that i wasn’t surrounded by a bunch of drunk hillbillies. Ok maybe there were a few. But there were also other parents, teachers, doctors, editors, programers, paper pushers and workers from all collar color careers. There were college kids and retired folks. There were even a few young children, but I’ll save my commentary on that for a future post “you might be a bad parent if…”

Everyone needs a break from reality sometimes and what better way than a good-time gathering, huge crowd and loud music on a gorgeous beach. As his song says,

We need a rock and roll show in the summer
To let the music take us away
Take our minds to a better place

Where we feel that sense of freedom
Leave our worries behind, we don’t need ’em
All we need is a sunny day and an old tailgate
And we’ll escape

 It was an awesome experience and I’ll never forget it.

I love my life. The good Lord has blessed me with a loving husband, beautiful home, healthy children and an amazing support network of family and friends. There is nothing I would change about my reality. I love it and am grateful for it everyday.

But the reality is I am in the midst of some of the hardest times of parenting.  I spend all day with two little associates who need me for everything – to feed, clothe and bathe them.  To transport, entertain, discipline and teach them.  They need me to be loving and patient 24/7… and sometimes that is really, really hard.

 It was so nice to take  break from that reality and ride in the back seat of a car for 8 hours reading a novel, listening to anything but Raffi, and laughing with friends. Taking my time eating and not helping someone else eat. It was a joy to go to the bathroom by myself – especially in the nasty rest stops on the highway, I was extremely grateful not to have to corral a toddler into a dirty stall. Getting dressed and make up on is so much more fun when sharing a bathroom with two other women, helping you decide what to wear and fixing each others hair, rather than two toddlers ruining what you wanted to wear and pulling out my hair.  And laying on the beach, with a cold drink in my hand I was grateful for the break from reality.  

The CEO and I are believers that absence does make the heart grow fonder.  Spending a little time away from the people and things you love make you that much more appreciative of them when you snap back into reality.  

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