A [seemingly minor, yet significant to me] Rite of Passage

I remember shortly after having my firstborn when it hit me that I could no longer just hop up to get my haircut or take a jog (not that I did it that often, but still) or even just go work in the yard.  There always had to be a plan, and that plan always had to be flexible.  I remember how having that one tiny, little baby rocked my world. 

Then I had another.

By the time I had gotten used to my one constant little companion, we decided it was time for a playmate.  And I'm not sure why no one warned me (not that it would have changed my mind, but it might have prepared me a little better) that having two children is more than two times harder than having one.  It's exponentially harder.  Orders of magnitude harder.  Worth every ounce of difficulty, absolutely.  But that doesn't change the fact that it's hard.

Then I had another.

I started itching for our third blessing when our second blessing was around a year old, even in the midst of that oh-so-difficult transition of adjusting to life with not one but two children.  I think somewhere in the mix of postpartum hormones, baby blues, and new mommy brain there comes a bit of temporary insanity.  For some reason, when we finally added number three to our family, she just fit right in.  She was like a missing puzzle piece that had always been there, but had fallen between the table and the wall.  We knew we needed her and having her here was another step towards helping complete the picture that is our family.

It might be because Sarah was a particularly easy baby (especially as compared to the first two) or it might be because I (and we) had grown so much over the previous 5 years as parents that we were more confident and we knew what to expect.  It was just a surprisingly seamless transition from two to three kids, considering my propensity to expect the worst.

This doesn't mean that it was easy.  And it doesn't mean that I wasn't scared to death, lest I sound like that.  Believe me, I was scared to death.  I like to pretend the fact that I am so scared just indicates the amount that I care about doing right by my three blessings.

This time last year, I was home on maternity leave with my three kids.  In a week's time, I went from working 40 hours a week in an office with two kids in daycare to being a stay at home mom with three kids on summer break.  Now that summer is here, I can't help but going back to that time and remembering the time we had together.  And how elated I was when I finally braved the world with my three kids on an adventure.

I didn't count our well checkups at the pediatricians office as adventures.  I didn't even count Monkey Joe's because it is a secure environment where kids cannot come and go without matching wristbands to an adult.  They weren't getting away from me there.

The day came when we ventured to a local playground and accidentally happened upon storytime at the library.  And I even took my camera along for proof!  (It helped that Sarah was still in the sleeping-all-the-time phase.)

I'm not sure words can describe how accomplished I felt after that day.  And it seems so silly now, in retrospect, how terrified I was to take my own children out in public.

I'm not sure I can explain how necessary it is for us, as moms, to just do it.  To just believe that we can do simple things like go to the library with three kids.  And all it takes is one time to convince ourselves.  (Sure, the second time might be a disaster, and that's why plans have to be flexible.)

I had a similar confidence boosting experience this weekend.  We ventured to Orlando, Florida and stayed at the Nick Hotel while Sam attended a work obligation all day on Thursday.  This left me alone with the three kids at a waterpark.  I was nervous, but I think it helped that I had so many other things to think about that I didn't have time to be terrified (you know, like getting Ben through his last day of school, packing a family of five to get to Orlando, preparing our house for my parents arrival the day after we got back).  To make a long story slightly shorter, I'll skip the mushy gushy stuff and just say this...

We survived.  

Not only that...we had a blast!

Even in the hotel room...because you can find fun anywhere, if you just look for it.

At the end of the day, I was utterly exhausted from being on Mommy Alert all day.  But my heart was full, and my confidence-in-my-Mommy-abilities tank was overflowing.  I even gave myself a little extra credit for avoiding every bit of sunburn on 4 out of 4 pool-goers.

Because when it comes to being a Mom, I'm not too shabby.

And I finally believe that.

Mom Things (again)

You're well aware of the phenomenon of the unmatched socks, but upon searching for matches to various flip-flops and sandals in your three year old's closet, you've come to realize that this is also applicable to shoes. 

You liken white pants on toddlers to unicorns.  They're pretty but you don't believe in them.

You've learned to dress your kids in dark clothes when they want to play outside after the rain.  The stains from Georgia red clay do not come out, but if they're wearing dark blue pants it doesn't even matter.

After three kids, you learn how not to be so Type-A.  When your three year old volunteers to help you fold towels, you totally take her up on that (even if they aren't exactly perfect the way you like them).

You've been humiliated by at least one incidence of voluntary public nudity on the part of your child.  For instance, this might mean discovering a pantless, diaperless 18-month old strutting around in the aisle of Sonny's Barbeque.  After getting over the embarrassment, you couldn't help but be a little proud.  You had no idea he could undress himself.

Thanks to your own mother's hoarding skills, your kids now have the privilege of playing with such retro toys as troll dolls, glowworms, and the original Littlest Pet Shop Pets (complete with pieces that could choke you). Interestingly, your kids love them as much or more than you did.  Who knew that in 2010 a troll would be your kids constant companion?

When your six year old tells you he can run a mile faster than you, you tell him to put his running shoes on.  About half a mile into it, he eats crow.  And while you feel a little bit bad about saying, "Booyah!" to a little boy, you think you made an excellent point about the dangers of talking smack.

At the kindergarten luau, your son received a flower lei, a straw hat, and a drink with an umbrella in it.  But because kids are weird, he didn't care about any of that as much as the single plastic gold coin he dug out of a sandbox in the treasure hunt game. 

Your one year old starts grunting with anticipation of food the instant you put her in her highchair.  And here you thought you didn't have any patience.

You realize your little boy is turning into a real, live little boy when he asks to go outside and look for frogs after dinner.  (And actually catches one.)

And as always, Happy Wednesday!!!

This post was easy...

Because Ben did all of the work.

For some reason, I haven't been making too many lists lately.  Maybe that's why I feel simultaneously free and stressed at the same time.  Lists are my constant companion and also my constant reminder of how much I have to do and how little I have actually accomplished.  I love lists.  I hate lists.  Friend and foe - those things.

But here's a list that I love.  It's actually a book that Ben made in Sunday School class this past week.  A list of ways he is and/or can be a helper around the house inspired by the story of Ruth being oh-so-helpful to her mother-in-law Naomi.

Long story short, it made me smile and I hoped it might do the same for you.

Here goes:

Pushing usually helps.
(Help build the playground)
That's the playground lying on its side...as it remained for much of the time we were building it.
That's "printer" to those who don't know. Mainly, we print coupons and make Ben go retrieve them for us.

There you have it.  Next time you wonder "How can my child make him/herself useful?"  Consider these things.  Out of the mouth of my six year old.

Flashback Friday: In the very strictest sense of the phrase

I'm not sure what prompted it the other day, but I got a little hung up on memories of my childhood.  In the words of Lucas from one of my favorite cult classics, "Who knows where thoughts come from?  They just appear."  Maybe it's because over the weekend I was pondering which of the day's mundane events might end up being a prevailing memory for my own kids.  Maybe it's because every once in a while I get really nostalgic when I think about my grandparents who are no longer with us.  No matter the reason, I found myself recalling little moments from my childhood out from behind the dusty cobwebs of my memory.

I had one of those All-American childhoods.  I grew up in a suburb in the Baltimore-Metro area.  We lived in a rancher in a tight-knit community with a sidewalk leading anywhere you wanted to go (if your mom would let you walk there).  My mom stayed at home with my sister and me, while my dad worked a typical 9-5 (give or take).  We ate dinner together as a family every night and went to church together every Sunday.  My mom volunteered in the classroom and my dad was a deacon.  My sister paved the way for me in the classroom, on the athletic field, and with my parents.  We were a model of the typical American family, our family. 

And all of that is pretty boring, if I might say so myself.

The things I've been remembering are the quirky things.  The little moments.  The stuff that makes this life interesting.

For instance, as I fought with, cursed at, and borderline assaulted our lawnmower last Friday trying to get it to work, I remembered that as soon as I was old enough I took over the lawn mowing duties at my childhood home.  We kept our mower in the back portion of our mammoth shed.  The little room that it was housed in had its own door, and I was terrified to go back there and get it out because one time over the course of my childhood I had seen a wasp nest in there.  And also, because I knew chipmunks and other small rodents made nests on the floor of that little back room.  The door was a snug fit in the frame, and resultingly required a good bit of strength to tug open.  I would snatch the door open, hop back, and then ever so carefully reach a single arm inside and pull the mower out with two fingers with my feet planted as far away as they could possibly be.  I remember the smell of that back room.  It was a familiar combination of old (but not rotten) grass and gas fumes.  I think it must have been a forty year old mower because, well, that's what my dad does.  He fixes old things and used them for half centuries.  I'd always need help getting it started before I mowed our yard of plush grass white clover.  And then as soon as I finished (and sometimes even before), I would hear our retired neighbor crank his mower up because it would be almost criminal for our grass to be shorter than his.

As I fiddled with the mower, I thought of how proud of me my dad would be that we continued to use such a colossal piece of junk.  I can count on one hand the number of vehicles my family drove growing up, including the red Ford Escort that didn't have a/c (and yes, it gets hot enough in MD in the summer that we needed it), the Ford Station Wagon that carried us on a trip to Tennessee when my sister was 12 and I was 7 during which my sister and I fought so badly she spent the majority of our trip banished to the very rear squished among the suitcases, and the Ford Aerostar which served as a necessary replacement for the station wagon if my family ever expected to survive a trip longer than 3 hours again and which we utilized for a tour of New England the following summer.

Since I've been consciously trying to remember things, it seems that I can't stop.  Everywhere I look I'm reminded of some small experience I had that makes me smile.  A friend of mine had a tooth extracted and I remembered the time I had my own 2nd molars extracted, and my grandmother made me split pea soup with bits of hot dog in it so I wouldn't go hungry.

I went to Ben's field day and saw these things...


...and I remembered how badly I coveted everyone who had one when I was little, so I got on and demonstrated for the kindergartners how it's done.  (Not to mention the flood of field day memories that came flooding back, not the least of which being that it always seemed to fall on the hottest, most humid day of the year, and our elementary school was not equipped with air conditioning.  Dark ages, I tell you.)

I saw a pair of Reebok Classics in a magazine and I recalled how that was the first pair of name-brand shoes I ever owned in my life and how I had saved for months before my seventh grade year to be able to buy them.

So many things like this keep popping into my brain.  It's like a little exercise to keep my memory sharp.  Forget Sudoku and crossword puzzles.  Memory retrieval, here I come!  (Okay, who am I kidding?  I'll never stop doing those.  Because, well, I'm a nerd.)

There's how the four of us would walk to the "Snowball Lady's" house for a snowball with a hefty pricetag of a quarter each.  She only offered two flavors:  Sky Lite and Egg Custard.  My mom and my sister got the former.  My dad and I got the latter.

Then there's the time it snowed, and I was too sick to play so my mom sat me on a stool by the window so I could watch my sister and her friends play out front.  To make me feel better, she filled a small tupperware bowl full of Doritos for me to snack on.  It worked because, in my opinion, that was a rare enough, delicious enough treat to warrant missing snow play.

Though it seemed like my parents never went on so much as a date together without us, there was the time they flew off to Florida, leaving us home with my grandparents when I was five.  When they left I was wearing these socks (complete with red pom poms)

and from henceforth, they were dubbed "Airplane Socks" by yours truly.

It's the strangest things like this that make me wonder, "Why did I commit that to memory?!"  And that also make me wonder what my children will remember twenty years from now. 

Whatever it is that they happen to recall, I hope the memory is accompanied by the warm fuzzies...just as I'm filled with warmth at the recollection of a million and one random memories from long, long ago in a faraway place. 

Today, I challenge you to conjure up a memory you haven't thought about in decades.  Share it with me, so I can relate and remember something else of my own.  I bet it will bring a smile to your face.

Go ahead...I dare you to remember.

How do I know I'm a mom? I'm so glad you asked...

You can identify the flavor of unopened packs of poptarts by touch (and you're not exactly sure this is something of which you should be proud).

You've come home and for a fleeting moment thought, "Oh crap!  Someone ransacked the house!"  Then you realize that's just how it looks at any given moment, and as a result, you live in constant fear of someone "just stopping by".

You have opened your mailbox to get the mail only to find that it's been almost completely filled with mulch.

You "caught" your kindergartner practicing his end of year program in front of the mirror in the bathroom.  Just another example of a time you beamed with pride. 

When posed the question, "If you could win a lifetime supply of something, what would you want it to be?", you waffle between AA batteries and American cheese slices.

You have survived a hotel stay with three children, which may or may not have included one child sleeping in the bathroom.  (No worries, it was in a pack-n-play.)

You finally understand the phrase "a face only a mother could love":

(I'm pretty sure she does better than that without the spoon.)

You wonder what your kids' prevailing memories will be when they're adults, and you pray they don't include the times you were less than patient, raised your voice, or were just "too busy".  Some of your prevailing memories from childhood are hanging out in trees all summer, participating in the reading program at the library (and earning free Pizza Hut pizzas), getting cold in the dairy & frozen food aisles of the grocery store, and being rewarded with treats off the Dollar Menu at McDonalds.

You've had to explain to your six year old that just because most of the other children in the neighborhood are allowed to roam about without rules or guardianship does not mean he is entitled to do the same.  And you've had to explain that while it feels unfair, it's for his safety.  (And someday, years down the line, you know he'll understand.)

You realize that your three year old has far more friends than you when, on a routine trip to Target, she greets three other children by name.

Question: Where is it hotter than Hades?

Answer:  Central Georgia, apparently.

Here's the proof:

If you can't tell what that is, it's my Dunkin' Donuts giftcard.  (What?  I like coffee.)  I left it sticking halfway out of the in the visor of my van.  The result:  It melted.


While I'm on the subject of hot Georgia summers, this would be a good time to debunk the stereotype that all Southerners like it hot.  It is simply not true.  They (I say "they" because I'm a transplant myself) might tolerate the heat better because they have lived in it, but just like all northerners don't love having two feet of snow on the ground in the winter, all southerners do not like 90+ degree temperatures with humidity that rivals that of a tropical rainforest.  I'm sure you can find some that do, but they are the exception...not the rule.

This year marks the eighth summer I have endured living in Georgia.  (I experienced one before that, but wasn't technically a resident at that time.)  I still sweat from walking down and up my driveway to get the mail.  I still sweat from standing (even in the shade) in my tank top and shorts while watching my poor uniform-clad son play t-ball.  I still gasp at the thickness of the air when I walk outside in the morning.  But you know what?  I'm learning to tolerate it.  And with that comes less complaining.  (If you think I complain now, you should've heard me while I was walking around 9 months pregnant in the summer of 2003!  I swear that was the hottest summer in the history of the world.  It couldn't possibly have been the watermelon I was carrying in my belly making me even hotter.)

I'm not exactly sure what the moral of the story is here.  Perhaps it's this:  if you're going to travel to the Deep South in the summertime, be sure to consider that otherwise un-meltable things can indeed melt when left in your car.  (I'm not helping the tourism industry with this post, am I?)

P.S. - While a Dunkin' Donuts giftcard is hardly an amazing photography subject and these are hardly prize-worthy photos, I should mention that I shot these in manual mode on my camera.  Baby steps towards #72 on the list.

Weekend Adventures of the Throw-Away Child

We spent the weekend having fun in the sun.  Or at least, as much fun as you can have in the upper-80's-that-feel-like-upper-90's-because-of-intense-humidity. 

It was all made possible by a Walmart kiddie pool.

Sam and I set it up for the kids right after breakfast on Saturday morning.  The instructions said you needed 3 adults for setup, and we quickly found out why.  You needed at least four arms to hold the sides up as it filled with water, and you needed (at least) one adult to keep the three year old and one year old from laying on the sides, letting all of the water out, and completely counteracting any progress you had previously made.  Unfortunately for us, we had two adults....and Ben, who was absolutely convinced that someone needed to physically hold the hose at all times.  So really, we had two adults and one of Ben's arms.  Needless to say, there were no extra arms available to take pictures of this particular endeavor.   

Abby was verbally coachable for the most part.  Sarah not so much.  That's when we resorted to a high-chair and all you can eat Cheerios for the one year old, as provided by her older sister.

Hours of fun were had by the two older kids in the pool.  It was the perfect diversion for them as Sam and I capitalized on Sarah's naptime to work on the continuing playground project.  Undertakings of this magnitude always take longer than we anticipate, but especially when you are working around three children one of whom is a one year old.

It didn't always work out that the one year old would sleep as long or as frequently as we had hoped.  We tried letting her roam about freely for a bit to see how she would do.  While I think she loved it, we decided that free roam was probably not the way to go after removing countless acorns, grass, and an entire handful of Georgia red clay from her mouth (the latter of which Sam contended was at least good for her iron level).

By the end of the evening, our beloved third child had played so hard, her clothes had started to fall off.

She loved every minute of it.

(This picture earned her the nickname "Throw-Away Child".)

And the older two had an okay time too...

And whether it looks like a good eight hours of work over the course of two days or not, the playground project continues to progress...

It was a perfect weekend.

(And now...It's Monday.)

Flashback Friday - Compare/Contrast Edition

It probably goes without saying that yesterday was my baby's first birthday (because I've said about approximately 1,293,948 times already).

What better way to celebrate that than with a fun series of flashback photos?  There simply isn't a better way.  Don't even bother wasting time considering it.

On May 13, 2009 at 6:03pm, we welcomed our newest baby girl.  She weighed 8 pounds exactly.

Now she's a healthy little girl with smiles aplenty and an insatiable appetite.

On October 2, 2006 we welcomed our first baby girl to the family.  She was born at 1:42 pm and weighed 8 pounds 8 ounces.

By one, we already knew we were in for an exciting ride.  She had boundless energy and a grin that could win anyone's heart.

On September 5, 2003 at 10:55am, our lives as parents began when we welcomed our firstborn to our world.  He weighed in at a hearty 8 pounds 13.7 ounces.

By one year, he was already such a little man.  We didn't realize that not all one year old's are capable of or interested in helping around the house, but we sure capitalized on it.

We celebrated their first birthdays in different ways, but the one common denominator between the three was the presence of the beloved one year old smash cake.

Ben was not a fan.  (Would you call that a grimace?)

Not surprisingly, Abby was all over it.

And in an unexpected twist of events, Sarah didn't dig it at all.

This concludes today's edition of Compare/Contrast Jennie's Kids.  I assure you there will be many, many more in the future.  In fact, I'm already contemplating the creation of a graph for my next one.  (And if the promise of a graph doesn't drive my readers away, I'm not sure what will.)

Happy Friday, everyone!  Eat some cake in Sarah's honor!  (And on my behalf.)

So much more than just #53 on a list

One year ago today, I gave birth to a beautiful princess.  She stole our hearts from the minute she was born.  Those perfect, pink lips.  Those big, bright blue eyes.

Despite my best efforts to go au naturel, I caved and got the epi.  Had I known I was dilated to 10cm and ready to push, I probably wouldn't have done it, but what's done is done.  I had the epi for three contractions and one and a half pushes, after which we got to meet and hold our precious little girl.

It was my first time delivering a baby with this particular obstetrician.  The one who delivered my first two was a man.  A very confident, slightly-disconnected man.  I have no doubts about his abilities as a doctor, but he lacked any, oh, I don't know - emotion.  My new OB was a woman, also a mother.  She cheered me on, encouraged me.  I think she was as excited to meet our new baby as we were.  After the final push, she caught the baby, strategically covered the sensitive areas with a blanket, looked at Sam and said, "You ready, Dad?"  Sam took a peek under the blanket and declared, "It's a girl!" 

Then she laid my newest naked baby girl on my chest for a moment of skin to skin contact while Sam cut the cord.  It was the perfect start.

Within fifteen minutes of birth, Sarah nursed for the first time.  She was perfect at it.  She was hungry (almost incessantly) and a very eager nursling.  She must have nursed every hour for the first two or three days of her life with a longer stretch here and there when she decided to sleep for maybe two hours.  Yadda, yadda, yadda and one week later, we were sitting in my OB's office waiting for a prescription for mastitis, which would end up as nothing but a distant memory and a minor (at most) stumbling block.

I nursed Ben to four months, Abby to seven, and I was determined before Sarah's birth that this time I would make it to one year.  I have regrets about quitting with Ben when I did, but I was preparing to go back to school full-time, going back to work part-time, and he was starting at daycare.  I had a lot on my plate and couldn't fathom pumping.  I guess I can cut myself some slack on that one.  With Abby, I had not one single regret, only pride that I made it to six months of exclusive breastfeeding, all the while battling supply issues.  The day she turned six months old, I put the pump in the bag and didn't even glance its way for three more years.  We morning and night nursed for another month.  I remember how hard I cried our last nursing session.  I rocked her in her room and held her, and just cried because that chapter of our lives was over.  I know that probably sounds crazy, but there is something to be said for those feel-good hormones that nursing provides.  And I was kissing them goodbye.

I struggle a little bit with an all-or-nothing mentality.  Most of my stress (and in turn supply issues) with Abby came from my determination that I would get to six months...that I refused to give her formula until I had "made it" to six months.  My brain can repeat to itself over and over how ridiculous this is, but it can't seem to convince itself.  I guess it's a little bit of stubbornness.  I suppose I can't complain about that trait in my kids, huh?

Either way, that mentality kicked into gear when the idea of nursing to a year came into play with Sarah.  I "made it" to six months, then all of the sudden we'd made it to nine.  She started eating a lot more real food and sleeping through the night around that time, and by ten months I was feeling the pressure at the pump during my work day.  I just wasn't keeping up.  I tried all of the traditional remedies for milk supply; oatmeal, Fenugreek, binging on water, increasing pumping time and frequency.  It didn't seem to help, but it wasn't getting worse.  Ultimately, I remembered the stress I put on myself with Abby and how counterproductive that was, so I tried to tell myself not to worry.  For once in my life, I adopted and applied the "Que Sera Sera" motto.

And it worked.  We made it.  To one year.

It has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life as a mother.  However many times a day, I've been able to snuggle up with my princess and enjoy her...just the two of us.  Is it always in peaceful solitude?  Of course not.  But whether there are a million and one distractions or not, it's our time.  And that can't be substituted...for either of us.

When Sarah was just a tiny baby, we would nurse laying side by side, our tummies touching.  Her little legs would come down just to my belly button.  She just fit right in that little spot next to me.   I would watch her eyes slowly drift shut as she succumbed to the so-called milk coma.  

Now that she's older, she doesn't succumb to the drowsiness, but rather stares at me with the big, bright blue eyes, plays with my face, and even grins a devilish little smile while doing so without skipping a beat.

I can't say for sure whether it's because of the breastfeeding or not, but there is a correlation between the length of time I nursed my babies and their overall health.  There is also a correlation between the length of time I nursed them and their willingness to try new foods.  Without question, Ben is my pickiest child and Sarah is no less than a vacuum cleaner when it comes to food (and even non-foods, as I removed some pebbles from her mouth just last night). 

I couldn't have done it without Sam's support and encouragement.  And, also, my friends who were no less than my personal breastfeeding cheerleaders (this means you, Kat!).  I know for many, there is a stigma associated with nursing.  Shoot, I had to overcome that in myself.  Growing up, I knew of one woman who nursed her children, and well, quite frankly, we all thought she was a little weird.  If you had asked me before I had kids if I would even consider breastfeeding, I would have probably said no.  Like I've said before, becoming a mom changes you.  I never imagined I would become a lactivist, and yet here I stand. 

It was on my 101 list, and while I'm thrilled to be able to say, "#53 - Breastfeed Sarah on her first birthday...consider yourself checked!", it's been so much more to me than just an item on a list.

Happy Birthday, Little Girl!

It's been an incredible year!

well it's wednesday again!

Which can only mean one thing...time for some more Mom Things.

It warms your heart to see your older child reading to your younger child at bedtime, especially when he's willingly reading a book of her choosing about Disney princesses.

Then you get a little bit sad about it...because it kind of means they don't need you anymore.

Despite your best efforts not to, you have become one of those moms who actually thinks that people care about the silly things your children say and do 24/7.

Completely by accident, you discover that your three year old eats salad.  And here you thought she only liked chocolate and peanut butter crackers all this time.

After your six year old sings "You look like a monkey...and you smell like one too!" to your almost one-year old, your three year old chimes in with "Three!"  Apparently, she thinks it's a song about counting.

Since that song was over, your three year old began singing an original song about the intricacies of Southern word choice.  Some of the lyrics include, "Grandaddy says 'supper' and Daddy says 'dinnnnneeeerrrr'!  But dinner is the same as suupppppppeerrrr!"

When made into a game, household chores can be a blast.  For example, "Abby, would you please ride your firetruck and deliver these washcloths to the towel cabinet under my sink?!  It's an emergency!"

This is generally what happens when you say, "Hold still and let me take your picture":

You try not to convey to your children that you are deathly afraid of barnyard animals, so, unfortunately for them, petting zoo opportunities are few and far between for your family.

Your six year old tell you he knows what "curls" are because he learned about them in school.  He proceeds to explain that it's when you have more than one of something.  You explain that you think he means "plurals".  And then you realize that sometimes life is just one big game of telephone.

#88 - Fix something instead of buying a new one...check!

Remember that list thing?  I am 222 days into the thing, which means at a pace of one task every ten days, I should have completed 22 tasks by now.  And here I am crossing off my twenty-third.  Not too shabby, if I might say so myself.

This week promises to be a productive one on the list front.  At least, I hope it will be!  The first task I get to cross off is #88 ~ Fix something instead of buying a new one.

I put this on the list because we have a disposable mentality, not just me, not just my household, but our culture.  I'm pretty sure this is our generation's fault.  My dad is a fixer, rigger, and make-it-work kind of dude.  My grandfather was the same way.  My boss tells the story about his father who kept three non-working washing machines on their back porch in case the working one quit, he could just walk out back and snatch a part off.  There are lots of reasons we don't think this way anymore.  Partially, we think it's not worth the time or money to fix something, especially when we can just buy a new one for a few more dollars.  Mostly though, I think we're lazy.  It's easier not to fix things.  End of story.

We got some new neighbors earlier this year.  They live across the street and they seem to be busy bees out in the yard, sprucing it up.  They're always trimming, clipping, mowing, and planting something.  This may have been what gave me a complex about our yard that prompted the big mulch adventure a few weeks back.   Although, if I were going to have a complex about inferior yards because of neighbors, I'd already have it.  The man on the corner has always kept his yard pristine.  (How does he do that?!)  Fine, I admit it.  I covet his grass that could double as carpet and his eternally pine-poofed flower beds. 

Between the always pristine corner yard and ambitiously trimming new neighbors, I turned to my house and decided it was time to trim the hedges.  This is no small task, as the previous owners spared no expense filling the flowerbeds with abounding amounts of needs-to-be trimmed flora.  No worries, though!  When Sam and I got married, my dad donated lots of tools to help get us started.  One of these tools was a set of power hedge trimmers that had, until recently, been nestled in a cob-webby corner of our garage inside a box of miscellaneous other previously-unused items.  Nevertheless, I remembered they were there and, by golly, I was finally going to use them!

I found our ginormous extension cord on a spool, plugged the puppy in, and pulled the trigger!

They did nothing....unless you count that grunting sound.

The things were completely and totally seized up with rust.

You know what my first thought was?  "Guess I need to get to Lowe's and buy a new hedge trimmer...'sigh'"  Sad but true.

Then I realized.  It's just rust.  Surely a little rust doesn't render something eternally useless, does it?  A discussion with Mr. Fix-it (aka my dad) confirmed that this was no job some Liquid Wrench or WD-40 couldn't fix.  A disassembly, a few sprays of WD-40, and no more than 10 minutes later, that things was fired up and ready to go.

It would sit in the garage for several more weeks as wasps, high-temperatures, and that thing known as "life" got in the way for that long.  Then on a whim, my wonderful husband decided to give me yet another Mother's Day present.  On Sunday night, he pruned our entire front yard with the trimmers.  Did it matter that he ran out of daylight?  Not to Sam!  He finished the whole thing up with nary a stinging pest or high temperatures causing even the slightest hindrance.

I like to think I made it all possible...because I fixed the trimmers...instead of buying new ones.  (I'm not sure Sam sees it this way.)

And with that, #88, consider yourself checked!

Best Mother's Day Present EVER

I got some tremendous gifts this year...from new clothes and a beautiful beverage dispenser from Kirklands for all of the entertaining I wish we did but don't actually (Thank you, Sam!) to a suitcase full of handcrafted paper items since he "didn't have any money" (Thank you, Ben!).  I got some crafts that the kids made in school, complete with handprints in some form or another (and I absolutely LOVE that!).

This one tops them all though.  And in the interest of brevity, I will simply post a picture so you can peruse for yourself.  Feel free to click on it if you can't read it clearly.


Becoming "Mom"

I turned twenty just two weeks before delivering my firstborn, thereby excusing me from that stigmatic "teen mom" label (not by much, but enough that it counts).  Sam and I had finished up our sophomore year of college the May before.  We spent the summer working, applying for better jobs, taking classes, and buying a new home.  It seems like we squeezed about ten years into those few months.  On September 5, 2003 at 10:55am, I became a mom.

The thing about becoming a mom is that it happens in an instant.  And, for me, the instant was so fast that reality didn't have a chance to set in.

Disclaimer:  Before I go any further, I should clarify that I believe life starts at conception, and therefore motherhood begins in that different, particular instant, but I truly didn't feel or understand the magnitude of my new role until I held that tiny baby in my arms.

I remember just after I finished my final push and saw Ben for the first time, after the Stork Squad checked him out and gave him the a-okay after seeing meconium in my water, when they placed him on my chest and I held him for the first time.  It was like an out-of-body experience.  I might as well have been watching myself on tv.  There I was holding that tiny little boy.  I had to tell myself, "He is mine."

Not surprisingly, he came out hungry (and he still is to this day, even 10 minutes after a meal).  We worked through nursing, and he was a champ from the start.  That is when it really occurred to me.  Even though I had carried and nourished him for the past nine months, I was responsible for the complete care of this little man, this person.  He was coming home with us.  To Sam's and my house.  If I wanted to run to the grocery store, he had to come with me.  If I wanted to go for a walk, I needed to pull out the stroller.  If I wanted to take a shower, (I would soon find out) that I would need to wait for the opportune time perhaps during a nap or moment of contentment (which would be few and far between).  I hadn't just birthed a son.  We had a brand new, perpetual sidekick.

I learned that becoming a mom was the ultimate lesson in selflessness.  I no longer had the luxury of making choices based on what I alone thought or felt.  I weighed everything based on not only myself, but my child and my family.   I became an unintentional advocate.

"I am the Lorax Mom.  I speak for the trees my child." ~The Lorax Mom

Things I didn't know I would ever care about became important to me, like what to feed a child who refuses whole milk at age one, carseat safety, whether to send my kid to private or public school, the speed at which other drivers whiz through our residential neighborhood.  I began to be intensely moved by news articles about needy children and stories about neglectful parents.  Reading things like that always made me sad before, but after having a child of my own, they angered and motivated me.  I didn't (and still don't) understand how a parent could ever be that emotionally disconnected from an extension of their very own life. 

Becoming a mom didn't detract from my motivation, it fueled it.  It made me want to do things better.  I not only had to continue on my own path, but I had to set an example for my kids because, like it or not, we are our childrens' inspiration.  They learn by watching, just as we did when we were little.  Whether we didn't like what our parent's did or we thought they were great, it's in our power to emulate the characteristics we want to model for our children.  

Being a mom is a twenty-four hour job.  The local hospital offered a number of classes prior to becoming a mom that may have given an inkling of what parenthood was going to be like, but there's really nothing more valuable or meaningful than the on-the-job training.  It's sink or swim.  I made mistakes and learned from them.  I still makes lots of mistakes, and I will continue to learn from them.  The education I get from my failures isn't at the expense of my kids, it's for their benefit.  Some day they'll realize this, and hopefully appreciate it.

I have learned, since becoming a mom, that the hardest mom tasks aren't the ones you'd expect to be hard.  Changing diapers, getting the kids in bed a reasonable hour, juggling laundry, dishes, carpools.  Those are a piece of cake.  The hard part is sticking to your guns.  It is so much easier to cave when a child is looking at you with those droopy sad eyes asking for just one more piece of candy.  It's a lot easier to ignore a bad behavior than to correct one.  It is so much easier to condemn another parent for his or her parenting choices before you're a parent yourself.  As a general rule in parenting, I believe that if it's easier, it's probably not the best.

I am on child number three now, and it feels like I've been a mom for about a century.  At the same time, it feels like just yesterday that the nurse placed a hefty 8 pound 14 ounce Ben on my chest.  That's the paradox of time through the eyes of a mom, I've learned.  I owe so much to my kids.  Without them, I wouldn't be where I am in this life.  Things don't always play out the way we plan them, and thank God for that.  

So this is my Mother's Day post.  A day late (and perhaps a dollar short), but that's how I roll these days.  I hope you spent the day exactly how you wanted to spend it!  As for me, my kids and I woke up to a home-cooked breakfast, cool temperatures, and a day at Grammie's house.  We even rounded out the night with a surprise dessert at the Mexican restaurant on the way home.  For Mother's Day, I got a free fried ice cream.  Like I needed that.

And for fun - here's a picture of my amazing mother-in-law and her five grands on Mother's Day Eve.  I hope some day I'm lucky enough to be surrounded by so many grand kids that are equally as precious and be that happy about it.

Happy Belated Mother's Day!

Mom Giggles

I'm taking this opportunity to share my favorite mom jokes.  They've been emailed around nine hundred million times, so they're the same old classic, read-them-before jokes you've already seen.  It matters not.  They spoke to me, and I'm sharing them again.

Joke #1

Yes, parenthood changes everything. But parenthood also changes with each baby. Here are some of the ways having a second and third child differs from having your first:

Your Clothes
1st baby: You begin wearing maternity clothes as soon as your OB/GYN confirms your pregnancy.
2nd baby: You wear your regular clothes for as long as possible.
3rd baby: Your maternity clothes ARE your regular clothes.

The Baby's Name
1st baby: You pour over baby-name books and practice pronouncing and writing combinations of all your favorites.
2nd baby: Someone has to name his or her kid after your great-aunt Mavis, right? It might as well be you.
3rd baby: You open a name book, close your eyes, and see where your finger points.

Preparing for the Birth
1st baby: You practice your breathing religiously.
2nd baby: You don't bother practicing because you remember that last time, breathing didn't do a thing.
3rd baby: You ask for an epidural in your 8th month.

The Layette
1st baby: You pre-wash your newborn's clothes, color-coordinate them, and fold them neatly in the baby's little bureau.
2nd baby: You check to make sure that the clothes are clean and discard only the ones with the darkest stains.
3rd baby: Boys can wear pink, can't they?

1st baby: At the first sign of distress--a whimper, a frown--you pick up the baby.
2nd baby: You pick the baby up when her wails threaten to wake your firstborn.
3rd baby: You teach your 3-year-old how to rewind the mechanical swing.

1st baby: If the pacifier falls on the floor, you put it away until you can go home and wash and boil it.
2nd baby: When the pacifier falls on the floor, you squirt it off with some juice from the baby's bottle.
3rd baby: You wipe it off on your shirt and pop it back in.

1st baby: Sleeps in your bedroom for the first six - eight weeks
2nd baby: Sleeps in your bedroom for the first two weeks
3rd baby: Goes right from the hospital nursery into their own room

Baby Book
1st baby: You religiously make entries every day, carefully noting the number of spit-ups and bowel movements for the first year
2nd baby: You enter a few facts each week but stop after 6 months
3rd baby: You buy the book but enter the child's name, birth weight, and length on the first page

1st baby: You change your baby's diapers every hour, whether they need it or not.
2nd baby: You change their diaper every 2 to 3 hours, if needed.
3rd baby: You try to change their diaper before others start to complain about the smell or you see it sagging to their knees.

1st baby: You take your infant to Baby Gymnastics, Baby Swing, and Baby Story Hour.
2nd baby: You take your infant to Baby Gymnastics.
3rd baby: You take your infant to the supermarket and the dry cleaner.

Going Out
1st baby: The first time you leave your baby with a sitter, you call home 5 times.
2nd baby: Just before you walk out the door, you remember to leave a number where you can be reached.
3rd baby: You leave instructions for the sitter to call only if she sees blood.

At Home
1st baby: You spend a good bit of every day just gazing at the baby.
2nd baby: You spend a bit of every day watching to be sure your older child isn't squeezing, poking, or hitting the baby.
3rd baby: You spend a little bit of every day hiding from the children.

Swallowing a coin
1st child: When first child swallows a coin, you rush the child to the hospital and demand x-rays.
2nd child: When 2nd child swallows a coin, you carefully watch for coin to pass.
3rd child: When 3rd child swallows a coin you deduct it from his allowance!!

*I've considered creating a list like this of my own many times.  Maybe someday...

Joke #2

Are You Ready for Children?  Here are a few tests to help you decide.

Mess Test: Smear peanut butter on the sofa and curtains. Now rub your hands in the wet flowerbed and rub on the walls. Cover the stains with crayons. Place a fish stick behind the couch and leave it there all summer.

Toy Test: Obtain a 55-gallon box of Lego's. (If Lego's are not available, you may substitute roofing tacks or broken bottles.) Have a friend spread them all over the house. Put on a blindfold. Try to walk to the bathroom or kitchen. Do not scream. (This could wake a child at night.)

Grocery Store Test: Borrow one or two small animals (goats are best) and take them with you as you shop at the grocery store. Always keep them in sight and pay for anything they eat or damage.

Dressing Test: Obtain one large, unhappy, live octopus. Stuff into a small net bag making sure that all arms stay inside.

Feeding Test: Obtain a large plastic milk jug. Fill halfway with water. Suspend from the ceiling with a stout cord. Start the jug swinging. Try to insert spoonfuls of soggy cereal (such as Fruit Loops or Cheerios) into the mouth of the jug, while pretending to be an airplane. Now dump the contents of the jug on the floor.

Night Test: Prepare by obtaining a small cloth bag and fill it with 8 - 12 pounds of sand. Soak it thoroughly in water. At 8:00 PM begin to waltz and hum with the bag until 9:00 PM. Lay down your bag and set your alarm for 10:00 PM. Get up, pick up your bag, and sing every song you have ever heard. Make up about a dozen more and sing these too until 4:00 AM. Set alarm for 5:00 AM. Get up and make breakfast. Keep this up for 5 years. Look cheerful.

Physical Test (Women): Obtain a large beanbag chair and attach it to the front of your clothes. Leave it there for 9 months. Now remove 10 of the beans.

Physical Test (Men): Go to the nearest drug store. Set your wallet on the counter. Ask the clerk to help himself. Now proceed to the nearest food store. Go to the head office and arrange for your paycheck to be directly deposited to the store. Purchase a newspaper. Go home and read it quietly for the last time.

Final Assignment: Find a couple who already has a small child. Lecture them on how they can improve their discipline, patience, tolerance, toilet training, and child's table manners. Suggest many ways they can improve. Emphasize to them that they should never allow their children to run riot. Enjoy this experience. It will be the last time you will have all the answers. 

Joke #3 (wrong season, but still a favorite of mine!)

Dear Santa,
I've been a good mom all year. I've fed, cleaned and cuddled my children on demand, visited the doctor's office more than my doctor, sold sixty-two cases of candy bars to raise money to plant a shade tree on the school playground.  I was hoping you could spread my list out over several Christmases, since I had to write this letter with my son's red crayon, on the back of a receipt in the laundry room between cycles, and who knows when I'll find anymore free time in the next 18 years.
Here are my Christmas wishes:
I'd like a pair of legs that don't ache (in any color, except purple,  which I already have) and arms that don't hurt or flap in the breeze; but are strong enough to pull my screaming child out of the candy aisle in the grocery store.  I'd also like a waist, since I lost mine somewhere in the seventh month of my last pregnancy.

If you're hauling big ticket items this year I'd like fingerprint resistant windows and a radio that only plays adult music; a television that doesn't broadcast any programs containing talking animals; and a refrigerator with a secret compartment behind the crisper where I can hide to talk on the phone.  On the practical side, I could use a talking doll that says, "Yes, Mommy" to boost my parental confidence, along with two kids who don't fight and three pairs of jeans that will zip all the way up without the use of power tools.   I could also use a recording of Tibetan monks chanting "Don't eat in the living room" and "Take your hands off your brother," because my voice seems to be just out of my children's hearing range and can only be heard by the dog.   

If it's too late to find any of these products, I'd settle for enough time to brush my teeth and comb my hair in the same morning, or the luxury of eating food warmer than room temperature without it being served in a Styrofoam container.   If you don't mind, I could also use a few Christmas miracles to brighten the holiday season. Would it be too much trouble to declare ketchup a vegetable? It will clear my conscience immensely. It would be helpful if you could coerce my children to help around the house without demanding payment as if they were the bosses of an organized crime family.

Well, Santa, the buzzer on the dryer is ringing and my son saw my feet under the laundry room door. I think he wants his crayon back.

Have a safe trip and remember to leave your wet boots by the door and come in and dry off so you don't catch cold.  Help yourself to cookies on the table but don't eat too many or leave crumbs on the carpet.

Yours Always, 


P.S. One more thing...you can cancel all my requests if you can keep my children young enough to believe in Santa.

The one where I talk about my mom

Since I've proclaimed this entire week "Mother's Week" (at least within the realm of my little blog here), it seems only fitting that I should move on the the part where I discuss my own mom. 

I've talked about Joyce before on my blog.  Perhaps you remember the dead chickens?  Or "It's easier if you do it"?  Here's another classic Joyce moment from back when I was living at home: She happened to walk through the family room as a commercial came on.  As she looked at the tv, she said, "What's gorving?"  All of us burst out in laughter.  It was an advertisement for the latest RV-ing craze, encouraging us to get out and see the states, to "Go RV-ing". 

For those of you who read this and know Joyce, you can probably think back on at least one  interaction you had with her that made you smile (or more likely laugh...probably at her expense).  I know everyone is a unique individual, but just like my Abby, my mom is one of those very unique individuals.

The mother-daughter relationship is destined to be complicated, no matter how perfect the mother or (especially, wink wink) the daughter might be.  I have tried to use my relationship with my mom as a model for how I want, hope, and pray to mother my children, and especially my girls.  There were things she did that I don't want to do, no doubts about that, but there are also a million and one lessons that she provided to me that I want, hope, and pray I can pass on to my kids.

She taught me:
  • How to entertain myself...by letting me be (and really, I think this is why my imagination blossomed, grew, and now resembles the brambles surrounding Sleeping Beauty's castle). 
  • The importance of regular worship and fellowship with believers...by getting us up every single Sunday for church.
  • Frugality...by taking me back-to-school shopping at Ames and the Village Thrift Store, while other parents were maxing out their credit cards at the mall.
  • The importance of paying our debts...by leaving me reminders to pay her back on post-its in my room if I borrowed 35 cents for a candy bar while we were out running errands. 
  • Compassion for others...by being a part of the Benevolence ministry, the Clothes Closet ministry, and a lifetime of doing for others.
  • That it is okay to cry...by letting tears freely flow no matter how many people were around to see them.
  • That I "have the rest of my life to work"...by prohibiting me from working in my early high school years so that I might enjoy my childhood.
  • That no matter how I perform she loves me just the same...by never putting any additional pressure on me beyond the pressure I was already putting on myself.
  • The value of family dinner...by providing a non-optional meal every night for our family of four.
  • That strangers are but friends we haven't yet met...by at least attempting to strike up a conversation with every single person within earshot no matter where we are.
I could probably go on and on, but I fear I might lose my readers if my obsessive-compulsive list-making should go beyond 10 items.  (I have to admit, I get the list-making from her.  I just like to think I do it in a neater fashion than on random shreds of paper all over the kitchen.  Maybe someday...)

My mom is definitely one-of-a-kind.  We can probably all say that.  And most of us probably mean it the endearing way I intend it to come across.  My mom is usually the life of the party, but, ironically, hates speaking in front of crowds.  She allows herself to be the brunt of many a good-natured joke, but suffers in silence when the jokes turn mean.   She knows no strangers, would give you the shirt off of her back, and avoids confrontation at all costs.  She sheds tears of happiness, sadness, and general no-reasonedness almost daily, but she balances the tears  with as many smiles and as much laughter.

I always used to think that I was more like my dad than my mom.  With each passing day, I realize that this is not necessarily true.  The reminder may come in the form of me forgetting that I warmed a cup of coffee up in the microwave, failing to be able to find my keyring in the abyss otherwise known as my purse, loading the dishwasher at some insane hour of the night, or kicking my way through a floor full of toys to make a walking path (instead of bending over to move them with my hands...which I swore I would never do).  With each reminder, that creepy thought of "Scary isn't it?" flashes in my brain.  But when I take the time to pause and think about it...being a little more like Joyce might not be so terrible after all.

The phrase "Never a dull moment" comes to mind.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom!

Mom Things - Mother's Day Week!

The mom things this week aren't anything extra special, but I just wanted to give my love to the moms who read these and nod their heads in approval, commiseration, or agreement.  You know what it means to be a mom.  It's a special club of which I could never have imagined I'd be so thrilled to be a part.  I wish you all a very special Mother's Day!

For those of you whose moms are no longer with us, I want to give you a special hug.  And I also want to remind those of us whose moms are still with us to remember to give an extra hug and "I love you".  (Lecture over.)

And now on with the show...

The tidal wave whooshing noise you heard coming from the kitchen was the sound of an entire gallon of tea spilling on your freshly mopped kitchen floor courtesy of your one year old, as you stepped out of the room for 20 seconds for that potty break you so infrequently afford yourself.

As a result, you quietly chastise yourself for taking that oh-so-needed restroom break.  You knew you put them off for good reason.

You have an entire wall of handprint, footprint, and fingerprint artwork from years past posted in your office.  Sometimes you glance at it and cannot believe your babies' hands and feet were ever that tiny.  And that is why you don't take them down.

In one night your children will track clayey mud in from the backyard across your newly laundered bathroom rugs, spill a gallon of tea on your freshly mopped kitchen floor, and climb the counter and pull a plate from the bottom of the stack resulting in an avalanche of melamine dishes falling out of your recently organized cabinet.  For your sanity, you know that the only possible ending to a night like this is an early bedtime.  For everyone.

Your four year old's crocs have holes on the top of the toe where they were worn out from doubling as bike brakes for an entire summer.

It's amazing how long kids can be entertained with nothing but a sheet draped over some chairs in the living room.  The drawback is that they never, I repeat never, want to take it down.

You've "caught" your three year old nursing one of her babies.  When she noticed you noticing, she replied, "Babies get bottles at school."

You admit that you need to tone down the road rage when your three year old yells from the back seat, "Get out of the way, people!"

When you volunteer in the classroom your kindergartner jumps out of his seat, runs across the room, and gives you the biggest, proudest "This is my Mommy" hug possible.  You soak it up and smile because you know he won't always be this happy to see you at school.

You had no idea how rewarding it could be to perform any of the following tasks on another person:  cleaning out ear wax, clipping toenails/fingernails, and clearing out booger noses.

Again, I say....

Hope you mothers, and those of you with mothers and mother's in law have the very happiest of Mother's Days!
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