Bedtime

IMG_6734Parenting can be ROUGH.

There are times in parenting where everything is sunshine and lollipops but, to be honest, most days are filled with a lot of hair pulling and silent prayers offered up for my sanity. Case in point:

This month–amongst the lack of schedule and routine that is knowns as “summer”–we’ve been struggling with this little thing called “bedtime”. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, because apparently my children have NOT. Bedtime is supposed to be this magical time of the night where children go into their rooms and nod off so their parents can get an hour or two ALONE so they can muster up the courage to face another day in the morning.

Someone forgot to tell my kids about the whole “stay in your bed and sleep” part of bedtime, though, and recently we’ve had a few eventful nights as a result.

A few weeks ago on my birthday, for instance, Jon and I were sitting on the couch in our living room watching a movie after “bedtime” when we heard a knock on our door. “Strange,” we thought, “Who would be coming to our house at 9:00 on a Wednesday night?” Turns out it was a Good Samaritan neighbor who had been walking his dog when saw two NAKED boys playing in our pitch-black front yard. The boys claimed that they came from a zoo, but Good Sam could see right through their ruse and thought it best to try and locate some parental figures. Turns out it was our children, who had sneaked out the back door, removed a loose board in our fence, walked through the neighbors yard to the sidewalk, and eventually found their way to our front yard. As for the nakednes of said children, I can’t even fathom.

After getting the fence repaired we had some peace of mind about the boys’ late-night wanderings–even though they still managed to break out of the back door several times before I caught on to the idea of setting booby traps (an ironing board leaned against the inside of the door that makes a disruptive crashing noise when the door is opened has proved quite effective.). Now that the boys are relatively contained to the interior of our house, however, we’re still facing the fact that they will. Not. SLEEP.

Last week the boys came out of their room at bedtime so many times that I was starting to feel like we were participating in marching band practice. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, backandforthbackandforthbackandforth…

Then there was the night that I went in to check on them before I went to bed and they were sleeping peacefully in their closet. On the upper shelves of their closet, that is (Don’t worry, they’d brought their pillows and blankets up there with them. They actually looked quite cozy.).

But the events of two nights ago took the cake. After however many nights of this not-a-bedtime charade I was exhausted and I just wanted to go to bed at a decent hour for once. At about 9:30 I did my final check and the boys were awake, but each was laying quietly in their own beds. I counted this as a victory and decided to hit the sack. After all, how much trouble could they get in? (Famous last words, right?)

Around midnight I was awoken by the shaking of my bed–at first I thought it was an earthquake so I sat bolt upright and, in a daze, took in my surroundings. Turns out it was even worse than an earthquake: the children were still awake (and bouncing on my bed, naked of course.). When I brought them back to their room I surveyed the damage: An entire box of Pull-Ups (that we’d bought at Costco that morning) was strewn about the room (we’re talking, Pull-Ups hanging from the fan and used as mattress stuffing); every article of clothing they own was piled into Mount Wardrobe in the center of the room; the drawer pulls had all been pulled off of their dresser drawers and thrown in miscellaneous places (including, but not limited to: the windowsill, under the dresser, inside socks, and inside the diaper pail); an entire box of TEN THOUSAND MILLION toothpicks were scattered about the floor; and several empty food boxes littered the landscape. It was Armageddon.

So I did what any self-respecting parent would do: After my head stopped spinning circles around my neck and my eyeballs popped back into their sockets, I backed out of the room and shut the door so I wouldn’t say or do anything that might end up in the local newspaper’s Police Beat. Then I promptly got on Amazon to check their selection of child tranquilizers and muzzles. (Just kidding. Sort of. You’d be amazed what deals you can get with Amazon Prime…)

The next morning we spent HOURS cleaning up The Mess…and then we moved on with our lives. Because, really, in the scheme of things bedtime disasters are just a drop in the bucket. By dinnertime both boys were begging me to go to bed–it turns out pulling all-nighters is not for the faint of heart. Or for toddlers.

So here’s the big takeaway: If you are a new parent with a baby who keeps you up all night, just know that it won’t get better for a long, looooooong time…If you are a veteran parent who struggles with your own children–be it bedtime or convincing them to wear clothing in public or whatever their particular “poison” is–know that you are NOT ever alone…and if you don’t have young children at home: help us! Every one of us parents-in-the-trenches needs you!

Power on, parents, power on. And get some sleep, now, will you?

A Father’s Day Interview With The World’s BEST Father (No, Seriously, The BEST)

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Seeing as it will be Father’s Day on Sunday, I thought it would be fitting to write a post for all of the fathers out there. The thing is, though, I’m not a dad. Nor will I ever be. So, I decided to seek out an expert source to help with this one. Lucky for you, dear reader, I managed to secure The World’s BEST Father (that’s his official title) for an exclusive Father’s Day interview.

With over 32 years of fathering experience, he has enough wisdom to fill entire internet blogs (but for the sake of brevity, we’ll keep this to one post for now). He has survived raising not one, not two, but THREE daughters into adulthood (including a *charming* oldest child and twins, who all happened to be teenagers in overlapping years. Can you imagine the drama he’s witnessed?). He is, in short, a saint. He is also my father.

Here’s a snapshot of my dad’s take on this whole fatherhood experience:

We Love Teach Grow: Hi, Dad! Are you ready to spill the beans on what it’s like to be The World’s Best Dad?

Dad: Hi, honey. I’m only the world’s best dad because I have the world’s best daughter.*
(*Intro sequence imagined by the author)

WLTG: Seriously, Dad, what is the best part of being a father?

Dad: Honestly, just having your kids tell you that they love you!

WLTG: Awww…I love you, Dad! See, this is why you’re The World’s Best Dad! I’m obviously not a dad, but I have a husband who’s a dad and loads of friends who are dads. What is some advice you would give to other dads who are just starting out with this whole fatherhood gig?

Dad: There will be times…lots of times…where it feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. You brought this new person into the world, and now you have to provide for it…it’s a huge burden to carry. I realize now–and I wish I would have realized earlier–that it’s not my burden to carry alone. First, marry a wife who will be a great mother. And then, when you have children, lean on God. The Bible says that God will “never leave you nor forsake you”, and that goes for parents, too! When you feel the heaviness of parenting weighing you down, lean on God and He will help you. That, and just love your kids.

WLTG: I feel like I need that reminder all the time! What else would you advise fathers, maybe as their children get older?

Dad: You only have your children for a short while. Parenting is essentially a process of letting go, little by little. It starts when they are babies and they begin to crawl and walk and explore on their own, then you realize they are their own person, and you have to let go a little. Then your kids are in elementary school and they want to go to their friend’s house for their first sleepover, and you have to let go a little bit more. And then they’re teenagers and they want to DRIVE, and you have to let go a lot. And then they start college and get married, and you just have to keep letting go. In the end, you realize that they belong to God, not you, and you have been entrusted with them for a time. As you’re letting go, remember that they still belong to God, and He still has them.

WLTG: I can’t even talk about driving or college… Moving on. You raised three daughters and, I have to say, they all turned out GREAT. What tips do you have specifically for fathers of girls?

Dad: I’ll say this again: Just love them. Watch their ballet recitals. Learn how to make a ponytail or “princess hair”. Embrace the color pink in your life. Just love them.

Another thing I would suggest is to “date” your daughters. There is something so special about building that bond with your child and creating memories together.
(*Every year my dad takes each of his daughters out on a birthday date. We’ve been “dating” for nearly 30 years now, and none of us have never missed a birthday date in all that time–even when living in different states and countries! Now as an adult, our daddy-daughter dates are some of my favorite childhood memories–and something that I still look forward to every year.).

WLTG: Speaking of memories, what are some suggestions you have for building memories and traditions with your family?

Dad: Blow some dough! I made a decision before I even became a father that I would make sacrifices in order to make memories. For our family, that meant spending some money doing some outrageously fun things together. We spent our winters skiing together. We took road trips to National Parks. We traveled to Europe and ate gelato until our tummies hurt. It cost a lot in terms of time and money, but I’ve never regretted a penny or a moment we spent together.

WLTG: Any last words?

Dad: Be there…like, physically be there. If your kid has a recital or a sporting event or a teacher conference, make room in your schedule and be there. Years down the road your kid may not remember how well they danced at that recital or the score of that track meet, but they’ll remember who was in the stands watching them. Be there.

Also, model for your children what a good parent should look like. I am the father I am today because my parents showed me how to be a parent. They supported me, they respected me, they loved me. Parents need to be the kinds of parents that they hope their kids will grow up to be some day.

And, remember: just love your kids.

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10 Lessons I’ve Learned In 10 Years of Marriage

Our Wedding 0425We’ve been celebrating for the better part of a month now, but today is the actual day: our tenth wedding anniversary. TEN YEARS. Holy moly, how did that happen? I swear, just yesterday we were mere babies (seriously, at 22 years old we WERE mere babies) walking down the aisle and swearing our forever love for each other before God and everyone. Then I blinked, we had two babies of our own, we moved NINE TIMES, and here we are today: ten years older and wiser.

These past 10 years have been a roller coaster of ups and downs and exciting twists and turns that we never anticipated in our wildest dreams. They’ve been wonderful years, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Yet, as I look back at our 10 years of marriage, I realize that the roller coaster has also been full of learning.

We’ve learned about each other, about ourselves, about what it means to be fused to another human being…for LIFE. So, yes, these first 10 years have been wonderful, but they’ve also been incredibly humbling. In the scheme of things I’m still just getting started on this whole marriage gig, but here are a few lessons I’ve gleaned during my first decade as a wife:

1. Pray together every day.
I received a simple piece of advice at my bridal shower, and it stuck: Pray together every day. We took this counsel to heart, and we have never missed a day praying together–even if we’re tired, or cranky with each other, or the kids drove us bonkers that evening, or whatever–we always end our day in prayer together. For 3,650 days in a row, we have come together in prayer. And you know what? It’s done wonders for our marriage. Some of our biggest decisions and greatest joys have come as a direct result of our daily prayer time. Simple, yes, but profound.

2. Set your priorities: Jesus, spouse, family, everything else.
Here’s the thing: life is BUSY. And the longer you’re married, the busier it seems to get. It helps, then, to set your priorities straight from the beginning. Number one has to be Jesus–this is the firm foundation upon which your marriage can be built and stand the test of time. There is nothing–NOTHING–that a marriage can not overcome as long as Jesus remains at the center.

After Jesus comes your spouse. This is the one person in the world who you have committed your entire self to, and that takes an extreme amount of sacrifice. This means that you support your spouse, you stand up for your spouse, you love your spouse, you choose your spouse–even when you don’t want to. They are yours forever–cherish them!

Next comes your family. Notice that “family” comes after “spouse”. Kids are wonderful, important, life-changing additions to a marriage. But they are not THE marriage. In a flash, your kids will grow up and move out and begin independent lives. And you will be left with–you guessed it–your spouse! Even though children are seemingly all-consuming (of your time, your energy, your money, your food, your sanity) they must take second seat to your spouse. Nurture your children, but never neglect your spouse at their expense.

Finally comes everything else: your job, your hobbies, your (dis)comfort with noise/mess/obnoxious eating habits. ‘Nuf said.

3. Be honest.
Without a doubt, this has been the greatest lesson I’ve learned in our marriage. So much confusion, hurt, and anger could have been avoided if we’d simply been honest with each other.  This goes from the trivial (Saying “I don’t care” when he asks you what movie you want to watch tonight…even though you’re hoping he remembers that you already mentioned 4 days ago that you’d love to see that new Bradley Cooper movie…) to the über-serious (your baggage from your past, your finances, your fears and dreams). In marriage as in life, honesty is the best policy.

4. Have fun together!
Oh, what a drag marriage would be if you weren’t having any fun! On a scale of 1 – awesome, I’d rate our marriage as EXTREMELY awesome. We try to find fun in the mundane (like when we crank up the music and have a dance party as we clean the house). We laugh together. We go fun places together. We look for opportunities to sneak in fun where it really doesn’t belong. After all, life is a lot more enjoyable if you’re…well…enjoying it!

5. Don’t always win the argument. 
Truth: Jon and I don’t always agree on everything (probably because I’m pretty much always right). In the end, though, it usually doesn’t matter who’s right or wrong (or righter or wronger). Some things are just not worth the battle. Peace in your relationship is worth more than being right (even if you are almost always right).

6. Honor your spouse’s differences.
This is one that I keep re-learning, pretty much every day. As much as I love him, Jon is NOT me. He thinks differently, behaves differently, has different preferences and aversions. He likes beer, and I like NOT-beer. He could spend every waking moment of his life tinkering with electronics, and I don’t even know the basics of a circuit board. He likes to relax after dinner, and I like to let nobody relax until the dishes are washed and put away. You see? We’re different. We were created different, and we are supposed to be different. I’m working to learn what makes him different so I can let him be him, without trying to make him be me. Bam.

7. Learn his favorites.
Nothing screams love like giving someone their favorite whatever. When you remember someone’s favorites, it shows that you are paying attention to them and that you care about their personal enjoyment. This can take on many different forms: making his favorite breakfast on the weekend, stocking his favorite brand of facial tissue (this is kind of a big deal in our house), tucking his favorite treat into his work bag, buying a few extra pairs of his favorite jeans when they go on sale. Related to this is learning to speak your spouse’s “Love Language”–which may be quite different from your own.

8. Be the kind of souse I want him to be.
This definitely falls into the category of “easier said than done”. Seriously, though, it’s crucial. If I want him to be patient, I need to be patient. If I want him to spend his weekends working on x, y, and z around the house, then I need to be willing to help him achieve those goals. If I want him to happily send me off for my mom’s nights out, then I need to let him enjoy those beer bashes after work (without making him feel guilty for abandoning me in my greatest hour of need: dinner time with two cranky children).

9. Carry your weight in the relationship.
Imagine a teeter-totter: on one side there is a child, and on the opposite end there is a grown man. No matter how much each of them teeters and totters, that teeter-totter will never find balance. The same is true in a marriage. If one person is doing all of the giving, and the other is doing all of the taking, there will never be balance. You do your share, and help your spouse to be successful in doing their’s.

10. Tell him you love him. Often.
Word.

So, there you have it: My sage advice from a decade of “I do’s”. I hope that you have found some encouragement in these words, and may God bless your relationships as He has blessed mine!

Now excuse me while I go find some cake to shove in my handsome husband’s face.

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24 Hours of Yes

IMG_4256Sometimes I feel like I’m always telling my kids “No.”

Sure, there are times when No is useful–like when they ask to eat ice cream for dinner or ask if they can draw that really cool picture on their arms…with a Sharpie. Other times No is quite necessary for the health and safety of themselves or those around them–like when they ask if it’s ok to play with Mommy’s (plugged-in) blow dryer in the (full of water) bathtub or if they can “practice flying” off the roof with their friend. Sometimes, though, No is just plain convenient. Like when they ask if they can go for a bike ride but I’m “busy” emptying the dishwasher or when they ask for me to do a puzzle with them but I’m BUSY updating my Facebook status (I may have a friend who does this.).

All of the No’s got me to thinking–what would happen if I just said YES? Like, every single time my kids asked me something, I just said yes. And so, an experiment was born: 24 Hours of Yes. I decided to go one whole day where my answer to every suggestion my children made was “Yes.” Not “Later” or “I’m busy” or “I don’t feel like it”, but “Yes”.

*Note:
I performed this “experiment” on our first official day of summer vacation (which also happened to coincide with the day Daddy left for a big business trip–not something any of us were looking forward to, so I thought the “summer fun day” would help distract them a bit). I chose this day so that I could guise all of my extra Yeses as a special celebration of our newfound summer freedom (that way they wouldn’t be able to hold me accountable to continue performing in such an agreeable manner for all of eternity). 

Although I didn’t tell my test subjects children about the experiment, I did set up a few guidelines for myself. First, no requests could directly interfere with stated family rules or cause harm to themselves/another being/property. Secondly, all of my Yeses for my kids meant some No’s for me: no cell phone (Gah! No Facebook! No emoticon texting! No Candy Crush Saga!) and no impatience–today was going to be about my kids, so I wanted to be present for them and lay aside my own plans for the day.

With no further ado:

24 Hours of Yes

Question: What will happen when I only answer Yes to my children for 24 hours?

Hypothesis: My children will watch way too much TV and eat way too much junk food. I will go bananas from the lack of control.

Experiment Notes:

7:15    Yes to “Can I watch a show on your phone?” when Jacob sees me check the time on my iPhone before rolling out of bed.

7:30    Yes to pancakes for breakfast. (Sugar count:1, because to my children, “pancakes” actually means “lick syrup off the plate”.)

9:00    Yes to watching Daniel Tiger while I clean up from breakfast.

9:25    Yes to spending the day at Happy Hollow (*Happy Hollow is a magical wonderland of childhood fantasy. It’s part kiddie rides, part zoo, part ride on a dragon to Never Land. It’s lovely.)

9:41    Yes to eating gummy bears while I pack a picnic to bring with us to Happy Hollow. (Sugar count: 2)

10:08   Yes to spending 15 extra minutes searching the house for a VERY SPECIFIC TOY–even though we already had the car packed and everyone buckled in their seats.

10:15   Yes to jumping on the bed while Mommy crawls on the floor looking for the VERY SPECIFIC TOY.

10:30   Yes to running laps in the driveway (outside the packed-and-ready-to-leave-our-house car), waving the found VERY SPECIFIC TOY in a victory parade.

11:00   Yes to playing on the metal fire truck outside the Happy Hollow entrance gate, even though we’re already an hour past my planned arrival time.

12:00   Yes to the children deciding which attractions we would visit at Happy Hollow, and in which order  (This had a pleasant side effect of giving me a great workout while criss-crossing the park all day).

12:45   Yes to buying Icees after lunch. (Sugar count: 3)

1:00   Yes to riding the rickety roller coaster SIX TIMES in a row. Without getting off.  Directly after downing giant red Icees.

1:40    Yes to posing inside the over-priced photo booth.

2:40    Yes to “Mama, will you hold me?” while Big Brother plays on the playground.

3:00    Yes to “Mama, hair down.” (*Jacob is obsessed with my hair and he gets depressed if it’s pulled back in my quintessential “messy bun” for too long).

3:30    Yes to looking around the full-of-temptations gift shop.

4:15    Yes to the request to go home and rest (*This resulted in a secondary request to go back to Happy Hollow–which was not granted due to the fact that it would negate my previous Yes–followed shortly by a colossal temper tantrum in the parking lot).

4:45    Yes to watching a movie with Big Brother while Little Brother took his nap.

6:35    Yes to reading a story before cleaning up from dinner, even though there was food on the counter and dirty dishes on the table.

6:45    Yes to taking my hair down. Again.

7:30    Yes to throwing rocks into the bushes in our backyard.

7:45    Yes to eating Pez out of their Elsa and Olaf Pez dispensers while we read our bedtime story. (Sugar count: 4)

8:20    Yes to one more story after everyone was already tucked in and ready for sleep.

8:30    Yes to butterfly kisses before they pass out from a (mostly) perfectly wonderful day of Yes.

Analysis of Results:
There was an excess of TV watching, junk food eating, story reading, and hair letting-down. There was a deficiency in Mother’s typical overly-controlling behavior.

Conclusion:
Yes is a good thing, and I need more of it in my life. There are certain requests that are always worth Yes–requests that increase our quality time together, that help us build memories, that help us strengthen our relationship, that validate my childrens’ role as a decision-contributor (most of the time) in our family. It went against my very nature to say so many Yeses, but I recognize the value of that word and I want to say Yes more often.

While I’m going to hang on to my Not Now’s and my No’s for when I really need them, I’m going to keep those cards in my back pocket. If there’s a way to say Yes–even at the expense of my own personal comfort or enjoyment–I’m going to take it.

Unless, of course, they ask me to ride that dang roller coaster 6 times in a row again.

XxX,
Allison

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We’re Going To Homeschool?!?!

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Seeing as yesterday was David’s last day of preschool, I thought it would be fitting to make our big announcement. After much thought, prayer, and deliberation we have decided to take on a new challenge in the Fall: homeschool. That’s right, folks–HOMESCHOOL.  As in, me having my own little classroom of two darling pupils located halfway between our kitchen and the boys’ bedroom. Every day. All year. By myself.

This is a relatively recent decision for us, and we’re still piecing together what “homeschool” will look like for our family. As I’ve started to share our news with people, however, I  have discovered that our somewhat unconventional decision has the potential to spark a lot of debate/dismay/panic. So, in order to answer some of your burning questions, I thought I’d put together a little Q and A session for us:

Q) Are you crazy?!
A) Yes, but I think we established that fact long before the topic of homeschooling came up.

Q) I could never homeschool my kids. They’d drive me nuts.
A) That’s not really a question but yes you could, and yes they would.

I believe that homeschooling is a calling–it is not something that you simply fall into or decide on a whim. One lesson I have learned (repeatedly) is that God equips the called, not that He calls the equipped. To be quite honest, I don’t have a clue how I’m going to do this. I do know, however, that God has called our family to take this on for this “season”, and I trust that He will lead us every step of the way.

I’m fairly certain my kids will still drive me nuts, though.

Q) Have you always wanted to homeschool?
A) I’m going to answer this one with an emphatic NO. No no no nooooo no. Because I used to be a teacher, a lot of people assume that I’ve always wanted to teach my own children–not the case. Not at all. My response to the “Would you ever homeschool…” question has always been, “Only if it’s the only best choice for my kids.” I know that homeschool is night-and-day-different from traditional school, and I never really thought I was cut out for the job. Plus, I REALLY like my free time (which just so happens to only occur during the hours my children are away at school).

Which leads me to the next question:

Q) Why on earth would you decide to homeschool?
A) The short answer is: because it’s the best choice for our kids and our family right now.

The long answer is…well, longer. I could write a whole post on this one question, but I’ll try to summarize some of our thoughts here. The main factors that went into our decision include: the privilege of building our childrens’ character and teaching from a Biblical worldview; the ability to address the specific learning needs and learning styles of our children (our boys are c-r-a-z-y); flexibility in the daily schedule to allow more “wiggle time” and play time (which research shows is more beneficial than strictly academic instruction for young children); more time for pursuing outside interests and extra-curricular activities; proximity to home (as in, roll out of bed and you’re already at school); the absolute absence of the term “high-stakes testing” (and for those homeschooled students who choose to participate in state-mandated testing, consistently scoring 30% above their “typically schooled” peers);  allowing our children to get enough sleep, at the times that naturally work for them; having more time together as a family mid-week (like, we can actually be awake during some of the hours when Daddy is home); and financial considerations (one local private school that I visited had an annual tuition of $24,000. For KINDERGARTEN. For the love…).

Plus, I genuinely enjoy teaching and being home with my children (they’re actually really cool people), so it’s kind of a perfect fit.

That, and I also think I enjoy torturing myself a bit.

Q) Are you trying to shelter your kids from the world?
A) Yes, and no. The world shelter is defined as “a place giving temporary protection”. There are several matters in The World to which I would like to offer temporary protection to my children while I build a strong foundation for them so they will be able to weather storms on their own. I am not naïve enough to assume that I will shield my children from every potential Bad Thing that is out there, but I’m happy that I will have more time in these early ears to equip them for the challenges that lay ahead.

Q) What will you DO all day?
A) Here’s the thing: I can’t STOP my kids from learning. All day, every day, they are learning. When my boys work together to build the world’s tallest Lego tower, they are learning. When we go to a new park and spend 3 hours exploring nature trails observing the flight pattern of a butterfly or which objects sink or float when they throw them in a creek, they are learning. When we bake cookies and they measure and count each ingredient, they are learning. For children, the world is a classroom.

While my children are little, I want them to…well…stay little. To explore. To play. To be bored for awhile and sort their own selves out. To sit in a cozy lap and read books all afternoon. Next year we will do a lot of that: exploring, playing, reading, learning as their interests lead us (plus some hardcore academics thrown in for good measure).

If this homeschooling thing sits well with us, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of curriculum options available to us. We can use “official” curriculum provided by our local public school district, formal curriculum packages available for purchase, an assortment of unit studies pieced together from Pinterest/library books/my brain, or anything in between.

All I know is we’ll be doing it all (or most of it all) in our pajamas.

Q) Going against the stream, are you?
A) I guess so. Strange as homeschooling may sound, though, it’s not that strange. A growing number of my friends already homeschool–so it doesn’t seem that unusual to me. In fact, with nearly 2 million families choosing homeschool for their children this year, homeschooling is the single fastest growing form of schooling in the United States. 90% of Americans still choose traditional schooling for their children…but 10% (and growing each year) are choosing homeschool. I dunno…a part of me has always kind of enjoyed the challenge of an upstream battle.

Q) How long are you going to homeschool?
A) As long as it’s the best choice for our kids and our family.

We’re going to use next year as a trial year to work out the kinks and see how we like it. David will be in Pre-K next year and Jacob will be entering preschool, so we still have plenty of time to decide if this will be a good long-term choice. We’re just going to take each year as it comes, and go from there.

If I’m comatose or neurotic by this time next year, we may have to call it quits.

Q) So, are you against “normal schools” now?
A) Absolutely not! Jon and I both went to public schools (whoop!), and I’ve taught in both private schools and public charter schools. Each school setting has different strengths and challenges, as does each individual school. We plan on transitioning the boys to a traditional school some day–whether that’s in a year or two or ten, I don’t yet know. I love schools and I’m excited to try out one more type of school for myself.

Q) Won’t your kids become socially awkward now that they’re being homeschooled?
A) You’re wondering if Boy 1 who believes his toys are actually alive and Boy 2 who has full-blown conversations with my hair might possibly become socially awkward? Not a chance. There are actually plenty of opportunities for homeschool kids to interact with their peers: homeschool co-ops and support groups, church groups, sports, extra-curricular clubs or lessons, and playing with friends in the neighborhood. My boys will also have plenty of time to interact with their favorite life-long friend: their own brother/new-schoolmate.

Q) Now that you’re homeschooling, are you get an ugly haircut and frumpy clothes and move off the grid?
A) Now that you mention it, that doesn’t sound half-bad. I actually don’t even know what my hair looks like any more because I only ever wear it pulled back in a “messy bun”, my clothes are already about as frumpy as yoga pants and t-shirts can get, and I’m kind of over this whole overcrowded-too-much-traffic-people-everywhere thing. As long as we have internet access so I can binge watch Netflix after the boys go to bed, “off the grid” could work out just fine for us.

And so the ending to this school-choice saga is the same as the ending to any good story: unexpected, yet inevitable. It’s been a huge decision–but now that our choice has (finally) been made, we are excited and confident that it’s the right one!

I hope that this Q&A session has been helpful for you and that I’ve answered all of your questions. If you have any additional concerns, feel free to keep them to yourself for awhile so I don’t have a nervous breakdown before this whole homeschooling thang goes down.

Wish me luck!

Supporting a Mother Through Her Miscarriage: A Guide for Friends and Family

Hope-2-570x379 A couple of weeks ago we celebrated Mother’s Day and I was filled with emotion: love, contentment, delight, fulfillment. Being Mom to my two boys is one of my greatest joys in life, and I adore having a whole day each year when this blessing is called to mind.

Mixed in with those beautiful feelings, however, there was a twinge of heartache this year. This sorrow is because, unlike in years past, this year on Mother’s Day I was reminded of a recent loss. Nearly four months ago I had a miscarriage and we lost what would have been our third child. Although time has passed, the wound that experience left on my heart is still very fresh.

Difficult as this whole experience has been, it could have been worse. Thinking back on my own miscarriage, I realize that people around me said and did much to aid in my ability to heal and move forward. The topic of miscarriage is admittedly a very tricky subject to navigate–especially if you’ve never experienced one personally. The sad truth, however, is that most of you reading this right now will experience a miscarriage at some point-whether it is yourself or someone you know. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways you can help a mother through this difficult time.

Here are some practical tips that I have found particularly useful as I find hope and healing after my own miscarriage:

Let her grieve
I used the word mother in the title of this post, as opposed to woman, because when you have a miscarriage you are losing your real-as-anything child. With my miscarriage, it was not just some cells that gathered in my womb before disappearing, it was my baby. The loss a mother feels from a miscarriage is very real, and it deserves a good amount of mourning. Don’t diminish this. The grieving will be strong at first, then eventually it will subside. At some point you will think that the time of grieving has passed, but then–maybe even months or years down the road–something will remind her of her loss and she will grieve all over again. When this happens, just tell her that it’s alright to be upset, give her a shoulder to cry on, and tell her that you love her.

Share your story
For some reason that I don’t completely understand, the topic of miscarriages is still widely seen as taboo in our culture, and many people are simply unwilling to talk about it. This is much to the detriment of the nearly one million mothers who face a miscarriage each year.

For some mothers, talking about their miscarriage will be the most difficult part of the whole ordeal–but it is necessary. Encourage the mother to talk about her experience and share her story with others. Even if she only confides in her husband and a few close friends, she needs to talk about this. Holding the devastation of a miscarriage inside is like dragging around a thousand pounds of dead weight–it will eventually break you.

On the flip side, if you have already gone through a miscarriage, be bold and share about your experience with another mother who is going through her own miscarriage–this simple act of letting her know that she’s not alone will alleviate so much pain. There is great healing in sharing your story with others, allowing them to help you, and learn from them. When you share your story you will be surprised to learn how many other people have also been through this, and they will help lift you up.

Acknowledge that the baby she lost “counts”
The most heartbreaking thing somebody said to me when I was going through my miscarriage was, “I’m sorry you weren’t pregnant”–as if I’d made up the morning sickness, the surge of maternal joy that came when I saw the positive pregnancy test, and the doctors confirming this joy at my first ultrasound. The reality is that I was pregnant, but I will never get to meet that child.

Through sharing the story of my miscarriage, I met a woman who had experienced a miscarriage over 30 years ago. She told me that after years of struggling to cope with her miscarriage she decided to name her lost baby, and that was what finally allowed her to move on.

We decided to follow suit, and we have named our lost baby Lily. Since the boys were with me at every one of those early ultrasound appointments, I don’t want to diminish the loss of our baby or act like all of this never happened. We will continue to talk about Lily, and the boys know that they have a sister waiting for them up in Heaven. In some small way, by keeping the memory of our baby girl alive we will help our family move forward more completely.

Reassure her that the miscarriage was not her fault
The first thought I had when my doctor told me that my pregnancy would end in a miscarriage was “What did I do wrong?”. My doctor assured me that I had done nothing to cause the miscarriage, and that there was nothing I could have possibly done differently to have a more favorable outcome. The truth is, 15-20% of all known pregnancies end in miscarriage, mostly due to chromosomal abnormalities in the embryo and other non-preventable medical issues. Reassure her that the miscarriage was not her fault, and that she is not to blame.

Do something kind 
Going through a miscarriage can make you feel pretty crummy, so do something that will help lift her up. Go above and beyond, and do something thoughtful for her.  Send her flowers. Get her a gift certificate for a pedicure or a massage. Buy her something pretty to wear. Make sure the house is well-stocked with her favorite chocolates. All of these little acts of kindness will let her know that she matters to you and that you love her.

Offer practical help
One of the hardest things for me while I was going through my miscarriage was taking care of others–some days it was hard enough to just take care of myself. Going through a miscarriage is exhausting and physically painful, and she’ll relish the idea of some help. She may not ask for help, so step out and offer it anyway. Babysit her kids so she can take a bubble bath or a nap in peace. Order takeout or pizza (or better yet, cook her favorite meal for her) so she doesn’t have to worry about dinner. Clean her house or do her laundry. Offer to take her somewhere fun so she can get out of the house for a bit. Anything you can do to help her day go smoothly will be appreciated more than you’ll ever know.

Hold on to hope
Help her to realize that a miscarriage is the end of something, but it is not the end of everything. I have found great comfort during this time by counting my blessings and holding onto the hope of what is yet to come. My faith has been a huge factor in my perspective, as have the encouraging words of others. Just knowing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel makes getting through the dark days so much more bearable.

And, if all else fails, just be there for her. Because, really, with love all things are possible.

XxX

100 Reasons Why Kid-Free Vacations Suck

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Last week Jon and I embarked on what has been our most daring parenting adventure to date: our first ever kid-free vacation. With great anticipation we boarded our flight to Hawaii and set off for 8 days of egocentric indulgence. We couldn’t wait to discover this mystical world of solitude and lack of responsibility that people who travel without children have told us about (if memory serves me correctly, I think we used to be those people). And here it finally was: the moment of truth. How amazing would this vacation actually be?

The truth is, the reality of our vacation came as quite a surprise to us. Along the way I realized something: kid-free vacations kinda suck. Here’s why:

#1: You sleep too much.
Without our natural alarm clocks (named “David” and “Jacob”, respectfully) we were sleeping 9 or 10 hours a night. That’s like a whole week’s worth of sleep all in one single night. Who can cope with this madness?

#2: You eat too much.
I ate more un-interrupted hot meals in our one week of vacation that I managed to scarf down in my first two years post-partum. Motherhood: Best. Diet. Ever.

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#3: Your inner daredevil will come out in full force.
This could be dangerous.  Ziplining through the trees? We all meet the height and weight requirement, no problem! Bouncy helicopter ride? The kid prone to motion sickness isn’t here, let’s do it! Precarious hike along cliffs? There’s no baby asleep in my backpack and no toddler to drag up the trails, let’s go! Swimming under raging waterfalls? I don’t see anybody with water wings, I’ll meet you there after I cliff dive into the river!

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#4: You will get places way too quickly.
When you don’t need to change diapers, take children to the potty, pack a ginormous bag full of snacks/clothing/entertainment/sunscreen/the kitchen sink, drag children down to the car, fuss over car seats and seat belts, and return to the house 3 times to retrieve forgotten items each time you want to leave home, it frees up a lot of time. We found that when it’s just the two of us, it takes exactly 4 nanoseconds to leave the house (as opposed to our usual 4 hours with the children). We didn’t quite know what to do with all of this extra time.

#5: You will buy way too many “guilt souvenirs”.
About halfway through our vacation I had to force myself to quit going into stores because I was buying way too many guilt souvenirs. Every time I was in a store, I’d see some cute little Hawaiian shirt (“Jacob would look adorable in that!”) or puka shell necklace (“David would have so much fun tearing that to pieces!”) and I’d feel like I had to buy it for the children I’d abandoned on the mainland.

#6: You’ll forget your own rule: Don’t talk to strangers.
You may find yourself sitting in the hotel hot tub after what would normally be your kids’ bedtime and you’ll meet a couple from Alabama. You’ll start talking to them and you’ll realize that you have so much in common with these people that maybe you should just move across the country and move in next door so you can be besties. Stranger danger, pshaw!

#7: You don’t have an outlet for your motherly advice. 
Without your children around, who are you supposed to take care of and worry about and yell at? I had to stop myself from turning around in our rental car and chiding the empty back seat to “Keep your body to yourself”. I did my best not to admonish random sunbathers on the beach for not wearing beach hats or enough sunscreen, to no avail. At restaurants it was difficult not to approach patrons at their tables to make sure they’d eaten all of their vegetables.

#8: You’ll forget how to clean things. It’s amazing how the absence of children also equates to the near-absence of filth. Our laundry pile was minimal, there were almost no dishes to wash, the clutter was mostly contained to our own suitcases, and the rental car was relatively free of pulverized Cheerios. With no need to actually keep up with the cleaning, I went into a sort of cleaning amnesia. Cleaning? Come again? What’s that?

#9: You’ll have some awkward moments before you recollect what “privacy” is.
For the first few days of vacation, you’ll probably forget to close the door to the bathroom because you’re so used to having other (small) people barge in on you. You also may feel guilty for taking a shower all by yourself in the middle of the day. And then you’ll remember what this phenomenon actually is: privacy. Now that you know what it is, you may not want to relinquish it upon arrival back to reality after your vacation. This could be dangerous.

#10: You’ll way  under-exert yourself.
There is no limit to how much time you can waste when there is nobody vying for your attention. Maybe you want to do nothing but sleep in a hammock all day. Maybe you want to review all of your friends’ status updates from the last 6 months. Maybe you want to read a whole book (the kind without cartoonish pictures in it) from cover to cover.  Or maybe your poison is more along the lines of binge watching TLC and Food Network. Guess what? You don’t have any interruptions, so you can DO IT ALL (or do none of it or do nothing at all…that’s kind of the beauty of this kid-free thing). The possibilities are endless.

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#11: You’ll miss your spouse like crazy…
…after you get back from your vacation! Jon and I hadn’t spent a solid week together since our child-free days nearly 5 years ago, and our vacation really reminded us how much we like each other. Without the interruptions of work and kids and life, we had a lot of time to just focus on Us–and what we found is that we really like Us (which shouldn’t be surprising since we actually chose each other out of all potential partners in the world, but it’s always nice to have your selection reaffirmed).

We spent our whole vacation feeling like two young lovebirds–it must have shown, because we had several strangers approach us to ask if we were enjoying our honeymoon. When our “honeymoon” week ended and real life resumed, however, we started missing each other with a new eagerness during the hours we are forced to spend apart.

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#12…to 100: You’ll miss your kids like crazy.
Of course I knew that I’d miss my kids while we were away, but I was naive enough to think that we’d be having so much fun on vacation that I’d hardly even notice. Well, folks, that’s just not how it works. Just like when you’re at home with your children, you will think of your kids every moment of every day. Their crazy antics and annoying habits will somehow appear endearing in your memory, and you will miss their absence. You’ll FaceTime and call them obsessively.

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You’ll talk non-stop about those little rascals when you should be discussing more engaging topics. You’ll see other kids playing with their parents and you’ll think “Gee, our kids would sure have fun here…”. You’ll wake up at some early hour (because your kids have programmed you to do that) and you’ll think to yourself “I wish Jacob was here to snuggle”. There is no escaping it: you will miss your kids dearly.

With that said, I wouldn’t trade our kid-free vacation for anything. It was a time of relaxation and excitement and selfishness that simply could not, would not have happened if we’d had our kids with us. And sometimes, even parents need to relax and have excitement, and do things for themselves.

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So, parents of the world rejoice! A kid-free vacation is actually possible–even if it does suck a bit. XxX