Can Women Have It All?

By Janice Johnson-Plumer

Luna_Park_Melbourne_scenic_railwayAs I finally sit down after a day that I committed to doing nothing, this topic came across my mind. Nene Lekes, a housewife on Bravo’s ‘Real Housewives of Atlanta,’ has been quoted as saying, “I am just a hustler, I’m a grinder. I’m a worker bee.” This is a woman who is appearing on Broadway, started a clothing line, and is in constant demand for appearances. Economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett, CEO of Center for Talent Innovation and mother of four, thinks “women can have it all but maybe not all at the same time.” According to Hewlett, when women are in their early 20’s they should be looking for a mate and not worrying about their careers.

When I was just out of college I wouldn’t have listened if you told me that I was not going to have a career. I always said that I would wear Gucci shoes, and that I’d have a big desk and a chair that I would turn around like Alexis Carrington (remember the show Dynasty?) to let people know that I was a boss.

Now that I am older and supposedly wiser, I have come to the conclusion that family is important. My son is important. Being there for him is important. Yes, I would love the lucrative job where I am a leader who calls the shots. But when it is all said and done, I want to leave work at work. I don’t want to be available 24/7, especially when it interferes with my family time. Don’t get me wrong, I am a hustler and I can make a worker bee dizzy trying to keep up with me, but I know how to shut it off. I am a worker bee because I want to be a contributor to my household and when my son wants those $150 sneakers I can do it without batting an eye because I have earned extra money to do so.

I can look back on when my mother was raising me and appreciate all that she did for me, especially because she was able to spend time with me and be there when I came home from school. I had all the comforts of growing up and never knowing the wiser that my mother contributed what she could with part time jobs because all I could remember was that she was there.

But then we have the flip side of the coin from PepsiCo CEO, Indra Nooyi, who admitted how hard it is to get it right.

“I don’t think women can have it all. I just don’t think so. We pretend we have it all. We pretend we can have it all,” she said in an interview.

As mothers, are we just pretending to have it all when deep down we feel stressed out, overworked, unappreciated and just waiting for the day to be over with so we can rush home and throw on our pajamas? I know I can speak from personal experience when I say that I have been all of those things. Don’t get me wrong- I burn the candle at both ends. I work full time, do real estate part time, teach multiple spin classes a week, and I attend any community or school meetings that take place. Do I wish I could get off of this roller coaster? Absolutely! But how do you take a step back and get off the rollercoast, while still accomplishing everything you want to?

I think it all starts with us mothers taking care of ourselves. After all, if we don’t put our health first, who will? That is why I have elected to workout in the mornings while my husband is getting ready for work. It’s my time. It’s my sanctuary and it allows me to take care of my health. I have also adopted a healthier way of eating, and in turn I feel good! When you feel good, the little things don’t get you angry- like when you ask your kids a thousand times to pick up their room. Woosah!

In terms of mental well-being, I have learned to turn more into prayer and to try and just be still. I have a hard time being still, so I do it at odd times.

I look for the greater good in people rather than in things, especially material things. Those Louis Vuitton handbags will have to take a back seat until my son is old enough to supplement his sneaker fetish.

I also look for ways to give back. There’s something about giving back to others when we find fulfillment in our lives. I want to help women who may not have the opportunity to do it for themselves, whether it’s helping them to find a suit for a big interview or just having a day of beauty.

As you are running around asking yourself if this is all worth it? If it’s meaningful? If you’re making a difference for your children?

Let me know your thoughts.

Posted in can women have it all, work life balance | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Bedtime Bliss

By: Martianne Stanger

Before marriage and children, one thing I fantasized about was parenting my own children to bed one day. I imagined cuddling with my darlings to say our bedtime prayers, sing calming lullabies and share bedtime stories before I got up, tucked each child into bed, offered each a kiss on the forehead and quietly left the room as the children drifted into sweet slumber.

sibs sleep

Never did I imagine the reality that was to become mine. Years of bedtime struggles with a boy who “cannot turn his brain off” and his siblings who can, but don’t, because if brother is not sleeping, why should they? (Um, because Mommy needs somebody to do so – like herself!)

So it is that through the years, bedtime in my home has been anything but dreamy.

Sure, there have been some sweet moments when my children have scrambled to offer me bedtime blessings like the ones I give them or have melted my heart with their spontaneous prayers. And, there have been a number of occasions when I’ve sung my children their special songs and one or two of them have actually fallen asleep. Plus, nightly bedtime storytelling is a reality here (Granted, it is a reality that sometimes is less cuddly than it is claustrophobic since all three children want to be next to me, I only have two sides and the kids solution is to find another side. Yes, one child lies on one side of me, one on the other side; and the third either lies on my chest or against my head. Mind you, this was all well and good when the children were tiny, but now they are growing. Well, let’s just say it is not the most comfortable positioning for bedtime stories.)

And what about hat tucking in I imagined? Hmm… Reality looks different than my dreams. For, I envisioned the typical tuck in, blankets tight around smiling children. It was not until I had a “sensory kid” that I learned for some children the preferred weight upon a body is not that of lightly tucked blanket, or even a number of heavy ones, but that of a parent! Yes, for years even if left in his own bed sleeping, one child would eventually get up, come find a parent and “tuck” himself into that parent by squirming his legs under said parent.

His siblings wanted Mom or Dad, too. Can we say, “musical beds”? How about “bedtime mayhem”? Kids outlasting Mom or Dad in staying awake?

That has been our reality.

Until recently.

Recently – through prayer, persistence (and adaptation of!) with our bedtime routines, the children’s growing maturity, coaching and sensory work, and, I do believe, the grace of God – bedtime has become a little more blissful.

In fact, it has become something better than I ever imagined. More often than not, one or two of my kids crash while we pray a rosary with youtube after bedtime stories and the other goes to – and stays! – in bed, trusting I will be in with him at some point. He does not beg for me to stay with him until he falls asleep, nor does he cry or panic quite as often about his inability to fall asleep. He just rests as best as he can and, sometimes, actually drifts off before I go into him.

And, then, in the morning, if I sneak out of bed before the kids are up, sometimes I hear a rustling and find this:

big boy

A well-rested boy reading quietly to himself as his siblings cuddle nearby still asleep.

Morning bliss beget by better bedtimes. I will take it!

Posted in Family, Martianne Stanger, Siblings | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Crockpot Meatloaf

By: Kathy Trainor

crockpotWhy dirty an extra dish?  You can free form your meat loaf by putting it in the bottom of your Crockpot and then you have a meal ready for you in less than 6 hours.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds of ground beef, bison, or turkey. I like meatloaf mix from my local store
  • 1 tablespoon of minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce (or more, to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup of BBQ sauce or Ketchup of choice to go over the top after cooking (optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients well in a large bowl.
  2. As stated above you can do this with no pan or a pan. Form meatloaf or place meatloaf in the pan.
  3. Put the lid on crock pot and cook on low (6-8 hours) or high (4 hours.)
 If not using the loaf pan, it will cook faster, so check in after 3-4 hours on if cooking on low or after 2-3 hours on high.
  4. When cooked, turn the Crockpot off and let cool for 20 minutes with lid off. Add BBQ sauce or ketchup if you choose to at this time.

ENJOY!

Posted in Cooking, Food, Kathy Trainor, Recipes | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Ordinary People

By: Sandra L. Churchill

At the beginning of November, Catholics celebrate All Saints Day, a holy day that honors ordinary people who did extra-ordinary things—heroes of faith. Sharing some “highlights” of some famous and some lesser-known saints with my CCD class, I was inspired by the acts of seemingly “ordinary” people. Some overcame illness and poverty to continually help others. Others faced their persecution or other insurmountable battles with incredible bravery and perseverance.

Moms, dads, teachers—any of us—can be saints when we choose love and patience over a short fuse, whether in traffic, the grocery store line, a fight for the TV remote, or in our daily priorities. Each of us has the ability to do “small things with great love,” in the style of St. Theresa, nicknamed the little flower of Jesus. One need not be Catholic to be inspired by the great saints. How amazing is it that every day we have the same 24 hours that Einstein, or Gandhi or Mother Theresa did? We need not be rich or famous or “important” in society’s eyes because simply living on the planet gives us the opportunity to be kind, be respectful, and care for people, animals, and the environment. We have a brand new day each morning, brimming with chances to teach, to learn, to love, and to inspire.

Scout's outing

Scout's outing

Our son’s scout troop recently participated in a Fall Camporee, which featured skill- and team-building activities ranging from compass reading and problem solving to first-aid and sportsmanship. One activity involved a “zombie attack” (fitting with the Halloween season, of course) where the scouts had to splint, bandage, and ultimately transport an “injured” scout on a stretcher to get him to safety. While the activity was a mock scenario and filled with laughter and fun, the compassion and caring was evident as the handy scouts sprang into action and mended their fellow troop member.

Scout's outing

Scout's outing

Scout's outing

Scout's outing
Reba McIntyre’s song “Everyday People” celebrates this concept of ordinary people doing extra-ordinary things beautifully. The song lyrics are as follows:

College kids turning twenty-one
And their senior year spring break was here
They headed south but not for sun
On their skin where the storms had been

It was hard fixing windows
And shingles and doors
And tide never felt so good before

Everyday people
Are the ones who are making miracles
And it’s beautiful

Everyday people
Lifting up the world like an answered prayer
I thank God they’re there
They’re the ones who care
Everyday people

Doctor said, “Good news, we caught it soon enough
We can clear this up”
But she’s thirty and single with two kids to raise
Times are tough these days

So her friends made some calls
And the word spread around
How her bills got paid she don’t know how

Everyday people
Are the ones who are making miracles
And it’s beautiful

Everyday people
Lifting up the world like an answered prayer
I thank God they’re there
They’re the ones who care

Everyday people
Everyday people

A little girl takes her mama’s hand
And walks inside saying, please don’t cry
As the people who built this house just for them
Laugh through the tears as a family moves in

Everyday people
Are the ones who are making miracles
And it’s beautiful.

Here’s to starting a new month—the month of gratitude and blessings—with a renewed spirit and a commitment to make a difference, big and small. Here’s to the courage, energy and reassurance that you can do “small things with great love.” You have a brand new day, each and every morning, to be an inspiration. That is the way to be a saint, to those you love, to strangers, and to those you encounter in your daily travels.

Posted in Community Service, Sandy Churchill | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Switch Witch

By: Heather Desmond O’Neill

Call me a glutton for punishment.  We’ve incorporated one more “tradition” in our house around a holiday.  The Tooth Fairy has made a few visits lately.  Buddy the Elf leaves magic Christmas Pajamas on Christmas Eve.  Lucky the Leprechaun has made a few switch witchappearances around St. Patrick’s Day.  The Easter Bunny never fails.  And most recently, The Switch Witch has made an appearance.

The Switch Witch comes to town after Halloween (or after any of those parades where they obnoxiously throw tons and tons of junk candy at the kids, causing them to fight over who got what and whose turn it is to pick out which candy to eat.  I can’t stand the bags of cheap candy that seem to last forever.)

If you leave your candy for the Switch Witch, she will leave you some sort of gift in return.

“What happens if I don’t leave my candy for her?” my six-year-old asks.

“She just takes it and you get nothing.  She is a witch, after all,” I reply.

We started this a few years ago and so far it’s worked pretty well.  The kids choose a few pieces of candy to keep for themselves.  We’ve settled on whatever age you are is the number of candies you can keep.

Then they choose a spot to leave the bucket/bag for the Switch Witch and she leaves something in return.  Last year she left new light up toys.  This year she left Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle cups, plates and utensils.

When the boys found their “gifts” this morning, one cried, “This is AWESOME!  We can use these all the time!  So much better than candy that you can only eat once!”  The other cried, “We’re rich!”  (Not so sure he gets what that really means, but we’ll go with it.)

I don’t want to deprive my kids of their Halloween candy, but I don’t want them eating it all either.  This way they have a few pieces, we stash some of the good stuff for the adults (the rest I bring to work), and the boys get something in return for their donation.  Win-win all the way around.    

Yes, it’s one more thing to remember, but seeing their true joy over plates and cups rather than candy truly is worth the extra effort.

Posted in Family, Food, Halloween, Heather Desmond O'Neill, Holidays | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Reward System

By: Jessica Aldred

As parents of a school-age child and a preschooler, my husband and I often struggle with how to discipline or reward each of them without impacting the other. For instance, if we’ve promised an outing to a fun family location but my four-year-old has had a particularly bad day, it’s a tough call whether to ruin the fun for all, or for half of us, just to teach my preschooler a lesson. Likewise, how do we reward one for something the other one either can’t or won’t do to earn the reward himself?

Golden stars

My kids are less than two years apart and enjoy a lot of the same things and activities. However, they are developing at such a rapid pace that the expectations we set for each of them have to be different. We’ve recently resorted to a star chart, a sticker chart of sorts. While it does include several items that they are both capable of doing, such as tooth brushing or cleaning up the playroom, there are also some items on there that our younger guy can’t complete, like shoe-tying or finishing homework. We do our best to make up ways for him to achieve similar goals, such as creating homework suited to his developmental level or letting him just put on his shoes instead of tying them. However, he doesn’t have the attention span or understanding of the process to fully grasp the reward end of things. He’s just not old enough, or mature enough, to participate.

As a result, we fight a constant battle with how to reward one for good behavior, while not just rewarding the other to follow suit. Likewise, how do we punish one without impacting the other? They are both so affected by how the other is treated and rewarded/disciplined that it feels like it has to be an all-or-none situation. To complicate the matter, my youngest (with a tentative ADHD diagnosis) is emotionally immature for his age and is easily set off by frustration or not achieving a goal or task right away. So placing him situation that he could easily fail or not achieve the goal only fuels his frustration and can set off a downward spiral of behavior that can last for days at a time. We try to find ways to reinforce unsolicited good behavior with him, but it’s still a challenge.

My four-year-old is actually more excited when his brother achieves a goal than when he does himself. The things that motivate him are also very different. While my six-year-old is more interested in earning money and has the patience to save up for a bigger toy or electronic, my little guy needs the instant gratification to see the process as worthwhile. At the moment, his preference is candy.

I’m interested in to hear how other families handle the reward/discipline system for their children, and specifically for siblings. What are your methods for managing your children’s behavior?

Posted in ADHD, Family, Jessica Aldred, Mommy Advice, Parenting Advice | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

How the Signature Mom Bloggers Celebrate Halloween

Happy Halloween! To celebrate, we asked the Signature Mommy Bloggers how their families will celebrate this spook-tacular holiday.

Martianne - We keep Halloween simple here, having the kids make costumes on their own, using things they have or things we can acquire at little to no expense.  So, this year, Luke will be a Minuteman. Jack will be a knight. Nina will be either a pumpkin (with a borrowed costume) or her version of Molly Pitcher (a historical character). We also celebrate All Saints Day.  The children are still deciding their costumes for that.

Martianne's Kids on Halloween

Martianne’s children in their costumes

Kathy – Patrick will be Batman. John will not dress up since he has autism and often this day makes it very hard for him. Instead, he will help hand out candy (if he can). Since John doesn’t like the feel of many things (for sensory reasons), we celebrated by coloring pumpkins.

Heather - Here is Jameson (6) dressed as Yoda and Jackson (4) dressed as Iron Man. We typically trick-or-treat with the boys’ cousins in their neighborhood and then with their Nana and Papa in their neighborhood. (Our street is much too busy for trick or treating safely.) We try to take advantage of any chance we can for the boys to wear their costumes – Halloween events, dances, etc.  They love dressing up and showing off their outfits.

Heather's son on Halloween

Heather’s son will dressed up as Yoda

Heather's son on Halloween

Heather’s son dressed up as Captain America

Carolyn – Halloween has never been a big deal in our house. During the toddler years, our kids dressed up for pre-school parties but they have rarely ever went out trick-or-treating. With my son, Halloween has always been a night to order pizza and hand out candy. I don’t know why my kids have never liked Halloween – maybe because they are not big candy eaters.

Rachel – My kids are dressing up as Elsa and Olaf!

Rachel's kids on Halloween

Rachel’s “Frozen” kids

Jessica – It’s a Star Wars Halloween! My kids will dress up as Darth Vader, Yoda and R2D2.

Tanya – Lucy (8) will dress up as a corpse ballerina. Jack (5) will be a ninja (after previously wanting to be a scary clown). And Emme (2 ½) will be Princess Anna in her coronation dress. I’m dressing up for trick-or-treating, too! I’ll be going as a scarecrow. The month of October flew by for us, and we didn’t even get any decorations up. I managed to put a sugar skull out near my coffee machine. We had a fall tea party with my Great Aunt Betty, where we ate fall cupcakes and carved pumpkins.

The Pimental Family dressed up as the cast of Scooby Doo

The Pimental Family dressed up as the cast of Scooby Doo

Tanya's daughter at a Halloween Party

Tanya’s family carved pumpkins

How will your family celebrate Halloween? Let us know in the comments section!

Posted in Carolyn Coleman, Halloween, Heather Desmond O'Neill, Holidays, Jessica Aldred, Kathy Trainor, Martianne Stanger, Rachel Ventura, Tanya Pimental | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment