Parenting lesson #39: Put it in writing.


The struggle to pack school lunches is real.

Today is my oldest’s first day of school, and my other two will follow suit next week.  Planning, shopping for and packing healthy, appealing lunches for the kids are not my favorite hobbies.  In my dreams, I would pack them kale salads with tuna, quinoa crackers and homemade fruit roll ups.  But real life limitations such as time constraints and needing my kids to actually eat their lunches means that the basic sandwich, pre-packaged chips I buy in bulk from Costco, a fruit or veggie and a few Pepperidge Farm cookies are what they generally get (because fewer preservatives = healthy junk, right?).

And while the food I pack is the opposite of Pin-worthy, I must say that I love including lunchbox notes for my kids.  (As an aside, does anyone actually make shapes or animals out of their kids’ food?)

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Since I began packing lunches six years ago, I’ve been including little notes, and I’ve enjoyed writing to my kids ever since.  It’s like sending a little part of me to school with them.  For pre-K, the notes were pretty simple, as the teachers had to read them.  But as the kids have learned to read, I’ve made them more interesting.  When they need encouragement on a particular day, I can provide it.

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My process:

On Etsy, there are some really talented moms who make inexpensive templates you can download.  (Just search “lunchbox notes.”)  Then, print them out on card stock.  Last, cut them with a paper-cutter (or scissors) and voila! – you’re ready for lunch packing.  This morning I printed out my Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter-themed cards as well as a stockpile of everyday ones so I’m not scrambling to have cards ready to go (which is the bottleneck in this process).

One of my favorite shops no longer exists (boo!), but here is a link for @LemonSqueezeDesigns, where I have bought a few.

To make packing lunches easier this year, I also printed out a food chart that is specific to our family.  It took me about an hour of thinking and using other lists on Pinterest for help.  I posted it in my kitchen today.

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The bottom line: What I want my kids to remember about school lunches when they’re grown is not that we had fights about them not eating what I packed.  (If I’m being honest, the owl one above is for tomorrow, because Eliza came home today with a full lunchbox.  “Mom, everyone was talking!!!”)  What I want them to remember is that I shared a little piece of my love, my humor and myself with them when I took 30 seconds to write a note.

Parenting lesson #38: Little kids, little problems; bigger kids, bigger problems


As I was texting about my frustration and embarrassment to a friend this morning whose children are younger than mine, I confessed that it seems the adage “little kids, little problems; bigger kids, bigger problems” rings true.  She stuck her fingers in her proverbial ears as I read her reply: “La la la I’m going to pretend you said it gets easier. ;)”

Clearly she spends time with toddlers.

I was easily annoyed at moms with older kids when I was in the thick of the infant and toddler days.  When I had a two-year-old and a baby, I would relay stories of not being able to shower, of kissing makeup goodbye, of being covered in spit-up and food, in not being able to get out of pajamas, in ____________________ (fill in the blank).  I distinctly remember these moms of older kids would get these grins on their faces like they were remembering these times fondly and say, “I remember those days, and they are fleeting.  Enjoy them.”  And part of me wanted to punch them in the face.

Because every phase of parenting has its challenges, the one you’re in feels like plenty to navigate.  Imagining that parenting gets harder is not a happy thought.

But it does.  I already see it.

Currently, we’re struggling with how to help one of our kids who has hit others a few times when angered.  Our children are 10, eight and five, so while our expectations of them are different based on what makes sense developmentally, ALL OF THEM are old enough to know better. When one of them hit (or bit) another child as a two-year-old, I laughed with the other mom uncomfortably while apologizing as she said, “hashtag toddler problems” with a smile on her face.  One of our kids even left a bruise on another child’s face after biting him.  That mom and I still laugh about it.  But if one of my kids did that now, I’m not sure I’d still be friends with the victim’s mom.

I scratch my head and wonder if I’m doing something wrong.  I’ve been taking a kickboxing class where I punch a bag and the kids have all sat and watched it, making me wonder if somehow them seeing me punch a bag – which is cathartic for me – is bad for them.

Perhaps nothing in life is as powerful as parenting is in its capability to push you to question everything about yourself, to overanalyze and believe nearly anything you do could come back to bite you.

I imagine the two-year-old who doesn’t like to “play” clean up and who you laugh with as you put the toys away for the 16,000th time while you shake your head turns into the teenager you have a screaming match with as you (unreasonably) threaten she will never leave the house again because her room looks like a bomb went off in a mall where a Sephora shares a wall with Charlotte Russe.  And she hates YOU for it, because somehow it’s your fault you didn’t teach her to be tidy.  And you wonder, “Where did I mess up?”

You probably didn’t.  It’s important to remember that our children have their own God-given personalities, they will have their own struggles, and a lot of the time, it’s really not about you.  We are here to guide, model, teach, comfort, love and instruct; but at the end of the day, they are their own people with unique minds.  What they do reflects on us to an extent, but as they grow, they become more and more independent.  And I can see how growing up causes boundary lines between them and us to be redrawn a lot.  That’s going to cause strife, conflict and struggle.  As they become free to make more decisions, good and bad, we can help guide them, but we simply can’t learn the tough lessons for them.

As I process how to help my child, it’s so important for me to talk to other moms who’ve already been through these ages and stages and similar difficulties.  I gain so much perspective and wisdom.  And I remind myself that’s what good parents do: seek wisdom, learn from my own mistakes, ask forgiveness and move forward.

My friend helped me this morning, because after exchanging funny texts, she wrote, “You’re one of the best moms I know and I’m so thankful that I get to glean knowledge from you.”  We need encouragement from those around us as we struggle through the times we all want to plug our ears and say, “La la la I can’t hear you.”  Facing parenting challenges with others, being vulnerable about our shortcomings and struggles and lifting each other up is how we get through the increasingly difficult problems of parenting.

And to think: I don’t even have a teenager yet.

Parenting lesson #25: Mommy brain never goes away.


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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.

 

 

 

 

 

What I Really Want for Mother’s Day.


IMG_1305Along the lines of my previous Top Ten list for Mother’s Day:

I love being a mother.  Each of my children is such a blessing, and I really do – for the most part – enjoy serving them.  Yes, there are moments every day that try my patience and make me wonder how old I’ll be when I get to count on not getting woken up or interrupted in the middle of every. single. thing I am doing (yes, even peeing).  But Mother’s Day makes me reflect on both the joys of motherhood and also the service of it.

Along those lines, here are the things on my mind:

 

  1.  I would like to sleep until I wake up.  I know this will naturally be between 5:30 and 6:30 a.m. anyway, but I would like to go to bed tonight, not have anyone wake me up in the middle of the night, and not hear any noise until I naturally wake up.
  2. I don’t want to have to think about feeding myself or anyone else.  I just want meals to magically appear at the right times.
  3. I also don’t want to answer any questions about food, especially not about eating candy or junk so I don’t have to say “No” and feel like a food Nazi on Mother’s Day.
  4. Honestly, while on the subject of questions, I would really love to have every question from every child begin with the word “Daddy” tomorrow.
  5. I would love some homemade gifts from my kids.  Honestly.
  6. It would be great to have a chunk of time when I get to do whatever I want.  I think I would use it to load the car with about half of the kids’ toys and drop them off at charity.
  7. I don’t want to clean up any messes, deal with pee or poop (not even from the dog) or wipe any tushies.
  8. I don’t want to use any appliances such as the dishwasher, washing machine, or dryer.
  9. I would love a good back scratching.
  10. Most importantly, I would love some family snuggles, definitely at night, or after I wake up ON MY OWN from that solid night’s sleep.

What would YOU like?

Parenting lesson #37: The mouths of babes don’t always tell the full truth.


IMG_3209At Eliza’s Kindergarten back-to-school night, her teacher said, “We promise to believe only half of what we hear at school about you if you promise to only believe half of what you hear at home about us.”  I hope she was speaking on behalf of all the teachers.

In first grade, one of the things the children do is keep a scrapbook.  Eliza brought hers home yesterday.  There was one page about things that “crack up” the kids.  My daughter said she laughs when her classmate Braxton falls on the floor on purpose.  He’s hilarious!  She wrote that she laughs when her brother tells a joke.  How adorable!  She said her daddy makes her laugh when he tickles her.  That is so sweet.  And how do I make her laugh?  Apparently by burping at her.

IMG_3210Burping at her.

I barely ever burp.  I’m not only embarrassed now, but I’m embarrassed whenever I burp.  I never burp on purpose (I don’t know how to), so when it happens in front of the kids, I’ve burped, and giggled with them as I’ve said, “Excuse me!”  Sure, we’ve laughed about it, but my goodness, is that the first thing that comes to her mind when asked to describe how I make her laugh?

Am I that serious the rest of the time???

I decided I wanted an explanation today.  I wasn’t accusatory, but I was really hoping for some validation that I actually make my daughter laugh in other ways.

Me: “Eliza, so you wrote that I make you laugh when I burp at you.  When do I do that?”

Eliza: “Sometimes you burp at me, mom.”

Me: “Um, I never burp at you.  I’ve burped in front of you.”

Eliza: “Well it’s funny.”

Me: “Okay, but out of all the things I do with you, burping is the first thing that comes to mind when you think, ‘What does my mommy do that’s funny?’  Can you think of something else I do that’s funny?”

Eliza: “Farts?”

I don’t even know why I try.  Apparently I must be a super-serious mom who makes my child laugh only when I make bodily noises I cannot control.  Right?  Of course, I know this isn’t true.  It’s really easy to get sidetracked in parenting by something your child says or does that could easily hurt your feelings.  The truth is probably that the day she made that scrapbook page, I had burped on the way to school and it was fresh in her mind.  The truth is if she really thought about it, she could most likely think of some ways I make her laugh that are cute, and endearing, and not embarrassing.

We as parents have to remember to take these situations with a grain of salt and write them down so we can laugh at them for what they are – half-truths.  I can choose to allow myself to question my very core if I believe this is what she really thinks of me.  Or I can choose to take what she wrote and run it through the sieve of reality.

I think Ms. Kolker, the Kindergarten teacher, was onto something.  And I’m pretty sure Mrs. Woodside, her first grade teacher, knows the same.  At least I’m banking on my 50/50 odds here.

A new year to be “all here”


She is timeless.
She is timeless.

Once again, it wouldn’t be a new year without a new season of Downton Abbey.  I’m pondering the Dowager Countess Violet Crawley’s thoughts on the introduction of the telephone into the house (from season 2). After having trouble while trying to make a call, she asks, “Is this an instrument of communication or torture?”  Despite a 100-year gap between her frustration then and mine now, I’m wondering the same thing about my own phone.

We live in an increasingly overstimulated society, in which we ingest more information that people ever have before.  It seems like no matter where I am or what I’m doing, there’s a constant nagging to check e-mail, social media and texts.  I say nagging because if it were entirely up to me, I wouldn’t have a Smart phone.  I probably wouldn’t have a basic cell phone except for emergency purposes.  But there is this sense that someone else might feel ignored, or put off, if I don’t keep up.  And there’s also the fear that I might miss something important.  The problem is that while I’m afraid I’m missing something important, I’m missing something important that’s right in front of me.

It really dawned on me how much I’ve bought into this need to stay connected when I was at a New Year’s party over the weekend.  My best friend had gone on a date and I really wanted to find out how it went.  Instead of politely excusing myself and checking in with her for a quick call, I brought the phone back to the table and proceeded to text back-and-forth with her in the middle of the other conversations I was having.  It wasn’t until the next day that I realized one woman disappeared from the table without me noticing and I thought perhaps she thought I was so rude that she walked away.

The thing is, I get really annoyed when people do this to me.  I am shocked to realize that I caught myself doing it.  And on a day-to-day basis, I do this often to Greg and the kids.  I will be in the middle of texting when one of my children will ask to play a game.  I will respond, “I can’t right now, I’m busy.”  Now, sometimes I am; but sometimes I’m looking at random pictures of people I was friends with 20 years ago, getting updates about snow conditions, cubicle annoyances or new hair-dos.  And I have to seriously consider what is actually important.  Because there don’t seem to be enough hours in the day, and yet one could shoot a reel of my life, play it back to me, and point out at least an hour every day  that’s arguably wasted.  And I can’t get it back.  And my family can’t either.

So I’ve had enough so-called “multi-tasking” while at soccer practice.  I want to recapture the art of just being in the moment.  I want to appreciate the blessing of now and what’s happening right before my very eyes.  If you are my friend and you haven’t heard from me in a while, just pick up your phone and use it for its intended purpose.  After all, there might be some aspects of society 100 years ago that make me cringe.  But the Dowager Countess having my manners?  Imagine her completely ignoring everyone at dinner with her head stuck in a newspaper.  Now that would be ghastly, and possibly akin to torture.

 

 

 

Top 10 ways you know you’re a mom with young kids


Oh, and 11. You drive one of these.  Aww yeah.
Oh, and 11. You drive one of these. Aww yeah.

10. You just spoke to one of your lifelong friends for the second time this year and found out she had a boy in August: and neither of you is mad about it.

9. Your voicemail box is full because you use it to remember all the calls you still have to return and, more importantly, it serves as your contact list should you ever actually get around to making the calls.

8. When you are out alone, you constantly feel like you’re forgetting something and the lack of tiny person distractions still doesn’t make you capable of having complete thoughts.

7.  Sleep is something you used to get.  You recall a time that lying in bed awake was something you did.

6. You are constantly doing laundry, but almost none of it seems to be yours because you wear pants 3-4 times before considering them dirty and shirts twice, unless there is something very obviously wrong, like caked-on oatmeal or throw-up has tainted them.

5. You spend more time wiping other people with tissues and toilet paper than yourself.

4. You have a wart on your hand that’s been there since you got pregnant, your baby is now 8-months-old, and you haven’t used the Freeze Away you bought a month ago to get rid of it because you haven’t had time to sit down and read the directions.

3. You recall a time in the deep recesses of your brain when you were free to take last-minute weekend trips or just go out to eat.  At least you think your life used to be like that, but you don’t trust your memory and might have made it up.  Hence:

2. Your Christmas wish list is a date night, a sick day, a flannel shirt and ear plugs.

– and –

1. Your New Year’s resolution is to lose baby weight.  Even if your baby is in school.

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!!!

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

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.