I took my dogs for a walk after dinner. On our route, we came upon a little girl drawing on her driveway with chalk. I will call this girl Amelia, although I do not know her real name. Amelia was startled when she saw us approaching and jumped to her feet. Watching us, she slowly backed up toward her house. I can imagine that the sight of two large dogs walking towards you is very intimidating when you are on the ground. I moved the dogs away from Amelia’s direction when she asked loudly,

“Are those dogs friendly?”

I stopped and answered her with a smile. “Yes, they are very friendly.”

“Can I pet them?” Amelia was standing at least 20 feet away from us when she asked.

“Of course,” I said. I told the dogs to sit while Amelia slowly approached.

As Amelia walked closer, she stopped every few feet to ask me another question. First, she wanted to know if the dogs were boys or girls. So much for the pink collars, I thought.  Hearing that they were girls, Amelia wanted to know their names. Every time I answered a question, Amelia got closer.

“How old is that one?” she said, already forgetting their names.

“They are both five. They are sisters.”

As soon as I said that, Amelia’s face lit up and she caught her breath. “I am five and so is my brother and we are twins!”

“Then you and the dogs have something in common,” I told her. Apparently, hearing that common bond was enough to give Amelia courage to walk up and pet the dogs. One of the dogs licked her face and she laughed.

After a minute or so, I told Amelia that we needed to go and we said our goodbyes. As I was leaving, Amelia’s brother came out of the house. I heard her tell him about the friendly dogs she just met.

As I continued on our walk, I thought about my encounter with Amelia. She was afraid of the dogs, but didn’t really want to be. Like many of us, Amelia wanted something just outside of her comfort zone.

Her first reaction was fear. When the dogs and I approached, she jumped up and back to the safety zone of her house. But instead of going into the house, Amelia stood there and contemplated her next move.  Amelia wanted to interact with the dogs, but they were twice her size. She was understandably intimidated. Thankfully, her curiosity outweighed her fears.

Amelia looked more at ease as soon as I told the dogs to sit. The two dogs patiently waited while she asked her questions. What Amelia did not know was that the dogs were probably a little intimidated by her. They live with older kids who don’t pull on their tail or ears and whose movements are more predictable.

When Amelia did finally work up the confidence to step outside her comfort zone, you could see the joy in her face. She conquered her fear and reached her goal. Having been there myself, I know that high will cause her to smile for the rest of the day. She learned something that day. Each time you step outside of your comfort zone, it grows bigger.

When I heard Amelia sharing her story with her brother, I had to smile. She told him that she got to pet two big dogs who were five and twins like them. She giggled as she told him how one of the dogs licked her. She left out her fear and hesitation and only focused on the happiness she felt.  If only all accomplishments could be rewarded by a big friendly dog who licks your face!

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Last weekend, our family had a light schedule – one track meet and two volunteer hours over two days. For us, that means a free weekend. We decided to take a mini vacation and head up to The Dells for the weekend. (That’s Wisconsin Dells for you out-of-towners.) The Dells are known for their waterparks and over the years, we have visited most of them. This time we decided to try something new. We chose Mt. Olympus because they have both indoor and outdoor waterparks, roller coasters and go karts. Fun for all ages!

I called to confirm that everything was included in the cost of the room and I asked about one room in particular. I wanted to make sure it was attached to the waterpark. I was assured it was. The room had three beds and a separate bedroom – perfect for our family of five. The cost of entertainment for 2 days and 1 night was $320.00.

We were allowed to check in as early as 10:30, although our room would not be ready until 4:00. In the mean time they would give us park passes. When we arrived at noon to check in, the line was to the door. We waited an hour before we got to the front desk. (There were 20 minute parking signs for check-in parking!) To occupy our bored kids, we sent them to the adjacent arcade where they spent $25.00. When it was finally our turn, we were told that our room would not be attached to the waterpark, but was instead “offsite”.

“Are there shuttles?” I asked.

“No.”

“Could we get another room in the hotel?”

“No,” the emotionless employee said. “We are full. I could give you a condo for $599.00.”

No thanks. Offsite will have to do.

With our passes in hand, we headed out to the park. We had to move our car and because the place was so big, we stopped to ask an attendant how to get to the other parking lot.

“Well, you used to go up that way,” he said while pointing at a barricaded road, “but I guess you can’t now.” He offered no other suggestions, but instead just stared at us.

I wanted to say, “Thanks for your help. Don’t strain yourself. We will find it ourselves.” Instead, we just said “Thank you” and drove on.

Finally, we got into the park, but found ourselves on the waterpark side anyway. We would have to walk to the roller coasters. We walked a 1/3 of the way through the park when my husband suggested we get a drink and snack. One drink and one snack for each – $50.00.

My daughter got something in her eye and we went to look for the first aid station that was marked on the map.  When we got there, nothing was marked on the door other than “Employees Only”. I noticed first aid supplies through the window on the door so I assumed it was the right place. However, no one was there. I went next door to one of the booths and asked for them to call someone. When a first responder came to assist us a few minutes later, I told him that my daughter got something in her eye. He opened a cabinet and handed me a bottle of eye wash. I asked him if he could flush her eye. My daughter put her head back and he poured no more than 5 drops in her eye. Annoyed with yet another Mt. Olympus employee, I told him I would take her to the bathroom and flush it myself.

It was now 2:00. We found a small roller coaster and waited in a crazy long line – about 30 minutes. My son wanted to go on the Go Karts next. One hour in line. Another roller coaster – 30 more minutes. It was now 4:00. In four hours we had checked in, gone on three rides and had a snack. They promised us a text that would give us our room number by 4:00. Never came. At 4:30, my husband called the front desk and got the number.

We had to walk all the way back across the 200 acre park to our car. We got the map and drove a mile or so up the road to our hotel. And here it was:

It was a converted Mom and Pop motel from the 50’s. This was not on the website! It was last updated around 1980. Look at the TV and the microwave.  The room had a fire alarm on the wall, but no sprinkler system. How safe!

To say it was a dump is being too kind. The patio floor was gross. (The cup on the table was full of the wine which  I needed to calm my anger.) Look at our view from the patio.

There was a hole in the wall. (Look at the age of that phone!)

There were mystery stains on carpet, holes in screens and condensation trapped between the window panes.

Here is the pool and playground. There was no front desk on site. We were on our own. In a dump. For $320.00.

Our kids changed into their bathing suits and we headed back to use the waterpark. My husband dropped us off and went in to check us out of the motel from Psycho. He brought in my camera, but never had to use it. He simply told the manager where we were staying and that it was a dump. He told them that we were checking out and he wanted our money back. The manager did not argue very much. At first he wanted to give us a discount, but my husband told him that we weren’t staying even if it was free. By some miracle, a room opened up in the hotel onsite and we could have it for the same price. Wow!

My husband went to see the room before agreeing to it and found that although it was nothing special, it was clean, modern and big enough for our family. He then headed back to the Psycho Motel to gather the rest of our things.

When my husband arrived, he found the door to the motel was held open by a rock. Two men in their 20’s had set up shop in the hallway with a truck parked in front of the door. They had their cell phones charging in the wall. Apparently, they planned to be there awhile. I wonder what they were selling. Glad we were out of there!

The icing on the cake was when my husband went back up to the new room with the second round of stuff from the car. His key didn’t work. His phone was locked in the room so he couldn’t call for a new one. He had to trudge down to the front desk again with stuff in tow. After a visit from Maintenance to change the battery in the door, we were back in business.

Mt. Olympus is the only waterpark that allows non-hotel guests to use their facilities, which I did not know before we booked it. The non-hotel guests wear different color wristbands and you could see that the majority of the waterpark/amusement park guests did not stay at the hotel. Mt. Olympus doesn’t seem to observe any occupancy restrictions, which is scary when you are three stories up on a platform with a hundred other people. The lines are long and the employees make it worse by moving in slow motion.

The next day, we headed to the park when they opened at 10:00. It was a much smaller crowd  as we were all hotel guests and everyone got on the rides a lot faster. We enjoyed the waterpark and many of the rides for a couple hours. By 12:00 it was starting to fill up and by 1:30 it was getting ugly. Although we were able to stay until 9:00 pm when it closed, we decided to call it a day and head south.

The weekend proved something that I have always known. It is nice to get away, but even nicer to come home.

My mom sent me this email - had to share!

Answers given by 2nd grade school children to the following questions:

Why did God make mothers?

1. She’s the only one who knows where the scotch tape is.

2. Mostly to clean the house.

3. To help us out of there when we were getting born.

How did God make mothers?

1. He used dirt, just like for the rest of us.

2. Magic plus super powers and a lot of stirring.

3. God made my mom just the same like he made me. He just used bigger parts.

What ingredients are mothers made of?

1. God makes mothers out of clouds and angel hair and everything nice in the world and one dab of mean.

2. They had to get their start from men’s bones. Then they mostly use string, I think.

Why did God give you your mother and not some other mom?

1. We’re related.

2. God knew she likes me a lot more than other people’s mom like me.

What kind of a little girl was your mom?

1. My mom has always been my mom and none of that other stuff.

2. I don’t know because I wasn’t there, but my guess would be pretty bossy.

3. They say she used to be nice.

What did mom need to know about dad before she married him?

1. His last name.

2. She had to know his background. Like is he a crook? Does he get drunk on beer?

3. Does he make at least $800 a year? Did he say NO to drugs and YES to chores?

Why did your mom marry your dad?

1. My dad makes the best spaghetti in the world. And my mom eats a lot .

2. She got too old to do anything else with him.

3. My grandma says that mom didn’t have her thinking cap on.

Who’s the boss at your house?

1.  Mom doesn’t want to be boss, but she has to because dad’s such a goof ball.

2. Mom. You can tell by room inspection. She sees the stuff under the bed.

3. I guess mom is, but only because she has a lot more to do than dad.

What’s the difference between moms and dads?

1. Moms work at work and work at home and dads just go to work at work.

2. Moms know how to talk to teachers without scaring them.

3. Dads are taller and stronger, but moms have all the real power ’cause that’s who you got to ask if you want to sleep over at your friends.

4. Moms have magic, they make you feel better without medicine.

What does your mom do in her spare time?

1. Mothers don’t do spare time.

2. To hear her tell it, she pays bills all day long.

What would it take to make your mom perfect?

1. On the inside she’s already perfect Outside, I think some kind of plastic surgery.

2. Diet. You know, her hair. I’d diet, maybe blue.

If you could change one thing about your mom, what would it be?

1. She has this weird thing about me keeping my room clean. I’d get rid of that.

2. I’d make my mom smarter. Then she would know it was my sister who did it, not me.

3. I would like for her to get rid of those invisible eyes in the back of her head.

I am not about “The Day”. I don’t need to celebrate a holiday, anniversary or birthday on the exact day. I think once you stop believing in Santa and the Easter bunny, holidays become just another day. With everyone’s busy schedules, it is not always possible to get together on “The Day”.

Sunday was Mother’s Day. As tradition suggests, Mom is supposed to be treated to breakfast in bed and get heartfelt gifts from the children she selflessly carried for nine months. She will not have to lift a finger all day. Someone else will clean the dishes, take care of the pets and pack the car for whatever adventure they have planned for the day. (They will also unpack the car and put everything away when they return.) After 24 hours of pampering, life returns to normal and “The Day” is over.

I have never liked that idea. Twenty-four hours once a year? That is all the pampering Mom is worth? Maybe pampering is not the right word. Appreciation? Better.

Because of our schedule, we could not have a 24 hour Mother’s Day event. My family stretched it over three days. Friday night my husband and I had a date night. (Isn’t that how the whole Mother-thing starts?) We ate at our favorite restaurant and then strolled by the Riverwalk holding hands.  We were home by 9:30 so we could get up early for the next day.

Saturday morning my son had a soccer game across town and we had to be on the field at 8:45. His team has had a rough year and lost most games by one goal. My son is goalie so the only goal shots he sees are the ones coming at him. In the 2nd half of the game he played midfield. In honor of Mother’s Day (at least that is how I am telling it) he scored a goal. It was very exciting and I had a smile that went from ear to ear! His team won the game, 2 to 0.

After the game, we went on to the rest of our Saturday routines. I worked and then ran to the store for last minute items for the Mother’s Day breakfast with my mom and grandmother planned for the next day. When my husband was done coaching my daughter’s softball practice and I got home from the store, the whole family went to the mall to buy my Mother’s Day gifts. It was a fun way to spend the afternoon and we were all in good spirits.

Some might not like to see their gifts ahead of time but I think it is a lot more practical. I picked everything I wanted. I tried clothes on at the store so there were no returns. No one had to wrap anything when we got home and I didn’t have to get up any earlier on Sunday to open gifts.

You see, I didn’t get to sleep in on Sunday for Mother’s Day. As I said, my own mother was coming over and I had to clean my house and start preparing breakfast. After breakfast, my husband and I cleaned the dishes and put the house back together. How do you host without lifting a finger? It can’t be done.

After they left, it was back to life as we know it. I took my son to soccer practice. My daughters hung out with friends in the yard. I worked on my writing class assignment. My oldest daughter wrote something sweet on my Facebook page. My middle daughter bought ice cream from the ice cream man for her siblings with her own money. My son gave me a hug for no reason. My husband cooked dinner after mowing the lawn. We all watched TV together at the end of the night.

My Mother’s Day was not about “The Day”. For me, it was about the moments. Motherhood is not about a perfect 24 hour period. It is about several good moments over the course of a lifetime.

 

When the alarm went off today for what seemed like the millionth day in a row, I fantasized about having a whole day with nothing to do. In the first years of our marriage, I had a lot of weekends like that. No plans. No reason to set the alarm. No one needed a ride. I didn’t have to get up to let the dogs out. I could just sleep in and do whatever I wanted to do.

I remember one Sunday morning when my husband was working retail. He had a 6am to noon shift. I slept through his entire shift and was just getting out of bed when he got home. I slept away a whole morning. I would never do that now. First, I don’t have that opportunity anymore. Plus, I like the mornings and my back will not let me lay in bed for more than 7 hours.

I still fantasize about it. It goes something like this:

I don’t have to set the alarm. I wake up after a good night’s rest, not because I have to pee or that the dogs need to go out, but because I got enough sleep. My dogs, which have been let out by someone else, greet me as I head down the stairs. My husband is already waiting in the kitchen with a latte from Starbucks (good timing, it is still hot). My kids are up and dressed with made beds and clean rooms. There are no dishes in the sink or dog hair on the carpet. Everyone has arranged their own rides for whatever activities they are in or better yet, there are no activities. They just entertain themselves!

I take my coffee out on the deck where the sun is shining. I sit and read my book for an hour while the dogs lay at my feet and my husband sits next to me. I debate whether I should shower or make it a pajama day, but the promise of hot water and a clean bathroom are too tempting. After my shower, I find exactly what I want to wear in the closet (which is also clean and organized).

I spend some time checking off a few little things from my to-do list (so I feel somewhat productive), before my husband suggests we go to Portillos for lunch. I come home to write a little in the peace of my bedroom (where someone has made the bed). My kids come in and suggest we play a board game. We eat cheese and crackers and laugh at our luck while playing the game. I suggest a family bike ride, but only my husband wants to go (which is fact, not fantasy). It is fine with me as they never want to go very far. After our ride, my husband pours me a glass of wine and I sit and talk to him while he makes our dinner. We all eat together without rushing. Everyone changes into their pajamas and we find a movie that we will all enjoy and watch it while snuggling under blankets. After the movie, we head up to bed and since this is a PG rated blog, we go to sleep.

The only thing missing from my fantasy day is finishing some big project that has been looming over my head. The only way to make that happen is to make my day longer than 24 hours. Or – get this – have a fantasy WEEKEND. That way, I can fit it all in. With any extra time I can get my nails done and maybe even fit in a massage. Think of the possibilities!

I was asked to speak at my daughter’s middle school for their career day. When I got the call from the school, the teacher who called asked me if I wanted to come in and speak about being a dog groomer. I assumed that my daughter, who is 14, wanted me to come in. How else would they know I was a groomer?

When she came home from school, the conversation went like this:

“Hey, I got a call from Mrs. W today. She asked me if I would come in and speak to your team about being a dog groomer.”

My daughter looked at me like I said I was planning on coming in to shoot up the school.  “I HOPE you told them NO.”  That’s when I realized that the school looked up my occupation on the registration forms.

“Well, honey, I already said yes because I thought you wanted me to be there.”

“WHY would I want you to come in?” she replied with all the drama of a middle-schooler.

“Well I am coming in to speak and I can’t back out of it,” I told her. “Besides, everyone’s path is different. Being a dog groomer is a great job. I never have to dress up or wear makeup. I work out of the house so my commute is 2 seconds. How many other occupations can you train for in 14 weeks? It can be a full time career or a flexible part time one. Think of all the kids that are going to college and have a huge debt load? Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to work at a job that paid more than minimum wage while you went to college? What about the kids that can’t afford to go to college or decide that college is not for them? Or what about those who graduate and find that there are no jobs available for them? Dog grooming schools place their students.”

None of my kids want to be a dog groomer. That is fine. I don’t expect them to. I had no idea I would be a groomer, either. I have a graphic arts degree. Life at 18 or 22 is a lot different than 42. Your needs change. Your expectations are different.  How many of you work in the industry that you studied in college?

There were 8 parents asked to speak – 3 women and 5 men. There were 2 speakers in each class and the kids rotated from room to room. The other woman that spoke in the classroom with me was Scribble Jane, a professional singer for the kid’s band, Scribble Monster. They sing songs for 3-8 year olds and have 4 CD’s. She played a song for the 8th graders called “Chocolate Milk”. My son would have loved it when he was 3 or 4!

Jane and I both told the kids that it is hard to know at 18 where your life will take you or what skills you will need. The leader of her band was a marketing guy. He always wanted to sing and write songs but he had a teacher in high school that told him he had no talent and had no business picking that career. He thought marketing was a “normal job” and that is where he headed. After he was laid off, he decided to pursue his dream. The band headed by the “untalented” man will play at Lollapalooza this summer in Chicago. Look how different his life is than the one he imagined in college.

Many of the 8th graders wanted to be rock stars. Jane told them that to be Katy Perry is nearly impossible. However, making a living in the music industry is attainable if that is what they really want to do. She told them to keep practicing and work really hard and a door will open. She told them that the leader of their band wanted to be in a “big boy band” but found too much competition. He has since found success taking another road in the same industry.

My own speech went well. Clearly I don’t have the kind of job where I speak in front of a crowd, but I knew my subject matter and told my story. The kids were all interested and many asked questions. The most popular question I was asked was “Have you ever been bit by a dog?”(The answer is yes.)  We were all asked to talk about the good and bad parts of our jobs, what education we needed, salary range and how our jobs are affected by the economy.  That is another good thing about my job – it is recession proof.

The careers of the 8 parents were:  singer, photographer, FBI agent, pharmacist, nuclear engineer, firefighter, phlebologist and a dog groomer. (For three of us, this was a 2nd career.)  It was a nice variety of careers for the kids to hear about. At this point, the 8th graders want to be teachers, nurses, doctors and engineers. Not one person said they wanted to be the Midwestern United States Sales Director for a global paper company. (Sorry, honey!)  I don’t think the kids in this primarily white-collar neighborhood are considering a trade as a career or a stepping stone. (However, when the plumber comes to the house and gives you a bill, the trades look like a pretty smart idea.)

I went to share my story with the kids to let them know there is more than one path to success. Lack of money or a low SAT score does not eliminate you from the race. A four-year degree does not guarantee you happiness or a six-figure income. It is never too late to take another path if the road you are taking is not what you hoped it would be. Trust in your dreams and let them lead you to your own road to success.

When I wrote this title, I had to laugh.  I have been writing this blog for about 2 years, sharing product and book reviews, recipes and of course, stories of my journey as a mom. Although I am having a good time writing, sharing and learning about myself, I find myself standing at a fork in the road. What is next, I wonder. My kids are getting older and often read my blog on their own Facebook or Twitter accounts. They are good sports about the stuff I share, but I am finding it more difficult to tell a story without sharing too much. It is one thing to tell your friends at Bunco. It is another to share it with the world.

Over the past year, I have taken my experiences and written articles that I sold for online content. Although it wasn’t much, I did get paid for it. When I questioned my success as a writer, I reminded myself of a quote by Stephen King:

If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didn’t bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.

In his book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, he talks of his many rejection letters. After he received the first one, he nailed it to his wall so he could look at it. He continued to submit until he couldn’t fit anymore rejection letters and they had to be stored elsewhere. The rejection letters did not discourage him. He loved writing and he kept submitting until someone bought his work and then he wrote some more.

So I thought I should do the same. I started sending articles to magazines last month. I entered contests. I signed up for a magazine writing class that is taught by an author I have admired for years. And it has kept me busy. I haven’t had too much time to write about my journey as a mom.

The fork in the road comment is funny to me because in an effort to keep writing and blogging and keeping my name out there, I started a food blog. (Get it? Fork in the road – Fork for eating – ha-ha) It gives me a chance to combine three of my hobbies – writing, photography and cooking. The blog, Wine and Dine with Us, is only three weeks old, and as of this morning, I have posted 9 recipes. I have also joined a food blog network and had good feedback. My Pinterest friends may have seen some of the posts as I have promoted my new blog. You can see them below:

Snacking on Crockpot Ribs

Swai Fish with Vegetable Kabobs

It Wasn’t Supposed to be Hot Sausage and White Bean Chili

Easy Homemade Croutons

Pork Tacos with Jicama and Black Bean Salsa

Brownie Muffins with Hershey Kisses

Easy and Delicious Marinara with Meatballs

Chicken Enchilada Casserole

Roasted Potatoes and Onions

I have decided to keep writing This Mom’s Journey, although to a lesser extent. It will be my vacation home instead of my main residence. I have also decided to stop posting it to Facebook. I want to start posting my food blog to Facebook and don’t want to be an “over-poster”. You are welcome to follow me via email, Google or just stop by now and then. This is not an end. I just want to take another road for a while and see where it goes.

I always appreciate your comments and hope you will stop by my new home at Wine and Dine with Us.

Pam