Proud Moment

The parenting experience is comprised of moments. There are happy moments and sad moments, fleeting moments and exhausting moments, memorable moments and mundane moments, beautiful moments and grotesque moments, tender moments and frustrating moments, embarrassing moments and proud momrnts. This morning was a proud one.

#2 had to get blood drawn for a food allergy panel. He was patient in the waiting room. He advocated for himself when he was nervous by asking to sit on my lap as we waited our turn. He was friendly to the phlebotomist and so brave during the blood draw — not even a flinch — that the phlebotomist called #2 his hero. Then, when we stopped for a smoothie on the way home as a reward for #2’s great behavior, #2 asked to select a treat for #1, #3, and his dad. He carefully selected a perfectly personalized and appropriate treat for each person. I was so impressed.

This boy who gets stuck in the oddest places, who has a flair for potty humor, and a shriek that can pierce eardrums, made me glow with maternal pride. We must be doing something right!

Diaries of a Nursing Mom

1) During a morning kid bath — utilized solely for the purpose of entertaining and containing #1  and #2 while I got ready for the day — #1 pretended to nurse Mermaid Barbie. “I’m the mommy,” she said to #2, “you’re the daddy. You can’t feed the baby.” “Well, if the mommy pumps breast milk into a bottle, the daddy could feed the baby,” I remind her. “Hand me the bucket, please,” #1 demands of #2. #1 places the bucket beneath her nipple for a five-count: “Here’s the breast milk,” she says as she hands the bucket to #2, “Now, you can feed the baby.” Then #1 cradles Mermaid Barbie back to her chest to “nurse” as #2 pretends to bottle feed his doll.

2) #3 bit me… HARD. (Three exclusively breastfed babies, months of pumping for my own children and, then, solely for donation; I’m no peach blossom.) “My kiss it and make it better.” #2 offers. I thank him but tell him Mommy will be OK. #1 reprimands #3 for biting: “Mommy feeds you. No biting!” Then I fish two shards of wicker basket from #3’s mouth. The basket from which I had just shooed him away because he likes snapping apart the woven pieces. Lovely.

3) #3 is experiencing a growth spurt, which means he nurses All. Night. Long. When he awakes in the morning, roughly 20-30 minutes after his last feeding, he greets me with a huge smile and a happy squeak. It’s as if he hadn’t been suctioned to me for most of the night. He’s either senile or charming, I’m too tired to know which one.

Easy, Cheap, Mess-free Inside Play Ideas

Stuck inside and trying to figure out how to entertain little ones without a huge mess? Here are our favorite inside activities.

1) Obstacle course: grab some plastic food storage containers or plastic solo cups and painters tape, then clear some space and set up an obstacle course. Twirl, hop, and weave the wiggles out.

2) Shaving cream in the tub: strip the kids down, pop them in the empty bath tub, then squirt a pile of shaving cream for each child. Add some washable toys (plastic boats, rinse-able dolls, small cars, sand shovels, etc.) for extra fun. Then just turn on the water to clean up.

3) Fingerpaints in the shower: use painters tape to adhere fingerpaint paper at kid-appropriate height to the shower walls, squirt finger paints on a plastic plate (one plate per child so as to avoid skirmishes), strip the kids down, pop them in a dry shower, and let them paint. Just remove the taped paper and paints, and turn on the shower to clean up the mess.

4) Bubbles in the bath: turn on some fun music, fill up the tub, plop the kids in the bath, then blow bubbles. For extra fun, try adding Gelli Baff (http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B012BP34TU/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?qid=1460303393&sr=8-1&pi=SY200_QL40&keywords=gelli+baff&dpPl=1&dpID=61y5XBN-7GL&ref=plSrch) to the water.

5) Costume dance party: pull out the dress-ups, turn on some music, then boogy down.

6) Picnic snack: spread a sheet or blanket on the floor, then have snacktime picnic-style.

7) Shakers: grab an empty oatmeal canister or an empty cereal box, have the kids place dried pasta, dried beans, plastic beads, or pebbles into the container, secure both ends of the the container closed with painters tape, decorate with stickers, crayons, etc. Then shake, shake, shake!

8) Make masks: Grab paper plates, scissors, popsicle sticks (or disposable chopsticks), painters tape, and crafting supplies to make masks. Cut eye holes in the plates, use the painters tape to secure the popsicle stick (or disposable chopstick) to the back of the plate to use as a handle. Then let the kids decorate with crayons, stickers, stick-on gems, etc.

9) Bowling: place plastic solo cups or plastic food storage containers (the tall cylindrical deli containers are perfect) in a triangle formation on the floor to act as bowling pins. Then stand back and roll a rubber ball to bowl over the “pins”.

10) Putt-putt: tape some empty paper towel rolls together or use an empty wrapping paper roll to use as a club. Tape a plastic solo cup sideways on the floor with the opening facing the golfer. Grab a small rubber ball and use your cardboard club to putt the ball into the solo cup “hole”.

 

 

Birthdays and Birth Days

When I was little, birthdays were filled with cake, gifts, and excitement. Days crossed off of calendars, years broken into quarters in anticipation of getting older; experiencing a birthday was magical. Each added year opened new doors, new possibilities. Birthdays were brimming with novelty.

Then, somewhere in the awkward gap between 18 and 21, when you’re not quite an adult but not quite a child, the luster began to fade from birthdays. They weren’t as exciting or so feverishly anticipated. They were nice days but nothing like the celebratory events of childhood.

When I became a mother, when I birthed my own children, I saw birthdays from an entirely new vantage point. Sure, there was the drama of labor and delivery, and — yes — there were the pains of healing, but it was the gravity of the day, the reverberating impact of each child’s birth day that was finally clear to me. The changes each child brought to my life and to me were astounding.

The love one feels as a mother is unparalleled. One simply cannot fathom such a level of devotion and awe until one is a mother. Each child’s birth day allowed me to experience that tidal wave of terrifyingly powerful love over again. My heart had developed a seemingly superhuman power of filling beyond capacity with love, time and time again.

As the anniversary of these birth days circled around, I processed my children’s growth with a mixture of gratitude, anxiety, and mourning. I was blessed to have healthy, happy, thriving children. I was anxious about the future, as uncertainty is unsettling even when the path is beautiful. I was mournful because with each added year, with each developmental milestone, my children stepped further from me and deeper into the outside world.

Now, as a mother, I experience my own birthday differently. Instead of feeling the childhood excitement of self-celebration, I feel a sense of gracious reflection and thankfulness. It is only now that I understand that what is my birthday to me is the anniversary of my own mother’s first birth day… the day that changed her life and self, just as #1’s birth day forever changed me.

Happy birth day, Mom!

Balance

Parenthood is all about balance: enough fresh produce to outweigh the chicken nuggets, enough activity to counteract the episodes of Doc McStuffins, enough good mommy moments to blur the bad mommy moments. Balancing time is, perhaps, the most challenging balancing act. It’s an ever-changing scale and fraught with imperfections.

To balance “you” time with couple time, one-on-one child time, family time, socializing time, household duties time, extended family time — the list goes on — is a juggling act that’s bound to falter. If you throw work into the mix, it gets incredibly complex.

Four months after having #1, I returned to my corporate job but as a part-time employee. “What a perfect arrangement!” “You’re so lucky to have such a great balance!” People would say upon hearing of my work situation. It was good… but it wasn’t as perfect as it seemed.

Instead of being fully stay-at-home mom or entirely full-time employee, I existed somewhere in the middle with both home and work lives pulling me to give more. I felt as if I was half-ass’ing both sets of responsibilities. I couldn’t prioritize work without falling through on parenting and home duties, and giving more of myself at home meant scaling back at work. The one item missing in this work verses home balance: me. I was so harried trying to simultaneously be both working mother and stay-at-home mother that I had left “me” time out of the equation entirely… and couple time was nonexistent.

After having #2, and still working part-time, the only “me” time I had was when I was pumping breast milk for my son and eventually for donation. Then, a few significant corporate reorganizations presented me with the opportunity to adjust my hours. I cut back to 15 hours per week instead of 20 hours. That worked for a bit, until work expectations rose to the level of a 20-hour workweek despite my abbreviated schedule.

When I became pregnant with #3, another ruthless set of corporate reorganizations was sweeping through the cubicle farm and I was one of the casualties. It was a hard hit, at first, and I made the long drive home in a fit over how I could figure out another work path. I had always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, but I was so accustomed to working and living the chaotic balancing act, that I didn’t know another way.

Then, while sitting at a red light positioned at a dead-end, my inner voice said, “This is what you’ve always wanted. Why are you fighting it?” A calm swept over me. I smiled. And with that, the light turned green and I turned left toward home.

Easy Dairy-free Cake

#2 is turning 3, so #1 and #2 helped me make a cake, while #3 provided moral support. Here’s what we used:

20160406_143825.jpg(We don’t drink soda, so this was all we had on hand. I would have preferred a non-diet soda had it been on hand.)

1. Empty Duncan Hines cake mix (Duncan Hines cake mix is generally dairy-free, but be sure to double-check the ingredients list of your desired flavor before purchasing) into a mixing bowl.

2. Add a can of soda to the bowl.

2. Mix and bake per the cake mix’s instructions.

3. Cool thoroughly, then frost with your preferred dairy-free icing  (most pre-packaged icings are dairy-free, but be sure to double-check your desired flavor before purchasing.)

Enjoy!

Happy Birthday #2!

Three years ago a calm, cuddly baby entered this world. He was round, healthy, happy, and wanted nothing more than to be close to my heart.

That boy grew… fast. He taught me how to divide my attention between multiple children, he taught me that I can parent boys, he taught me the beauty of cuddling, he taught me to slow down and appreciate a warm hug, he taught me the wonder of bubbles, he taught me to be fearlessly true to myself, he taught me how to listen and watch constantly for kid calamity, he taught me how to laugh at life’s ups and down, he taught me the art of doll hair styling, he taught me how healing an unplanned snuggle can be, but mostly he taught me that my heart can fill beyond capacity with love.

Happy birthday, #2! You were the best early birthday present I could ever have.

What is Sleep?

Pregnancy-related insomnia is common. Between hormones and a squished bladder, you’re awake frequently at night. It’s nature’s way of preparing us for the sleeplessness ahead.

The sleep deprivation from your firstborn is the hardest. You’re delirious, confused, so exhausted it hurts. As time goes by, you somehow adjust to the reduced and broken sleep pattern. It becomes your new norm.

With subsequent children, the newborn phase isn’t painless, and certainly isn’t flush with sleep, but you’re better able to cope. You’ve learned tricks to help you and baby sleep at bit more, your nerves are calmer, you’re so tired from chasing an older child and nurturing an infant during the day that there’s no room for mind-spinning wakefulness at night. You savor the sleep you get; you know this pain is momentary in life.

Sleep deprivation isn’t easy, it isn’t fun, but it’s temporary. Your baby needs you. You’re all he or she has in this world. In a few short years, you’ll sleep again. Then you’ll miss the nighttime neediness… because mom guilt and parenthood is twisted like that.

 

Where’s the Pause Button?

I just looked at the calendar and realized that there are only two months left of preschool this academic year. Two months??

Then my breath caught, my heart dropped, my eyes welled: my baby girl — the baby we weren’t sure would ever come — will be leaving preschool and starting kindergarten. How could this be happening?

Didn’t #2 just start his first year, toddling in with a backpack 3/4 his size? Did #1 just pick out her first day of school dress and insist on “princess hair” for the first day of her last preschool year?

How does this go by so quickly? How can I slow this down? I feel like I’m with them so much but I must be missing things because there’s no way so much time has slid by so quickly. Where’s the pause button?

 

Seeing Yourself through Others

One day I told my momspiration (the mom friend I hold in high esteem as a parenting example) — we’ll call her W — that I often examine parenting challenges and think to myself: “What would W do?” She was floored. She knew I considered her my momspiration, but she wasn’t aware how highly I thought of her parenting habits. She humbly responded, “But I…” and rattled off reasons why I shouldn’t consider her so exemplary. “You’re a great mom,”I told her. I was surprised she was surprised; I figured she must know she’s a remarkable parent because it was so obvious to me.

Today, I arrived at a playdate with a friend I hadn’t seen in years. I was one kid short (#1 was in preschool). Watching me walk over — #2 holding my hand, #3 strapped to my chest, and the picnic lunch over my shoulder — my friend warmly greeted me: “You are a professional mom!” I thanked her and laughed off the compliment, thinking how I’m just type-A and plan everything. I didn’t consider myself in anyway above the fray.

Each time I nursed #3 in the carrier during the playdate, my friend sweetly noted that she was “in awe” of my nursing on the go. It was so flattering and unexpected, as I never think anything of nursing in public. I do it at least four times daily. I never thought of my routine as admirable.

I drove home from the lovely playdate thinking how often we move about our routines — blinded by our rattling to-do lists and inner monologs — completely unaware of the admiration or flattering perceptions we stir in others. The world is filled with secret admirers.