You May Be A Stay At Home Mom If…

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About four years ago I retired from my day job as a teacher and entered the ranks of a new profession: I became a stay at home mom. It is a choice that I have never regretted, yet my life is undeniably different now that I spend my days (and nights) tending to my children. I’m sure you already know if you are a career Mother but, just in case you were wondering, here are a few things that might tip you off:

You may be a stay at home mom if the days of the week and holidays have lost all sense and meaning: it’s either a “Daddy’s at work” day or a “Daddy’s at home day”.

You may be a stay at home mom if you swap out your yoga pants for a pair of jeans and feel like you’ve dressed up.

You may be a stay at home mom if you find yourself having conversations with imaginary friends. They’re called “adults”.

You may be a stay at home mom if you finish cleaning up breakfast just in time to start preparing lunch, and finish cleaning up lunch just in time to lay out the afternoon snack, and finish putting away snack just in time to start cooking dinner.

You may be a stay at home mom if a solo trip to the grocery store is about as exciting as riding a unicorn to the moon.

You may be a stay at home mom if you find yourself singing the “If You Have To Go Potty” song from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood every time you have to go potty.

You may be a stay at home mom if you’re exhausted at the end of the day but can’t remember a single thing you did.

You may be a stay at home mom if an unsolicited silence is your worst enemy.

You may be a stay at home mom if your idea of a great escape is watching Downton Abbey while you fold laundry.

You may be a stay at home mom if you find yourself randomly humming the tunes from your baby’s Jumperoo and your toddler’s push toy.

You may be a stay at home mom if you haven’t eaten lunch yet. This week.

You may be a stay at home mom if your husband gets home from work and you greet him like an excited Cocker Spaniel and don’t stop talking for at least an hour.

You may be a stay at home mom if the kids have been in bed for half an hour and you realize you’re still watching Dora The Explorer.

You may be a stay at home mom if the hot topics of debate among your friends revolves around which McDonald’s has the best playground and which library has the best story time.

You may be a stay at home mom if your daily exercise routine consists of running after a toddler, carrying laundry up and down stairs, squatting to pick up toys and crunching numbers to stay on budget.

You may be a stay at home mom if you’re on a first-name basis with the UPS delivery driver.

You may be a stay at home mom if the sight of your clean-ish house actually makes you cringe a bit because you realize that what has taken hours to achieve will all be laid to waste within seconds of your children re-entering the scene.

You may be a stay at home mom if nap time is the closest thing to paradise you experience on this side of heaven.

You may be a stay at home mom if your paychecks come in the form of slobbery kisses and squeaky “I love you’s”.

You may be a stay at home mom if you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you have the best job in the world…even if you are broke, exhausted, and a bit disconnected from reality.

To all of my fellow stay at home moms out there, keep up the good work. It’s important work, perhaps the most important work you could be doing. And, if that’s not enough encouragement, happy Friday–Daddy will be home soon!

Allison And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

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David’s most recent obsession is this book called Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. It’s about this poor boy, Alexander, who is just having the worst day ever. I enjoyed reading this book as a child and now my son is obsessed, too–I guess that misery really does love company.

As I’ve been reading this book over and over and OVER to my son, I couldn’t help but put myself in Alexander’s place a time or two. Sure, Alexander, you got gum stuck in your hair and your mom forgot to pack you a dessert in your lunchbox and you fell in a mud puddle–it really is terrible being a kid. But I think I’ve got you beat. You think it’s so hard being a kid, but just try being a mom. Just try it. I dare you. If you did, your day might go something like this:

Allison And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

By: Allison

Last night I only got 4 hours of sleep last night because Jacob is teething and David had a nightmare about the shadows on his ceiling and just as I was finally starting to drift off to sleep our dog barked at the neighbor’s cat. This morning as I was walking down the stairs to make breakfast I tripped on a rogue Lego and now my foot has a tiny brick-shaped bruise on the bottom of it. I can already tell that it is going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very-bad day.

When I started to make breakfast there was no milk left in the jug. Who drinks all of the milk and puts the empty container back in the fridge? Oh well, I didn’t have time to eat anyway. I had to get both kids dressed, fed, cleaned up, lunches packed and off to school before it was time to drive Daddy to work. I decided that I should get dressed, too, but none of my clothes looked cute this morning. I just put on yoga pants and a dirty t-shirt and called it good. I think I need to live in a place where it’s acceptable to wear grungy clothes and flip flops every day.

I think I’ll move to Hawaii.

After I got everyone else where they needed to be, I had exactly 2 hours before I needed to be back at the preschool to pick David up. I ran (literally, ran. This is the only exercise I got today) to the grocery store to get more milk. Then I ran back home do a few loads of laundry, iron Jon’s work shirts, vacuum the carpets, sweep the floors, feed Jacob a snack, put away the breakfast dishes, clean the bathrooms, take out the garbage and mow the lawn. In the rain. Ugh.

I think I need to move to Hawaii.

When I picked up David from preschool I noticed that he was wearing the “pants of shame”: he’d had a potty accident at school. David was the last pupil dismissed because the teacher wanted to talk to me about The Accident. Apparently it was pretty bad and they had to cut his pants off of him. Great, I actually liked those pants. It’s definitely a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

On our walk home from preschool Jacob was screaming because he was hungry for lunch and David was whining because I wouldn’t let him play Angry Birds on my iPhone and I stepped in a pile of dog poop on the sidewalk and I walked right through a fresh spider web and got the nasty web strands stuck all over my face. It’s been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

I knew that it was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day because after lunch I tried to do an art project with the boys but David colored all over the kitchen table and Jacob ate all of the crayons. David put glue in his hair and Jacob smeared paint all over his body like he was some sort of native warrior. After the art fiasco I tried to give them a bath but we didn’t have any hot water so I had to heat kettles of water in the kitchen (downstairs) to fill the bathtub (upstairs) and then when I finally got the tub full and warm enough for their fragile little bodies David decided to pull the drain-stopper and all of the water vanished before I could stop it.

When I move to Hawaii at least the ocean is warm and I can just give my kids a bath at the beach.

During nap time Jacob bit his tongue trying to jump out of his crib and David snuck out of his bedroom and emptied the contents of the bathroom garbage can all over my bed. Neither child slept so now they are both exhausted and cranky. This is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

I got a calendar reminder to file our taxes next week.

Next week, I said, I’m moving to Hawaii.

While I was trying to make dinner David threw a temper tantrum because his orange ball had dirt on it and the dog looked at him funny. Jacob slammed his fingers in a drawer and he wouldn’t stop howling like a wounded wolf pup unless I held him. I burned the chicken and the pasta pot boiled over and I overcooked the broccoli so it got all soggy. I hate soggy broccoli.  David spilled a full jug of milk all over the kitchen floor (the same jug of milk, mind you, that I already had to replace this morning) and Jacob threw his entire plate of dinner on top of the dog. I had to microwave my dinner 3 times before I ever got one single bite in. It has been a terrible, horrible, no good very bad day.

At bedtime David refused to put on his pajamas, he bit my finger when I was helping him brush his teeth, and it took over an hour to convince him to stay in his bed after lights-out. When we finally got both boys in their bedrooms I went downstairs to try and relax for an hour before my bedtime but there were no good shows to watch on Hulu and the book that I’m reading has somehow disappeared. I couldn’t find my cozy slippers and the dog didn’t want to snuggle with me. I told Jon I’ve had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

He said some days are like that.

Even in Hawaii.

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*Disclaimer* Although all of the events in this story have actually happened to me, they have never all happened simultaneously in one single day. This is God’s grace to mothers! I love my children and I would take all the bad days in the world if it meas that I got to keep loving on my boys each and every day, through the good AND the bad. That being said, I still wouldn’t mind a trip to Hawaii. Without the children.

My 100th Post: 100 Reasons I Love Being A Mom

Jacob week 1 - 0459 Today I am posting my 100th entry to this little blog of mine. Over the course of my last 99 entries I’ve written about many subjects, but the overarching theme has definitely been “mommy life”. I’ve written about hot topics such as what it takes to be a mom, how to prepare yourself for parenthood (Good luck with that one!),  how I attempt to get things done with my kids around (Again, best of luck), how we discipline, how we travel with our kids, what I feed my kids, and the ridiculous things that I do as a mom.  Lots of…mom stuff. So, for my 100th post I thought it would be appropriate to write about my favorite mom-topic: how much I love being a mom. I could probably share with you a million reasons why motherhood is the best “job” in the world, but I’ll practice a bit of self control and stick to 100 (100th post, remember?).  And now, here are the top 100 reasons why I love being a mom:

  1. Snuggles
  2. Hearing my baby say “Mama!” all day long
  3. Getting to see God answer my prayers for my children
  4. Ugga Muggas
  5. Seeing that first ultrasound pictures of the life growing inside me
  6. Parenting with my husband
  7. Having my family be my full-time “job”
  8. Waking up to children’s voices instead of a buzzing alarm (I just wish those sweet little voices would learn how to sleep past 7 AM…)
  9. Going to children’s museums and kiddie playgrounds
  10. Teaching them new things
  11. Seeing the light in their eyes when they learn something new and have that “Aha!” moment
  12. Growing in the virtue of “patience”
  13. Singing lullabies
  14. Tiny naked bottoms running to the bathtub
  15. Bubble baths
  16. The smell of a baby
  17. Kissing boo-boos
  18. Watching my older son teach his little brother (mostly it’s just him teaching the baby how to get into mischief, but I’m sure it will come in handy some day)
  19. My new-found appreciation for all things “balls” (if you know David, you know exactly what I mean)
  20. Hearing a small voice say, “I love you”, and knowing that he really means it
  21. Watching first steps (and first everythings!)
  22. Having an excuse to eat chicken nuggets and Mac ‘n Cheese
  23. Witnessing innocence
  24. Playing!
  25. Watching my children grow and change
  26. Hearing David say the phrase, “So, I was thinking today we could…”. He sounds just like his Mommy.
  27. Splashing in mud puddles
  28. Nursing my baby until he falls asleep in my arms
  29. Re-watching classic movies like “The Lion King” and “Cars”
  30. Exploring new places with my kids
  31. Stroking feathery-soft baby hair
  32. Learning in a whole new way how to trust God each day
  33. Celebrating holidays through the eyes of a child–it’s magical
  34. The hilarious things they say
  35. Wrestling (even though Daddy definitely has me beat in this area!)
  36. Seeing bits of me and my husband in our children
  37. Kissing their sweet, soft, pudgy little cheeks
  38. Teaching my kids God’s Word
  39. Comforting my kids when they are upset
  40. Painting with our fingers
  41. Baby laughs–there’s no problem in this world that a baby laugh can’t cure
  42. Reading with my children
  43. Oggling their teeny-tiny clothes
  44. Being the one they run to when they are scared
  45. Priority boarding on airplanes
  46. Helping them
  47. Praying with them
  48. Sharing in their joys and sorrows
  49. Learning from them
  50. My son’s excitement to see me when I pick him up from school
  51. Trying new things
  52. Wiping away crocodile tears
  53. Listening to David talking to and playing with other children
  54. Seeing how excited they get over the little things in life
  55. Knowing that I helped create something AMAZING
  56. Sharing in my kids’ curiosity
  57. Nourishing and sustaining another life with my own body
  58. Being appreciated
  59. Watching David DEVOUR his broccoli and turn up his nose at a cookie (he may not be my child after all…)
  60. Feeling Acting younger than I am
  61. All the cute baby gear
  62. Planning their birthday parties
  63. Because my kids rock!
  64. Helping to shape a young life that will influence the world long after I’m gone
  65. Doing the mundane…but having it feel purposeful
  66. Watching my kids sleep
  67. Lazing around together in our jammies
  68. Watching David dance and sing
  69. Mimi and Gigi
  70. Taking the boys swimming
  71. Buying bunch after bunch after bunch of bananas
  72. Doling out M&M’s for potty successes (and always sneaking a few for myself…)
  73. Having picnics together
  74. Baby kisses (they feel more like baby licks, but I know that he means them lovingly)
  75. Blowing raspberries on their tummies and watching them squirm
  76. Swinging on the swings and sliding on the slides with them
  77. Watching them spend hours on a “meaningless” task like putting balls in a basket or throwing rocks into water
  78. Playing Peek-a-boo and Pat-a-cake
  79. Encouraging them
  80. Witnessing David’s unique sense of style (which usually includes 3 layers of basketball t-shirts and nothing else)
  81. Brushing their teeth and seeing new teeth appear in their mouths seemingly every day
  82. Being humbled by my children
  83. Tickling my baby during diaper changes
  84. Bedtime. ‘Nuf said.
  85. Counting tiny fingers and tiny toes
  86. Holding their hands
  87. Seeing David’s “cheese face” when we’re taking his photo
  88. Unconditional love
  89. Watching Jacob crawl at lightning speed when he sees something he wants across the room
  90. Challenging them and being challenged by them
  91. Sharing in their dreams
  92. Hearing my baby clap when he’s excited
  93. Helping them see their potential
  94. Cuddling when they don’t feel well
  95. Meeting new friends with my kids
  96. Watching David DOMINATE at Angry Birds
  97. Experiencing old things from a new perspective
  98. Finding toys in random places to remind me that my children have been here
  99. Laughing uncontrollably when David rolls down a hill and then (dizzily) tries to run back up to the top
  100. Loving them. I just love loving them.

So there you have it, 100 reasons I’m one of the luckiest people in the world. Thank you for letting me be your mommy, boys! IMG_3644

A Mother’s Job Description

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I have two sweet boys, ages 2 and 9 months, who are (almost) my whole world. I love them like nothing else and being a mom is the most crazy-awesome job I’ve ever had. And by crazy-awesome, I mean that it’s both crazy and awesome. Motherhood is the best “job” I’ve ever had and I wouldn’t give it up for anything. In honor of Mother’s Day this weekend I thought I would put out a little job description here for any of you who may be interested in taking on this role yourself.

Title:
Mother (also known as “Mom”, “Mama”, “Mommy”)

Term Of Contract:
Until you die.

Salary:
None. Unless you count heavenly rewards, in which case they are infinite and eternal.

Working Hours:
Depends on how much your children like to sleep. On average, you can expect your day to start at about 6:30 AM and conclude by 8:30 PM. However, you will continue to be on-call throughout the night and if you have a child under the age of 1 you can expect at least two periods of active duty between the hours of 9:00 PM and 6:00 AM. Work is required 7 days per week, 365 days per year. There is no vacation time or sick leave built in to your role, so please just don’t get sick. Ever.

Desired Qualities and Skills:
Seeking a loving, nurturing, compassionate individual.  Must be able to tolerate sounds up to 500 decibels (approximately the same loudness of a train whistle) for prolonged periods of time. Applicants should have a strong familiarity with all children’s programming on PBS and Nickelodeon (if you can sing the theme songs to “Blue’s Clues”, “Sesame Street”, “Dora The Explorer”, and “Bob The Builder” then you’re on the right track). Ability to speak and understand a foreign language (i.e. “Baby Sign” or “Toddler-ese”) is highly desired. You must be able to operate at full-capacity on 5 hours of sleep per night, and you should be able act cheery when your darlings wake you up at 4:30 AM. Applicants should be high-energy and ready to conquer the world. Applicants should possess an immense amount of patience (this will come in handy for cases of your childrens’ whining, complaining, crying for no reason, and tattle-taleing. It will also be helpful when you are cleaning up spilled milk and Cheerios for the 100th time in a day.). Backgrounds and training in the following are strongly desired: Teaching, Cooking, Laundry Services (especially stain removal), Taxi Driving, Juggling/Balancing Acts, Pastoral and Counseling Services,  Crowd Management, CPR, first aid/first-responder, EMT, Brain Surgery, Rocket Science.

Job Description and Duties To Perform:
There is a 9-month training period in which you will receive little- to no-preparation for the job you are actually beginning. Your hands-on duties will begin at about week 40 of the training regimen. Your duties will initially include feeding, bathing, changing diapers, dressing, snuggling and spying on your adorable child while he’s sleeping. As your child grows, you will be required to attend to additional responsibilities. These responsibilities include, but are not limited to: teaching, guiding, disciplining, encouraging, helping, supporting coaching, respecting, protecting, scheduling, talking with and listening to, hugging, laughing, and loving your child.

Benefits:
Butterfly kisses, a full heart, a happy disposition and a rewarding life. And love. Lots and lots of love.

Guest Post: Making It Through Cancer and New Motherhood

Today I am excited to welcome my first guest writer to my blog! Heather has an incredible story of strength, survival, and the power of a mother’s love. When her daughter, Lily, was only 3 1/2 months old Heather was diagnosed with a type of cancer called Mesothelioma. This type of cancer is deadly–it has only a 5% survival rate–but, sadly, it is 100% preventable. Now, 7 years later, Heather has beaten the asbestos disease and is a poster child for hope after Mesothelioma. If you would like to learn more about Heather, you can read her blog here. And, with no further ado, here is Heather’s story:

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Not too many adults can believe it when my daughter proudly exclaims that she saved me from cancer over seven years ago. She says it in such a matter-of-fact way that you can’t help but to question how that’s possible. However, it’s the truth. I was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma. Some people don’t understand what kind of effect a child can truly have on someone going through cancer, but for me, Lily was my saving grace.

My husband Cameron and I waited about seven years before deciding that we ready for kids. It was the first time that we really gave it a lot of thought. I knew that it was the right moment to start. Once we made the decision, I was pregnant and in the midst of craving heaven. There were a lot of emotions that ran through me as a newly pregnant mother, but what I really wondered was what kind of mother I was going to be. I didn’t know how I was going to treat all kinds of situations that may come up during my kid’s life, but I just knew that as long as I was a good mom, then I could handle whatever came our way. I had so many dreams as all moms do about their kids and what kinds of things that life would bring. I never expected it to go the way that it did after Lily was born.

My pregnancy was smooth besides the delivery. On that day, the doctor told me that I had a breech baby and needed an emergency C-section. That moment was terrifying, but soon after, Lily was in my arms, just as beautiful as ever. I knew that I would do anything to protect this wonderful bundle of joy. It was the happiest moment of my life, and that must be why the news hit so hard a few months later when I realized that my body was not as healthy as I thought.

After my pregnancy, things started to get really strange for my body. I was tired all the time. I was losing a lot of weight every week. I went in for testing to figure out what was wrong. Three days before Thanksgiving, I went to the doctor’s office with Cameron. He has such an amazing heart and strength. This was a moment that really tested me as a human being and wife. The doctor told me that I had mesothelioma, and that I only had 15 months to live without treatment. I sat there in total shock, going over everything in my mind as he continued to talk about treatment. Cameron looked to me for help but I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what treatment to pick. Cameron knew that there was only one option to save my life. We had to see a mesothelioma specialist in Boston who had a high success rate.

I knew that the road was going to be long and hard to recovery. In those first few months, I spent doting on Lily as much as I could, preparing for major surgery and what would come after: chemotherapy and radiation. During those months, I wasn’t going to be able to see Lily at all. I went in for major surgery to remove my lung and parts of my chest, diaphragm and heart. I was in the hospital for 18 days. It was such a difficult time in my life. The dreams that I had of being this healthy mom running and playing with my daughter looked so far off and away that it was hard to think of what was coming. However, I kept my strength and I held hope that the clouds were going to break.

Two months after being out of the hospital, I started chemotherapy and radiation. It was a rigorous and terrible process. I knew that it was trying to save my life, but I couldn’t help but feel that I was dying anyway. It was a very dark time. The only thing that kept me alive I truly feel was the thought of Lily. I wasn’t done yet. I had so many things to do in her life, and if I could just hold on, I knew that I could beat mesothelioma and the treatment that came with it.

Well, I did. I beat a cancer that takes 95 percent of the people that it infects. I’m here seven years later because of Lily. We did pick an amazing time to have a baby, just in time, in fact. Without Lily, I don’t know what the treatment process would have been like. Of course, my husband and family were there for me, but it was those feelings of being a mother and holding Lily in my arms that I knew I was going to make it.

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10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Had My First Baby

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I have a lot of friends who have either recently had their first baby or are pregnant right now.  When I was pregnant with my first baby, I read every pregnancy and newborn book I could get my hands on. I wanted to know what this whole baby thing would be like when it actually happened.  Now, 2 babies later, I am still learning about motherhood. Every. Single. Day. Only now it’s not from a book: it’s from the trenches.

Despite my best intentions to learn all that I could before I had my babies, there’s just so much more that I’ve learned from my on-the-job training than I ever could have gotten out of a book or a manual (if there were such a thing). I’ve learned a few valuable lessons along the way–tricks of the trade, if you will. Here are a few things I wish I would have known about before I had my first baby.

1. Let go of your plans/hopes/desires/dreams for your baby’s birth.

Birth and Coming Home 070This photo is from my first son’s birth. You may notice that I’m lying on an operating table. That was so not the plan. I went into both of my births planning on having natural childbirth experiences with no drugs and minimal interventions. For our first child, I planned an out-of-hospital birth with midwives–I didn’t even want a doctor in the room! Long story short, I’ve had two emergency C-Sections. I’m 0-for-2 in the “having birth go your way” department. But here’s the thing: it’s OK. I had a really hard time dealing with my first C-Section–I felt like my body had failed me in this most basic function. Then I realized that my baby’s birth was not in my control. I did everything I could to get him out safely and, in the end, that meant we had to cut him out at a moment’s notice. And he was perfect and healthy and wonderful. Even though things didn’t go how I would have liked them to go, they went how they needed to go. With our second birth I let go of a lot of my expectations and, even though the outcome ended up being the same (BUMMER!) I was fine with it. Even though the birth itself wasn’t all that different, my attitude about it was–and that made a world of difference! When it comes to babies being born, expect the unexpected. Hold your plans in an open hand, not a closed fist, and be willing to go with the flow.

2. Having a baby doesn’t have to break the bank.
It’s true: having a baby is expensive. Really expensive. But there is hope! There are lots of great ways to save money on baby expenses.

  • The first thing I would suggest all moms do is sign up for Amazon Mom. It’s a great program run through Amazon.com that gives you free 2-day shipping on everything you buy on Amazon, plus it gives you discounts on baby essentials. It’s free to sign up and it saves you trips to the store (which, for a new mom, is as good as money in her pocket!).
  • You can also try your hand at couponing to save money on diapers and wipes. I was pretty diligent about couponing with my first baby and we saved about 50% on diapers that way. If you want to learn the ropes, there are some great tutorials online that can show you how to get the most bang for your buck (or clip?).
  • Take advantage of free/cheap resources and activities in your community–library story times, parks, community play areas (I love the Shoreline “indoor playground”  for all of you Seattleites), beaches, hikes, farms, public swimming pools, and outdoor concerts to name a few.
  • Make your own baby food (see my post for making your own baby rice cereal here).
  • Only buy what you need. You could spend a LOT of money on baby gear, but you really don’t need all of it. See my list of the essentials and my favorite products for more details.

3. “You can do anything, but you shouldn’t do everything”.
I saw this quote recently, and it rang really true with me. Choose what you want to focus on, and go for it–but don’t expect that you’ll be able to do everything that you want to do. In fact, you probably won’t even be able to do everything that you need to do once your baby arrives! Don’t try to be Super-Mom who does everything has it all together all the time–even moms who look like they have it all together really don’t. And that’s fine. That’s called being a mom. If you have piles of dirty laundry, a dish full of sinks, and a child crying at your feet as you’re making dinner, that’s normal. Do the best you can with each day, and call it good.

Along with this, know that it’s OK (no, necessary) to have help sometimes. Allow your friends, family, and community to help with meals, cleaning, babysitting–whatever you need that will free you up to focus on adjusting to life with your new baby. Once you have a baby, you’ll know where that phrase “it takes a village…” came from!

4. It’s OK to put a crying baby down.

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Whenever my first baby would cry, I did whatever I could to make him happy–right away. I had this weird feeling of abandonment  if I heard him crying and wasn’t instantly there to soothe him. But then, one day, I couldn’t get to him right away–and he was fine! In fact, he calmed down on his own, went back to sleep, and didn’t seem bothered in the least. Then I realized, it’s OK to let baby be on his own a bit. Now, with 2 little ones, I’ve learned that it’s actually necessary to put down a crying baby sometimes–and he’s always just fine. An added perk: baby will learn how to calm down and entertain himself if you aren’t doting on him every moment of every day–a valuable life lesson, indeed!  If you need to put down your baby so you can go to the bathroom or even take a quick shower, he’ll survive the 5 minute interlude. You both might even enjoy it!

5. Choose the advice you’ll take 
It never ceases to amaze me how every living, breathing person has advice on child-rearing. People with babies, people without babies, old people, young people, you name it–they all seem to know the only right way to do things with a baby. And they’ll tell you. Especially if you’re doing it wrong. I have found that the best response is usually just to smile, say “Thank you”, and then keep doing what you were doing.
As this baby’s parent, you know them better than anyone else. You know what they like, what drives them crazy, how they respond to different situations, even what bodily functions they’ve performed in the last 24 hours. You are your own baby’s expert. So, even when you get good advice from someone else, check it against what you–your baby’s expert–knows about your baby. What’s worked for someone else and their baby may not work for you.

6. Laugh at yourself
You will have days as a parent that just make you want to cry. Or scream. Or throw a good old-fashioned temper tantrum. And, sometimes, that’s OK. We all need to cry and scream and throw a fit every now and then. But you can also choose to just laugh at the situation and say “oh well, these crazy kids have done it again!”.

For instance: The other day I was trying to cook dinner and my boys both decided this would be a great time to test Mom. With a pot boiling over on the stove, the baby started screaming. When I picked him up, I noticed that he had poop squishing all the way up his back and out the neck of his onesie. I ran upstairs to change him and when I came back downstairs, my 2 year old had flung half of the contents of his rice box (a sensory activity) across the floor. I could have cried or yelled or run away to a nice quiet closet, but I just had to laugh at myself and the “situation” that is my life. This is my lot now, and it’s actually kinda funny. Three years ago, I never would have imagined that this is how a typical Thursday afternoon would look for me. But it is, and I embrace it! If I don’t laugh at myself every so often I could end up resenting the way things are, and I never want that to happen. So bring on the messy, the loud, the annoying, the embarrassing: I will just laugh at you!

7. Sleep. And don’t expect to feel rested for the next 20 years.

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You’ve heard it before: sleep when the baby sleeps. That worked for the first few weeks for me, but then I realized that “when the baby sleeps” happened to be the only time I could take a shower or eat a meal or pay the bills. Rest is still really important, though. I’m not good at taking naps during the day, but I can usually fall asleep pretty quickly at night time. As a result, I have to be pretty diligent about setting a bedtime for myself each night and sticking to it–even if I really want to stay up late doing important things like watching TV or checking my friends’ status updates on Facebook. But the sad reality is that even if you do go to bed on time and try to take naps when the baby’s sleeping, you’ll probably never really feel rested as long as there are people who call you “Mom” or “Dad” living under your roof. Kids are exhausting and you’ll probably never get enough rest to make up for the energy output they require. Oh well, can’t blame a girl for trying!

8. Document important information and events.
When your baby rolls over for the first time, or gets her first tooth, or says his first word, it feels like the most earth-shattering event. You know that you’ll remember it forever! But you won’t. My oldest son is only 2 1/2, and I already can’t remember a single stat or milestone from his babyhood. Maybe I just have a terrible memory, or maybe my brain is just a pile of mush after chasing two little boys around every day, but the fact remains that I just don’t remember those all-important details.
Do whatever works for you to record your child’s life. Some people like hanging a calendar by baby’s changing table so they can write interesting little facts about baby for each day of their first year. You could buy a baby memory book from the store, jot notes down in a notebook, or even pull out your smart phone (yes, there’s an app for that).

9. Avoid burn out: take time for yourself.

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It’s easy for a mom to get sucked in to the 24/7 nature of parenting. But if you don’t take a little break every now and then, you might just break! Exercise. Get Grandma and Grandpa to come over and watch the baby so you can go out on a date with your husband. Grab some girlfriends and get a pedicure on the weekend while Daddy is playing with Baby. Hire a babysitter and go to a coffee shop so you can lose yourself in a good book for an hour. Maybe even train for a half-marathon on the weekends (see photo above. Bonus: you get an extra member of the cheering section when baby comes to watch your race!). If you need to, schedule these “breaks” into your schedule (and make sure your husband has them in his calendar, too!). I have found that when I take good care of myself, I’m able to take better care of everyone else.

10. Be present and enjoy the ride.
Parenting can be very challenging, demanding, draining. It’s tempting to check out with a smartphone or your laptop while the kids run around at your feet. But blink, and you’ll wonder where the time has gone. Trust me, you won’t want to miss those moments–no matter how mundane or trying they seem in the moment.

Most days I go to bed and think, “What did I do today?”. When I see the list of things that didn’t get done and the piles of things that need to be dealt with it can be a bit disheartening. But the reality is, I did a lot today. I snuggled my babies, I kissed a boo-boo, I cleaned up poo-poo (I cleaned up lots of poo-poo). I read some stories, I played make-believe, I disciplined, I prayed, I disciplined some more. I ran through a park, I bathed tiny bodies, I sang lullabies, I said “I love you!”. I did a lot today–and I want to savor every moment of it.

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My New Year’s Resolution

Our last sunrise of 2012

Our last sunrise of 2012

It’s been a CRAZY month. Jon’s company has a major project they are shipping this week, so he’s been putting in a lot of time at work getting everything ready. Jon spent the first part of December traveling for work in Ireland and Turkey. While he was away I went down to visit with my extended family (and get some much-needed help with the boys). He got back the weekend before Christmas jet-lagged and sleep-deprived. He got Christmas day off, which was wonderful. We spent the day with family opening presents, eating, and truly enjoying each others’ company. Then, the very next morning, he was back to working like a mad man trying to get this project out the door. Cypress had him working around the clock (quite literally. On Saturday he went into work at 8 AM, then got to come home for a 3 hour nap from 3:30-6:30 AM Sunday, then he was back in the office by 7). I am happy to say, though, that after nearly a month of not seeing each other the end is in sight!

Jon’s reward for the manic work schedule this month was a surprise week (mostly) off work this week. My reward was a run. Since Jon was home this morning, I decided to seize the opportunity and go out for a run. All. By. Myself. I’d nearly forgotten how much I enjoy running when I’m not pushing an 80 pound stroller full of two screaming children.

One of my favorite parts about running is that I’m truly all alone. In my life that is constantly interrupted by the needs of others, I relish the times that I experience solitude. I purposefully leave my iPod at home when I run because it’s just about the only time I have to be alone with my thoughts. I usually find my thoughts wandering over to prayers, and that’s exactly what happened today.

As I was running, I was just reflecting on this year and all that it has brought. We’ve had so many wonderful things happen and, yet, I still find myself complaining. Complaining about how things are or how I wish they would be. And, so, as I was running along my favorite trail (the one with the bumps and the stairs that I can’t bring the stroller on) I had a great conversation with God. I just gave him all of my complaints, and he showed me the praise in each of them. It went something like this:

Complaint: We still don’t know when we’re moving to Ireland. Or even IF we’re moving to Ireland. Cypress is really dragging their feet on this one. Can we get some answers here already? I need to plan my LIFE! I mean, should I buy the Costco pack of toilet paper or just get a 4-pack?
Praise: I am not the one in charge of my future. No matter what happens, I just need to live today for today and know that God is in charge of all of my tomorrows. He always has the best plans, and I just need to be patient in waiting for them to unfold. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

Complaint: I never get time to be alone. Someone always wants my time, my attention, my physical body (a familiar scenario finds me simultaneously rolling out play-doh and nursing a baby while dinner cooks on the stove).
Praise: I have an incredible husband and two amazing children. I get to care for them, teach them, help them, and love them every single day. God has given me the opportunity to be home full-time raising my children and serving my husband. There truly is nothing else in the world that I’d rather be doing right now.

Complaint: I’m lonely
Praise: I know it sounds like a bit of an oxymoron to say that I never get to be alone and yet I’m lonely, but there is something very isolating about being the only adult present for hours on end each day. However, I have great friends who are also moms. We can relate and we get together regularly to let our kids play while we confirm with each other that it’s normal to not feel normal as a mother. Another benefit to my loneliness? Since I have nobody else to talk to, I gab at the kids all day. I talk to them incessantly. You’d think they’d be annoyed, but I think they actually enjoy it. And David is becoming quite the chatterbox himself now! He will have the vocabulary of an Oxford theologian by the time he enters kindergarten.

Complaint: My house is always dirty, there’s too much laundry, the yard needs to be mowed, yadda, yadda, yadda…
Praise: My dirty house and never-ending piles of laundry mean that little people are living in my house, exploring their surroundings, and learning the life-skill of cleaning up after yourself. And I have a house.  7 years after buying our house “for 2 years so we could sell it tax-free”, we have a home that still meets our needs and provides a safe place to raise our family.

..and on and on and on. So, here is my resolution on this eve of 2013. To find the praise in every complaint. When I am tempted to fall into worry, doubt, or distress to turn it around and find the good in every situation.

May your glass always be half-full. Happy New Year!