Category Archives: parenting

My Parents

I am thankful for many things, but one thing in particular lately: my family.

I was raised by a liberal Democrat and a conservative Republican. My mother is a teacher and my father a chemist. My dad is a well-known musician (the best… better than Trent, guys) and my mother is a creative and crafty genius and a verbal and literary wordsmith.

My mother taught me how to be a mom. I started realizing this once I married my husband and gained a stepson, and it really set in once I had two children of my own. A house full of boys. My mom, whether she or I ever realized it or not, prepared me from the time I was young to be a woman, a mother, a forgiving and thoughtful person. When I cuddle with my boys and pull them close I remember my mom doing the same. The boys bring me books to read or toys to play with and I do the special voices, follow our playful routines (and of course change things up constantly) just like I remember my patient mother doing. I look at my boys and can’t figure out how to not grit my teeth with the abundance of love and emotion I have for them, and I remember seeing the same emotions in my mommy’s face. I lose my patience with the boys sometimes, and hide in my bathroom or cry and try to explain to them what its like to be stressed and overwhelmed and then I remember that they’re kids… and I’m taken back to moments when I’d hear my mom sigh or see her frown and I know she was stressing about adult things, but she was still my mother. She still took care of us and loved us, and when I feel like I can’t do it anymore I remember these moments when she did keep doing it. Some of my favorite memories with my mom involve us going to school with her in the summer to work in her classroom. My sister and I would roam the hallways and explore the old historical original Hall School building. Afterward sometimes my mom would take us out to eat and before we got out of the car she’d ask us, “Do you want to bring in books to read, or do you want to talk?” Often we would all bring in our own books to read and we’d spend time together silently reading for part of the time and talking about the literary worlds we were currently living in the rest of the time. One of my favorite visual memories of my mom is from a family video in our first house. My sister, mom dad, granddad, and a few family friends and I were in the yard at the farm watching a litter of puppies play. My mom was taking a bucket of feed to the chickens: smiling, working, joking. Watching my sister toddling around and laughing at us while we chased the puppies. She’s wearing a skirt and its summer, or maybe spring. She was sort of like a hippy, care-free (seemingly) and laughing and outdoors-loving and just beautiful. When people tell me now that I look like her I take it as the biggest compliment. I hope I can be like her.

My dad taught me how to analyze things and how to be attentive and notice details. My dad has shown me that your plate can actually never be too full, you just have to learn how to rearrange things and ask for help and forgiveness from people. My dad taught me that things can be beautiful and relaxed and worthwhile even when you feel like you can’t go on and don’t have the space or time for things. My dad has shown me that you can make mistakes and be upset about things, and that’s okay, but then you have to pick yourself up, consider what went wrong and how to repair things, and then do it. My dad (and my mom!) showed me how to be an independent woman. Gender never got between things he did with or showed me or my sister; we learned how to properly use guns, how to hike and fish, how to make a plan and build things, how to take care of a yard and house and garden. Growing up we all did those things together; there weren’t different roles for different people. My dad showed me that one can have conservative beliefs but not be stifling.

Maybe I was just lucky to have parents that are completely different and capable of being independent. Maybe that’s why I don’t have trouble sorting out my feelings about current events and political issues, because it is possible to be a Democrat or a Republican and not be outlandishly opposed to everything the other side has to say. It is okay to question things and to push for answers, and it is okay to fight for what you believe in… once you figure out what that is.

Oh yeah, and Atticus and I set all the egg timers at Meijer in Plainfield last Friday afternoon at 1:05. I really hope someone heard them all go off and laughed and didn’t get upset because gosh I feel guilty about doing that.

Ramblings from a good terrible mom

I am the best bad parent. Because I admit it. I’m currently lounging outside my toddlers bedroom door after putting him down for bed, listening to my 4 year old play xbox downstairs while I’m up here mostly naked, poking around in my phone. What kind of mom would admit that? Me.

I just nursed Atticus until he was sleepy, then lay (lie? laid? layed?) him down. He whined a little, so I posted myself outside his bedroom to make sure he is ok with me not being there. Because I love him, and don’t want to make bedtime hard for him. Trent is downstairs but within clear hearing distance, playing a kid-friendly game (Disney Infinity) for a little bit before bedtime. He’s talking to the characters and also about me. I bet if someone walked in here it would look like I’m pretty lazy… and I sure am, but I’m also a pro at balancing pleasing my kids and giving myself a little post-work break.

I had a conversation with two currently-childless friends recently. They talked about not being sure about their desires to have kids, and I sympathized. I was there once. Then I had some, and I can’t imagine my life without them. I wouldn’t want it any other way. Surprisingly, they both told me I’ve influenced them positively in their consideration. I was baffled… I see myself as a hot mess. I’m always behind at work, I cry a lot, one of my kids is a nervous wreck like me, I spoil my kids, my house is a mess, I’m unhealthy, and I can’t keep up with housework or finances.

But I love my kids. And my friends pointed out to me that priorities are different and don’t make you a bad person, and that enjoying my kids and being myself makes me a good parent.

My house might be messy, but it’s filled with memories of good times, my lovable husband, kids and dogs, and the things we all enjoy together. I might have crap all over the place, but I’m too busy making memories with my kids to notice most of the time. I would love a clean house, but I would be really sorry if I missed a good photo opportunity of my kids because I took too long cleaning the background behind them first.

I might sit around lazily on my couch sometimes between work and bedtime, but I’d be a nutcase if I didn’t do it a little. For example, today after work I played with my kids in the children’s area at the library. Afterwards we went to Starbucks for some refreshments (for them too, I promise) and I surprised Trent by letting him pick out a new Disney Infinity character. When we got home I took care of some things, then put Atticus to bed, and am currently taking a quick break before heading down to interact with Trent. I feel guilty that I’m not always 100% present, but what parent is? My time with him in just a few minutes is going to be quality, like my nursing and cuddling time was with Atticus. I refuse to let me desire to have some alone time make me impatient or short with my kids. So I’ll help myself to both alone time and quality kid time.

I once read a blog post about two words the writer said they would never again say to their kids. “Hurry up.” It talked about how kids stop and enjoy the little things, and maybe we shouldn’t be in such a rush through our lives all the time; maybe we can take a cue from children. When I’m running late for work sometimes and trying to get the kids to daycare before I head in for a busy day, I’ve found myself telling Trent “hurry up, I don’t have all morning,” while urging him into his car seat. But I try to take a step back. He pokes along the stepping stones in the yard, pointing out interesting rocks or squatting to pick a a dandelion for me. Instead of hurrying him along I try to chill. It means I’m late to work (all the time, really a lot), but I love the little extra moments we have, and he’s teaching me to be more patient. Just the other day he picked a white, fluffy dandelion. I told him to make a wish and blow the feathery seeds away. He thought for a second and said “I wish I had one thousand mommies.” At first I was a little sad at the potential competition, and I asked him after the seeds had scattered if he wanted lots of different mommies. He said no, lots of me. It’s awesome to know how much he loves me, and hopefully it means I’m doing something right.

To know that I’ve made some people more strongly consider having kids is one of the most flattering things I’ve ever heard.

Now, excuse me, but I have some Disney Infinity to play with my son.

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A day in my garden with my boys

I almost didn’t take Friday off work as I had planned, but I did… And I’m so glad! It was a great day.

I got to sleep in a decent amount, until 9:30ish, then Atticus and I went downstairs and I did some (very little, to be honest) cleaning, which included finding a 4 oz. jar in the kitchen sink drain that I could not remove on my own…

Atticus and I went out to water the garden while Trent was still asleep. I’m so happy with how it’s growing! It seems like each summer in this house I’ve had some issue that makes the garden just fail. Pregnancy slowed me down two years, drought another, using the wrong weed killer before planting another… But this is our year so far!

I was pretty ambitious this year, but it’s because I’m determined to get some harvest! I planted about 16 heirloom tomato plants, 16 varying pepper plants (sweet, green, hot), corn, celery, cabbage, zucchini, cucumber, and several herbs. I also have potatoes, onions, rhubarb (brand new, so no harvest this year), and a few other things.

I noticed one of the mystery heirloom tomato plants (my dad often has volunteers that are strayed between several different plants, so we just wait and see what they end up being… I love it!) has some baby tomatoes on it! I’m crossing my fingers that this is either rowdy red or the grape-sized orange variety.

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I also noticed the two heirloom paste tomato plants (the only tomatoes I didn’t get from my dad) have something happening!

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I like to go around every few days and pinch the tomato crotches. Well, that’s what I call it. My mom says my granddad called it suckering the tomatoes. I’ve just always done it because my family has always done it, not sure why. If I had to guess I think it probably helps focus the nutrition in the growing plant on the blossoms instead of in worthless extra growth.

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Atticus likes to watch, mostly, but sometimes help.

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As I was looking things over Friday I noticed a giant hiding under some leaves…

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I took it to the hose to rinse off but Atticus didn’t want to wait…

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I’m hoping to have a bunch more by this next weekend for a possible pickle party. But I had to try out this guy both fresh and with some yummy vinegar.

I chopped the cucumber up as well as a small onion from the garden and threw both into a Tupperware container.

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I splashed in 2 parts red wine vinegar (I was out of apple cider vinegar) and 3 parts water, then added a small palm-full (maybe a tablespoon?) of kosher salt, and a few pinches (maybe 1/2-1 teaspoon?) of sugar, plus a shake of garlic powder. I ate some of them later that night and they are amazing!! Tried more today, two days later, and they’re so tart and a little sweet. Delish!

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Late afternoon/early evening both boys had some splash-time. They love hanging in the yard!

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A lot of nothing

I feel bad that I’m not writing as much lately. When I started this blog I feared it would be yet another thing that I get all gung-ho about and then abandon after awhile. I really don’t want that to happen.

Work has been kicking my butt lately. There are technology issues that even our IT support company are having problems solving. It feels like I’m failing in this position. When I don’t know how to fix something and the help can’t help… it comes back to me and my inability to get it done. It’s a real downer.

My house is pretty much a mess lately as well. Actually, it just is a mess. I don’t care to work on cleaning it. We did get lots of yard work done this weekend and that felt really good. We finally got the rest of our garden planted, and boy is it a doozy! I have 13 heirloom tomato plants, 16 pepper plants, a few varying cucumber plants, zucchini, cabbage, celery, dill, cilantro, rosemary, thyme, Greek oregano, 7 basil plants, corn, and I think a few other things. It was satisfying getting everything in the ground, finally. Hopefully things produce before the frost starts killing it all off.

The boys and I hit my parents strawberry patch last week for some of the first crop. I’ve offered Atticus strawberries before and he hadn’t cared to eat them, but he loved eating he ones he picked himself! Yesterday when I went to my parents’ to pick up some tomato starts my mom gave me some strawberries and both boys have been all over them.

Trent was sick last week, feverish, sore throat and and upset stomach and headache. Also a rash. He says he’s been feeling better but he is just being whiny and kind of a jerk. He’s currently in his room because he can’t stand to be around Atticus. It breaks my heart to see him acting this way. He gets so upset but also so happy. He’s such a feeler. I am too… I’m crying right now as a matter of fact. I just want him to be a happy child. I don’t want him to deal with the difficulties of anxiety or depression.

Lately I’ve just been in a funk. I’ve talked about my anxiety and depression before here. I feel like I’m not succeeding in anything I’m doing, and I’m incredibly disappointed in myself. I can’t say why, other than how terrible I am at my job and how I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing as a parent. Oh, and I’m out of shape and I am an awful housekeeper. I just want to feel okay with things and not worry or be sad about it all. I promise I’ve been taking my prescription the right way lately but it just feels like it isn’t helping anymore. I don’t know. Maybe I just need to stop thinking about it. I just have so many feelings and I can’t sort them out. And I don’t want to. I’m too tired to deal with it lately; I just want to sleep all the time.

So, there’s my bloggity blog for today. Sorry it sucks, dear world. I promise I’ll find something positive and fun to read to blog about soon. Maybe I’ll sort out all the things I plan to do with my garden harvest.

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Wait Just A Minute

“Mommy, look.” “Mommy, would you play with me?” “Mommy, can I…”

“Wait just a minute.”

I find myself saying it all the time. And while I feel like it’s justified every time I say it, I still feel guilty.

I remember getting frustrated when Nick was younger, about four years old, because he constantly wanted me to watch him do things. Sometimes all he did was jump in place. Other times it was something else: singing, dancing, riding his bike. I find myself remembering those days (Six years ago… Has it been that long?) now when Trent does the same thing. He asks me to watch him pour water on himself in the tub, or chase Atticus around, or this or that. I feel like I give my kids plenty of attention. So why do I feel guilty when I just want to finish a round of Candy Crush in peace? Or when I just want to update my Facebook status?

Kids don’t ask much. They just want out time, attention, love, guidance, and discipline. They need attention so they know whether they’re doing right or wrong. They need our attention to help build their self-esteem. And it had taken me an embarrassingly long amount of time to realize that, while on the surface it may not seem like everything they want me to watch is amazing, it actually is amazing that they want me to watch. They love me and depend on me and that includes ending my attention and verification for…well, everything.

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I’m trying to give my kids quality interactions and I’m trying not to minimize what they think is important. I firmly believe in respecting others’ perspective; my kids’ perspective is very limited because their time here on earth has been limited. I have a few years on them.

Trent thinks Disney Infinity is the greatest thing ever. He thinks his big brother Nicholas is the smartest and coolest guy in the world. He thinks I look like a princess. Atticus thinks waking up alone at night is so scary, and when I disappear for a moment alone in the bathroom he only just starting to realize I’m not gone forever. Nick, at ten, is starting to see how he and his interests and me and mine and his brothers and theirs fit into a big picture. What a vast difference these three have in their perspectives.

Every interaction I have with my kids is meaningful to them and it should be to me, too. Today when Trent asked me to watch him pour water out of a cup it was initially just that to me: water spilling out of a little plastic cup. But to him it was something important, something worth showing me. Who knows what his imagination transformed it into? I have two choices: I can validate his amazement at the little things and let him know that, regardless of how important or insignificant something seems, if it is important to him it is important to me. Or, I can blow him off and give him the impression that what he has to say isn’t important.

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My kids are important and special. I will focus on making sure they always know that.

Things breastfeeding has taught me

Breastfeeding has taught me so many things: some good, some bad, some funny and some sentimental.

1. I never knew something that seems so simple could be so difficult and stressful.
2. Who knew that my eating Mexican food could wreak so much havoc on the whole family?
3. It turns out you can fix a boo boo with more than just a bandaid and a kiss. Boob to the rescue!
4. And speaking of fixing things: who knew breastmilk could fix diaper rash, pink eye, stuffy nose, ear and eye infections, eczema, and many more things… And not only on the baby who’s nursing!?
5. Breasts are really stretchy.
6. My mom wasn’t kidding when she said nursing can cause contractions. Whooo boy.
7. Breastmilk is delicious.
8. I am capable of sustaining a human life on my own. How scary and empowering and exciting!
9. Who knew boobs could become so desensitized and underwhelming?
10. I knew breasts could make money, but didn’t realize they could save me thousands of dollars each year!
11. Speaking of monetary value, I had no idea I was capable of making something many consider “liquid gold,” that can be sold for a few dollars an ounce! But seriously, who would do that? Donate, donate, donate!
12. It turns out I can reach and then surpass my goals. As of this month I’ve been breastfeeding my second child for 13 months. Add that to the 34 months I nursed Trent and I’ve almost reached 4 years total!

What a rewarding experience breastfeeding has been for me and my family. It’s something I look forward to every day and has saved us so much money plus it has helped me nurture two healthy, happy, and strong boys. It’s created a bond between me and each child as well as one between Nate and I, as we’ve banded together to make reaching our breastfeeding goals easier.

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*I’m being brave and sharing some intimate thoughts and pictures here. Please don’t make me regret it.

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Baby Einstein: The Great Debate

It has recently been brought to my attention that one should not park their children in front of the television.

Okay. Let me start over. I promised myself I wouldn’t be rude or sarcastic. After all, as parents we are all just trying to do and be the best we can.

I’ve posted things on Facebook in the past that mention that my kids are watching television or a video. When I mention anything about Baby Einstein, though, I always catch flack. People point out articles and personal stories about how Baby Einstein can negatively impact infant and toddler development, specifically their language development. I always feel the need to defend my choices. But I try to remember that mostly people just want what’s best for others.

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It’s no surprise, at least to me, that studies show that parking a child in front of a television can negatively impact their development, even if what’s on the television is educational or specifically made for infants, toddlers, or children. A 30-minute Baby Einstein video might use a total of 30 words. A news program might use 1,000. Yes, I see the vast difference in these numbers. And also, yes I pulled those number guesses straight out of my ass.

The thing to remember is that you can’t accurately judge a situation unless you are a part of it. You can’t tell me in harming my children by showing them a video unless you witness me showing them the video. Here are a few situations in which I’ve let my children watch television:

1. I might turn on the DVD player and pop in a Baby Einstein video to do something a little different with my kids. I’ll hold Atticus in my lap and we will away and dance to the music. A puppet will come on the screen and say the word “more” and show a scene that is supposed to teach the viewer what more actually means. I’ll say “Atticus, look, isn’t that dog puppet silly? He is hungry and wants more cereal.” I’ll sign more, as the character on the DVD does, then say the word to him: “more. Look, the dog got more cereal!” Then we laugh. Trent and Atticus and I point out colors and toys and things we like on the video.

2. Atticus wakes early and Nate and I both groan and whine that it isn’t quite time to get up. If nursing and playing in the bed gets old, we pop in a DVD and let him watch it while we slowly let ourselves wake up. Atticus half watches it and half pokes, nurses, pinches, and squeals at us.

3. I need to get dishes done in one of the few gaps of time I have between working and playing with my kids. I turn on the TV (sometimes a kids’ show, sometimes a Baby Einstein video) and I beg and plead internally that it will occupy my kids’ attention long enough for me to get a chore or two done.

4. Heaven forbid I just want to watch it myself and partly relax while my children are awake. I’ll turn on the tube and keep it on in the background while I feed the boys a snack, play with the kids and dogs, do a little picking up or attempt to make a trip to the bathroom without an audience.

I realize that ideally I would never subject my children to the dreaded box. I realize that Baby Einstein and the like are marketed as developmental aids which is completely not true. I realize that some of the above examples I gave make me out to be a less-than-perfect mother. I don’t have an argument for any of these things. They’re all true.

I’m not an expert on babies. I don’t have experience in childhood education or language development. But I am an expert on my own kids and I do have experience as a mom. I’m learning every day how to be a good parent and give my kids what they deserve, just as my kids are hopefully learning new words and concepts and creativity from my talking and reading to them, playing and exploring the world with them, building and creating and exploring with them, and from the television they watch.

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He Must be Your First Baby

There’s a curious phrase I’ve heard more than once since delivering my second (my husband’s third) child just over a year ago. It always induces some weird feeling that I can’t identify, even as positive or negative. I heard it again recently and have spent a bit of time sorting out my feelings. Now you get to read all about said feelings. You lucky duck.

Today I mentioned how tough last night was. No, not because of springing forward. While turning the clocks forward or back is an annoyance in any household with young children, that honestly wasn’t the culprit this time. Atticus woke five or six times, which is not completely unusual for him. Half of those times he just wanted to cuddle and nurse and be laid back down, and half of those times he just wanted to play. Nate took turns trying to rock him to sleep, I took turns trying to nurse him back to sleep. We tried putting him in our bed to nurse and cuddle so we could all get some rest. Nothing worked perfectly, and Nate ended up giving in and getting up early this morning and taking him downstairs to start the day, leaving me to get some extra Zs before work. “I can’t just let him cry on his crib,” I said.

He must be your first baby.

No. He’s not. Trent didn’t cry it out either. Nick, apparently, was an excellent sleeper so it wasn’t ever an issue. When Trent awoke in the night I nursed and rocked him back to calm or sleep and lay him back down in his crib. But if I was too tired I just had Nate get up and bring Trent to our bed. When Atticus wakes at night I rock and nurse him until he’s calm or asleep. But if I’m too tired I just ask Nate to get up and bring him back to our bed. We don’t co-sleep from the start of the night because I’m a light and picky sleeper, but after a few waking a we give in. Babies are only babies for a short while. I know they are capable of manipulating but I also don’t care. They won’t need me forever, and being tired isn’t a big deal. I will give them what they want while I’m still able to easily provide it for them. Some nursing, some cuddles, and some help getting back to sleep never killed anyone, and in fact we love it.

Yes, I’m tired. Yes, I sometimes pretend not to hear the baby waking at night in the hopes that my husband will somehow magically turn the baby’s tears off. And yes, I find myself dreading the first (and second, and third…) middle-of-the-night waking. But when the day is on and night is over I’m just fine and my baby is happy and fulfilled. And another day older.

He must be your first baby.

No, dear peanut gallery, he isn’t my first baby. I make just as many mistakes and give in just as much with this one as I did with the first. My first baby is four now and won’t ever again need me the way he did when he was a baby. I’ll never get the baby time back, and I intend to baby my babies, and to spoil them completely rotten. And I’m okay with that.

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Hey Brother

Looking through pictures of my kids is something I do frequently. They are all three so different and wonderful.

Though Nick isn’t mine by birth I love him so much. He’s generous and smart and mature beyond his ten years. I am so lucky to consider myself a parent to him, even if not by birth and even if I only see him every other weekend. Nate and I have a fantastic relationship with Nick’s mom which totally helps keep things sane. He is a sports-lover like his mom, and an avid reader and video gamer. I love discussing books with him… If only I understood sports enough to hold a conversation about that with him.

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Trent is my crazy and passionate 4 year old. My labor and delivery with him were totally a sign of things to come. He was an awful sleeper and a needy baby, but he has taught me more about patience and love than I ever hoped to know. That boy puts his heart and soul into everything he does. If he sings he does it loud and proud with hearty vibrato! If he gets upset the whole world might as well know it. If he hugs and kisses you can expect the best hugs and kisses you’ve ever known.

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Atticus is still so young and little, but I can tell he is going to be a charismatic wallflower, like Charlie from Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower. He’s such a quiet observer you’d think he isn’t even paying attention but he always is. He’s a little guy who loves to socialize quietly and sweetly and on his terms. But he’s so sweet you’d never know -or care- that they’re indeed his terms.

I am so proud of these boys. Every day they teach me something new and make me laugh. As soon as I begin to think my day/week/life can’t get any worse they make me realize that I am the luckiest. I am so happy to be able to influence and be influenced by them.