My husband and I always thought we’d have three. We were certain that was a magic number for the right size family. It’s not to say that we never will, but it’s not in the immediate plans.

So imagine my surprise when I found out that we had a little girl named Lina (Lee-nah) living with us. Morgan told us all about her. Morgan is the spitting image of my little sister in terms of attitude, spirit, and cuteness. My sister Carly always had an imaginary friend named Julie. I find this coincidence pretty special. Even more special, though, is the belief that kids’ imaginary friends are really angels coming down from heaven to play with them. I just think that’s awesome.

Anyway, since I blog about all things family, I thought I should introduce you to our newest member, Lina. Here’s what we know about her, all information provided by Morgan herself:

– Lina has dark hair, black to be precise

– Lina likes to play My Lil’ Ponies

– She is a good sharer. She likes to share her toys, even her Barbies

– She does not know how to swim

– Her favorite food is pasta

– She sleeps in Morgan’s lower bunk bed

– Her parents’ names are Sean and Tiffany. I’ve been assured this “Sean and Tiffany” are different from us, but they are married and they do have a house.

– Lina is always a good girl.

I just hope this guardian angel doesn’t go away too soon. They say kids lose their sixth sense over time. I love that my Morgan has a special companion to watch over her 24/7 and will do everything I can to preserve that sixth sense as long as she lets me…

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3 1/2 going on 13

Some days I’m really happy Morgan still has her emotional outbursts. It’s the “fall on the floor and cry like there is no tomorrow for no reason” outbursts that remind me she is still three. She’s my little girl. My sweetheart. My preschooler. Oh gosh, I only have one preschooler left. Oh my.

On the mature end of things she’s precocious, questioning, tall, articulate, and she keeps up with the five-year olds. It’s so hard sometimes to remember she’s only a preschooler.

There are some days her actions completely surprise me. The other day took the cake.  A 16-year-old boy working at Target passed us, leaving her completely doe-eyed with a soft smile on her face. Really? He was 16!!! 

Afterward we were driving on Broadway, and some big burly bikers pulled up alongside us. Morgan rolled down her window, gave them a soft wave, and smiled while saying “Hi boys” in the sweetest voice she could muster. The problem? She looked so grown up and wise when she did it! She knew she was going to hit a soft spot with those burly bikers!

If 3 1/2 is going on 13, I can’t imagine what 13 is actually going to be like. We are in for some trouble!

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And so it goes

We are about to embark on a big journey into the world of kindergarten. A world without naps. A world of freedom, choice, and new learnings.

As I get the school notices and calendars, I realize how sheltered my little man has been for the past five years. The same daycare. Spending his days in a room that only changed every 6-12 months. Familiar teachers. Stringent routine.

As I watched the graduation night slide show, I recognized how hard I tried to give him freedom within that shelter for those five years. He was safe and secure, free from most judgement and criticism. Free to be Jake. I saw him wearing PJs on days where all the kids were dressed for Valentine’s day. Rubber rain boots on sunny, hot days. Cowboy boots with shorts. Buzz Lightyear costumes on a random Tuesday. It was Jake. And as much as my working put constraints on his schedules and days, he was free to be who he wanted every day.

I recognize things will have to change as he enters kindergarten. No more costumes on a random Tuesday. Seasonally appropriate clothes. I recognize that on the few days I let him break out of this norm he may get teased and it breaks my heart.

And so it goes. I send my little man, the one who likes to play with kids who (in his words) “are really good everyday and have excellent days for the teachers”, the one who still sucks his thumb when he’s uncertain, and curls up on mama’s lap for comfort…I send my little man out into the real world.

As much as I thought I was thrusting him into the real world when I went back to work at 8 weeks, leaving him in the care of people I barely knew, I realize now, that wasn’t really the case. And so the big step happens now. He will be fine. In fact, he will thrive in an educational environment.

Me, on the other hand, I may just need a little extra help to make the leap.


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When I grow up

Morgan is in the midst of a mid-three year old identity crisis. Am I big or am I small? We do a lot of talking about both.

“I’m big, right mama?” (Yes, Morgan, you are. You are growing up so fast.)

“I’m just little, right mama?” (Yes, Morgan, you are my little sweetheart.)

It’s tough to be three. Old enough to know that there are a lot of things you can’t do yet. Not old enough to try to do them. Old enough to understand that temper tantrums aren’t acceptable. Not old enough to control them.

But being three with a five-year old brother is even tougher. Jake’s getting ready to go to kindergarten. Morgan will be left behind in preschool. Jake gets to ride a bus. Morgan gets her same old booster seat in my Tahoe. Jake gets a new backpack, glue sticks, and shoes. Well, ok, Morgan got those too. We have to draw the line somewhere, right?

On the flip side, Jake is loving the little bit of freedom he’s going to get from his little sister. They are currently in two different classrooms in the preschool wing with different playground schedules. At the end of the day when the rooms are combined, they tend to act like they are just classmates – when I pick them up they are on separate sides of the room, playing with their respective friends. Kindergarten gives Jake freedom and a space all his own. He hasn’t had space in 3 1/2 years, and as a mom of two, I know how he feels.

So tonight we’re driving home from an impromptu swim at grandma’s. Morgan says:

“Mama, I’m going to be five next, right?”

“No, Morgan, you are going to be four.”

“Oh, oh yeah, mama, I’m going to be four for a few minutes, then I’ll be five.”

The poor thing really just wants to be five. To ride a bus. To feel big.

But she was quickly trumped by her brother, who wasn’t about to share his newfound space:

“No, Morgan,” Jake said, “You are going to be five for a hundred years!”

I guess we’ll just leave it at that for now!


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Maybe/maybe not

I thought Jake was just plain excited about kindergarten. But I should have known his wheels were turning.

I pulled the mail out of the mailbox the other day and he asked if there was anything special in there for him. Lo and behold my five-year old has ESP. I handed him an envelope addressed to us from his school and told him we could open it once we got in the house. Of course he couldn’t wait, and mid-way up the walkway, he was tearing into the envelope that housed his teacher assignment, bus badge, and list of school supplies for kindergarten. That was it. It’s official – he’s going to kindergarten.

I read him the letter and the list of school supplies. “Jake, isn’t that great? We can go shopping and get you what you need.”

“Mom, can I watch a movie now?”

“Uh, sure, Jake.”

I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this sudden bit of indifference. But I let it go, knowing that something was brewing in his head.

Fast forward to two days later. Jake and I were headed to the grocery store, just the two of us. I struck up the old kindergarten conversation.

“Jake, I was thinking just you and I will go out and buy you school supplies. We also need to get you new sneakers and some new pants and shirts. Oh, and PJs, because you seemed to have outgrown all your PJs.”

“Mama, I get NEW PJs??? Really??? Do they have PJ day a lot at school?”

“Um, no Jake. Maybe once or twice. But you need PJs and I figured we’d be out shopping…”

“Oh, ok, mom.”

I looked back and saw him peering out his window, deep in thought. I was torn between letting it go and trying to help him solve whatever was stewing in his head. So we went over the list of things for school, laughing at the fact that he had to bring baby wipes in on the first day. He thought that was pretty funny.

We marveled at buying four packs of crayons, and markers, and colored pencils. We surmised that you must do a lot of writing at school.

We wondered why we didn’t have to buy any paper. Would they have to write on the walls, their hands, their shoes? Hmmm…there were just so many things about kindergarten that we didn’t know.

Then I talked about all the new experiences – gym, music, art, cafeteria, playground, and friends. Yes, new friends. I mentioned that we’d get to go to school the day before it starts and meet his teacher. I told him we’d find his cubby and that there would be lots of new friends there that day also getting to know their way around. I asked him if he was excited.

“Maybe, mom, maybe not. I don’t know those kids and maybe they won’t be nice.”

It just about broke my heart. But finally, we were at the root cause of this sudden indifference. The mood in the car had gone from excitement and anticipation (and giggles at all we didn’t know about kindergarten) to hesitation and uncertainty. And who could blame him? I’d been feeling the same way myself. Turns out, my little man wasn’t as strong, self-assured and resilient as I’d thought.

No, my sweet little five-year old was feeling a bit off kilter with this big change looming. Absent of a security blanket, he put his thumb in his mouth and covered his eyes with his fingertips, letting me know that he too had feelings of uncertainty.

I know I won’t be able to erase the anxiety on the first day. But I can spend the next few weeks preparing him for the change, reassuring him that he is wonderful and kind and a great kid to be friends with, and reinforce all the positives that come with this change.

And on that first day, we’ll wait for the bus with our brave faces on, give one another a quick hug, and he’ll be on his own to handle this change by himself. A pretty big step for a five-year old, isn’t it?

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Real imagination

Today we let our 5-year-old son watch Jurassic Park for the first time. We had the usual discussion about it before popping it into the VCR (yes, it’s actually a VHS tape, and yes, we own a VCR for this very reason). The discussion went something like this: Bad words? I don’t think so. Nudity? Not that I remember. Violence? The dinosaurs can be kinda aggressive.

Hmm…dinosaurs…aggressive…pretty much in line with what my five year old already knew, so we went for it. We did the usual “this is just a pretend movie about a pretend place” and jumped right in. He has a Discovery Channel box set called Prehistoric Park, so this was one step up in the potential fear factor.

He thoroughly enjoyed it, but it didn’t seem to make a huge impression. A few hours later, he was playing with his mini dinos in the moon sand when he looked up at me and said, “Mama, the little dinosaur was hungry and couldn’t find anything to eat. So he scavenged around and found a dead T-REX (insert eyes the size of saucers for impact) and he ate him. Now he is SO full!”

I looked up and acknowledged this amazing story with “Jake, you tell such good stories.”

His reply? “Mama, they aren’t stories, they are real imagination!”

Yes, Jake, yes they are.

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My 30 day challenge

A 30 day challenge. That’s all it took. I’d been battling with the idea of maintaining better health, and exercise has been the number one priority to reach that goal several times. Don’t believe me? The proof is here and here and here. I mean, seriously.

I watched this TED talk on trying something new for thirty days. The speaker, Matt Cutts, basically points out that you can do anything for thirty days. And within that time period, you’ll decide if whatever you challenged yourself with is going to become habit, or if you will drop it on day 31.

It’s a simple principle, really. But it’s also life changing. Give yourself 30 days and try something new. Dedicate yourself to it and own it over that thirty days. So I set out to exercise for thirty days. Either it would become habit or I would drop it on day 31. What did I have to lose?

To be honest, the first eight days still sucked. Knowing you are committing to something for a thirty-day period doesn’t make the pain go away. But after that, I was hooked. I downloaded the Nike GPS app for the iPhone. Now I was tracking my running, sharing my progress on Facebook (which I found made me totally accountable to my goals),  and even allowed people to cheer me on. I even ended my runs with 30 minutes of power yoga, thanks to Jillian Michaels. I love her. In a masochistic, she kicks my a&& and makes me sweat kind of way. Everyone needs a little Jillian in their lives. I just happen to need ALOT.

I’m now at day 31. Granted, I’m nursing some heel/knee pain, but I’ve truly found my motivation and commitment. My mind is clearer, my energy is different, and my body is slowly transforming. Instead of complaining that I have no time to exercise, I find myself making time. It’s now part of my life, not just something I should be doing.

Everyone has to find what works for them. But if you are struggling to achieve a goal, give it a shot. And if you’ve got a great idea for another thirty-day challenge, please share. I’m in the market for my next one.


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Kindergarten Woes

I ask my son about every other day if he’s excited to go to Kindergarten. He is. It doesn’t seem to bother him that the majority of his daycare friends will all be going to a different school. He has three daycare classmates that will be in his kindergarten. He will know three kids. Three.

Kids are so resilient, aren’t they? A new experience, a slight disruption – while it breeds some hesitation, it also breeds excitement and anticipation.

Me, on the other hand, I’m dreading it. We’ve been in a nice cocoon at daycare. I know the moms in his class – which ones I like and which I don’t. I know which kids are the trouble makers and which are the nice quiet ones you want to have over for a Saturday AM playdate. My daycare mom friends and I bonded over shared experiences of bottle feeding, potty training, and preschool learning. My social life with my mom’s group is as comfortable as a warm fleece blanket that just came out of the dryer.

Kindergarten?! A whole new ballgame. No “drop offs” or “pick ups” with other parents. I’ll be shepherding my kid onto a bus where he’ll be off to meet new friends. He’ll come home with stories of kids I have never met. He’ll want to make friends and play with new kids. And I’ll have to let him.

So it’s a new experience for both of us. At orientation night, the discussions were geared toward stay at home moms who were leaving their kids for the first time. Yeah, I lived through that experience when my son was six months. Over five years I’ve watched as he has grown into an independent self thinker, with intellect, empathy, and a passion for learning. I won’t have to worry about him clinging to my leg on the first day of school.

No, I’m certain I’ll be watching teary eyed as he charges forward, bravely accepting the new opportunities and challenges that await him. And in that spirit, I will have to accept my own.


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The 26 hour day

No joke, I once worked a 26 hour day. Yeah, I started at 8 AM one day and worked until 10 AM the next day. It was a bit of heaven and hell all wrapped into one. No joke. Of course I was much younger, had no kids, and was at the start of my career – bright eyed and bushy tailed.

To be honest, I’d do it all over again. Big pitch? Critical to the company? You need me? I’m there. That said, there was something special about this 26 hour day…2 more hours than the norm!

I have a theory. If I could add two hours to my day and turn the average day into 26 hours, I would be all set. I would have the time I need to get everything done. Right now my life is a series of trade offs. Sleep for working out. Laundry for work. Work for time with my husband. Time with kids for dishes. Late night Facebook with friends over mid-day telephone calls. There is never enough time, no matter how organized or motivated I get.

All I can do sometimes is take a deep breath and hang on tight. It’s a wild ride, day in and day out. But I wouldn’t change a thing. Well, except maybe for that darn time change that creeps up on me twice a year.

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Birthdays of epic proportions

I bring it on myself. I recognized this as I was planning my son’s fifth birthday. He was over the top about his Star Wars party, and therefore, so was I. There is nothing more special in my book than a kids’ birthday party. Someday I hope my kids look back and say “My mom always really tried to make us feel like we were the most special kid in the Universe on our birthday.” No joke, that’s what I strive for. Making them feel like they rule the world. Well, maybe like they rule THEIRworld.  Combine that goal with my over-the-top, type A, neurotic personality and a bit of competitive spirit, well, there you have it. I run myself into the ground. And it’s all worth it.

Look at that smile! How could you resist that?

The planning starts days months beforehand. I finish up my daughter’s birthday in early March and switch gears to my son’s. Not an easy task, when you consider between the two birthdays I also have to contend with my husband’s, dad’s and mom’s birthday, plus mother’s day and father’s day. Add in a full time+ job, work travel, a household to keep running, and daycare to contend with…let’s just say it’s busy. And it’s all worth it.

Birthday parties yield many late nights – decorations, food, cake, cake pops, kid favors, games, themes, all have to be planned, made, done, organized. Music has to be bought or downloaded. Wardrobe has to be planned (I mean, how could you have a Star Wars party without a Star Wars t-shirt for the birthday boy – what kind of mother would I be? Note: that required a stop to get an extra gift.) So yes, I bring it on myself. And it’s all worth it.

Thanks to Old Navy for always having a good selection of character shirts!

The year my son turned three he got up from his nap and looked out his window at a magical kids playland, filled with slip and slides, pools, beach balls, bikes, and a graffiti of outdoor toys. He came running downstairs, looked at me, and said “Mama, I just saw the BEST birthday party outside”. Mission accomplished.
At four, we recreated a similar playland. He woke up from his nap, ran to his window, and said “Mama, my friends are going to think this is the best party ever! They are never going to want to leave”. Mission accomplished.

At five, we created a smaller playland and switched focus to the theme and games. This wasn’t about him running to the window, it was about surprising him and his friends with the experience. It was about Yoda Soda, Light Saber pretzel rods, Death Star Cake Pops (that I found in our spare fridge a day later – never said I was perfect), Yoda’s cookies (that required a stop at Starbucks to beg for green tea powder and cookies that didn’t get eaten), two cakes (one evil, one good), and Princess Punch. And then the real fun stuff  – light sabers made out of pool noodles (special thanks to my husband who thought to add the duct tape and draw an on/off button on them), a Jedi training camp, renting a Darth Vader suit for my husband, all creating an experience with Star Wars theme songs playing in the background.

A lot of mom hours went into the food selection!I had to send a Facebook APB out the night before to figure out which cake Luke went on and which cake Vader went on!

All in all, I think I put about 50 hours into researching, planning, and executing the party. I’m honestly not kidding. It was days’ worth of work, thinking, and planning. Oh, and the Darth Vader rental? I had the bright idea of letting the kids use silly string to fight the evil force, requiring a good 45 minutes of cleaning the “rental suit” after.

Dad made a great Darth Vader! It took a while for both kids to realize it wasn't the real Darth Vader!He was down for the count. So was the costume!

But in the end it was his day, and one I knew wouldn’t be forgotten anytime soon. I asked him about it that night. “Mama, that party was so cool, I think I want a Star Wars party every year”.

Oh fabulous, it will only take me 75 hours to figure out how to top that one! Better start now.

He's a fantastic little man and deserved every minute of his big Star Wars party!