Parenting lesson #25: Mommy brain never goes away.


ToDoList
I will not forget my children.

I wish I had better news for new moms.  But the truth is that the mommy brain fog, while it lifts after the newborn weeks, does not ever fully clear.  I have never been more certain of it.  When I first wrote about mommy brain, I was hopeful it would be gone by now.  It’s not.

On Monday, I took dinner to my boss because his wife just had their third child, and somehow we got on the topic of mommy brain.  He said, “My wife just says she feels like she’s gotten so dumb.”  I said, “I know exactly how she feels, and I wish I could say it gets better, but it never goes away.”  Case in point: later that night when I was getting things out of my trunk I found the baby gift I had bought for them still in my trunk.  The irony is I put it there a week earlier so I wouldn’t forget it on the morning I was driving into the office to take them food.

Let me be clear: mommy brain makes you feel stupid in the early weeks after giving birth.  But what remains after that is a forgetfulness.  It’s looking for your keys while you’re holding them.  It’s driving off with your cup of coffee on your roof.  It’s going to the grocery store for peanut butter and arriving home with two full bags and no peanut butter.  (These are all things I’ve done.)  And the forgetfulness is directly proportional to how many things you are tracking in your brain.  The busier you are and the less sleep you get, the more forgetful.  So since the past two weeks have been pretty full, I did something yesterday that I would have never thought possible.

I decided to call my dad while in the carpool line waiting for Zach.  I was relaying all the details about the stains on our basement carpet when I pulled out of the school parking lot and, while waiting at the light, heard Ethan interrupt my conversation with, “Mom, did we get Zach?”  I started responding, “Ye … ” as I turned my head and realized Zach was not in the car.  I said, “Dad, I gotta go, I have to focus, I just drove through the carpool line without getting Zach.”  I wondered how I managed to forget my kid when I didn’t really forget my kid.  I was there, just not “all there.”  The car in front of me was the last to get a kid in the group ahead of me, so as it drove off with its child, I just followed it out of the lot without stopping as the first car in my group.  This could happen to anyone, right?

Then I started thinking about how I needed to take this as a real warning that I simply have too much going on and I need to focus on each moment and the task at-hand without trying to multitask.  But it didn’t take long for me to forget the lesson I had just learned, because about an hour later I was driving to an appointment while making another one on the phone and I missed my exit on the highway, making me late.

As I pulled up at home last night, I was laughing at my day as I got out of the car.  Greg pulled up and I told him, “I’m laughing about how I left Zach at school.”  He pointed at my van and said, “You left your lights on.”  I realized then that my brain was trying to tell my body something.  So I went to bed early, and though I slept longer than usual, I know there are forgetful things I did today as well, I just can’t remember what they are right now.  And I have come full circle … so if you’re a new mom, don’t let the mommy brain bother you.  Embrace it, because you’re going to have it forever.

 

 

 

 

 

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Parenting lesson #6: Birthing is not the height of parenting pain, it is the beginning of it.


Pre-bedtime dance parties can be super fun.  They can also be dangerous.  Tonight, after finally hooking up a radio in the boys’ room, Ethan was so excited to hear the Biebs that he jumped right into my mouth.  Like his head collided into my chin.  I got a fat, bloody lip and my teeth are still hurting.

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And it got me thinking about how wonderful parenting is while simultaneously being painful.  There’s no better lesson about how life is a journey with the good, the bad and the ugly like having kids.

We have so, SO much to be thankful for, and there are good, happy, joyful moments every day.  But there are also hard, disappointing, try-my-patience-for-the-umpteenth-time and – yes – painful moments almost daily as well.  In the words of Clark W. Griswold, “It’s all part of the experience.”

My kids are 8, 7 and 3 now.  They’re not old, but they’re not young.  I’ve struggled about whether to blog about so many things because now that they’re getting older, I want to respect who they are becoming and I don’t want to share things with the world that might be too personal.  Everyone knows two-year-olds are crazy, demanding Hitlers, so it is funny to write about them.  But when those two-year-olds are 8 and they tantrum, or are 7 and cry over every little thing, it seems like stepping over a line a little to write about them and their struggles.  (This is partly why I simply haven’t blogged much.)  But in order to be authentic, you have to be real about all parts of life.  And the reality of having children is that it’s messy.  And painful.  Physically painful sometimes, yes.  Emotionally painful, absolutely.  Mentally painful, you bet.

So if you’re embarking on this parenting journey, you’re in for quite the ride.  If you have a crazy labor and delivery story (like just about every woman I know), I can relate to your pain.  And I can also honestly say it’s just beginning.

But it is all so very worth it.  There’s no one I’d rather dance with at 7:30 at night to “Sorry” than over-exuberant Ethan.  Even if it means I’ll get a fat lip.  I’d do it again tomorrow night in a heartbeat.

Parenting lesson #20: Some lessons must be learned over and over. And over.


Olivia's photo at our front door with peonies, which fittingly represent healing and life.
Olivia’s photo at our front door with peonies, which fittingly represent healing and life.

I’ve never before re-posted a blog.  But I’m amazed at how easy it is for me to lose perspective.  Sometimes I revisit my old posts because I need to re-read the lessons I thought I had learned.

Originally, I called this post “I submit there are three certainties in life: death, taxes and poopage.”  Amazingly, the past 24 hours have not only involved poop (and the remembrance of a death), but also dog vomit and pee.  Of course, they have also included an out-of-town husband and a sick toddler, and with my third child, that means a menace who goes from extreme clinginess accompanied by inconsolability, to running around and destroying things like the Tasmanian Devil.  I think once you have more than one child, it’s all just chaos, and whether you’re cleaning poop off your flip-flop or vomit off the rug, it’s all just part of a day’s work.

The lesson I need to be reminded of is that these ARE the good days.  There are tough moments, but the days are good.  They are blessings.  I didn’t graciously respond to every inquiry or issue today — far from it — but I’ll take it.  I’ll take all the above, because the alternative is devastating.  Yesterday, our dear friends marked four years since their daughter Olivia died unexpectedly.  FOUR YEARS.  And I can assure you, the pain of the loss is so slowly ebbing.  I still keep her photo in our living room as a reminder to treasure all the moments.  And remember to hug and kiss your babies tonight one more time in their sleep because they are still here.

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When you spend all day with toddlers, chances are something either really gross or scary (or both) is going to happen at some point in the course of 12 hours.  It’s almost a given.  This morning, I took the kids out in the yard to play.  As I do most days as soon as I get out there, I started to clean up the dog poop to prevent the kids from either accidentally or purposely getting into it.  (Eliza still asks, “Mommy there’s dog poop.  Can I eat it?”)

Well, this morning somehow within about two minutes Zach not only managed to step in a fresh, wet pile (why it couldn’t have been a sun-dried one, I’ll never know), but he also managed to get some in his hair.

And moments like this are frustrating and annoying, but for the past few weeks, I’ve tried to thank God for them.  I don’t want to make anyone cry, but these two weeks have been tough.  Dear friends of ours lost their beautiful 14-year-old daughter, Olivia, in a tragic drowning accident on June 23rd.  And I’ve lived through tragic deaths before; but this one has hit me more than any other unexpected loss.  This family is just so amazing, so loving, so wonderful, that it seems so unfair for them to have to live through something like this.  At the viewing, I was hugging Steve, Olivia’s dad, and I said, “You give great hugs.”  And he said, “Hugs are all I’ve got right now.  Do me a favor and hug and kiss your babies for me when you get home.”

I’ve been so struck by how much EVERY moment is a gift.  Though not likely, and certainly not fun to think about, any moment could be my last moment with one of my precious little ones.  And I’ve really pondered that these past couple of weeks.  When Zach has been waking me up (almost nightly for a reason I still haven’t determined, but I think it’s nightmares), in my tiredness and frustration, I’m trying to feel blessed that I can hold him and touch him and comfort him.  When Eliza and I have one of our 72 daily conversations that exacerbates my patience,  I’m trying to be thankful for her inquisitiveness (or desire to be annoying – I am not sure which it is yet).

Just this morning, we had this conversation:

Me: “Eliza, we need to put the Play-Doh away because you’re dropping it on the floor and Zach doesn’t understand that he shouldn’t eat it, so we need to play with it when he’s not around,” and she says,

“Why mommy?” and I say,

“Because he’s still too young to understand that it’s not food,” and then she says,

“But why mommy?”

and I try patiently to come up with an answer (my favorite these days is that I don’t have to explain myself to her and she should trust my judgment).

But back to my point, I guarantee that if she weren’t here tomorrow to ask me these questions, I would give anything (an arm? a leg? all our assets?) for one more annoying moment with her.  And if something happened to Zach, I would give anything to clean the poop off of his shoes again if I could have one more of his amazing hugs.

So in my grief, I want to encourage you to enjoy the gross and scary moments before they’re gone.  And in the words of Steve, go give your babies a hug and a kiss, just because you can.

Dealing with the first “F bomb”


Ohhhhhh fuuuuuuuuuudge.
Ohhhhhh fuuuuuuuuuudge.

The major milestones of growing up keep coming whether you’re ready for them or not.  But I wasn’t really expecting my six- and barely five-year-olds to speak the F bomb yet.  Mind you, I wouldn’t label myself as naive per se; I know my children are going to be some of the first to hear all sorts of dirty little words because our last name is Virgin.  But they are not ready to understand them.  So though the world eventually teaches them things we don’t want them to know and aren’t ready to explain, we don’t have to succumb to some unspecified, ethereal pressure to acquiesce to changing times and the notion that “kids just grow up faster these days.”  Instead, I had a response prepared.

The kids came in the door from school as usual and dumped their stuff everywhere.  Within seconds Eliza informed me that there was a big discussion in carpool about what the worst word was.  I said, “Okay, what is it?”  After several reassurances that she would not be in trouble, she said, clear as day, “Eff” (the word – the F-dash-dash-dash word).  I think I said, “Huh, okay” and walked away like it was no big deal.  This is step number 1 in dealing with this – don’t act like it’s a big deal.   Step #2 is returning to the discussion calmly and when you have time.  For me, that was a few minutes later.

Me: “Okay, sweetie, can you tell me more about what happened in the car?”

Her: “Well, Zach said the worst word is stupid.  And (our carpool buddy) said, ‘No it’s not, F-dash-dash-dash is.'”

Me: “Oh.  Okay.”

Her: “Is he right?”

Me: “Well, it is a very bad word, yes.  It is not nice.”

Her: “What does it mean?”

Me: “What did your friend say it means?”

Her: “Just like dumb, stupid, mean.  Is that what it means?”

Me: “No, that’s not what it means.”

Her: “Will you tell me what it means?”

Here is where the preparation came in.  A friend of mine told me she had read about how one father had his son fill their biggest suitcase full and then asked him to pick it up.  The boy could not, and his father explained to him that the EFF word was like that suitcase; that someday, he’d be able to handle it, but that for now, the word was just too heavy for him.  Without actually packing a suitcase, I went through this demonstration with Eliza.  She pondered this a moment, and then asked “Will you tell me when I’m 11?”  And I said, “Yes, I can tell you when you’re 11.”  Then, of course, she asked about when she’s 10, nine, and finally we settled on when she’s eight.  And that was it.

It has been several weeks since then, and she and Zach haven’t revisited it.  I should say that Zach could not have cared less about the word or the carpool conversation, which was great.  But the fact that Eliza let it go is pretty miraculous.

Of course, since then, Eliza for no reason at all blurted out the word “sex” and stared me straight in the eyes to see my reaction.  I met her gaze and firmly asked, “What did you say?”  And then she made up something I don’t remember.  And I said, “Huh, okay.”  And I dropped it.  But when I hear it again, because I know I will hear it again, I will revisit the suitcase example and explain that she can count on being strong enough to handle that word when she’s eight as well.  I just hope I can hold off on explaining Virgin to them until then, too, because I don’t really want to communicate to our children that their last name is a “bad word.”  But if I explain Virgin, well, I kind of have to explain sex.  And probably the mother of all words as well.

Does anyone have another trick besides the suitcase one?  I might need it.

Parenting lesson #11: There will always be poop to clean up.


Just ... ugh.
Just … ugh.

When you have little children, it’s easy to daydream about being done with diapers and blow-outs and leaks and toilet training.  But the truth is that even when you’re out of this phase, there will still be poop to clean up.

Tuesday we had a snow day.  Now, our Christmas break began December 19th, and that night Zach and Greg started flu symptoms.  Eliza succumbed the following Monday.  On Christmas, I still had three pretty flat-out family members and a rambunctious, healthy toddler.  Then after another week of having three kids at home, I sent them off to school Monday and took a nice, long, deep breath.  Thus, to have a snow day one day after school began again seemed so … unfair.  As the snow piled up outside, three other people in this family who use toilets (read: not me) also managed to “pile up” some things.  And they clogged two of our loos.

I was sitting on the couch trying to appreciate being “all here,” when I heard Zach whine talking to himself in the bathroom.  “I can’t use three pieces of toilet paper.  It’s not enough and now mommy’s going to be so mad with me.  I used too much toilet paper but I’m so sorry about it because I used more than three pieces.”  I waited for him to emerge.  And he gave me the saddest look and apologized for using too much toilet paper.  I told him it was alright and ignored the bathroom because I wasn’t ready to deal with whatever had happened yet.  Several hours later I had forgotten about it until I went in the bathroom and saw a toilet filled with half a roll of soaked tissue covering a brown mess that looked more like a bird’s nest than a branch.  It was a scene that on this snow day, was all too familiar.  And unfortunately for Zach, one I had witnessed one too many times (and the second stoppage of the day).

Me: “Zach, come in the bathroom.  I didn’t realize this is what you did with the toilet paper.  This is way too much toilet paper.  We’ve talked about this before.  You’re going to clean it up.”

Zach: “I’m sorry mommy.”

Me: “I’m going to go get the trash can.  You have to pull all the toilet paper out until there’s not too much to flush.”

Zach (in disbelief): “WITH MY HANDS!?!?”

Me: “Yes, because that’s what I would have to do and maybe if you do it this time, you’ll remember this the next time you consider using more than three squares of toilet paper for each wipe.”

Can you see how much toilet paper is in the trash and how much is STILL in the toilet?
Can you see how much toilet paper is in the trash and how much is STILL in the toilet?

It’s been three days since the snow day toilet debacle, and so far, Zach has amazingly had zero issues in the bathroom.  We will see if it sticks.  But even if it does, I still won’t be done dealing with poop issues.  Even once Ethan is out of diapers, toilet trained, and past using too much toilet paper, there will still be gross messes.  They will come in the form of school issues and bullying and crushed dreams and dying friendships and break-ups and a hundred other things I can’t anticipate and don’t want to.  So pull up your sleeves, grab your rubber gloves, and get ready to dig in.  Because the poop of life takes many forms, and once you have kids, helping them deal with it never ends.

Parenting lesson #17: 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.

The joys of pregnancy: The takeover of your body


Today became the day when I can no longer bend forward comfortably to put on socks.  I’m at the pregnancy point when I must fold one leg over the other knee to get dressed.  And I know from previous experience this is just the beginning.

Adjusting to the aesthetic changes to my body is one of the hardest parts of pregnancy.  I actually think the belly bump is cute and I love doing the Aladdin Genie in the Lamp move where I say to Greg in a Robin Williams voice, “Look at me from the side.  Do I look different to you?”  But beyond the belly bump, it is difficult not to look at yourself in the mirror and wonder what the heck is happening, and worse, can it ever be undone?  And this concern and fear hasn’t changed from pregnancy 1 to pregnancy 2 to pregnancy 3.

I’ve always struggled with cellulite.  I’m genetically prone to it and, um, I like to eat Swedish Fish and Sour Patch Kids sometimes.  And if they’re not the cause, maybe it’s steak or french fries.  Whatever.  But when pregnant, it is pretty disconcerting to look at your naked body head-on in a mirror and see cellulite down the FRONTS of your thighs.  And though I’m lucky enough not to be prone to getting stretch marks on my belly, I do get them on my lower butt and upper thighs in pregnancy.  Nice, big purplish-pink ones.  If I had the choice, I think I would rather get them on my belly, because those can at least be covered up by a one-piece bathing suit.  As can the weird hairs you start growing in never-before-seen places.  Ugh.

It’s weird the first time you cough, laugh, sneeze or jump and a little pee comes out.  Thankfully, other women who have been there assure you it is normal.  But just because it’s normal doesn’t mean you ever adjust to it.  It’s hard to sleep, not just because of your growing belly and changing anatomy, but because your bladder becomes increasingly smaller.  Only with Eliza did I really get the second trimester break from multiple middle-of-the-night bathroom trips.

I haven’t even gotten to the point in pregnancy when my ankles swell and I get Fred Flinstone feet.  I haven’t gotten to the point yet when I can’t see my toes when I look down.  Sure, I have some lower back pain here and there, but nothing like I know what’s to come.  And I know what’s also coming before this baby comes out is warmer weather, when I won’t need to put on socks anymore, thankfully.  But then I’ll have to shave, which will become a potentially dangerous endeavor.

What I would say to my favorite friends about having a baby


Two things that will get you through just about anything.

One of my best friends is getting ready to have a baby.  I sent her a card recently, and she said I could share it on this blog.  What I wrote to her in the few minutes I spent writing is what I would say to any close friend who’s about to have her first baby.  The front of the card says: “A cup of coffee and a good friend – ” and the inside reads: “Two things that will get you through just about anything.”  And here’s what I wrote:

Including having a baby.  (And go ahead and indulge in the caffeine, even if you’re breastfeeding.  You’re going to need it.)

I purposely didn’t buy a baby shower card because we’re beyond that.  I’m not going to be all sappy and tell you babies are beautiful.  I mean, they are, but they’re not.  Newborns are energy zappers that look like, in the words of Bill Cosby, lizards when they come out.  No doubt you are embarking on the toughest journey of your life.

But I can honestly say that more than any journey so far, this one will be the most rewarding, often in ways that are immeasurable, so don’t even try to compare it to anything else.  Having a baby and then nurturing it as the source of its survival and understanding of love and life is … indescribable.  Parenting is messy, and challenging, but I wouldn’t go back to the way things were before – not even for a billion dollars.  (Okay, maybe I would for a billion, assuming I could still have babies sometime in the future.  I could do a lot of good for a lot of people with that.)  Let’s say a million.

Creating another life that is half you, half (fill in the blank), is a miracle.  It is awe-inspiring, God-affirming, and love-multiplying.  I am here for you always, even in the middle of the night.  (Especially in the middle of the night, as those can be the loneliest and toughest times.)  Once you’re a parent, being awakened from the depths of REM sleep is amazingly doable.  So enjoy every minute that you can.  It will seem like just a distant memory not many months from now.  And when you need to cry, allow it.  When you need help, ask for it.

As in all things, God knows what He’s doing.  Welcome to the greatest faith-stretching exercise.  “Children are a gift of the Lord.”  Psalm 127:3

Parenting lesson #34: Getting away gets easier


The lake view from our balcony as the sun set

When you’re a parent, a family vacation does not count as vacation from working.  So I have found that for me, getting away without the kids is super important if I’m going to feel refreshed.  Greg and I just came back from a four-day lake trip with old friends, and it was heavenly.  I can honestly say that if you need assurance you can escape for some adult time, our experience is that it gets easier over time to leave the kids behind.

Perhaps you are a parent that doesn’t believe in ever leaving your children behind for vacation.  (As my high school student government teacher used to say, you are entitled to your opinion, however wrong it might be.)  Or maybe you think someday you’ll do it, but not until your kids are much older.  (Completely understandable, but still wrong.)  Or maybe you’re interested in doing it after you’re no longer breastfeeding, whenever that day seems to come, or even a soon as you can find someone willing to give you the break.  (I was one of those, so of course I think I’m right.)  And though I will admit it is difficult to do, I would highly encourage it for the sake of your marriage and sanity, provided you have friends or family you would trust to take care of your kids.

I have come up with a definition of stay-at-home parenting.  It is like having a challenging, awesome job, mostly because things are always changing and you adore your colleagues.  But the difference between this job and all others is that you live with your co-workers, too.  So even though you might not be working 24/7 per se, your boss and work friends are always around and you are inevitably immersed in work conversations, gossip and to-do lists.  I don’t see how anyone could do it without needing some time off, not only to refresh but also to remember that there are other things going on in the world.  (And this need I’m sure heightens for working parents.)

When Eliza was about 11-months-old, Greg and I took our first overnight trip away.  We left her with both of my parents at our house and about a two-page detailed instruction guide regarding her schedule and every potential scenario they might face and how to handle it.  We ended up at a restaurant about 2 hours away where we did not have cell phone reception.  (This was not on purpose.)  It was unnerving, especially because I was pregnant and thus not willing to use a good cocktail to calm myself.  But the restaurant called our house for us and reported that all was well.  We were able to breathe a bit easier, relax and enjoy ourselves.  It was the first successful attempt and it worked: Eliza and my parents survived unscathed.  We were gone a total of about 16 hours.  And it was amazing.

Then a few months later we took a “babymoon” outside of the country.  We left Eliza with my mom for nearly six days, again with detailed instructions.  Both my mom and Eliza came out of it alive.  Each time you successfully leave, it builds confidence that you can do it the next time.  (And video chatting helps!)

Then along came Zach.  That complicated things.  It’s one thing to leave a single toddler behind.  It’s another to leave a baby and a toddler.  We took our first overnight trip away when Zach was 7-months-old and Eliza was about to turn 2.  We of course left detailed instructions and I had to pump a lot.

And now, here we are.  Zach is 20-months and Eliza is 3.  Though Zach still isn’t the perfect sleeper, he’s generally now in a phase where he’s done teething (until those 2-year molars come in), he eats table food, and he and Eliza play together.  This time, I left my mom behind without a schedule or instructions and a hurricane approaching.  She knows they nap in the afternoon and when they generally go to bed.  They can feed themselves.  They tell you when they’re hungry and thirsty.  (Well, Zach pretty much just points and screams, but I consider that communication.)

The point is that I’ve never been as comfortable as I was this time around.  I had less of an idea what they would eat and do than ever before, and I was okay with that.  Time spent getting spoiled by grandma is important.  And though I missed the kids terribly, Greg and I were able to celebrate our ten years of marriage by having fun and enjoying each other, which is what made us want to be together and have a family in the first place.

So, if you’re waiting until it “feels right” to leave your child or children at home (even just for a date night), I would highly encourage you to get out and do it.  Because marriage is hard work that’s worth working for … and sometimes that means taking a vacation.

I submit there are 3 certainties in life: death, taxes, and poopage


When you spend all day with toddlers, chances are something either really gross or scary (or both) is going to happen at some point in the course of 12 hours.  It’s almost a given.  This morning, I took the kids out in the yard to play.  As I do most days as soon as I get out there, I started to clean up the dog poop to prevent the kids from either accidentally or purposely getting into it.  (Eliza still asks, “Mommy there’s dog poop.  Can I eat it?”)

Well, this morning somehow within about two minutes Zach not only managed to step in a fresh, wet pile (why it couldn’t have been a sun-dried one, I’ll never know), but he also managed to get some in his hair.

And moments like this are frustrating and annoying, but for the past few weeks, I’ve tried to thank God for them.  I don’t want to make anyone cry, but these two weeks have been tough.  Dear friends of ours lost their beautiful 14-year-old daughter, Olivia, in a tragic drowning accident on June 23rd.  And I’ve lived through tragic deaths before; but this one has hit me more than any other unexpected loss.  This family is just so amazing, so loving, so wonderful, that it seems so unfair for them to have to live through something like this.  At the viewing, I was hugging Steve, Olivia’s dad, and I said, “You give great hugs.”  And he said, “Hugs are all I’ve got right now.  Do me a favor and hug and kiss your babies for me when you get home.”

I’ve been so struck by how much EVERY moment is a gift.  Though not likely, and certainly not fun to think about, any moment could be my last moment with one of my precious little ones.  And I’ve really pondered that these past couple of weeks.  When Zach has been waking me up (almost nightly for a reason I still haven’t determined, but I think it’s nightmares), in my tiredness and frustration, I’m trying to feel blessed that I can hold him and touch him and comfort him.  When Eliza and I have one of our 72 daily conversations that exacerbates my patience,  I’m trying to be thankful for her inquisitiveness (or desire to be annoying – I am not sure which it is yet).

Just this morning, we had this conversation:

Me: “Eliza, we need to put the Play-Doh away because you’re dropping it on the floor and Zach doesn’t understand that he shouldn’t eat it, so we need to play with it when he’s not around,” and she says,

“Why mommy?” and I say,

“Because he’s still too young to understand that it’s not food,” and then she says,

“But why mommy?”

and I try patiently to come up with an answer (my favorite these days is that I don’t have to explain myself to her and she should trust my judgment).

But back to my point, I guarantee that if she weren’t here tomorrow to ask me these questions, I would give anything (an arm? a leg? all our assets?) for one more annoying moment with her.  And if something happened to Zach, I would give anything to clean the poop off of his shoes again if I could have one more of his amazing hugs.

So in my grief, I want to encourage you to enjoy the gross and scary moments before they’re gone.  And in the words of Steve, go give your babies a hug and a kiss, just because you can.