Calling All Superheroes

As the Hubs and I were standing at the base of Adoption Paperwork Mountain, we were posed a fairly simple question.

“What is the gender of the child who is meant to be yours?”

My princess two Halloweens ago.

My princess two Halloweens ago.

Unlike biological parents, we were granted the choice of son or daughter. The Hubs, ever the football coach, dreamed of another boy who would call him out of youth football coaching retirement.

I, on the other hand, dreamed of bows and ribbons and sparkly things such as I could only pine for as I waded through endless department store racks of baby girl dresses in search of the lonely shelves in the back of the store reserved for the corduroy and tweed of boy’s wear. I wanted someone to play dress up with and little pink polished fingers into which I could pass my beloved dollhouse.

After a relatively brief discussion, we settled on forever being parents to only one of each. We already had our boy, so I eagerly checked the box next to “Female,” and eighteen months later I embraced my daughter for the very first time.

Since then, she has had flashes of extreme girliness–the summer she refused to wear anything but sundresses to pre-school, the Halloween she chose Belle as her princess of choice, and that first glorious post-adoption year when she protested loudly if I dared to dress her without her beloved shoes. Yes! Shoes!

Recently, however, we are both beginning to see what her future holds, and much to the sorrow of my stiletto-loving heart, it does not include beauty pageants and dance classes. For as much as she enjoys and excels at her gymnastics lessons, the desire she most frequently expresses is, “When will Daddy sign me up for football?”

My hero!

My hero!

When awarded for good behavior with a selection from the classroom prize chest, she passes over the shiny purple rings in favor of plastic green Army men. Halloween saw the demise of the princess and the rise of the Pink Power Ranger complete with boots and laser gun.

She now confidently answers that age-old question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” with, “I want to be a police cop! I want a taser and suction cups!” (Through a series of entertaining charades, I soon realized what she wants more than suction cups to restrain her villains is a shiny set of hand cuffs.)

Now, on a nightly basis, I hear chorus after chorus of, “I wanna be a boy!”

I tell myself this is just another phase of childhood when I gently ask, “Why do you want to be a boy?”

“Because,” she declares with a stamp of her foot, “boys can run and play football and chase bad buys, and girls can’t!”

What?

WHAT!

Who told my baby she couldn’t run just as fast as a boy? Who said she can’t play football if she wants? Who dared  tell my child she can’t be a bad ass if that is who she wants to be?

Certainly not me.

Kid-inspired homemade spy gadgets.

Kid-inspired homemade spy gadgets.

While I diligently apply my gel nails bi-weekly and stock my closet with the latest pointy-toed fashion, I know she may not grow up to have the same interests. But I walk tall in my stilettos and stand confident in my surroundings, and that is most definitely how I want my daughter to see herself. If her idea of strong and confident is a gun on her hip and cleats on her feet, I’ll do anything in my power to help her achieve those dreams.

Society (ie. Nickelodeon, Disney, Toys R Us and Amazon.com) does not seem to be quite as encouraging. My daughter needs a hero–a girl hero with brains, brawn and probably a weapon or a super secret special power. Somebody give me a female icon for my child to emulate.

I’ve walked toy store miles in my quest for positive female role models who don’t wear party dresses and drive pink convertibles. I have flashbacks to my previous department store disappointments with my son as I scan the action figure row hoping to spy Wonder Woman or GI Jane.

The Pink Power Ranger as body guard to the Disney Princesses!

The Pink Power Ranger as body guard to the Disney Princesses!

My successes have been few–a pink Power Ranger action figure to complement her Halloween costume and the Spy Kids movies featuring a girl and her vast array of cool spy gadgets. Meager though they are, these gifts have brought a sparkle to her eye and a spark of fantasy to her game-play. I have also been impressed to see the new line of girl-themed Nerf blasters on the shelves this holiday season, and I can’t wait to see the Young One’s face when she unwraps her very own plastic cross bow in a few weeks.

This search for the perfect hero for my daughter recently led me to ask her if she could watch a movie or a TV show or read a book about a girl, what would it be about.

“She’ll be a superhero,” she tells me with a gleam in her eye and a smile on her lips. “She’ll wear a cape and fly and make fire, and she’ll beat the bad guys!”

“Oh, yeah,” I say, smiling along and taking notes. “And what will her name be?”

“That’s easy, ” she says. “It’s the same as mine.”

She’s right. She will be the superhero–one to whom I will gladly have defend my dollhouse, my real house and the future of the free world.  Now all I have to do is make sure she believes it as much as I do.

Help me find a super hero for my daughter. What are your favorite girl-power books, movies and toys?

A Snowy Opportunity

We haven’t seen snow in my part of the country in well over a year.

Okay, well…I take that back. We haven’t seen bundle-up-the-kids-and-go-outside-to-play snow in well over a year. Last Saturday that all changed when the Young One burst into my bedroom at 7:56 am and announced, “IT SNOWED! IT SNOWED!”

snow

My snow-covered backyard.

How I managed to keep her in the house for the next two hours is still a mystery to me, but I did find a way to enjoy several cups of coffee by my nice, warm fireplace before donning boots, polar fleece and long-johns (silk ones, by the way, in case you have any doubt that Stiletto Momma would be anything less than stylish).

We were fortunate enough to be joined outside by the Older One, who had learned earlier in the day that “visiting” home for the holidays does not exclude him from the pool of eligible people to be delegated driveway shoveling duty. He strolled across the driveway, shovel in hand, while the Young One made snow angels. Within minutes, the driveway was clear, and he lobbed the first snowball. The Young One squealed  as she scrambled to make a ball of her own, only to cry in disappointment seconds later when her snowy missile looked more like a lump than a sphere.

Sighing, the Older One took the opportunity to impart some brotherly advice on how to form the perfect snowball.

“Let me show you,” he said, squatting down and digging his gloved hands in the cold for the makings of wintry ammunition. She watched with great attention as he demonstrated packing the snow then rolling it in his hands to form a perfect ball.

snowball

Snowball Architecture 101

I smiled through the lens of my camera, thinking how lucky this little girl is to have such a loving brother and how lucky I am to have both of my children with me against the backdrop of snowy treetops.

Family moments like these are few and far between these days.

With the Older One spending most of his days at the United States Military Academy at West Point, the only times we are all in the same space at the same time are when we see the Older One on the computer monitor courtesy of the webcam.

I’m not one to normally be all happy and bouncy about sledding and snowman-building, but the opportunity to spend an hour playing with my kids is truly a joy…even when they join forces to pelt their loving momma with an arsenal of freshly made snowballs!

snowball fight

INCOMING!!!!

What’s your favorite snow day memory?

five-minute-fridayFive Minute Friday is back! Today’s prompt is “Opportunity”. Check out Lisa-Jo Baker’s site to read more stories about great opportunities, or better yet, write and share one of your own!

Top 10 Momma-Can’t-Stop-Smiling Moments of 2012

Sometimes I don’t even realize it’s there until I notice my cheeks are sore. It starts with a glimpse of something–a person, a picture, words on a page, a text message.

It starts with an upturning of lips, then a thump of the heart as the grin widens to a full-on smile–the kind that puts a twinkle in the eye and makes the heart feel larger in the chest.

That’s a Momma-can’t-stop-smiling moment, and as I reflect on the year that is nearing its end, I’d like to share those moments that have made my top ten.

1. The Older One Realizes His Dream. Watching your child’s dream come true is a humbling experience. Years ago, I treated the Older One to dinner at the local Chinese restaurant. I watched his face light up when he cracked his fortune cookie open at the end of the meal. I wanted to know what could cause such joy in a 14-year-old, so I asked what his fortune was. “‘Your greatest dream will come true,'” he read.

“What’s your greatest dream?” I asked.

“To play Division I football.”

I wasn’t surprised. Since he won his first city championship at age six, football had been his passion, and in October, his dream came true when he took to the field and played his first downs for the Army Black Knights.

I cheered from the stands and smiled through the whole five minutes of game-play. My cheeks still hurt 30 minutes later.

football

Check out #55…His dream is coming true.

2. The Young One Finds Her Sport. After the Hubs and I started the paperwork to adopt a girl from Russia, I began planning her after-school activities. She wasn’t even born yet, but I knew she would be an athlete–at least that’s what I hoped for her.

Playing a sport is a source of self-confidence, and above all else, I want my daughter to believe in herself, to feel strong and capable, and to be confident. She found all those things this year on the soccer field.

She out-ran the boys with an effortless stride. She stole the ball from the opposing team with a relentless desire to win, and she beamed like an angle with each goal.

I captured sheer joy on my camera, and I now know we have many more soccer games in our future.

Happy

That’s a confident, happy little girl!

3. Twenty Years and Counting. In September, the Hubs and I celebrated twenty years of marriage. I’ve been able to spend half my life with my best friend by my side. We’ve watched our son grow into a remarkable young man, and we’ve survived the painful reality of infertility when we found our daughter on the other side of the world. We’ve grown, and we’ve changed. But we have done it together. I can’t help but smile about that.

4. Fifty Years and Counting. In 1962, a blizzard roared through western Pennsylvania on the eve of my parents’ wedding. Although my grandmother had to put chains on her tires before she could take my mom to the church, and my dad had to shovel more than a foot of snow from the church’s sidewalk, they still said “I do”.

50th anniversary

I do…again.

Two weeks ago, they said those words for the second time as they renewed their vows on their fiftieth wedding anniversary. I smiled through my tears as my dad recited a poem about growing old together, and I understood that my 20 years of togetherness is nothing compared to the love these two amazing people share.

5. Adopting a Fluffy One. When I first saw the Fluffy One at the shelter, I knew she was meant to be a part of our family. After quizzing me on the type of canine we were looking for, the shelter attendant took me into the room reserved for small dogs and puppies. “I have the perfect dog for you,” she declared. “She just came in last week. I’ll warn you though…she’s a diva.”

I wanted to tell her another diva would fit right in at my house, but I refrained.

“We named her Audrey after Audrey Hepburn.” Seriously? You named her after one of my fashion icons!

“Oh, no,” she said as she opened the crate door. “Her papers need changed. Here,” she said, thrusting the ball of fluff into my hands, “Hold her while I clean this up.”

That’s all it took. I filled out the application before I left, then called the Hubs from the car to tell him I’d found our doggie.

Fluffy One

She’s not Audrey anymore, but she’s still a diva!

6. Furry Plays Again. The dog toy box had remained untouched for almost two years before we brought the Fluffy One home. The Furry One had stopped playing when he was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease.

All that changed when Fluffy joined the family. Little by little we saw Furry change. He went from setting his boundaries with a gruff growl to watching with cautionary interest as Fluffy threw what used to be his toys in the air.

Almost three months later, he finally gave in. He pulled himself from the sofa and rolled on the floor with his new sister. His growls are playful. His tail is wagging, and Momma is happy to have two puppies in the house again.

Furry One

The Furry One doesn’t hang out in his bed quite as much any more!

7. Stiletto Momma Wears Out a Pair of Gym Shoes. Normally, the pumps give out before the trainers, but this year, I decided to not let my daily Crohn’s Disease symptoms keep me down. I got back in the gym. Three cardio sessions and at least two weightlifting classes each week since mid-January, and I have bi’s, tri’s and traps again!

8. Baking for Soldiers. I have sent 13 packages to Afghanistan and Iraq. Thirteen soldiers who are strangers to me have tasted my snickerdoodles. They have shared my care packages with their battle buddies and read my words of appreciation when I thanked them for their service. West Point Moms Bake is the organization that provides me the names of the men and women protecting our freedom, and participating in this effort has been the most fulfilling experience of my life.

Boxes

Two of my 13 care packages that have hopefully made a few soldiers smile.

9. Capturing Life Through a Lens. For our anniversary this year (the big two-oh mentioned above), the Hubs and I scrapped our plans for a weekend getaway, and opted instead to splurge on a digital SLR camera. Many of my can’t-stop-smiling moments have come from reviewing the hundreds of pictures I’ve snapped since September.

10. A Blogger is Born. I’ve been a writer since the sixth grade when I started to pen my first novel. I didn’t get much further than the first chapter, but it was the first of many attempts to record my imaginings. I’ve written short stories, essays, and a few poems. I’ve held internships that afforded me my first official byline and a portfolio of published pieces.

Life, however, sometimes gets in the way of dreams, and I put my journalism degree in a drawer when marketing jobs were easier to come by. This year, however, I returned to my own passion when Stiletto Momma was born.

I have recaptured the joy of writing…that amazing feeling of losing myself for a few hours and the immense feeling of accomplishment that comes from seeing my words in print.

I smile with each click of the “Publish” button, and I smile with each “like”, each follow notification and each comment from a reader.

Thank you, dear reader, for encouraging me on this journey and for making me smile on a regular basis.

This is what has made me smile in 2012, and I’m looking forward to sharing many more with you in 2013. What’s your favorite can’t-stop-smiling moment of the year?

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Stiletto Momma

* This post was written for the WordPress Daily Post Weekly Challenge which tasked bloggers with writing a post to wrap up the year.

Stay With Me, Momma

These are the most heart-breaking words a working momma can hear from her child:

“Stay with me, Momma.”

The kisses I get when I stay!

I hear them several times a week. Sometimes I hear them in the morning before I head out the door. Sometimes I hear them at bedtime before I turn out the light.

“Stay with me, Momma.”

Oh, how I wish I could, sweet child. We’d keep our jammies on all day…read books…play games…draw pictures.  It would be our time, and we would have no cares.

“Why do you have to go to work, Momma?”

Hmmm….well…

Here’s why I make my way to the office every morning instead of watching Spongebob with you.

I work so you see me going–committed to something I’ve started.

I work so you see me being productive. I’d stay if I could, but too many days at home make me irritable…restless…bored. I love you, but I need grownups too.

I work so you can see me happy when we reunite at the end of the day.

I work so someday you will know that you can work too. You, my daughter, are as smart and powerful as the boys. You can take on the world too.

Yes, some days I would love to stay with you. Many other mommas make the decision to stay, and I respect them for it.

But I make the decision to go, hoping that you will learn my values and my work ethic…

Hoping you will learn from my actions…

Hoping you will one day understand how hard it was to say good-bye every day…

Hoping you will stay with me, Sweet Girl,…because I love coming home to you.

*******************

It’s Five Minute Friday, and today, the prompt is “Stay”. If you have great blogging skills, and can type really fast, join us on Lisa-Jo Baker’s site for a blogging flash-mob!

Five Minute Friday: A Welcomed Welcoming Committee

Each morning is something to be celebrated. No matter what time the sun rises or the alarm blares, mornings are a welcomed and happy occurrence…especially when you are greeted like I am with a welcoming committee of hugs, smiles and furry devotion.

This morning’s welcoming committee was a lineup of the usual team…

First up–the Hubs. Because my hair is longer and significantly higher maintenance than the Hubs’ close cut fade, I am the first to rise, but his is the first welcome I receive in the morning. He is always ready with the hug and peck on the cheek that starts my day on the right note.

Who wouldn’t want to welcome the day with these two?

As I make my way to the coffee maker, the Furry One (the 10-year-old terrier) drags himself from his spot on the floor to follow me to the kitchen. As the first cup brews, we both head to the treat cabinet, and he proves to me that even in his old age, he can still catch a Canine Carryout on the fly. His happy tail wag is a welcomed site because we almost lost him to autoimmune disease two years ago, and I so happy and grateful that he is still with us.

The Furry One

Happy you’re still here, Furry One!

Next comes the Young One, all sparkly in her glitter shoes and matching headband. A twirling inspection proves to us both that we were spot-on in our pre-K outfit selection the night before–a very welcomed relief because nothing starts the day off poorly than your leggings not going quite right with your bedazzled denim skirt!

There’s nothing quite like glitter on your shirt to get you going in the morning!

The Fluffy One (our newly adopted Maltese puppy) races between our feet for a welcome of her own. “Welcome back from night-night,” she declares as only a puppy can with barks, frantic tail wagging and high-flying jumps. Her enthusiasm for a reunion, no matter how long the separation, brings bright smiles and giggles all around.

The Fluffy One

Five pounds of fluffy fun!

Finally, I make my way to windows, eager to open the blinds and welcome the new day, hoping to catch a glimpse of deer or bunnies starting their day too.

What I find this morning, however, is definitely and unwelcome member of the welcoming committee.

Creepy Crawly One

Eeeeek!!!!!

Thanks for the effort, Creepy Crawly One. I’m sure you worked hard all night on the intricate web you strung for me. I appreciate the industriousness. Really. But I prefer to limit my welcoming committee to those who have no more than four legs. Nothing personal, but please take your hairy body and your extra appendages, and remove yourself from my view.

I refuse to let this shocking member of the morning welcoming committee wipe out the stellar job done by the previous four, so…

Welcome, Friday! I’ve missed you, let’s make this a great day!

Stiletto Momma

*Today’s Five Minute Friday is all about “Welcome”. Check it out, and take five minutes of your own to flex your writing muscles!

Momma-Can’t-Stop-Smilin’ Moments

My kids made me so happy yesterday.

Neither of them said anything special or did anything extraordinary for me.  Actually, it wasn’t even them that made me smile so hard my cheeks hurt.

What made me beam with pride was pictures of them captured at just the right moment.

First, the Cadet…the one I haven’t seen since he left for West Point and the Army Black Knights football camp in early August. He plays left tackle on Army’s offensive line, and as a Yuk (aka a sophomore in almost any other college in the country), his goal when he set foot on the gridiron this season was to dress and travel with the varsity team.

Yesterday, marked the 2012 home opener for the Black Knights, but too few vacation days and too many miles to travel meant this momma watched Army take on Northern Illinois from the comfort of the Hubs’ man cave. Had I been in Michie Stadium, however, I never would have heard the announcers on CBS Sports discussing the significance of the unit patch affixed to each Army player’s jersey.

For each game, the team honors  one Army unit by wearing its patch as part of the game uniform. Stitched to yesterday’s jersey was the unit patch for the 10th Mountain Division based at Fort Drum in northern New York. The 10th Mountain Division is also the Army’s most deployed division over the past two decades.

As the announcers discussed the significance of the patch, the television screen filled with a close up of the patch on a player’s black jersey.

Army Unit Patch

Then the camera slowly panned out to show the face of the player inside that jersey. My breath stopped. I gripped the arms of my black leather man-cave chair, and yelled, “That’s him! That’s him! That’s him! PAUSE IT!”

Army Unit Patch

Yes! My little boy was filling all 101 inches of man-cave screen! Wearing Black Knights black and gold, prowling the sidelines waiting for Coach to call his number and cheering his team to what turned out to be a heart-breaker–a 41-40 loss for Army.

You can almost hear him.

Army Unit Patch“GGGGG….”

Army Unit Patch“…OOOOO!!!!!!”

Of course I was happy to see him all larger than life on the flat screen, but his image was not what had me grinning like the Cheshire Cat. I was beyond happy for HIM because he had reached his goal of dressing with the Varsity team. Not much else can make a momma’s heart glow with warmth than knowing her child is happy.

The Young One, it turns out, was pretty happy with herself yesterday too. Her accomplishment came earlier in the day, but I didn’t truly see it until the day was winding down, and I sat at the computer to download the pictures I’d taken from yesterday’s early morning soccer game.

As this is her first experience with a team sport, I’ve tried to teach her to the basics of the game.

DeterminationTry hard.

Don’t give up, even when the boys are trying to take your ball.

HappyAnd have FUN!

Her face in this last picture tells me that she too had accomplished everything her five-year-old self could possibly achieve on a chilly Saturday morning. I couldn’t stop looking at this picture, and the smile wouldn’t stop either.

My kids are happy! I have fulfilled the Momma Destiny! I have kids who are reaching their goals, and having fun and SMILING!

What more can a momma ask for? Yes, my kids made me very happy yesterday. That’s not much different from the day before, but the difference this time, is that I saw their joy smiling back and me, and I am happy too.

How have your kids made you happy today?

Stiletto Momma

Splendid Saturday Solitude

Most mornings, the blaring of the alarm is met with resignation. I drag myself from dreamland, glare at the numbers showing the time and remind myself that ignoring the insistent noise from the clock is not an option. I have to wake up. I have to get out of my warm, cozy bed. I have to get ready for work, and I have to do things for other people.

Even though that alarm fills me with despair during the work-week, I still find myself re-setting it Friday night. I usually stay up a little later on that eve before the weekend, catching the end of “Bride Day” on TLC, chatting with the Hubs or Facebooking with my favorite group of West Point moms. But before I turn out the light and call it a day, I reach over, adjust the time on the clock and set the alarm for 7:00 a.m.

This time, when the alarm sounds, I jump up, quickly turn off the sound so as not to wake the sleeping hubby, and smile with anticipation.

It’s Saturday!

Once upon a time, I met the dawning of Saturday with a similar delight. Back then I was about five, and upon leaving my bed, I would excitedly race to the television and eagerly tune into Saturday morning cartoons–The Bugs Bunny/Roadrunner Show, Scooby Doo and Schoolhouse Rock were my favorites.

Today when I rise early to start my weekend, I head straight to the Keurig for my coffee-on-demand–Butter Toffee, Caramel Vanilla Creme  and Cinnamon Pastry somehow give me a bigger rush than 1970s animation. Instead of heading to the television, I take my steaming caffeine and stroll to the back deck where I heave a contented sigh and gaze across the backyard.

Backyard

My view. On the really good days, the neighborhood deer come out to say, “Good morning.”

A fine layer of mist fills the air, dew coats the ground, and it is silent. I am alone–a state I find myself in only once a week. The Young One is still asleep. The Hubs, if he was disturbed by my early alarm, has returned to his Saturday slumber, and the MIL has yet to venture out for her own cup of coffee.

Experience has taught me that I have an hour before I must relinquish my wants to see to the needs of others. By 8:00 a.m., the Young One will seek me out for a bowl of cereal, the Hubs will demand my attention to plan out the weekend errands and activities, and the MIL will call for the canine to accompany her to the curb in the daily quest for the newspaper.

Deck chair

My chair. Perfect for relaxing with coffee and a book.

But for now, I have 60 minutes of solitude. I will relax in a padded rocker damp with the mist of morning fog, sip my Butter Toffee java laced with just the right amount of Italian Sweet Creme Coffee-Mate, and immerse myself in a book I’ve been struggling to find time to read all week. If I’m lucky, I will raise my eyes at just the right time to watch a family of deer emerge from the woods and take their breakfast at the tree line near the far end of the yard.

I won’t think about work. I won’t menu plan or write a grocery list. I won’t check email or log onto Facebook. I won’t cook or clean. If my relaxation and enjoyment are not the first things accomplished by a task, I don’t intend to do it for at least 3,600 seconds.

I set my alarm for an early rising on Saturday not because I have so many things to do in my day, but because I need to do nothing. I need a few minutes when I am not a mom or a wife or a friend. I am just me, doing things that make me happy. And because of this hour for me, I can return to being caregiver, spouse and adviser and do those jobs with increased enthusiasm and purpose. I love those roles and wouldn’t trade them for all the sunny summer mornings for the rest of time…as long as I have one hour once a week.

This is my time. My Saturday Morning. Silent. Solitary. Splendid.

How do you find your solitude?

Stiletto Momma

Learning the Lessons We Teach Our Children

My youngest child has the power to bring me to my knees with one whiny proclamation: “I can’t do it!”

Try Hard

You can do it!

This is usually followed by a stomp of the foot, a defensive crossing of the arms, and a pouty, ”humph” that sets my pulse pounding and my teeth gritting.

“Don’t say, ‘can’t’,” I fire back. “Try harder!”

I remember teaching this to my oldest child too, right along with ”Don’t give up” and ”Don’t bite your friends.” Over the course of the last 18 years, he has shown me on countless occasions that he has learned those lessons, and as frustrating as it is to hear the word “can’t” from a preschooler again, I’m pretty sure the almost-five-year-old will learn them too.

Now, however, I am wondering if I have followed my own advice. After a particularly insulting incident, I found myself fantasizing about the end of this current conflict. In my anger-fueled fantasy I lay out all the reasons I have been wronged and proclaim, ”I am raising my daughter to be a strong, independent woman who lives up to her potential, and I will not accept anything less for myself!” I turn from the room, slam the door and am greeted on the other side by the thunderous applause of everyone I have ever known and worked with.

But the question that haunts me now that I have come back to reality is have I really learned those lessons, and can I be the example I intend to be for my daughter? This realization calls for a refresher course on life’s earliest lessons.

1. Don’t Say Can’t – The reason “can’t” falls so easily from the Young Ones’ lips is because it so much easier than the alternative. To the not-quite-five demographic, hearing the words “you can do anything you want to do and be anything you want to be” are words of magic. The theory of just say you want it, and it will be yours is a lie. To get “it” or be “it” or do “it” requires hard work, so don’t say “can’t”; say “I will try harder.” If you can’t make the pedals on the bike move forward, push harder. Can’t form the letters of your name exactly right? Practice more. Can’t get people to attend your meetings? Give them an agenda, so they don’t think you were just playing with the schedule meeting function in the email system.

2. Don’t Be a Quitter – This is really “Don’t Say Can’t Part II”. A friend recently shared a meme on Facebook (those funny/inspiring/politically charged pictures meant to be liked and shared  by every user of every social network on the world wide web) that showed a woman’s chiseled six-pack abs and the words, “Remember the girl who quit?…Nobody else does either.” I was sucked into the viral frenzy. Not only did I “like” it, I shared it with the rest of my friends, printed it and hung it on the whiteboard in my office. Quitting is admitting you can’t, and since you are not allowed to say “can’t” (see #1), it is impossible to quit. Quitting empowers those who strive to make us lesser than we intend for ourselves to be. Why empower someone else, when we should be empowering ourselves?

3. Learn to Make Friends – In preschool, making friends is easy. If you are willing to share your toys and don’t bite the other kids, you can have a posse equal to that of the hottest celebrities. It gets harder as we get older, and in the business world, we don’t so much “make friends” as we “network”. When I’m in need of anything work-related, I immediately scroll through my mental Rolodex of business associates, peers and mentors, looking for the ones with the greatest potential to help and advise me…and give a great reference should one be needed.

4. Do What I Tell You – This is the cause for most rebellion in children, but it is a necessary lesson because as those children enter the work force, if they don’t do what they are told in a manner that is expected of them, they will most likely be fired. However, in most cases, doing what you are told is not enough. You must do more and do it at a higher level than your peers. This is how you get promoted and how you ultimately achieve the fifth and most important of all life lessons….

5. DEMAND RESPECT – You have worked hard, never quit, networked with important people and achieved great results. NEVER let anyone take that away from you. Setbacks happen. Bosses change. Expectations are re-set. When this happens, go back to the beginning. Try harder. Never give up. Call on your friends for support and your mentors for advice. Then do what needs to be done…for you. Don’t let someone tell you you are less than who you are. Tell them who you are and why their disrespect is misplaced. Don’t whisper it. Say it loud for everyone to hear. You are a strong, independent woman who lives up to her potential, and you demand no less than RESPECT.

I will demand respect from those I work with, those I live with and those I love. I cannot accept less because that is not who I am, and that is not who I want my daughter to be.

Teach your children well…,and follow your own advice.

Stiletto Momma

For the Love of Camo and Sparkles

The balance of power has shifted in my home. With the Older One now taking up residence at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the Hubs and the Dog are on their own against myself, my daughter and my MIL, who tipped the scales to the female side when she moved in four months ago.   I have waited many years for an extra jolt of estrogen to make my family complete, and while the Hubs may not be thrilled to be in the minority, I am finding most days to be a new and frilly adventure.

That is not to say that I don’t miss my son like crazy.  His absence is a very noticeable hole in the fabric of our family.   I miss him every day and am constantly reminded that the special relationship between a mother and her son is every bit as strong as the father/daughter one we hear so much about.

Camo Kid

Camo Kid - My son wearing Daddy's uniform!

When he was young though, I would get so frustrated while shopping for his clothes.  I was forced to wade my way through row after row of pretty pink shoes and rack after rack of frilly and sparkly clothes to get to the solitary line of boy shoes and the one lonely rack of gray and brown utilitarian boy’s clothes.  Apparently shopping for boys is not meant to be fun!

When he would play, it was with trucks.  I would watch him digging in the sand for hours, wondering how he could stand to have all that dirt under his nails, in his hair, between his toes.  I cringe just thinking about it, but he could not have been happier.

Later it was G.I. Joe and any toy that could cause imaginary destruction.  For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out the fascination with lining up those little green Army men, just to knock them down!  Given the path he has ultimately chosen for himself, I guess he knew exactly what he was doing.

Then came the athletics.  At first it was t-ball, then karate and soccer and basketball.  By the time we hit youth football, the testosterone that invaded my house was, at times, overwhelming.  The Hubs bought me “Football for Dummies” just so I could follow the dinner conversation. Here again, my son knew exactly what he wanted, as he now proudly holds a position on the defensive line for the Army Black Knights football team. (Go Army! Beat Navy!)

My daughter, on the other hand, is all girl. On the soccer field, she is usually not the one running for the ball.  She is the one spinning in circles and admiring her manicure as the ball rolls past.  She’s more in her element during her Saturday morning gymnastics class where her favorite part of the weekly session is comparing the bling on her leotard to the sparkles on her friends’ clothes.

Princess

Princess Sparkles makes a grand entrance.

And speaking of sparkles, her closet practically glimmers when we turn on the lights. There is no gray or brown to be seen, and the choices in the stores are endless.  Even her toys have an element of glitter, and she would never even dream of playing with them in the dirt.  In fact, dirt is the enemy. There is no sandbox in the backyard for my four-year-old girl as there was for my boy at that age.  Dirt is now “yucky” and “gross” and cause for tears, where 14 years ago it was cause for celebration.  She would, however, love to play with her brother’s G.I. Joes if I would let her.  Their only role in her make-believe world, though, would be to drive the convertible for Barbie.

For all their differences, however, they are so amazingly similar.  The Beanie Babies that entertained the Older One, now snuggle close to the Young One at bedtime.  This morning during gymnastics class, I watched her sprint down a trampoline runway and launch herself into a pile of foam blocks.  As she laughed, I turned to the Hubs and said, “The Older One would have loved that too!”  Somewhere in the future I suppose, she will prefer football to soccer as well. The football team, after all, has a corresponding cheerleading squad that wears skirts and does cartwheels.

Tonight, after baking cookies and donning Minnie Mouse pajamas, the Young One will peruse her bookshelf, searching for the perfect bedtime story.  Chances are high that she will choose the same one she has picked every night for the last two weeks–a well-worn copy of a Richard Scarry popup book that lived on that same shelf 14 years ago.

I will turn the pages.  She will pull the tabs with fascination, and we will both shake our heads sadly when she gets to that last popup and says, “My brother ripped that one.”  She will be momentarily saddened that she will never pull that last tab, but my heart will warm with the memory of a little boy whose hands held the same cherished book and smiled with delight when his little fingers made the pictures come alive.

Yes, the balance of power has shifted…, but not much has changed.  I still pick up scattered Beanie Babies and read bedtime stories.  I still chauffeur a child to sports practice, and I still love two children.  One is just a little further away than the other and prefers to wear digitized camo instead of sparkles.

Stiletto Momma