Sunday, March 31, 2013

"Parent"dox: Believing Isn't Always Seeing

Sunday Night "Parent"dox #7: Believing Isn't Always Seeing
When I walked into my daughter's room last night to check on her, I found her tucked in bed, light on, with my camera snuggled up next to her.  (She, of course, was still awake.)

"Why do you have my camera?"

"Mom, I need it so I can take a picture of my bedroom and take a picture of the Easter Bunny!"

(Some of my daughter's handiwork I found after confiscating the camera.  A valiant effort on her part.  Feels a little bit like you're on the Tilt-A-Whirl at a carnival, doesn't it?)

My sweet, sweet girl.  I bent down, kissed her forehead, and assured her the Easter Bunny would only arrive once she was sound asleep.  She reluctantly conceded and gave up the camera in exchange for her beloved "Lovey" and a few rounds of Mom singing "The Good Night Song" while snuggling her.

Even at the tender age of 2, my daughter was already looking to capture visual proof -- some sort of evidence -- of something she believed in, but had not seen with her own eyes.  

Seeking My Own Photograph
This camera incident with my daughter had me reflecting on my own faith in a different way this Easter Sunday.  How often do I ask God for a "photograph" of some sort?  He sent His one and only Son to walk this Earth, to teach, to lead, and ultimately, to die for my sins.  He paid the ultimate price for me.  Yet time and time again, I find myself second-guessing, wondering, craving some kind of proof; some kind of photograph.  

Can this be real, God?  Do you really, truly love me -- me -- with all my flaws and shortcomings? Could you really have sacrificed your Son, in all of His perfection, to die for me, in all my imperfection?  How can I believe your love and grace can be extended to even me when there is nothing I can see?  No proof?  No evidence?  No photograph?

These questions creep into my thoughts more than I care to admit.  In the small things, in the big things.  When I worry. When I doubt.  When I fear.  

But He doesn't worry, He doesn't doubt, He doesn't fear.  His love is bigger than all of that.  His love is bigger than my imperfections, my flaws, my shortcomings.  His love is bigger than my worry, my doubt, my fear.  His love is bigger than my sin.  He doesn't ignore my sin; He sees it and forgives it and loves me still.  His love is bigger than I can ever hope to fathom.

For me, today is the greatest reminder of my faith; of not seeing, yet believing.  


No, I didn't see it myself.  No, I have no photograph.  But I am blessed with hundreds and hundreds of snapshots of God and His perfect love each and every day.  

  • My husband.  My son.  My daughter.  My family.  My friends.  
  • The way He provides for me, even when I struggle to know what it is I need.  The way He is moving in my life for His purpose, even as I feel unsteady and unsure myself.  The way I can be moved to tears of joy when I am worshipping Him, even as I face grief or sorrow.
  • Love.  Laughter.  Life. 
  • The faithfulness of a new sunrise and a new start each day.  The beauty and renewal of spring.  
  • The relationship I have with my heavenly Father.  The feeling I try over and over to put to words, but find those words always falling short.  The inexplicable peace and comfort I find when I turn to Him in the midst of a storm.  
  • The miracle of an almost-here niece.  The sweet words of my children's prayers.  The kind words of a stranger at Meijer.  
He is present in the little things, in the big things.  He is with me, always.  

His photographs are all around me.  

Seeking Photographs as Parents
In some ways, parenting requires a sort of faith, too: a faith in the future; a faith in ourselves.  Day in and day out, we do our very best to make decisions in the best interests for our children. We search for the "right" words to comfort, teach and guide our children, the "right" consequences to help our children learn from their actions, the "right" decisions for the choices we face as parents.

When it comes down to it, we really have no way of knowing how we're doing in the day to day. We are asked to believe in our parenting, even without seeing immediate results.   It comes down to faith.  

Even when it is hard, even when we are faced with decisions that may break our hearts in the present, we make those decisions because we have faith that in the future, those tough decisions will pay off for our children.  We have faith that we are providing them with a foundation to grow into the children, teenagers and adults God intends them to be.  He gives us these beautiful, precious gifts for a short, short time, and we do our best to help them along the way to become loving, honest, responsible adults.  

I know it's not easy.  I can't even count the number of times I've wished for some kind of "proof" or "evidence" to know that I am on the right path of parenting.  If only I could have that photograph of my children as adults.  Just a quick little sneak peek to reassure me, to encourage me, to let me know they turned out "OK" and that I did "OK" as a parent.  

Once again, if I slow down and take a closer look around, there are a few of those snapshots sprinkled here and there every once in a while.  
  • The unprompted "please" or "thank you."
  • The pitter-patter of toddler feet into your bedroom one last time because "I have to tell you a question before I go to bed, Mom.  I love you!"
  • The genuine hug from brother to sister, when they think you aren't looking.
  • The matter-of-fact way they tell you "Mom, guess what?  Jesus loves me even more than you do!"
  • The honesty and courage when they own up to a choice they made and are not proud of, but are learning from.
  • The time they put away there coat and shoes without being asked.
  • The afternoon at the library when they offer one of the trains they are playing with to the little boy who has none, all on their own accord.

These photographs may be fleeting, a little blurry at times, and may not occur as often as we'd like, but they are there if we look.  

There are still those times, though, when my doubt, my worry, my fear kick in.  I find myself wondering... Wouldn't it be amazing if we could just know?  If we could just see that we are on the right path, and then it would be so much easier to believe in ourselves as parents?  

But that's not how parenting works.  That's not how faith works.  It is believing in the unseen, trusting in the unknown.  That is what makes it so amazing, so powerful, so beautiful.  

Have faith in yourself as a parent, even when it is hard.  Especially when it is hard.  He put His faith in you when He put that child, His child, in your care.

Have faith, You Are a Good Mom.  

"The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched.  They must be felt with the heart."  ~Helen Keller

Wondering what began all this blogging craziness?  Check out my first post for the back story on "You're a Good Mom" if you're curious.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Dodging a Bullet

My husband and I narrowly dodged a bullet the other night.  Make that a speeding bullet.

We were knee-deep in the bedtime routine, (which, of course, is when most speeding bullets go whizzing by at our is it that kids know just when to time these things?) smack dab between brushing teeth and reading bedtime stories.  Somehow, all 4 of us were in the hallway outside the kids' bedrooms and my 4-year-old looked up at us with his quizzical look that means he is thinking.
"Where do babies?..."

(Pause.  Husband and I exchange glance.)

"Babies come..."

(Pause.  Husband and I collectively hold our breath.)

"Babies are born at the doctor, right?"

(Tension lifts.  Sighs of relief.  Husband and I exchange knowing smile.)

My younger sister is pregnant right now with her first baby, so there has been lots of talk around our house about our kids' new baby cousin and when she will arrive and when they will get to hold her.
(Please excuse my scatterbrained-ness and all the interruptions in this post.  I am just laughing as I am writing this because I can picture my sister reading it and saying "So this is my fault, too?  You're pinning this one on me?  You spilling the juice on the carpet and telling Mom it was me wasn't enough?"  As the older sister, I may have been known to blame a thing or two on my younger sister.  This "blame claim", however, cannot and has not been corroborated.  I plead the Fifth.  And dear sister, I am not blaming you, simply laying out the case for why babies have been a major topic of conversation in our house as of late and why your nephew may have been asking this question in the first place.) 
So yes, lots of baby talk at our house lately, and this time, we were able to dodge the mother of all bullets.  I know this is not over.  I know the "big one" will come up again.  I only hope I will not look as though I have been hit with an actual bullet when he does inquire further.  I hope I am able to provide him with just enough information to answer exactly what he is asking at that moment in time and not stumble into any other "land mine" topics while trying to provide answers.

Which leads me to my next dodged bullet...

However, this story only involves my child as a supporting player, not the main character.  The main character will remain nameless to protect the innocent, but for the sake of the story, you need to know this:

Big Kid = 5 years old; not my child; has sibling of different gender
Baby = my son (2 months old at the time)

The conversation between the Big Kid and I occurred while we were both looking at my son's birth announcement.  It went something like this...

BK: "How did you know when the baby would be born?"
Me:  "The doctors told us a due date.  That is their best guess for when they think the baby will be born."
BK:  "Hmm."  (Pauses.  Accepts that answer, and continues thinking.)  "How did you know what you were gonna name the baby?"
Me:  "Well, we didn't know for sure if the baby was going to be a boy or a girl, so we had a couple of names picked out, and decided on his name at the hospital."
BK:  "Hmm."  (Pauses.  Accepts that answer, and continues thinking.)  "So when did you find out he was a boy?" 
(I'm pretty sure this is when I was trying to hide the sheer look of terror that was creeping across my face.  Please remember, this was not my child.  My child could not yet speak, so I had no experience with this whole Big Kid questioning/thinking/responding thing.  This Big Kid did have a sibling of a different gender, I silently reasoned to myself while trying to play it totally cool, maybe BK knew about this stuff.  Then again, this was not my child, and this felt somewhat out of my realm.  What to do, what to do.  I knew I should have worn my Kevlar vest today.  I went with the only weapon I had...put it back on BK.) 
Me:  "How do you think we knew when he was a boy?" 
BK:  "Well, when you saw he had hair!" 
Me:  "Yes, yes...that was it!  When we saw he had hair we knew we had a son and that's when we picked his name."

So, yes, I may have lied to a 5-year-old.  I admit it.  Sue me.  But I figured at that point, I had provided just enough information to answer BK's line of questioning, without providing too much.

All joking aside, I pray each day that my husband and I are building the type of relationship with both of our children where they will come to us with these tough questions as they grow up.  I want them to trust us and feel comfortable to approach us with their wonderings.  I hope they will turn to us, and we will be able to have open, honest conversations about their big questions, no matter how initially uncomfortable for us...or them.  

When you are faced with the toughest of questions, You Are a Good Mom.  
When you have none of the answers, You Are a Good Mom.  
When you do have the answers, but aren't quite sure how to deliver them, You Are a Good Mom.
When your kids trust you and come to you with those tough questions, You Are a Good Mom.
When you engage in meaningful dialogue with your child, You Are a Good Mom.  
When you figure out how to explain where babies come from, You Are a Good Mom.  (And then please call me and let me exactly know how you went about this conversation...)
Wondering what began all this blogging craziness?  Check out my first post for the back story on "You're a Good Mom" if you're curious.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

"Parent"dox: Full? Or Empty?

Sunday Night "Parent"dox #6: Full?  Or Empty?
When my son was an infant, there were many a time when I wished he had come with some type of gauge to let me know if his little tummy was full or empty.  (The first time being when he was about 5 hours old...)  I would have gladly paid for an upgrade at the hospital, or extended the warranty, or whatever needed to happen.  Unfortunately, none of these were options or I missed the paperwork somewhere along the way.  Alas, I had to learn to rely on and trust my Mom Instincts.  

Let me explain...

My son was a serious "spitter-upper" as an infant.  When I say "spitter-upper," I actually mean "empty the contents of my stomach-er."  He was a great eater, and we were blessed that breastfeeding went really well right from the start.  

Almost a little too well.  

The little man would eat and eat and eat, and from time to time, immediately follow that up with spitting up his entire feeding.  At least it felt that way when it ended up all over me.  After a while, I learned that I needed to cut him off before he would have chosen to himself.  To be honest, he comes by this voracious appetite honestly.  I have been known to eat way beyond "I'm full" myself.  Wait, there's chocolate cake?  Oh sure, I can make that happen...piece of, well, cake.

One of his most infamous instances was on a trip to Mackinac Island when he was 2 months old.  We had just stepped off the ferry, and found a quiet, secluded spot where I could feed him.  The sun was shining, a cool breeze was blowing, and we had a day full of fun and adventure was waiting for us.  Fudge.  Historic forts.  Ice cream.  Arch Rock.  Salt Water Taffy.  Carriage rides.  Fudge.  (Remember that voracious appetite thing?)  I finished feeding him, put him up on my shoulder to burp him, and it happened.  He got rid of that entire feeding all over my back.  There I was, literally minutes into our trip, covered in regurgitated milk.  Try not to be jealous.  

Lucky for me, the only thing Mackinac Island has more of than fudge shops, are t-shirt shops.  I am now the proud owner of a souvenir Mackinac Island t-shirt which holds one too many memories from that trip.  

Here was the "parent"dox I struggled with in those early days:  Is he full or empty?  

I just fed him.  I know he did actually digest some of what he was eating because he started eating 20 minutes ago.  I also know he expelled from his body what feels like an entire feeding.  So is he full?  Or empty?  Do I feed him again?  Or consider that his feeding?  It was a learning curve for my son and I, and we eventually got the hang of it together.  

When you are covered in bodily fluids from your kiddo, and all you want to do is cry, You Are a Good Mom.  When you are covered in bodily fluids from your kiddo and you still love them beyond words, You Are a Good Mom.  (C' know you've been there...)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Are You a Good Cooker?

One night as I was making dinner, my 4 1/2-year-old son wandered in the kitchen and began a lovely little conversation.

"Mom, you're not a good cooker."

Wait...what?  Did I hear that right?  Was I really having my culinary skills critiqued by someone who used the word "cooker"?  I remained silent as I tried not to laugh, scold, question or tell him that he was more than welcome to start making his own stinkin' meals. Fighting all these urges, I just stood there and listened.  

"Mom, you're not a good cooker.  You try to make good food for us, but you just don't.  Let me explain.  Like 11 days you are a good cooker, but 50 days you are not a good cooker."

Yup, apparently I did hear that right.  Thank you, Bobby Flay, Jr.

I am the first to admit I am no expert in the kitchen.  I'm not one of those people who love to cook.  I don't have well-defined taste buds or wonderful instincts when it comes to foods and flavors.  I am, however, learning as I cook more and more.  I do prepare dinner just about every night of the week for my family, and no one has died or gotten food poisoning yet, so I'm feeling pretty good about that.  

Needless to say, cooking is neither a gift or talent of mine.

You Are a Good Cooker
Contrast that with a good friend of mine who was telling me just the other day about broccoli cheddar soup she had made.  My mouth was watering just listening to her describe it.  And then came the big jaw-dropper for me...she made it from scratch.  Like "scratch" scratch.  Like didn't have a recipe.  I was in total and utter shock and amazement.  No recipe?  She could have told me she rescued someone's life by performing CPR and I would have been equally as amazed.  The best part was this detail was just a part of the story, and only came out as I was asking her questions.  She wasn't bragging; she wasn't boasting.  She was so very humble.

This was one of her gifts and talents.  Here I am, working away in my little kitchen, following each and every recipe to the letter, and hoping it turns into something edible.  There she is, in her kitchen, whipping up a culinary masterpiece without so much as a single measurement to go by!  Did she even know the true awesomeness of her soup-making skills?  I was in awe.

You Are a Good Ice Skater
Within a few days, a similar scenario presented itself.  My uncle had generously given us tickets to take our family and another family to Disney on Ice.  It just so happened that the other Mom (and dear friend), that was with us was an ice skater herself.  At the end of the show, we all kept talking about how great the skating was and asking her how in the world a skater can spin and twirl and balance and jump...and do it all on ice!

Very simply, she said "How do you guys shoot a basketball?  That's just as amazing to me."

And there is was again.  This was her gift, her talent.  She was so very humble about this special, unique, amazing talent she had.

You Are a Good...
Each and every one of you reading this can complete that sentence in a million different ways.  When I think of my friends and family, so many different gifts and talents come to mind...

...You have such incredible fashion sense.  You can whip together a few things out of your closet and voila! Amazing!
...You are an incredible listener.  You let me go on and on and on about whatever is on my heart, no matter how big or how small.
...You can quote movie line after movie line and apply it to any situation.  You always seem to know who "that guy" that was in "that one movie" whenever I can't remember.
...You are loyal beyond words.  You are genuine and real and I know I can always just be me when I am with you.  You remind me life isn't perfect, and I don't have to be either.
...You run...and run...and run!  You keep putting one foot in front of the other and you run miles and miles and miles.  And no one is even chasing you!
...You are hilarious.  Whenever you open your mouth, you make me laugh.  Sometimes, you don't even have to open your can do it with just a look on your face.
...You do hair like nobody's business.  Your own hair.  Your kids' hair.  You can give your son an adorable haircut, and you can whip your little girl's hair into a french braid in no time flat.
...You have twins.  Enough said.
...You can take an empty room, and know just what paint color goes with what fabric color goes with what window treatments goes with what throw pillows and make it look like a million bucks.
...You are the coupon queen.  You always know where the very best deals are, and have a coupon on hand at a moment's notice for whatever random item I'm shopping for.
...You can parallel park without breaking a sweat...even when there are people watching you do it.

Just a Little Warning
Please, please, please don't misunderstand where I'm coming from by talking about gifts and talents.  My worst fear is that someone reading this would see the strengths of others as weaknesses in themselves, or use the talents of someone else as some sort of "measuring stick" for themselves.  (What's that I hear?  A can of worms being opened?  I think this topic may require a post all its own...stay tuned.)

Y'all know where I stand on the whole "You're a Good Mom" bit and lifting each other up, not tearing each other -- or yourself -- down.  I'm not a whiz in the kitchen or on the ice.  My strengths lie in other areas, and I am OK with that.  It makes me appreciate each of those qualities in each of those friends that much more. 

This isn't about comparison.  This isn't about competition.  This isn't about guilt.  

This is about seeing yourself for the amazing person you are.  

This is about taking time to think -- really think -- and acknowledge your own strengths.  So often, we don't think of the things we are good at as "strengths."  It's just "what we do."   We don't realize what a gift, a talent, it is until someone else points it out.  Even then, we tend to shrug our shoulders, brush it off, and downplay it as "not a big deal." 

It is sometimes too easy for us to see the things we don't do as well as we'd like; the things we wish we could do; the things we have tried and not yet accomplished.  

It can be more difficult to see the things we do well; the things we can do; the things we have worked hard at and achieved.

Now It's Your Turn
What are your gifts and talents?  What are your strengths?  I'm asking you to go out on a limb here, gather up your courage, and post a comment below about a gift, talent or strength you possess.  For these few minutes, recognize it, celebrate it, take pride in it.

You can leave the comment anonymously if you'd like.  You can even use the comment to honor a gift or talent you recognize in someone else -- a sister, a friend, a co-worker, a mom.  Then, if you're really feeling courageous, pass this post on to them, or send them a quick email, text or give them a phone call and let them know what amazing talent you see in them.  Chances are, they may not have recognized it as anything special in themselves until you pointed it out.  

My hope would be that when others read the gifts and talents listed, they wouldn't read it and think of their shortcomings.  Rather, that they may begin to recognize some of those gifts and talents in themselves, or begin thinking about other areas of strength in their own lives they hadn't recognized before.  

All too often, we tear ourselves down with the things we can't do.  Let's take just a moment to build ourselves up, to build each other up, and acknowledge the things we can do.

[And yes...changing a diaper without getting peed on is totally a talent!  So is finishing a phone call while there is a toddler in the room, actually arriving to a location on time when you have children in tow, and eating a meal while it is still hot when there is a baby at the table.  You think I am kidding.  I am not.  Don't forget these skills you have honed!]

When you recognize the unique gifts and talents God has given you, You Are a Good Mom.  

When you acknowledge and celebrate the unique gifts and talents God has given others, You Are a Good Mom.

When you make macaroni and cheese right out of the blue box, You Are a Good Cooker and You Are a Good Mom.  (Yeah, my same little stinker food critic told me I was a "good cooker" when I was making macaroni and cheese for him and his sister for lunch about a week after the first critique.  I am obviously grooming very refined palettes in this house!)  

Monday, March 18, 2013

My Little Ladybug

Have you ever had something start out one way and then take a total U-turn and turn out completely different than you originally thought?

This is the story that I thought I was going to write when I started the "In the Trenches" post.  A cute little anecdote about my 2 1/2-year-old daughter, and a decision I made "in the trenches" that I had pretty much sworn I would never do.  Then that post turned into something totally different and I couldn't seem to make this story fit in, but I still wanted to share it.  It was one of those moments that both made me laugh, and also made me feel like I needed my guardian angel from Meijer right there in my living room to tell me "You're a Good Mom" because I wasn't really feeling like one at the time.  So, here it is.

You Think You Know Your Kid...

In November, we went to Florida for my cousin's wedding.  My 2 1/2-year-old daughter, who is by no means a "girly girl," was super excited to wear her "twirly dress" to the wedding.  For weeks leading up to the wedding, she would ask to wear it.  When she did actually get to try it on a couple of times, she would twirl around the house (hence the name she gave the dress...) and would take great joy in watching the skirt billow out like a bell around her.  The night of the reception, she spent every second she could on the dance floor running around the dance floor and twirling in her dress.  

Following the wedding, we drove over to Orlando and spent 3 days at Disney World before heading back home.  The princesses were most definitely a high point of the trip, and we heard all about Cinderella and Belle and Tangled (aka Rapunzel...) for weeks and weeks after that.  Who am I kidding...they are still celebrities at our house.  

On our last day in Disney World, we let each kiddo choose one toy as a souvenir to take home.  My daughter chose a set of 6 little plastic princesses, which often watch her eat her breakfast in the morning, cuddle up with her in bed at night and accompany her on many adventures in the hours in between.  

Shortly after we arrived back home, we visited some good friends at their house, and the kids all played for the awhile.  They have the most amazing, awesome assortment of dress up clothes, and my kids dove right in.  They loved putting on costume after costume and funny accessory after funny accessory.

Armed with these three observations, I created my own formula for the perfect Christmas gift for my daughter...  

Twirly Dress + Princess Love +  Dress Up Fun = Merida (Princess from Brave) Dress Up Dress

Genius, right?  I was glad I was putting that math minor to good use.

I have to admit, I was pretty darn proud of myself for coming up with this one.  She had loved the movie Brave and was getting the DVD for Christmas also, so I figured she could wear the dress and watch the movie.  I would be able to witness what I imagined could only be described as sheer glee and pure joy radiating from the face of my only daughter, and be filled with the satisfaction of knowing that I had provided this for her.  

Worst $20 I Ever Spent

I could not have been more wrong.

It is now March.  The dress is still hanging, untouched, in her closet.  She put it on for 5 seconds one time, and that was the extent the dress has been used.  We have watched the movie countless times.  The dress...not so much.

Last week, my son had a Super Hero party at preschool.  We borrowed a SpiderMan costume from a dear friend.  Come to find out, I have apparently been depriving my only son of a right of passage of all toddler/preschool age boys by not providing such apparel earlier in his little life.  He absolutely loved the SpiderMan get up, fake muscles and all.  When he got home from school that day, he would not take it off until bedtime.

Please note, the irony of this situation is not lost on me.  I have a son who wants nothing more than to dress up, and I have not provided him with this simple opportunity.  I have a daughter who refuses to put on a costume I bought for her.  Utter Mom Fail.  Times two.

The silver lining in all of this Super Hero guilt, is that a lot of the girls in my son's class chose to dress up as Princesses that day.  I instantly wanted to hug all the Moms and Dads of those girls that had sent their daughters to school in Princess dresses that day.  My daughter loves anything and everything about her big brother's preschool class.  She wants to do everything they do.  I thought this is it...this is my big chance.  We talked about the Merida dress the entire time he was at school, and how fun it would be to have them both dressed up when he got home, and how special it was to see all the girls in his class in their dresses.  She was psyched.  She was totally on my team.  

Until it actually came time to put the dress on.  My son was already in his SpiderMan get up, and I pulled the Merida dress out of the closet, to which I was met with a firm "No, Mommy!"  

Never Say Never

I'm not gonna lie.  What I did next I am not proud of.  But it happened, and so I will share it with you, because honesty is what this blog is all about.  These were the next words out of my mouth...

"If you put on the Merida dress, you can have licorice."

There it was.  Straight up bribery.  There is no sugar coating that one...plain and simple, that's what it was.  This is one of those things I was "never going to do" as a parent, but in that moment, those words rolled surprisingly easily off my tongue.

Because my daughter speaks the language of candy, she perked right up and agreed.  I pulled the dress over her head, she asked for the licorice, I handed it to her, and she promptly asked me to take the dress off.  When I say asked, I should say her body suddenly went boneless and she acted as though she needed it off with such urgency you would have thought I dipped the thing in acid before putting it on her.  I tried desperately to quickly snap a picture of her in the dress just to document that it had actually been worn.

[Insert darling picture of darling daughter in darling dress.}

But that picture does not, and I fear, will never, exist.

What does, exist, however, is this picture of her in her ladybug costume she wore for Halloween 1 1/2 years ago, which she can barely fit into any more.  She still wanted to get in on this whole dress up thing that her brother was taking advantage of, so even during the 3 minutes she was wearing the Merida dress, she was already asking for the ladybug costume.

Oh, the look on her face as she chows on the bribery licorice.  I will admit it...I was outsmarted by my 2 1/2 year old.  I fear it will not be the last time.  

You may be seeing a "like new" (because it's never been worn...) Merida dress on eBay in the near future.

Even when you resort to things you never thought you would, You Are a Good Mom.  Cut yourself some slack, take a deep breath, and be thankful you no longer have to worry about being "perfect"..."real" is so much better.

**This is the first time I've included pictures of my kids in a post.  Let me know what you think...  Good idea?  Bad idea?  Thanks!**

Sunday, March 17, 2013

"Parent"dox: The Power Struggle

Sunday Night "Parent"dox #5: The Power Struggle
The Power Struggle.  It is no stranger to our home.  Most of the time, my daughter is the one who invites it in.  Most of the time, it wears out its welcome.  Most of the time, I am exhausted by the time it leaves.

However, tonight, I share with you the very rarest of of "parent"doxes: when the Power Struggle actually works to your benefit.

I sounds as real as a unicorn or a leprechaun or as likely as actually picking the fastest lane at the grocery store.  But every once in a blue moon, this elusive "parent"dox occurs.  At our house, it was over a banana.

My kids love bananas.  (They also frequently "go bananas," but that is another story completely...)  Their favorite way to eat them is like a monkey, meaning peeling it and holding it themselves.  If, heaven forbid, there is a brown spot of any kind, they balk, put the banana on their plate, and loudly proclaim they will not eat it.  Fortunately, as long as my husband or I quickly cut out the offensive brown spot, they are happy to gobble the rest of their beloved fruit up.  

One morning, as I spotted a brown spot on an already peeled banana, I thought I would be proactive and avoid the drama by just cutting it out before it became an issue.  My son looked at me and said "What are you doing, Mom?"  I explained my plan of action, to which he responded "Don't!  I love the brown spots!  That is my favorite part!  It tastes just like the rest of the banana and I'm going to eat it up!"

Um....excuse me, what?  Was that my son?  Had he been abducted by aliens and replaced by a pod person?  Was this the best acting job in history performed by a 4 1/2 year old?  Was I still asleep?  These were all equally possible occurrences.  I was totally baffled.     

Then it dawned on me.  This was a Power Struggle in disguise.  He had simply won it before it even begun.  My little strategist...I think he's been playing too many games of checkers.

I'm guessing this is how it played out in his mind.  Mom is trying to do something I did not ask her to do.  This is not OK with me, because now Mom has the power and I do not.  Forget that.  I am taking back the power, and I will let her know I will eat and love the brown spots, just because she is trying to get rid of it, and she was totally wrong to even think about cutting it out, even though deep down I really want her to cut out that nasty, gross, mushy part of my banana.  I will choke it down if I have to, just to maintain that tiny bit of power.  Game over.  I win.

What his little preschool self doesn't know, is that Mom is actually 100% OK with him winning this one.  1.) I didn't actually have to cut the banana, 2.)  There was no drama/whining/carryign on to speak of, and 3.) He ate the entire banana on his own without him nagging me.

There are many, many power struggles waiting for me in my very near and very distant future.  I know they are coming.  I know most of them will not work to my advantage.  I will cherish this one.  I will enjoy it.  I will smile and wave at the leprechauns riding a unicorn through my backyard. 

As you encounter your own Power Struggles in your world, You Are a Good Mom. Whether it is a newborn refusing to take a bottle, a toddler refusing to take a nap, or a teenager refusing to pick up their room, hang in there.  You are not alone in dealing with your Power Struggles!  And maybe, just maybe, one might work to your advantage one of these days.

Friday, March 15, 2013

In the Trenches

I was the most amazingly incredible Mom...

...and then I actually had kids.

Prior to actually being a Mom, I knew exactly how to be an amazingly incredible Mom.  I had everything worked out.  My kids would always be calm and polite, be served only the healthiest of meals, respond positively and thankfully to all of the parental wisdom I would impart on them, and most definitely never throw a tantrum in a public place.  If I ever was going to write a book, I should have done it before having kids because I had all the answers then.  It was so very easy when everything was hypothetical, and the children I was "raising" were imaginary.  

And then I had real, live children I was really responsible for living in my house.  All the time.  And all of those "answers" went out the window.  

I was now "in the trenches."

I love this sentiment, as it was so beautifully and genuinely illustrated in one of my all-time favorite shows, Parenthood.  We started watching it OnDemand shortly after my daughter was born.  I think it is the only show I can honestly say that I've seen every single episode of.  I could write an entire post (or two or three...) about how much I love it -- the dialogue, the acting, the storylines -- but I will cut it short here.  If you don't watch it, you need to.  Google it.  Start watching it online.  Like right now...this post will be here when you get back, I promise.

The "in the trenches" line comes up in one of my very favorite honest mom-to-mom parenting scenes.  I'll paraphrase, which is a horrible, horrible injustice to the show.  (For real, you need to watch it.)  Anyway, here's my weak attempt to relay a quick summary of the scene.

Julia comes to Kristina and is seeking advice on how to help motivate her son to do his homework.  You're expecting to be privy to this insightful, deep, philosophical wise parenting conversation that is about to occur between sister and sister-in-law.  The next thing you see is Kristina ducking below her kitchen counter and pulling up a huge tub, full of containers of all shapes and sizes filled with candy.  The conversation goes something like this... 

"Two words: incentive system.  Homework done?   Five gummy bears.  Room picked up?  Two Twizzlers.  Trash out?  Six M & Ms.  And don't you feel guilty.  Don't you feel guilty for one second.  You are in the trenches.  You gotta do what you gotta do."

The thing I love about this scene is how it sums up how we all have these things that we never, ever though we'd ever do as parents.  Why?  Because our hypothetical, imaginary children would never (fill in the blank).    

Sorry to say, but oh yes they will.  And then some.  Any my kids are still little...yikes...

And you will pull your hair out trying to figure out what to do.  When you are in the trenches, all bets are off.  You just have to figure out what works best for you and your child and your family in that moment, and sometimes that means compromising your previously "perfect" parent ideals.  

Don't you feel guilty.  Not for one second.  You are in the trenches.

Ultimately, whatever decision you make and whatever course of action you take is coming from a place of love.  That is what really matters.  We are so hard on ourselves and put so much pressure on ourselves to do "the right thing," somehow thinking there is only one "right thing."  The truth is, every child, every parent, every situation is different.  There are a million and one different "right things."  

The person in the checkout line giving you a dirty look as your child starts whining and crying and you frantically look for Goldfish Crackers in your diaper bag has no idea what your day has been like up to that point.  Don't you feel guilty.  Not for one second.  You are in the trenches.  

The person at the playground who looks at you condescendingly as you pick up the pacifier off the ground, wipe it off and hand it to your kiddo is not in charge of your child's health and well-being.  Don't you feel guilty.  Not for one second.  You are in the trenches.  

The person who rolls their eyes as you try to calm and quiet your crying baby at church with every toy, gadget, and set of car keys that are now being shoved in baby's mouth doesn't have any idea how much it took to get everyone up and out the door that morning.  Don't you feel guilty.  Not for one second.  You are in the trenches.  

You are in the trenches, day in and day out, and you are doing an amazingly incredible job.  You are not perfect.  You are not supposed to be.  That went out the window the second that child came into your life.  Where is the fun in that, anyway?  Given the choice of perfect parenting ideals or being in the trenches, I'll take trenches with my family every single time.  

Trust yourself; trust your decisions.  Don't you feel guilty.  Not for one second.  You Are a Good Mom.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

It's Not Easy Being Green

One of my biggest pet peeves is solicitors.  

It's probably because they always call or arrive at the worst possible times (as if there is a good time for a solicitor...) and have been known to wake sleeping children at our house.  It's also probably because I usually feel really bad about cutting them off, whether it's on the phone or in person.  It always steals precious moments from my day because I know full well I am not going to buy whatever they are trying to sell (unless you are in marching band and selling a $5 candy bar or play Little League and want all my pop cans...then I'm a pushover).  Even though I know I'm not buying from the onset, I let them go through their entire sales pitch anyway.  Why, you ask?  I somehow feel like I'm letting them get an extra practice in, or I'm indirectly helping them because maybe they get some kind of credit for giving said pitch, even though they didn't get a sale.  Maybe it's the teacher in me...  Anyway I just let them go on and on, until I smile, say "We're all set.  Thanks!"

Except tonight.

The TruGreen guy came to our door.  Right now you are picturing our front door, but you would be incorrect.  He came to our garage door.  As in walked into our garage, and right to the door that leads into our kitchen.  Is it just me, or is that wierd?  I feel like that is not in the Solicitor's Handbook of Acceptable Soliciting Technique.  Maybe this guy missed that day of training.

But it was not just the coming into my garage that made me not even listen to this guy's pitch.  It was also the fact that the very same guy came to the very same door at the very same time yesterday.  Yes, yesterday.  Yesterday, when I told this very same salesman I was in the middle of making dinner for my family and "we're all set" with lawn care, thank you very much, and no we don't want an estimate.  He still gave me a little flyer with his name and number, which I immediately tossed in the recycling bin upon closing the door.  

So when he came back to my garage door while I was making dinner and trying to keep my two small children from climbing all over me or each other, he already had three strikes against him.  No, I will not listen to your sales pitch.  No, I still don't want an estimate.  No, you may not keep talking.  I finally told him he had been here yesterday, to which he looked very confused.

At that point, I did feel a little bad for the guy, walking around door to door in this lovely Michigan spring (aka snow), but not bad enough to take another flyer or listen to him talk for another second.  I just decided that yes, Mr. TruGreen Man, It's Not Easy Being Green...

When you send crazy solicitors away from your garage door, You Are a Good Mom.  I hope...

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Spelling Test

Some of my favorite moments are when I can eavesdrop on my kids and they have no idea I can hear them.  When they're playing in one of their rooms; when they are in the living room while I'm making dinner in the kitchen; when I'm driving and they're talking away in their car seats behind me.  It's like I get this little sneak peek into their secret "brother/sister world" and I treasure every time it happens.

Although maybe this one wasn't such a "treasure" in terms of sweet loveliness.  Laughs, yes.  Potty humor, yes.  Spelling prowess, yes.  But sweet loveliness, no.

As I was driving last week, I heard my son pipe up from behind me:  "Morgan, you spell poop 

I suppose the "Good Mom" thing to do would be to remind him he was not in the bathroom and he should be using potty words, and use it as a teachable moment that he is a role model to his younger sister and shouldn't be teaching her potty words, either.  

But I didn't.

What I really did was stifle a laugh so 1.) He didn't know I was listening to their conversation and 2.) It wouldn't encourage him to continue on with a litany of potty words, which as of late, have become incredibly funny to him.

After I was done with my snickers to myself, I had to ask myself "How did he know that?"  I guess this means the days of my husband and I spelling things in front of him have now, unfortunately, come to an abrupt halt.  

I suppose he's prepared for his first spelling test, as long as the only 2 words on the test are "Parker" and "poop."  What a proud, proud moment for this mom.  

Whether you embrace the teachable moment or laugh through it, You Are a Good Mom.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

"Parent"dox: Clean Shirts Mean Messy Days

Sunday Night "Parent"dox #4: Clean Shirts Mean Messy Days
I've told my kids time and time again, "If you're messy, it means you're having fun!"  So much so that they now repeat this phrase back to me.  

And boy do my kids know how to have fun...

But why is it that whenever I put my kids in old, already stained clothes, they are able to have an entirely spotless day?  It is truly some sort of unexplained miracle that they can go a day without encountering some form of food splatter, paint splatter or mud splatter, but the "old clothes" days are without fail the days when they can pull it off.  The second, however, I put them in anything new or anything white, stains and messes are literally drawn to them like moths to the flame.

I should no longer be surprised by this.  You would think I would learn, but alas, I have not.

White shirt for my son?  Guaranteed he will be finger painting at preschool that day.

New shirt for my daughter?  She will be inevitably wearing spaghetti sauce by the end of the night.  And we won't even have had spaghetti that day... 

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I present to you the photographic evidence below.  The other night I looked at both my kids shirts after they whipped them off to get their PJs on, and stumbled into this "parent"dox.  I snapped a quick pic before spraying them down with half a bottle of OxiClean and tossing them in the washing machine.  (The clothes...not the kids...)

Exhibit A: My 4-year-old son's shirt.  Please note that the ONLY part of the shirt that is at all dirty are the white sleeves.  

Exhibit B:  My 2-year-old daughter's shirt.  It is both white and new.  Double whammy.  It is covered in God knows what.  

Yes, Aunt Kaite, I know these are both Christmas gifts from you and Uncle Brian...which is part of the "parent"dox.  I will do my very best to OxiClean them to death and bring them back to (or close to) their original grandeur.  The silver lining?  If I can't get the stains out, it simply means they will never spill on them again.  Ever.  

The second they are stained beyond repair, they will somehow grow a kind of "Already Stained Scotchguard" layer.  Jelly will never dribble out of a PB & J sandwich smack dab in the middle of the shirt.  In some crazy shift of gravity for 2.3 seconds, it will undoubtedly actually fall to the plate below.  An art project at school will never happen while wearing said shirt.  Even if it was planned, the teacher will run out of time that day, and have to do it another day...when a new and/or white shirt is being worn.

Dreft, OxiClean, Tide, All, Clorox, Shout, Spray 'n are well-versed in them all, and You Are a Good Mom.  

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

My Own Personal Lost and Found

I admit it.  I tend to lose things.

My keys.  My wallet.  My patience.  One shoe at a Jimmy Buffet concert.  My passwords for just about everything.  My dry cleaning claim slip for my son's comforter.  My perspective.

That last one is probably the one I struggle with most.  I, admittedly, am also a "sweat-er of the small stuff."  I don't mean to be, and I try really hard not to be, but it seems to be one of those things that continually pops up in my life.  One of those life lessons that keeps presenting itself over and over, most likely because I haven't learned it yet.  Whether it's a pop quiz or a full blown exam, I generally fail.  Miserably.  

I worry about the mess.  I get frustrated with being late.  I see the short-term loss instead of the long-term gain.

Photo Opp...
In an attempt to document the "small stuff" I tend to sweat, and provide a visual reminder for myself to stop and find perspective, I decided to take some pictures.  Over the last week or so, whenever I found myself getting upset or frustrated about "small stuff" at home, I tried to remember to grab my camera and snap a quick picture.  

So, feast your eyes and enjoy the mess that is my house in the pictures below.  I've added my own little "perspective caption" for myself, too.  Hopefully I can use this as a cheat sheet on my next test...


I will be thankful for the lotiony fingerprints on the mirror, because it means I had a 2-year-old beauty "helping" me get ready for the day.

I will smile at the piles of books, because it means I have kiddos who are hopefully beginning to fall in love with the written word and will return to books again and again throughout their lives.

I will take joy in the dinosaur I stepped on as I put my shoe on, because it means my 4-year-old son took a creative journey back to the prehistoric ages.  I'm guessing my stinky shoe got to a be a tar pit of some sort...

I will be glad for the string of puzzles that found there way into my bed, because it means I have a daughter who still wants to play with her mom.

I will ignore the muddy footprints in my kitchen, because it means family and friends have filled our home.

I will smile at the scrambled eggs on the floor, because it means we had food to eat, and kids who are independent enough to feed themselves...well, sort of...

I will take a deep breath and not freak out about my kids bringing everything (this is just a small sampling) out of their bedrooms into the living room, because it means my son and my daughter are playing with each other.

I will try really hard not to step on any of these Legos, and be thankful for my budding little engineers and their boundless creativity.


This ended up having a couple of unforeseen benefits:
  1. It gave me permission ignore the mess for awhile, and acknowledge that no one got sucked into a black hole and the space/time continuum did not tear. 
  2. It forced me to stop and be thankful for the causes of this "small stuff," and appreciate that these little messes and mishaps are to be cherished and treasured now, because one day, the ones who cause them won't be living under this roof. 
  3. And even an added benefit for you, dear reader...  Don't you now feel like your house is incredibly clean, and you didn't even have to pick up, wash or dust anything!
Put It Somewhere Safe
I wish I could hang on to this perspective; to put it in a safe place where I won't lose it.  (Along with my keys and my wallet...)  Unfortunately, I fear that in the hustle and bustle that is life, this new-found perspective will inevitably get lost again, along with a stack of mail and a wayward toddler sock.  I can only hope for more deep breaths, more photo opportunities and more reminders to focus on what is truly important in this life.  

My faith.  My family.  My friends.  

That is beyond enough.  I am truly blessed.  

When the messes are piling up, You Are A Good Mom.  

When you are busy raising children, You Are a Good Mom.  

When you lose perspective, but find it again, You Are a Good Mom.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

"Parent"dox: The Later They're Up, The Earlier They're Up

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.  (   

Sunday Night "Parent"dox #3: The Later They're Up, The Earlier They're Up

I love my children dearly.  

I love their sweet little faces.  I love their bouts of laughter.  I love their hugs and kisses.  

But sometimes I just need a break from all that wonderfulness.  And I need them to sleep.

Once we had established somewhat of a sleep schedule with my first-born, (which took a little while, if I'm being entirely honest...) complete with a regular bed time, I figured I would be given the precious gift of a set amount of hours of sleep by said child.  

One would stand to reason that if a kiddo went to bed later than his regularly scheduled bedtime, that he would simply tack those hours on to his ridiculously early regularly scheduled wake up time in the morning.  This is how it worked out in my own sleeping life.  Later to bed, later to rise...isn't that how Benjamin Franklin put it? If I paid the price and put in some extra "mom hours" at night, then I could regain some "just for me" hours in the morning, in the form of sleep.  Seems like a natural law of physics or something, right?

Oh, how incredibly wrong I was...

This is how I learned of another of life's "parent"doxes:  The later they're up, the earlier they're up.

Whenever my children go to bed later than anticipated, they actually wake up earlier than usual the next morning.  As if to silently remind me, "Mom, I'm the one calling the shots here.  Just remember that..."

I have no idea why this happens.  I'm sure there are a million sleep experts who could explain it with Circadian rhythms or establishing positive sleeping habits or phases or the moon or something.  

For me, all I know is that when my kids are up extra late, I better plan on an extra early wake up call the next morning.  And an extra Coke.  Or three. 

No matter what time they go to bed; no matter what time they get up...You're a Good Mom.

Oh, how I wish I had some way to share some sort of video or audio recording of me writing this last post.  Yes, it is shorter than most.  "Is she running out of things to say?" you may wonder.  Those of you who know me well know this is never a legitimate possibility, sorry to say.  

I have been sitting at the kitchen counter.  My kids have been sharing -- yes, sharing -- the other bar stool next to me while playing Legos.  (Note: I sat down with my lap top by myself in the kitchen to write a quick little post.  These acquired "writing partners" were not part of the original plan.)  By playing, I mean crashing, tumbling, crying, screaming, dropping and any other loud or chaos-related verbs you can think of here.  I just have to smile.  I wouldn't have it any other way.  

Apologies for any and all typos, misspellings and overall lack of complete thought above.  Thanks for reading anyway!
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