Tag 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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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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Making Your Own Woven Wrap for Babywearing

This past fall my mother and I embarked on a brave quest to make my own woven wrap so I could wrap my wee baby Atticus. I became addicted to babywearing just a few months after giving birth to Atticus in February of 2013. I bought a Moby when I had Trent and unfortunately never used it, and my mom bought me one as a gift prior to having Atticus. I was determined to learn how to wear this time around. I knew that having a newborn and a toddler at the same time could be hectic if I didn’t have a way to carry around the baby without wearing out my useless/non-existent arm muscles. Woven wraps can be super expensive, I quickly realized, and I thought making my own would be a cheap alternative addition.

Atticus and I Using Our Handmade Woven Wrap
Atticus and I Using Our Handmade Woven Wrap

I won’t bore you with my wrap purchases on this post, but be warned that they’ll surely come up soon. I have a handful and they’re gorgeous and soft and fun and cozy and useful and and and…

So anyway, my mom and I decided we were going to bang out a wrap on our own! Here’s how we did it.

Making your own woven wrap

Purchase your materials. You will want a sturdy but not-too-stretchy fabric. I used Osnaburg, but some people also use tablecloth material. I bought my Osnaburg from Hobby Lobby. The cost was $4.99 per yard, but they typically have a code you can enter for 40% off one item. You can also buy Osnaburg on Amazon for around $4.98/yard. I bought 10 yards, which would have been $49.90, but after applying the 40% off code my total before shipping was $29.90. I chose to purchase 10 yards was so that I’d have plenty, since I knew the Osnaburg would definitely shrink. I definitely wanted a size 6 wrap, which is 15.09 feet or 181.10 inches, or just over 5 yards. [Find more information about wrap sizes and other information about woven wraps on PAXbaby’s Woven Wrap Guide. Be warned… once you start poking around you’ll start losing hours before you realize it]. I figured buying so much extra would either leave me enough for a shorty or a ring sling, if I ever wanted to make a second wrap.

10 yards of Osnaburg is a whole lotta fabric!

Wash the fabric. First we washed the Osnaburg on hot and dried it on hot. Again, Osnaburg shrinks, and I wanted to leave plenty of room for shrinkage before measuring and cutting. Some people suggest you wash and dry 2-3 times, but I only did it one. I lost approximately 1/2 yard.

Choose your size and cut. Next, determine for sure what size you want your wrap to be. As I mentioned above, I wanted a size 6 (just over 181 inches). In addition to the 181 inches, we left extra fabric to allow for more shrinkage and for tapering the ends. Check out this nifty Babywearing102 Formal Investigate on Tapers to see different depths of taper by wrap maker. We measured 15 inches from each end so that, not including the tapers, the wrap measured 181 inches. Then, we cut on the diagonal so the tapers weren’t too deep.

Measuring the taper 15 inches deep
Cutting the Osnaburg on the diagonal for the taper

Serge or sew the edges. After the fabric was measured and cut my mom and I took turns serging the edges. If you’re not familiar, a serger uses 4 or more spools and has the capability to trim the edges to keep it clean and even. At the end of each side I tucked the four threads back into the serged edge with a needle, then added some fray check. (*If you don’t have a serger you could fold the edges under twice and then sew it for a nice seam. It would take a little more time to do that. You could also not sew or serge at all if you don’t mind slight fraying. Fraying doesn’t effect the integrity or strength of the wrap.)

The serger makes a nice clean cut and edge
The wrap as it is being serged

Attach a middle marker on the long edge. I wanted a middle marker on my wrap, so we took a piece of ribbon and folded it in half, then held it in place with pins until we got to that point of the fabric while serging. Needles can easily (and dangerously!) break with a serger, so we removed the needles and slowly serged over the ribbon to attach it.

The ribbon is serged on for a middle marker

You can see in the picture above that because we used four colors of thread on the serger the different sides of the wrap are obvious when up close; one side is primarily purple and the other side is primarily green. New babywearers (and some veterans, too) need to be able to see the difference between the sides so the wrap doesn’t get twisted. I also wanted to be able to tell the top from the bottom (again, to prevent twisting). With this in mind, we serged one long edge with the wrap turned over, so that the opposing thread colors were on the facing side.

It was not an easy project, but it also wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, and it was very rewarding! I got to spend time with my mom, try out my new serger, and got a new baby wrap out of it! Maybe one of these days I’ll dye it. You can see below that Atty and I both love it!

A size 6 is quite long!
A close up view of the finished product
Atticus loves his new wrap!
A back view of the wrap job. Plenty of length.

Chilling With My Good Friend Sara

My good friend Sara came over today. I had the day off work, partly because I worked this past weekend, partly because PLA starts Thursday, and partly because of Arts Gala insanity next week. This pay period my schedule is all kinda of crazy. Anyway, I posted on Facebook about having a day off today, and Sara texted to see if we could chill.

I met Sara around 10 years ago, when we both worked at Buffalo Wild Wings. We both worked in the bar and we both likes to drink. It wasn’t long after meeting that we became friends and started a once-a-week (or more… usually more…) drinking outing. We would drink and play music on the jukebox and play megatouch or other bar games. Fun times were probably had by all, and they were definitely had by us. Add Lindsay into the mix and were a troublemaking trio. We were party girls, we were drinking buddies, we were bar hoppers. We made sure neither of us got stupid and that we both had fun and we cared for each other.

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Then I met Nate and we got married. Sara and Lindsay and my sister Rebecca (who deserve and will totally get their own posts) were my lovely bridesmaids.

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Then Sara quit working at the bar and so did I and we drifted a little. Then I got pregnant with Trent and we drifted more. Having kids throws a wrench in most friendships, whether you want it to or not. Anyway, Sara had her own baby two years later, and we reconnected. We laughed and joked about what it would be like to be pregnant at the same time… And then it unexpectedly happened. We both just celebrated our second sons’ birthdays, 10 days a part from each other.

Chilling with Sara used to mean meeting up at the bar for some drinks with some cash for the jukebox and megatouch and the unspoken understanding that I may end up crashing at her apartment.

Chilling with Sara means something totally different now.

Dexter, Sara’s oldest son and my godson, and Trent played trains and rode on the dinosaur car together, while Oliver and Atticus toddled around getting into everything in the house. It wasn’t us toddling around anymore. Sara and I talked about parenting and how different our routines are and how similar our expectations are. We talked about our significant others and Red Lion Grog House over a cup of tea, instead of over glasses of beer. We talked about Sara’s and Wally’s upcoming wedding. We held our noses while we changed diapers instead of holding our noses while we threw back shots.

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My, how things have changed. But I still say… chilling with Sara is one of my favorite things to do.