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Fearless and Fourteen

As a More is More Mom® you know that I am all about more of…….. everything! The way I see it is there couldn’t possibly be an event, big or small, that doesn’t deserve to be celebrated. It is the milestones that we achieve that in large part define who we become, and these experiences are important.

Amanda and her pal CC have birthdays in the same month, and coincidentally so do her mom and I. We call it December Birthday Club, and each December just the four of us girls go out to celebrate. We may spend the day in the city, go to the movies, go shopping and naturally there is always eating (and when appropriate, cocktailing, and when is it not appropriate to cocktail other than at say, a job interview?). Well, these two have been planning on having a joint birthday bash forever, and this was the year!

These girls love Taylor Swift, and when we all saw her live in concert in the fall, as she was making her way down the center aisle, she stopped and hugged Amanda! Amanda told her, “I love you!” With the sweetest and deepest of sincerity, Taylor replied, “I love you too.” Amanda was on cloud nine, and said Taylor (you know once you’ve hugged her you can call her Taylor) smelled sooooo good that she wanted to send her a letter to find out what kind of shampoo she used. Isn’t she too cute? Anyway, the concert was to promote her Fearless album, which was awesome! My throat hurt for days afterward from all of my singing in the car on the way there, with my head out of the sunroof like I was in a limo (and of an age where you might still stick your head out of the sun roof of a limousine), at the concert, and then all the way home again. I am sure everyone in the car was tired of my singing, as I am not Taylor Swift.

It was decided that the theme of our party was going to be “Fourteen and Fearless” (in homage to Taylor Swift, I haven’t hugged her so I still have to refer to her by her formal name). We knew customized t-shirts were a must, but the afternoons and evenings are so busy that I decided that I would pick both girls up from school, bring them lunch and take them to the custom t-shirt shop, which as luck would have it is only two blocks away from school. Serendipity! The dilemma then was how exactly does one sign out two students, one of which is not even your own (but who has permission from her mother in writing, so it wasn’t like it was kidnapping or anything), at lunch time? The girls were suggesting that I say I was taking them to the orthodontist. Really? They don’t even go to the same orthodontist, and besides wouldn’t it seem suspect that they just so happened to have appointments at the same time? And why then wouldn’t CC’s mother take her if there were in fact an appointment? No. Honesty is always the best policy so when I had to supply the school with a reason for their departure I said, “Monkey Business.” They picked out darling tie-dyed t-shirts. Amanda’s was a great cherry red and CC’s was a fantastic lime green. We picked out white iron on letters and white snowflake appliqués for a little embellishment. They read: “Fourteen and Fearless” on the front, and in big numbers on the back “09” to mark the year. They were darling. You truly cannot go wrong with a good keepsake!

Eight screaming teenage girls on the upper deck of a train headed in to Chicago is the fastest way to clear a car. They ate doughnuts, they told stories, they laughed and everything was a photo-op (naturally all had cell phones and digital cameras to capture each and every moment of our adventure, and capture they did). There are pictures of girls taking pictures of other girls. Great silliness I tell you.

We walked from the train to Millennium Park in downtown Chicago……an award-winning center for art, music, architecture and landscape design, and they have an ice rink just like the one at Rockefeller Center in New York City, only better, because it is in Chicago. If you haven’t had the pleasure of visiting, you should, because it is pretty sweet. All bundled up in varying styles and shades of pink hats, gloves and scarves, we were ready to take the town by storm (fortunately not a “snow” storm).

The line to skate was so very long that we took it as yet another opportunity to snap some more great pictures. We finally got on the ice and the girls had a blast skating, and falling and ultimately doing the Chicken Dance and the Hokey Pokey. Who doesn’t love to do a mean Hokey Pokey? ME! I had both of those dances banded from our wedding and opted instead for the much more elegant conga line…Hot, Hot, Hot! When the girls had had enough (or it may have been when CC’s mom and I decided to strategize about how best to beat and avoid the crowd at the skate rental return counter) we headed down Michigan Avenue, One Magnificent Mile (though after being outdoors all day, it seemed longer), to Chicago’s Water Tower, which is a beautiful mall, with all the best shee-shee-poo-poo purveyors. Our favorite place to eat, other than Miller’s Pub on Wabash, is the Food Life at Water Tower. This place has everything! And it’s not that icky, gross, greasy fast food stuff like at an ordinary mall. No the delicacies here are extraordinary, lovely and delicious. They have comfort food, a grill, pasta, pizza, a rotisserie, stir fry, sushi, Mexican, a salad bar, a dessert bar, a juice bar and most importantly a bar, bar. Did you know that they will only permit you to purchase two glasses of wine at a time? I’m just saying. The other great part is that they give each patron a little credit card so you don’t have to worry about your bill at each counter, but at the end at check out instead. So simple. The girls ate together and continued to snap more great pics, while we enjoyed our salads (and okay, you got me, two glasses of wine….each). We were on a tight time table if we were going to fit in all of our fun and be back at the train station on time. Faster girls! Faster!

For me the highlight of our day was our walk back towards State Street (you know….that great Street). Linked arm and arm, these girls were full of Christmas cheer as they sang every Christmas Carol they could possibly remember down the street. “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” was a particular hit with our little Catholic choir girls. The passersby were in such good spirits themselves as they chimed in with the various chorus’s. We made our way to Marshall Field’s (now called Macy’s, but it just seems so wrong) to look at their legendary Christmas windows, which were not great again this year. But what was great was that we bumped in to my mom as she was bustling down the street doing her last minute Christmas errands. Hard to believe that she didn’t notice the band of merry caroler’s, especially the little blonde one yelling, “Nana”, but she didn’t. We had to accost her on the street. Once when I was in High School my friend and I cut school to go shopping at the Old Orchard shopping mall (again I am seeing a theme here of shopping, eating and cocktailing….next time I’ll make myself look better by discussing what I am reading, when I am exercising, and if I am getting enough rest, but who’d want to read about that?). My partner in crime and I were only completely conspicuous wearing green and gold cheerleading uniforms in the middle of the day, and who do you think walked right passed us? MY MOM! However, lucky for me, she didn’t happen to notice the two girls in the green and gold cheerleading uniforms shopping around in the middle of the school day. I had a quite the chuckle when here I was, 27 years later, relating this story to her, and my mom was laughing as she explained to me that she must have been playing hooky from her job while I was playing hooky from school! Apple. Tree. As the next generation of girl in our family heads to High School, I will be sure to keep my eyes peeled for Amanda while I am at Target when she is supposed to be at school!

Walking back to the train we were laughing and reminiscing about our day. After having been gone for nearly ten hours, we gave up the pretense of caring whether or not eight noisy teenage girls disturbed the other passengers on the train. Like it or lump it. There was one little surprise left for the girls when we pulled in to the station; party favors. We debated about what we could do to commemorate our day and decided upon decoupage, personalized Christmas ornaments. A few weeks prior to the party, Amanda and CC got together and made the ornaments. They printed out their names, and each individual girl’s name, and sayings from the stories of their friendships in red and green ink. They cut out winter images from wrapping paper, like snowflakes and mittens and decoupaged everything onto clear acrylic round ornaments. They used fancy paper shredding scissors to cut up more red and green wrapping paper to make crinkly paper to stuff inside the ornaments. Once the modge podge dried they tied ribbon around the top, and placed them in red and green winter themed Chinese takeout style boxes, atop a soft bed of crinkly paper. Who doesn’t love something personalized?

The girls in Amanda and CC’s group of friends were so incredibly generous that they gave them obscenely huge gifts card each as a birthday present. Even the two friends that were unable to attend contributed, which was very kind and thoughtful. During the party we realized that we would end the day with so many wonderful photographs, that we decided we would do a double sided scrap book page as a way of saying thanks for the memories and the gift of their friendship (and the obscenely huge gift cards).

We have done some really great birthday parties over the years (remind me to tell you another day about the scavenger hunt at the mall!), but what I particularly loved about this party was that the focus wasn’t about consuming something or making grand gestures. It was about making memories with good friends that will last a lifetime. Every year when we have our December Birthday Club we will remember the hours we lovingly spent together creating our crafts and celebrating these moments. It was Christmastime, and It’s a Fearless and Wonderful Life………

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The end of an era…….now how will I spend my time?

OMG! With the mad flurry of activity (and snow) I cannot believe that Christmas is once again behind us. Where on Earth did the hours, days and weeks go? I’m exhausted all over again just thinking about it! The list making, the traffic, the crowds, the shopping, the wrapping, the cleaning, the chopping, the cooking, the table setting, the clean up, the family photo, the Christmas cards, the expense (!)…..if there were ever a time of year for Calgon to take me away, this was it.

In the midst of the excitement of the holidays, I realized that part of my job has been irrevocably phased out, downsized, terminated. As the More is More Mom® (a crazy person that has never even permitted her children to ride the school bus, preferring to drop my pals off at school each and every morning, and pick my pals up from school each and every afternoon) I have been on practically every school field trip ever. Now, here we are, with Amanda in 8th grade, half way through our 13th, and final, year attending Our Lady of Perpetual Donations grammar school, and it dawned on me; we are closing in on the end of an era.

Our Lady of Perpetual Donations is a wonderful school that celebrates its traditions. As an obsessive-compulsive person I completely appreciate the value of rituals. As tradition dictates, each year the 8th grade class makes its pilgrimage to Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry, and as a bonus has the opportunity to view the beautiful Christmas trees from around the world. Educational and festive! Never one to miss out on a day spent with the children (or anything else for that matter. I am your 2005, Our Lady of Perpetual Donations, Volunteer of the Year. That is my big claim to fame. You will see that there are no other designations after my name. I don’t think that being a member of Shopaholics Anonymous counts.). I was in my car and ready to go by 7am. What a fun day! I chaperoned a great group of boys and girls and I didn’t misplace a single soul, not even for a moment, which is quite a feat as there is usually a wanderer in every group. When we were leaving I found I had a great big giant lump in my throat as I realized that this was the last field trip I would ever attend.

I am a hoarder of all things. I love clothes and shoes, jewelry and handbags, dishes and glassware (I collect tableware in quantities of 20), table linens, serving pieces, artwork, decorative jars and boxes, urns, stationary, books, movies, music and the list goes on and on forever (I own more Rubbermaid containers, big and small, than Rubbermaid), but what I love to collect more than anything are…..friendships, memories and experiences.

When Nick was in the first grade I signed up to be a lunch mom. On my very first day, of my very first week on the job I nearly had a heart attack as I recognized the dangers of recess. With frantic hand gestures, and hysterical pleading I begged Nicholas to promise me that when he was on the playground (Read: blacktop church parking lot without a fence, on a busy street. Really now, where do all the retired elderly that can’t see over the steering wheel congregate? Church!) that he would keep his arms tight to his sides, stay in the middle of the parking lot, and never, EVER, go anywhere near a four square ball that was headed for the street! I had such heart palpitations, that I vowed I would come to school everyday to “help out” at lunchtime (meaning protect my first born).

After the first several days of this insanity my more experienced neighbor, mother of five, whose children were in fact all still alive, told me to get off the playground and that it would all be fine. Breathe, I told myself. And of course she was right. I never actually did hear of anyone dying at recess on the news. However once a week for the next eight years I did lunch room duty, with kids throwing trash in my direction as I wheeled around the garbage can when it was time to clean up after lunch, and risking life and limb as I retrieved the balls that I chased out in to traffic. As silly as it sounds these moments will always remain a highlight of the times that I was lucky enough to spend with my children.

I realize that part of my purpose as a parent is coming to a close, that my presence in Amanda’s school day is no longer needed or necessary. She is growing up. As a consolation, I happen to know that combating teenage angst is a whole new job opportunity of its own. I’m up for the challenge. On the other hand, maybe it’s time to enroll Wrigley in puppy school (or old dog school, he is nearly seven). I can supervise snack time, and recess and take him on field trips………Ah, the good old days.

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I’m not completely sure, but I think I became a grown up……

Life certainly seems to be a game of hurry up and wait. I am beginning my second blog entry ever at my perch, not at the Starbucks, but at the library (where they sadly do not serve warm, foamy, overpriced beverages, just knowledge, which is sooooo bor-ing).

As the More is More Mom® I have determined that it is my duty to make the lives of my children, and our family, as complicated, and as jam packed full of “fun” as humanly possible. Today for instance, for Amanda’s learning pleasure, she is taking a prep class for the High School Placement Test, which is an exam that she will take in a few weeks (and it is so completely not obsessive that I have had her prepping for this test since the beginning of September). It may seem extreme, this exercise of planning and preparing, particularly as she is a legacy at the Be All and End All Academy where her brother, my son, is a junior, but trust me when I tell you it is oh so necessary. You see, we live in Winsome, IL….”where winning is a way of life.” How can you keep up with the Jones’s if you are not getting ahead, while you are ahead? So, here I wait for her and contemplate…….

I have just turned 42 YEARS OLD!! My God, how on Earth could this have possibly happened? If I don’t take a gander at myself in the mirror, I feel like I am still only 16 (hmmm, but I am the mother of a 17 and 14 year old…..and I don’t live in the back woods). “The Mall” continues to be one my very favorite places in the entire world; the music in my car, or on my headphones, is cranked to an obscenely high decibel level, only now instead of a cassette player I am rockin’ out to my I-Pod (one of my most prized possessions…I have over 4400 songs), and as always the telephone remains a fixture which is practically growing out of my ear (and text messaging flying like fireworks out of my fingertips……if only we would have texting when I was in High School, my already sketchy academic pursuits would have been virtually non-existent! Did you know that these schools don’t have a curriculum for shopping, hanging out at Mc Donald’s and ogling all the cute guys, particularly from the all boy’s school up the street?).

Usually on my birthday I have all of these ridiculous notions about grand gestures of love and affection, which ultimately leads to disappointment. How is it that I can be such an incredible brat? Don’t I have enough? Well, you must understand that for me there is never enough, because I always dream and fantasize about……… more!

This year however, I have had the very nicest birthday that I can ever remember, which even includes my fabulous 40th dinner and dancing celebration. I mean really, how often can you say that you had the best birthday ever when you are starting to get……old?  My knee hurts, my hands go numb while I sleep which keeps me awake half the night, I carry a variety of barrettes and pony tail holders with me at all times, tucked inside my purse and pockets, to put up my hair when I have a hot flash (which totally sucks when you are having a pretty darn good hair day) and I swear that I am getting fatter with each passing day, even though I exercise like I’m a participant on the Biggest Looser (which I have never seen, and refuse to tune in to when we are eating because I don’t want to feel guilty about how much butter we use while others are going without). But this birthday was……lovely.

I scooted out the door to take Amanda to school, and missed chatting with Nick because he was running on teenager, who gives a rat’s ass, time, meaning, he was late. As I was driving to the health club Nick called to wish me a happy birthday, which was so very sweet, but get off the phone while you are driving!  What do you think, you are your mother?

You’ll probably think I’m crazy, but, I have this theory that you will have a good day, or better yet, a successful shopping excursion, if you find a good parking spot, and today, I got good parking at the health club (I have many theories, such as, if a person with a connection to Chicago and the Cubs sings the 7th inning stretch, then the Cubs should win the game. Should. Come on Lou!). It gives me a little chuckle when I think about the contradiction of my desire to park close to the door at the health club, therefore not having to walk very far from my car, to go inside the building and exercise. Anyway, I was right about the parking. I saw my gal pals, got warm birthday wishes and hugs and kisses, and I didn’t have to wait for any of my machines. It was turning out to be a perfect day.

But what made it so special was the little things….the phone calls and emails from friends; the lovely and thoughtful presents everyone selected because they were so “me”; spending an afternoon with my mom; the tender card from Chuck and the little blue box waiting for me that held a necklace with a beautiful key pendant, which Amanda pointed out is the key to his heart; the Starbucks gift card from Amanda that she purchased herself while we were shopping with friends at 4am on Black Friday; the hot chocolate that Nick brought for me on his way home from school and the boxed set season of the Ace of Cakes (where Duff and his friends make an amazing cake that is a replica of Wrigley Field) and a gigantic Hershey’s chocolate bar (are you seeing a theme here?……….CHOCOLATE!).

Could it be that I might have officially become a grown up? It turns out that it is so totally not a cliché that people are more important than things (but believe me when I tell you that things are still very, very important). It’s just that what is sooooo amazing is the connections we make to the people in our lives…….but for every thing else, there’s Mastercard.

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