Sunday, December 30, 2012

Birthday Reflections

It's my birthday today. If I had written the post I had in mind yesterday, it would be completely different from that of today. Yesterday, I was thinking about how birthdays just aren't the same when you have young kids. It isn't your day at all. It's still all about your children. I begrudged that fact a little bit, since I think a birthday should be all about the birthday person, but as a mom you have to give that up for a while.

Growing up, I truly felt like my birthday was the most special day of the year. Cheers to my mom, for it's not an easy feat when your child's birthday comes between Christmas and New Years. Yet, for me, my mom managed to make the 30th of December the absolute best day of every year. And cheers to the mothers of my friends, who happily sent their kids for sleepovers, pizza and scary movies at my house year after year from Kindergarten through high school.

Yesterday, I told my husband that all I wanted today was to sleep in and then later in the day, of course, have champagne and chocolate birthday cake. He agreed, but I secretly doubted the sleeping in part. The Boy is always up early and that means so am I. For the past 7 years, my birthday has been spent taking care of my children, instead of myself, like it used to be.

Yet, today, I find myself surprised and enlightened.

I did get to sleep in - until 10am! That's when The Boy came in to show me he had dressed himself and to tell me that it was almost time for the party! I took my time showering and getting ready. When I came downstairs, with prior approval from my husband and to the sounds of my children rushing about, my wonderful family shouted out, "Happy Birthday!"

The girls had made a "Happy Birthday!" poster, gifts of felt hearts, string and bead necklaces and pipe cleaner rings. Coffee service was set up alongside my favorite biscuits and the smiles of my children lit the room brighter than candles.

Later this afternoon, we'll head out for dinner at a pub and come home to Champagne and chocolate cake. My heart is full as I realize the beautiful truth - Today isn't all about me anymore, it's about my children celebrating me.

That's better than anything in the world.

Happy Birthday!




Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!


To all my family, friends and readers:


The spirit of Christmas is not in a gift or a meal
You’ll find in your heart a meaning that’s real

To hold loved ones close, share a word, share a smile
To enjoy time together, if just for a while

And if, like today, we’re far from the ones we hold dear
We send loving wishes for a very

Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year!

Love, Tamara

Friday, December 21, 2012

Thoughts from a Cop - Officer Mommy's Holiday Season Safety Tips Part 3

It's our third and final installment of Thoughts From a Cop - Officer Mom's Holiday Season Safety Tips. This weekend will be crazy, congested and you need to put safety first! If you haven't read the first two tips, you can here: Tip #1, Tip #2.

Tip #3 is about Car-Jackings. Though this seems like big-city crimes, it can happen anywhere and with kids in tow, many of us forget to pay attention to our surroundings. Officer Mom reminds us just how important it is to stay vigilant! Take it away, sis! 

Car-jackings are at an all-time high this holiday season, and these criminals don't know (or care) if your children are inconveniently secured into the vehicle they are targeting. The best defense is a good offense in this case. Don't be an easy target. Be observant of your surroundings. 

When gassing up your vehicle, sit inside with your children and lock the doors. When you get out of the vehicle make sure that it is turned off, put the keys in your pocket, and lock the doors (yes, even if you are standing next to the vehicle). Look around for people (and look for people who are looking around...that's your bad guy looking for a target or for the absence of witnesses) and make eye contact with them. 

Look them up and down and take notice of what they look like and what they are wearing. Bad guys don't like observant victims so they will look for the victim with their head down not paying attention to what is going on around them.  

When parking at shopping centers, again, look for anyone loitering around. Everyone is busy, everyone has something to do, somewhere to go, so the person just standing around is the one looking for a victim and an opportunity.

If you think you are being followed as you walk back to your car, make sure you cross over to the next aisle and walk back into the store. Don't be embarrassed to ask someone to walk you to your car. When you get to your car make sure you are looking all around, especially at the cars directly next to yours. Is there someone sitting in it? If so be very mindful of them...they could be lying in wait for you. 

As you secure your children force yourself to look outside of the car for anyone walking around or toward you. Pay attention and be safe, not sorry. Trust your instincts...if you feel uneasy, immediately walk back to the store. 

Keep this in mind...how many stories have you heard of someone being abducted from a parking lot? How many stories have you heard of someone who was not abducted because they saw something that made them feel uneasy and sought help? NONE! Because THAT person did not get abducted!!

Thanks, Officer Mommy!

If you enjoy these features from Officer Mom, please let me know. "Enjoy" might not be quite the right word, but safety is important, and I for one like hearing the perspective of a woman who is a mother and a police officer, not to mention one smart cookie (I know, she's my sister). Who better to hear from to help us keep our children and families safe! 

If you have questions for which you'd like to hear her thoughts, email them to me at adgmommy (at) gmail.com and we'll answer them in an upcoming post!

Win An iPad Mini with Wet Wipes!

Enter HERE

Wet Ones wants to hear your tips for handling sticky situations! You could be featured in a Wet Ones e-book, win 4 tickets to Six Flags or, if you're the grand prize winner, an iPad mini!
Visit

I entered the contest and shared my story of when I left my daughters alone for too long! Here's what I wrote:


I could hear my two daughters playing nicely. They were coloring, an activity that could keep them busy for hours. They were typically reliable and trustworthy, having been repeatedly told that we color only on paper. 

It was after I realized how quiet they were being that I might be in trouble. When I came out to visually check on them, they had colored all over their faces, hands and legs with not crayon… marker. Not permanent, thank goodness, but not the washable kind either!

Wipes helped to do major damage control! They were only colored for a few days!

My 2 tips: 

Never to leave your children alone for too long, even when you can hear them, and 
Always keep wipes handy! A pack upstairs, downstairs, in your purse and in the car!

 
The artist
and her work
What's the stickiest situation you've ever had?

I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Wet Ones. I received a promotional item to thank me for participating.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

It's Just the Flu

Cat nap on the school run.
Photo by Me. All Rights Reserved.
The flu hit us this week. It's the first time we've all had it. The first year we didn't get vaccinated, with the move it was overlooked. First came, Little Rose, who was sick all weekend and has missed school all week with her typical double dose of illnesses: UTI and the flu. I didn't realize it was the flu until The Boy woke up a feverish mess Monday morning.

I miss school buses at these times. My kids have never ridden one to school, but it sure would be nice. I dragged two sick kids to school to drop off one. Nature Girl avoided getting sick until Wednesday. I was relieved she managed to get through her school play before waking up the next morning a feverish mess.

I left the two younger ones with Papa and took Nature Girl to her performance. I entered her school and realized a striking similarity in layout to Sandy Hook. The office... the younger children's classrooms just off to the left. My daughters are ages 6 and 7.

I stood in the hall where the stage was set up and had to work to keep my composure. Those thoughts of how and why racing through my mind. The What-Ifs. My imagination filling in the terrible details of the scene.

I have steadfastly avoided over exposing myself to this news. I haven't watched any at all, but have read reports, read the names and seen the faces of the adults and children lost and signed multiple gun control petitions. We don't need to immerse ourselves in this to respect and honor the dead.

I've chosen not to tell my children. Fortunately, the English schools aren't bringing it up and it's easier for parents here to shield their young children from news overseas. I turn off the radio when the news comes on, and from previous explanations, the girls understand that I do so when the news is inappropriate for their age. It's my job to protect them. To preserve their innocence.

Today it is my turn. It's hard to avoid getting sick when children are literally coughing in your face. The children are on the mend, hopefully back in school for one last day tomorrow. I'm the only one left with a fever, but I've welcomed the opportunity to cuddle for hours with my little ones, taking turns reading, napping with The Boy. Asking, "Who's going to take care of Mommy?" and having them all wrap their arms around me telling me they will.

In the day to day, dealing with a house full of feverish, coughing, miserable children seems hard. But this week I have perspective. I get to wrap my arms around them and comfort them and be comforted by them. They will get better. My children will have Christmas. My family is together, on the road to health and I am so grateful.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Quick Beauty Routine Tips for Busy Moms

Wouldn't you agree that the putting together the words "busy" and "mom" is a bit redundant? Me too. It's Wednesday, so I'm linking up with Mama Kat and responding to the prompt: 4.) What’s your mom beauty secret for busy mornings?

This is the perfect day to respond to that question, since I have 3 kids home with the flu. One has missed school all week and one managed to stay healthy long enough to get through her school nativity play (that's right, I said, "Nativity and School" in the same sentence, but that's fodder for another post). The Boy is running a fever, but fortunately he is feeling MUCH better today!

On days like this you may not want to bother, but I take better care of my kids when I take care of myself. Covering up those dark circles and putting a little color on my cheeks is a simple, quick way to do just that!

Enjoy!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Forever Changed - Choosing Love and Compassion Over Anger

Cherish Every Moment
Photo Copyright Tamara Vellozzo
I am one of those people who search for the good in every situation. I truly believe, no matter the horror, there is the opportunity for growth. As we look at Friday's heart-shattering events, it's humanity's duty to expand.

The purest expression of this expansion happened effortlessly across the world this weekend. Every parent blessed to have their babies safe at home with them held their child closer, showed their love more freely and appreciated each moment more than they had the day before. For me, I can hardly express the exponential increase in the love I have for my children, my gratitude for my family and the feeling that everything and every one on Earth is connected.

Each time this weekend when my kids did something that would usually irritate me, I thought of those innocent souls who were lost on Friday. I thought of the anguish their parents are facing. I thought of the suffering of those who survived. I thought of the siblings, children and spouses of those who were killed. In the split second of space that comes between irritant and reaction, my heart filled with gratitude for my family and I responded more patiently and more lovingly than I ever have before.

The beauty that comes from tragedy is the unified spirit of love and compassion that embraces those who are directly impacted and then radiates outward to everyone on the planet. The lesson is one not to be learned and forgotten until the next time, but to be held in our awareness forever. In the spirit of love and compassion our country can move forward to make the changes necessary to stop these horrendous, avoidable crimes.

Events like these forever change those who are touched by it. It's each individual's choice to ensure that change is a positive one. For me, I'm experiencing a level of gratitude I've never before achieved. With it comes a sense of peace and inner happiness that holds fast even as my eyes spill over with grief for those children and their families.

If those parents can find one gift through their pain, I hope it will be to see how their children impacted the world. They inspired so much love and compassion and we will all remember that they were here.

This video is from World Humanitarian Day and every person who died on Friday could proudly speak the words sung here by Beyonce. Share this and share love and share compassion.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Thoughts From a Cop - Part 2 of Officer Mommy's Holiday Safety Tips

Yesterday we learned how important it is to keep your children in their safety seats. Though this is the stuff we don't like to think about happening to our children, knowledge and prevention can keep our children living the long, healthy lives we want them to.

Officer Mommy Says!
Today, Officer Mommy shares Tip #2, one that I thought you should have before heading out to the malls with your kids in tow. Read it, take it to heart, and never be embarrassed to do what it takes to keep your children safe!

Take it away, Sis!

As I told you yesterday, all crimes increase over the holidays and this one never gets old. 

Tip #2 is about child abduction. It's a busy time of year and all the crazies are out! Pay attention to your children. Do not get distracted when you are out shopping with them. Keep them within your reach and sight at ALL times.  

I am not embarrassed to say I keep my 4-year-old son on a leash...literally...because I love him. When we shop, the baby sits in the cart, which I keep close at hand, and he wears what looks like a teddy bear backpack with a lanyard that attaches to my belt.

It only takes a fraction of a second for your child to disappear and the unimaginable to occur. This is the bad guy you'll never see coming...or leaving with your child.

Sorry to freak you out, people! While I want you to remember the beauty of the holiday, I want you do celebrate it safely. Now go knock off that shopping list, but be sure to come back Monday to learn Officer Mommy's 3rd and final seasonal safety tip!!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Thoughts from a Cop - Officer Mommy's Holiday Season Safety Tips

We're less than two weeks away from Christmas and everything in life seems to get more hectic this time of year - the stores are busier, the roads are busier and parents are busier. I asked my sister, a Maryland Police Officer and mother of two, to share her top tips for parents this holiday season. 

Today, Officer Mommy, as I like to call her, shares something she learned about "bad guys" long before she wore a shield and her 1st Holiday Safety Tip of this 3-part series. Read carefully, because she sprinkles important safety information throughout. Take it away, Sis!


Officer Mommy Says!
The holiday season brings out the best in all of us, but, unfortunately, there are those of us who use the worst means. I recall one Christmas when my bottom floor apartment was broken into (sliding glass doors are an easy target...always put a bar in the floor rail) and all of the presents under the tree were unwrapped, but I thought none had been taken.  

A few days later, I finally figured out what was missing: A 14k gold necklace with a beautiful pendant that simply said, "Mommy."  It had been a gift from my mother-in-law when I married her son and took on the responsibility of Step-Mother to his 2-yr-old daughter. It meant a lot to me and I wanted it back.  

After some contemplation, I realized that it must have been a very young burglar, who took nothing for himself, but something to give his mother for Christmas. She probably cherished as much as I did, so I forgave him. I actually felt good that he had something special to give to his mother. Even bad guys love someone. Even bad guys celebrate Christmas. And bad guys come in all shapes and sizes, and ages.

All crime categories increase during the holiday season; especially burglaries, but also robberies, street robberies or purse snatchings, and in my area, a major metropolitan area, car-jackings are at an all-time high this year. The other thing that increases during the holiday season is traffic.

That said, here is the 1st of my top 3 suggestions for keeping your kids safe this holiday season:

#1 Use an approved child safety seat, properly installed, and properly used.  It will save your child's life, or save them from injury.  


Traffic accidents increase monumentally during the holiday season simply because there is so much more traffic on the road.  Don't prepare for a crash, be prepared for someone to crash into you, because that is the more likely scenario, and you can never anticipate when that might happen.  It can happen on a long journey or it can happen as you are trying to pull out of  your own driveway.  

Seat belts and child safety seats save lives.The new suggestions are that babies remain rear-facing for up to 2 years because their necks are so fragile that whiplash can cause death or brain damage. A convertible car seat is the next safest step up, and most can hold children up to 65lbs. Current standards suggest that any child of any age who is under 4'9" tall be in a child safety seat because they are not tall enough for only a seatbelt to be used. 

Seat belts can cause severe "seat belt burn" or even lacerations to the skin during impact, so the placement of the seatbelt must be across the chest and NOT across the neck. A cheap booster seat  can take care of that and keep your older child safe from injury in a crash.  

If the seat belt doesn't fit properly, a child can actually be catapulted right out of the belt, and usually right through the window, which is almost always fatal. It needs to fit snugly around their hips as well as across their chest, and the booster seat accomplishes this. 

When using a seat with a 5-point-harness, be certain that the bar on the belt rests just above the nipple line.  Too high and you risk choking the child, too low and you risk too much movement, which can cause injury. The harness must be pulled tightly enough that you cannot fit more than two fingers between the belt bar and your child's chest. The purpose is to stabilize your child so that they are not injured by movement within the vehicle, which can cause internal injuries.  

There are two impacts that occur during a crash...the body impacting upon the vehicle, and the organs impacting upon that body cavity (that's the part that actually killed Princess Di).  

Finally, get rid of all the loose objects laying around in your vehicle. Water bottles, toys, books and anything not secured becomes a missile during a vehicle impact. While your delicate child may have survived the impact of the crash, they may not survive the head trauma caused by the impact of flying objects INSIDE the vehicle.

Come back tomorrow morning, before heading out to do your shopping, to learn how Officer Mommy keeps her children safe from every parent's worst fear while out in busy areas.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Call Me Sybil - Multiple Personalities Emerge When Faced With Social Opportunities

Remember Sybil? She had Multiple Personality Disorder, or so she claimed, but whether her story is true or was massively exaggerated isn't what this post is about. It is about my multiple personality disorders.

I have only two, not the hundreds Sybil claimed. They are Tamara and Turtle. Tamara is outgoing, witty, full of positive energy and completely engaging, if I do say so myself. She loves being the center of attention, especially in a performance capacity - singing, acting or even simply conducting wine tastings (which is SO fun, by the way).

Turtle, an apt nickname given to me by my father at birth, is intensely and painfully shy. Turtle can hardly place a phone call without a major intervention. Turtle is practically a hermit and has agoraphobic tendencies. Seriously.

These two personalities typically merge amiably, more Tamara than Turtle, but occasionally they brawl. That's right. They throw down and though Tamara usually prevails, Turtle does some damage.

Today, the two are warring over a writer's group meeting. Yes, I've finally found a group of writers practically in my own back yard. The thing is, I haven't met them yet. 7 of us are scheduled to convene tonight and the Tamara side is pleased and ready to finally, potentially make some like-minded friends (well, who knows if they're like-minded, but at least we'll have a love of the written word in common).

Turtle, on the other hand, wants to duck into her shell and stay there. With 3-kids and a husband who'll barely be home on time for me to go, the excuses to cancel are readily available. Come to think of it, I've had a head cold brewing for a couple of days now...

Last month I had this same inner turmoil with the BritMums meetup, but I drafted my husband to fight for the Tamara side and I managed to get out the door and all the way to London to meet other bloggers and hook up with a few brands.

Write, then. Right, then. I know I'll go - I'll force myself too and I'll be better for it. But, why the heck do I have to go through this every time? It's exhausting and frustrating. The tennis match of self-assurance and utter insecurity.

I've always had these two sides, but it got much worse after the kids came along. It's intensified through the isolation of motherhood. I haven't worked regularly outside of the home in 8 years. I've moved from Singapore to the US to England in that time and without a job, it's tricky to make friends. I place a priority on my marriage, which means most of the time I skip any and all evening activities because my husband and I require those precious couple of hours together at night after the kids are in bed.

There are plenty of reasons, and I'm aware of them and I take action, but damn.The vacillation is tedious.

Any words of wisdom from my incredible audience? You really do keep me sane.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas is High-Season for International Parental Child Abduction


Today, I'm sharing with you a post by Peter Thomas Senese. Peter is a best-selling author and advocate for the prevention of international parental child abduction. As much as I hate to think about atrocities like these, as a parent I feel it is my obligation to do everything possible to help keep all children safe. Awareness is key, so please take a moment to read this and share it. Thank you! - Tamara

Christmas Is High-Season For International Parental Child Abduction

It is a known fact that many children around the world are internationally abducted by one parent from another during the Christmas Holiday Season. Unfortunately, it is also a known fact that many targeted parents of abduction have never heard of international parental child abduction and are not aware of the warning signs of abduction or what to do if abduction is imminent. 

Families that are considered high-risk for international abduction include those where there a strained relationship between individual participants from a cross-cultural marriage (parents born in two different countries) whereas one of the parents has strong ties to another country,
and have limited ties (such as financial assets) to the country where they are presently living in with the child and the child's other parent (or in existing divorce or separation cases, when the other parent is actively involved in the child's life).

How It Works

In many instances of cross-border parental child abduction that occur during the holiday season, generally the largest number of incidents takes place when one parent travels to another country with their child or children of a relationship accompanied by, or with the initial consent of, the other parent.


Generally, the travel takes place under a guise of a holiday trip abroad to visit family members of the parent intending to abduct. Of course, the targeted parent is clueless as to what is really going on.

So for example, Father X was born and raised in the Middle East but married Woman Y, who is an American citizen. The couple lives in the United States, where their child was born and raised.

Unknown to the woman in the relationship, the husband wants to end the relationship and relocate back to his country of origin back in the Middle East. However, he has one problem: he knows that his wife will never allow for him to legally take the child with him.

Instead of announcing his true intent to separate, the husband will create critically important misdirection. Meaning, he will do everything possible to make his wife believe that he is happy and committed in the relationship.

I did say everything possible.

Why?

Because it is critical that she put her guard down and not suspect any foul play or scheme.

In the meantime, little things - that are really big things - may be taking place visibly or without knowledge of the targeted parent. There are many warning signs to look for, but if the subtleties are not carefully considered, then the would-be abductor will get away with their plan.

The husband who is intending to abduct the child by wrongfully detaining the child abroad will continue to create a facade of being happily married and committed to the relationship while carefully laying out a plan to get the child abroad.

Eventually, and right about this time of the year, the would-be abductor makes the suggestion that it would be 'great' or 'nice' or 'meaningful' to travel abroad together or without the other parent (depending on reasonable circumstances) in order to see his parents, siblings, and extended family. And of course, all of this is in the best interest of the child of the partnership.

Now, since the wife may believe the husband is committed to their relationship and does not even consider that he may have intent to not return to their marital home, she more than likely is willing to consent to the holiday vacation.

Unfortunately for the mother and child, the trip takes place.

Unknown to both, the parent intending to abduct has already hatched a well-thought out plan, including what may be necessary to keep the child abroad while removing the other parent's rights to the child abroad.
Everything is deception - and everything must be considered.

For example: the husband may ship certain belongings like a crib or a stroller and other items of the child that may create the appearance the other parent knew he was relocating - and gave consent! Or, he may have begun to move his assets abroad.

Once abroad with his wife and child, the would-be abductor may make false accusations of child or spousal abuse (men and women both claim abuse in cases of of planned abduction), claims of drug use, or any other claim that may indicate that the child is at risk.

By stating the child is at risk, this could potentially allow a local court in the foreign country to grant him immediate custody of the child - even though the child's original jurisdiction is in the country they were born and raised. In addition, in cases where a Hague Application may be filed, the abductor has laid ground for an Article 13 Defense (which revolves around the best interest of the child and is also known as the 'Slander Defense'). In nearly every case of abduction, the parent intending to abduct has cleverly orchestrated a public defamation campaign against the other parent - one that is typically concealed under the veil of anonymity. Additionally, there are malicious and untruthful claims of spousal or child abuse made (by both men and women, equally).

If it sounds complicated, it is.

It is important for individuals married or in a relationship with partners who originate from non-Hague countries such as those located in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East to understand that if you are traveling to nations located in these areas and the other parent intends to not return to the child to the country of original jurisdiction, there is a very good chance they will be successful in keeping the child abroad . . . and your contact will be limited or absolved completely. Additionally, it is important to pay careful attention to Hague-Convention non-complying countries such as Germany, Brazil, Mexico, and Poland.

Of course, if you ever plan to travel abroad and have been involved in a suspicious or strained relationship, please contact an attorney who is familiar with international parental child abduction prevention.

Additionally, I strongly advise you consider obtaining a court order prior to travel that the child is to be returned. However, remember - in countries that are not members of international treaties regarding abduction or do not comply to such said treaties - if a child is taken - it will be very costly and difficult to bring your child home.

So - if you have any suspicion that abduction might be planned - and this time of year is the planning period for the high number of Christmas Holiday Abductions that occur - seek the advice of a qualified lawyer - and do not let your child travel abroad under any circumstances.

Please pay attention to the
warning signs and act now!

You can learn more about Peter and the I C.A.R.E. Foundation here. Thank you for taking time to read this and please, do share it.

Where Would You Go on a Kid-Free Vacation?

Hello! It's another fun week of vlogging over at Mama Kat's! I had such a hard time choosing this week's prompt, but finally decided on the question, "If you could getaway for a kid free vacation, where would you go?"

Would I want to get away from these adorable monkeys?














Well, maybe... YES! Yes, I would!

Watch to learn where I would go, then tell me your thoughts!



You can join the fun at Mama Kat's Losin' it!

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, December 10, 2012

I Hate You, Mommy

If you're a mom, you can expect to hear these words out of your precious child's mouth at some point. In the heat of the crushing, overwhelming emotions only a young child can truly feel, they will forget all other means of communication and let those terrible words fly, "I hate you, Mommy!"

Let me prepare you, the first time feels like they've taken a knife and slashed it right through your heart. The pain will sear and your eyes will sting. Who knew such little people could harbor such potent weapons?

I've grown accustomed to hearing it from my eldest daughter's mouth on the rare occasion that she's angry/tired/frustrated enough to lash out instead of articulately expressing her upset as she usually does. She's a mature old soul, I tell you. I know when we get to that point, I need to take her in my arms, or simply stand back, and really listen to her.

My second daughter has rarely, if ever uttered the words and instead, usually turns it around, "Well then, you must hate me!" That makes me sad, but it's much easier to deal with.

Saturday, The Boy said the words. My sweet, adorable, loving, cuddly little boy. My baby. My cuddle bunny. My little love. He's the sweetest child I've ever known, the cutest, the kindest, the loveliest. Yet, out of his mouth came those words.

It was bedtime. He's going through "Papa" and "I-can-do-it-myself" phases simultaneously. When Papa is home, he is the only one The Boy wants to help him. Otherwise, he wants to do everything by himself.

"No! I can do it!" and "No, Papa can..." are frequent, frustrating (for me) phrases. But, as you moms know, sometimes Papa can't. Sometimes Papa is doing other things or just plain doesn't like to do the thing you're trying to do with your kids so it is your domain. After years of parenting together, you know what you do and what he does and you rarely switch off unnecessarily.

And sometimes the child simply can't and they actually do need help.

I tried to maintain a level of patience and "help" him get ready for bed. Within the "I-can-do-it-myself phase" "help" means just standing by waiting in case he needs assistance. He got increasingly upset because a) he didn't want to go to bed yet and b) he couldn't get his shirt over his head.

After about 5-minutes of alternately offering him help, walking away to let him experience his independence while ensuring he didn't sneak back down the stairs and, frankly, getting annoyed with him, I asked, "Can I just help you, please?"

"No! I hate you, Mama!"

"Ouch," doesn't begin to describe the pang of anguish that tore through me. I thought I had tough-mama skin by now, but tears sprung to my eyes and a sob escaped before I could disguise it from my boy. I didn't expect it from him.

He looked at me, shocked, I think, by the power of his words. Then, his own face crumbled and his eyes poured over. "No, Mama! Don't cry!"

We reached for each other and held tight.

"Those words, hurt." I told him. "Those words break a mommy's heart."

"I broke your heart?" He asked, his eyes wide and brimming once more with tears.

"It's not broken," I assured him. "But that really hurt."

We hugged for a moment longer and he finally let me help him get into his pajamas. He dutifully marched to the bathroom to brush his teeth. When he struggled to squeeze out the toothpaste, naturally, I offered to help.

"No! Papa can!"

Damn. You know what? Papa can.

"Honeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeey!"

And Papa did.

And my heart mended with a new, thicker layer of mommy-skin. Yet branded by that inevitable, yet unexpected, compilation of words.

Can you imagine such words from that angelic face? I couldn't either.








Friday, December 7, 2012

Santa Claus Came To My House!

I knew he was coming, I just forgot when. I knew because his elves sent a flyer through the mail. Wednesday, sometime after 6 PM  he would be visiting all the houses on my street. At 7 PM, as the girls were sitting in my office watching a video on YouTube, I heard very loud music outside, which was highly unusual for my quiet neighborhood.

I glanced through the drawn shades and saw flashing red and green lights. It was Santa!!! On a huge sled. OK, the sled was actually a truck, but the truck's bed was decked out with lights, snow, reindeer and Santa himself!

"Santa's here!" I shouted, more excited than the kids could have ever been! The Boy ran in with a train in his hand and with his huge eyes filled with wonder. He repeated, "Santa's here?"

"Quick!!!" Me again. "Get your shoes on!!!!" But who had time for shoes! I stepped into (on to, really) mine, grabbed The Boy and ran out to meet Santa Claus, or Father Christmas, as he is more commonly referred to here.

It was cold, but not too cold. The music was loud and the lights were bright. It was magic! Santa asked his usual question and The Boy answered, "Ummm, a toy." Santa gave him a lolly (a sucker) and patted his head.

Through the front door I had left standing wide open, I watched the girls scramble for their shoes and coats. Nature Girl was the first out and I left her with Santa when Little Rose seemed to run into some trouble. I could tell by her waving arms and exasperated expression. And the fact that she was calling me. She couldn't find her shoes...

Never mind shoes! Santa had other houses to visit! I grabbed her and swung her up on my right hip. The Boy on one side and her on the other, we ran back out to Santa. Nature Girl was taking her lolly and making room for her sister.

Santa asked his usual question again. Little Rose answered blankly, "I don't know." She got a lolly anyway and encouragement to write a letter when she decided.

We watched and waved as Santa's sled backed up and out of our cul-de-sac. A smile was plastered on my face and the spirit of Christmas hit me hard. What a moment! Santa actually came to my house. Oh, how I wish I could have snapped a few pictures, but it is a vision I'll never forget.

How amazing of a community is this when Santa actually drives through the village and visits every neighborhood around? It was so delightful! That's not a word I use very often, but it is the best to explain how I felt - absolutely filled with delight!

I was surely the most excited of us four. The girls went back to their video, enjoying their suckers. The boy and I danced around happily telling each other how fun that was. We excitedly told Papa all about it when he walked through the door minutes later (he passed Santa on the street!)!

I was so joyful. Nothing dampened my spirits that evening. Not even when the girls explained to me all the reasons why that couldn't have been the real Santa. Not even when Little Rose explained with a tinge of annoyance that she had already, "posted a letter to Santa," on a school trip to the Post Office and he should have received it last week! Nothing.

I love Christmas for what it truly is - a magical, special, time of love and celebration.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Christmas Trees and Roman Amphitheatres - A Vlog

This recess, one of two that face each other, in the stone
may have been areas for Gladiators to prepare for their battles
or they may have been used as shrines
Hello readers and viewers! I just love Wednesdays because I get to link up with Mama Kat's Vlogging workshop. You can too, you know?

Each week she offers prompts to choose from and tips to help you out. I'm having fun learning a new skill and getting in front of the camera. It's where I always wanted to be!

Have a view, share a little and go check out some of the other wonderful vloggers who have linked up over at Mama Kat's.



View it on YouTube here!

Here's another visual:
A little education for you!

So, what do you think? Tell me all about it!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Life is Like a Roundabout

I've had an errand to run for two weeks. I haven't done it. I've made excuses. Conjured reasons why I couldn't do it. It will sound silly. It's so simple. I've just needed to go collect my debit card from my bank, but I've avoided the task. Then Friday I got a check in the mail that I needed to deposit.

Now I had two reasons to go to the bank.

The bank is in the town centre at the mall. I've avoided this task for two weeks! Ridiculous, right? Why? You ask? Why would I avoid the simple task of a quick trip to the bank?


Because I didn't want to drive there! There are roundabouts on the way. Several of them. 4 and 5 exit roundabouts. I can breathe my way through a 3-exit roundabout without too much anxiety, but the big ones scare me. And with good reason - I don't quite understand all the rules yet!

The last time I tried one I apparently did something wrong. I'm still not quite sure what, but all the horns blasting at me told me I did. That was an easy one, or so I thought.

I've been a passenger enough times to know that much more challenging roundabouts awaited me en route to the mall. But, it was time to get in the driver's seat.

I set the GPS from school to the mall. The Boy and I were buckled up and ready to go. The first roundabout had stop lights - those help. I made it through to the third exit without any trouble. Anxiety, yes. Trouble, no. The next couple of smaller ones went smoothly as well. Finally, I got to the big one.

The big one has 6 exits with two additional entrances. The more exits means the more lanes the roundabout has. If you're in the wrong lane, you'll either be forced to exit early, or you'll miss your exit and keep circling round. My exit was the 5th or 6th one.

My first attempt went wrong. I was too far left and was forced off. There was a bus on my right, so I couldn't try to get back in... I had to take a 5-minute diversion and come back to the roundabout from another entrance. This time my exit was the 4th. This time I knew which lane not to be in. This time I knew which lane markings to follow; this roundabout is so big they actually write which exit each lane leads to! Never noticed that as a passenger.

My exit splits into two and a with a little luck I managed to take the right split and head straight up into the parking ramp. I was breathing again. I parked very close to the exit of the ramp - I have parking garage anxiety too, but never mind that.

We got our banking done and hung out at the library for a little while. We checked out 20 books (my daughters are heavy into chapter books these days!), then made our way home. Just two roundabouts this time; one where mine was the first exit (love that) and the second which had no traffic at all as it leads to one of those tiny little one-lane, barely-paved country roads. I'm not even sure two horse-drawn wagons could pass side-by-side, but I can finally take this road without any anxiety at all (mostly).

As I became aware of how relaxed I felt driving down this exceptionally narrow lane, which previously caused me panic, I reflected on the roundabouts I had conquered. Roundabouts, while intimidating to the unfamiliar driver, are forgiving. If you miss your exit, you can go around again for a second chance. In fact, you could keep driving in circles for as long as you need to until you're ready to get over and take your exit. If, like me, you end up taking an unintended exit, you just have to find your way back to the roundabout and give it another go.

Life's like that, isn't it? The signs will tell you where to go, but you have to choose when to follow them. You have to choose to take the exit. The Universe, or God, if you prefer, provides ample opportunities for us to take the path we're meant for. If we miss it, He puts it right back in front of us and gives us another chance. Don't just give up and go home - keep going in the direction you're meant to go.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Google Taught Me Everything I Know (Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop and Peri-Menopause)

Well, not entirely everything, but it certainly is my go-to place these days! Have a question? Ask Google! Need to find something? Google it! I mean, we've actually turned "Google" into a verb! Amazing.

Sadly, I missed yesterday's vlog link-up due to the constant wiping of The Boy's runny nose and having to cuddle him to sleep for a much-needed nap. Therefore, to get my Mama Kat fix today, I'm linking up with the Writer's Workshop.

Prompt #4: Tell us the last thing you Google searched and what you learned.

Fine, then. I was going to write about it eventually anyway. I searched "Irregular Periods." You see, I'm a self-diagnosis junkie. I want to know as much as I can about a particular medical issue before I talk to a doctor about it. That way, I'm armed with knowledge and myriad questions. I have a history of issues with my girly bits; swelling of the cervix, pre-cancer (displaysia), Endometriosis, yet all coupled with very regular, on-the-dot periods. Prior to having 3 children, that is.

Ever since I had The Boy I've been having irregular periods. Last year my doctor chalked it up to "getting older." Hah! I'm not that old yet (cue gloomy music as my birthday is just weeks away)! What she didn't mention was this term that Google taught me: Peri-Menopause.


peri·men·o·pause

  noun \-ˈmen-ə-ˌpȯz, -ˈmēn-\   (Medical Dictionary)

Medical Definition of PERIMENOPAUSE

: the period around the onset of menopause that is often marked by various physical signs (as hot flashes and menstrual irregularity)
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/peri-menopause

Peri-Menopause is the period of time prior to Menopause. It can last months or years, much like it's successor. However, while Menopause is official after you've gone without a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months, Peri-Menopause is where your periods become irregular, your ovulation slows and also becomes irregular and you get to enjoy many of the well-known symptoms of Menopause itself! Grand, isn't it?

Artwork by Cindy B. via Flickr
Symptoms much like those of PMS or Pregnancy, if you ask me. Fuzzy brain, bloating, mood swings, hot flashes, skin changes (i.e. acne), decreased libido (say it ain't so!) and so much more!

Since I've been experiencing nearly all of the above with the exception of hot flashes, I'm feeling... concerned. I don't quite have the words yet for how I'm feeling. Maybe it's my impending birthday, seeing those lines on my forehead deepen, the silver that the hair dye won't seem to hide anymore, the knees that creak and groan, the carpel tunnel that makes it difficult to lift my babies sometimes...

Maybe it's finally realizing that I'm getting older. My brain still thinks I'm 25 years old, but my body is telling me differently. My forehead is telling me differently (note to self: grow hair long enough for braids! Click that link later to die laughing). I'm still healthy, in relatively good shape, but things are changing (cue Bob Dylan).

So, armed with knowledge garnered from Google, I'm off to the doc tomorrow for a full physical of the feminine nature. How lovely to be a woman.

***Want to link up to Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop? Do so here!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Baby Fever and Doing Things Differently

No, I don't have baby fever, let's get that right out of the way! But Mama Kat, who I'll be linking up with for a vlog later today, has provided writing prompts recently that have me thinking about one thing I've always wished I could have done differently for my babies.

DECK OUT THEIR NURSERIES!

Yes, I have always wished to have one of those amazingly beautiful magazine-worthy baby bedrooms. The kind you see on beautiful websites like this one, Lollipop Lane. They even have an entire section devoted to "dream nurseries." Ah, it makes me wistful.

I did OK with Nature Girl's because I had such an amazing turnout at my baby shower in Singapore, where she was born. 40 monetarily comfortable ex-pats who loved me (they were volunteers and I was their manager) and therefore my bump, gave me extraordinary gifts that I never would have been able to purchase myself. It was divine! Think lavender and sage colors, Sir Leapsalot, which went out of production. Dreamy and sweet and perfect for my first baby.

My second daughter got a very simple jungle theme, but only the bedding. The rest of the room was very plain. That's what happens when you have your second baby just 15 months after the first. For The Boy, I got a little more serious and had my husband paint his room and I framed pages of the 2005 edition of The Little Engine That Could because Loren Long's artwork is just so beautiful!

So, since the middle child here seemed to get shorted, if I had to choose one do-over dream nursery, this would be hers:


She loves pink; she's my little Rose after all, and this would so suit her from babyhood to the 6-year-old she is now! I just love it. I can't get the picture to save properly, but you have to see this adorable, adorable, adorable curtain tie-back that doubles as a toy. So sweet!

It's somehow satisfying to do an imaginary nursery. Try it. What would you choose?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Adjusting Overseas - the Pros and Cons

There's a period of adjustment with any move, it's just slightly longer when you move from one culture to another. Fortunately, this isn't my first move far from home (Michigan) and I'm certain it won't be our last move. When I married a Frenchman, I knew we wouldn't stay put for long as he had already lived in 4 or 5 different countries before his 28th birthday. We met, married and moved to Singapore within a span of 9 months! But that's a story for another day...

This time around, we've left much behind to make a better life for ourselves and our children, but we're thrilled to be here and to have this experience. Still, you have to take the good and the bad together and  I have the right to rant as much as anyone. So, here goes:

The bits I don't like (in no particular order):

  • The ice cream tastes weird. Nature Girl won't even eat it. 
  • Clothes Dryers, or the lack there of. N'uff said.
  • The roads are the width of a 2-car garage and the edges are crumbling away.

This one's more like a single-car garage.
I took that pic while hubby drove.

  • Roundabouts
  • People drive down the center of those roads, 50mph, around curves where they can't see me on the other side.
  • I can't find my favorite pickles (Vlasic Kosher Dill, if you want to send some my way)
  • Downey isn't Downey its L-something and doesn't smell the same
  • Sorry, but the beef is expensive and tasteless
  • Parents smoke right next to their babies!
  • I like rainy days, but seriously...
  • I miss my mom and dad. And my cats.
  • The only outlets in the bathrooms are for electric razors... WTH?


The better bits:

  • My groceries are delivered right to my doorstep!
  • Wine is more affordable
  • Self-expression is totally acceptable
  • School uniforms ROCK
  • Public transportation - even without a car you can always get where you need to go! It just might take a while. 
  • The only big school break is in August
  • My 3-year-old will have 15 FREE hours of preschool a week beginning in January!
  • My iPhone was free with my very affordable plan
  • I live just minutes from Roman ruins, less than an hour from Stonehenge, castles, Manor houses, London...
Ancient  Roman town of Calleva Atrebatum
National Gallery;Trafalgar Square, London

  • I can take a train to France
  • There is a true sense of personal freedom here.
  • People are so polite and helpful (at least in and around my area). 
  • You can turn electrical outlets off and on. I just love that!
  • The countryside is stunning
  • Faeries (more on that another time)

There's so much more. I miss a lot of things from the US, but overall, I simply love it here. I think I'll be happy to stay awhile. I just need a dryer. And a hairdryer. And a visit from my mom.

What do you think?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

What a Lucky Mommy: The Rainbow Flower

Babies and Toddlers are fun and cute, but I have to say, my satisfaction with parenting has skyrocketed since my daughters have learned to read and write. There is nothing quite like getting a love note from your kid.

I thought I'd share this recent one from Nature Girl. She's going to be a far better writer than me one day, if she isn't already. This note  had me all blithering and teary... enjoy it (I've edited and formatted for your reading ease).


Mommy,

This is a flower
Not just any flower
A rainbow flower

A rainbow flower never ends
Because a rainbow never ends

Take a moment to think and 
You should be thinking about love
Because love never ends

I love you!

Friday, November 23, 2012

How to Handle Vomit - A Guide for First-Timers

Yesterday, I had the absolute joy of seeing my family in Michigan via Skype. I love Skype! My little brother and his wife are expecting their first child next Spring. When my mom asked how my little Rose was, after all she's been through and her tummy bug last weekend (and another round last night), the questions of an excitedly nervous expectant daddy started coming out. Questions about vomit.

Ironically, the eve of Thanksgiving is the anniversary (not that I celebrate) of our first bout with what's commonly (if not incorrectly) known as the stomach flu. Imagine a night of an 18-month old who couldn't keep anything down, a screaming 3-month-old and a panicked Papa all in one night. Apparently, babies don't get sick in France (wink, wink). Fortunately, he learned to relax after the first few experiences.

To help you and your partner keep calm your first time (and possibly second and third), here's my unofficial guide to handling vomit.

Photo by me. 
A. Get Prepared: 

You'll need:  
- listening skills;
- a large, unbreakable bowl;
- towels (not your good ones)
- spare lovey (optional, but recommended)

1. Listen to Your Child - if they say their tummy isn't feeling good, don't push them to eat. If they are uncharacteristically grumpy or just feeling off (poorly, as they say here in England), ready yourself just in case.

2. Keep a "barf bowl" nearby - The younger the child, the bigger the bowl (more for aim than content). Have the child take it with them wherever they go. Leave it by their bedside at night and make sure they know where it is. Leave a nightlight in their room or the hall. Trust me, you don't want to deal with vomit in the dark.

3. Towel the floor - lay a large towel out alongside their bed. If they don't throw up, no problem - just one semi-dirty towel that can be used as a bathmat. If they do, you've just saved your carpet and the effort it takes to clean vomit out of it.

B. Once it's Started:

1. No Food or Drink for 1 Hour - No, not even a sip. Don't feel bad because they're thirsty; they won't dehydrate in an hour, I promise.* Once your child has thrown-up, expect it to happen again. If you cave and give them fluids too soon they will just come out again. Hold off on food for at least 3-hours.

2. Small Sips - My rule of thumb is a teaspoon of water every 5 to 10 minutes. Just enough to wet their lips. If after 1-hour they haven't thrown up again, go ahead and let them drink...water.

3. Avoid colored food or drink - skip the juice, stick with water. Watermelon might seem like a good first food choice, but it comes out red. Go for applesauce, plain toast or white grapes instead. Your child is suffering, but you have to consider the clean-up. You'll thank me.

4. Get the dirties in the wash ASAP - Vomit stains. The sooner you rinse the chunks and get it in the machine, the better. The last thing either of you want is to be reminded of the night's events every time you look at her favorite blanket. If she missed the towels, treat carpet the second you get your sweetie settled.

Points to remember: 

- A single episode of vomiting is rare. Typically, in my experience, once it starts you're looking at one round per hour for approximately 3 hours. Stick to the food/drink rule and hopefully after that the vomiting will cease.

- It isn't uncommon for your child to feel OK during the day after a rough night, manage to eat and drink, only to toss it all again once or twice the following evening; be prepared!

- Each child has their own unique vomiting style. Some are neat and tidy most of the time and some spray the room, bowl or not. Know your child; good prep will make your clean-up easier.

- Curiously, 90%** of childhood vomiting occurs after 9pm. Don't expect to sleep much that night.

- One vomiting child usually wakes another. Prepare to deal with multiple children crying, but do your very best to keep healthy ones far from sick ones! Two criers is one thing, two vomiters  (I know that isn't a word) is another!

- You usually won't need to consult your doctor for a case of gastroenteritis (the real name for it). But please do so if your child appears dehydrated or the vomiting persists for more than 8 to 12 hours. Visit Kid's Health for more on when to call the doctor.

The good thing about tummy bugs is that they are typically short-lived. Keep calm, be prepared, cuddle your kiddo and you'll both be feeling fine soon!


*I'm not a doctor, so don't sue me. Always check with your pediatrician if you're concerned.
**I made up this statistic based on personal experience.
*** My guide is meant for children ages 1+