A blog is born.
Welcome to my musings on pop culture and parenting. I am the Pop Mama and this is a safe place to steal away from your screaming child and get your fix on what's up with Beyonce and great poop stain remover tips.

Monday, August 4, 2014

This Magic Moment

I love summer.  Summer is my favorite.

Growing up, we would travel from the Midwest to New England each summer to visit my mother's side of the family.  She comes from an exceptionally large (and just plain exceptional) family -- she is number 5 out of 16 children.  I have 27 cousins on my mother's side alone.  It makes for a big party.

I have vivid memories of catching fireflies in my grandfather's wooded backyard, jumping off of a boathouse in New Hampshire, making forts in the sandy dirt of my cousins' Rhode Island property and melting into the pack of children that was my family.  Our trips out east were magical.  My grandfather always made a point to do something special with my brother and I while we were visiting.  My aunts and uncles were not unfamiliar or strange, even though I saw them only once a year, they were just part of the village.  It was my second home.

I think a lot about how my large extended family has defined who I am today.  How my father's side of the family, most of whom reside here in my hometown, stretches out to second cousins and beyond -- and I know all of them.  How I don't blink when a family gathering, whether on my mother's or father's side, can easily include around 40 people.  How I feel safe knowing that there is a entire spider-web of love that I can lean on.  How although I don't see them often enough, I truly love knowing about their lives.

This is what I want for my boys.  I want them to know their family -- all of it.  I want them to know that it stretches from coast to coast.  I want them to feel the magic of sparklers and popsicles and cousins you only see once in a great while but become best friends within a moment.  I want them to stay up late playing hard and get up the next day to have start all over again.  To be enchanted by the adventure of a trip and yet safe within the boundaries of a tribe.

So, we went east this summer -- my mom, the boys and I.  And, it was still there -- the electric magic of a sprawling family.  We are all a little older and my boys are the newest generation, but when I stood on the porch and looked around at all of my aunts, uncles, cousins and family friends milling around the party, my eyes filled up.  My heart cracked open.  I am so lucky.  

My boys swam and ran and ate ice cream and danced all day and into the night.  They played "Duck, duck, goose" and swiped around their first sparklers.  When it was dark, I could only see them by the glow sticks they were throwing with my cousin's husband and my 10 year old cousin.  My mind was peaceful.  My heart bursting.  They had seamlessly melted into the pack.

My family, all of it, both sides, is not perfect.  We have quirks and dysfunction.  We have sadness and tragedy.  We also have laughter and camaraderie and an invisible thread that weaves us together.  My boys are part of that now.  And while it may not happen every summer, there is magic when we are all together.  It is everything special.  

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

34? Here we go!

This is my last day as a 33 year old.  My husband tells me that tomorrow I enter my mid-30s.  Yikes.  

I love waking up and thinking, "today is my birthday!" and feeling the little butterflies of hope that today will be slightly different, because, well, today is MY day.  However, my general love of birthdays has decreased as I get older.  It may be because I have little children who don't care if it is my birthday and will blow out a swim diaper anyway (one of the most horrific things that can happen to someone, trust me) or because it just means that I am getting older and things are super different than they were when I was turning 10 or 16 or even 25.  No matter, I am going to enjoy tomorrow as much as possible and as my husband says, "the alternative to birthdays is not having one," and well, I am damn thankful that I still get to have them!

So, on the eve of my birthday, I thought I would mention a few things that I've noticed as I inch my way through the 30s.

1.  My joints hurt.  Not all the time, but a lot.  In the morning, after exercise, at night, after carrying children around...

2.  I rarely get embarrassed.  I think this is either because I am more self-assured and give myself a ton more grace than I used to -- or because I have seen it all as a mom and just don't have the energy to care.  However, I do experience from secondhand embarrassment quite often.

3.  I am pretty sure I am growing a mustache.  This did not happen in my 20s.  I have discovered how to remedy it and am researching how to age gracefully.

4.  I can't party.  I'm not even complaining about this one.  I value sleep so much that partying seems ludicrous  to me.  Even if I didn't have to get up at the crack of dawn with two little boys, my aging body can't handle the alcohol anymore.

5.  I realize that I don't connect with today's youth.  Like, what the hell do you get someone graduating from high school these days?  I didn't even have a cell phone when I went off to college and when I finally got one it was for the car ONLY.  Do they still use shower caddies?  What is cool?  I have no clue.  I recommend the movie 21 Jump Street for anyone in their 30s who wants to get an idea of how out of place you would feel at a high school today...also, I laughed my ass off.

I know that there are more, but these few came to mind as I ponder beginning the next year of my life.  I would love to hear what others have noticed as we all get older.      

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Public Indecency

7:26pm - The kids are watching their stories and Husband is futzing with the sprinkler system.

I honestly never dreamed that I would be the mother of two boys.  Growing up I was certain that I wanted children -- at least a few of them -- but always kind of envisioned myself with a few of each dressed in smart little sailor suits with the vocal talents of Shirley Temple and the Von Trapp Family Singers.  Never did I imagine that two little boys, both different as could be, would bless my life and turn it upside down.  I also did not imagine the shenanigans that these two crazy cats would rain down on our life.

After a long work meeting on Tuesday morning, I called my husband to see how his day had been so far. This is the story -- in his words:

Well, the highlight of my morning, and I wouldn't call it a highlight, was what happened when I got to daycare.  I pulled up to daycare and had to park on the street (Broadway) [to give a little background, our daycare is downtown].  I got Cameron out and told him to stand on the sidewalks with the bags while I got Henry out.  I went around and got Henry out and then came back around the car.  Cameron was standing on the sidewalk, with his toes on the edge of the curb, pants around his ankles peeing into the street.  

I was like, "Cam, what are you doing?"  He said, very matter-of-factly, "Dad, it is okay.  Mom said this is easier.  She does this with Henry."  [more background: I had let Henry pee outside in a parking lot when there was NO bathroom anywhere near by and he was potty training.  I also made him pee in front of the car so he was hidden.]

Husband then told me that Cam was not just doing a little sprinkle of a pee, he was fully letting a gallon of pee run into the gutter of Broadway, during rush hour, while nicely dressed men and women walked past on the sidewalk on their way to work.  Husband tried to shield Cam best as possible while he finished up business and pulled his pants up.  Cam continued to protest that "Mom said that peeing in the street is easier."  They then had a talk about the appropriate time to pee outside.  And it not being within 100 feet of daycare with the daycare security guard watching you.

Honestly, it would be easier sometimes if I could just let these little maniacs pee wherever they wanted, but sometimes we have to do hard things -- like teach our children not only how to use the bathroom, but also how to discern what constitutes a "peeing in a parking lot situation."  This is a hard concept  -- many times I have asked myself this question after a few too many glasses of wine.

So, there it is.  No Von Trapp style harmonies, no sailor suits, just public urination.  And, while we are not "proud" of it, it was the most amusing thing to happen that day.  My boys keep me on my toes, but also keep me dancing -- and I love dancing.


Monday, June 9, 2014

Resting in the Present

3:49pm - Working at my desk, kids are with babysitter.

Today a friend told me that she thinks I do a really good job of being present on the days that I have the kids.  I was shocked as I am constantly beating myself up for being distracted and overwhelmed with business stuff when I should be "enjoying" mothering moments.  Trying to take the compliment, I said "thank you" and told her that I struggle with this daily.

There is a lot out there today about parents being distracted from their children or family time by their phones, work, social media, etc.  I see it in others and I admit that I too am often half present instead of fully present.  For me it isn't a good thing, but sometimes it is a necessary thing.  I work for myself and I am also at least partially responsible for the income of two other people.  Sometimes I need to address a work related issue immediately.  And, sometimes I just "think" I need to address something immediately.  Differentiating between the two and trusting that the world won't fall apart if I don't act is the struggle.

Our culture has become reliant on the immediate response.  However, very few of us are actually performing tasks that require an immediate response.  My work is as an attorney and consultant and I must remind myself that no one is going to bleed out on the table if I don't respond to an email within the hour.  A few months ago I was completely overwhelmed, stressed and exhausted by work projects, which translated into me being short-tempered, anxious and distracted with my boys.  One day I snapped a little and took a step back.  I needed peace.

I know that balance is constantly shifting and all the pieces will never be in perfect harmony (at least not all the time), but I had to figure out little things to do to create boundaries.  Now I don't check email after a certain time at night.  I try to put my phone down and walk away from it when I am with my kids.  Instead of hurriedly getting the kids to nap and rushing to do work, I now give myself permission to take some alone time where I am not working.  And, if Cam doesn't nap, I try not to freak out and just enjoy a little quiet time with him.  The last month has been better -- or at least, some days are better than others.

So, this afternoon when I found myself with Cam on the couch and he fell asleep on me as we were resting together, I did not reach for my phone.  I closed my eyes.  For at least one moment, the world was in balance.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Oh, how things change...

7:04pm - Kids are watching their final show of day (wind down time) and I am trying to keep my yawns in check.

Recently I have been thinking about behaviors that I have acquired since becoming a mom.  Honestly, I cannot even remember what it was like when it was just husband and I in the house.  Here are a few things that I now do that I am about 99.9% certain were not going on before having children.

1.  Eating covertly.  I hide what I am eating.  Just a few minutes ago I stood inside the pantry to eat a handful of chips.  Why?  Because I want to eat my own damn snack without four little hands trying to take it from me or asking me to do one.more.thing.for.them.  Seriously, have you ever just wanted to enjoy your own _______ without having to share with someone?  It is bad enough when they beg me for a sip of my coffee, so I am definitely not sharing my treats.  I have learned to hide in the laundry room to wolf something down, distract them with television so that I could enjoy my own bowl of cereal in the morning and hide food in my home office.  Survival skills.

2.  Showering only at night.  I don't remember the last time I took a shower in the morning.  Seriously.  It was definitely pre-children.  With my little alarm clocks waking me up at first light I have no time (or capacity) to deal with a shower in the morning.  This also goes back to not wanting to share.  If I am going to take a shower, I want to do it alone and without children dropping shampoo bottles on my toes, or crying for milk and banging on the shower door, or climbing dangerously on the bathroom counter and defiling my toothbrush as I helplessly try to rinse out my hair and shave my legs.

3.  Wearing only machine washable clothing.  This pretty much tracks with the yoga pants phenomenon once you have a baby.  You know things have taken a nose dive towards extremely casual when you consider whether or not to wear your "good" yoga pants rather than the faded and stretched out ones.  I save my "good" yoga pants for company.  I still own some dry-clean only clothing, I just don't wear it anywhere near my children, which means I save it for vacations, business meetings and the occasional date night.

I know that there are more quirks that I have picked up since birthing these two maniacs, but I am too tired to remember them all.  What about you all?  What habits, mannerisms or behaviors have you acquired since welcoming your bundles of joy?

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Step up Soldier

11:27pm - I cannot sleep.

Today at church a video about being a Soldier was shown in honor of Memorial Day weekend.  It brought tears to my eyes.  I am more and more grateful every day to the brave men and women who stand up and have stood up for our country.  I am thankful that my both my grandfathers fought for our country in WWII.  I realize that our country could look like a very different place if we didn't have people who were willing to risk it all to protect our freedoms -- to protect US.  I am proud to be an American.

In the video, the narrator made the point several times that the Soldier steps up and protects.  The Soldier puts him or herself out there on behalf of others.  The Soldier makes sacrifices.

The events of the past month have shaken me, especially the kidnapping of the Nigerian school girls.  I have written and deleted a few drafts of blog posts in which I ranted about the injustice and questioned how we (as women, Americans, civilians) could help.  I feel helpless that those girls were not protected.  I feel helpless that no one is able to protect them right now from whatever horrors they may be suffering. And, honestly I feel helpless not only about the kidnapping of hundreds of girls, but also the abuse of children right here in my own city, and the bullying that goes on in schools, and the elderly who have no one to care for them, and about a million other life cruelties and hardships faced by people everyday.

The video got me thinking.  How can I be a Soldier?  How can I step up and protect others -- how can I put myself out there?

I look at other Soldiers.

My cousin Carrie.  A true Soldier.  One of the strongest and most generous women I know.  Many years ago she literally protected her mother by giving her a kidney.  She also stands up and makes sacrifices everyday to protect her son who has autism and make sure he is safe and receiving the care he needs.  On April 21, 2014 she ran in the Boston Marathon as part of the Boston Children's Hospital Miles for Miracles Team.  She raised thousands of dollars for an amazing cause and finished her first marathon to boot.  Carrie's dad was a Soldier and I know he is smiling down at his brave protector of a daughter.

Malala Yousafzai.  This girl gets its and she doesn't stop, no matter what the cost.  She has put herself out there on behalf of the right to education.  She is wise beyond her years and her words are thoughtful and profound coming from such a young person.

All the kids this year who stood up for someone else who was being bullied.  There were many new  stories this past school year relating to children who stepped up to protect another from bullying and each one always brought tears to my eyes.  Like most kids, I was the recipient of some bullying.  I also know that I didn't always step up to protect others from bullying.  I survived the bullying, but I truly regret not being a Soldier for others.  Those kids who are stepping up are Soldiers.

People sacrificing their time, energy and resources for someone they don't even know.  Right now my city is being turned upside down with love by thousands of volunteers searching for a missing college student -- Brogan Dulle.  They are out there not only to protect him, but to protect our city.  Each person searching, volunteering, handing out flyers and gathering supplies is making a sacrifice on behalf of someone else.  Most people involved don't even know him.  I am in awe.  Click Here to Learn More and See Flyer.

There are so many other examples -- from well known Soldiers who fight publicly for peace and justice to the moms, dads, stepparents, grandparents, sisters, brothers and friends who sacrifice to protect the people they love.

Being a Soldier is about big things and little things.  It is about putting others before yourself.  It is stepping up when you know something is not right.  It is saying something that needs to be said, especially when no one else will say it.  It is about protecting human rights.  It is about protecting others' feelings.  It is about being brave.  It is about love.

I realize now that I can be a Soldier everyday.  Everyone can.  Step up Soldier, we can change the world.



Friday, April 18, 2014

Bedtime Forgiveness. My Messy Beautiful.

April 17, 2014 - 8:15pm - Kids are jumping on couch.

I'm back.  My new favorite blog drew me back to my own blog.  Momastery.  Glennon Melton Doyle's blog has become a source of daily inspiration for me.  That and my "Jesus Calling" reading.  Life has been tough lately and I need truth on the regular.  Between her and Jesus I get my fix -- albeit I laugh a ton more when I read Glennon's words.

Sooo, Momastery has a Messy, Beautiful Warriors Project that allows bloggers to post to Momastery's site and tell their own Messy Beautiful story. And, tomorrow is the last day to post.

I have written 4 drafts of my Messy Beautiful post.  I have erased and closed it and saved it and rewritten it.  I have second, third and twentieth guessed myself.  I am scared and I am hesitant.  I really really want to be part of the project because I get daily inspiration from Momastery, but I keep thinking that I am not good enough or creative enough or hip enough.  It is like when I try to wear an infinity scarf...I try it on like a billion different ways and then just feel like an asshole and take it off.

And then yesterday I had a horrible, no good, very bad day in which I had overwhelming anxiety, moments of depression, stress that caused my jaw to lock up, and I screamed (and I mean really screamed) at my son and my husband (at separate times).  I sucked. The day sucked.  Everything just sucked.

I forced myself to go to yoga class and get the crap out of my system.  When I got home both kids were in bed and my husband was labeling a tupperware container of strawberries with our last name so that my oldest could participate in "fruit salad day" at school.  My heart swelled just a little with love for him in that moment.  He told me that my son (the one I screamed at) wanted me to kiss him goodnight when I got home.  I went upstairs and crawled into bed with my sleepy kid.  I gave him a kiss, looked him the eye and told him that I was sorry for yelling at him.  He just smiled, looked at me and said sweetly, "it's okay."  Tears spilled down my cheeks.  Forgiveness.  He then asked me "Mommy, can you sleep with me a little bit?"

Who could resist this kid?

Before hearing his words of acceptance and receiving his bedtime kisses, I had beaten myself to a pulp, called myself a failure, decided that they were better off without me and basically chalked up my behavior as the last straw that would send both of my boys to therapy.  His casual forgiveness and unconditional toddler love let me forgive myself.

Originally, I had wanted to write this post about my personal evolution over the last four years and how I am a different person than the one that started this blog -- but isn't that a given?  Doesn't parenthood change you?  On a daily basis?  If you let it?  And not just parenthood, but marriage and work and God and the people who love you?  I had wanted to write something grand, to explain how I have changed -- or how I feel changed, but I couldn't do it.  I had wanted to share my vision and dreams for living an extraordinary life -- to show that I am trying, really trying, to continue to stretch and grow and live outside of my comfort zone.  To justify not writing on this blog because I was too busy living my Messy Beautiful life.

And, then after writing, rewriting and feeling like a fraud, I found that although I still have all of those messy and beautiful dreams and goals inside me, the most messy beautiful moment of my week was forged from something "brutiful" (as Glennon would say).  I mean, how do you get from feeling like a failure, screaming at your family and wringing your hands in anxiety to receiving forgiveness and bedtime kisses and having a husband who cares about preschool fruit salad day?  Love.  After all that, I am still loved.  And that is extraordinary.

This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!