This Month's Topic: Focus on Finance

Summers are Overrated

Yeah. I said it.

Summers aren’t all what they’re cracked up to be.

Especially summers with toddlers.

IMG_4399Don’t get me wrong. There are some wonderful things that happen in the summer: grilling and eating outdoors, vacations, no early wake-ups for school, packed lunches at parks, fresh fruits and veggies, isolated thunderstorms, cousin playdates outside of the house.

But for the most part, summers are just too much. Too much work. Too much humidity. And too much guilt.

Here are my top eight reasons why summers are overrated:

  1. It’s hot. And from my own personal, super-fun experience, when kids get hot, they get whiny. They get clingy. And they really get on my nerves. The last thing you want when you’re hot and sweaty is to have a hot, sweaty kid whining for you to pick them up.
  1. Summer sun isn’t a joke. Especially if you have skin like my kids and I do. Judging by my freckles, my kids have some fair skin in their genes. Fair and sensitive skin is not the summer sun’s best friend. Unless you are equipped with some top-notch, extra-sensitive, mineral-based sunscreen that’s SPF 98, good luck!IMG_2979
  1. It’s buggy. See the picture of my poor Sophia from last summer after being attacked by a few mosquitos. Need I say more?
  1. It requires a lot of work and a whole lot of stuff. You can’t just run to the pool for an hour or so at the drop of a hat. It requires serious planning and organization. You need to pack suits, swim diapers, puddle jumpers, sunscreen, towels, dry clothes, toys, etc. And don’t get me started about unpacking when you get home. With your hot, whiny, clingy kids. Who want you to carry them.
  1. The grass needs to be cut. There is nothing that bums me out more as a stay-at-home mom in IMG_4697the summer than when the weekend comes and all I’m thinking of is the help I’m going to get from my husband and then he says the dreaded words: “I need to get the grass cut at some point.” AHHH! Oh, and I can’t even bring myself to think about yard work… Let’s just say I can’t wait for my kids to get old enough to actually help with the mulch, instead of just looking cute with gardening gloves on
  1. Bathing suits. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’ve seen the blogs about being proud of your body, owning your imperfections and all that jazz. And believe me, I’ve loved them and admired the women writing them. But when it comes down to it, it’s still me in a bathing suit. And I have to deal with that every single time I pull the dreaded suit out. Not to mention all the fun positions you are forced into while dealing with kids. There is no graceful way to pull your child out of his car seat or pick a crying child off the ground while wearing your bathing suit. It just isn’t a pretty sight, no matter who you are.
  1. The days IMG_4340are longer. I love my kids. I do. And I actually really love summer evenings. They’re cooler, no sunscreen is required, and Adam is home. If it weren’t for the bugs, they’d be perfect. But these lovely, almost-perfect evenings mean the kids go to bed a whole hour or so later than usual. And an hour or so later really cuts into that quality alone or married time. By the time the kids are finally in bed, the day is over and all I want to do is collapse in my bed. Productivity takes a real hit in the summer.
  1. It brings on some serious guilt. I swear, on rainy summer days, I literally sigh with relief at the breakfast table. A rainy day means I’m off the hook for fun outdoor activities. When I wake and the sun is shining its beautiful light, the grass is glistening with dew and the birds are singing, I instantly feel the pressure to do SOMETHING, ANYTHING outdoors. And based on a number of the aforementioned things that make summer not so great, sometimes I don’t want to bask in the summer sun. But I feel like I’d better not take those beautiful days for granted. It’s quite the conundrum.

Now, in all honeIMG_4745sty, about 90 percent of the time, I really love summer. The hard parts are mere blips in the radar when I look back on the day. The memorable moments are so sweet among the sunscreen, bugspray, sweat and insecurities that make up summer.

Like when you glance over and see your oldest child halfway up a huge pine tree in your backyard, and you’re partly scared to death, and partly super proud of him.

Or when you watch him really get the hang of riding a bike.

And then there’s the sweet sight of your kids swinging next to each other and giggling about some inside joke.

IMG_4936And when popsicle juice is dripping all the way down to their elbows and they’re grinning like crazy with bright red lips.

Or that first time your baby gets in the pool and his rolls are out in all their glory. And then giving baby a bath afterwards, here are some bath tub recommendations by Baby iDesign.

It’s even memorable when your son runs up to the self-declared “pee bush” in the backyard and you unexpectedly see his naked, very white tushy in the sweet summer sun.

IMG_4943And there is nothing cuter than your kids in sunglasses and hats.

So, maybe summer isn’t overrated. Because as I finish this blog I started writing this afternoon, I find my mood has changed now that I’m writing these words at 10 at night. And on summer nights, when the kids are all in bed, the swimsuits are hung up to dry, the ceiling fan is blowing cool air on my very tired (but a good tired) self, these days seem really sweet. Hard, but very sweet.IMG_4693

Ok, I guess I like summer a lot. Or maybe I hate it. It just depends on when you ask me.

 

What Comes After Why

“Leave that bush alone, Brayden.” 

“Why?”

“I just saw three bees fly out of it. I don’t want you to get stung.”

“Why do bees sting?”

“To protect themselves if they think they’re being attacked.”

“Why would they think they were being attacked?”

“If you swat at them or go stomping into a bush where they’re looking for flowers, they might think you were attacking them.”

“Why do they look for flowers?”

(In lieu of answering, at this point I usually announce there will be no more questions and try to change the subject.)

Brayden asks a lot of questions. Always has. And most of his questions begin with “why.” Overall, it’s a good thing. I love that he loves to learn, and I love that he’s found such an easy way to do it. Ask a question, get an answer. Realize the answer leads to more questions, and get more answers by asking them. Simple enough.

If I had more patience, Brayden would probably know more than the first few books in the Encyclopedia Britannica set by now. (Do those still exist?)

Then Anna came along.

“Don’t jump off the couch, Anna.”

“What?”

“Don’t jump off the couch.”

Or:

IMG_0509“Do you remember when we met Cinderella and ate dinner at her castle?”

“What?”

“When we went to Disney World and met Cinderella and ate at her castle. Do you remember?”

“What dinner was it?”

Or, my personal favorite:

“Do you know who’s my favorite little girl?”

“What’s a favorite little girl?”

(You might think she’s hard of hearing, but she’s not. We had her tested.)

I think the best, though, is when Brayden gets in on the action:

Me: “OK, guys, we’re going to leave the pool and stop at the library on our way home to get some books.

Anna: “What?”IMG_0511

Me: “We’re leaving the pool and stopping at the library.”

Brayden: “Why?”

Me: “To get some books.”

Brayden: “Why are we getting books?”

Me: “Because I thought you might like them to read.”

Anna: “What books?”

Me: “Whichever books you want. You can choose.”

Brayden: “Why aren’t you going to pick, Mom?”

Me: “Because I thought you would like to pick out your own books.”

Brayden: “Why aren’t you getting a book?”

Me: “I’ll pick out my own book after you pick out your books.”

Brayden: “Why not first?”

Me: “I don’t know! Do you want me to go first? I can go first and pick out a book. I’d be happy to do that.”

Anna: “What book?”

Why I don’t turn the car around and head for home – or a bar – after some of these conversations is beyond me.

 

The ‘Tude, the Mood and the Max

Hello out there, cyber world!

Sisters have taken quite the leave of absence from the old blogging universe, but I am ready to get back to it!

So, to catch you up, I am currently the mother to a boy named Noah who will be 4 in about one week, a girl, Sophia, who is 2 and a half years old, and a new little guy named Max, who is 2 months old.IMG_4374

Life is hectic but, for the most part, really lovely.

But let’s cut to the chase. Those three little people are more than just their ages. They are the ‘tude, the mood, and the… well, Max. And one of these little personalities may just send me to the old folk’s home early.

Max, to be fair, has been a really sweet baby. Not quite the sleeper that Sophia was (that girl was born to sleep), but as 2 month olds go, I cannot complain. He eats well, sleeps large chunks at night, and is, for the most part, a happy little guy. OK, Max, today, June 11, 2015, you get a pass. I will not blame you for any gray hairs… today.

IMG_0031Oh, but Noah and Sophia, we have to talk. I am at a loss!

Noah is like a hormonal teenager. I cannot keep up with his mood swings. He’s either laughing like a hysterical maniac or crying like one. He’s high, he’s low and he’s never just in between. He’s on this emotional roller coaster, and he keeps dragging me in the seat next to him. The problem is: I’m just never able to buckle my seat belt before it takes off.

This boy who before the age of 3 was the most amicable, good-natured, even-keeled kid, has turned into someone I fear. Not because he’s angry or aggressive. No, no. He’s just one wrong look away from a complete meltdown.

I seriously walk on eggshells around him. I try to keep my voice calm and pleasant even when he’s in trouble because I normally don’t have the energy to discipline an emotionally distressed little boy AND talk him off the ledge.

My sister tells me her 3 year old is acting dramatic, too, and while I take solace in that fact, my mom also tells me that I was exactly the same way as a child, and it took me a long, LONG time to grow out of it.

So, there’s that.

And then there’s my girl, Sophia.

Or, as I call her, Ms. ‘Tude.

I walk on eggshells around this one, too. Only for totally different reasons. I just can’t trust her. The girl is manipulative and, at this point, seems to be lacking the empathetic, remorseful gene. Don’t get me wrong. She loves and she loves hard. She loves her family, especially Max. In fact, she loves Max a little too much. She’s always in his face, always kissing and touching him. She even will stop in the middle of her own little tantrums to say, “Hi, little baby,” as she caresses any part of him she can reach. It’d be hilarious if it weren’t so NOT funny.

The girl is throwing me for a loop. I’ve gotten used to my little Noah. Well, up until this past year. I am familiar with the rule followers, those with an innate fear of adults, and those who cry when they’re in trouble. I am a stranger to the kids who think, “Is she looking over here?”, “I wonder if she’ll follow through with that threat?” and “Trouble? Ah, who cares!”IMG_4115

Oh, Sophia cries all right, but I’m starting to suspect that behind most of her tears is manipulation, topped off with a little scheming. Most of the time, she’s a suspicious millisecond late to begin the crying – as in she quickly assesses the situation to see if she can get anything out of shedding some tears. If she can get an extra hug, treat, Band-Aid, or someone else yelled at, she’ll go for the all-out wail. If she sees no plus side to tears, she’ll shake it off.

I’ve got to say, I don’t like that little personality feature one bit.

And she never cries when she’s in trouble, unlike her “sensi”-brother. (He’s totally J.D. from “Scrubs”). No, no. She’ll merrily skip to her time-out corner, that spot that Noah DREADS, cheerily call out, “Start counting!”

Yikes.

My mom says that I was a lot like her, too, when I was little. Only my mom calls it “spunky.” I guess the rose-colored glasses are a gift when you become a grandmother. ‘Cause this girl isn’t just “spunky.”

So, these two extremely different kids have got me thinking about the whole nature vs. nurture phenomenon. On the one hand, they have been blessed (blessed?) with a few of my fun (fun?) qualities and, on the other hand, they are SO, SO different. Is there really even a battle between nature vs. nurture or are these two actually friends who juIMG_4305st add whatever qualities they deem fit (or entertaining)?

I shudder to think about what fun-loving combination will be worked out for my happy little Max. I’m sure there’s some fun stuff left from Adam and me that will show its ugly (UGLY!) face sooner or later.

For now, though, I will find peace in one thought: Even though I surely don’t know what to expect or how to handle these darling, newly developed personalities (although I will continue to work on that), these two sure know how to handle each other. They are truly BEST FRIENDS. They just GET each other.

Just another reason I thank God for siblings. They’ll always have each other when I just can’t stand them.

Inching Toward Joy

I held my breath and shifted in my seat. The girl was talking to Anna again. I watched as the older girl with the swinging ponytail and black leotard jabbed at the air with her finger, indicating Anna should get out of her way. Again.

Anna stared at the girl and retreated on the balance beam a bit, visibly shrinking, mouth closed tight. I swung my foot back and forth on the cold bleacher where I could only watch from afar and wish that I could will my only daughter courage, and more than a little confidence.

IMG_0453It was Anna’s third gymnastics class. She loved it. She ran, she somersaulted, she jumped, she slid, and she smiled. Oh, she smiled. For a girl who’s only recently begun to smile more often than frown, watching Anna’s joy at gymnastics has been one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. So why was she letting this girl get her down?

I looked across the gym at Brayden, running, jumping and playing with his own class of similarly aged boys. Brayden’s dimpled grin and sweat-mopped brow were on full display as he grabbed a rope and launched himself – “American Ninja Warrior”-style – from one block to another. Sticking the landing, he laughed and clapped hands with another boy standing nearby. He probably didn’t even know his name.

What was the difference, I thought from my perch on the other side of the glass partition. How can he be so unshackled and devil-may-care, so sure that these other boys are friends? I thought back to my own childhood, my own painful shyness in which one less-than-completely-kind word could leave me shattered. I knew Anna came by her timidity honestly, but what could I do to help her?

IMG_0435If only I could harness Brayden’s sociability, I thought. If only I could show her how much better the coming years would be for her if she could face them head-on and fearless. That there’s really nothing to fear. If you believe the people around you are your friends, that’s exactly what they’ll be.

It took me years, of course, to come to that realization myself. Years of self-doubt that crippled me. I would do anything in my power to take away those years for Anna and replace them with years filled with the joy she’s starting to learn from only three classes of gymnastics.

How can I help her?

Fight through it, Anna, I urged from my place at the sidelines, frustrated that my place will increasingly be at the sidelines for Anna in social situations such as these. Don’t let her take your joy.

Slowly, Anna started inching forward again, still not responding to the girl with the swinging ponytail, but moving forward nonetheless. I watched my daughter’s focus, one inch at a time, and I knew her path ahead wasn’t going to be an easy one, but I finally felt able to exhale.

 

I Need a Drink When…

There are times throughout the week when my mind leaves the whining/crying/screaming scene my body has been thrust into and thinks, “I could really use a glass of wine right now.”

Do I drink too much? I don’t think so. Have my thoughts of “I could really use a glass of wine right now” increased since having kids? Without a doubt.

While sipping my second glass of chardonnay tonight, I pondered the most typical reasons I’ve been driven to drink recently.

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Anna getting into the plank position.

10) Our air conditioner breaks in the middle of summer.

It did today. Hence the second glass of chardonnay tonight.

9) Anna goes into the plank position.

For whatever reason, this seems to be Anna’s go-to tantrum position of late. She gets angry and lowers herself onto her hands and feet. (For what it’s worth, she has great form. I think she could have a future as a yogi… if I’m using that word correctly.)

8) Brayden asks me for a sucker.

If you read my post from Friday, you understand.

7) Kevin’s traveling.

My husband usually travels one night a week for work. It’s not bad, but after the kids are in bed, I think I’m due a glass of wine for my troubles. When he was out of town for four nights in a row recently, you do the math. (And add a few more for good measure.)

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The first reason I like wine…

6) Brayden asks me “why”…  for the 13th time in a row.

When he started asking “why” after everything I said a year or so ago, I thought it was cute. Now, I quickly get annoyed. In the winter, I remember being so proud of myself for patiently explaining to Brayden the meaning of the word “sibling.” I spent literally five minutes explaining the definition, what it meant in terms of his and Anna’s relationship, and the difference between a “brother” and a “sister.” Brayden sagely nodded along with me and replied “yes” whenever I asked, “Do you understand?” Then, as soon as I was finished, he pointed out the car window and, just as sagely, remarked, “That’s a truck.”

And we’re done here…

032

…and the second

5) Anna asks me “why.”

This has only started in the past few days, so it should still be cute. But, because she’s mimicking Brayden, it’s already getting under my skin. I’ll tell her something, and she’ll chirp “why” back at me. I truly don’t think she knows what she’s saying, so I don’t feel that bad when I revert to my tried-and-true “I don’t know” response.

4) Brayden excitedly summons me to the bathroom to check out the size of his poop.

Again, this is fairly recent. Up until a month ago, he was still requesting a diaper each time he had to have a bowel movement. So I should be appreciative. But when I follow his eager cries into the bathroom and obligingly, although not happily, peer into the toilet, I want to have an out-of-body experience that involves a glass of something strong. Immediately.

3) I hear the kids snickering from the living room. (Or from anywhere, really.)

This usually means they’re up to no good. It can be confirmed with a simple question to Brayden. “Brayden, what are you guys doing?” His voice goes up one octave and he hurries toward me from wherever he’s been so he’s within sight. “Nothing, Mommy! Don’t worry. We’re fine.” That should always be taken to mean that it is something, I should worry and, while they may be fine, I will probably not be after discovering what it is they’re doing.

004

Don’t let their smiles fool you. They can be plenty mischievous!

2) The kids get dirty or have naked time at Sarah’s house.

I really don’t like it when they get dirty, as I know I’ve mentioned more than once. My first thought afterward is usually, “Oh, geez. They need a bath,” followed quickly by, “I need a drink.” Today, when we were at Sarah’s house playing with Noah’s new water table, we let the kids play in their diapers and underwear, already a rough thing for me. But then Sarah decided Anna’s diaper was too heavy and decided to take it off. While Anna wandered around clutching herself in confusion, I fought back the urge to politely excuse myself.

1) Anytime I leave Kroger

I have nothing against Kroger in principle, but I have plenty against the experience of taking at least one child with me there every Sunday to do a week’s worth of shopping. It’s horrid. Brayden’s definitely the better kid to take these days because of the beauty of bribery, but when Anna is with me, she insists on holding everything I pick up, and then hurling it on top of the bread in the cart. And don’t even get me started on when all the free cookies are gone…

As I stare into the bottom of my now empty wine glass, I want to feel guilty but I don’t. I just can’t. These years are trying, and if wine is going to get me through the hard days, then so be it. I’m sure there are much worse vices I could have. Like sticking my tongue out, crossing my eyes and repeating “why” in my most annoying voice whenever one of my kids says it.

Yes. That would be worse. I definitely shouldn’t do that.

My Son is Too Cool

It’s official: Austin is too cool for me.

Isn’t he a little young to be feeling this way? I’ve been having suspicions for awhile now, but yesterday at the photography studio, my fears were confirmed.

I thought it would be so much fun to get Austin’s professional 6-month pictures taken. We booked an appointment with my cousin Jen (Limelight Photo Works) and ventured down with several outfits in tow. My mom met us there and brought a rocking horse with her as a prop. We were golden. Austin had been laughing and babbling the whole way there, so I just assumed my son would be the happiest, best baby they had ever photographed, naturally.

This is all we got yesterday, "what mom?"

This is all we got yesterday: “What, Mom?”

Naturally, I was wrong.

We started off OK, with little smiles here and there and lots of drool, and I was feeling pretty confident that our hour would go great. After the first outfit change, though, (note to self: only bring one or two outfits for a 6 month old at a photo shoot, not four; four was ambitious), Austin got a little crabby. He did not enjoy all of us in his face trying to get him to smile and laugh.

I can’t imagine why.

I was blowing in his face, giving him raspberries, tickling him, making funny faces. I did everything short of standing on my head. Nothing. The kid looked at me like he was embarrassed for me. That is not a good look to get from your 6 month old.

I swear my son has an awesome smile!

I swear my son has an awesome smile!

After an hour, my mom and I were physically and emotionally exhausted from trying to get Austin to crack even a little smile, and we called it quits. He cried, he frowned, he was not having it. Every once in awhile he would give a little half smile, as if to say, “You are so lame, Mom.”

It hurt. I’m not going to lie.

Austin and I got in the car and, of course, he laughed and babbled the whole way home. Stinker. Maybe we got one good one? There has to be at least one, right? Hopefully, I’m not the only one who has experienced this ordeal, but I’m thinking his 1-year picture session will have to be better!

Cutting the Pacifier Crutch

Anna is crying right now.

I hate it when she cries, although it happens often. I’m sitting in the living room, trying to zone out the noise, just as I did almost a year and a half ago, when we first let her cry it out at naps and bedtime.

Then, we let her cry because she was waking up four or five times a night and, frankly, with a toddler under 2 in the house, as well, it just had to stop. We gave her a pacifier and prayed. She caught on pretty quickly, though, and was sleeping eight hours straight after only a night or two.

011

Anna’s pacifier habit started early.

I’m hoping that this time is the same way.

We’re letting her cry it out now because we’re weaning her off the pacifier, the crutch I’ve been using since we let her cry it out when she was only 5 months old. When she was a baby, our system went something like this: Anna would start crying, and I’d pop the pacifier in her mouth. It really didn’t matter why she was crying; the pacifier always soothed her.

Her first year went by fairly smoothly; as smoothly, I guess, as the first year can when you have a toddler not even a year and a half older. But then Anna turned 1, and things got harder. She started getting teeth, and she’d whine. She developed a fierce attachment to me, so that whenever I left the room, she’d whine. If anyone else tried to hold her, she’d whine.

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Here she is last Halloween, dressed as the well-known pacifier-sucking owl.

For the past year, whenever Anna’s whined, I’ve played a game called, “Anna, where’s your pacifier?” She comes toward me with arms outstretched, her face red and blotchy and eyes dotted with tears, and I quickly counter with, “Anna, where’s your pacifier? Go find it, honey. It’s in the other room.”

So, it’s probably more my fault that Anna became increasingly dependent on her pacifiers. It got to the point where she’d have to have one in her mouth at all times, and we’d have to perform a little ritual each time we got out of the car where we put the pacifier in the cup holder and said goodbye.

But Anna’s still not talking very much. And I knew it was time to pull the plug on the pacifier crutch.

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Play time usually involved a pacifier for a long stretch there.

I did it Sunday, and I didn’t just yank them as I did with Brayden. He was much less dependent on his, though, and only used them when he was sleeping, not around the clock like Anna. I cut the tops off of her pacifiers, then, when she whined for them, I handed them to her and said, “Here you go.”

Kevin thought it was mean.

“I know, sweetie. It is sad,” he’d say consolingly to her when she grew frustrated trying to catch the thing in her teeth.

She’d shove it in and it would fall back out. She’d angrily grab it off the floor and shove it back into her mouth, only to have it fall back out.

I admit, it was hard to watch. But I believe then as I believe now that it’s for the best. And Kevin now agrees with me, too.

003

Security at the ready: her pacifier and bunny loveys

It only took an hour or so on Sunday for Anna to just give up on the pacifier and chuck it when she wasn’t in her crib, which has freed her mouth up considerably for more talking and laughing. I was so worried that she would be whining and crying, but that just hasn’t been the case. She’s been happy, she’s been talking, she’s been a joy.

Sleeping is another story, as it often is. Naptime has been a bit rough. I’ll give her her chopped pacifiers, lay her in her crib and say, “I love you, Anna. Have a good nap,” and the second I close the door, she’s angrily screaming. (If she were using words, I like to imagine they’d be something along the lines of, “Are you kidding me, Mom? Where are the good pacifiers? You can’t give me these and expect me to sleep!”) It only lasts for fives minutes or so, though, and then she falls asleep.

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So much better without it…

Bedtime has been similar, but she doesn’t cry nearly as much then. She gets angry for a minute or two, then falls asleep and sleeps through the night. (Thank goodness!) And, when I go to get her in the mornings and after naptime, I’ve found her cut-up pacifiers lying on the floor next to her crib, forgotten security blankets she no longer needs.

I do feel bad that I’m the reason Anna’s having to suffer right now, but I figure we now have a little more than a month before she turns 2, which leaves us ample time to break out the flash cards and do some major cramming so she’s talking more before her 2-year appointment. (I’m mostly kidding.)

And maybe, eventually, the crying and the whining will be nothing more than a distant memory. Like the cut-up pacifiers now lying on the floor next to her crib, forgotten security blankets she no longer needs.

 

Ten Tips for Traveling with a 6 Month Old

Last week, Kyle, Austin and I ventured to the Outer Banks, North Carolina, on vacation. Our trip took a total of eight flights, six hours in the car and countless hours of trying to entertain our 6-month-old son.

I thought I would list a few lessons that I learned from my trip that may, hopefully, be helpful to others.Sleeping Plane

1) Never assume your child will sleep in the car and/or plane.

I assumed that Austin would sleep both on the way there and on the way home. He did not. He screamed. I did not really bring any toys for the car or “Baby Einstein” videos to watch, which was a mistake. Be prepared for your child to stay awake the whole time, probably screaming and making your trip quite unpleasant.

2) Do not, under any circumstances, change a poopy diaper on an airplane.

You will be hunched over the toilet (yes, the changing table is over the toilet) and you will be trying not to touch anything or let your child touch anything. You will ultimately have poop all over you and your child. And that’s before the turbulence. Just don’t do it. Trust me. If people are giving you dirty looks for the smell, point to the guy next to you and hold your nose.

3)  Breastfeeding on a plane is rough, but if you have to do it, do it with confidence.

I breastfed Austin when we took off and landed on both flights, and, because the flights were only about an hour each, I was pretty much nursing the whole time. Austin is now at that really fun stage where he can use his hands really well and he kicks the blanket off, exposing my whole chest. Awesome. The guy in front of us decided to keep turning around to look. I decided to talk loudly about the graphic details of my nursing session. I win.

Hair Pulling

4) You are not a bad mother if you let your child sleep in a crib or Pack ‘n Play in the bathroom.

I can’t sleep with Austin in the room, bottom line. I will wake him up, he will wake me up. We were better off having him sleep in the bathroom. He was fine! It was a pretty good-sized bathroom, and he has come out of it totally unfazed, we think.

5) Remember that the beach isn’t necessarily the best place for a baby.

I think before we have kids we all think we’ll be those carefree parents who will take their baby to the beach for hours at a time. I mean, it’ll be fine, there will be an umbrella. FALSE. Going to the beach with a baby is not fun. There is blowing sand, saltwater in the eyes, heat, changing diapers in the sand, sunscreen, and more sand. It will not be relaxing on the beach with your baby, I promise. Go for quick trips and return to the pool or house area immediately.

6) Your baby will probably not sleep through the night like he or she has been at home. (This could possibly be due to No. 4.)

Austin woke up several times a night screaming and, of course, we had to run in to get him or he would wake everyone up. I’m not even mad at him. I think he knew what he was doing. Your baby may also decide 5 a.m. is a good wake-up time every day. Don’t stay up late drinking. DON’T DO IT.

7) Bringing enough Lysol wipes for the plane is almost impossible, and he will still manage to get the seat belt in his mouth.

Enough said.Suitcase

8) Babies require a ridiculous amount of stuff.

Pack smart and spread baby things throughout all of the suitcases. That way, your husband can’t be mad that you packed so much for your little baby. Kyle was unpacking his suitcase that first day and got a few wonderful surprises!

9) Sacrifice yourself for your cAustin jumperhild’s entertainment.

You do whatever you have to do to keep your child happy on the plane. No judgment here. Also, don’t dress nice. You will either be thrown up on or pooped on. Just be ready.

10) You will never be as happy to be home as you will be now that you have kids.

We walked into Austin’s room and he actually smiled. Amazing! All in all, we had a great trip, but we are so happy to be home!

Walk a Mile, Then Let’s Talk

I’ll admit it, I’ve done it. I’ve judged, I’ve criticized. I have seen the world of child-rearing in black and white.

I’ve said things like, “Wow, can’t she control those kids?” Or, “Is she really going to let them eat that?” Or, “How much TV does he watch during the day?” I’ve thought I knew what was best, and I was going to do everything in my power to be the best mother. However, in the last two years, those two-toned glasses have become very gray.

Statements I made before kids and after:

Before:            My kids won’t watch TV until they’re 3.

After:              Noah watches TV almost every day, sometimes for 10 minutes and, sometimes, we watch an hour of a movie.

 

Before:            My kids will eat healthy.

After:              Yes, they will eat healthy… on days I make it to the grocery store or have the 10 minutes to put together a meal. But a lot of times, a hot dog out of the microwave works just as well.

 

Before:            I will never bribe my kids.

After:              Bribery is everything to a 2 year old.

 

Before:            My kids will be clean and look nice 95 percent of the time.

After:              Oh well, tonight will be a bath night. Sure, it’s 2 o’clock in the afternoon…

 

Before:            My kids will sleep in the crib.

After:              That one stuck. I need my space when I sleep and a queen-sized bed is already too small for Adam and me. But napping in a swing or bouncy seat is just fine with me if it gives us a few moments of sleep.

 

Before:            I will breastfeed for one year.

After:              We made it until 6 months with Noah and it about broke me. We’re weaning Sophia now… my back can’t handle it any longer.

IMG_0866

Noah isn’t walking a mile in my shoes, but he’s trying them on!

The before-and-after list goes on and on.

There are no exact rules or directions on how to be the best mom. For every single person, in every possible situation, it can be entirely different.

Working moms, stay-at-home moms, single mothers, mothers of one, mothers of eight… there are so many different types of parents, in so many different circumstances. And don’t even get me started about money and the role that plays. Every single mother is running her own race, just doing her best to keep her kids healthy and happy. The mom I see in the park? I don’t know her story, I don’t know her background, and I don’t know what she’s dealing with daily, but I believe, in most cases, that she is doing the best she can for her children.

We really don’t know what cards a stranger has been dealt. Have you ever thought about it? Have you ever stopped and looked at the car in front of you or the people next to you at the mall and realized that they have their own lives going on, lives that do not include you, lives that you know nothing about? That concept completely amazes me and just shows you how egocentric I am. Believe me, I know I have much to work on in my own life. But I’m trying very hard to remember that there are millions of lives being lived around me that I know nothing about.

I don’t have a clue. No one does. So I’m going to try to keep it in mind the next time I think to myself, “How can she let her little one(s) do that?” And, if it really bothers me, then I’ll say a little prayer or send her some good thoughts, or even, if I have to, look away. But before I pass judgment, I’ll try to consider what’s going on in her world.

What’s that?

I don’t know what’s going on in her world?

I guess that’s the point.

The Mother of all Meltdowns

I was planning to blog about something else today, something funny and lighthearted. But, while I promise to save that blog for another day, I’m afraid I’m going to have to blog about what’s on my mind today instead.

And that something is: the mother of all meltdowns.

Brayden had it today. And I mean had it. It’s the worst I’ve seen him behave in quite some time. (And that’s saying something because Brayden has had his sharetantrum of nasty tantrums.)

We were at the pool with my friends, mom, sister and her kids. We were there, as we are almost every day this month, for Brayden’s swim lesson, but today we were also there to celebrate my nephew Noah’s 2nd birthday.

It happened after all of my friends had left, thankfully, and only my mom and sister remained. We had just finished sharing celebratory ice cream cones at the concession area picnic tables in honor of Noah’s birthday and were heading back to the baby pool to change the kids out of their suits and collect our stuff. I’d been telling my mom how tired I thought the kids were after a week spent at the pool – we’d even gone back last night for a few hours – and how they might be a little “pooled out.” I was amazed that, so far, I hadn’t seen any ill effects. I knew leaving might be a challenge, though.

Before she’d left the pool for the day, my friend had been kind enough to give each of the kids a sucker. I’d let Anna eat hers before lunch because… oh, who am I kidding, I pretty much let the girl do whatever she wants as long as it stops her from whining. (Wonderful parenting, I know.) As we reached the table where our belongings were and began undressing the kids, Brayden suddenly remembered the sucker.

“Where’s my sucker?” He asked, nicely enough at first.

I sucked in a breath. I knew this had the potential to get ugly. Fast. Brayden was really tired, he already puts up a fight whenever we have to leave the pool, and I had promised him a sucker after we were finished swimming. All of the conditions were ripe for a perfect storm.

But he’d just had ice cream.

“Brayden, you just had ice cream, honey. You can’t have a sucker now, too.”

Brayden’s face scrunched up. “Mommy, I want my sucker.”

“I don’t know where it is,” I threw out lamely, hoping he’d forget the whole thing.

Brayden looked at the table and saw the sucker perched between a couple of bags. He pointed. “It’s right there. Can I have it, please?”

“No, Brayden,” I said firmly – my mom was there, so I felt like the pressure was on to handle this situation well. “You may not have it right now. I’ll put it in the bag and you may have it after naptime.”

Brayden launched himself at the lunch bag as I unzipped it and tossed the sucker inside. “Nooo, Mommy. I want it NOW!”

I hoisted the bag onto my arm as Brayden threw himself on the ground and began wailing. “Y0u may not have it now, Brayden, and if you don’t stop crying, I’m going to throw it away.”

“Noooo! Don’t throw it away, Mommy. I’ll be good,” Brayden screeched. He took a few breaths, then picked up where he left off. “Mommy, I want my sucker NOW!”

I snapped. “That’s it, Brayden. I’m throwing the sucker away.” I unzipped the lunch bag, marched over to the garbage can and hurled the sucker into the trash. “Now let’s go.”

What was I thinking? That my incredibly tired son who hates to leave the pool on a normal day might sweetly chirp, “OK, Mommy,” and follow me out the gate? Um, not a chance.

He hurled himself at the garbage can and shoved his arm down into it trying to reach the sucker. Lovely. He screamed at the top of his lungs. He flopped on the ground and flailed his arms.

I smiled serenely at the other mothers sitting by the water’s edge who were grimacing at me. “Anyone want to take him home?” They laughed politely and pretended to direct their attention elsewhere.

“Brayden, I’m leaving. Bye!”

That’ll work, I thought, walking through the gate with the knowledge of how much he hates for me to even hint that I’m leaving him somewhere. For once, though, he didn’t follow. He continued screaming and thrashing.

My mom came up behind me and quietly took Anna – who promptly began crying herself – from my arms. “Go do whatever you have to do,” she murmured.

OK. Show time. Although the situation was already (obviously) wildly out of my control, I had to handle this. And well. My mom was watching.

I marched back into the pool area, picked Brayden up and stomped toward the car. He screamed, he kicked, he thrashed, but I held on. He kicked off both of his shoes at some point, but I didn’t stop until I’d thrust him into his car seat and strapped him in. “There,” I said, panting. “We’re going home.”

“My SHOOOOEES!” Brayden howl008ed. “I want my SHOOOOEES!”

“You do not get your shoes when you kick them off,” I replied calmly.

My mom helped me get Anna into the car, and then we got out of Dodge as quickly as possible.

Brayden wailed and shrieked the whole way home, he wailed and shrieked once I finally got him inside the house, he wailed and shrieked when I put him in his room to wail and shriek in there because I was tired of listening to it.

But, when I told him it was naptime and by God, he was taking a nap today, he said, “OK, Mommy.” And he did.

And I guess that’s the silver lining.