Parenting lesson #11: Forgive yourself and get over it


There’s nothing in life so far that has forced me to face my own flaws like parenthood has.  Daily there are flashes of brilliance or tender moments that take place within minutes of epic failure.  Work wasn’t really like this; at work, I never would have acted this way.

Is your glass half full, half empty, or just empty?

Is your glass half full, half empty, or just empty?

On Saturday, our children wanted to have a family movie night.  We decided to serve them dinner in front of the TV, and as I poured milk for each child, my brain warned me, “You should put this in a lidded cup for Zach.  He is going to find a way to spill this.”  Sometimes, though, you ignore your inner voice of reason because in the moment, you don’t want to change course because that would require energy you simply don’t have AND you are secretly holding out hope that you could be wrong in your pessimism.  It did not take long for Zach to reach for his drink and knock over the full cup on our ottoman.  He started crying about spilling it immediately.  And what was my reaction?  I screamed in frustration, at the top of my lungs, “ZAAAAAAAAAAAACH!!!”  (So much for putting into practice the old adage, “Don’t cry over spilled milk.”)

Not long after, we were getting ready for bed and Eliza was singing one line from a song over and over and over again, as she has the habit of doing sporadically for about a total of three hours each day.  (That is a conservative estimate.)  Thus, she was dressing while chanting, “Stay in the fight ’till the final rou-ound” on an endless loop.  I lashed out at her about not wanting to hear it.  Then she asked, “Do you not like to hear my singing mama?”  And I said, “No, Eliza, I actually don’t like to listen to it when you sing the same thing over and over and over and over.  I do like it when you sing a song.”  For a five-year-old who seems to have the hormone levels of a 12-year-old mixed with those of a 48-year-old, this of course elicited tears and hurt.

As I cuddled my little girl not long after, she asked me what was wrong.  (She has a sixth sense about these things.)  I told her that I felt bad about myself for lashing out at Zach the way I did, even though I had apologized, and for making her feel bad about singing.  I told her I didn’t like to mess up like that or treat them in those ways.  And she said, “Mama, forgive yourself and get over it.”  I couldn’t help but smile.  I asked where she came up with that, and she raised one shoulder to say “I don’t know” as she pointed toward the ceiling to  indicate it came from God.

Although as parents we will mess up daily, unlike with a work job, we can’t get fired.  These little beings can’t get rid of us (well, for the most part).  And when we don’t treat them the way we should, which for me happens daily, they are so quick to forgive.  And then they are over it.  Grace like that is nothing shy of breathtaking.  So despite our inevitable flaws, our little ones remind us to let go of the bad and cling to the good – those precious moments that are interspersed amid our mess-ups.

Philippians 4:8 Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.

 

Posted in Coping, parenthood laws | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Parenting law #10: Be prepared, but when the diarrhea hits the fan, seek help from another parent


I like to be prepared.  Although having three kids has thrown my life into more chaos than two ever did, I still try to keep myself from getting caught off-guard.  For example, as a general rule, I have six diapers in the diaper bag.  My nursing class teacher shared how she got stuck traveling with her baby who had diarrhea.  Flight attendants had to take turns running paper towels to her seat, and the story stuck with me.  I don’t ever want to have diarrhea all over me in a place where I can’t get to a change of clothes.

This story comes to mind when I travel, so I try to pack extra diapers.  But for our last trip home from Florida, I had three remaining diapers when we left for the airport.  It should have been more than enough to get me through.  But that’s not how things went down.

We knew when we left for the airport that our flight was delayed.  What we could not have foreseen was that the one-hour delay would become a four-hour delay, the final hour of which came once everyone had boarded the plane and a rogue piece of luggage fell from the overhead compartment, injuring a passenger.  This necessitated emergency aid in the form of a sheriff’s vehicle and fire truck pulling up next to us at the gateway “just in case” while the crew waited for this passenger to feel better.  (You can’t make this stuff up.)

The rip-off package of two diapers and eight wipes.  No thanks (but good to know they're there)!

The rip-off package of two diapers and eight wipes. No thanks (but good to know they’re there)!

When your 5-6 hours traveling with three children becomes 9-10 hours, you learn to relax.  You roll with the punches.  And you improvise.  A four-hour delay with Eliza would have had me sweating bullets about the diaper dilemma.  But with Ethan, I wasn’t all that concerned, despite having used up two diapers before our flight even took off.  I briefly considered buying the $5 airport pack of two diapers and eight wipes, but the cheap skate in me just couldn’t do it, and the diapers weren’t the right size anyway.  But the anal-retentive part of me couldn’t board the plane with only one remaining diaper.  (I might be anal, but Ethan is not!  And diarrhea was what I feared, remember?)  I decided to make a new friend.  There was a woman with an 11-month-old nearby.  I introduced myself, explained my situation, and asked if she had a diaper to spare.  She was happy to help.  I told her I just needed a one-diaper cushion.

Thank goodness for that woman.  And every other mom or dad who has been that person for another mom or dad in need.  I must confess that I haven’t always had the most gracious thoughts towards unprepared parents.  But the truth is we all need help sometimes.  No matter how well you plan or predict, parenting is beautifully unpredictable.  In the end, I did need that diaper.  I used one on the plane, and then of course Ethan pooped as I waited at baggage claim for Greg to pull up the car.  No, the little man didn’t get diarrhea.  And if he had, I might have ended up like my nursing class teacher.  But I have found that stressing out about every potential worst-case scenario makes for a really stressed-out mom.  Which can give you … diarrhea.

Posted in Infant, parenthood laws, Travel | Tagged | 2 Comments

A day in the life


Apparently it can be interesting to read a moment-by-moment recap of someone else’s day.  I stumbled upon one mother of five’s “A day in the life” entry and just felt tired reading it.  I could totally relate, but then somewhat couldn’t imagine having five children.  Yesterday I decided I would jot down the events of my day.  Though a sick doctor’s visit is not typical, the day unfolding with multiple events I had not factored into the plan completely is.

2:24 a.m.  Despite having turned off the baby monitor when Ethan woke me from the basement at 11:30 p.m., I heard him screaming through the air duct and ran downstairs because he’s sick.  (I’m not inhumane; he was in the basement so he wouldn’t wake his brother and sister.)  Cuddled and played with him until 3:30, when I put him in his swing to try to get him to sleep.

4 something a.m.  Fell back to sleep.

6:45 a.m. Woken by children babbling and giggling.  Hollered for them to get dressed.

7:05 a.m. Still lying in bed hopeful kids would obey without intervention.

7:09 a.m.  Got up, got dressed (yes!), cracked the whip, handed the baby to Greg, poured cereal for the older two, made Ethan’s bottle, took it to Greg, went back downstairs and made Eliza’s lunch, got handed the baby so Greg could shower, baby pooped, changed him, poured more milk for Eliza, got her out the door for her carpool, microwaved a breakfast sandwich for Greg and poured him some cranberry juice.  Asked God to help me through the day and to be aware of Him every moment to lead and guide me.

7:50 a.m.  Zach and Ethan were playing in the crib together, so I decided I needed to respace the items on my fireplace mantle while holding Greg’s breakfast.  As I barely moved one frame, another went crashing into me and knocked cranberry juice all over my sweater, and took out my new frame from New Orleans, which crashed and broke into tiny pieces on the floor.  Choking hazard pieces.  I left them there momentarily because I decided I needed coffee.

8:04 a.m. Brewed some coffee, made myself a breakfast sandwich, put Ethan in his high chair to feed him while I ate and imagined (as I do every day) drinking my full cup of coffee before it turned cold.  Wrestled Ethan to give him his inhaler.  Realized I forgot to give Eliza her antibiotics for her UTI.  Contemplated driving to school later to give it to her.

8:40 a.m. Sent some texts.  After Ethan was done eating, I picked him up and realized I was about to set his smooshed blueberry-covered hiney on my white pants, so I leaned him over to wipe his rear and accidentally put his arms within reach of the coffee, which gave him a nanosecond to swat at it and knock the FULL cup all over the floor.  I paused and thanked God that the mug didn’t break (ironically, it was my mug that says “He fills my life with good things”), and then wiped it up with a dirty towel.  Mopped the floor.  Ran downstairs with my cranberry-stained sweater that I had rinsed and decided to run the towels load first.  Mopped the floor a second time because it was still sticky, then remembered I needed to vacuum the picture frame pieces, so I did that.

9:05 a.m. Sent Zach out the door to his school carpool.  Sat down with Ethan to start typing this and decided to put him down for a nap because he kept tapping the keys.

9:27 a.m. wasted 15 minutes on FB, planned the week’s meals, made my grocery list, made myself a protein shake, and folded half a load of laundry when Ethan woke up.  Thank you, God, that he slept.

11:05 a.m. Loaded Ethan in the car and went grocery shopping.  Ethan began hacking so hard and so frequently that I bought him baby Vicks vaporub in the store.  It didn’t help.  Thank you, God, that he didn’t throw up on himself or me while in the store from coughing so hard.  (He coughed up some stuff a few times, but every time he swallowed it.  Gross.)  Drove straight to school to do pickup, got Zach and his carpool friend Emily, and drove her home.

12:30 p.m. Unloaded the groceries, left the car unlocked with my purse inside and the windows down, made lunches, and got half of the groceries unpacked when Ethan began screaming.  He wasn’t eating any food and wouldn’t drink milk.  The phone rang and it happened to be the nurse from the pediatrician’s office to confirm Eliza’s UTI.  I said, “While I have you on the phone, … ” and described Ethan’s symptoms and that he was starting to feel hot.  She said to bring him in at 4:15.  Thank you, God, for that serendipitous call.  Thank you also for making me realize I didn’t know where my cell phone was and that I left my purse in the unlocked car with the window down.  Went and got it.  Thank you also, God, for creating grapes and fermentation and wine.  I questioned if it was too early to have some because there was an uncorked bottle with just a glass left in the fridge.  What the heck.  Took three sips, then realized I had to do carpool in an hour and left it.  At this point, Ethan was screaming and completely inconsolable and hot.  I put on a movie for Zach, changed Ethan’s diaper, took his temperature and found it to be 100.4.  I gave him ibuprofen and put real Vicks on his feet and started to rock him.  He cried for 30 minutes and then fell asleep on me around 1:10, so I called for carpool backup so I could stay home with him instead of pick up kids.  Then I let the school know.  I sent some e-mails, one-handed on my phone, while Ethan slept on me.

2:06 p.m.  Ethan woke up.  I reached out to the high school sitter to see if she could stay at my house with the older two during the doctor’s appointment.  She couldn’t.  I munched on some corn salad and black bean salsa with chips and finally finished off the protein shake I had started drinking four hours earlier.  Revisited the Rose, but after a few sips, decided what I needed more was coffee.  I started a delicates load in the washer and set the dryer again for the towels because they were still wet.  Zach asked to play soccer outside, so we did.  Most of these activities I did with Ethan in my arms, as he was clingy.

3:05 p.m.  Eliza arrived.  I called Greg to see if he could be home early so I could go to the pediatrician without the older two.  He said he could.  Praise you, God.  Typed some of this while Eliza and Zach played outside, did puzzles, and Ethan crawled around a bit.  I remembered to give Eliza her antibiotics.

4:15 p.m.  Arrived for the appointment, where Ethan was promptly examined and his oxygen levels tested because he was retracting to breath (something that’s happened with him before).  He cried and cried, we started a nebulizer, and he fell asleep.  Things got a little better.  Thank you, Jesus, that the pediatrician now carries antibiotics so I didn’t have to go to a pharmacy.  I left at 5:15 and went to Chipotle for dinner.  Good thing I planned for a Chipotle night in my meal planning.  Of course rush hour traffic and a line made this quick stop take 40 minutes.  Texted with neighbors about taking a walk, and another friend about trying to get out to see “Mom’s Night Out.”

5:58 p.m.  Arrived home with the food and stuffed my face while feeding Ethan and fending off the question and request barrage from Eliza and Zach.  Attempted to finish the glass of rose, which was now room temperature and watered down because I had added two ice cubes to it earlier to keep it cold.  I made it through about half the glass.  Then I did dishes and put away the laundry I did fold.  I started to change clothes and wondered, “Why bother?” so I put my shirt back on.  Praise you, God, for Greg and his willingness to care for Ethan and the kids so I could take a walk.

7 p.m. Went on a walk with two neighbor friends who are moms and both have sick kids, too.

7:51 p.m.  Got home and my other friend picked me up to see “Mom’s Night Out.”  I ate a few Hot Tamales and a few handfuls of popcorn, and wished the movie were playing in the theater that sells beer and wine, but had zero other complaints about sitting in a chair to zone out without the possibility of interruption.

10:22 p.m.  Arrived home.  On Ethan watch.  Dead tired.  Going to bed.

10:27 p.m.  Just kidding!  Ethan woke up crying.  He needed more albuterol, which always jacks him up, so Greg and I played with him in our bed until about 11:30, when he guzzled some milk, rubbed his eyes, and let us put him down.

12 something a.m. Fell asleep.

Now it’s 6:45 a.m. and I’ve been up since Ethan woke at 4:56.  I put him back in the basement and he fell asleep.  I lay in bed until 6:11 trying to find sleep again and gave up.  I checked the delicates load in the washer and thanked God it didn’t get mildewy from sitting so long.  I hear the older two stirring, and it’s my day for morning carpool, so the beautiful, messy, full day awaits!!!

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What your wife really wants for Mother’s Day is good sex. Or not.


Men, this one is for you.  I have some fantastic, cheap ideas for Mother’s Day gifts for your lady.  I figure I’m just in time, because knowing you, and seeing what the stores were like today, you probably are just getting around to thinking about the fact that tomorrow is an obligatory holiday that requires your attention.  In the spirit of David Letterman’s retirement, and in an attempt to speak your language, here is a Top Ten Mother’s Day gift idea list.

10.  A break.  Make breakfast, lunch and dinner, or plan for how your family will get each of these meals.  Then feed all the mouths that need feeding.  And if any of these meals require work, do the work.  And then clean up.  I can’t tell you how many moms I know don’t want to do a single dish on Mother’s Day.  Put the kids to bed for her.

9.  A bath.  If your wife likes baths, draw her one with one of those little bath fizzes you have no clue what it is (just drop it in!).  Then grab whatever book she’s reading and pour her a glass of wine and send her to the bathroom.  You could do this any time of day.

8.  A homemade card.  Find a writing utensil and use it to compose a nice sentence on some printer paper.  Let the kids do the same.  Or let them color all over your paper.  It doesn’t matter.  Then fold it in half and present it to her.

7.  Time alone.  If you don’t know what to buy her but you want to get her a gift, send her out ALONE (read: even without the baby) to the mall for an hour or two to find something she wants.  If this concerns you, give her a price limit.

6.  Time with the kids.  Even the hardest-working mom needs some special time with the kids today.  Whatever her favorite thing to do with them is (reading?  puzzles?  a hike?  a bike ride?  a board game?), make sure it happens.

5.  Time with you.  If you can arrange it and this is important to her, you will score major points if you can manage to find even 30 minutes to sit across from her and have one of the seemingly meaningless, mostly one-sided conversations she loves to have.  It could even help with #1.

4.  A massage.  Her head, her back, her feet, or her whole body – even if it’s only 5-10 minutes.  Or maybe she likes having her back scratched.  Then do that.

3.  That special “something.”  Maybe she likes jewelry or has dropped hints about a Pandora charm she wants.  Perhaps she loves flowers, or chocolates, or when you take her shopping and pick out clothes for her.  I don’t know what that “something” is.  And if you don’t either, maybe number 2 will help.

2.  Whatever she wants.  Have you tried asking her?  If you are at a loss for how to celebrate the mother of your children on the one day in 2014 you’re supposed to know what would make her happy, then ask her.  “Honey, what can I do to make today as special as you are?”  “How can I thank you enough today for being a great mom?”  “What would make you happy today?”

1.  Good sex.  On her terms.  If you spend the day doing any of the above things, it’s possible you will be rewarded.  I can’t promise anything, but she will probably want you.  Which if you really think about it, wanting you is probably how you got sucked into having to celebrate Mother’s Day in the first place.

Good luck!

Christine

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The difference between being the first child and the third


I was going to take a pic of Ethan in his dirty PJs.  But I didn't have time for that.  Here's one that Eliza took on my phone.  He spends a lot of time in his exersaucer.

I was going to take a pic of Ethan in his dirty PJs. But I didn’t have time for that. Here’s one that Eliza took on my phone. He spends a lot of time in his exersaucer.

As I just cleaned off Ethan from breakfast, I was struck by how many things I have let go of this time around simply because I don’t have the time or energy to care about them.  One mom told me, “With our first baby, we drove home from the hospital under the speed limit with our emergency flashers on.  With the second, we made sure we didn’t go over the speed limit.  With our third, we stopped for drive-thru food on the way home.  And with our fourth, we went straight to soccer.”  I can totally relate, because for Ethan, things were different as soon as we left the hospital as well.  I went straight to Eliza’s school to pick her up because she had missed me so much in the 48 hours I had been gone.  I have been collecting ideas on how to explain what it’s like for me to have three children compared to two or one, but that will be another post.  This one is about how it’s different for Ethan.  Our poor, sweet Ethan.

Crawling.  Ethan is about 8 1/2-months-old and has been on the cusp of crawling for about a month.  What this means is that I purposely keep him off the floor because unlike with Eliza, I dread the day he is off and running.  With your first, you are excited to announce to everyone when your children reach their milestones, and secretly hope that someone says, “Wow, she’s advanced.  Isn’t that early?”  This time around I just hope no one accuses me of stunting his growth.

Cleanliness.  I’m not ready to be chasing Ethan around the house, but I’m also not ready for what his crawling will mean in the realm of cleanliness.  I’ve tried to institute a rule that any toys or parts of games that can fit inside a toilet paper tube cannot be on the main floor.  I might as well be asking the children to nail Jell-O to the wall for an art project.  So instead of an unenforceable rule, everyone gets down on hands and knees for “safety checks” before we set Ethan on the floor (sitting up, not on his belly, or else he might try to crawl).  We look for coins, beads, Rainbow Loom rubber bands, and anything else that could be a choking hazard.  Once Ethan is on the move, his life will be more in danger.  Not to mention I do not have a way to store a vacuum on my main floor.  (I’m about to buy a battery-operated tiny one that we can hide behind a living room curtain.)  So there is a ton of dirt and dog hair on my floors on a regular basis.  With Eliza, I was good about vacuuming and mopping every few days.  Ethan is going to be a veritable Swiffer on the ground.  (Should I get him one of these?)

Clothing.  Right now Ethan is wearing the pajamas I put him in on Tuesday night.  He has multiple layers of dried, crusty oatmeal, black bean juice, and formula on various parts of it.  Just now when I changed his diaper, three grains of rice fell out of his sleeper.  But I’m totally cool with that.  He’s had a cold, so his crib sheet is decorated with snot marks all over it (despite its being changed on Monday).  I lay him down in an area that doesn’t look too bad and hope he doesn’t move a lot in his sleep.  How could I?!?  Because it takes time and effort to change a crib mattress, and it makes more laundry.  I don’t change his outfits or much of anything related to him unless it’s an absolute must, like poop or pee got on it.  When you adjust to having one child, one of the most overwhelming aspects of new parenthood is dealing with all the extra laundry.  I used to separate out Eliza’s clothes, towels and other items to wash on their own, special cycle with baby detergent.  Then I just started using baby detergent for all of us, and continued to do that with Zach.  Now everyone gets regular detergent.  There is enough laundry with a family of five to require 8-10 loads a week.  Anything I can do to lighten that load, I will do.

Bathing.  Eliza and Zach were both bathed nightly as part of their bedtime routines.  Ethan is lucky to get two baths a week.  We are trying to do better with this, as eating solids makes for a dirtier baby.  But my brain has adjusted to thinking that a bath every day for a baby is not necessary, unless he doesn’t pass the aforementioned poop and pee test.

Eating.  There is one way Ethan is advanced, and that’s with eating.  I started his solids around 5 months like I did with Eliza, but I am pretty oblivious about when I’ve introduced him to certain things.  With your first, you write everything down, spreading out the introduction of new items every 2-3 days in case of allergies.  The only things I know Ethan hasn’t had are honey, shellfish and nuts.  He even ate some fish we had for dinner the other night that had spicy rub on it.  He seems to want to be a part of our meals and looks at our food with hungry eyes when we give him something different.  So as long as I haven’t added salt to something, I give it to him.  I think because he’s been eating so much real people food he’s cut his teeth a little early.  He has four teeth and the next two have popped through his gums.  If there’s anything you would want your children to be delayed in, it would be cutting teeth.  Nursing has been painful.

Photos.  Ethan is less photographed.  This is partly because he’s always wearing pajamas, and partly because I cannot seem to have one contiguous thought/follow through sequence such as, “This is a cute moment, I should photograph it” and then actually locate a camera or phone and snap the picture.  There are too many interruptions, mostly in the form of “Mommy, ____.”  (For example, Zach just interrupted me to tell me, “Mommy, chocolate chips are like poop because they are brown.  But they are not poop because they are chocolate chips.”  This happens all day long.)  I even bought those cute stickers you put on your baby to photograph him every month to mark his first 12 months with photos.  I did it consistently for the first five months, and then lost the six month sticker.  My track record has been horrible since then.  Eliza has a baby book that’s mostly completed.  I at least purchased one for Zach.  Ethan does not have one.

Activities.  At this point in Eliza’s life, I had signed us up for a water babies class so we could swim together, and I was in deep debate and research over where to attend other classes like music and exercise ones.  I do not think Ethan will ever make it to one of these things, at least not as a baby.  Ethan is on a daily schedule, but he has to be so much more flexible than Eliza and Zach did.  He misses his morning nap three days a week because of other commitments, and his afternoon nap on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are in the car for carpool pickup.  He doesn’t seem to mind that much, probably because he’s learned he doesn’t have a choice.

Crying.  I must confess it’s easier to listen to Ethan fuss than it was to hear Eliza or Zach fuss.  A new mom was at my house a couple of weeks ago when Ethan woke up from him nap.  He had made two seconds of noise when she said, “Do you want me to go get him?”  I don’t think my brain had even registered that he was awake.  I said, “No, wait a little.  He’s fine.”  Ethan cried a lot as a young baby, but around five months he finally adjusted to the sound of my voice saying, lovingly, “I can’t help you right now baby boy, but I’ll be with you in a minute.”  He had to learn that I would come, eventually, so he started to trust that.  I would stop mid-cooking if Eliza needed me; but with other little mouths to feed now, I don’t stop.

Stimulation.  Ethan is currently sitting in the Pack ‘n Play (in his dirty pajamas) with his toys while I type this.  He does this a lot.  That’s because like with many other things, he doesn’t have a choice.  He does have two older siblings who love to engage with him and “play” with him, though, so he’s not in need of attention.  With Eliza, if I wanted to leave her like I leave him, I would have researched if there would be harmful mental or emotional effects.  I would have sought out a guide on what kinds of toys to leave her with and how many.  Ethan is surrounded by some of his toys, some of his siblings toys, and some cellophane.  And that’s totally cool.

I’m sure there are other things that are different as well, but these are the first ones that come to mind.  I hope Ethan doesn’t hold this information against me one day.  The truth is, he is a very happy baby and maybe that’s in part the result of me being a little less neurotic.  So cheers to third babies and all the things they make you realize aren’t that important.

 

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New year, new you? Maybe the old you was already great.


She is oh-so-blunt and oh-so-right!

She is oh-so-blunt and oh-so-right!

Now that Downton Abbey is back on, I am in television dreamland.  And on Sunday, the Dowager Countess had some fabulous one-liners and insights to impart upon the world in the season four premiere.  In one scene, Lady Mary confessed that she feared she wouldn’t be a good mother because her softer side had died with her late husband.  The Countess responded sincerely, “My dear, there’s more than one type of good mother.”

Those words continue to resonate with me, because I know a lot of good moms, and many of them aren’t like me.  But I like to think I’m a good mom as well.  It becomes increasingly clear that there’s no one right way to do this parenting thing.

We all have in our minds some ideal, “perfect parent” and what that person does.  Maybe she reads more with her kids, or cooks better, or keeps a cleaner home.  Or perhaps she signs up her children for every activity, or has more money, or is craftier and not afraid to get Play-Doh on the furniture.  It could be that she never complains, or has a sweeter disposition, or that she works out, or is sexier and gets out of her loungewear on a day-to-day basis.  Just typing out the ideas above makes me realize I could be doing more in all these areas (especially with getting out of my PJs).  But then I am instantly faced with the notion that I’m not doing a good enough job because of things that generally won’t matter one bit when my children are grown.  I am only one person, and the demands of being a wife and a mother (and for some, a provider as well) leave little time for every estimable pursuit that could allure me.  Parenting on a day-to-day basis is sometimes like trench warfare and sometimes more beautiful than anything ever.  We have to prioritize and do the best we can with the things we can predict, and more often than not, the ones we can’t.

Every new year, many of us make resolutions to change for the better.  Perhaps something in my list above about the “perfect parent” is close to one of your resolutions.  I have to say that this year, I did not make any.  I find that I never keep them.  I’m not saying we should not strive to improve or allow God to work in our lives to make us better.  What I’m saying is we should make sure that what we are striving for is both desirable and attainable.  Can you measure when you’ve “gotten there?”  And is where you’re trying to go where you should be?  Is it even possible when realistically considering the constraints of your life?

Doing my best for my unique children and family makes me a good mother.  And it makes you a good parent if those are your goals.  During our visit back home over Christmas, I went to dinner with two very old and dear friends.  One of them said that her New Year’s Resolution was to enjoy every day with her healthy children and husband, and to be thankful for all that she has instead of focusing on the fact that she really hates her teal carpet.  I completely concur.  That’s a resolution I can get behind.

The truth is God has given each of us the children we have for a reason.  Your child or children were born to you for a particular purpose.  Each of us, with our unique personalities, gifts and quirks, has the potential to be a great parent.  The cheerful, stoic, social, shy, creative, nerdy, organized, impulsive, dreamers and doers can all be simultaneously – and in their own ways – great.

Life will never be perfect and there will always be things to get done to improve ourselves and our lives.  Just remember to focus on how you are uniquely suited for your children.  If you’re trying to turn over a new leaf in 2014, remember the Apostle Paul’s words of wisdom in Galatians 6:4: “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else.”  Here’s to all of our personal bests this new year!

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Parenting law #16: You’re not allowed to be sick.


The toilet Zach stopped up for the umpteenth time.

The toilet Zach stopped up for the umpteenth time.

“Mommy, you have to come see the toilet.  The water is way, WAY high!”  That was interruption #3 yesterday during my perfectly orchestrated, one-hour sick nap.

“Did you poop?” I groaned.  “Yes.”  “Did you wipe yourself?” I followed with fearfully, knowing the answer before he spoke because he likes to use half a roll.  (Why do they do that?!?!)  “Ye-esssss.”  “Okay, Zach, don’t touch the toilet.  Don’t flush the toilet.  Leave it alone.  I will get it later.”

You see, I woke up with a fever yesterday morning and peeled myself out of bed, taking all of my energy to pour some bowls of cereal and put a movie on for the older two right when Ethan was going down for a nap. The plan was flawless; real life with three kids is anything but.  Interruption #1 was Greg coming into the room after his nice, leisurely shower to get dressed.  Interruption #2 was the dog barking outside to come in, me hollering for Eliza to let her in, and then the alarm going off because Greg set it so the kids wouldn’t run away while I snoozed.  As if.

As if you can really sleep with three kids in the house.  It’s hard enough to fall asleep when you have one child, wondering if yours is the first super human 2-month-old who can climb out of his crib.  Once you add the second, you know the infant can’t get out of his crib, but the other child could burn down the house.  By the third child, you’re willing to assume your kids will sit nicely in front of the TV while the baby naps because you’ve gotten way more chill and you also have an eldest who will indubitably tell you if anything at all goes wrong.  But you still don’t sleep.

Growing up, I thought my mom never got sick.  I’ve long since realized it’s not that she didn’t get sick, it’s that she wasn’t allowed to be sick.  When moms are sick, they still have take care of everyone.  Even if we need to spend all day in bed to get better, it’s not happening unless someone else takes care of the kids.

I think my older two watched about five hours of television yesterday while I sprawled.  I managed to toss them some crackers and bananas for lunch, and I’m so thankful they actually BOTH napped while I lay in my bed with Ethan, nursing him a lot for fear the illness would hurt my milk supply.  Greg brought some take-out soup home for me for dinner, kissed my forehead and went, “Whoa.”  Yes.  Thank you.  Validation. I was burning up.  I finally took some Tylenol.  I felt much better.  And somewhere in the middle of the afternoon, I did manage to plunge the toilet.  I’m pretty sure that’s the only thing that got done yesterday.

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If I could travel through time, this is what I would go back and tell myself after having my first baby


The beauty of the third baby

The beauty of the third baby. Photo credit: Chelsea Hudson Photography. http://www.chelseahudsonphotography.com

About a month ago, we welcomed our third child into this world.  I am in awe at what an amazing little miracle and gift from God he is.  The experience this time around has been so different.  Maybe it’s because I am more experienced.  Or maybe it’s because my mom stayed to help for three weeks instead of just one (and left today – sniff sniff).  Or it could be a number of other things.  But in thinking through the past four weeks, my mind dwells on so many beautiful, wonderful moments.  I wish I could have felt the same way when I had my first.  I keep thinking about things I wish I would have known or been able to focus on.  So for those of you out there whom this might help, here’s what I would say to myself if I could go back to the day before Eliza was born:

Hi there.  Tomorrow your life will change forever, but relax, it will be good.  It will be better than good.  But it will be harder than anything you’ve ever done before.  Your life as you knew it is not over; it’s just turning over a new leaf.

I know you have thought through everything you would like for labor and delivery.  You don’t need to throw it all out the window (because that’s actually what’s going to happen), but the whole process will be better if you are able to let go and release yourself to what’s not going your way or as you had hoped.  I know immediately after Eliza comes out you’re going to go through a really difficult time and you’re not going to feel a lot of joy and love for her right away.  Be okay with that.  It will come.  I can even tell you that despite how little you feel like holding and cuddling her now because of depression and your delivery injuries, that she has grown into one of the most nurturing and caring people you know.

Despite having read books about newborn care and taking nursing classes, you are going to struggle in a major way with both.  I think most new parents do to some extent.  This is normal and you should expect it.  Keep the phone numbers of friends who have already been through it handy, and warn them you might call in the middle of the night for support.  And then pick up the phone and actually call if you’re in a rough moment.

Having a baby is not like taking a math test, where if you study hard enough, there is a formula you use and you get the same result every time.  It couldn’t be more different from that.  So stop thinking about a sleep formula right now.  You cannot spoil this new life by holding her.  You are her favorite person, and your breasts her favorite part of you.  She will learn to sleep, but first she has to learn to eat.  In fact, go ahead and leave yourself topless for the first few days and keep her in a diaper, and let her sleep on your chest and nurse anytime she wants.  Enjoy her despite of and in the midst of your pain and baby blues.  Even though you’re not sleeping much and your whole bottom hurts, try to take her in.  You can’t, but you should try.   Journal your thoughts and write her love notes.  I’m talking a sentence here or there, because you won’t have time for more.

I know the sleepless nights that are coming.  You will get through them.  I know they seem interminable right now, but they will end.  I know there will be incessant crying, and the feeling that you’d just like to put her outside in the back yard so you can’t hear her for a few minutes.  You might want to squeeze her or shake her.  You won’t do it, but you will beat yourself up for having the thought.  Don’t do that, either.  This moment that is so hard is also fleeting, and she will sleep and stop crying.

Trust your natural motherly instinct and your body.  Get every bit of help you can get from lactation consultants, midwives, nurses or doulas in the first two days.  Make certain you are getting a good latch.  A bad latch will hurt and after doing it over and over, will mutilate your nipples.  It’s great to know you feel so strongly and fierce about nursing; but also know that if you just need rest and for someone else to feed her formula so you can sleep, doing that does not make you a failure or a bad mom or physically deformed.  When you find out that she’s lost too much weight, the formula supplement they are telling you she needs is not going to poison her.  Your husband and father were formula-fed, and they grew up healthy and pretty darned brilliant.

The pediatrician and lactation consultant are telling you to have a Guinness a day not only because it will help you produce more milk, but also because you need to take a serious chill pill.  Your body cannot heal and produce milk if you do not allow yourself to sleep and relax.  I know at night you want to do what you would normally do, and you want the freedom to stay up late, but it’s just not worth it right now.  Go to bed.  Take the baby with you.  That will also help your milk.  This seemingly inexorable phase is actually pretty short.  In about five years, you will go to Eliza’s dance recital, she will have a loose tooth, and will be preparing to go to Kindergarten, and you will wonder how in the heck you got there.  And you will then know how fast these early days not only go by, but how fleeting all the difficulty of them is.

So rest and relax, my dear self.  Accept help.  Forgive yourself when you flip out or lash out or feel like an idiot for crying.  Let go of how clothes should be folded, stacked in your drawers, or how they don’t fit.  Be okay with paper plate dinners.  Allow others to make meals for you.  Eat dessert.  It, too, is good for your milk.  And cherish and marvel at what God has done.

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The joys of pregnancy: No really, there are some


This is the first baby item I bought  when I was pregnant the first time.  It was so fun to shop!

This is the first baby item I bought when I was pregnant the first time. It was so fun to shop!

As much as it’s fun to make fun of the not-so-fun parts of pregnancy – and believe me, at nearly 35 weeks, there are a lot of things I’d like to complain about – there are a lot of wonderful aspects to this journey.

1.  Great hair – By my glorious genetics, my hair is thin, fine and fragile.  My best friend’s nickname for me in 5th grade was “chemo woman.”  (Looking back, perhaps she wasn’t the best best friend.  I did call her “palm tree” in return because she had a massive, thick mop.)  But when I’m pregnant, it thickens up, gets a natural shine without looking greasy, and grows at a record speed.  In each pregnancy, I’ve gone up to 3 days without washing it and doing nothing to style it, and it still looks good when I wake up.   It’s fabulous.

2.  Great nails – The prenatal vitamins that so miraculously fix my hair for a season also make my nails strong and pretty.  It’s a good thing, because they’re pretty low on the priority list, but my kids sure do appreciate how long they are when they ask me to scratch their backs.

3.  That pregnancy “glow” – It’s real.  Sure, it might be tainted by some pregnancy acne here and there (or everywhere), but your skin radiates.  I have no idea why.  Maybe it’s that you generally take better care of yourself and drink enough water.  But there is a definite beauty halo that every pregnant woman gets.  Her natural beauty magnifies.

4.  Feeling a life moving inside of you – In all three pregnancies, I’ve never gotten so used to feeling one of my children move inside of me that the sensation has lost its awe factor.  Sure, sometimes I wish there weren’t 20-minute hiccup sessions keeping me up in the middle of the night between one of 4-5 bathroom excursions, but even those remind me of the beautiful miracle growing in my belly.  It’s pretty freaking amazing.

5.  A renewed motivation to take care of yourself – Something about being pregnant makes you reassess all of your priorities, and I generally find I want to treat my body better.  I also want ice cream and chocolate, but even those have things my growing baby needs, like calcium, vitamin D, protein and antioxidants.  (It’s all about spin.)

6.  An excuse to be pampered – People generally want to take care of others who are pregnant.  It’s nice to have people give up their seats for me, open doors, carry things and the like.  Remember the aforementioned ice cream cravings?  Last night I showered after my Zumba class and felt I deserved a reward for exercising.  But I was in pajamas.  I asked Greg if he would go get me a McDonald’s ice cream cone since he was still dressed.  Could the man really say “no” to me?  (And ohhhhh, it tasted so good!!!)

7.  An excuse to tease strangers – Now that it is pretty clear I am either about to birth a baby or I have a massive abdominal tumor, it’s fun to tease strangers who assume I am pregnant.  “When are you due?” gives me the chance to respond, “For what?”  A woman at church asked me on Sunday when I was expecting, and with a bewildered look, I said, “Expecting what?”  Without missing a beat, she pointed at my belly and said, “Your BABY!”  Eh, you win some, you lose some.  But it’s sure fun to try to catch them off-guard.

8.  Shopping – Regardless of how many times you’ve been through it, there are some things you need.  Preparing for the baby gives you an excuse to buy some much-needed items, and adore all the cute baby clothes in stores.

9. Celebrating – Having a baby shower or any sort of party to celebrate you and the baby is super fun, especially the first time around.

Of course, there are many more moments of pregnancy I could cherish, but my pregnancy brain is currently blocking my memory.  Feel free to add some true pregnancy joys to the list by commenting!

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The joys of pregnancy: judgment (or the fear of it)


It can be shocking when you see pregnant women doing things that we have decided are bad for the baby.  I will never forget being in high school and going out to eat with some friends.  On our way out of the restaurant, one friend ran into her very pregnant cousin at a table we passed.  I am sure I wasn’t even able to stutter through my name during my introduction, as my mouth was agape at this clearly pregnant woman, smoking a cigarette and drinking a glass of wine.

It’s amazing how we humans can be so judgmental about another person’s life until the moment when we are in the same boat.  Though I’ve never tried a cigarette in my life, OH, how I appreciate a few ounces of wine or beer here or there while pregnant.

Fast forward to two weeks ago, when Greg was out-of-town for work.  I have been struggling with insomnia for several weeks now (another joy of pregnancy), and being on my own with the two kids at 31-weeks pregnant would have been tough enough if I were getting loads of rest.  After swim lessons on Thursday, I was D-O-N-E.  And I was not about to cook dinner. I decided on the five-minute drive to our neighborhood pub that I was going to order a beer and just drink half of it.  I convinced myself that of all places, a pregnant woman could order a beer in a pub without judgment, especially when some of those present could be considered alcoholics and could also see there were two other children in my care who appeared to be surviving.  I was wrong.

Oh no, nobody judged me.  I chickened out.  I just couldn’t bring myself to publicly order an alcoholic beverage while obviously pregnant and in charge of two children.  And maybe it dates back to my experience in high school, when I couldn’t stop gawking at this pregnant woman, cigarette in one hand, wine in the other.  But regardless of the reason behind chickening out, I realized that a lot of what I do or don’t do in public these days depends on how I think others will see me.

At no other point in history have there been so many things you should and shouldn’t do during pregnancy.  We shouldn’t: get our hair colored; take any medicine; go in hot tubs; touch cat litter, pesticides or chemicals; clean with bleach; paint our homes; eat nitrates, cold deli meats, high mercury fish, raw fish or unpasteurized cheeses; lift anything heavy; ski, ride roller coasters, or do any other adventurous fun activity; paint our nails; smoke; or consume caffeine and alcohol.  We should take exorbitant amounts of vitamins, drink lots of water, eat healthily, get loads of rest and exercise.  It’s honestly hard to keep track of it all.  One of the “joys” of late pregnancy is that the whole world, just by looking at you, can tell that you are pregnant.  And boy, can you get some glances and stares if you publicly do any of the “no-nos.”  It’s funny how I think I’ve gotten a little more relaxed about it with each subsequent pregnancy.  I guess that’s to be expected.

When it really comes down to it, the way I decide if I am going to do something or not do something that could be considered risky, I ask myself this question: “If anything bad happens to the baby, or if this child develops any health issues over life that could potentially be caused by this action, will I blame the decision I’m making in this moment?  Will I feel guilty?”  If the answer is “no,” I generally allow myself some freedom.  When it is “yes,” I play it safe.  Thus, we just returned home last night from a ski trip, and though I badly wanted to strap on some K2 Burnin Luvs and take a few easy runs, I knew if I fell I would never forgive myself.  But when I was in Greece at 4-5 weeks pregnant, I ate what was most likely unpasteurized feta cheese just about every day, despite the risk of Listeria.  A couple of weeks ago, I ordered an Italian cold cut sub  from my favorite deli and ate it while getting a manicure and pedicure.  I thought I might get judged for one of both of those actions – but I decided I didn’t care.  And that beer?  Well, I told myself in the pub that I would have half a Yuengling when I got home.  Only I was too tired and threw myself into bed after getting the kids into theirs.  So the following night, I had my beer.  And I had a little beer and a half glass of wine on my ski trip.  And I’m okay with that.  Judge me if you’d like.  At least I didn’t do it in public.

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