The Strawberry Patch

Leave a comment

I have been trying to make more of an effort to expose our two year-old and four month-old to new experiences – regardless of their young age, the weather, my mood or any other excuse I make up to avoid the chaos that results from a public appearance with unpredictable sidekicks. I figure if we don’t go now, chances are we will instead spend countless hours staring at Dora the Explorer feeling like lethargic zombies all day.

It’s the beginning of summer at our house which means the sun is out and the heat is on. It also means fresh strawberries are ready for picking a few miles down the road from us. I know the idea of voluntarily picking fruit in the middle of a field under the hot sun with a toddler and infant may seem like a recipe for disaster, but I decided to give it a try anyway.

After applying many globs of sunscreen (or “sour cream” as my two-year-old calls it), we loaded up and were on our way. We arrived at the patch and it appeared only a few others decided to brave the morning sun with us. Hats were strapped on and the baby was nestled tightly in a carrier on my chest. Our toddler ran up to a mound of white baskets and decided which one was suited best for us before following one of the employees to our row.

Whew, we made it.

And then it hit me: do they accept debit cards? After asking, the answer was “cash or check only.”

I convinced my daughter we must turn around, leave our basket at the stand and load back into the car. This is more difficult than it sounds. The two women working at the patch offered to watch my girls while I went to find an ATM. It was a very kind gesture, but the thought of staying with a stranger, understandably, didn’t sit well with my daughter.

We loaded back into the car; out of the carrier and into the car seat. Hats off, seatbelts on.

After finding an ATM and making a withdrawl, we ventured back for round two.

The nice ladies smiled as we returned and prepared, again, to enjoy our first strawberry patch together.

My daughter identified what she believed to be the white plastic basket she had claimed as ours moments before, and we were on our way. The nice women, again, showed us to our row and explained that only berries red to the tip were ripe for picking, and with the grin on her face being shadowed by a pink baseball cap she was wearing, my daughter did it. She picked her first strawberry. And her second, and third, as I took it all in. She then did a little dance and uttered a few short, but moment-halting words.

“Mommy I need to go potty.”

I smiled.

We quickly turned back to the path we arrived on and skipped our way to the front of the patch. On the way, I noticed the only restrooms in sight were those housed in a warm and sticky vertically standing structure – a portable toilet.

One of the employees kindly asked if she could hold my youngest daughter while I went into the cramped space with our potty training toddler. I obliged and we began our walk over to the toilet.

As I took a step up to confidently show my daughter how to use the plastic tower, my sandal caught on the front of it and I tripped, taking my daughter down with me into the door. I quickly stood up and attempted to act as though I had everything together while my two year-old stared at me with confusion.

I smiled.

My “pull it all together” act must not have been very convincing, as my daughter expressed concern for me while using the bathroom.

“Mommy, make sure you don’t fall in.”

Yes, dear.

After returning, the woman holding my four month-old baby half-jokingly said she would love to curb her “baby fever” by continuing to keep her up front while my toddler and I went back and finished picking.

I smiled.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAThe two of us made it back to our row, spending time together just the two of us for the first time since our newest daughter was born. We spent the next 15 minutes picking the reddest of the strawberries, eating a few along the way.

We returned filthy and hot, but happy.

While I wasn’t sure how the morning might turn out, we ended up experiencing much more than a strawberry patch. My daughter learned how to use a remote, public bathroom and I received a lesson in patience and flexibility.

The best part, though, wasn’t the strawberries; it was my daughter’s bright red and juicy smile at the end of the morning.

Sweet.

To my daughters: 15 truths about being female

3 Comments

avniainsleyI was convinced I was having a boy. Complete strangers at coffee shops predicted it too, confidently sharing with me their unsolicited predictions while I was carrying my first baby.

Prepared for conversations full of gory villains and disgusting bowel movements, I imagined our closets would be filled with a tiny wardrobe of grass stains. In a few months, I thought I would comfortably hand off the leadership reins to my husband for him to share lessons of chivalry and tie tying, while sneaking in a few pointers about how to use cologne without smelling like a sock.

Later that September, I gave birth to a baby girl. I suddenly felt unprepared and quickly realized it would be my job to teach our daughter what it means to be a strong, independent and caring woman in a world filled with never-ending stereotypes, unrealistic expectations and unhealthy diets. Dove recently conducted a social experiment and showed just how critical women are of their own beauty.

Fast forward two and a half years. We have welcomed another little girl into our family and our toddler has no trouble wearing grass stains. While I know society will do its part to leave an impression in their young minds, I can only hope some of the advice I share with them about being a female in our society stands out a little more.

  1. It’s OK to get dirty (even in a skirt). Throw a baseball; dig for worms; sleep in a tent. Your clothes can be washed and won’t last forever. Memories will.
  2. Clean and cook because you want to, not because someone else expects you to. Knowing how to do both well will give you peace of mind.
  3. Don’t expect flowers.
  4. If you’re hungry, eat. It’s important to take care of and listen to your body. Eating will keep you healthy (and much happier!). Splurge on some chocolate every now and then, too.
  5. Be who you are. If you like science, great. If you would prefer to write a poem about the purple flowers blooming outside your window, that’s fine too. But, whatever you do, don’t be who you think others want you to be.
  6. Invest in a good bra.
  7. There’s only one man who loves you the most. Your Daddy loves you in a way no other man can. Even if he doesn’t always seem to know how to connect with you, he still loves you.
  8. Men don’t get it. They don’t understand females and it’s likely they never will. It’s hard enough for us to grasp the idea of periods, child birth and mood swings. It’s best to give them a break.
  9. Challenge yourself – physically, emotionally and mentally. Your body is more resilient than you can imagine. Find ways to test your limits and allow yourself to fail. Once in a while you might be surprised and do something you never thought possible.
  10. You will cry – sometimes for no good reason. There’s also a good chance you will fail to cry when others expect you to. Bring eye drops and thank your hormones.
  11. Speak up. Share your thoughts without apology and instead exhibit confidence, respect and tact. Anything you believe in is worth the fight.
  12. Be alone. Live by yourself and find out who you are. Find happiness and success by standing on your own two feet.
  13. Find an older brother. Well, not really – but, really. Every female should grow up with an older brother, and since you don’t have a biological older brother, find a male to stand in. While their pranks, burps and punches might not seem like an advantage now, you will thank them later.
  14. Wear comfortable shoes.  
  15.  Age is just a number. We are all in this together. Whether a teenage girl or a woman in her 80’s, all females share a common thread. You can choose to reject our differences or embrace the similarities.

I will always be a few decades older, ready to navigate this world alongside of you.  But for now, I am going to work on removing the grass stains.

 

Parenting musical chairs

2 Comments

There are many benefits to being a parent, and more specifically, a new parent. The unforgettable first moment of seeing your sweet baby; the first smile; the first word; a belly laugh. All of these are commonly referred to as milestones in a little one’s life. But, I’d be remiss if not to mention the art of playing parenting musical chairs.

You may remember playing a competitive game of musical chairs during your youth, breezing by fold-up chairs in a circle as if running an important race. Once the music stopped, you were left scrambling to find an empty chair to avoid being ejected from the game. The key, of course, was to keep an eye on the empty chair, secretly hovering during each round.

As a new parent, the rules are the same, but the playing field is different. Sometimes the music is soft and easy going.  At other times, it can be fast and unforgiving. In both situations, it’s important to react. I recently encountered one of the challenging rounds while searching for an empty chair – literally.

Before heading to my daughter’s swim class, we planned to meet with friends of ours for a cup of coffee. I thought I would out-smart the logistics of preparing a baby for swim class by putting on her swimsuit and pool outfit before grabbing coffee. I was sure this would eliminate a few steps and make our morning less stressful. I was wrong.

While I am known for my tardiness, this time we arrived before our friends (they went to the wrong place first, but that’s beside the point).  After ordering coffee, I waited at the counter only to look down and see my daughter had spilled her cup of water all over the floor of the busy entry way. I smiled at the customers, used a few napkins to soak water in an effort to make the mess look minor, grabbed my coffee and headed out the door.

We found a seat outside by ourselves. After situating my daughter, laying out her apples and new cup of water, I sat back and took my first relaxing sip of caffeine. It was then I noticed my daughters chair was leaking. I quickly made the connection to identify what was dripping onto the ground. Thanks to what I thought was being overly prepared, she had a swim diaper on, not a regular diaper. For those of you who are parents know there is a significant difference between the two in the way they absorb. My daughter was peeing her pants and there was a small puddle under her chair.

After rushing back inside, I learned there was no changing table in the bathroom. My daughter and I returned to the car for a quick diaper and clothing change.  I wiped down the chair and exchanged it with a dry chair from a nearby table just before our friends joined us for coffee.

Parenting moments like this one have taught me an important lesson. Life is not about choosing the music we listen to; it’s about learning a new dance to the same tune.

It’s important to continue the race, just make sure you find a clean empty chair when the music stops.

Motherhood – a cup of coffee all on its own

4 Comments

Today’s post is from my own personal cup of coffee — motherhood. Too often as a new mom, I am given a very crucial piece of advice: “Enjoy every moment. They grow up too fast.” My recent guest post on Kelly Westover’s blog  shares my perspective and reflection on life as a new(ish) mom. Enjoy!

guest post :: learning to enjoy the here and now of motherhood

New Year Lessons: Naps, Trains and Weddings

10 Comments

While others are well on their way to jump starting new years resolutions, I’m still trying to figure out how 2012 is already here! But, I’d be lying if I said I’m not also taking time to reflect on 2011 and set goals (finally) for 2012. Except, this year, I decided to use coffee shop lessons as an inspiration.

This year my goal is to write down one lesson I’ve learned each day. But before tackling that goal, I want to reflect on a few lessons I learned in coffee shops during 2011.

1. Two women, appearing to be close friends, coincidentally visit the same coffee shop at the same time. The women engage in conversation while waiting in line,  not taking long to share personal details.

“When I dream, I’m always young and single,” one of them said. “But I would never tell my husband that.”

Lesson: It’s important to have close friends. Every conversation adds a new  layer to the relationship.

2. A woman shared a glimpse of her life a few years ago. Her husband was forced to retire due to injury, she lost her job and so did her sister. Her mom became ill and the family dog passed away — all within two months. She allowed herself to be sad, but not for long. Realizing their break from obligations, the three moved to be closer to and help their mother. Had they not lost their jobs, they would have needed to hire someone to help.

Lesson:  Bad things happen; sometimes all at the same time. But, it’s a matter of perspective and how we react to the situation that really matters.

3. During a brief exchange with a barista, one woman said, “I’ve found my running pace improves with short, quick steps.”

Lesson: Exactly what she said.

4. A mother of the bride was discussing details with her daughter’s wedding planner. As the conversation builds, she begins speaking quicker with each word, as if paying the planner by the minute. “So much goes into planning,” she said. “We have the horse and carriage and now I’m thinking we are going to need to plow the field for the buses to get through.”

Really?

Lesson: Our society places too much emphasis on the details of the wedding and not enough on the meaning of the wedding. I can’t help but think of how the money paying for these lavish affairs might be spent otherwise to help fulfill the basic needs of others.

 

5. One man sits down, while another approaches the counter to order. He then returns to the table, coffee mug in hand. “Think my wife will like this one?” he said, holding up a red and white striped mug.

“I don’t know which one she would like better, but that one is cracked.”

“Probably a good reason not to get it.”

Lesson: Some things aren’t meant to be.

6.  Two businessmen are meeting to discuss, well, their children. “My daughter’s dorm was hit by the hurricane,” one of them said. “Her Resident Assistant helped get her through the terrible experience.” He went on, sharing his daughter’s experience had resulted in her volunteering for relief effort clean up and signing up to be a Resident Assistant in 2012.

Lesson: Sometimes opportunities appear when we least expect them.

7. A man rushed in to the coffee shop, noticeably frustrated. Another man passing by recognized him and they made small talk. When asked about being upset the man said, “I decided to leave the office and grab coffee before biting someone’s head off.”

Lesson: We all have these days. It’s best to accept it, buy a cup of coffee and move on.

8. A young college student sitting by herself breaks concentration to say hi to a young man as he sits near her. During their conversation she tells him about a time her family took a vacation abroad. Her mom was separated from her in a large crowd getting on a train. Her and her brother stared at the train as it departed with their mom aboard and no way of contacting her. They waited for the next train, rode to the next stop and didn’t find their mother until returning to their hotel two hours later.

Lesson: Keep family close – literally.

9. On more than one occasion, conversations focused on having trouble finding a perfect gift.  One man shared he was at a loss trying to think of something his 90 year-old mother would need. Another woman juggled gift ideas for her father-in-law. After deep discussion, it was settled – the mother would be getting a generator (she’s lost power five times in the past year) and the father-in-law, football tickets.

Lesson: Spend less time wondering “what to give” and more perfecting the act of “how to give”.

10. I walk past a man on the way in, keep an eye on him over my shoulder while visiting and smile at him upon leaving. The man sat in the middle of the coffee shop; swallowed by an oversized, dark brown leather chair. His body sank as his head lay back, resting on the back of the chair.  He was sound asleep, mouth wide open, for the full two hours I was there (and maybe longer).

Lesson: When the opportunity presents itself, take a nap.

Keeping these lessons in my back pocket, I’m raising my mug. Cheers to you for a wonderful 2012!

Better late than never.

Interested in reading other blog posts about new year lessons? Here are a few of my recent favorites: