To My Badass Bean on International Women’s Day

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Dearest Bean-

Today’s International Women’s Day and, until the past few years,  I hadn’t heard much about this day. Started in 1908, the day was created to mark the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Back when it was started, women couldn’t vote. They couldn’t hold most jobs. They couldn’t be whomever they wanted to be. For you and me- white, solidly middle class women living in the Northeast- that’s pretty unimaginable.

Over the past year, we’ve seen women start to roar, loudly and with purpose. You and I and Scorch watched live feeds of Susan B. Anthony’s grave on election day. We marveled at pictures and videos during the Woman’s March on DC. We blasted Beyonce’s Run the World and we read Rebel Girls nightly. We talk about what it means to be a woman today and how the sky is the limit.

But I have something to confess—until I started educating myself, I didn’t know why this was so important. I have never thought I was less than because of my gender. I have never been assaulted. I have never been harassed. I was raised to know my self worth and even at my lowest, I have never, ever doubted that I am worthy of as much respect as a man. Nana and Papa never made me feel less than my brother. I have been very, very blessed- as are you.

But a lot of women aren’t as blessed. There are a countless issues women face world-wide and million reasons why a Woman’s Day is needed, but let’s talk about something you can relate to for a second. Did you know that nearly half a billion women cannot read and 62 million girls are denied an education world-wide? People are not taught to read or allowed go to school simply because they were born with a vagina instead of a penis. Girls are more likely to have to stay at home and tend younger siblings and other household chores; ensuring education falls way down the priority list.

As a result, 1 in 3 girls in the developing world are married before the age of 18. Any chance of living a good life is tied to the men in their life—fathers, brothers, husbands and sons. If they marry into poverty or to an abusive spouse, a woman’s options for getting out and moving up are next to none without an education and marketable skills.

Yeah, yeah—I know a lot of that doesn’t mean a lot to you here and now. Child marriages and abuse is as foreign to you as walking on Mars and for that, darling girl, I’m so thankful. But it’s because we’re so blessed—because we do have it so good—that we need to work even harder for those who don’t.

I don’t know what the means for you—hell, I don’t know what it means for me. All I know is that this year, I’ve been inspired to find out how I can give back. Right now that’s been monetary through donations, but I hope to figure out a way to take action and you can bet I’ll be dragging you and Scorch along with me.

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I saw this picture earlier today and gasped. The bull has been a fixture on Wall Street since 1989 and last night, the little badass girl showed up. Her name is Fearless Girl and when I look at her, I see you. You, child, are my  prickly pear. You’re my kid who doesn’t like hugs and who suffers through inane small talk. You keep your tribe small and tight and you hate when you don’t know what to expect or what to do. You are equal parts sass and stubbornness with a side of humor and grace that I marvel at daily.

When you decide to stand for something, you plant both feet firmly and you don’t give up and you don’t care who is in your way. Often times, this makes me crazy—but little girl, you will move mountains. You will vanquish giants and you will always stand up for yourself and I couldn’t be more proud.

So today on International Women’s Day I honor the women who have come before me, I celebrate with the women who fight today and I wait with eagerness and hope to see how you change the world.

I love you, my fearless girl.

-Mom

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A Beginner for the Third Time

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The good news is this winter is going by crazy fast! The bad? It’s been almost a month since I’ve wrote anything here.

Normally winter drags here in the frozen north. I can handle November and December because of the holidays, but mid-January through mid-March are the longest months. The days are short, cold and snowy and my motivation to do anything is at a low—all of which doesn’t help pass the time. But this year I decided to change things up a bit and became a skier.

Again.

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The first time I skied was middle school when all the kids joined ski club. We’d hop on a bus after school, drive for 35 minutes and then have 3 hours to ski before heading home. It was the most freedom we had had pretty much had ever and I was so excited. But then I realized I hated the snow, was lazy and that enjoying hot chocolate and french fries was much more fun than falling down a mountain, so the total time actually spent skiing that year was probably under an hour.

8 years ago, my brother was running his own ski club at the school he taught at. He needed an other adult to chaperone the kids, so I volunteered. The Bean was 6 months old at the time and I was dying to get out of the house.  I was so desperate that spending hours out in the cold, hurling my body down a mountain seemed like a better alternative than putting a 2 year old and a 6 month old to bed. Shocking no one, I didn’t like skiing any better this time around- especially after I had an epic wipe out that resulted in one of my skis going down the hill without me while people chanted “Go Lady!” at me from the ski lift as I walked down after it.

So, why, you’re wondering, would things be any different this time around? This time, I was actually doing it with my kids. And there isn’t much I wouldn’t do for them. So, for the past 6 Thursdays I’ve been starting all over again and learning how to ski properly. Scorch has been snow boarding for 3 years now, so he’d go off with his ski club buddies while the Bean, having never skied before, took lessons. Since she was not going anywhere without me, I took lessons as well. And- AMAZINGLY- skiing isn’t so scary when you learn how to do it right! (Shocking, I know).

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By the start of week 2, Bean and I graduated off the Bunny Hill. That meant for 4 weeks in a row, I got to bomb down the slopes with two of my favorite people. And by bomb,  I mean, they bombed with zero fear. Me? Well, I made really, really, really big s-turns while repeating calming phrases to myself out loud- things like “you’re not going to fall” and “you won’t die” and “if Beyonce can carry twins, you can ski!”.

Thursdays very quickly became all of our favorite night of the week. The Hubs is normally the one who does all the  physical activities with the kids, so it’s been great to have something that is just ours, where I get to be a participant instead of the cheerleader from the sidelines. The Hubs has had 5 major knee surgeries in in the past 25 years, so you couldn’t pay him enough to try to ski.

So here we are in March. Ski season is over and I learned that you’re never too old to try something new. Again. (And when you wipe out—because you will, even invoking Beyonce can’t help that—helmets are a wonderful, wonderful thing.)

 

Rebel Girls

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The interesting part, at least for me, in raising both a boy and a girl is ensuring both my children understand their importance. I want to fully elevate my daughter- I want her to know down to her marrow that she is worthy, intelligent and as capable as any man out there. Period. But, I don’t want to do this at the expense of my son because he is just as worthy, intelligent and capable as any person out there. I struggle with the stereotypes of men as bumbling idiots or hostile assholes only out for one thing just as much as I struggle with any stereotypes of women. They aren’t true and falling back on them is harmful to everyone. I will always support female empowerment, but I firmly believe that empowering women doesn’t mean dragging men down (see the infuriating trend in young girls clothing to promote girls while dragging down boys).

My job, as a parent, is to raise my kids to be empathetic, kind, caring individuals who kick ass and take names at whatever they set out to do.

And yet, girls don’t always feel that way. Did you know that by age 6, most girls feel less smart than boys? At 5, when boys and girls are told a story about a super smart, high achieving person and then asked to share if they think the main character is a boy or a girl, boys picked boy and girls picked girl. At 6, girls thought the main character was a boy because only boys could do those super smart things.

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My kids read in fits and starts, each preferring different genres. But one series they have both have consistently loved over the years is the Who Was? series– biographies on everyone from George Washington to Walt Disney and Harriet Tubman to Sally Ride. Scorch owns a few of these and even now, when he’s between the latest James Patterson book for tweens, he’ll pick one up.

When I first learned about the book Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls from a blog I frequent, I was intrigued. A book filled with 100 stories about women in all walks of life—inventors, doctors, dancers, pilots, protestors, abolitionists, writers, artists—complete with illustrations, sounded perfect for my kids. So I ordered them a copy and the book arrived this week.

You guys, I went from intrigued to in love. First, this book is gorgeous. From cover to cover, it’s visually lovely, with a butter soft cover. The stories are short—only a page long per person. I have read some complaints about that, but for me and the kids, it’s the perfect glimpse into each woman’s life, allowing us the freedom to do more research as we see fit. For example, after reading the article on Amelia Earhart we looked up more about her—how she got into flying, what she ate on her flights, how she disappeared and on and on.

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Every night before bed, the Bean reads about 3 or 4 women to Scorch and me. I truly, truly cannot recommend this book enough. It sits in the living room now and I find each kid thumbing through it at least once a day, stopping to read a story when a name or an illustration catches their eye.  I love that the kids are getting exposed to women who have changed the world in such a captivating way—proving in a subtle way that girls are just as smart and capable of just as much.

If you have  grade school aged child in your life- boy or girl- this book is a must.

 

Life According to Bean

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A few weeks back, the Bean and I dropped Scorch off at his basketball practice then had an hour to kill before we had to go to our PTA meeting. My girl is hot chocolate obsessed, so we went to a local coffee shop to pass the time. We got our drinks and sat in the chairs outside the shop, inside the mall, to chat and enjoy our goodies.

During the 45 minutes we sat there, 5 people we knew came in and out, so we got to catch up with quite a few friends. To me, this is one of the greatest joys of small town living- you literally can’t go anywhere without knowing someone. While I wouldn’t consider myself a full-blown extrovert, when I’m out and about there is nothing I enjoy more than random meetings and quick chitchat. By the time we left, I was tickled at the chat the Bean and I had and all the friends we saw.

“When you get older, I hope you live in a place surrounded by friends and people you love. We are so lucky to know so many great people!”

“Mom, can I tell you something?” she asked. “I really don’t like people. I just want my good friends and family around me and that’s all- all that talking is exhausting.”

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Puberty is a big topic around my house. With a 10 year old boy and an 8 year old girl, both of which have friends in various stages of development, it’s hard to avoid. Scorch knows more than the Bean as he’s older, but she knows that she will one day get her period. What she didn’t know is why.

The kids didn’t have school on Monday, so they pulled out the Care and Keeping of You books I have (girls book / boys book). The Bean flipped to a page in the girls book that had a diagram of the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes. So I explained what she was seeing – how once a girl hits puberty, once a month her ovaries will release an egg that will travel down one of her tubes and, if she isn’t going to have a baby, come out when her body menstruates.

Shortly there after, the Hubs came home. Without even saying hello, she runs to the top of the stairs and yells down to him: “Once a month, I’m going to lay an egg. Just call me a chicken!

Clearly, I’m killing it at this parenting game!

 

 

 

Favorite Books of 2016

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My love of books is no joke. One of my greatest joys is finding a book so good that I’m willing to feed my kids cereal for dinner and let them watch TV while they eat so I can keep reading. The type of books that keep you up at night- the ones you can’t put down even when you know there will be hell to pay the next day.

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That love of reading, combined with my love of audio books, means I read a lot in 2016. According to Goodreads, I’ve read / listened to 169 books this past year. That’s awesome. Please note, I don’t read crazy hard books, I read for the sheer pleasure of it. My philosophy is that life is too short to read books you don’t fall into. One day when my life isn’t overflowing with kids, sports and work I’ll have the time to challenge myself. But for now? Now I just read for the fun of it.

And here are the books I loved the most this year:

  • Throne of Glass series, Books 4 and 5, by Sarah Maas: Sarah Maas has fast become my favorite YA fantasy author. I feel like attaching YA to the description discredits how very, very, VERY good these books are- I worry that people won’t take them seriously because they are YA. Don’t make that mistake; this series is simply outstanding. The first book is good, but each one takes it to the next level with the world building, the character growth and the plot. (Honorable mention: Sarah Maas’s Court of Thorn & Roses series. Again book 1 was very good. Book 2? AMAZING.)
  • Morning Star by Pierce Brown (last book in the Red Rising series). This was straight up sci-fi and it was spectacular. Each book in the series was good on its own, but together they added up to a well plotted, intense, totally enthralling series. Morning Star tied the series up perfectly.
  • Becoming Nicole by Amy Ellis Nutt. Scorch’s orchestra instructor self-identifies as queer…a term I thought was passe and offensive, which clearly shows how much I had to learn. And that led me to this book and the fascinating, scary, intimate look at  what trailblazing for LGBTQ rights looks like when it’s your child you’re fighting for. This book combined a compelling family story with the history of transgender rights in America.
  • One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I wrote about this book back in August when the Hubs and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary and it’s stuck with me ever since. Emma fell in love with her husband, Jesse, when they were in high school and years later, they married and started building their dream life together. The dream shattered when Jesse disappeared in a plane crash. It took Emma years to piece her life together again, but she did it- and finally fell in love again. But on the eve of her second marriage, Jesse came home. Melodramatic? Yes. But also thought provoking, funny, sad and ultimately full of hope.
  • The Year of Yes by Shondra Rhimes. This book should be required listening for every working mom out there because in this book, Shondra learns how to unapologetically own her shit and it’s amazing. There is no balance – there is no magic formula for being a kick-ass mom and an amazing employee. There is just all of us doing the very best we can and giving a fat ton of credit to the people that help us along the way. Do yourself a favor- *listen* to this book, don’t read it. Trust me on this.
  • City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong. I love Armstrong’s Cainsville series- a little bit paranormal, a little bit detective story, a lot sexy- but I wasn’t sure how I’d like her mystery book. I shouldn’t have worried- this was a great book in the vein of Jeffrey Deavers. Very much looking forward to book 2.
  • Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman. I adored A Man Called Ove, but wasn’t a huge fan of My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry so I approached this book with some trepidation. Admittedly, it took me a while to sink into this book, but once I did, I loved it. Loving, sad, heartwarming and uplifting- the perfect book to curl up with for the weekend.
  • The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon. A sweet story with a surprising bite about a young girl on the eve of being deported and the love she finds. I love stories where all the lines intersect and this was a perfect example of how we touch each others lives without even realizing it.
  • Dirt Roads and Diner Pies by Shonna Milliken Humphrey. Shonna is an old friend with a hell of a story to tell. As I wrote when I first read this, I hate books that show me real life monsters—give me a werewolf anytime. But sometimes the monsters ARE real and the horror they inflect ripples out and that cannot be ignored. Without a doubt, this was the most important book I read all year.

I also devoured a bunch of fantasy series (urban, mostly)- all of which were fantastic in their own right but may not appeal to everyone: The Others, Alpha and Omega, Mercy Thompson, Charley Davidson, October Daye, Kate Daniels, and Fever.

So, here’s to more books in 2017—I’m already 9 books in! What are you reading? Please, share your favorite—I’m always on the look out for something new!

 

 

Practically Perfect in Every Way

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A year ago at this time, we took the kids to see Peter Pan. It was the first professional play they had seen and it hit all the marks. It was mesmerizing and engaging, with sets that surpassed all expectations and acting that blew us all away! A few months later we took the kids to see the traveling broadway show of Annie annnnnndddd that didn’t wow my kids nearly as much which was a huge disappointment. I want my kids to love live theater. I want them to seek it out and make it a priority, so today we went back to the theater where we saw Peter Pan and saw Mary Poppins.

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I admit to knowing nothing about the play- I just knew we liked the movie very much so it was a no-brainer to get tickets. I did not know this was a full on musical (although, in hindsight, the tag line on the poster should have given that away), all sung in a British accent. About 5 minutes in, the Bean looks at me in disbelief- “Are they going to sing, everything?!”

Well, welcome to musical theater, my loves!

Thankfully the kids adjusted and very quickly got sucked into the show. Like Peter Pan, it helped that the story line was familiar, so the kiddos weren’t asking us what was going on every 2.3 minutes. This show was just as good at the one we saw last year and we all left completely in awe of the talent found around our community. And now, on to find our next show…

 

The Not-So-Picture Perfect Holidays

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Sometimes Christmas is picture perfect. From start to finish, the whole holiday and the time off around it is magical. The kids act and look like angels, the time with family is meaningful and special and everyone glows with happiness.

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Annnnddd sometimes your kid wakes up with the stomach bug on Christmas morning and is so pitiful she doesn’t even unwrap half her gifts. That’s just the way life goes, unfortunately.

The good news is some of our family still braved coming over for dinner yesterday, no one else in our immediate family got sick (sorry extended family, you got screwed) and all this time stuck at home has given me plenty of time to put things away. Now, I need my kid to get better, the rest of us to stay healthy and the rest of this week to go according to plan. #fingerscrossed

Wrapping Things Up (or not)

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So here we sit, on Christmas Eve, Eve, Eve, Eve (I think) and I’m surprisingly zen over the small number of presents that have actually been wrapped. Who ever said life slows down around the holidays lied, y’all. Not when your job needs to hit year end quotas and your kids play sports, and in orchestra and sing in concerts. And I’m not complaining because most of the things that make it super hard to find time to wrap are what makes our life full in some of the best ways. I am, however, wondering when my panic will set in. Check in in 24 hours.

The Hub’s solution to my lack of wrapping is to tell me to take everything to the mall and leave it at one of those places that wrap for charity. Honestly, I think that’s a great idea if I could get past my worry over mislabeled gifts or non-matching wrapping paper. I have a systems- half-assed and last minute as it is- and I shudder when I think of some one breaking it.

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My kids got their video from Santa last night, letting them know if they are on the naughty or nice list for the year. A few years back, the Bean was on the “Could Go Either Way” list, so these videos are met with equal part delight and terror. I don’t know how much longer they’ll love these videos, but for right now they are one of our favorite traditions. I never knew kids could literally vibrate with nerves and excitement until we started getting these.

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That damn wrapping fairy hasn’t showed yet, so it’s time to start binge watching something (suggestions?!) and wrapping. Say a prayer for me.

 

 

Oh, Christmas Tree

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Saturday was the day. We were going to get our tree, come hell or high water. I love Christmas Tree Day. While we don’t cut ours down (we know our limits), we go to a lovely tree lot, and carefully look around until we find the The One.  The One must be a concolor fir- not a very common type of tree- so it can be a pain, but it’s always worth it. We were going to get adorable selfies and a great tree and a great time will be had by all, damn it.

So, Saturday morning the kids and I set off to meet the Hubs at the tree lot. I had an inkling my plans for a perfect day were doomed when the Bean refused to wear her boots. When forced into doing so, she borrowed my phone while I was driving and texted the Hubs to come get her because she needed to be rescued from me. Nothing says family love like a stalemate over footwear and SOS text messages. When we got to the lot, the Bean refused to get out of the car because of said boots. Upon hearing that, Scorch then informed me that if she wasn’t getting out, he wasn’t getting out either- the adults could pick out the tree on their own.

Hell.No.

This is FAMILY FUN, DAMN IT and they would participate and like it even if it killed them! To prove that, I yelled/hissed at the Bean to get her shoes on and for both of them get out of the car before I counted to 10 or so help me God…

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The Hubs still wasn’t there yet, so when the children finally emerged from the car and started to run around like feral animals playing hide and seek between the trees, I found the man in charge and asked him to please point out all the concolor firs to me. And then….I saw it. All 9 feet of it in all its glory and I knew, I knew, it was our tree.  I mean, who cares that the diameter is so large that I couldn’t see around it and that it was 9 feet tall. We could work with that, right?

When the Hubs got there, he initially told me I was crazy but I knew his inner Clark Griswold was going to come out. I gave him a minute and sure enough, I saw him circle the tree a few times. I knew he was hooked. Only the Hubs asked the man in charge to take 1.5 feet off the base of the tree, so it wasn’t quite as majestic when we loaded it on the truck, but common sense does have to come into play at some point.

While the Hubs and the man in charge loaded the tree on the truck, I had the fun of running around yelling for my kids who didn’t want to get out of the car to stop hiding on me and to get back in the car. I’m pretty sure they would have paid us to take the tree had we let the kids run around much longer.

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Our tree goes in our living room. There are only so many ways to arrange our living room furniture, so for the past 14 years, our tree has stood in the same spot… it’s proper spot, right in front of our picture window. But that doesn’t mean the Hubs doesn’t have to spend a good hour trying all sorts of other configurations of our furniture before giving up and moving things to the same spot they go in every year. This year included the extra added bonus of muttering under his breath when he realized that our kids actually *gasp* stored things in the drawers of our coffee table. Doing so evidently made us into “pack rats”. Who knew?

But, the tree is up. It’s gorgeous. The kids are happy and we’re happy. Nothing about getting our tree or putting it up may be picture perfect- but neither are we.

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