This Month's Topic: Focus on Finance

Is September Too Soon for Santa?

Santa had better get ready.

About three weeks ago, I pulled him out of his well-deserved sabbatical to help me field my 4-year-old son’s constant requests for new Legos.

“Yep, we can ask Santa for those,” I say whenever Brayden shoves yet another advertisement for superhero/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle/Star Wars Legos under my nose.

“OK, I want these… and these… and… these,” Brayden replies earnestly, pointing at every box on the page.

Legos 1Every few days when we have to go to Target for… something (how is it every few days? I don’t understand the magnetic power that store has over me!) Brayden politely but firmly requests that we go down the Lego aisle, just so he can see what he might want to add to his list for Santa. I usually time him, telling him he only has “one more minute,” or “that’s about it, buddy,” but he pushes for every stray second, “Just a little bit longer, Mom, please. I just need to make sure I don’t already have this one.” He studies the rows of way-overpriced Legos intently one more time, then confidently points at the $50 box of TMNT Legos and declares, “That’s the one I want.” (I knew I would miss the days when I could appease him with a $1 Matchbox car!)

“Perfect,” I reply, promptly steering him out of the aisle. “Santa can certainly bring you those Legos.”

He then looks at me, brows all furrowed in confusion. “Not just those, Mom. Those and the other ones I already showed you.”

I sigh. Santa just might be in trouble this year. No way is he going to have pockets deep enough for all these Legos. Legos which, I might add, Brayden usuallyLegos 2 puts together in a half hour or less before promptly forgetting about them (leaving me to scour the carpets, steps and couch crevices for strewn Legos and then deposit them in the three already-overflowing boxes of Legos he has in his room).

So, there’s that. And I do already feel a great deal of shame for using Santa when it’s still 80 degrees outside. But in the past week or so, I’ve really taken the shamefulness up a notch. That’s right, I’ve already started the “You’d-better-be-good-because-Santa’s-watching” fun.

Whenever the words start to come out of my mouth, I want to stop them with a hand or run away, but I stay the course and mumble through the threat because toddlers can smell weakness… I mean, because I have to appear steadfast in what I tell my children.

Brayden’s eyes grow wide and he cries, “I’ll be good! I promise! I’ll be good! I want Santa to come!”

Sometimes, if I’m feeling a little power-trippy, I’ll dangle the carrot a little longer. “I don’t know, Brayden. You’re not acting very nicely right now. Santa only brings Legos to the houses of nice little boys.”

Then, as Brayden’s face starts to scrunch with tears, I remember that Santa isn’t coming for more than 100 days, and I start to cry a little, too.

 

A First Day of School Pep Talk

It’s finally here.

Tomorrow’s the big day. We’ve been talking about this day all summer long, for months now, and yet, I can’t believe it’s actually here.

IMG_3183You start preschool tomorrow.

I know. I sound dramatic. And really, it’s not going to be that crazy. It’s a three-day-a-week, two-and-a-half-hour-a-day program.

Should be nothing in the grand scheme of things.

But the fact that you will be out of my hands and participating in activities that I haven’t carefully orchestrated and watched over myself is just crazy. For three-plus years now, we’ve been together.

Yes, I’ve had some nights out, some weekends away, but I’d say for about 99 percent of your life, I’ve been there. And tomorrow, an entirely new era will begin.IMG_3242

You’re ready for it. I’m sure you are. You love playing with other kids at gym class and on the playground. You love learning new games from your older cousins. You can handle yourself pretty well in almost any situation. You’re potty-trained and you speak clearly enough that most can understand what you’re saying. But the biggest telltale sign is that you are thirsty for knowledge. You are eager to learn things, things that I don’t always know. You can’t get enough books read to you and you can’t ask enough questions. You’re ready.

I’m just not positive I am.

I was never the happy school-goer type. I was the child that cried. A lot. I was the kid who had to be pried out of the car, who fought tooth and nail every time my mom pulled into the parking lot, who marched onto the bus and through teary eyes greeted the bus driver. I was a… delight.

I worried about my mom. I worried something would happen to her while I was away. I was worried that she would miss me terribly, be bored without me or, worse, sad. I was worried that she would do something really fun and I’d miss out. Mostly, I just wanted to be near her always.

Looking back Noah, I have to laugh at myself (and apologize profusely to my mom). How wrong was I? In retrospect, I’m sure my mom reveled in the time alone in the house. She was a stay-at-home mom, too, and, as much as I’m SURE she loved almost every minute of it, it had to be lovely to have some quiet time in the house by herself. A trip to the grocery store alone, folding laundry in front of a show SHE wanted to watch; heck, just a solo bathroom break.

IMG_3168I know because I’m living that life now.

However, I also know that I was a little bit right. I know that my mom missed us when we would leave in the morning. I know that she probably felt a little lonely from time to time throughout the day. I know because when we’d come home, she’d give us extra long hugs, make us a special little snack of peanut butter and jelly saltines and make us tell her about our days, never losing patience or interest.

I just happen to also know us being gone for a little bit was exactly what everyone needed.

You need to be on your own, to start thinking for yourself, answering questions without quickly looking at me for an encouraging nod.

I need to know you’re OK on your own, that you have your own mind and thoughts, and that you can answer those questions all by yourself.

So, know that I will miss you. I’ll miss you a lot. By the time you can read and may read this I know you’ll be thinking, C’mon Mom! Geez. It’s just two and a half hours. But, baby, believe me, I will miss you very much for those measly two hours.

And when you come home, I’ll make sure to give you extra long hugs, kiss you a few more times than you’d probably prefer, make you a special lunch, and want to hear all about your day without looking away.

Just know that I’m not going to be lonely or bored. Sophia keeps me busy enough, and she needs this just as much as you and I do. We might even do a few fun things together, but don’t worry, nothing will be nearly as much fun as what you’ll be doing at school.IMG_3363

So, go! Have fun. Be good. Listen to the teacher. Make friends. Be nice. Ask questions. Raise your hand. And try to remember it all.

Because I will want to hear every last detail when you come home.

[An afterthought: Upon re-reading this, I realize now that this was a pep talk for myself. Noah will be fine. Fortunately for both of us, I don’t think he was “blessed” with the same sort of “delightful” qualities I was that made me such a sad, sad being when it came to school. It’s crazy, but 27 years later, I still need to be reminded that all will be OK and school is a wonderful time, not an end-of-the-world thing. Even better, I was a primary school teacher for four years, and I still need to talk myself into this whole school thing. Wow. Old habits die hard, huh?]

The Park Mom

There’s something I love about park moms.

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I didn’t think “park mom” would appreciate pictures of herself on the blog, so I opted to include pictures of my kids instead.

I don’t know any of them. I (usually) never see them again. And yet, they’re some of the nicest people I’ve ever met.

They always look the same as me: their hair in a messy ponytail, wearing jeans or sweats, with sunglasses hiding their tired eyes. They always talk the same as me: “Rosie, be careful on the swing!” “Sam, don’t run! I don’t want you to fall!” “Jacob, take turns. You have to let that little boy go first.”

I love it. I feel like I’m part of some special club. I’ll be standing at the bottom of a slide, waiting for one of my kids to go down and, together, “park mom” and I will watch my kid and her kid vie to go first. “Brayden, let the little girl go,” I’ll direct, while she chimes in with, “Samantha, that little boy was in front of you.” Then, “park mom” and I will exchange a knowing smile and launch into some tried-and-true conversation about how difficult the toddler years can be, which, of course, always ends with one of our kids running away from us and one of us running after him, rolling our eyes and shouting goodbye as we turn to go.

I can honestly say I’ve never met a park mom who wasn’t friendly. I’ll be pushing Anna on the swing, “park mom” will lift her son or daughter into the swing next to ours, and we’ll immediately strike up a conversation, exchanging our kids’ ages, birth weights, clothing sizes and school names as we push.

“Your son is going to turn 2 next month? How funny! My daughter just turned 2 over the summer!”

“Your son likes cars and trucks? How funny! So does mine!”

“Your daughter is wearing a princess shirt! How funny! My daughter loves princesses!”

It’s comical when I think about it. Of course, “park mom” looks the same as me. We both have young kids! We’re both exhausted from days spent wrangling kids who don’t want to be wrangled and from entire days spent hearing the word “why” every five seconds. Of course, our young kids are going to like cars and trucks and princesses. We both have young kids! And of course, “park mom” talks the same as me. We. both. have. young. kids.

IMG_20130929_105128“You like to drink a glass of wine every night to keep yourself sane? How funny! So do I!”

It’s not rocket science. “Park mom” and I are both in the same boat. She is me and I am her and all that jazz. I’m just glad I can always count on meeting a new friend every time I go to a park. And I’m glad she’s in the boat with me.

I always leave parks wishing I’d gotten “park mom’s” name and number. “We should be friends!” I think. “How nice was she?!” I’ll rejoice. “Hooray for all the good people in the world!”

But I never have.

Maybe it’s because I like the anonymity “park mom” provides. We can chat, we can share stories and empathy, but whatever I share with her stays with her and vice versa. I never have to worry about judgment because, odds are, I’ll never see her again. Or maybe it’s because I’m just too lazy. Or, the most likely of the three, maybe it’s because when I leave, eye rolling and shouting goodbye all the way, I’m usually trying to discipline kids who aren’t listening or to bribe them with suckers to get into the car.

As long as “park mom” is there, though, and accepts me as part of the “park mom” club, I’m glad I have a friend in her. And I hope she sticks around to talk me through the rest of these difficult toddler years.

 

 

 

School Daze

Last year, Brayden loved going to school.

It was only one day a week, sure, and only two-and-a-half hours long, but he looked forward to it every week, would barely turn to say “bye” to me when I dropped him off and, when he wasn’t there, would ask when he could go back.

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Since Brayden has started going to school three days a week – albeit still for a short two-and-a-half hours a day – for preschool this year, I’ve felt like I have a brand-new kid.

No, he hasn’t started crying because he doesn’t want to leave me or anything sweet and sentimental like that. He’s just decided he doesn’t feel like going to school three days a week because there are other things he’d rather be doing with his time, like playing with cars or watching Nick Jr.’s Max & Ruby, for instance. 

As an example, take our Monday morning:

I realized Brayden was in bed with me when I opened my eyes and saw him staring back at me.

“Can I please watch Max & Ruby, Mommy?”

I blinked, still processing the fact that he was in bed with me – when did that happen?? – then sighed and rolled over to get the remote. A few minutes later, I heard Anna crying.

“Anna’s crying, Mommy,” Brayden helpfully informed me.

I pulled myself out of bed and picked Anna up out of her crib, then placed her in the middle of my bed next to Brayden before climbing in, too.

“Brayden,” I suddenly remembered as the kids’ eyes twinkled in the light of the cartoon. “Are you dry this morning? No accidents?”

We’ve been putting Brayden in underwear overnight for the past few weeks, and he’s been doing a great job. I’m just always very interested in the mornings to see whether he’s broken his streak.

“No accidents!” Brayden confirmed happily as I patted his bottom.

Awesome. Then, I remembered I hadn’t changed Anna’s diaper before bringing her into my bed. I patted her bottom to see just how full it was.

Her diaper wasn’t there. Interesting. Her nightgown and, consequently, our sheets, were soaked. Awesome.

Had I forgotten to put a diaper on her? Nope. After further investigation, I found one of the pitfalls of nightgowns: She had taken it off herself and left it in her crib. Wonderful.

“Anna, we have to change your clothes. You’re covered in pee.”

Anna smiled and climbed off the bed to run to me, but Brayden stayed put.

“Noooooo!” He suddenly whined. “I want to get my clothes on first before Anna.”

This preference started recently. He wants to do everything first now. He wants to win at everything. Sometimes, I try to turn these requests into teachable moments about how it isn’t a race, he who is first shall be last, yada, yada, yada, but in the mornings, I usually just roll with it.

“Brayden, you go potty, and then you can get your clothes on, but I have to change Anna first because she peed all over herself.”

“Noooo! Me first!”

“Then go potty!”

I marched him into the bathroom and lifted up the seat, pointing to it as if he needed further instruction. I stripped Anna of her nightgown and held her at arm’s length as we silently watched Brayden go to the bathroom. With Anna still naked and at arm’s length, I helped Brayden wash his hands and marched him into his room to get his clothes on.

007“What are we doing today, Mommy?”

“You have school this morning, buddy. Lucky you!”

Brayden’s face puckered. “But I don’t want to go to school!”

“Well, you’re going. School is fun.” I don’t believe there was an ounce of fun in my voice.

He flopped himself on the bed before I finally yanked him to the floor next to me and started pulling off his shirt and pants.

“We’re late, buddy. We have to get changed, and then I have to get Anna changed and then we have to eat breakfast so we can… ” – here I raised my voice an octave or two to try to make it sound more appealing – “… go to school!”

“But I don’t want to go to school!!”

I ignored him, quickly changed and put some clothes on Anna, then herded everyone into the kitchen.

“Breakfast time! What do you guys want? Toast, bananas and cereal? Which kind of cereal today? Rice Krispies or Honey Nut Cheerios?”

“I don’t want any of those things,” Brayden grumbled.

“Honey Nut Cheerios it is! Good choice!” I called with false cheer. I fixed the breakfast plates, put them on the table and hoisted Anna into her seat. “Eat up. This is your time to eat before it’s time to leave for school!” (Here I remembered Brayden’s reluctance to go.) “What do you think you’ll do at school today?”

I poured myself a bowl of cereal and scarfed it down. “Do you think you’ll play outside today?”

Brayden shrugged. “I don’t want to go to school.”

“OK!” I announced merrily. “Breakfast time is over. Time to brush our teeth!”

I corralled them into the bathroom and scrubbed their teeth, then put their shoes on and grabbed my purse. “Let’s go!”

“I want to bring this truck in the car with me,” Brayden announced, holding up a red pickup.

“No, Brayden. We’re going to school. You don’t need to bring the truck.”

“But I want to…”

Just then, Anna chimed in, flashing a red purse with white polka dots. “Minnie purse!”

“Fine! Brayden, you bring the truck. Anna, you bring the purse. Let’s just get in the car, everybody.”

After fumbling with the carseat straps way longer than necessary, we finally pulled into the school parking lot five minutes late.005

“Yay, Brayden,” I said as I pulled him and Anna out of the car and steered them toward the door. “It’s time for school! I hope you have fun today!”

Brayden walked into his classroom and put down his backpack.

“Bye, buddy!” I called, waiting expectantly at the door for him to say goodbye.

He turned and gave a lackluster wave.

I kept the smile plastered on my face until Anna and I were outside, then let it out with a long sigh.

My boy had better start liking school. And I had better start getting up earlier. Otherwise, it’s going to be a long year. Not to mention, a long decade or two.

 

 

 

Stay Healthy, Be Happy and Forget a Bit

Today was not Sophia’s best day. To be fair, she had a lot going against her. She’s sick, she didn’t sleep well, her brother was also not having a good day (which equals lots of yelling and crying, mostly from Noah, a small percentage from Sophia and me), and she kept getting things dropped on her head. (Seriously, nothing big and heavy, but, like, three things.)

It just wasn’t her day.

While I was rocking her before bed, I looked at her sweet face and apologized for the day she’d had. I told her tomorrow would be better. I promised her. And then I begged her to sleep well tonight (perhaps for selfish reasons, but also for her sake), then kissed her a dozen times and laid her down in her crib.

Apparently, I don't take many pictures of my kids' bad days, seeing as this was from July.

Apparently, I don’t take many pictures of my kids’ bad days, seeing as this was from July.

It’s days like the one we had today that make me really hope my kids don’t remember much of this time in their lives. I don’t remember much up until about 7 years old, and from then until age 12, maybe older, I can only pick out a handful of specific memories that have stayed with me through the years. Of those memories, I’d say that 90 percent of them are happy.

Sure, there are the odd, terribly traumatic memories. Like, when I would cry EVERY SINGLE time I got on the bus in grade school because I was so homesick, and my bus driver called me “Smiley.” (I totally didn’t get sarcasm then and thought he was quite insightful because, somehow, he knew I was a generally happy kid even though every time he saw me I was a mess.) I also vividly remember, when I was maybe 3, my sister Jill flying off the Twirly-Gig in our basement and landing in the toy baby crib. (Apparently, it was a very dangerous incident, but I thought it was hilarious at the time.) I remember crying about a fight my mom and dad had, just knowing that they would get divorced (they didn’t, and I now realize that the fight I witnessed was pretty normal as far as fights-between-parents-who-have-three-small-children go).

That’s about it as far as the bad/sad/terribly upsetting memories go. Pretty incredible, isn’t it? The rest of my memories are filled with family vacations, warm-up machines, games played outside like jailbreak and soccer, singing songs in the car and saying, “I love you, Mom. I love you, Dad” at bedtime repeatedly, switching who went first so they knew I didn’t love either more than the other. (Wow, that last one really reminds me of how odd I was… OK, am.)

But I think God is an absolute genius. Just as He did with the pain of labor and delivery, He helped us forget a lot of things in the younger years that didn’t need to be remembered. Genius.

For that memory wiping, I am forever grateful. Not because I can’t remember things that happened to me when I was younger because, let’s face it, who doesn’t want to go back and see how cute, or, in my case, what an awkward little stinker, they were?

No, I am so incredibly grateful for the memory loss that my kids will HOPEFULLY experience in their young lives. I´m just glad that I´ve gone through some difficult times and was able to get past it, like the time I was a bit overweight, it was a struggle for me to get rid of all that unwanted fat, so I finally discovered the turbo 10 plan and was able to get the results I wanted.

And this is Noah before he was even 1. I, obviously, want to forget these days and so I definitely don't take many pictures of them.

And this is Noah before he was even 1. I, obviously, want to forget these days, so I definitely don’t take many pictures of them.

Sure, I would love to think that Noah and Sophia will remember the sweet conversations we have, like when Noah reaches out his arms to say “so much” when I ask how much he loves me. I’d love to know that Sophia could recall the way I tickle her and make funny faces at her while lying on the floor next to her. I wish they would both remember our dance parties, family trips and snuggle time before bed.

But, after days like today, when everything is ugly, it’s a relief to know that Sophia won’t remember much. She won’t remember who dropped the cups on her head in the bathtub. She won’t remember how I put her upstairs in her crib, crying, while I went down to retrieve her big brother, who was really due for a time-out/nap, and brought him upstairs, too. That neither will remember Noah screaming in his crib while I changed a wailing Sophia before nap. Again, it was an ugly day.

But tomorrow will be better. I force myself to believe it. Because, just as my kids won’t be able to remember most of the bad days in a few years, we moms want try to forget them, as well.

Because, after a rough one, how else do you wake up the next morning with a smile on your face and optimism in your heart? It’s called forgetfulness. Or maybe denial. But the point is, we need it, and so, thank God it’s there.

I really hope my kids forget a lot. I hope they forget crying it out at night, the vaccinations at the doctor’s, suctioning their noses out when they’re sick, being put down when they’re already upset because I have to do something that must be done without a baby in my arms, being upset in time-out, and all the bumps, bruises and scratches that come with the young stages of life. I really hope they forget a lot.

As I lie in bed at night, I pray for my kids to be healthy, I pray for them to be happy, and I pray for a little forgetfulness.

Lessons Learned on the West Coast

This past weekend, my mom, sisters and I traveled the four to five hours to Los Angeles. We had our suitcases packed full of cute clothes, an open-suitcase policy, and all of our tightest jeans because, come on, this was L.A.!

I’ve decided that I won’t bore you will all of our stories from the weekend, so I’ll make it quick. Here is a list of 352 things we learned while visiting Hollywood:

At Bar Marmont - Look at our scandalous outfits!  We definitely belong :)

At Bar Marmont. Look at our scandalous outfits! We definitely belong!

1. If your pants are too tight at home, they will also be too tight in L.A.

We got dressed every morning in our cutest/tightest clothes, only to realize that every time we stopped to sit down, we would promptly unbutton them and feel a little sick. I had my pants unbuttoned the whole time we were at The Ivy! For those of you who read US Weekly and obsess over celebrity gossip as much as we do, you understand that The Ivy is absolutely not the place to unbutton your pants. We had celebrities sitting next to us and you couldn’t pay me to button my damn pants. You’ll be happy to know that I kept it classy and did not remove the napkin from my lap for the entirety of our meal.

2. A cute dress from J. Crew is not the acceptable “going out” attire.

While this outfit is accepted and actually congratulated in the Midwest, this does not/will not get you any points on the West Coast.

3. Whatever weight you are, you need to lose about 468 pounds to fit in in this city.

Oh, and grow about three feet. All of the girls/women there are about 91 lbs. and 7 feet tall. I didn’t even bring a pair of heels. Strike three.

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Living it up in Santa Monica!

4. “No one worth seeing will be out until at least 11:30.”

That’s a quote from a bouncer at the Bar Marmont (where, by the way, we stuck out like a sore thumb). This took place around 10:15. We got up the energy to go to one more bar – it had a line, so it had to be good – Colleen got a glass of wine and Sarah and I each got a water. We left promptly at 11. Party animals.

5. Even without our kids in tow, we are still moms.

I guess you can take the moms away from their kids, but you can’t take the kids away from their moms. We were always hyper-aware of the fact that we’re now moms, always… well, often, at least, thinking of how our kids were doing back at home.

Maybe those days of staying out until 2 a.m. are over, and maybe that’s just going to have to be OK.

On Making it in the Midwest

When I was young and traveled on vacation with my family, I wanted to live everywhere we went.

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We may or may not have been making fun of the women we kept seeing with plastic surgery-enhanced lips. Well, I was. I don’t know what exactly Jill was doing.

Myrtle Beach? I’d envision a cute, little bungalow on an understated side street a mile or two from the water. Gatlinburg? A storybook chalet would do just fine. Jackson Hole? Don’t even get me started on the amount of time I spent dreaming of a life in a mountain cottage, a free but priceless view of the Tetons out my kitchen window.

This past weekend, I traveled with most of my “Original Five” family – it was a girls’ trip so my dad stayed behind – to Los Angeles for three days of star-spotting, hot-spot-visiting fun. We spotted stars and visited hot spots, and even fit in some time for shopping and stalking the homes of stars who weren’t willing to just present themselves on the street for us, but I never once pictured myself in some multi-million-dollar home in the backyard of another multi-million-dollar home. I never once pictured myself strolling down the street, Starbucks coffee in hand, aviator sunglasses firmly, but effortlessly, in place, dressed firmly, but also, of course, effortlessly, because you never know who’s watching, who’s waiting to discover you, and feeling at home there.

While yes, I’m aware that that’s 80 percent because I’m not a model – you honestly thought I didn’t know that?! – and 20 percent because of where we were (Hello! The only way to spot stars and visit hot spots is to go to the places stars actually frequent and visit the places where hot spots actually are!), I wouldn’t want to live in L.A.

I’m not trying to offend anyone who lives there. Maybe at one time in my life I would’ve been able to picture it. I just know that now, with a husband and two kids at home, as well as an amazing group of friends, it looked too hard to me. What was easy to me, what was familiar, was back in Ohio… and right in front of me: my best, best friends: my mom and sisters.

Our topic this month is on relationships, and it might be strange to talk about on our blog because my sisters and I are co-writing it, but my relationships with my mom and my sisters are definitely on the top rung of my list of most prized possessions.

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A little too much wine this night, for sure, but a whole lot of fun

It didn’t matter who we were scoping out or which trendy restaurant or lounge bar we were sitting at, comparing ourselves to the rest of the clientele in a mixture of despair and shock, we laughed the whole way through. We could’ve been anywhere – a dive bar back in Cincinnati or in one of our own kitchens – and we still would’ve laughed and enjoyed ourselves just as much.

I guess my point is that, it takes growing up to figure out what matters to you, and I didn’t see a lot of grown-ups where we were. (Again, I’m sure there are plenty of places in L.A. that are down-to-earth, or at least not trying quite so hard to look simultaneously firm but effortless; we just didn’t see them.)

While we may have been the only Midwesterners at Mastro’s Steakhouse in Beverly Hills Saturday night (La Toya Jackson, the “Teach Me How to Dougie”  group and Abby Lee Miller… all in attendance that night, all decidedly not Midwestern), we were also (probably) the only ones cracking each other up, the only ones “shushing” each other because we were afraid people would stare at us, the only ones who, ultimately, decided, “Who cares? My aviator sunglasses are firmly, but not effortlessly, in place. I’m never going to live here. Tomorrow, I’m going home with my favorite people in the world to more of my favorite people in the world.”

The model dream, if it was ever there to begin with, has sailed, and the “making it” one has only taken a different direction.

We’ve made it. Laugh on.

 

 

 

Some Tips for Dad

As Jill already blogged, my mom, sisters and I are leaving for a girls’ long weekend today. I am SO excited!

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I am leaving my wonderful family for three whole days and spending the weekend eating, drinking, shopping, and spotting as many celebrities as possible. I am one lucky girl.

Adam asked me during a walk last week if I was going to leave him fully prepared for the upcoming weekend. As in, full fridge, plenty of diapers and wipes, and an hourly instruction manual for the kids.

OK, so he doesn’t actually expect or need all of this, but, after giving it some thought, I decided to write what I think all men should know when their wives leave them alone with the kids for longer than a day.

 

Tips for a Dad Who’s Left Alone with the Kids for a Long Period of Time

(Working title…)

Tip #1

Keep the kids fed. I don’t care what you feed them, just don’t let them starve.

Tip #2

Keep the kids clean. That is, change the diapers more than two times a day and wipe them down once in awhile.

Tip #3

Keep in touch. Do not, I repeat, do not go AWOL one day and say your phone died. We might just call the cops and have the SWAT team arrive at the house to check in on you and the kids.

Tip #4

Keep it light, but not too light, when we call. Make sure, when we ask how the kids are, that you tell us they’re good (or some variation of good), but not too good. We do not want to hear that the kids are having the time of their lives the whole time we’re gone. We want to be missed.

Tip #5

Keep it honest, but not too honest. If we come home and there’s a bruise in the middle of our baby’s forehead that we were not told about, S*%$ will go down. So, tell us in advance, but please stress, whether it is a lie or not, that it was no big deal and the kid didn’t even cry.

Tip #6

Keep sending pictures, but don’t send any past 9 o’clock. This way, just in case the wine is flowing, we don’t get all emotional. Also, it will make us wonder what in the heck you’re doing keeping the kids up so late.

Tip #7

Keep to the routine, for the most part. It will help you and it will definitely help us. If we come home and the kids are all off schedule, it won’t be an easy week back. That said, have fun and make it a special weekend for all of you.

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Tip #8

Keep the bragging to a minimum. I think it’s great that you got Sophia to eat off the spoon, and I’ll be happy to hear it, but that’s enough. I don’t want to know that you’re performing miracles at home. If Noah learns to write his name while I’m away, instead of cheering, I will cry.

Tip #9

Keep it under control but don’t make it look or sound too easy. It will make me so happy to know that you guys had a great time, but I don’t want hear about how wonderful and easy the weekend was. Yes, I want you to have fun, but I’d also love to hear something along the lines of (or verbatim would work, too), “Sweetie, I had a really great time with the kids, but I can’t imagine doing what you do every single day. You are amazing.” I mean, come on, is that too much to ask?

Tip #10

Keep in mind that we are SO grateful for this opportunity to get away and know that, all jokes aside, we are completely confident in your capabilities as a dad. These are just tips. (Loosely translated, in mama-speak, that means don’t follow them at your own peril.)

Thanks, hubby! Love you!

 

The Afterglow of Family Time

I don’t think I truly appreciated how much joy my family could bring me until this weekend.

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Anna “helping” me pack

Kevin’s cousin Matt was getting married in Greenville, South Carolina, and we’d been going back and forth for months on who should make the seven-plus-hour road trip: just Kevin, or Kevin and me… and the kids.

I’m so grateful – and never thought I’d be – that we chose the latter.

Kevin’s parents took Brayden a day early, so Kevin and I could pack and get everything ready for the long weekend with only Anna to look after. (Not to mention we were looking forward to, at least on the front end of the trip, having only one kid to entertain on the long car ride.)

It was strange, though. The house was so quiet the night before we left and, while that was nice, it also felt unnatural and wrong somehow.

“I miss Brayden,” I said to Kevin. “I wish he was here.”

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The kids in Falls Park

Kevin laughed because he knows how “frustrated” Brayden and I can make each other. (“Mommy, you’re making me frustrated!” “Brayden, you’re making me frustrated!”) Then, he said something sweet. “It’s OK. You’re allowed to miss him.”

The next day, we made the trek to Greenville, which is, by the way, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen and, if it wasn’t for some major factors like family, friends and jobs keeping us here, I would move to in a heartbeat. We immediately went to Kevin’s parents’ room to collect Brayden.

“No!” He cried. “I want to stay with Cici and Papa!”

My heart about broke. I had missed him even more than I’d known and it had only been one night.

“Brayden, Mommy missed you so much! Come on, buddy. Let’s go check out our room.”

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Riding the trolley

It took some doing, but we finally managed to persuade him of how much fun we would have checking out the town together and getting dinner.

And we did. In fact, we had fun, mostly just us, just our family, the whole two-and-a-half days we were there. Sure, there were some rough spots. (Brayden throwing a fit at the zoo and making us so fed up we had to leave comes to mind… as does Anna melting down at a restaurant and Kevin having to haul her screaming self outside.) But, we would have had those rough spots no matter where we were and, all in all, it was amazing.

We walked around the charming, tree-lined and boutique-and-restaurant-dotted downtown. We explored the postcard-perfect Falls Park in the middle of town, which is true to its name and boasts several gorgeous waterfalls right in its center. We took a trolley ride together, danced at a jazz festival together, toured a farmer’s market together, went swimming together, ate ice cream together, slept in one room together, ate all of our meals together, and went to a wedding together. We even made the seven-plus-hour ride home together, and made it home in one peace.

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Anna dancing with her second cousin while Brayden rushes to join the fun

The whole time, even through the rough spots, I couldn’t believe how happy I was. Sure, I have no doubt the surroundings added to my happiness, but a large part of it, I know, was because I was spending time with my husband and children. Even sleeping in one room together, three nights in a row, weathering naps when Brayden doesn’t nap… even that. I took it, and I’d take it again in a heartbeat. It was wonderful. I loved hearing Anna’s gentle snores nearby and watching Brayden sprawl across the bed in his sleep.

My family was close. My family was happy. My family was mine. I felt extremely blessed.

Now to see about moving the family, friends and jobs to Greenville…

 

 

Weight Loss? What’s the Point?

For the past few weeks I’ve been feeling less than great about myself. My pre-pregnancy clothes don’t quite fit the way they used to and, apparently, my hips are wider… I guess having a baby will do that to you. Who knew?

So, as I struggle to eat right and exercise, I find myself thinking the unthinkable, that I’m just going to get pregnant again, so who cares if I don’t lose all the weight. This thought enters my head at least once a day. I will admit that I’m not proud. But, as Kyle and I are hoping to become pregnant sooner rather than later, I have to wonder if it really matters.

Seriously??  This picture makes me just want to give up and eat cake!

Seriously?? This picture makes me just want to give up and eat cake!

As I’m writing this, I’m hoping there are other moms out there who have thought the same thing.

I understand that this method could be a slippery slope, but, honestly, who wants to put in all the time and effort just to get all pregnant and huge again? Now, I’m not saying that I’m just going to let myself go because, apparently, that should be saved for old age (thanks for clarifying, Colleen). What I am saying is that, getting to that perfect weight and finding my stomach muscles again (I swear they are in there somewhere), will probably just make me never want to get pregnant again.

I’m thinking there has to be a happy medium. I’m thinking that I should continue to exercise and eat well, but not go crazy. I remember people telling me that your body will be very different after having a baby, and I vividly remember my sisters explaining the effects of breastfeeding, an unfortunate result. I think what I need to do is stop comparing my post-baby body with my pre-baby body. They are different, I am different and my body will probably never look like that again. I say probably because, after I have my last child, I fully intend to look into any and all forms of plastic surgery that are available.

Mostly kidding.

I think my new goal will be to eat healthy and exercise and not focus on the number on the scale. I want to be healthy for myself and my son and any future children that we bring into this world. So, here’s to all the moms struggling with coming to terms with their new bodies and the fattest picture you will ever see on this blog.