Thank You Notes

thank-you-letter

A couple of weeks ago in MOPS we had a fantastic speaker come and talk to our group about something I have totally not mastered: jealousy. And along with jealousy, comparison. I know that it’s hard to fathom, but from time to time I find myself longing for the green grass on the other side (Shoot, I would even settle for the grown children who can wipe their own bums on the other side of the bathroom stall.).

In her talk, however, the speaker gave us the solution to this particular problem of jealousy. Do you want to know what it is? What one quick fix will get you out of the comparison game faster than anything else? Drumroll, please…

Gratefulness!

Being thankful for what you have is the opposite reaction to comparison, and it really does work. So, in an attitude of true repentance and gratefulness, I have decided to pen my own thank you notes* to celebrate the many blessings of motherhood (*credit to Jimmy Fallon, Jen Hatmaker, and every other funny person who has already done this and who I am blatantly plagiarizing with this post).

They go something like this:

Thank you, playground sand, for staying with my children long after they leave the playground. My children had so much fun jumping off the swings into you and digging in you with their sand toys in you that we just couldn’t stand to leave that party. I count it all as joy when I walk into my living room and step into a pile of freshly-dumped-from-shoes playground sand. It’s such a fun reminder of the good times we had at that park and it does not stress me out at all. I love it when I’m about to get into bed at night, but I have to spend 20 minutes vacuuming the floor around my bed first because there is a fine sprinkling of playground sand scattered around my entire bedroom–it’s like camping at the beach!

Thank you, Moms Night Out, for an excuse to get out of dealing with BEDTIME. The friends and the night out are nice, too, but we all know the real reason we scheduled this little shin-dig from 7-9:00.

Thank you, Costco, for allowing me to still feel like a got a bargain at the end of the day because my hot dog + soda still only costs $1.50. I may have spent $400 on “essential” items, but you still know how to please the penny pinchers in all of us.

Thank you, doctors’ office stickers. You made my child feel proud and brave after he got his flu shot (even though he screamed like an attacking mountain lion and left claw marks in my arms from his attempted escape during the procedure). Not only do you change my child’s outlook on his day, but you also change his wardrobe. Thank you for sticking to his shirt all day and never falling off like a decent cheap sticker, so that I forget about you and throw his shirt-with-sticker in the washing machine the next morning. The sticky residue that you leave on his shirt is such a nice addition to the clothing–that shirt was so boring, so normal, before you left your gobs of goo permanently glued to the front right breast of that shirt.

Thank you, weekend mornings with children, for being exactly like every other morning of the week. I never really liked quiet or sleep or brunch anyway.

Thank you, “screen time”, giver of daily mini-vacations to moms everywhere.

Thank you, minivan. You are so much more than a vehicle. You are a storage closet, a kitchenette, a baby-changing station and a super-cush place to sneak in a nap between kindergarten drop-off and preschool pick-up. You have so many cubbies and cup holders that I hardly even notice the garbage my kids hoard in your dark recesses. I’m sorry I gave you so much crap before I had you–I was a different person then, and I just didn’t know you. Can we please be BFF’s now? xoxox

…and I could go on and on with these, but my baby just woke up from her nap. I’ve got to leave it here for now because real life is calling. There is a baby downstairs who needs me a and a house that (definitely) needs cleaning. There is a whole pile of people for me to love and who love me.

And for that, I truly am thankful.

 

10 Signs I’m Too Tired To Mom

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This week I read a hilarious post over at Scary Mommy called 20 Signs I’m Too Tired To Mom (disclaimer: the linked post contains language a shade more colorful than my own). Before I even read the article I was giving mental high-fives to the author because…amen, sister. I felt like I could write my own “Signs I’m Too Tired To Mom”. So I did.

With the joys of summer (full-time kids is intense) and a husband who is working on an increasingly more demanding project at work and an infant and a dog who has both a broken tooth and a Urniary Tract Infection (Lord help us all), I’m finding that I, too, am tired. Not like *yawn* “I’m sleepy, let’s go take a nap” tired. More like “just wake me up when they’re teenagers and ready to do their own laundry and cook their own dinner” tired.

And here’s the proof:

  1. Story time under false pretenses
    Let’s read a book, kids! Oh, wait…what’s that? There’s a movie version of that exact book (or at least a movie in a similar genre/theme/category as said book)? And it’s available on Netflix? Hold up, this is real world learning. Text-to-film connection or something. Let’s start the streaming (and excuse me for the next 74 minutes while I lock myself in my bedroom…)
  2. I encourage “independence”
    Yes, you can make your own breakfast (a spoonful of peanut butter topped with chocolate chips). Yes, please dress yourselves (no underwear, backward pants, inside out shirt). Yes, you may play quietly in your own room (dump out every toy box and empty every game box into a mountain of toy shrapnel in the center of the room). You’re on your own, kids.
  3. I can’t find my sunglasses
    They aren’t in the car. They aren’t in my bag. They aren’t in any place where a reasonable human being would put them. I blame the kids and/or dog for hiding them and while I contemplate appropriate punishment I happen to walk by a mirror. And then I find them. On top of my own head.
  4. Time warp
    Dinner is served at 4:30 and we’re wrapping up the bedtime routine by 6. What’s that you say, dear children? Why is it still light outside? Because of the tilt of the Earth… and the end of Mommy’s rope has officially been reached. Goodnight.
  5. Cooking takes on new meanings
    If I have warmed something up–whether by oven, stove, or microwave–that counts as cooking. Actually taking raw ingredients and transforming them into edible fare is a totally different ballgame, and we just don’t go there now. Frozen chicken nuggets? Not anymore–I cooked them (at 425 for 9-11 minutes). Marie Callender’s chicken pot pie? Tastes just like homemade (vent the packaging and microwave for 5-7 minutes).
  6. Nightly routines
    …now consist of tucking in the kids and promptly passing out on the couch with a bowl of popcorn on my lap.
  7. I go to the gym
    …but not to work out. They had me at “90 minutes of free childcare”.

4. I lose track of things. Like counting in order.

9. Bath time
My kids love bath time, and they’re happy to stay in the tub for a good 20 minutes.                That’s the time equivalent of 16 games of Chutes and Ladders. Added bonus: bath                  time = contained children, contained children = contained mess. Added, added                        bonus: they come out smelling better than they did going in. Win, win, win.

10. Early riser
This is counter-intuitive, but waking up early actually helps me counter-balance the            perpetual tiredness. You see, I know that once the wee ones awaken, there’s no                      stopping this train wreck. So I’ve started setting an alarm and waking up before                      everyone else in the house (and, as it happens, before the sun itself makes                                an appearance) just so I can have 2 minutes of peace before the crazy begins. If that’s            not absolutely insane, I don’t know what is.

I could keep going on and on and on…but I’m just too tired to keep writing. Good luck, moms, and good night.

The Pros and Cons of Having Two Children Close In Age

Jacob week 1 - 0449As we quickly approach the birth of our third child (holy moly we’re in the single-digit countdown now–9 WEEKS TO GO!) I keep thinking about how this time around will be different from when our boys were born. David and Jacob were born 21 months apart and, now that they’re independent 5 and 3 1/2 year olds, I know that adding another baby to our family will be a completely different experience. I finally have the time and space to reflect on what that stage with two-under-the-age-of-two was like…and simultaneously panic about how it’s all about to change again.

You see, having two children close in age has many benefits. It also has many challenges. For instance:

Pro: you never leave the baby stage between children
The fact that one child is still in diapers (and possibly still nursing) by the time baby #2 arrives on the scene means that you never get complacent in a new (more simple) stage of life before it is disrupted again. You learn to thrive survive on a concoction of caffeine, adrenaline, and silent prayers. Another added bonus in those early years: at least one of your children, probably both of them, still nap: CHA-CHING!

Con: you never leave the baby stage between children
You basically live in a fog for 2 or 3 years and if it weren’t for smartphones and social media you probably wouldn’t have a single recollection of the whole experience. You forget what sleep is, you don’t even know what it’s like to eat a hot meal (let alone a meal where you can use both of your own hands to feed yourself), and your clothes constantly sport some sort of kid-splatter. You never leave the house without your giant diaper bag and double stroller–there is always so. Much. Stuff.

Pro: your children have similar age-appropriate interests
You never have to question if an activity or an outing will be appropriate for both children because, chances are, if it’s good for one of them, it will work for both of them. When they’re toddlers, you can still take both of them to Gymboree and toddler story time at the library–and they both actually enjoy it. When they’re older you can take them to little tikes soccer, and they’re in the same age group so you don’t have to wait around for multiple practices. If they’re like my boys, they LOVE having their sibling with them as the camaraderie helps ease the transition from “our things” to “their things”.

Con: your children have similar age-appropriate interests
You’ve seen Finding Nemo, right? Remember the seagulls? “Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine!…”

Pro: your kids can share clothes
Laundry multiplies exponentially with each child you add to your family. Thankfully, with kids close in age it’s never a huge concern if half of their clothes are still biding their time in dirty clothes purgatory: just grab an extra shirt or clean pair of pants out of their sibling’s drawer and call it good.

Con: your kids can share clothes
…but they don’t want to. They both want to wear the exact same thing errrrrrrrrrrry day. Oh, he’s wearing the green Ninja Turtle t-shirt? I want to wear the Ninja Turtle t-shirt! NOOOOOO! Not a BLUE one–the GREEN ONE!!!! And since you’re sanity is worth more than a $6 t-shirt from Target, you go out and buy another dang green Ninja Turtle t-shirt.

Pro: your kids will grow up and leave the nest at about the same time
Because of the timing of our boys’ birthdays, they will only be one year apart in school. So, when David is getting ready to graduate as a senior in high school, Jacob will be sending off his college applications. David will turn 18 and supposedly move out to begin his own adult life (at this point in my life it’s difficult for me to even imagine that this day will possibly even happen in the future, but I hear that this time does come…). Then, 12 short months later, Jacob will do the same. Which, if my math is correct, means that in just 13 years we will go from a household of three young children to a household with one independent teenager and two semi-free parents. Crazy.

Con: your kids will grow up and leave the nest at about the same time.
Although I kinda like the idea of my kids growing up and becoming independent adults, I actually can’t think about it for too long or my eyes start to perspire. My BABIES will GROW UP and they will LEAVE ME. I just can’t even.

For all the joys and all the trials of having two children close in age, I wouldn’t change a thing. Those early years were some of the most difficult and most rewarding years of my life, and I can’t wait to see what the years ahead will bring us. For better or worse.

 

 

10 Things A Pregnant Lady Should Never Do

Next week I’ll be entering my third trimester (for the third time), which means I’m just reaching that awkward point of pregnancy where I start to feel very…PREGNANT. I am reminded daily of how very pregnant I am becoming as my body goes through these beautiful, often-problematic changes. Seeing as this is my third go at the whole awkward/uncomfortable/ridiculous stage of pregnancy, I’ve learned a few tricks for keeping my head up and surviving to the end. Pay attention now, because these are actual words of wisdom.

I now present: 10 Things A Pregnant Lady Should Never Do

  1. Step on a scale
    Your prenatal doctor will compel you to do this painful task at each visit, but just do yourself a favor and don’t make eye contact with the numbers on that dreadful machine. And, by all means, don’t you dare step on a scale in your free time. I have made this mistake before and, trust me, your scale will be broken. There’s simply no other explanation for the gargantuan numbers it will spew at you.
  2. Look at your naked self in a mirror
    Perhaps this is related to #1, but seriously. Don’t. Especially your backside. Just let your husband gush about how glowingly beautiful your preggo little self is, and leave it at that.
  3. Cough/sneeze/laugh
    Because you’ll pee your pants. There, I said it.
  4. Watch A Baby Story on TLC
    Or Johnson & Johnson baby ads. Or commercial featuring Sarah McLachlan (dang you, homeless animals). If you watch these emotionally-driven, hormone-inducing programs you will find yourself in a sobbing mess quicker than you can waddle to the bathroom for a box of tissues.
  5. Go shopping without a plan and a budget
    Because chances are, if you do, you’ll come home with at least a dozen new baby doo-dads that you just couldn’t resist.
  6. Shave your legs
    Unless you’re an acrobat or have monkey arms, it’s just not even worth trying.
  7. Go out for the night with non-preggos
    Because they’ll want to do all the things you can’t do: drink adult beverages, stay up late, and dance without peeing themselves.
  8. Make easily accessible: chocolate/cheeseburgers/Taco Bell tacos/pickles/ice cream/Lucky Charms/(other pregnancy craving)
    Every pregnant lady has that one (or two or three or thirty) thing(s) they just can’t get enough of. Whatever your craving-poison may be, just try to pace yourself. Maybe even make a game of it.  For instance, have your husband hide the chocolate bars and then go on a treasure hunt. I’m sure you’d burn at least 100 calories trying to find them. Exercise + chocolate treat = pregnancy win
  9. Try to wear those super-cute, super-expensive shoes you bought pre-pregnancy
    Because they won’t fit. Chances are, your feet have already grown a full size or two and trying to squeeze into those shoes will just make you feel like one of Cinderella’s step sisters. Call it like it is and invest in some nice Birkenstocks and wool socks.
  10. Leave your home without knowing the quickest route to the nearest bathroom
    You will need to pee approximately once every 5 minutes, so be diligent in your toilet-locating skills.

Now that you know what NOT to do, here is one thing you CAN do: relish your pregnancy and bask in the glory of your belly–savor the comfort of your stretchy pants and indulge in your free pass with junk food. After all, if pregnancy can’t be glamorous, at least it can be fabulous.

The Very Hungry Pregnant Lady: A Parody

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The other day I was reading to the boys (for the gajillionth time) one of their favorite books: Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar. For those of you who may not be as intimately familiar with the story as I am, it follows a tiny caterpillar from the day he hatches from his little white egg through his journey as he eats different foods every day getting nice and fat for his grand finale: building a cocoon and finally emerging as a beautiful butterfly. It’s a classic story, and one that I find myself relating more and more to now that I have my condition (condition = pregnancy).

I feel for the poor little caterpillar–he’s just hungry all the time and it is his JOB to eat and grow so he might become more beautiful. As such, I’ve decided to adopt the Very Hungry Caterpillar’s mantra: I, too, have dedicated myself to eating and growing so that I might become more beautiful (or produce a more beautiful baby?). You see, I take the whole “eating for two” thing very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that you might mistake my food consumption for that of two competing sumo wrestlers rather than that of an average sized woman and a nearly-1-pound baby. Not to brag, but some might call me a professional double-eater.

As an illustration, here is my own version of The Very Hungry Caterpillar–tweaked a bit to mark my own glorious transformation. I now present:

The Very Hungry Pregnant Lady

In the light of the moon a tiny baby was formed in her mother’s womb.IMG_6600

One Sunday morning the warm sun came up and–pop!–out stuck the mother’s belly as the tiny baby began to grow.11953069_10101444379903150_5148467840828573354_n

Growing a baby is hard work, so the pregnant lady started to look for some food.

On Monday she ate through one piece of apple pie à la mode. But she was still hungry.
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On Tuesday she ate through two brownies, but she was still hungry.IMG_6558

On Wednesday, she ate through three slices of pizza, but she was still hungry.FullSizeRender (2)

On Thursday she ate through four graham crackers smothered in Funfetti frosting, but she was still hungry.IMG_6522

On Friday she ate through five pieces of deli meat (microwaved to steaming, first, to remove the possibility of Listeria poisoning), but she was still hungry.FullSizeRender (3)

On Saturday she was a good girl and she ate through six tangerines, but she was still hungry.IMG_6557

On Saturday she ate for dinner: one chocolate pudding cup, one heaping scoop of Nutella, one salami, one plate of spaghetti, one bag of popcorn, one buttery croissant, and one bottle of sparkling mineral water.

That night she had a stomachache!FullSizeRender (4)

The next day the pregnant lady ate salad. After that she felt much better.
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Now she wasn’t hungry any more–and she wasn’t a little lady any more. She was a big, fat pregnant lady. She crawled inside her cocoon-of-a-bed and read celebrity gossip magazines while her devoted husband rubbed her swollen feet. She grew that baby for nine whole months. Then she went to the hospital, got an epidural, and pushed out…

…a beautiful baby!76245_689686136550_5492270_n

Now she wasn’t a Very Hungry Pregnant Lady any more. She was a Very Blessed Mommy.
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The end.

The Gift Registry You ACTUALLY Need For A Baby Boy

Jacob week 1 - 0459There must be something in the water, because it seems like everyone I know is having a baby in the next few months. New babies, of course, mean baby showers–the silly games (where else is it socially acceptable to sniff melted candy bars in a diaper or measure your friends’ midsections with satin ribbons?), enough pink and blue to make you think you’re going color blind, the gifts.

The gifts are what really got me thinking. Sure, muslin swaddle blankets and frilly onesies are cute–but are they practical? What are the gifts that a new mom or dad truly need as they set out on this adventure of parenthood?

Well, my friends, I have the answer. In order to survive the first few years of parenthood, there are some practical gifts that would make everything oh-so-much easier. Since my parenting experience is limited to the two boys who call me Mommy, I’ll focus this list specifically on what parents of boys need. Hint: there’s nary a frilly onesie in sight.

1. NO clothes
Truth: little boys are just tiny nudists. Each morning I help my boys get dressed for the day and, by the time I emerge from the kitchen with breakfast, their clothes have inevitably been exchanged for the more-comfortable and oh-so-stylish birthday suits that they prefer. This exchange happens at least three times a day. It’s really a wonder I ever get them to wear clothing at all. My advice: just don’t buy them any clothes. Find some cheap second-hand stuff (that you know they’ll ruin anyway, see #7) and call it a day.

2. A storage unit for all of your nice stuff
What do you have that you consider precious or priceless? What do you have that you’d like to still see in one piece a decade from now? Well, take all of those things and lock them away. Because, honestly, there is nothing that is safe from the havoc of growing boys. Nothing.

3. Excellent Health Insurance
I figure that it’s not a matter of if we’ll ever make a trip to the emergency room for our boys, but when. I carry a first-aid kit in my purse, a larger one in my car, and I have a full arsenal of medical equipment in my home. Boys like to explore and experiment…sometimes that goes well, and often times it does not. Just call it like it is, and sign up for the premium health plan.

4. Empty boxes and garbage bags
I don’t know what it is about boxes and bags, but my boys are obsessed with them. Anytime we get a package, the first thing they do is grab the empty box out of my hands and carry it off to their lair where they proceed to fill it with toys or poke it with crayons or dissect it or whatever else strikes their fancy. The same goes for garbage bags (not the safest toy, I admit, but the lowly garbage bag has afforded me countless hours of peace as the boys fill, then dump, then fill, then dump objects from the bag).
*Bonus points if the box is big enough for the boy to fit inside.

5. Tape and ropes
Again, not the safest toys–but, trust me, it’s only a matter of time before your boys find them and discover their magical properties. So, the tape. It doesn’t matter what kind it is: duct, Scotch, packing, electrical, washi, painters…they’re all equally glorious in a boys’ eyes. Tape is sticky and can be pulled and torn and adhered to various objects/people/pets. Perfection. Rope is nearly as exciting as tape, with the added benefit of being able to pull and swing objects that are tied to it. Plus, they’ll come in handy on those days you just need your kids to PLEASE SIT STILL FOR A MOMENT.

6. Heavy duty cleaning supplies
Now, what mom wouldn’t love to get a basket full of cleaning agents for her baby shower? At a minimum, the boy-mom must have Shout, OxiClean, Spot Shot, and about a dozen gallons of Febreze at the ready. You may also consider gifting her with an industrial-grade carpet shampooer and an incinerator. Also, make sure to include a few sets of rubber gloves that she can stash around her house.

7. In-home trampoline park/ rock climbing gym / high-ropes course/ zipline
Because boy = endless energy

8. A fully-laminated, easy to hose down bathroom complete with a full-wall urinal
See #6

9. Earplugs/ noise-canceling headphones
Because boy = noise

10. Locks
Perhaps the single-most useful object in our house. Locks. We put them on our snack cabinet (because they won’t eat a single meal that I cook, but they have an endless capacity for goldfish crackers and fruit snacks); the front door…and the back door…and, well, just about ever door in our house (because they’re stealthy ninja escapees); our under-sink storage (not because of the potentially-lethal chemicals that are down there, but because they like to steal al of my garbage bags–see #4); their dresser drawers (because their favorite pastime is constructing Mt. Laundry out of the entire contents of their wardrobe); and…you get the picture.

Happy gifting!

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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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

Parenting Advice I Wish People Had Actually Given Me

Birth and Coming Home 532Here’s the thing: everyone knows more about parenting than I do. Actually, I think everyone knows more about parenting than anyone else knows about parenting. Which is why there’s so much parenting advice available on the market. It runs the gamut from old wives tales to bogus “facts” (mostly gleaned from internet mommy forums) that will go out the window with the rest of them when the next parenting fad comes into vogue.

The truth is, though, there’s not a lot of advice out there that can hold it’s ground in the real world. I mean, the nitty-gritty tantrum-throwing mess-making real world that includes life with actual children. There were lots of parenting truths that I wish someone would have told me when I started this whole mommy thing a few years ago. Truths like:

1. If you have to do something real quick, like fix your hair or make a phone call, and you think to yourself, “Ah, I’ll just leave the kids out here while I take care of that. I’ll only be 5 minutes. How much trouble could they get into in 5 minutes?”…well, just banish those thoughts from your sweet little head. Because the answer to “How much trouble could they get into…” is FAR MORE TROUBLE THAN YOUR 5 MINUTES OF PEACE ARE WORTH. For instance, they may take an entire tube of blue toothpaste and smear it all over your new couch. Or they may empty all of the drawers out of your kitchen cabinet, stack them in front of the snack closet, and climb up to your candy stash. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

2. You can use a whiteboard marker to remove permanent marker from a whiteboard, and you can use rubbing alcohol to remove whiteboard marker from your walls without removing the paint. Just tuck this one away for the time when your little Picasso goes a bit overboard–it’s already saved my buns on more than one occasion.

3. No matter how kid-friendly your cooking is, no matter how cleverly you work at disguising vegetables, no matter how much love and care you put into the food you prepare–90% of it will end up on the walls or the dog. Even if it’s organic.

4. After you bear children, you will leak out of seemingly every orifice in your body. And, no, it won’t stop after your initial 6-week “postpartum period” expires. Plan accordingly

5. Kids get sick. All the dang time, kids get sick. No matter how often you wash their grimy little hands, whether you are pro-vaccines or anti-vax, if you see a pediatrician or a shaman–it doesn’t matter: your kid will get sick. Just save yourself some grief: stock up on Emergen-C and perfect your recipe for chicken soup. Also, buy one of those disgusting-yet-gratifying baby nasal aspirators.

6. The stage you are in now IS the easy stage. Things don’t magically become simpler when your child gets older and moves on to the next stage. When they can feed themselves, it gets harder (and messier). When they transition out of diapers, it gets harder (and messier). When they LEAVE YOU and spend half a day at preschool, it gets harder (and your mascara gets messier). I can’t even think about what comes next, because I know how much harder and messier it will be. The takeaway: enjoy this moment while you have it.

7. If your child has a lovey (you know, that blanket or stuffed animal or pacifier that they CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT) run out to the store (seriously: RUN. Do not wait too long or your loveys may be out of stock or, worse yet, DISCONTINUED) and buy duplicate loveys. Like, 10 or 20 duplicates might be enough. Stash them in your car, the grandparents’ houses, under your bed, in your earthquake emergency kit, your underwear drawer–whatever. Just get a ton of those things and make sure you never ever EVER lose the only lovey your child has. Just don’t.

8. Forget saving up for your kids’ college funds. Start saving up for preschool as soon as you feel your biological clock start ticking. I mean, seriously, $$fj$$kl;ajdks$$…

9. At some point, you WILL touch poop with your bare hand. When the inevitable happens: be brave, finish what has to be finished, then disinfect All The Stuff like it’s going out of business.

10. Don’t listen to other people. Listen up, now, this is important: You know your child better than anyone else in the whole world. You know them better than that doctor, better than the other moms at playgroup, better than the well-meaning granny at the grocery store, better than the mommy bloggers (but do keep reading, I’m almost done here). You are THE expert in your child. So if something feels right to you, or doesn’t feel right for you– or if something works for you, or doesn’t work for you–then do what your gut and intuition and keen knowledge tell you to do. YOU know your child better than anyone else, and that counts for a lot.

Power on, parents, power on.

XxX Allison

Why Being A Grown Up Is Better Than Being A Kid

Earlier this week I was dealing with a crisis. David was lying on the floor shrieking because I was forcing him to put on pants before we left the house, or some other similar form of child-torture. I told him suck it up, kid, and we pulled up his pants anyway and left the house. And about five minutes later, another similar scene ensued and I realized what I’ve always known: being a kid is a tough job. You’ve got these “grown ups” who just like to boss you around and dictate your entire life–right on down to the pants you have to wear in public.

I remember being a kid and just wishing I could be old enough to finally call the shots. And, luck of all lucks, now I AM the grown up. I get to make the rules–not just for me, but also for my tiny minions. It’s a good gig. Actually, it’s a really good gig.

Being a grown up is better than being a kid because…

You get to say “because I told you so”–the sweetest 5-word phrase that will ever pass your lips.

You get to lick out the whole bowl when you’re baking brownies. You can also eat frosting right out of the jar and nobody’s going to stop you (I may or may not have eaten entire jars of frosting. Just because.)

You don’t have a curfew.

You are allowed to use real dishes and glasses at family gatherings.

You can decide for your own dang self if you’re going to eat your veggies.

You don’t have to deal with cliques…at least not as much. Among my grown-up friends I have a jet-setter, a prom queen, a book-nerd writer, a sorority sister/cheerleader, a former professional athlete, a Dungeon Master, an artist, a homeschooling mom, a songwriter, and a business leader. Tell me which high school would foster that group of friends?

You drive a car–the ultimate form of control.

You can wear a t-shirt out in a snow storm, and nobody’s going to yammer at you to put on a coat and a hat and gloves and some boots, for pete’s sake.

You can wipe your own bottom after using the toilet.

You don’t have to feel bad if somebody isn’t sharing their favorite toy with you. You can be as selfish as you want and just buy your own if you want it so bad.

You are expected to make your own decisions rather than having them dictated to you (like, deciding whether or not you will wear pants when you leave the house today…)

You don’t have to get “pokeys” every time you visit the doctor.

You’re tall enough to ride all of the cool rides.

You don’t have to do homework or take tests (even if your kids do test your patience every minute of every day).

You can order off the “real” menu when you go out to a restaurant.

When you wear mismatched outfits that don’t make any sense, people call you a trend setter.

You get to experience the magic of childhood from the other side.

You can stay up late drinking wine and writing your blog when you’re supposed to be in bed sleeping 🙂

 

To all the grown ups out there: Happy Friday!