Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sometimes We Don't Have the Answers

I learned some tough news this weekend about someone I really care about and love. Again it was a reminder of how precious life really is, how some things in the grand scheme of things is really nothing. As always when you hear something you don’t want to hear, you’re left with the questions of why. Life is unfair. I look at my dear friend who has buried two siblings and a parent before 40, I look at another who is facing going through cancer again with her one remaining parent after she lost the first one to cancer. I watch as another friend spends countless days in hospitals at her young daughter’s bedside; I watched my sister in law battle an illness with her son for the first seven years of his life. I remember my grandmother who buried two husbands, three children, and a grandson all before she was called home. I know people who have buried their children.

Life is not fair. Bad things happen to good people. It saddens me when I hear of grown children not making the time to see their parents, parents not taking the time for their children no matter their age, siblings no longer talking, family members supposedly “disowned “ from the family.

 These things upset me because some are missing out on someone they valued and made time for while someone else takes their loved one for granted and easily dismisses them. I don’t know why these things happen. But the thing I do know is for those of us that do still have our parents, our siblings, all our children, remember that somewhere out there someone would give anything just to see their mother, father, brother, sister, son, or daughter one more time, talk to them one more time, tell them they love them one more time.

There are so many things we (myself included) like to think matter but really in the end it’s just the people we loved. So for the people that lost their mom, dad, brother, sister, son, or daughter, thank God for the time you have with yours, hug yours a little tighter, make sure you tell them you love them, and say a little prayer for everyone that s missing theirs.

Two!?! Already, how can that be?

My baby is not really a baby anymore. My little girl will be turning two in one week. I thought time went fast with the first baby but I'm convinced it goes even faster with the second. In some ways I don't feel like I savored every little baby moment as much the second time around like I did the first, but then I feel like I baby her so much more than her sister. She was not the easiest baby. I never really understood why people asked if a baby was a good or bad baby. Until I had her and then I understood. But I loved her even from that first night when her and I cried all night. Sometimes I think the more she fusses, the harder I hold her. Unsure most of the time why she's so upset or mad, I just hold on, hoping she knows no matter what I love her and even though it seems  that at times she is crying for no reason, I'm  there, probably smothering her with my mom desperation to make it all better.  Even though at times I have felt quite clueless on how to deal with her crying, screaming, and toddler fits, we've created quite a bond. She is a momma's girl. I know with her little excited face to see me at the end of every work day, her hugs and snuggles, and her want of mommy to just hold and rock her at the end of the night, that she loves her momma.

When  expecting your second child, we sometimes wonder how and can we love the second as much as we love the first. I definitely wondered this, but I quickly learned there was plenty of room to love a second child as much as the first. Even though I loved both of my girls when they were born, I feel it was so minimal compared to the love I feel for them now, as I've gotten to know them as the little people they are and am starting to see the bigger people they will be.

So here is my letter to my sweet soon to be two year girl old:

My Nakenzi Grace,

It is hard to believe it's been almost two years since we first met. I'd like to say it was love at first sight, but that love doesn't even seem to compare to the love I feel now for you as the little girl with a mind of her own that you've become. You are so full of spunk and fire and I love it. You know what you want and make sure it's known. Even though you're stubborn and insistent, you have such a sweet heart.

You always want to rub sissy's back if she's hurt or upset. Your "I sorry" is so cute that it totally makes up for any mishap. I love how you just want to sit on my lap and rock at the end of the night. It's become such a special you and me time that I look forward to at the end of every day. Even though you only let your sister boss you around to a certain point before you put your foot down, I love the trust you have in her. You even let her give you a full haircut so trustingly! She tells you to get in the push toy so she can shove you down the hill with no way to stop until you hit the fence and you happily oblige.  I'm watching you right now mimicking what she is doing. She doesn't realize that you're following her, but you do it because you look up to your big sister. And she adores you right back. She's so excited to see you at the end of every day; she loves having slumber parties with you on the weekends, and the two of you have so much fun playing together.

You've brought so much new joy to our lives the last two years. We love seeing the little person you're becoming. I'm looking forward to you being able to talk more this next year and hopefully communicate all your demands a little better and all the other wonderful years that are to come with you as our daughter and little sister. Happy Birthday, our sweet and sassy girl.


Mommy, Daddy, and big sis Averi

Recent Posts: 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Swimming the Financial Ocean of Parenthood

Do you ever feel like you’re chasing your own tail, running in circles, not sure if you’re moving in the right direction? Even though some individual days as a mom can feel like that I’m actually thinking of the last five years put together. Five years ago at this time I had recently found out that we were expecting a baby girl, our now four year old daughter. She was a planned baby, and I remember people always telling us how if you wait until you’re financially ready you won’t ever feel ready.  I never really exactly understood that.

Not sure that I still do but now as I look back on the last five years and all the tail chasing we’ve done to try to get ourselves in the this is where we plan to raise our family stage, I maybe understand it a little better. We had our careers started and were living in our first home when our first daughter arrived. I was a little over halfway through graduate school. However, Nate wanted to switch school districts, and was offered a position that would help move him in the direction he wanted to go towards school leadership because  the new position was  with a school system that offered a great program through a local university to get his graduate degree.

The downside is he had to take an almost $5000 pay cut. The same time he found out he got this job he really wanted our car broke down three hours from home, left us stranded for days, was going to cost us almost $5000 to fix it when it was only worth $5000 and we still owed $12,000. I know it's just money and a car, but I cried. A lot. I saw this as a huge financial step back; I thought I was going to have to call my dad and ask for money for the first time in my life. And my pride just could not take that (super stubborn, remember)  so we got it to run for a $1000, took it back to the dealership, traded it in for a family vehicle we planned on getting in a few years anyway when we could afford it, but we had to get a certain priced vehicle in order to take on all the negative equity of the broken car. So for that upcoming year we were not only now taking a $5000 paycut but we also were going to be spending another $4000 throughout the upcoming year we hadn’t planned for on a new car. But instead of throwing $5000 into a car we didn’t plan on having much longer with a family, we at least now had a family SUV we could drive for the next 7-10 years. On top of this daycare is not a cheap expense so it felt like we were taking a couple steps back in order to go forward.

Shortly after getting the job, my husband also got into the leadership program. In order to meet our financial obligations, we both took up coaching. In the last five years of parenthood, I’ve coached two volleyball seasons while he’s coached two wrestling and three baseball seasons. Even though each season is only 2-3 months it’s a lot of late nights and sometimes Saturdays. This is where we came to value our summers off together so much. I made every dollar we brought into our house work for us to cover not only our monthly expenses but give us a little bit of our time back in the summer with our kids and our families we didn't get to see much during the school year.  At times it was a lot and at times it was really stressful.

Like most other American middle class family trying to make it we accumulated other unsecure debt. There’s lots of times we spent money on things we shouldn’t have. Sure, there’s times we could have been more responsible. But I didn’t want our life to be work and sit at home. We cut out a lot of stuff after we had kids. My husband who use to go to a Steelers game every season now has only been to one since our first daughter was born; I don't think we've been to a concert at all since we've had kids. We definitely don't go out for Happy Hour every Friday anymore or down to the Inner Harbor to party our Saturday nights away.  We rarely go out for expensive restaurant dinners anymore; dinner out has to be $30 or less. I don't make as many trips back home as I use to but I still made sure I had money for some.

 My father always has this saying about money that “you can’t take it with you when you die.” So our spending habits have not always been the wisest. The problem with sharing this is those that know me would say I shouldn't have spent money on this and that. Maybe they're right but it is what it is and it's too late to change it now. To me making trips back home, having a family vacation together, having family outings on the weekends was important. Is it to everyone? Maybe not, but it was to me. Did we spend money we didn't have sometimes; did we put stuff on credit cards? Yes. Would I do it differently? I honestly don't know at this point. I think I'll have a better answer later.

The first year of parenthood turned into the fourth and we were getting closer and closer to our oldest daughter starting kindergarten. We were starting to stress that because of the crashed housing market the townhome in the city we bought was never going to sell and we would be faced with paying for private school for our daughter or sending her to inner city schools.

Even though at times it maybe seemed like we were drowning rather than swimming, we soon learned in a new market that was harder to get credit than when we bought our first house, our credit and income allowed us an opportunity we had only dreamed about but didn’t think was possible. We could rent out our house and were approved to buy a home in our number 1 area of choice to raise our girls. When we bought that first house my husband always talked about renting it out later but I did not think it was something that would be possible. However, again, we would have to take two steps back in order to go forward. Because of the housing changes, we now needed $8000 for a downpayment. We maybe had really good credit, made decent money, but aside from a little less than half of that in an account that I couldn’t easily access, we didn’t even have a $1000 saved. Again we were back to two steps backwards in order to go forward. We had a nice truck that we had paid off the year before that was worth around $8000-9000. So we sold it. My husband loved that truck. It was the first thing that was truly ours that we fully owned. We finally had our $8000 to go put down on the house we knew had to be the one. It took us a month from the first time we saw it until we had the money to put down on it. Even though someone else put in an offer the same day as us, we still got it and moved into our new home last winter.

We were finally in a place we could raise our kids, but we jumped on it sooner than we should have. Technically, I didn’t have us budgeted for a higher mortgage until the coming September, we had to buy a piece of crap car to replace the truck, which only got us through seven months before we just went out and bought ourselves a newer car with a $300+ payment that again wasn’t really factored into the equation. So we were back to chasing our tails. Nate was in the heat of his graduate program so could no longer coach so I was the one that took on extra work last spring and this fall.

Money has been tight at times, we've definitely stressed, we asked ourselves multiple times did we do what’s right. We got our new house on an acre of land at $75,000 less the owners bought it for six years before and we moved in with 20K in equity, we have a phenomonly low interest rate , got in before every house is required to have PMI for the life of their loan, and now we have a rental property with great tenents so far that if we can hold on to will be paid off the same year we retire, leaving us an investment that is not in cash because as much as the housing market did crash, I feel that it’s a safer investment than the stocks and banks at the moment.

Were we too rushed? Were we young and stupid? I don’t know. I don’t think we’ll know until we look back on it and see how it all truly worked out, but faith as gotten us through these tight places so far, so I will continue to cling to that, that it will all work out in some way in the end. At times it seems like we’ve been running in circles. I think mostly because of money. Isn’t that the the middle class family lifestyle? Just swimming and swimming. You just keep going forward, keeping your head barely above water at times.

Some want to tell me what I should do to feel less stressed. This is my huge stress. Sure work stresses me out, sure balancing motherhood with work stresses me out, sure sometimes I have too much on my plate, but treading this ocean of financial obligations is the smoking gun. You nor I are going to snap any fingers or wave any wands to make it disappear. Why am I sharing this? Mostly to acknowledge truthfully to myself that this is the hugest stressor and it's not an easy fix. Isn't money the number 1 reason marriages fail? Mine is not failing; my point is though that I'm fairly confident we are not the only working parents raising a family, living on a prayer that we financially survive. But I'm also saying it because  maybe others need to understand that no matter what stressors they think I should eliminate it's not going to eliminate the main problem.

The other thing though is I think I see the light at the end of the tunnel. Nate started his LAST class this week, will write his last paper in December, takes his big test in November. He will have an internship that he does through work in the spring, but then he has his graduate degree.

We’ve been out here nine years at that point. Nine years, and we’ll both finally be done with our graduate degrees, we’re in a home and place we could raise our girls, and I'm hopeful our finances may finally be falling into a place where I  can have more flexibility with my time between work and home (the next six months will tell a lot) . Sure it's been a bumpy road at times; yes we have definitely fought at times but we're surviving. We're always swimming forward, we've always managed to keep our head above water. There's many times even in the worst situations like with the car and even this Fall while we're still trying to recover from a summer that lacked savings because it went to buying a house, I constantly reassure myself faith in ourselves and God has gotten us this far and just keep on living on a prayer. Just keep on swimming. 

Disappointment verse Anger

I have about five posts I started this week but with each posts I realize I'm writing this week I feel that it's too much, it's too deep. There's things you just don't talk about on the internet.  One of my favorite bloggers recently wrote about how she wished her blog was anonymous so she wouldn't have to worry about hurting people's feelings or censor what she says or how she says things because of who might read it. People reminded her that it was her blog and she started writing for her. Same here. I write this for me, and I do love the interaction. I love when I can put the things that bother me and it not only helps someone because they realize they're not alone but it helps me because they usually offer reassuring feedback.

But my blog is not anonymous, and as I've written about a half a dozen posts on things bothering me lately I realize it all comes down to one thing. Disappointment. I've come to realize I'm disappointed in people I really care about and love, and I think coming to that realization just upset me more. I don't want to be disappointed in them; I don't want to feel like they let me down. I'm not going to talk about why I'm disappointed because that's between me and them. I also spent an hour talking to someone I really care about this past week and she too was upset about disappointment with her grown daughter. My heart was broken for her, and at that moment I was thinking of my own daughters.

They're little now and they're idea of disappointment now is that I told them no to eating candy for breakfast. I can handle that, but I am very self conscious of fostering a good relationship with them probably  because I see so many struggling family relationships. I told my friend that she should talk to her daughter about it; her daughter may not change but hopefully she'll feel better about talking to her daughter about how disappointed she was in her.

I've come to realize I use disappointment as an excuse to lash out and verbally attack someone. We're hurt so we feel the need to hurt back, right? But I think disappointment is such a rawer emotion than anger. Anger ignites and burns out quickly, but disappointment sits there in our souls and can eat away at us, causing resentment and ruining our relationships, if we don't recognize it and address it.

I feel that anger causes the other person to become defensive, but it's not until they realize that they've hurt us, that any type of relationship can move forward.

Do you often handle your disappointment with anger?

Recent Posts you might have missed

Swimming the Financial Ocean of Parenthood

Creative Expression as a Coping Strategy

Time is What Makes Great Parents


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Creative Expression as a Coping Strategy

As an English teacher, I love to give my students the opportunity to create. I usually like to do this through writing and with writing in which they can write about themselves and what they want. In some ways this is frowned upon because they should be modeling their writing after a particular well known writer or analyzing something. But I still like to squeeze in my own thing where I give them leeway and opportunity to create and write how and what they want. When I read their stuff there are many things I learn that saddens me and gives me hope, but that's all for another post. But the thing I thought about instead was how a love and appreciation for the arts is sometimes lost today. The simplicity of creating our own thing is sometimes not appreciated. When our children are four and five and starting school, they stress creative play through art, but as they move through school, less focus is on the arts and more is on the business of education. Basic academics does have its value; I'm not arguing that, but what I'm sad to see is how the arts have become undervalued. I really feel that creative expression can be such a natural therapy and medicine to healing and moving forward.
Writing has always been a creative outlet for me. I think sewing was the creative outlet for my mother. Photography is a creative outlet for my husband. I know women who when stressed, baking is their creative outlet. I look at my daughter and sometimes I think singing, dancing, and that theatrical type stuff is her creative outlet. I look at my youngest daughter and think I hope she finds her creative outlet soon because she needs one! 
I feel that things like writing, photography, art, music, theater, or any of those arts where we create something, is so good for our soul. I’ve had a very blessed life from the family I was born into to the wonderful family of my own I have now, but I’ve still had moments of struggle, uncertainity, sadness, and I’ve needed that art, that feeling of creating that would help sooth my soul and help me move forward. I work with kids that have incredible struggles, have been dealt awful cards, and they so desperately need the outlet of the arts. In most cases an art is a hobby, a passion for something that interest them, but teaching them to love something like the arts should be part of a valued education. I think an appreciation for the arts is on its way back in with the new education reform, but I know some would like to say an interest in the arts is a waste of time.  I’m not saying to encourage or foster a love for the arts for our children because we think they're all going to be world famous singers, actresses, dancers, photographers, and writers, but because it helps us heal sometimes and move forward. And it makes us happy and isn't that what we all want for our children?
I feel that my oldest daughter has found her art. My youngest my husband worries is emotionally disturbed because she’s a typical two year old that throws fits, gets tires and screams and cries. Even though she does seem much more emotional than her sister, I think he’s worrying for nothing. But I do hope she finds a creative way to express herself and work through her emotions though because she’s a little like her mama and I think she’ll find creative expression can be a natural remedy in our crazy world. I've just found it to be such a valuable coping skill  as a child and as an adult that now as a parent it's something I hope to nurture in my own children.
What's your creative outlet? Do you see one in your children yet?
Recent posts you may have missed
 Way to Lead by Example: My rant at the Government

A little Place called E town

The Naysayers and Believers

Check out my husband's photography if you haven't had a chance yet:

Point Click Capture Photography

                                                     My girls singing and dancing


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Welcome to the Family, Daisy

I'll let the picture speak for themselves but as you can tell the girls talked Daddy into getting them a kitty. Her name is Daisy. The girls love her but I think right now she tries her best to hide from them.

Recent posts you may have missed:

Way to Lead by Examples, US Leaders

A Little Place called E Town

The Naysayers and Believers


Way to Lead by Example

I have spent a decade working with America’s youth, and in that time I have worked with well over a thousand kids. I know it’s typical for adolescents to feel misunderstood and undervalued, and I’m not here to make excuses for their behavior. As an adult, I see a lot of criticism directed at today’s youth, but I’m not here at the moment to agree or necessarily disagree with the criticism directed at them.

We are a society living in fear of our future. Recent conversations with high school and college students have shown me over and over again, they are afraid of what hope the future holds for them. As a parent, I’m afraid of what the future holds for them. Is it because of them and their attitudes and values though? I feel that some see it this way, but I'm here to point the finger at someone else.

You know why I’m scared? Why they’re scared? Because what they see, what I see, what way too many of us see, is a country that is more about money and personal gains than any actual real values. We want to criticize the values of today’s youth! Really? Where do you think they’re getting their examples from?

We have corporations like Macy’s that’s opening their stores on Thanksgiving and forcing their employers to work all for that corporate money gain instead of celebrating a day that is meant for what is suppose to be one of America’s most important values, family. We have a government that is sulking and pouting like spoiled little children because they can’t get their way. Government isn’t about the good of the people anymore; it’s about individual gain and victories. It’s about personal egos, not values like doing the right thing, helping others, or working for the greater good. Our leaders in corporate, political America are acting like spoiled, selfish little children that don’t value anything but their own gain. You want to call today’s youth entitled? Our leaders are stripping us of our values with their poor examples.

Change in how we want to be perceived as Americans starts at the top. I for one am completely embarrassed of our leaders, whether they’re the corporate or political ones. They should be ashamed of themselves. I doubt none of them would think to look at what they’re doing wrong; they would much rather point the finger at someone else. There are people working that are going to have to put off mortgage payments, auto loan payments, skip a planned trip or family event because their paycheck is postponed because of a government that can’t get their shit together because they’re too busy blaming the other side.

Our leaders’ examples of values absolutely sucks so what do you expect from today’s youth? They are lost. My students write every year on the necessity of why we need government in society. Maybe this year I’ll have them write about how poor leadership can destroy; how strong leadership is a necessity to improve, grow, and succeed.

They want to drill today’s youth with testing, testing, testing on the academics. I think this shows right here that there’s values in teaching the skills of teamwork, compromise, leadership because obviously our leaders must have been the first bubble filling generation who was so busy spitting out facts to show how they were so much better than everyone else that they forgot to learn the actual valuable lessons that would actually help them be the leaders this country needs.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A little place called E town

As my newsfeed on Facebook blew up Friday with everyone’s Homecoming pictures from back home, I was reminded of a place that still makes the idea of Mayberry possible. Generations of graduates gather on the streets, local shops and businesses close down for the annual parade, and it seems like the whole town is there in the heart of old town to cheer of the next generation of small town life.

Some see small town life as something to escape or something not worth looking for; they see it as something not as great as the bigger places in the world, but as someone who left for the supposed greater places in life (I think I left just to see what else there was outside its walls), I can tell you, there are many things to love and appreciate about a small little town we all like to call E town.

It’s a place where the town centers around the happenings of the schools. I remember a place that would practically be silent on a Friday night except for the roar of the crowd at Tiger stadium because that’s where everyone was. If you had the experience of being one of the teams that made the run to states in the 90s you remember a flood of cars filling the parking lots before the big games, town fans rallying behind the teams with pep rallies and send offs. You remember the town paper at practically every game and big school event, and anxiously waited for the next edition of the Daily Standard to cut out the clippings of those wonderful school memories.

I remember how you can’t walk into a grocery store or a bank or even outside your door without taking three times longer than you planned because you’d run into at least three different people that knew you or was asking how your mother, father, or grandparents were. It’s a place where you better behave in school because half the teachers were an old family friend of someone’s in the family. It’s a place where everyone seemed to know you since you were knee high to the grass.

It was a place where high school kids hung out in the hitch lot or the McD’s parking lot. It was a place where you lined up to the street for the town’s favorite ice cream at Dari B. It was the place every high school kid wanted to work.

It was a place you loved. It’s place that as much as you were excited to graduate and move on, you were sad too because you knew you’d be leaving something great behind.

Other recent posts you may have missed

The Naysayers and the Believers

The Working Mom Life on the Job Evaluation Form

Time is What Makes Great Parents

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Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Naysayers

I read this post recently from one of my favorite blogs, There's Just one Mommy, about the naysayers. I could totally relate to what she was saying. If you’re one of those naysayers, I apologize in advance. But I’ve had to deal with a lot of naysayers, Debbie downers, Negative Nancys, whatever name you want to give them kind of people.

Maybe we, as in Nate and I both at times, encounter this because we are idea people. We always have these “ideas”, hopes, ambitions, things we think we can accomplish. But whether it was finishing college, moving halfway across the country, owning a rental property, where or how much we wanted to travel, how many kids we want to have, our plans for how we hope to raise them, how we want to manage or spend our money, we’ve encountered a lot of naysayers at times. I'm sure if we wanted to get a motorcycle and take a motorcycle class, which we've discussed at times but not any time soon, I'm sure like OneMommy we'd encounter more naysayers.

So my question is this, why? Why do we want to discourage people from taking risks, trying something they’ve always wanted to try? Do we really discourage them for their own good or because of our own insecurities? We stick to our comfort zones even when we’re not happy. Why are we so scared of the unknown, the choices that are different than our own?

Just as OneMommy states, I don’t want to get to the end of my life and feel like I missed something. But not only that but tomorrow is not promised to anyone so why not chase the things we hope to do today. For those naysayers, I feel that the message isn’t so much that they really think the person they’re discouraging is going to fail, but their own regret for not doing something they want to take a risk on. As someone who had to really stop and consider what was my biggest fear in making a big life changing decision, I can tell you it’s not the fear of failing but the fear of never trying. I can’t handle the “what if” question.

So forget the naysayers, negative Nancys, Debbie downers, and do what you want to do. Don’t be a naysayer, be a believer.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Time is What Makes Great Parents

Some of my fondest memories as a child were the times of  my dad sounding reveille on weekend mornings to rise everyone out of bed at the crack of dawn to head the hour into the city for a softball tournament. I remember the times of the car rides across the country to see my grandparents in Buffalo, New York where we would sing as a family at the top of our lungs to whatever old country tune struck our fancy. I remember the times of mom and daughter shopping trips or movie nights while dad was away on a hunting trip. I remember the times my dad would take us hunting even though he knew we'd be too loud he'd never see anything to actually shoot. I remember  the times of my dad coming home from work and sitting in that driveway for hours catching all three of us. I remember the times of my dad parking his semi truck in the high school parking lot so he wouldn't miss one of our ball games and then he would drive the semi an hour back to the plant before finally coming home for good at almost 10 o clock at night just to have to get up before 5 to do it all over again. I remember the times my mom, who is one of the hardest workers I know, making sure she arranged her work around our games so she could get out early enough to watch us play. The list of times I remember with my parents as a child growing up could go on and on, but there's always one trend-they made the time and they made it count.

With each new generation of parents, there is change, different factors that change our journeys, and usually we have ideas of how we want to do things differently, some even better, than our parents did, but this is one very vital value that I hope is not lost as as my generation raises the next generation. Time is something we can never get more of whether it's in the end when we look back on our lives or when we look back on our children's youth. Time will pass and there's nothing we can change about that, but what we make of that time is what matters. Some may argue that the quanity of time is more important, and it definitely has its place and importance, but I think the quality ranks higher. Some would argue that  we should change the quanity with the life choices we make, but even with my own parents who at times worked long days and hours, it's not necessarily the quanity that defined the time of my childhood but the quality of that time.

 Even though my mom was able to stay home with us until I was ten, the majority of my childhood memories actually come from after that time. I read something recently that hinted that choosing to work is an excuse to take a break from our kids and do something for ourselves.  Many parents have to work, but that doesn't mean their children are getting less of a quality childhood. I am working mom with lots of working mom friends, and the balance is hard, probably harder than anything any of us have ever done in our lives. No, as working mothers we don't get to spend as much time with our children as a mother that chooses or has the opportunity to stay home or work less, but I'm confident that the time we do spend with them is valuable.

As I enter into a time in my children's childhoods where they're starting to have their own interests and activities, I have a totally new appreciation for the choices, sacrifices, and dedication my parents made to my sisters and me. I look back at my own parents and my friends' parents that I grew up with and I know the capability to do what I want to do, to be the parent I want to be, is possible because they lead the way by example.

We cannot get any lost time back; we can't get back the baby, the adorable toddler, the innocence child, or the growing adolescent that they are or once were. I think one of the most valuable things I learned from my parents is to live in the moment and make the time we do get to spend together count. There are so many choices and opinions when it comes to parenting, but I don't think any of them are more important than the choice of time with our children.

As a working mom, I am constantly asking myself how can I make this little slip of time we have together whether it's an hour or so on a week night, the weekend, or those few weeks of vacation a year meaningful time with them. I'm as guilty as the rest of them of turning the TV on sometimes for them, sitting on the computer while they play,or staring into space while they wreak chaos on my house because I'm too tired to distract them with something else. But you can bet I stop and reflect often what have we done together that shows them I love them, that I want to spend time with them, that I didn't let a whole week slip by dominated by the stresses of work, other responsibilities, and just the busy schedule of life.  Did we read books together, did we cook or bake together, did we get up and dance to some random song on the radio, did they know I was there cheering them on at their latest activity, did we go to the library or park, did we take a family outing somewhere, explore something new, color or create something together?

I look back at my parents with their jobs, their hours, their own hobbies and activities, and they could have so easily said they were too tired or that it was too much. Never once did they turn down an activity or extracurricular  we wanted to do because it was starting to become too much for them to balance or handle. They could have just been good parents, taking care of us financially and with the basic child upkeep of feeding and bathing us. The could have been good parents because they loved us, asked about our day, and maybe watched some TV with us at the end of the day, but they weren't good parents. They were great parents because no matter how much was on their plate, how tired they were, how overwhelmed they possibly felt, they made time for us and they made it count.  It's not the passage of time, how long we've been parents, or even necessarily how much time we spend  with our kids, that makes a parent a great parent. It's making the time we do get with them count, making it something valuable to them and even ourselves that I think makes a parent a great parent.

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