Mom Moments 2012

My 12-year-old son announced to me that during his lifetime he has survived at least three End-of-the- World scenarios. He declared matter-of-factly, “First there was Y2K, and then there was the Rapture and finally the Mayan Doomsday. I’m pretty lucky.”  Perhaps his pronouncement was influenced by his latest penchant for zombie books such as World War Z. He seemed buoyed by the current lack of apocalypse predictions for 2013.

 

His declaration made me think of my year of parenting and how lucky I felt in avoiding any particular parenting calamities this year. However, 2012 seemed to be a year of interesting and sometimes outlandish mom miscues. Some of the year’s more infamous mom-blunders were enough to make one feel like an accomplished diplomat. In honor of the New Year and moms who always try to do their best, here are my favorite five Mom Moments of 2012.

 

1. Olympic Medalist swimmer Ryan Lochte mom’s remark about his “one night stands.”

 

In an interview with Today.com, Ike Locthe said about son Ryan, “He goes out on one-night stands. He is not able to give fully to a relationship because he’s always on the go.” This comment went viral and begged the question, why was she was talking about his sex life at all? Ike later attempted to clarify that she did not mean hookups but was referring to dates because her son is just too busy for a girlfriend. Nonetheless, the damage was done with a very high “ewe factor.” It makes me thankful that most of my off-the-cuff remarks are uttered privately not in front of a media circus.

 

2. TIME magazine cover featuring a mom breastfeeding her 3-year-old.

 

Time magazine used an intentionally provocative photo on the cover of its May 21, 2012 edition. The cover featured attractive model-worthy mom Jamie Lynne Grumet breastfeeding her 3-year-old as they both peered toward the reader with the tagline, “Are you Mom Enough.” Although the subject of the article inside was attachment parenting, the “titillating” photo got all the attention. Time was unapologetic for the suggestive pose as the venerable publication got more readers for this one issue than it had had in years. Sex sells — see Mom Moment No.1.

 

3. Publication of Sh*tty Mom: The Parenting Guide for the Rest of Us.

 

This irreverent parenting guide was written by four busy, tired working moms who tell stories about real lives not Tiger Mom or French Mom lives. The authors admit to yelling at their kids, sending them to school sick and bribing for good behavior.  Some favorite chapter titles include, “Organized Sports Might Be Great For the Kids, but They Suck for You.” and “It’s Come to Your Attention That Your Kid is Merely Average.” What can I say; this is a great book for moms who admit that a “happy meal” is not a balanced organic dish but one that occurs at a drive-thru.

 

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4. Tanning Mom.

 

Patricia Krentcil, a New Jersey mom, was accused of sneaking her 5-year-old daughter into a tanning salon. The mom was a devoted 5x a week tanner herself and sported an oddly tanned, wrinkled complexion for her age. She has since repented her tanorexia and at one point successfully stopped tanning for a month.

 

5. Celebrity Mom Jennifer Garner appeared in a one piece mom-bathing-suit in US.

 

Jennifer Garner, movie star and mother of three, was photographed frolicking in the waves with her two older children and husband Ben Affleck. The picture appeared in US Magazine when she was 4 months post-pregnancy. She was wearing a one-piece mom suit and the magazine had the good judgment to deem the style “retro.”  She was not on the cover with a headline screaming “Bikini Bod in 16 weeks!” She was actually playing with her kids and then donned a loose fitting cover after she exited the water. Go Jen. You have a real life and you look happy.

 

Each of these moms had a “mom moment” in 2012.  You might have had one too. We love these unapologetic moms who give us permission to laugh at ourselves. Happy New Year from Permission Slips.

 

Carol Lewis Gullstad

 

permissionslips1@gmail.com

 

 

 

To Forgive…Difficult, but Divine

With an abundance of celebrations, neighborhood gatherings, office parties and family meals, it’s no surprise that for many people, this season carries angst and stress.

Obligatory social events can serve as pressure cookers, causing long-simmering issues to a come to a boil and even explode.

Consider who’s on your “naughty” list:

  • The guy who lets his dog poop on your lawn? He’s standing by the meatball appetizers. Here’s your chance to tell him off.
  • The colleague who takes credit for your work? She just poured herself another Cosmo. Perhaps an “accidental” bump would cause that drink to spill on her skimpy dress.
  • At the family feast, the uncle who drinks too much and starts attacking your political views? Would it be so wrong to slip something into his next drink?
  • The sister-in-law who posted those unflattering photos of you on Facebook? Should you spit on the camera or take a shot while she’s stuffing her face?
  • Your own mother likes to say that her parenting style led to better-behaved kids, and your children are proving her right. What would happen if you stormed away from the table?
  • On New Year’s Eve, you’re bound to see that “frenemy” who told your entire book club that deep, dark secret you revealed during a GNO. It’s tempting to share something about her, isn’t it?

And yet, those emotions—and especially thoughts of revenge—seem flat-out wrong during this season, which offers time to convene and connect; to reflect; to give time, gifts and spirit; to sing; to shop, wrap, send and receive; to decorate, host and visit; to bake and certainly to eat.

peaceOn the eve of Christmas and the dawning of a new year, I’d like to offer a plea for forgiveness – first and foremost for myself, but also for any of you readers who could use some gentle prodding.

According to the Mayo Clinic online, forgiveness “is a decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge. [It} can help you focus on other, positive parts of your life…[and] can even lead to feelings of understanding, empathy and compassion for the one who hurt you.”

Perhaps most important, the Mayo Clinic site states that “forgiveness doesn’t mean that you deny the other person’s responsibility for hurting you, and it doesn’t minimize or justify the wrong. You can forgive the person without excusing the act. Forgiveness brings a kind of peace that helps you go on with life.”

Not only will forgiveness add levity to those holiday gatherings, but it will also make you healthier and happier. In fact, in a 2001 study on “Granting Forgiveness and Harboring Grudges,” researchers found that even thinking about forgiving someone can lead to improved cardiovascular- and nervous-system functioning.

If forgiveness doesn’t come naturally to you, don’t worry; according to Stanford University researcher Frederic Luskin, it can be taught. In his book Learning to Forgive, Luskin recounts how people in Northern Ireland who lost loved ones to political violence received help for forgiveness, and ended up feeling not only less angry and hurt, but also more optimistic and even self-confident.

So, how about the families in Newtown, CT?  The man who killed their children, siblings, principal and/or teachers never apologized, and probably was too mentally deranged to regret his actions. Where does that leave those who lost loved ones?

Says the Mayo Clinic: “Think of forgiveness more about how it can change your life – by bringing you peace, happiness and emotional and spiritual healing. Forgiveness can take away the power the other person continues to wield in your life.”

The Mayo Clinic suggests that forgiveness is “a process to change,” and requires the following steps:

  • Recognize the value of forgiveness in your life;
  • Think about how you reacted to the offense and how this affected your health and happiness;
  • Make a conscious decision forgive the person who hurt you;
  • Stop acting like a victim; doing so will negate the power that person has had on your life and happiness.

In M.L. Stedman’s lovely book Light Between Oceans, a childless couple finds an orphaned infant, and their decision for dealing with the discovery both unites and splinters them. Much later, one of the protagonists says: “I can forgive and forget, it is so much less exhausting. You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day. You have to keep remembering all the bad things.”

Several years back, when I felt terribly wronged by someone close to me, a good friend suggested, “You don’t have to ever forget what happened, but you should learn to forgive.”

For me, it’s easy to remember the wrongs, but hard to forgive the offenders. Because I often set unrealistic standards for others as well as myself, this advice from the Mayo Clinic resonates: “Expect occasional imperfections from the people in your life… [and] ask yourself if you would have reacted similarly if you faced the same situation.”

Perhaps most important, “Avoid judging yourself too harshly. You’re human, and you’ll make mistakes.”

So, if you’re sitting around the Christmas table or ringing in the New Year with someone who has hurt you, consider this advice from the Mayo Clinic: “Do your best to keep an open heart and mind. You might find that the experience helps you to move forward with forgiveness.” And may that bring you peace during this season and throughout 2013.

–       Linda “Grinch” Williams Rorem, 24 Dec. 2012
To subscribe, email PermissionSlips1@gmail.com

Comfort, Joy and Sandy Hook

English: Photo of the Reverend Thomas Teasdale...

English: Photo of the Reverend Thomas Teasdale monument in Friendship Cemetery, in the city of Columbus, Mississippi. The monument is an example of the “Angle of Grief” or “Weeping Angel.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It felt strange this weekend to read the influx of holiday cards with messages of Peace, Joy, Love and Miracles. The cards lay on the table next to the front page of the newspaper splashed with headlines of Horror, Fear and Grief.

By now, we all know the story of how a 20-year-old man used his mother’s guns to shoot her in the face, then drove her car to an elementary school and killed 20 first-graders and seven adults. We are all searching for the answer to the question, “Why?” to explain the incomprehensible. The events are confusing, sad and complicated.

There are many prisms through which this tragedy is being viewed and analyzed, from the obvious — access to combat arms – to the more subtle workings of a disturbed mind.  We write our blog about the everyday worries of frazzled moms, including fear for our children’s well-being. You can bet that shooter Adam Lanza’s mom was beyond frazzled dealing with a mentally ill child.

It is painful to think about the parents in Newtown, Connecticut frantically waiting for news about the fate of their loved ones in the hours after the shooting. The image of families being isolated to receive the news, followed by wails that could be heard outside the building is not easily forgotten.

The magnitude makes us numb.

A line from the old Christmas Carol, God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen, kept popping into my head as I wondered where in the aftermath families would find “…tidings of comfort and joy.”

I found some solace reflecting on the actions of three extraordinary brave women at Sandy Hook Elementary. The school’s principal and psychiatrist were killed trying to tackle the gunman. A 27-year-old teacher was slaughtered when she hid her pupils in a closet and told the gunman the students were in the gym. The  students survived. It is horrible that the families of these adults will also be grieving but astonishing to see humanity rise to such a level in the split seconds when it really mattered.

A former family babysitter, Megan Hinde, is now a young mother and elementary school teacher. After cuddling with her two-year-old Sunday evening, she posted, “I am hoping that all parents out there know that I, along with ALL other teachers, have and will always have the safety of your child as our top priority.” Tidings of comfort and joy.

For further reading:

Mothering a mentally ill child: I am Adam Lanza’s Mother

Coping with fear over a child’s safety:  Let Go and Live

Mother of a murdered child: Mother of the Tried

Helping Children Cope with the News: How to Help Children Cope with a Crisis

Carol Lewis Gullstad December 17, 2012

Permissionslips1@gmail.com

Breathe Deep…

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right?  So why are so many of us experiencing elevated blood pressure, middle-of-the-night panic attacks, severe stress, absolute exhaustion, wrist cramps (from card-writing), credit-card concerns and even holiday-party hangovers?

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Here are Permission Slips, we want to remind you to breathe deep and take care of yourself during the holiday hoopla.

Why don’t you take a break, re-read some of our holiday missives and turn some of your “to-dos” into “to don’ts.”

Above all, please try to embrace the magic in the season and the love of those around you.

– Linda Williams Rorem, 14 Dec. 2012
To subscribe, email PermissionSlips1@gmail.com

Confessions of a ‘Football Mom’

I always thought football was just permission for grown men to hurt each other, and that youth teams trained young boys to do so.

Over the past decade, my opinion has changed dramatically, but my transformation was hard-fought.

photo-2As a kid, I never bothered to think about football strategy, which helped my neighbor Richard greatly during games on a toy that would be much too difficult to describe here. (Let’s just say it involved a small light table and sheets that each side would overlay for plays.)

In my teens, I steered clear of football players, thinking they were “dumb jocks,” and I never actually watched the high school games I attended. Like most of my girlfriends, I was in it for “the social.”

At a Big Ten college, games provided an excuse to wear the school colors and “party.” My aversion to football players amplified while watching my dorm-mate Marlin, a 300-pound lineman, down six cheeseburgers at lunch (yes, we counted).

When I lived in New York, the Super Bowl was all about the ads, the beer and the camaraderie; in fact, my friends in the ad business threw fabulous parties for the occasion. (I am still grateful that we traveled via subways and on foot, instead of in cars, in the city.)

Since I was attracted to tall, lean men, I was certain to avoid football fanatics.

Or so I thought.

When I met my husband, I couldn’t guess that he had played football. On our first date at the Cedar Tavern, we discussed running, biking skiing and fly-fishing, which all became hallmarks of our life together.

But before long, he was telling me about his youth, which – from ages seven through 21 – was focused primarily on football. The sport was even his ticket to college.

So, when we married and started discussing children, the soccer-versus-football debate began.

I prayed for daughters – which is probably why I got three sons in three and a third years. (Our daughter, a singing-and-dancing princess, came three years later.)

When the kids were very small, my husband – a management consultant – often worked out of town at client sites all week, which gave me ample opportunity to brain-wash the kids.

Under my tutelage, they would become gentle spirits who loved animals, only watched PBS shows with purple dinosaurs and talking aardvarks and learned to play soccer.

Seriously, what mom really wants to send her son onto a football field, where he would risk concussions and other serious injuries? I wanted to become a suburban soccer mom.

A nearby YMCA offered a soccer class for three-year-olds, which helped steer my oldest in the right direction. Our local Boys & Girls Club organized a youth soccer league for kids starting in kindergarten, and all of #1 son’s friends played on a team with him.

My other sons followed suit, so our Seattle Saturdays were spent running from one rain-drenched soccer field to another; Sundays were spent washing soaked, muddy jerseys, socks and shin guards. The mini van reeked of fertile earth and wet grass.

The B/G Club also ran a youth football league, but kids needed to reach age and weight requirements before they could play. My first two are young for their grades and very lean, so they couldn’t play as soon as they (and my husband) hoped.

However, when they finally qualified for “rookie” teams, I knew it was all over.

The boys instantly loved the sport, and forged new bonds and vernacular with their father. The mini van’s stench grew stronger.

I kept praying for soccer players, but they all bored of the sport. It was much more fun to wear shoulder pads and have permission to knock other kids down.

Flash forward a few years, and #1 son was playing under the Friday Night Lights. The game gave him focus, kept him in shape and nearly provided a route to a highly academic college (at the last minute, he opted for a Pac-12 university, where he could wear the school colors and party during football games).

Justin interception 9-8-12Number 2 son was right on his heels, so it was time to raise the white flag, get involved and figure out what the game was all about. I joined our community’s Football Boosters Club (as secretary and “communications specialist”) and actually took notes during a “Football 101” session for “Grid-Iron Moms.”

Finally, I began to understand the strategy, finesse and athleticism the game required, and started paying attention on Friday nights. My old friends would laugh to know I contracted to back up the local sports reporter, writing articles about games she couldn’t attend.

Somewhere along the way, I began to realize that football requires more than the drive to tackle and even harm opponents. Through the sport, my sons learned about respect, teamwork and loyalty, and realized that hard work reaps many rewards.

Last Monday night, during my second son’s senior-year football banquet, I fought back tears for four straight hours. Listening to the coaches talk about how much the players had grown as young men, hearing the kids verbalize what their coaches had taught them about life and sitting with the “football families” we had grown to love, I felt grateful for the journey we have all experienced.

I’m a little disappointed that, with our third son running cross country, we won’t have any football players to cheer for next fall.

–       Linda Williams Rorem, 10 December 2012
To subscribe, please email PermissionSlips1@gmail.com

Holiday Obligations and Expectations

December has finally rolled around, leading smack into the season that makes some of us cheerful and others downright tearful. The holiday season is a jam-packed period for already frazzled parents. There are social obligations, presents to purchase and cards to send out. There is food to prepare, halls to be decked and less time for sleep and exercise.  We spend time with friends and family we love, although we may miss some who are no longer with us or can’t be with us.  We also, more than any other time of year, have forced moments of time spent with people we would rather avoid in the “wonder of the season.”

Ask any woman about how the holidays are shaping up and guaranteed you will see her flinch before answering.  When I am asked how my holiday preparations are going, I feel like responding as the character Buddy in the movie Elf:  “I passed through the seven levels of the Candy Cane forest, through the sea of swirly twirly gum drops, and then I walked through the Lincoln Tunnel.”  Bam, the holidays are here and they are stressful.snowmen

It is no surprise that more people are depressed during the holidays as they juggle obligations and expectations.  Psychologists have classified this state as “the blues.” It is a short-lived form of depression that subsides after the holidays. Further, the National Transportation Safety Board shows Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s to have among the highest accident rates of the year and it’s not just due to weather and drinking. There are more people on the road, but there are also more distractions and also lots to do in a shorter period of time.

Although we may not be able to hibernate during the December craziness, there are some coping tactics we can use that do not involve vast amounts of chocolate and wine:

  1. Lower Expectations. The holidays can never be and have never been perfect. “Perfect” does not exist other than in movies and stories of fiction. Your house does not need to look like the cover of a women’s magazine. The artistic director was paid to cover every square inch of the mantel for the photo shoot. You live in a real house with dust.
  2. Drop Obligations. Make a list of everything that you think needs to be done. Does every item truly need to be accomplished or are you doing it out of habit and perceived duty? Now, cross out some items. Really. Just do it, it will feel good. Will anything bad happen if you do not make five pounds of peppermint bark or go to the holiday party? After you manage the guilt, you just might find that you are less resentful and more cheerful.
  3. Reduce Irritations. Take a deep breath and make sure you prioritize preserving yourself, not the jar of lemon curd. If some gatherings are particularly rough for you, give yourself the excuse to leave early or postpone interactions until after the holidays.

The holidays don’t go on forever; at times it just seems like it. Give yourself permission for this not to be “the best holiday season ever.”  Let it be merely in your top 10. This gives you nine slots to fall and still feel good so you can focus more on people and activities that make you happy. Making the holidays more manageable can also help us count our blessings rather than our problems.

Carol Lewis Gullstad December 3, 2012

permissionslips1@gmail.com

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