This Month's Topic: Focus on Finance

A Play-Doh Confession

I’ve never done it.

Play-Doh, that is. At least not since I was a kid. So, when I decided that our creative focus this month has been a bit weak, I wrung my hands for a few minutes before deciding that yes, it’s the end of May, it’s finally time.


Brayden was so excited at the prospect of playing with Play-Doh, he couldn’t contain himself. Anna, however, was more confused…

I confess that, since birth, my kids have probably received dozens of cans of Play-Doh for their birthdays, as party favors or as Christmas gifts. I can also confess that I’ve opened zero of them. That’s right. Zero. (Ugh. I’m a horrible mom! …And I’m sorry if anyone reading this has given us Play-Doh as a gift… blame me, not the kids!) Yes, I’m such a neat freak that we’ve never played with it. I know they’ve played with it at their grandparents’ houses, and Brayden has at school, but that’s not quite the same thing, is it?

So, today, with roughly 15 minutes to go before naptime, I took a deep breath, laid a beach towel over our coffee table and went to the basement to find where I’ve stored all the Play-Doh. I brought up five tubs of it and one truck that contained two tubs more.

The kids were pretty excited. (Actually, Anna might have been a bit more confused than excited, but again, that’s my fault, not hers.)

“We’re going to play with Play-Doh, Mommy? Really?” Brayden asked, obviously not completely believing me.

“Yes,” I said, more confidently than I felt. “We’re going to play with Play-Doh. Let’s just keep it on the towel and off the floor, though, OK?”

“OK, Mommy,” Brayden replie003d obediently.

My heart melted. Seriously, what kind of a mother am I that I haven’t let my kids play with Play-Doh because of my fear of mess? I mean, that was never the reason I would tell myself when I would see the stack of it out of the corner of my eye when I went to the basement to get something. We don’t have time right now, I’d think, or… yeah, to be honest, it was mostly me thinking we didn’t have time.

I’m happy to say that we played with the Play-Doh today for a half hour, a full 15 minutes longer than I thought we would!

At first, I didn’t know what to do with it. I popped the lids off the cans, hit the cans against the table until the Play-Doh fell out, and then we all stared at the green, orange, purple and blue lumps for awhile.

Then, I remembered making snakes and worms with the Play-Doh as a kid, so we did that for awhile. Brayden thought it was cool but wanted to know what else we could do. Anna just kept hopping around the table and picking up lids and putting them in her mouth, which is about right.


Brayden smiling at me when I returned to put him down for naptime. Needless to say, I didn’t have the heart to and let him play instead.

So, I pulled out the grinder gravel toy that Brayden received as a present for his birthday. I put it together, shoved some Play-Doh in the top and told Brayden to stick his dump truck underneath the hole. I must’ve been doing something wrong because my arm is still store from shoving the grinder mechanism down to make the Play-Doh come out.

Brayden loved it, though, and was happily shoving Play-Doh into the top of the grinder until Anna brought her pacifier and loveys over to me one too many times and I knew it must be naptime.

“OK,” I said to Brayden. “I’m going to put Anna down first, and then it will be your turn.”

“OK, Mommy,” he again obediently replied.

I went to the other room to put Anna down and returned to find Brayden quietly playing with his truck and Play-Doh, with a small smile on his face.


Brayden’s “volcano”

My heart melted again. “Alright, Brayden,” I said. “You’ve been such a good boy. Do you want to keep playing with Play-Doh quietly while Mommy works?”

“OK, Mommy,” he said again, this time with a huge grin.

And that’s what we’ve been doing, for the past hour and a half, and he now has a “volcano,” as he calls it, to show for it.

I know in a minute or two, I’m going to have to clean up the mess and pull apart the different colors that have been unceremoniously shoved together, but for now, in this moment, I’m happy, Brayden’s happy, and it was worth it.

(And don’t worry, if you’re judging me right now because it took a topic on a blog to compel me to play Play-Doh with my kids, rest assured that I am, too.)


In My Dreams…

I haven’t been sleeping well since Sophia’s birth. “Duh,” you say. “You’ve had a newborn in the house. Of course, you’re not sleeping well.”

As a matter of fact, you’re wrong. Sophia is an excellent sleeper. For whatever reason, the girl sleeps like a champ.

(Actually, I’ve recently come to the epiphany that explains why she sleeps so well. Because I was so still (i.e. slothlike) during the last few months of pregnancy due to my extreme discomfort, my little girl doesn’t need much bouncing or swinging to sleep. Let that be a lesson to everyone. Sure, there are some crazy and amazing women out there who will run marathons while pregnant, but those kids are gonna need some serious rocking to sleep. If you make your permanent residence a spot on your couch and have your helpful husband conquer your to-do list, it will pay off.)

This girl was born to sleep. Sophia at 12 weeks.

This girl was born to sleep. (Sophia at 12 weeks)

[Side note: This theory has not been tested so please try at your own risk.]

OK, I guess your initial thought was partly right, because it is due to the kids that I can’t sleep. But it isn’t my real children that are keeping me up at night. It’s the children in my dreams.

I’m not getting all Freddy Krueger here. My kids are exactly the same in my dreams. The surroundings don’t change either. It’s the situations that keep me tossing and turning at night.

Situation #1: Both children are in my bed, and I am positive I have rolled on top of one or both of them. That or they are about to roll off the bed.

Situation #2: Sophia is lying on the ground and Noah is just about to step on her or throw a heavy toy on her.

Situation #3: Noah is heading toward the road with a car coming.

Situation #4: Both kids are very close to a body of water, and I am very far away from them.

One of these four scenarios is almost always visiting me in my dreams each night. I wake up, heart pounding and jumping into action. (One night, I even reached out with such force and so spastically, I knocked off a bunch of things on my nightstand.) It takes a few whole minutes of staring at the monitor intently before I can relax and go back to sleep.

My boy wasn't as great of a sleeper, but pretty good. Noah at 12 weeks.

My boy wasn’t as great of a sleeper, but he wasn’t horrible either. (Noah at 12 weeks)

I know. Simple enough. I don’t need a psychiatrist here to tell me what’s going on. The anxiety of parenthood is terrible. It’s enough to make you sick and it’s definitely enough to make you lose sleep.

There are moments, during the day, when my mind wanders to the fears and worries for my children, but for the most part, I can repress those thoughts. If I stay busy enough, I don’t have time to think about it.

But clearly, the anxiety is still there. It’s just waiting to hit me when I can’t do anything about it.

The reasons I don't mind losing sleep. :)

The reasons I don’t mind losing sleep. :)

And isn’t that motherhood? You can only control so much. You can only keep your children so safe. You can’t be everywhere. You can’t protect them from everything. The minute you relax and think you’ve got it under control, the other pin drops. It could be something simple like a poop explosion knocking your perfect schedule off track. Or it could be something big and scary. The idea that I can’t predict or control those moments in life just terrifies me.

Why didn’t anyone ever tell me about this suffocating and awful fear? Maybe they did and I just wasn’t listening. Maybe I was too busy being young and silly and letting other people do the worrying for me. Or maybe they didn’t. Because it’s a feeling that’s impossible to explain until you’re in it, until you have a little life that you are totally responsible for.

It doesn’t matter. I will continue to do my best to keep these bad dreams at bay during the day. No point living in constant fear, right? But, at night? I guess all I can do is keep the nightstand clear and the monitor close by.

It’s Time to Start Talking (About) Anna

All weekend long, I’ve had the lyrics, “That’s my daughter in the water,” stuck in my head, the words to Loudon Wainwright’s song, “Daughter.” It was playing at a wedding Kevin and I attended Saturday night, and it’s been on my mind ever since.

As the words have been drifting through my thoughts these past few days, Anna has simultaneously come down with a fever and a runny nose and, this morning, was diagnosed with yet another double ear infection, one ear of which was so infected the eardrum is now perforated. She’s going to be fine, of course; it’s nothing another round of Augmentin coupled with some ear drops won’t fix, but it caught me by surprise, just as the last double-ear infection diagnosis did.

“Are you serious?” I asked the doctor. “But she’s sleeping through the night!”


Anna before her doctor’s appointment this morning

Which is exactly what she did the last time she had a double ear infection. If she hadn’t had a fever and been especially crabby both times, I never would’ve made an appointment with the pediatrician’s office.

“She’s apparently not a complainer,” the doctor deadpanned today.

And that’s true. Anna is not, what I would call, a complainer. But she’s not easy either.

Ever since her birth, I’ve thought of Anna as my baby. That makes sense, of course; she is my baby, and she’s not even 2 yet. It’s more than that, though. I so wanted a daughter and cried when I found out Anna was a girl. And then she was born tiny. Just 5 lbs., 13 oz., even though she was full term. She was easy to hold, easy to nurse, just an all-around easy baby. I couldn’t believe my good fortune after Brayden had been such an unhappy infant. Here is what babies are supposed to be like, I’d think. Here is my reward for surviving Brayden’s antics.

Even when Anna would get behind developmentally, always seeming to reach every milestone three months later than everyone else, she’d always get there, and I’d clutch my little peanut even closer to me and think, but she’s just a baby.

Since she turned 1, however, Anna’s turned a corner. She’s still a baby in my mind, but she hasn’t been so easy, so happy, or so different from the way Brayden was as a baby.

Anna cries… a lot.

If Kevin tries to hold her, she cries, if I give Brayden attention, she cries, if I put her down to go to the bathroom, she cries.


Anna after her doctor’s appointment, crying at my feet, while I tried to cook

So, I pick her up. I pick her up and carry her with me wherever I’m going or whatever I’m doing (yes, including, sometimes, going to the bathroom). As soon as I swoop her up into my arms she stops crying, but if I try to put her down the cries start again. And so it’s been, since just before her first birthday. I keep thinking she’ll grow out of this phase, but, just two months shy of her second birthday, there’s still no end in sight.

As much as I love Anna, I think my motto this past year has been: Just get through this, head down and eye on the prize. Because I can’t believe she’ll always cry this much, that she’ll always be this crabby, that I’ll always be trying to not look her in the eye for fear of angering her and that one day, we’ll play games other than “Where’s your pacifier, Anna?”

“But she’s your daughter,” Kevin will say with a twinkle in his eye when I complain about her crying. “Remember how much you wanted a daughter?”

And I do remember, and I do want her, I just want the chance to get to know my daughter beyond the crying, for her to not be swooped up with an annoyed sigh and carried around like an afterthought.

I want to enjoy her. And I do. There are times, more often than before, when I can tell it’s getting better. I’ll see her gap-toothed grin for a rare moment without her pacifier, her eyes narrowed with mischief, and I’ll think, “There you are, Anna.”

She may be a little behind, but she’ll get there.




A Different Kind of Mom

Before I became pregnant and, honestly, even during my pregnancy, I thought I knew exactly what kind of new mom I would be.

I thought I would breastfeed for three to six months tops and then my son would be on to the world of bottles and jarred baby food. Of course, Austin foiled my plan by deciding to not take a bottle, so now, here I am, with my 5-and-half-month-old son still breastfeeding and no end in sight. And I’m even making homemade baby food.

So weird and so not the person I thought I was. I always, secretly, really respected the women who breastfed for a year, but I always kind of wondered if they really hated it and if they just did it for bragging rights. Now, after exclusively breastfeeding for this long, I kind of feel like, “What’s another six months?”

There are days when I downright hate it. I want to drink more than one drink and I want to leave the house for more than three hours at a time and I don’t want to have to leave the room to feed Austin when we have friends over. But then there is the other side that secretly, really enjoys it. I like having that special bond with Austin that no one else has. Selfish, but true. I like that he needs me, which is also kind of weird and selfish, but true. Breastfeeding has just become a part of life for me, just as pregnancy was.

Another big surprise for me was that I actually enjoy making my own baby food. When Sarah was pregnant with Noah, she registered for a Baby Bullet. I remember thinking, “I can’t believe Sarah is thinking about making her own baby food.” I was kind of judging her and I’m not really sure why. (Sorry, Sarah.) And then I went and registered for a Baby Bullet and now here I am, making my own baby food.

What is the deal?! Austin sweet potatoes

I made sweet potatoes for Austin the other day and I cannot tell you how proud of myself I was. I kept opening the refrigerator to look at my little bottles of homemade goodness and would swell up with pride. (This is an embarrassing blog.) I guess when it came down to it, I decided, “Hey, I’m not working. I have time on my hands, and I have a perfectly good little baby-food making machine. I could try this.”

So, here I am, not quite the mom I thought I was going to be, but still feeling like I’m doing a pretty good job. And as soon as it gets to be too much, I have a cabinet full of formula and baby food just waiting to be opened. I’m pretty sure Austin will be happy either way.

The One Where I Embarrass My Son for Life


Brayden and Anna celebrating Brayden’s big milestone.

I have some very big news today: After only nine months of potty training (pretty amazing, I know; if anyone would like some pointers, I’d be happy to share) Brayden is pooping on the potty!

Getting to this momentous stage was an incredibly arduous process.

When we first started potty training last August, Brayden had already been telling us when he had to poop for quite some time. Once we started putting underwear on him, he’d tell me, “Mommy, I have to poop in my diaper” and I’d put a diaper on him and he’d run away to hide somewhere and take care of business. (I should mention that he definitely pooped in his underwear a few times. That was a joy. I swear, the day I have other things to talk about other than poop-related incidents and milestones will be awesome.)

At any rate, that running-to-hide-and-poop-in-his-diaper phase went on for quite some time. I’d bribe him with M&Ms, Twizzlers, going to the store to buy a Matchbox car… one time, I even bought a Mr. Potato Head toy for him and left it in the box on the counter to try to entice him to poop in the potty. All to no avail.

I asked the pediatrician what we should do, and she told me to first get him to poop in his diaper in the bathroom, and then, eventually, progress to making him poop on the potty while wearing his diaper.

We got to the pooping-in-his-diaper-on-the-potty stage, and then stalled there for a good five months.

As the months went by, I added two 004Matchbox cars to the Mr. Potato Head on the counter and bags and bags of candy, which I would eventually get sick of looking at and eat myself or share with the kids. Brayden quickly took to whining for the Matchbox cars and Mr. Potato Head toy. When I would reply, “Sure, you can have them. You just have to poop on the potty for me first,” he’d stubbornly shout “No!” and I’d put them away. I think a few times I even waved the Mr. Potato Head and cars in front of him while he was sitting on the potty. He’d cry that he wanted them, but that he wanted to wear his diaper. “I like it tight, Mom,” he’d tell me. When I’d hold his diaper underneath him while he was on the potty to still give him the security of the diaper (with plans to pull it out from under him once he started going), he’d tell me, “I like the straps.” Interesting, I’d think, and also, that kid is one tough nut to crack.

Then, one out-of-control day, when Brayden was whining for the Matchbox cars on the counter, I cracked and gave him not only the cars but also Mr. Potato Head, fed up with the whole ordeal. He’ll do it when he’s ready, I told myself. Stop pushing it.

Interestingly enough, a few times over the past nine months, Brayden has pooped on the potty at Kevin’s parents’ house. His mom would tell me she’d give him a book to look at, or a piece of licorice afterward, and he’d go.

OK, I’d think, then that’s all I have to do. The next day, I’d sit Brayden on the potty with a book in each hand and a Twizzler dangling out of mine, but he’d just look at me crossly and say, “No, Mommy. I can poop on the potty at CiCi’s house. Not here.”

Whatever, I’d think again, fed up. I’m over it. He’ll do it when he’s ready.005

This week, apparently, he was ready. I don’t know if it was magical Disney World, hearing that his not-even-2-year-old nephew is already pooping on the potty or what, but on Monday, Brayden pooped on the potty at CiCi’s house again. And continued to do it the rest of the week at our house.

I’ve been praising him like crazy, giving him a Twizzler every time he goes and singing this silly song Sarah and Adam came up with: “He pooped in the potty. Oh-ee-oh-ee-oh-ee-oh. Brayden pooped in the potty. Oh-ee-oh-ee-oh-ee-oh.”

The truth is, although I’m confused about why it took him so long and am a little concerned about why he “likes it tight,” I am proud of him for finally doing it. But Anna, don’t go getting any ideas. I’m not even thinking about letting you anywhere near the potty until this time next year. Sorry.

And Brayden, if you’re reading this years from now, I’m sorry for costing you your high school street cred… and your prom date.

Scribbling through the Milestones

IMG_7144Summer is finally here, and we sure are happy about it in the Stulberg house. The chance to get outside and burn off some steam after we’ve been cooped up all winter sounds just wonderful, not to mention necessary.

We’ve got a few summer toys and look forward to adding on to our outdoor play equipment on Noah’s second birthday next month. Currently, we have a lawnmower, some balls, a bat and sidewalk chalk. Boy, do we have sidewalk chalk.

I remember loving sidewalk chalk as a kid. I’d draw smiley faces, write my name, draw houses and shapes and even trace friends. Now that I have Noah, I’ve tapped into all of my creative sidewalk chalk activities. We draw smiley faces together, write our names, draw houses and shapes, and I trace him. OK, so my sidewalk chalk creative resources are few and far between. Still, I try.

IMG_0573Noah, however, doesn’t seem to notice my limited supply of chalk creativity. He’s too busy drawing with the chalk himself.

His idea of fun with sidewalk chalk is this: Run around and mark on anything that Mommy drew with a bunch of scribbles. When finished, make scribbles elsewhere.

All this scribbling got me kind of curious about my little boy and his development. As a former teacher, I remembered learning some information about kids’ drawings and their significance. Yes, I remembered learning about it, but I had no clue what it all meant, and so, I turned to Google.

I found a few articles on the matter. It turns out that scribbling is actually quite a milestone and that Noah is right where he should be. (I’ve come to terms with the fact that Noah is not a child genius. I still think he could be president one day, though.)

Anyways, it seems that all that scribbling is actually more about the kinesthetic (physical) enjoyment of scraping thIMG_0574e chalk on the sidewalk than artistic expression. The sweeping motion of arm from elbow or shoulder is the beginning of the ability to create graphic art. OK, I kind of assumed this. I mean, you have to start somewhere, right?

But it was neat to learn that Noah was scribbling more for the feel of it than to draw pictures. However, just today, he moved to a new stage, if for just a moment. He moved to the “naming” stage. I had drawn an Elmo face on the concrete and he came up behind me and added some scribbles on the top of his head. I asked what he drew and he said, “hair.” Again, I’m not thinking child prodigy, but he’s learning.

IMG_0575But seriously, how cool is it to see your child getting more coordinated, learning new words, remembering certain people or places, singing along to songs, and filling in words and phrases to books? Human beings are just incredible!

So, I’m going to try and take a moment once in awhile and think of my little humans and how hard their big brains are working. It sure makes me appreciate the little things they do daily. Most of the time, scribbling will be just that, scribbling. But every once in a while, it’s important to see it as so much more.

Disney: The Exit Interview

DSC_0236 1. What is your primary reason for leaving?

Our boarding passes say we have to leave, in about 20 minutes. (Could we move that time up at all? Or, even better, could we please hop a flight to Paris or Fiji, sans kids?)

2. Did anything trigger your decision to leave?

Just the pre-printed boarding passes. (Oh, and Brayden whining “I don’t want to,” in reference to absolutely nothing, for the millionth time.)

3. What did you enjoy most about your trip to Disney?

The magic I saw in my kids’ eyes as they watched their favorite characters come to life. (True.)

4. What did you enjoy least about your trip to Disney?

The crowds and the heat. (Also, there were too many poop incidents ending with, “Is that a pinecone?”, one of which resulted in me buying and not-so-proudly sporting one of Disney’s finest Mickey Mouse shirts for the rest of the day.)

5. What would you have changed about your trip to Disney?


Yep, they have the same, toothy grin.

The bus trips to the parks took 25 minutes! That’s pretty long, especially when you have young children you’re trying to entertain. (…and keep from running headfirst into poles, forcing an evacuation of the bus when their diapers looked heavier than normal or pouring a bottle of water down a stranger’s backside)

6. Did your trip to Disney turn out as you expected?

Better than expected, honestly. The kids had a blast, and we did, too. The place truly is made for kids. (I would, however, like an “I survived Disney” button and a mimosa.)

7. Do you have any tips on how Disney could have improved your trip?

It was pretty close to perfect. Magic Kingdom was our favorite, with the impromptu parades and dance parties and rides tailored to young children. (But we did sometimes hear crying coming from the closet in our bedroom, which may or may not have been Anna, who may or may not have liked sleeping in a closet. Also, if at the moment one of the kids started crying or whining, Tinker Bell could’ve magically appeared, sprinkled some fairy dust on them and flown them away to Never Never Land for a few hours, I probably wouldn’t have protested.)


The awesome Mickey Mouse shirt I had to buy after my dear daughter pooped all over me.

8. Were you happy with your trip, overall?

Definitely. In fact, I can’t wait to go back! (As soon as I’m able to walk again and don’t feel so hungover, of course, even though “fun adult time after the kids go to bed” turned into “groggily watching TV time so we don’t feel completely pathetic and then passing out ourselves.”)

9. What does [enter your residence here] offer you that Disney can’t?

Oh, so many things: familiar beds, our own beds, taped shows we can turn on that we know our kids will zone out to, toys… lots of toys. On the flip side, though, it doesn’t have a castle, race cars, Brayden’s first roller coaster ride or Mickey and Minnie Mouse. (Kevin, maybe we could see what we can do there? …No? I really don’t see the problem with building a Cinderella castle replica in our basement, but whatever.)

10. Can Disney do anything to encourage you to stay?

It was great, but I think we’ll give it a year or two so the kids get a little older before coming back. (Yes. Book me on a flight to Paris or Fiji. Stat. Then, maybe I’ll be relaxed enough to tackle another round of Disney. Oh, and I’m still waiting for that “I survived Disney” button. And the mimosa.)

Ferber This… Take Two

On Friday, Austin turned 5 months old. To say he has been a bad sleeper for the first five months of his life would be a huge understatement. In fact, he’s been a terrible sleeper.

He would sleep for 40 minutes at a time and wake up and cry. We’d go in and comfort him, rock him back to sleep and put him down, only to have him wake up again 15 to 30 minutes later. After about a week of this routine, it’s safe to say that Austin broke us. I woke up last Tuesday after another night of no sleep and called my sisters crying. I was at my wit’s end. I had bags under my eyes, Austin had bags under his eyes and we both spent most of the day crying. Something needed to change because our routine obviously wasn’t working for anyone.

As I sobbed to my sisters, they both said the same thing, “You know what I would do, Jill. Let him cry it out.”

Up until then, I had felt very strongly about not letting Austin cry it out; he wasn’t even 5 months old! I didn’t think I was strong enough and maybe I wouldn’t have been, but, as I said, he broke us. So, last Tuesday, Kyle and I prepared to let him cry it out. I put him down around 8:30 and ran down to the basement to sit with Kyle and listen to him cry. It was horrible. We stared at each other for the first five minutes of crying before I ran upstairs to comfort him. I grabbed him and kissed him about a thousand times before lowering him back down into the crib. We then increased our wait time to 10 minutes before Kyle went in to comfort him.

Not really appropriate for this blog, but I thought this smile was pretty awesome!

That first night, he cried for 30 minutes while Kyle and I sat in the basement. I cried and tried to watch “New Girl” to get my mind off of my poor son (eventually I did because “New Girl” is hilarious). Every thought imaginable crossed my mind, including, “He thinks we abandoned him,” “He thinks we don’t love him,” “He’s going to wake up in the morning and hate us.” But that night, he slept for about 10 hours and only woke up once. My sisters had promised me that when I went in to get him in the morning, he would smile and be perfectly fine. Needless to say, I got up early the next morning and couldn’t wait for Austin to wake up so I could go in and rescue him. I ran in and scooped him up and, lo and behold, he smiled. He was OK. He had survived the ordeal. I wasn’t a horrible parent. Austin would still love me and would eventually be a better sleeper because of it.

Now, after a week of letting him “cry it out,”  Austin cries for maybe a minute or two before falling asleep in the crib. He is napping on a schedule and is sleeping nine or 10 hours a night. What a difference a week makes! Kyle and I feel like new people. I feel like maybe I can finally stop blogging about my son’s sleeping issues! (I said maybe; we’re only a week in for Pete’s sakAustin smilinge!)

While I understand that letting your baby cry may not be the best solution and, believe me, if there was an easier way, I would jump all over it, but for us, this was our only option. I truly believe that Austin is happier, I am happier and Kyle can actually function at work. All bonuses.

So, while I suggest the “cry it out” method for anyone going through what we went through, I fully understand that it is extremely hard and who knows if we would have done it if Austin would have had only six bad nights in a row instead of seven. All I know is that my son’s smile is just as big as it was a week ago.

And who knows? It may even be bigger.

Cutting the Cord with Cardio

I have to get back the gym… for my health, my sanity, my love of reading and listening to my own music.IMG_7133

I have to take my kids to the gym… for socialization, coping skills, and learning to be away from Mom for awhile.

It’ll be good for all of us, right?

Yes, it all makes sense. Now, who can explain this rationale to Noah? Because he just doesn’t seem to be getting it.

I’ve only been trying the gym a few days a week for the past month. Not much has changed or improved over these eight visits. The anxiety is already building when I wake up. I know the plan. I know what I have to do. With a smile painted on my face, I explain to Noah we’re going to go to the gym today. Yahoo! His reply? “No.” Simple as that.

I’ve tried talking it through with him. “Mommy is going to go work out and Noah and Sophia get to play!”

I’ve shown him how close the two rooms are. “This is the room Mommy will run in, and right down this hallway is where Noah gets to play.”

I’ve explained that he isn’t alone. “Your sister, Sophia, will be here with you the whole time.”

I’ve brought in reinforcements. To my sisters and neighbors: “Can you please go the gym at the same time as me today so Noah will see have friends he recognizes in the play area?”

I’ve bribed him. “After the gym, we’ll eat a Popsicle!”

I’ve given him jobs. “Here Noah, you are in charge of giving the nice lady our keys to scan.”

I’ve run out of tactics.

The minute we walk into that playroom, Noah’s entire mood shifts. His shoulders droop, his lower lip comes out and his hands immediately grab my leg.  He begins to wail as I try to sign my name and info onto the sheet. He clings to me, screaming, as I drop Sophia off in a nearby crib. Big, fat tears roll down his cheek as I exit the room. I close the door and nearly collapse, his cries muffled but not silenced by the door.

Doubts start to creep into my mind. Am I a terrible mother? Will he ever get over this? Is it really worth it?

I know the answer. The rational side of me knows the answer. Yes. He needs this. I need this. We’ll survive it. We have to. Before we know it, Noah will be going to school. He’s got to learn to leave Mom.

I think this is one of the hardest things about being a stay-at-home mom. Cutting the cord. We are so lucky that we’re with the kids all of the time. So lucky! But there is no clean line of separation that is ever forced upon us. We don’t have to leave the kids, so we don’t. Sure, we’ve had babysitters at night for some outings or dates, but, usually, those babysitters have been relatives, and almost always in our own house. Strangers in a strange place are much different.

So, I’m trying to force myself to cut the cord. It really helps that I like my time at the gym. I can’t imagine how much harder the whole process would be if I didn’t.IMG_0462

As I return to the playroom after my workout, sweating and breathing hard after a measly two miles on the elliptical, I see Noah, still sniffling, on the laps of one of the nice ladies. Sophia is snoozing in her car seat. I take a deep breath and head in to retrieve my crew. I feel optimistic as we leave. We did it. It was hard, but we did it and we’ll do it again. I just have to remember that while it was difficult, no real, permanent damage was done.

Thank goodness for the nice gym ladies, thank goodness for Popsicles, and thank goodness for endorphins.

Creative Parenting 101 (Otherwise Known as Divide and Conquer)

In my mind, the best way to employ creative parenting has nothing to do with tricks to get the kids to eat their vegetables, or go to bed on time at night or learn the alphabet. (Probably because we don’t have any … for any of those categories, unless it’s to bribe them with chocolate … for any of those categories.) No, as usual, it’s a way to help us, the parents, stay sane. It’s called divide and conquer. And I think it’s amazing.002

This past weekend, we put it to work.

Kevin took Brayden to his parents’ lake house in Tennessee with him. It was a “boys’ weekend” to get the house and boats ready for the season, and Kevin’s dad and three brothers were going, as well. When Kevin first told me about it a month or so ago, I said, “Great. As long as you take Brayden.” Kevin said he was planning on it, and then I spaced out, already dreaming of all the things I could get accomplished with only one kid underfoot.

The weekend definitely lived up to my expectations. I love both of my kids dearly, but to only have one to discipline and feed and change and get ready for bed for two days straight is pretty awesome. I felt like I was on vacation. I felt like someone should stick an umbrella drink in my hand and draw a picture of a beach behind me.

What’s more, I think Anna felt the same way.

She loved having me all to herself, knowing I wasn’t going to put her down because Brayden needed me to get him a snack or help him go to the bathroom. Before Kevin and Brayden left, I wondered if Anna would miss Brayden and if she would be able to play on her own. It turns out, she can play on her own just fine (as long as I’m in sight, of course).

On my end, it was so much easier to run errands, go to the gym and attend a birthday party. I only had one kid to buckle in and out of the car seat, one kid to worry about not running off through the parking lot without me and one kid to worry about at the park004. Truly, I could’ve had an umbrella drink in my hand! I felt free!

I feel a little guilty writing that because, again, I love both of my kids and I love them equally. It could’ve been a weekend alone with Brayden and I would’ve been just as excited. I’m glad we have two kids, don’t get me wrong, but it really is double the work.

Kevin said Brayden had a blast at the lake house, and that he was really well-behaved. I was so glad to hear it, and gently corrected the small voice in my head that was telling me that Brayden has to be with me at all times. Clearly, he does not.

We can divide and conquer and give the kids a little one-on-one attention sometimes. I think it’s a win-win, without the chocolate.

Although, as much fun as Anna and I had, from the looks of it, Kevin and Brayden might’ve had more…