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There's been a lot going on round these parts. In losing one job, I seem to have gained five new ones. While none of them are going to buy me a spa weekend at La Costa, my soul is singing to me, "Yay, Andrea! You haven't given up doing what you love!"

I love a lot of things, in truth.

I love my husband!
I love my children!
I love to write!
I love to eat!
I love to drink coffee with friends in front of fires with my husband in the next room and my kids darting in and out while I eat and talk about writing!

But notice all the exclamation marks! It's as if everything is equally important and a TOP PRIORITY!

And if everything has the same amount of emphasis placed on it, then in reality, doesn't that mean that none of them are actually going to be given the proper attention they deserve?

And if I run run run like a bull toward every! single! bullet point! then isn't it just a matter of time before I fall flat on my face defeated?

Once again, it's time to refocus my energy.

What matters? What doesn't? What can I live with? What can't I live without?

At the top of my list is spending quality time with my babies. They are already 8 and 6. While the dishes will forever be there, their innocence won't.

A few nights back a moth flew against our finger marked dining room window. It was fluttering its wings in futility against the glass - not unlike something I do when I'm flying toward that elusive prize of self-fulfillment by doing everything at once.

My son hopped up on his chair, and then stepped on the table to get a better look. (Oh yeah, table manners are HUGE in my house.)

"Mommy - I think it's my angel, Griffin! Do you think he's trying to tell me something?"

"I think he's trying to tell you that he loves you, baby."

"Look, though! He's falling!" Stink shrieked.  "What's happening to him?"

"He's just catching his breath before he flies even further into the sky," I told him.

That seemed to satisfy Stink. He smiled and got down from the table, content to work on his frozen blueberries once again.

Perhaps this week I could take a lesson from that moth. Hopefully I, too, will fly toward greater skies. What is the alternative?

I have so much to be grateful for. Thank you, Pip and Stink, for reminding me to work on what really matters first.

I also guest blog for Joe Beam
about faith matters.



 
 
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My last post talked about ego and the need to sometimes step outside yourself to say "I'm sorry." After all, as I always say to my kids when they argue, "Is it better to be right or kind?"

"Kind!" they scream back, before going back to poking at each other once again. (And really, who can say anyone is right?)

Regardless of my son's need to win every verbal match, and my daughter's ability to latch onto an emotional hurt like a pitbull on steak, I'm proud of their humble spirits. They aren't mean kids. They can laugh and love and be silly far more than I ever could.

For these reasons, I didn't harbor some of the anxiety some parents feel about sending their kids to this very Catholic, formal ritual. I think admitting our weaknesses out loud give us a great opportunity to start fresh. We don't have to be perfect - no human being is.

Many folk see the ritual of confessing to a priest as "shame based activity" or "hurting their kid's self-esteem". Ask any of my friends and they'll tell you my son has enough sense of self for his whole class. Bringing him down a notch or two will hardly damage his stronger than truck stop java personality. (That day, truthfully, I was more worried he would ask Father White Beard why priests wear dresses and if the communion wafers - aka: "those little cookies" were gluten free.)

Regardless of our religious affiliation, I'm going to make the sweeping generalization that we parents spend too much time pumping up for kids for the most basic of tasks. "Ooooh, good job on setting that table! Here's a gold medal for your fanastic display of mediocrity! And dude, the forks go on the LEFT!"

Since when did being part of a family, and contributing, warrant the fanfare and aplomb of graduating from Harvard? In fact, expecting my kids to be more self-reliant will get them to Harvard quicker than doing everything for them. And frankly, even if they bypass college to sell hemp weaved baskets at Redondo Beach, they will know how to inventory, price and market them. (And I expect a discount.)

I am not going to lie. I hug and kiss and support and obsess over my kids' emotional well being far more than I should. (Ask my mom. I'm not a helicopter parent, but I'd qualify as a remote control airplane at least. And seriously, even that amount of hovering is too much. I can parent by staying rooted on the ground, thank you very much!)

I need to practice detachment.

I need to work on my own self-reliance.

But until I get there, I'll forgive myself for being a less than perfect mother.

This TIME article talks about the ever growing debate over if American kids are spoiled. I'm sure, compared to many others',  my children are hellions. But I can't worry about your kids, my friends' kids or even family members' kids. All I can do is teach my own kids that "please" and "thankyou" matters, money can't buy character, soul is as important as logic, being funny is the most underrated qualtity on the planet, and that under no circumstances will Mama speak to them in the morning before her first cup of Yuban.

So, tell me: What are your thoughts on teaching kids the art of the apology, whether it be a First Confession or just encouraging a humble heart? What are you doing to encourage your kids to be self-reliant?

You can also find me writing about my faith journey at Joe Beam's place.

 
 
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Toward the holidays I had a "confrontation" in a public setting with someone over an administration situation at my kids' school. While we hardly resorted to fisticuffs, I left the meeting feeling emotionally charged up. "I showed him!" was reaction on a gut level.

And yet, a few months later, that interchange stuck with me. Turns out, as time moved on, it became clear that my anger wasn't just about his ego. It was about my own. After all, if I were so confident in who I was and what I saying, I wouldn't feel the need to get so vocal. I could state my opinion in a calm, collected manner, and then move forward.

In an effort to be a bigger person (and really, how much bigger do I need to be at 6'1/175 pounds) I emailed him. I admitted my faults. (I'm not perfect? Who knew?) I also admitted my weaknesses. (All that yoga and I'm still not strong enough for plank. I am able to put my foot in my mouth, but that's not a true yoga pose. Too bad.)

Growing up in a strict Catholic school, I wasn't really able to voice my opinion. I followed the rules. I played it safe. And yet, inside of me, was raging voice ready to break free. "I'm an artist! I'm a writer! I'm a thrift store junk turned treasure finder! Don't hold me back!"

For the most part, I am happy with who I evolved into. But certain people - certain situations - they trigger my PTCD: Post Traumatic Catholic Disorder. I feel threatened. I feel frustrated. I feel ANGRY. And whose fault is that? Certainly not the situation nor the person's. It's my issue.

To this day, I am a relatively peaceful Catholic. The rituals and sacred prayers of the mass ground me, but the acts of kneeling and genuflecting themselves are not ever mistaken for faith. They are roads to God's wisdom, strength and love.

And so, keeping God's wisdom, strength, and love in mind, it's essential that when I feel pressured from something, to not react from my very frail human nature. I cannot let my ego run the show.

Wayne Dyer likes to say that Ego stands for "Edging God Out." In my case, that's more than true. If I can just get out of my own way, I can let true wisdom, love and peace enter into any situation I'm in.

Many of you readers come from different faith backgrounds, and that's why I love you. We all are on this journey together - with our very own minds and hearts and souls moving forward the best way we can. But I can't help but wonder if we all set our egos aside if maybe, just maybe, we could find room for that person who drives us the most crazy.

And God forbid (emphasis on the God part in my case)  learn from them.

You can also find me writing about my faith journey at Joe Beam's place.


 
 
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My son is an enigma. On one hand, he has bouts of defiance where he gets kicked off karate mats. (Apparently "horse stance" does not mean yelling "giddy up! giddy up" and cracking a pretend whip.)

On the other hand, he's one of the most empathetic people I know. One look at the jail card in Monopoly will set him off into a crying binge for five minutes. "That poor man!" he'll cry. "He just looks so sad. I just don't know if I can play this game anymore!"

Yesterday after school, he heard Pip mention, "Mommy, what book are you writing now that you are fired?"

* Note:
Good Housekeeping let me go after 3 years. I wouldn't call it being "Fired" per say. They are going in a new direction and it's completely okay. But Pip doesn't mince words. I think she'd like being raised by Amy Chua. They could write The Year of the Tiger First Grader, practice piano for hours on end, and organize their desks every Sunday.

Suddenly water came spurting out of Stink's eyes like a fire hydrant on a hot L.A. day. "Ohhhh, poooooor Mommy!"

"No, sweety! I'm fine! Really! I get to spend more time with you guys! I get to write new things and start over!"

To no avail. Stink kept right on wailing. "It's not fair! They don't like you! They need to bring you back!"

"Stink," I said, wrapping my arms around him. "Have you ever noticed that new gardens are kind of smelly?"

"Yeah," he said, through his tears.

"What do you think they use for planting?"

"I don't know..." he sobbed.

"Fertilizer!" Pip chimed him.

"That's right," I said. "And what is fertilizer made from?" I went on.

A hush fell over the play room. "CRAP!" I proclaimed.

All crying stopped. Stink looked up at me with the same expression I probably had when he was nine months old and I had a positive reading on 99 Cent Store pregnancy test. I didn't let the silence linger long.

"Did you know crap, despite smelling horrific, turns out to be the best breeding ground ever for flowers?"
 
I could see my kids' little brains churning like the wheel in a Life game.

"Guess what our vibrant geraniums got their start in?!""

"Crap!" Pipsqueak squealed.

"Guess what the tallest, brightest sunflowers grow in?"

"Crap!" Pipsqueak said again.

"Guess what Mommy is going to grow from?" I shouted, really feeling the spirit now.

"Crap!" Stink said, half smile, half pout. He added, "But you're just saying this story to make me feel better!" Then he slumped on the couch, downing his last taquito.

I stroked his hair. "Is it working?" I asked.

"Yes. But you are very very tricky."

Yup. Mamas know how to grow, and dish out, the crap.

What amazing growth experiences have come from your personal fertilizer?

Image found here.
 
 
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Hi all -

The bad news over the past few months? Our family of four has collectively endured lice, dog bites, croup, bronchitis, chest pains, busted toes and a job loss.

The great news for us is that, like my son's tooth, something else will fill the hole in  in 2011. It's going to bring a ton of changes, but I personally plan on being brilliant. What other choice do I have? I hope you'll join me and be brilliant as well!

To celebrate my grand re-opening, I have accepted a giveaway contest. Want to win a $25 gift card?
Check it out over here.

Meanwhile, let me know what's been happening in your life the past six months. I've missed you!

Andrea
 
 
It's hard to believe that summer is over and school has started. And yet, it's true. Second and first grade are here.
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And while it's exciting and crazy and thrilling, I'll never forget the past three months. They were some of the most joyful I have yet to experience.

(Okay... there were a few minor catastrophies.... like forgetting to book our own cabin and driving up to Big Bear TO MEET THE INLAWS only to find someone else renting our cabin. Sidenote: Telling your husband to meditate and then pay for El Pollo chicken? Not so brilliant.)
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We took train trips to see crazy cousins....
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We worked at the cabin, ate dirt cake and chowed more Mexican food than is healthy...

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We celebrated birthdays with bubbles, candy and lots of Papa love...
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And when the swimming and sprinklers and overall "I can't stand how much I love this family" subsided, we loved on Papa some more.
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And since you all know by now that I write about my sex life for the world to see at Good Housekeeping, and things are going pretty calmly for this little family of four, I'm going to bid adieu to this little section of the blog world for now.

After all, if my less caffeinated nature is making my posts here less frequent (as well as less entertaining) then I know it's a prime opportunity to start
bitching about my mother.

I hope you'll join me for a little "housewarming" this Thursday where I begin a new adventure writing about the transitions from being a daughter, to being a friend, to being a home remodeler.

It won't always be pleasant. It won't always be pretty. But I promise you, with the way things operate at my childhood home, it will be interesting.

Love you all -

Andrea
 
 
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So my Wabi Sabi motto for the day is acceptance. You know... the whole do what you can and what you can't embrace. What choice do you have?

What helps me, more than anything else, is faith and art. Faith means belief in what we can't see right in front of our egocentric noses. Art is the same thing. The process of both brings immense peace.

And so, here is my second poem. Again, not curing cancer, but hopefully one more ditty my kids can remember their odd mother by.

(And no, this poem has nothing to do with my marriage. Rex and I never fight or disagree. We are the uber ideal couple. Come on, now!


Good Shouting

There’s shouting going on upstairs

I can’t say exactly why

But Mama’s screaming something ‘bout

“If I cook one more meal I’LL DIE.”

When she finishes yelling about stepping on trucks

And M.I.A. lids from sippy cups

My daddy, well, then he starts right in...

Something about debt that we’re living in

And then I hear words like “credit card”

And for some reason a slipper – it flies pretty hard

Right out of the bedroom

And onto the landing

(Which makes me think Mommy is not understanding_

And then there is silence… like that’s all they got

Until Mom starts to cry, but dad adds “Nice shot!”

And then for no reason that I see at all

I hear giggling through their bedroom walls

It starts out all quiet like but then it gets louder

And soon laughter is raining like spilled baby powder

And then I hear “sorry’s” and a few “I love you’s”

And then the door shuts

So my guess is the two

Of them are likely chatting

About how good I can be

Maybe wrapping  a present they don’t want me to see

One thing for sure is that night over dinner

Papa is smiling – (And my dad – he’s no grinner)

 So whatever was wrong I guess now is right

It’s crazy how good stuff can come from a fight

 
 
 
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So I'm doing the prayer thing.

I'm slowing down.

I'm attempting to meditate

But honestly, people, I'm happiest when I'm firing on all cylinders.

And so, I'm back to setting goals for myself.

One of them is to finally write those books I'm talking about.

One book is under wraps, but I'll tell you that I'm bugging the lovely (and extremely gifted artist) Arwen to illustrate. (She's already
published one book and seriously, the front cover does not do her illustrations justice.)

But the other, just for kicks and giggles, is going to be a book of poems
Shel Silverstein style.

I by no means and comparing myself to that genius tale spinner, but I am attempting to write poems based on my crazy kids that I can pass down to them..

Here's one of five I've written. Tell me what you think.

Pink Umbrella

Mom said kids might laugh at me

And even cause a scuffle

If I took this umbrella to school with me

It’s pink (and it has a ruffle)

 “Honey, sweetie…” she said, “You know I don’t care...

But since you’re a boy… some kids might stare

So here’s a small tip that I have for you:

Be prepared with a response that works for you.”

My mom’s pretty sharp so I thought of an answer

‘Bout why boys could wear pink and could sing and be dancers

So when Markus asked, “Man, why are you carrying THAT?”

I said, “Friend, can’t you see that some girls don’t have hats?

I don’t want their hair-do’s to get wet in the rain

So I’ll walk them to class and they’ll never complain.”

And then while he stood there, kind of biting his lips

I decided to get one more thing in real quick

“My papa says girls like the boys who can groove

So if I save their hair then one day you’ll see, Dude,

That I’ll have a dance date whenever I please”

And then something happened that you wouldn’t believe

At school the next day… under those rainy day showers

Marcus brought an umbrella – it was purple… with flowers





 
 
 
I will do a longer post later, but wanted to let you know I'm hosting a giveaway if any of you are interested. Go HERE.

Because I'm far from the giveaway queen, you have a decent shot of winning some of these products, so check in a few days as I'll be putting up some more.

On a non-giveaway note, I am surviving summer so far and I hope you are also. 

What has saved your sanity with the kids home?

For me, it's been lots of swaps, lots of exercise, and tons tons TONS of book reading - both for the kids and for me. I am tempted to start a new tab with book reviews, but honestly, how many tabs do I need on this column? Will it progress from tics and books to my favorite junkmail and coupons for pork? 

I must stop. At some point, must stop. 

Miss you all.
 
 
If Wabi Sabi means finding the perfection in imperfection, then I'm going to extend this to mean that I don't need to make my childrens' lives perfect.

Oh, sure, I talked a big game about how I thrift store shop for their fabulously stylish Harry Potter tank tops and 1980's Mork from Ork tee shirts. (Yup, that one is in the 12 Year Old bin. Stink is gonna love me for it in Jr. High.)

I brag about our fabulous public school that is giving my kids a better life education than any private one could offer round these parts.

But deep inside, I had mom guilt. "Are they going to have the same opportunities as that group of five year olds with the berets we saw on our last field trip who didn't seem so raucous and knew how to ask for directions to the bathroom in French?"  or "Am I scarring them for life by, you know, making them
(gasp) share a room when all their friends have their own corners to read, play and sleep in peace each night?"

Like all parents, I want my children to be shielded from hurt. I don't want them to have any disorders. I don't want them to be teased by friends. I never want them to go hungry on any level - physically or emotionally.

A few weeks back, though, I heard a reknown psychologist speak about how, in attempting to give our kids everything, we are actually "neglecting"
them. That in shielding them from natural hurts we are depleting the life skills they need to grow as balanced humans. 

Then, at the monthly art salons I host, our speaker and life coach, Wendy Wood, spoke about how it's not good for us to shield or kids from disappointment. Instead of fixing their mistakes, we should acknowledge them and walk beside them... showing them how to grow through it.

That's all I needed to hear to not make second guess our summer... a summer which consists of lots of library time. Lots of moments with friends. Lots of lazy days spent at the local pool. And...

CHORES

Here's to reorganizing the Tupperware!
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Here's to painting their shelves...
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Here's to washing windows...
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Here's to building rabbit hutches...
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Lest I come off like a mom who is bragging about her kids doing chores without a fight (because let me tell you, it took a few weeks to break 'em in) I am putting this all down on "paper" for proof.

Should my son become a beer guzzling football hubby, or my daughter a princess that can't wield a power tool to save her leopard skin pants (seriously, when will that fashion obsession with her end?) I will give their spouses this web address and say, "Dude, don't blame me. Now go make me some grand babies."

Until next Wednesday, hope your summers aren't a chore.

More of my writing can be found at Goodhousekeeping.