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.

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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.

 

Parenting lesson #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.

Parenting lesson #24: Change is often easier for children than it is for us.


IMG_4463I think I remember – but I’m not sure – that babies cry a lot, and at all times of the day and night.  Because our other two children know how to sleep all night long, baby #3 is going to need his or her own room from which to launch wailing attacks on the rest of us.  We knew the day would come when Eliza and Zach would get real beds.  I just didn’t know it would be so easy for them, yet make me cry.  (Though, as I’ve already explained, pregnancy can cause you to cry at the drop of a hat.  Literally, if someone dropped a hat, it could make me cry.)

This weekend Greg put together the bunk bed I ordered from Amazon.  Mattresses arrived; new choo-choo train and butterfly sheets came.  I really only teared up a little at the process, watching the shift before my very eyes of my children growing out of their little years into beds that grown people can use.  The kids are in heaven, already putting stuffed animals on the fan blades from the top bunk and sending them on carousel rides around the room until they fly off.  They have transitioned beautifully.  They are not scared.  They seem happy to be sleeping in the same room.  And that’s making it slightly easier on me.

But I sit here a bit nostalgic because of unforeseen ramifications.  Our bedtime routine for more than two years with Eliza, and a year with Zach, has included cuddle time in their toddler beds as we cling to a final few talking, processing, praying moments.  Now that Eliza is up on a top bunk, I can climb up pretty easily, but not down on my belly the way it is safe to climb down.  For now, I can cuddle with her on Zach’s bed or our bed, but it’s not the same thing.  Not only that, but on my way to bed later on at night, I always go into each room and admire their angelic, sleeping faces, tuck them in again, and kiss them one last time.  I can still do this with Zach, but I can’t with Eliza.  At least not without waking her up.  And it makes me melancholy.

As our children grow and begin new phases, there are often unintended consequences that we can’t foresee.  Some are welcome changes on the road to independence.  And others make us long for the times we didn’t know we cherished until they’re gone.  The end of the nursing relationship brings welcome freedom, but also a sadness of the loss of the bond.  Potty training means (generally speaking) an end to cleaning smeared poop in all sorts of crevices, but it also means you have to stop in a LOT more public restrooms for toilet breaks.  I know this fall, the beginning of Kindergarten will end the phase of Eliza’s life when she has spent most of her waking hours with me instead of someone else.  And on and on it will go, until these children either go off to college or get married, or maybe until we throw all their belongings in the yard.  (You never know what’s in store.)

It’s easy to worry about how our kids will adjust to changes as they grow.  But I think so far I’ve learned that change seems to be harder for us than for them.  Children seem to adapt to new circumstances pretty well, especially if we have prepped them for what’s to come.  We have spent several months telling the kids about the “cool” bunk beds they would get.  We acted like they were getting a new toy.  In retrospect, that’s probably why they have already turned the top bunk into a game lair for launching stuffed animals off the fan.  I’m anticipating the first bunk bed injury, which will no doubt lead to some serious crying.  But as we are getting ready for a new baby anyway, the inevitable tears will be good preparation for what’s to come – another life change for us, another life that will be born, and will bring with it a childhood that goes from phase to phase all too quickly.

The joys of pregnancy: uncontrollable crying


Violet Crawley“I’m a woman, Mary, I can be as contrary as I choose.”  – Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham, to her granddaughter, Lady Mary Crawley, in Downton Abbey.

And I will add that there is never a time when a woman is more contrary, irrational or emotional as when pregnant.

We keep a thankfulness journal as a family, and at dinner we talk about something for which we are thankful and write it down.  Last night, Greg said he was thankful that he is not the one who has to be pregnant.  Here’s why.

Yesterday Greg helped me remove everything from our minivan (car seats, donation items, stroller, etc.) so I could go get it washed and vacuumed.  I went to our usual place around 2 p.m. to find a crazy line.  The big banner with hours listed said it was open until 6 p.m.  I decided to go back around 5:15, at which time I found they had closed off the line and put up cones, not to mention covered up the closing hours on the sign.  The pregnancy-induced rage that can rise so quickly to such a level boiled over and I got out of my car and began to move the cones.  Someone came over to tell me they were closed.  There’s no need to detail the rest of my discussion with the owner; all you need to know is that it reduced me to a heap of tears, as cars got stuck behind our van on a busy street, causing a ton of road rage and honking.  I came home rather quickly, and Greg saw my face and asked why I was crying (because despite my drive home and sitting outside the house trying to stop the flow, there was no ending this cry quickly).  I think I managed to blurt out, “They covered up the closing time on the banner and put up cones and then the owner had the balls to tell me they close at 4 and I just started crying and I can’t stop.  I’m pregnant, that’s why I’m crying!”

I am fully aware that many women are capable of manipulating with tears to get what they want.  I’ve heard several stories about women doing this to, say, get out of traffic tickets.  However, this was not that.  The pregnancy cry can come on at any time, over any little thing, and more often than not, you don’t WANT to be crying, and that just makes you cry more because you can’t stop.

It’s all part of the wonderful experience, I guess.  It’s times like these when I’m so grateful Greg understands that there is no way to understand what I’m going through and he just offers support and love.  He offered to vacuum out the car.  He helped put everything back into it for me.  And though it’s not clean, it’s raining today anyway, and would have just become an instant, muddy mess again.  I’m thankful that he realizes he should be thankful not to have to be pregnant.

And as for crying, it eventually stopped.  In fact, I think my tear ducts were empty, because Downton Abbey was super sad last night, and I didn’t even shed a tear.

Parenting is the penultimate sacrifice


IMG_0068The Christmas season always makes me pause and think of baby Jesus.  And this year, I think I’m particularly pensive because we are expecting our third child in the spring.

It is nearly impossible for me to explain the desire to have more offspring of our own, despite knowing there are children out there who need parents to adopt and foster them.  When Greg and I sat down on a date night earlier this year and attempted to come up with solid, defendable reasons to “go for it,” we could not come up with anything that would hold up in court.  We reminisced about how quickly Eliza had grown from a baby into this young lady before even turning four-years-old, and about how Zach was out of toddlerhood and we couldn’t really imagine this being “it.”  But financially, time-wise, and considering life goals and dreams, a third seems draining, life-postponing and honestly scary.

And yet, here we are.  We still desired this.  God has blessed us with this expectant being that is definitely growing inside of me – at a rate that is either atypical or else I’m eating way more than I did the first two times.  I don’t know how to defend this life, this bringing into our fallen world yet another child when I don’t even agree with breeding pets instead of rescuing ones who would be euthanized.  (Please don’t misunderstand me.  This is my own personal struggle, and I am not judging anyone else for having zero children or 20.  Okay fine, perhaps I might consider you crazy to have 20 … )

But then I think of baby Jesus.  I am reminded that I believe life – every life – has a purpose.  I believe God is the creator and sustainer of life, and there is no life that comes into being that He does not ordain.  He must have a purpose for not only this child, but also for Greg and me as his or her parents.  And I hope, as I ponder the true meaning of this Christmas season, to somehow put it into words.

Raising children is the ultimate true love experience on earth.  When Eliza was born, I was slightly mad at everyone with children who had congratulated me in pregnancy and acted excited.  I felt betrayed, like my friends had lied to me about what it would be like.  I had never been so exhausted, nor ever felt like my life had so changed into something that required so much sacrifice from me.  I didn’t want to give what was required.  Truly, I had to die to myself in a lot of ways: I had lost the freedom to do what I wanted when I wanted, the ability to walk out the door responsible only for myself, and the basic right I thought I had to sleep.  Looking back, I was actually going through a sanctification; God was making me more like himself.  To live this life as a Christ-follower means we are to take up our crosses and follow Him daily.  When you are serving your children by extending unconditional love to them, you are becoming holy; you are loving the way Jesus loved others.

There is a Friends episode about how you cannot give with pure intentions because you are still getting the good feeling inside from serving.  But what that show didn’t address was service to others that comes with no guarantee of feeling good in return, such as what Christ did for us (knowing every person would have to choose to love him back and his sacrifice would go unclaimed by so many).  Yes, parenting is rewarding because my children make me laugh, they are affectionate, they tell me they love me, and they more easily forgive than any grown-ups I know.  But in the next moment after doing one of those sweet things, they can tell me they hate me, or that they love their daddy the most, or that I’m the meanest mom in the world.  Hurt and ingratitude are never more than a moment away.  Betrayal and disobedience are daily occurrences.  Anyone who continues to serve a child, or perhaps a disabled parent, or a spouse ailing with Alzheimer’s is extending the grace, and mercy, and undeserved love that Christ did.  No matter the good moments, those we serve in this way will never be able to repay us the debt.

My grandfather was one of the greatest men who ever lived.  He was funny, he was generous, and he went to hell and back in World War II; yet what I will remember most about him is how he cared for my grandmother for 20 years at home until her Alzheimer’s finally (and mercifully) killed her.  I never knew her for who she was before her illness.  It is so difficult to admit this, but I often viewed her as a sick woman whose life no longer had meaning.  I sometimes hated my grandfather for loving her like he did.  As a child, I watched her go through phase after phase of the disease, speaking gibberish, spitting because she forgot how to swallow saliva, hitting and scratching and punching my grandfather as he tried to dress her or feed her.  I honestly confess that I couldn’t understand why he did what he did.  I felt like he was putting us all through such a miserable experience when she “belonged” in a nursing home.  I was embarrassed when he insisted on bringing her to restaurants with us as if things were normal, and then she would have outbursts and spit her food at us and even sometimes others.  And for days, and weeks, and years he did this, always gently speaking kindly and lovingly to her, stroking her cheek and telling her in German that he was her Guenter, and all was okay.

Only now that I am a parent can I honestly grasp what he was doing.  The world would say that what he did was a waste.  And perhaps in some ways his time could have been better spent.  But I believe there is no other higher purpose we can serve on this earth than to love others the way Christ loves us: as we are, in an undeserving and unlovable state of sin.  Jesus valued everyone and didn’t look on the lame or the sick or the needy as lesser people; rather, he served them in love.

Having children who, despite all we do for them, could turn out to hate us, or be drug addicts, or murderers, and then loving them anyway and always, appears to me to be the highest calling.  In the same way our children are sinful and thus capable of the worst offenses, God gives us free will so we can choose his path – which by definition means we have the freedom to turn our backs on Him and follow our selfish desires.  I will never win an award or a bonus check for what I’m doing as a mom.  But that’s what selfless service, what really putting others first, what true love, is all about.

That is the reason why we know a third child (even of our own) is a blessing from God.  He has chosen to create this life, and with it, given our family another chance to love unconditionally (albeit imperfectly).  As I consider the birth of Jesus, and how his perfect life models a standard we can never match but for which we should strive, I will be thankful that no matter what is to come with this child or my other two, I have been given an opportunity to love fully.  Reminding myself daily of Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice – to choose to die for you and me and everyone else so that we could be reconciled with a perfect God – helps me pour out myself for my family despite my own hopes and dreams.  It gives me the strength to make this penultimate sacrifice.

God knows children present an opportunity to know Him more fully and to better understand his love for us.  He uses them to draw us to the baby in the manger, so holy and perfect, yet humbly born in a barn because he is the king who came to serve instead of be served (Matthew 20:28).  Merry Christmas!