Thursday, January 31, 2013


par·a·dox \ˈper-ə-ˌdäks, ˈpa-rə-\
          a statement that is seemingly contradictory or opposed to common 
          sense and yet is perhaps true
1.  It is a paradox that computers need maintenance so often, since they are meant to save people time.
par·ent·dox  \I need one of my genius speech path friends to do 
                            this part\                                 
                            \Kelli & Gretchen are laughing right now\
the daily experience that is parenthood; seemingly living life in contradiction
1.  It is a "parent"dox that I am exhausted pretty much all day, but the second my head hits the pillow, my mind starts remembering all of the random things I need to do and I am instantly wide awake.
2.  While cooking, I find is "parent"doxical that the more time it takes to prepare a meal, the less of it my children will eat.  For example, a hot dog takes 25 seconds in the microwave, and my kids will eat the entire thing and ask for seconds.  Wild rice and chicken casserole, which requires 35 minutes of prep work and is made entirely of things they love to eat, will elicit only the one required "taste bite" and my children will carry on as though I have asked them to cut off an appendage.  
3.  Why does my 7 pound newborn baby require that I take 200 pounds of stuff with us in order to leave the house?  Hmmm...such a "parent"dox.
4.  It seemed as though my heart was completely and entirely full and could not contain another ounce of love or joy when my son was born.  What a "parent"dox that my love and joy was multiplied exponentially the moment my daughter was born.  My family and my capacity for love both grew that day.
I have come to realize that from the moment you sign on to become a parent, you also sign on to live the remainder of your life in a "parent"dox.  You are filled with excitement, trepidation, joy, and worry beyond words.  From there on out, at any given moment, on any given day, you will most likely experience some sort of "parent"dox.  It's not good, it's not just is.  Here are a few I've experienced in my very short tenure as a parent...

Trying to clean the house while there are real, live, actual children living in it is an ongoing "parent"dox I face each and everyday.  I attempt to _____ (fill in the blank here...fold laundry, do dishes, clean the bathroom, pick up the living room...) and as soon as said chore is complete (or even partially complete for that matter) I have an equally large (or larger) mess waiting for me.  

Laundry is folded?  Great!  Every book pulled off the bookshelf...not so great.  Bathroom cleaned?  Super! All shoes pulled out and strewn throughout the house...un-super.  Dinner made?  Awesome!  All sorted and organized toy boxes (that job in and of itself had  been traded in for another mess, no doubt...) dumped out and mixed together in the living room...less than awesome.  

The other thing I love about cleaning with kids is the illusion of ever actually finishing a chore.  The floor is mopped.  For a total of 5 seconds.  Because before the mop is actually put away, graham cracker crumbs have already been scattered across the formerly clean floor.  I am also totally convinced that dirty laundry somehow multiplies while it is in the basket.  I throw a pair of socks into an empty basket (wait...who am I kidding...the basket is never empty...but stick with me on this one...), come back 8 minutes later, and the basket is overflowing.  I get that whole "matter can neither be created nor destroyed" bit, but I think dirty laundry supersedes this law of physics.  

The e-card below makes me laugh every time I see it, and totally sums up this "parent"dox.

Bedtime is one of the most well-known "parent"dox moments around our house.  Doing the dance that is bathing, pajama-ing, and teeth brushing a preschooler and a toddler is not without frustration, distraction, negotiation, and flat out HARD WORK!  But the immediate follow up to that is cuddling in bed with both of them while we read stories, talk about the day, pray, and just spend some all-around quality time together.  It is both my most dreaded and most anticipated time of the day.  

That is not even the most "parent"doxical part to me, though.  The part that never ceases to amaze me is after a day filled with longing for the time when I will have a few minutes to myself, I find myself missing them once they are finally asleep.  What is that?  All day long they whine, argue, demand, make messes (I suppose there is some good stuff sprinkled in there, too...) and then when it is finally calm and quiet, I miss the heck out of them?  Why is it I just want to hear their little voices and giggles? Without fail, I will be seeing them soon, when they will be up much earlier than I am ready for the next morning...or in the middle of the night...but for whatever reason, I do find myself missing them at some point during that sacred window of time I spent the majority of the day looking forward to.

We are so very excited for our kiddos to grow and learn and reach milestones.  They are such celebrations and special family memories! From crawling to walking to teething to talking,  we wait in eager anticipation of these events.  At times is seems as though our kiddos are just on the verge of being able to do something, and then they make us wait just a little bit longer.  Sometimes it can be the anticipation of a skill that will seemingly make life just that much easier.  "When she just starts sleeping through the night..." or "When he can finally feed himself..."  All too soon, though, we find ourselves realizing they are growing up much too fast.  We want to freeze time, to keep them little just the tiniest bit longer.  The "parent"dox of eagerly anticipating the passing of time, yet wanting time to freeze, is such a bittersweet one.  

This quote rings with so much truth for me when it comes to this "parent"dox...
"The days are long, but the years are short."  ~Unknown

I experienced a different kind of "parent"dox for the first time just last week.  My son had completely fallen apart and was having an all out fit after he had been sent to "time out" for knocking down his sister's Lego tower for the second time. When one of these fits strikes, he is nearly inconsolable. Crying. Screaming. Completely irrational.  I have learned that one of the only things that can help pull him out of it is to just leave him by himself for awhile.  On the up side, he knows this, too.  He stormed right past the "time out" spot in front of the coat closet and into his bedroom.  After a few minutes, I went in to see how he was doing and attempt to process the situation at hand.  

He let me have it.  He was mad at me.  He was frustrated with me.  He didn't like me.  I was the trigger of this particular explosion, and even though I knew I would still follow through in the same way again, it still hurt and was still hard to see and hear him be so clearly upset with me. I wanted to him to know he couldn't destroy something his sister had worked so hard on, but had I somehow hurt him in a way I didn't mean to?  Had I reacted too quickly?  Spoken too harshly?  Missed something?  (Weird that he is so sensitive, right?  I mean, I wonder where on earth he could get that from?...)  Eventually, he was able to calm down and talk through the issue with me, take responsibility for his actions {with some prodding}, apologize to his sister and get back to his serious work of playing Legos, helping his sister rebuild her construction and flying Lego cars around the living room.  

Here was the flipside of that "parent"dox.  That night, in the midst of praying for our food and our family at dinner, he threw in "...and thank you for moms who help us when we're crying..."  My husband and I looked at each other.  I could hardly believe it.  A situation that hours earlier had been frustrating, exhausting, and also had me beating myself up pretty good, had amazingly turned into a sweet moment I will never forget.  Where earlier he had been so upset, so mad, so emotionally out of control, here he was now verbalizing tenderness, kindness and thankfulness.

I know we will encounter many more situations much bigger, much deeper, much more complicated than this one.  I know 99.9% of the time I will never hear a "thank you" of any kind after being the bearer of bad news or the enforcer of consequences.  So this is the "parent"dox I will tuck away, I will hold on to, I will try to remember, when I find myself in the midst of the next one. 

When you are feeling the worst; when it hurts the most; in that moment, THAT is when You are a Good Mom.  

When you are agonizing about how hurt he is because you followed through on a consequence, that is when You are a Good Mom.

When you stick to your decision, and she "hates" you because "Everyone else is!", that is when You are a Good Mom.

When your daughter has hurled a string of insults at you, and topped it all off with "And you're ugly, too!" as you are helping her to learn the life skill of not saving a big project until the night before it is due, that is when You are a Good Mom.  (Yes, the eerie accuracy and detail of that last one does indeed mean it took place in my childhood home...)  

And ultimately here is perhaps the biggest "parent"dox of them all...they are worth it.  All these crazy, goofy, bittersweet "parent"doxes are worth it. Ask any parent, and they will tell you, without a doubt, that being a parent is worth it.  When it comes down to it at the end of the day, I am grateful that I get to experience these "parent"doxes.  I am blessed that I have these tiny little clothes to wash, trucks and Legos to step over when I walk into my bathroom to brush my teeth at night, kids to wrestle with at bedtime, milestone memories to treasure and remember, and glimpses of seeing my kids learn lessons as they go through life.  

The good stuff far outweighs the bad stuff.  Delighting in the amazing stuff far outweighs enduring the tough stuff.  We bear the burden of heartbreaks, frustrations, sorrows and disappointments, but we are given joys, celebrations, happiness and pride beyond our wildest dreams.  

Weathering the hard times, celebrating the good times...that is when You Are A Good Mom.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

My Life in the Rocking Chair

"Worry is like a rocking chair.  It gives your something to do, but never gets you anywhere."
~Erma Bombeck

Which bedding set should I get for my baby, that I have yet to even hold in my arms?  Which diapers should I use?  Do I let him cry it out or go in and comfort him?  Should she be crawling yet? Walking? Talking? Should he go into Young 5s or Kindergarten next year?  Is she ready for a sleepover yet?  How much do I help him with his science fair project?  What if no one asks her to the dance?  What if someone DOES?  Which college will he choose?  How will we afford it?  Is he really "the one" for her? From before they are born, until they are parents themselves and beyond, we worry.  Rock, rock, rock...yet we get nowhere.

I am a worrier.  I admit it.  I'm not proud of it, but worry seems to creep into my thoughts whenever it darn well pleases.  It's just there.  It's what we do as moms.  We worry about our kids.  We worry about things we can't control.  We worry about people they have yet to meet, obstacles they have yet to face, challenges they have yet to overcome.  We know we can't be there with them at every moment, and so we hope we are preparing them the best we can to go out and face the world, whether that world is the other kids playing on the playground at the park, the new roommate they meet for the first time as you move them into their dorm room, or unknown co-workers at a first job halfway across the country.

There is such a wide variety and so many options when it comes to worry.  Don't you worry...I seem to have mastered them all.  Let me share a few pages from my personal worry book...

The "I Can't Believe I Did That!" Worry

Scene: Driveway of our day care provider's house on a cold, dark December night, after picking up both of my children.  Life has been overall hectic, and I have just wrestled my oldest (who was 3 1/2 at the time) into his car seat, which took quite a bit of force and effort.  Both kids are successfully strapped in.  I am beyond ready to get home.  Push button on automatic door to close.

"NOOOOOOOOOO!!" I say as I turn in slow motion and see my car keys lying on the front seat.  Check doors.  Locked.  Tightly.  All of them.   

"Hey, buddy!  Do you think you can reach your arms out of your straps?!" said hopefully, playfully, as if it's a crazy new game mom invented.  Continue miming how to do this outside of his window.  Son looks at me as if I'm crazy.  He tries, to no avail.  (Note: In the long run, a good thing.  If he could get himself out of his 5-point harness car seat on his own, that is an entirely different set of worries...)

Walk to day care providers front door.  Knock, knock, knock.  "Um, yeah, I know you're trying to start dinner with your own family after an entire day with other people's kids, too, but do you think you could call a tow truck for me?"

Thank goodness our day care provider was a good friend from high school, who stood out in the cold with me with a flashlight waiting for the tow truck and did NOT later call child protective services on me.  Tow truck arrives, and I realize I have forgotten my wallet at home.  Call Mom to get her credit card number to give tow truck driver, and tell her I will pay her back later.  (Thanks, Mom!  You're the original Good Mom!! :)  The fun just never ends, right?

That one was even in my control, so to speak.  It was something I did, and unfortunately, it was not the first or last time I will be guilty of pulling something like that.  The lesson I learned here is don't beat yourself up over it.  It happens.  We're moms and it comes with the territory of being human and having a million things on our plates and on our minds at once.  Get up out of the rocking chair, work to resolve the issue at hand and move on.  

The "What Will They Think?" Worry

Scene: Our little family of 4, the secretaries, and the principal, in the office of my son's preschool, also a K-6 school, the Friday before Christmas break. The secretary has asked my preschooler what Santa will bring for Christmas.  She has asked him about what Santa will bring him, his sister, his mom, and is now asking about his dad.

"I think he'll bring him tools.  He really likes to build stuff."

"Really?  That's neat!"
"Yeah.  He works in the garage a lot.  And this summer, we're gonna build a bat house together! (Note:  This is actually true.  My husband has talked with my son about this upcoming endeavor.)  It's gonna be so fun and I'm gonna wear special glasses and use tools!  And we're gonna catch bats in my bat house from our backyard so we can eat the bat meat (Note: This was NOT part of any conversation my husband has had with him about this upcoming endeavor) and...."

I have no idea what he said after that.  Excuse me...did he just say we would catch the bats and EAT THE MEAT?  Did he just tell the school secretaries we would EAT BAT MEAT?  Seriously?!  Worry sets in...oh no...are we going to be the crazy bat family?  We are going to have children at this school for the next 10 years!  

Thank goodness my aunt is the principal in this scene, and thank goodness the secretaries are the sweetest, most amazing women on the planet, and my aunt just started laughing right along with my husband and I as we all looked at each other.  She saved the day and jumped in with "Where does he get this stuff?"  I'm sure we will inevitably be come to be known as the "something" family over the years, but at least for now, it's NOT the crazy bat family.  

The lesson I learned here is learn to laugh at it.  There is no way we can control the things that come out of our kiddos' age 2, at age 8 and most definitely anything that ends with "-teen."  We can't control what other people are going to think of us or our kids, either.  We shouldn't even try.  Get up out of the rocking chair, laugh over whatever goofy/embarrassing/off the wall thing that was said or done, and move on.  

The "Is My Kid Gonna Be Alright?" Worry

Scene: Our house, the weekend after school was out for summer vacation.  Loud "crash" noise comes from my son's room, as I'm in my daughter's room, trying to get her to nap.  Immediately followed by my husband's swift steps up the stairs.

My husband, extremely calmly.  "Carrie, get her dressed.  Grab your keys.  I need you to drive us to the emergency room."  

My heart sinks.  My stomach drops.  My mind is racing.  What happened?  Is everything OK?  Obviously not... (Note: I can handle a lot of of bodily fluids from my kids.  Poop.  Pee.  Boogers.  Puke.  Spit up.  You name it, I've been covered it.  And sometimes in a combination of the above.  Does not phase me in the least.  Except BLOOD.  I don't handle blood so well... like I faint.  Not good.)  

My incredible, calm, level-headed husband is taking care of our son and helping to calm him down and reassuring him, all the while trying to keep me calm.  He has his head wrapped.  They are both covered in blood.  I am worried beyond words, but do my best to get myself and my daughter buckled in the car and ready to go.  As it turns out, my son was running into his bedroom, and either slipped on something or just tripped, and fell and hit his head on the baseboard of his bed just above his eye.  He got a pretty good sized cut, 5 stitches, and now has a faint scar that he loves to tell people about.  

All 4 of us end up spending a few hours at the ER, complete with Toy Story and Popsicles.  When the ER doc comes into our room, he looks at my husband and I and asks us what happened.  Our son pipes up from his bed, with his wounded, wrapped head (he honestly looked like a little miniature Civil War soldier...) and matter-of-factly remarks "I got in a fight with my bed, and the bed won."  

Thank goodness for my incredible, calm, level-headed husband, who got our son through the actual stitches as I took our daughter out to the lobby...and worried the entire time. The lesson I learned here is be there and be present the best you can.  Just having you there and present will do wonders for your kiddo, even if you are scared and worried yourself.  Get up out of the rocking chair, love on your sick/injured/hurting kiddo like crazy, provide comfort and support, and move on.

There are so many other worries that rear their ugly heads throughout the day or night.  I'm guessing that most of you out there have your own to add to this list, too.  If not, please let me in on your secret!


Even now, my 83-year-old grandpa still worries about my 60-year-old mom. Are you OK driving across town by yourself?  Did you get your power back after the storm?  Do you have an umbrella if it rains?  So I guess it never really stops...we never really totally get up out of the rocking chair.  It's just one of those things that comes with being a mom.  We worry because we love them.  We worry because we want the very best possible life for them.  We worry because they are a little tiny piece of us living out there in the great big world.  We worry because we wish we could make sure that everything will always be "OK," but we know we can't.  We just have to be by their side and love them through it all, no matter what.  

But this post is not just about worry.  It's not just to give you more things to worry if you needed that.  
It is to put it out there, so that we know we are not alone in our worry.  To focus on what we can control, and hopefully to provide some encouragement.  

Let love guard against worry.  Take heart in the knowledge that your child is loved beyond words and that they know that.  They can feel it in a way that they don't always show and don't always say.  Sometimes they even say it to the contrary.  

(My 2-year-old daughter cried all the way home the first time she came with me to drop her older brother off at preschool because I wouldn't let her stay at school with him.  After we pulled out of the parking lot, she yelled at me "I need a new mommy!!"  Oh yeah...those teen years are gonna be a ball of fun with this one!)

But no matter the words they sling at us, or the actions they take to try to say otherwise as they assert their independence and try to find their place in this world, they KNOW they are loved.  They know it in a way they can't even put into words.  It is comfort.  It is a warm blanket wrapped tightly around them, even when you are not there.  That is the very best gift we can give them.  They have worth.  They are worth loving.  That sticks with them.  

All those "what ifs...".  All those uncontrollable factors out there.  All those obstacles and challenges they have yet to face.  All those things we worry about in the middle of the night or the middle of the day, for that matter.  All those things do not compare to this one simple truth they know in their soul:  I have been, and continue to be, loved unconditionally.  No matter what they face, what they come up against, that is with them.  YOU have given that to your child...and no amount of worrying can take that away.  

So tonight, let your mind rest at ease, if even for a few minutes.  Let go of the worry, just for a short while.  Give the rocking chair a break.  Know that your child is loved in a way only YOU can love them, loved in a way that can never be taken from them, loved in a way they will never forget.  They will be ready to face all that this world has to throw their way.  Not to say there won't be obstacles or challenges, but that infallible truth of a mother's love will be there with them.  Always.  

Don't worry...You Are a Good Mom.

...and You're a Good Dad, Too!

Just a short disclaimer...

KUDOS to all the good dads out there, too!!  As you read this post, and any others you happen to peruse, please know that 98% of the time every time it says "mom" it can also be read as "dad."  The other 2% would be related to breastfeeding, bra shopping, menstrual cramps, (all dads have now stopped reading...) and any of that other "woman stuff" we talk about.

I suppose you can blame that on the lady at Meijer, who did not say to me "You're a Good Mom...and I'm sure your children have an excellent father, too."  Plus, "You're a Good Mom and/or Dad" and "You're a Good Parent" just didn't have the same ring as "You're a Good Mom("  In all sincerity, all you dads out there are just as much thought of, loved and appreciated!  You are a Good Dad!

Keep your eyes peeled, too.  My husband just mentioned at dinner the other night "Hmm.  Maybe I'll start an 'I'm a Good Dad' blog."  Although it was in context of being extremely supportive of me as I start on this new adventure that is a little bit terrifying for me, and he was totally joking, he is an awesome dad, an awesome writer and it would an awesome blog if it ever did come to be!  (No pressure, Trev, no pressure...)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Here We Go!

So this is it.  This is me starting a blog.  I'm not really sure what I'm doing or what I'm supposed to write.  I feel like I should have something profound to say that would be worth putting out there for someone else to read.  It should be funny.  It should be poignant.  It should be eloquent.  It should be worth whatever space it is taking up on the Internet.  The first blog entry on a blank page in the blogosphere... Oh, the pressure...

And so I suppose that is where this all begins.  Pressure.  The pressure that comes with being a mom.  The pressure we put on ourselves.  The pressure we inadvertently put on each other.  The pressure the rest of the world puts on us.  But most of all, the pressure we put on ourselves.  

I had been toying with the idea of starting a blog for about six months, after a dear friend had suggested starting one (Thanks, Tara! :), but I had yet to act on it.  Nothing had hit me as far as having anything to say about anything.  I had lots of experiences and lots of feelings on lots of things (and oh don't you worry...that will all come later!), but nothing that really rang true or felt authentic that other people could relate to that I could actually start a blog about.  That all changed after a grocery shopping trip to Meijer with my toddler and preschooler in tow.  (Enter collective sigh by all moms here...)

I had embarked on our weekly grocery shopping trip to Meijer with my 4-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter.  As always, it was my lofty goal to get the things on my shopping list, check out, load the car and get home without a.) losing a child or b.) losing my mind.  This particular shopping trip was in the middle of a business trip my for my husband and the Christmas season.  Double whammy.  Needless to say, there had not been much sleep in our house, and the kiddos were getting a little sick of the "all mommy, all the time" show.  We were far enough into Dad being out of town that everyone was tired, but not yet close enough to him being back home to have that "light at the end of the tunnel" feel.  I was looking especially lovely, having not slept through the night in a few nights, and not showered in just as many days, I'm sure.

We were slogging up one aisle and down the next, and had avoided a couple melt down situations with the distraction of Goldfish crackers, the highlight of getting to walk by the cart for an aisle instead of being strapped in, or the special job of going to get a requested item off Mom's list.    This had been, and was continuing to be, an extra long trip, as I was not only doing our weekly grocery shopping, but also the Christmas grocery shopping for the family gathering of 25+ we'd be having at our house soon.  Things were actually going relatively well, all things considered...and then we hit the baking aisle.  Oh, the baking aisle...

Per our advent activity calendar that I was attempting to do with my kids, we were getting supplies to bake a birthday cake for Jesus for Christmas day.  We have never before done this, but I thought, "What the heck, let's give it a try..."  I told the kids they could pick out sprinkles and frosting to decorate the cake.  They approached the shelf, and of course wanted totally different things.  As I looked up, my son had his hand raised and was coming down at full force to deliver a mighty blow to his younger sister, who was no doubt, aggravating him.  A birthday cake for Jesus and we are hitting each other over it.  Perfect.  I think that parable was somewhere in the New Testament... Anyway... Moments before my son could make contact with his target, I reached out and quickly pulled them both back by me. The aisle was pretty much empty, but the last thing I needed was two kids in major melt down mode in Meijer, with a finished list and a check out lane miles away! 

I'm not gonna lie.  I was pretty close to losing my mind at that point. There were a lot of deep breaths being taken.  I kept my cool the best I could and tried to talk as calmly as I could to my kiddos, and we all worked through the issue without physical violence or crying on anyone's part.  (In general, I consider this a good day...)  I was feeling pretty much at the end of my rope and like my last ounce of energy and patience had just been sucked out of me, and I still had about half a shopping trip ahead of me.  As I finally loaded the kids back in the cart and we were getting ready to finish up our list and survive yet another week in the saga that is the Meijer trip, a woman in her 40s came walking calmly down the aisle, pushing her cart, without any kids in tow.  She didn't slow down, she didn't stop, she just casually walked by and leaned over and said "You're a good mom," smiled, winked and kept walking. She had no intention of having a conversation or talking to the kids, as many people do when we grocery shop.   She just wanted to deliver that message and move on.

That was it.  Four little words.  Nothing more, nothing less.

But they were the four little words I needed to hear the absolute most in that moment.  They weren't in judgement. They weren't in praise. They weren't meant to begin a conversation.  But they calmed me and encouraged me and made me smile when I felt like crying.  They gave me the energy and patience I needed; that my kids needed me to have.  Those four little words did, however,  begin thoughts for me about what we do day in and day out as moms, how we question and second-guess ourselves, how we push ourselves, how we give every ounce of ourselves and sometimes still feel like we come up short.  The quiet, simple encouragement of one mom to another at the moment it was needed most.  This rang true.  This felt authentic.  This felt like something I could say something about.  

In all the thinking, in all the pondering, in all the wondering for six months about writing something and putting it out there...that's it.  That's what this blog is going to be least for now.  

You're a Good Mom.  They are not my words, but her words.  A total stranger in Meijer, who gave me the gift of those four little words at the moment I needed it most.  She will never know what a gift those words were and continue to be.

You're a Good Mom.  Because you need to hear it.  Because I need to hear it.  Because we all need to believe it...of ourselves, and of each other.

I figure that whenever you visit this page, at the very least you will read that title and know those four little words were meant for YOU in that moment...
YOU are a good mom.  

No matter where you are, what you are doing, how you are feeling...
You ARE a good mom.  

No matter what the day has held or the future may hold...
You are a GOOD mom.  

No matter if your baby is a week old, or is now having a baby of her own...
You are a good MOM.  

Just by swinging by this little piece of the world wide web, no matter if you stay to read anything or not, you have heard the message YOU ARE A GOOD MOM and I hope you take it to heart.

So there you have it...I guess that takes the pressure off me having to say something funny, poignant, eloquent. Taking the pressure off?  I think that's a pretty good place to start...for all of us.
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