Ode to Joy

In the early years of mommyhood, it was hard to go with the flow. I didn’t know how to be a mom, I didn’t feel confident that I would be a very good one, and I felt pretty sad that I was somehow failing at something that was supposed to feel natural, beautiful, and joyful.

My lack of confidence was a hindrance. It was keeping me from becoming the mother I want to be, and it was keeping me from experiencing joy. Nowadays, I put less pressure on myself. I tell myself I’m a great mom because thinking otherwise doesn’t accomplish anything. I make mistakes, I cry, I foul up, I apologize. I live and breathe and take it all in as par for the course. I tell myself that if I’m trying too hard to be perfect, that is all my children will learn: to strive for something that is not only impossible but damaging.

So I’ve made some new goals.

My goal for each day is to find joy.

My goal for each day is to say to my children, “This is so joyful! This is so fun!” as we walk through daily life.

And we celebrate little pieces of joy all day long.

This week, the last of the leaves from our trees. My husband has just “finished” a huge rake job and then more came along. When I saw the yard, I imagined our weekend plans (getting out to the Brandywine River Museum!) quickly thwarted by a new need for leaf clean-up. (Gotta get those leaves before everything freezes and we kill the grass! Aye-ya-yay!)

Until I remembered the leaf blower…

I’m not sure why we never thought to purchase a leaf blower before. We have plenty of trees and more leaves than I can rake by myself. My dad finally bought us a Toro last year, and he was quickly overcome with joy over it’s blowing power, so he purchased himself a matching one. Needless to say, you can imagine the level of adorable that unfolded in my yard when father and daughter had matching blowers as we dominated the landscape.

Then it got packed away and I kind of forgot about it, since I thought the leaves were finished for the season.

When I remembered that we had one and where it was, another real benefit of the leaf blower became visible:

Leaf blowing is a quick route to joy and fun.

Fun is pretty incredible but I’ve always thought it’s hard to get things done with too much fun. It sounds terrible! I know! But I can hear myself saying, “No! We’ve got to get this done!” and then I’m stressing out because I’m not trying hard enough to accomplish any given task.

I’ve needed to loosen up on this idea and tell myself that the stuff on my “To Do” list isn’t going to get done until my kids are at least six. Or maybe seven. Or maybe thirteen. Or at least until child labor is considered legal (does that start at fourteen?)

All this is to say that this week when I tried to blow leaves around, we quickly reverted to just having fun. My son found an old eagles hat of mine: one of those ridiculous ski hats with the dreadlocks made out of felt and a big old Philadelphia Eagle on the front. LM1 had never seen the hat before and decided it could behave like a pair of earmuffs, which he likes to use to block out the sound of the leaf blower. In his mind, thick dreads = noise canceling (a fair assumption, I’d say).

He put the hat on and discovered that what was actually way more fun than blowing leaves was standing in front of the blower and swinging the locks in front of the nozzle so the felt dreads and the leaves would fly into his face and tickle him.

It was hilarious.

It was joyful.

It was fun.

And I can’t remember the last time I did something so merrily just because it felt good. So, here’s to joy. Here’s to getting less and less done, but feeling more joy in the process. Here’s to a messy yard and a smiling kid.

And a smiling mommy….

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Welcome to the Terrible Threes

When I decided to write a bit about “the terrible threes,” I had to think for a few minutes before writing this post: whether or not I feel comfortable calling my kid terrible, like some newly anointed member of a terrible gang called “The Terrible Threes.” Then I told myself, “It’s not him. HE is not terrible. It’s the age.” But then I thought, “No, no, it IS him…at this age.” That thought was quickly followed by, “Ohhhhh $hit! What am I gonna do?”
It’s tough sometimes to be a parent and to search for the right words– the right ways in which to describe things, trying to be as honest as I possibly can, without sugar coating because my kid is the absolute sweetest, cutest thing ever. But let’s call a thing a thing here: lately, his behaviors have been pretty darn terrible.
Word choice aside, here’s a piece of the new human we’ve seen in our home:
Everything is a battle. LM1 doesn’t want to take a shower. He’s mad I didn’t make a meal for dessert ( I don’t get that one at all– but he wanted chicken as a dessert to his steak, and I didn’t have more chicken). Then he doesn’t want to eat veggies at dinner, he doesn’t want to wear pants, he doesn’t want to go to school. Any of these items have easily and quickly become grounds for tantrums, which is super annoying to watch, heart-wrenching to feel, and deafening to hear. LM2 and I sometimes cry, ourselves, simply because the fight is so hard.
Hubs and I are using time out. We are using quiet alone time to settle down. Some days it feels so exhausting to have to do so much for so little. Each tantrum will surely spar another within a few hours or less.
I’m praying this is just a phase and that things will dissipate before they escalate. Of course, my mind is doing what it usually does: run around in circles, planning for the worst. I’m imagining that he will become compulsively defiant. I’m imagining he will become violent or aggressive with words or hands. I’m imagining he will not grow out of this phase or ever learn how to behave. He will become worse and worse until he’s become a kid no one wants to be around.
As a result of my (irrational) fears, I have started to compulsively watch episodes of Supernanny on YouTube, searching for advice and commentary on the tantruming patterns of three-year-olds, like he’s some kind of chimp scientists studied in a lab and then fed bananas to after he finally “got it.”
I am a crazy person, worrying and thinking that if I plan and learn it will somehow soften the blow of a bigger reality that haunts me: what if I have a bad kid? I’ve heard of them. Bad apples, they’re called. I tell myself he doesn’t even like apples and we’ve already dropped him before, so how can this be?
Then I tell myself I’ve officially developed what I call CLS (Chicken Little Syndrome) and the sky is falling and maybe I should just have a glass of wine and pull up a chair to grab a view of the onslaught of chaos.
After he falls asleep at night, the house becomes quiet and everything settles down into its rightful place. I play soft plinky, planky stream music, mostly featuring a lute or a harp, or some kind of American Indian flute-sounding thing. In the peace, I tell myself this will probably pass, like the days when he thought it was hilarious to throw noodles on the floor. It will pass, like the days when running into the street without looking was exhilarating.
I take a deep breath and remind myself that the only thing falling is me: off my rocker.
I have the glass of wine and decide tomorrow will be a better day. I will be stronger and better prepared. We will encounter challenges together and work through them together. We will more than survive because none of this is really a big deal at all.
With that mindset, the next day was better. The threes are less terrible. They’re not yet terrific, but something tells me that if I make up my mind that they ARE terrific, they will become terrific all on their own.
Today I am smiling. LM1 is smiling. Everyone is smiling. And we are settling into peace before bedtime, searching for it throughout the day.
And it is slowly working.
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Out of the Dumps

This is me, only my lips are smaller because I don’t have injections like the Kardashian people.

The weather is starting to chill and I can feel myself getting nervous as winter approaches. How terrible that I smell a breeze and my mind goes to the dreary-wearies, I KNOW! I’m the worst. I’m like the Pout-Pout Fish in that silly book my kids love!

Winter is coming.

I say this phrase aloud and then laugh because it feels so much more ominous now that we’ve become Game of Throners and we expect winter to bring war and carnage. Metaphorically, of course.

But I get down in the cold weather. If I feel my nose chill a little bit, I think, “Oh, dear! In no time at all, we’ll be bundled in hats and snowsuits! HELP!”

I’ve started a little mental list to help combat this silliness. It goes like this:

1.) Dance to Pharrell’s “Happy.” LM1 loves this song and so do I. He’s at the top of our playlist and we love to hold hands and bounce as high as possible while spinning in a circle. This brings up the smile count, immediately.

2.) Start sweating. I wear more sweaters than I need to and ask the kids to go for a walk with me. In no time at all, we’re wishing for a cooler breeze and catching our breaths in a pile of leaves.

3.) Get out the leaf blower. I mean, is there anything more fun that watching your kids fall down because you “accidentally” blew in their direction? (Sry, LM2, but you look like a Teletubby and it’s adorable).

4.)  Bake cookies. If there’s one great thing about winter it’s SWEATER SEASON…..and that means covering up! Bring on the COOKIES! Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe EVER. Right here! Wanna know my secret surprise? Use more brown sugar than white and use chocolate chunks instead of chips. Also, be sure to refrigerate your dough for an hour or two before scooping onto the baking sheet. YUM

5.) Sign up for swim lessons at the heated pool. YES! It’s like a bathtub, but it feels cleaner because it smells cleaner.Thank you, chlorine. And only other moms go there for the mommy-and-me swim class, so I don’t have to wear a bikini! I can wear a long-sleeved rash guard-looking thing from Athleta and NO ONE CARES. Amazing.

How are YOU going to beat the cold?!!?

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Nightmares Are Real!

My favorite nightmare came true this past whimsical Wednesday and I thought, why not let everyone else have a giggle over it?!

I took the boys to one of our local libraries because it contains two of life’s greatest luxuries: (1) a (clean and beautiful) fish tank and (2) a train table. LM1 and LM2 love visiting, I force books upon them (sort of), and it’s a win-win scenario.

Unless you’ve got to go to the bathroom.

Unless your children are screaming.

Unless your youngest son can now reach the door and open it at will because the locking mechanism is synced with the door handle.

Unless the bathroom you chose to use was a solo room which is directly connected to the library Children’s Room.

So, mid-stream, yes, mid-stream, it happened. And the door was wide open. My screaming children became running, screaming children, and I had my pants down.

I whispered my shrieks at them, trying to at least be loud enough to cover up the sounds of my sprinkles and tinkles.

Thank you to the librarian who didn’t laugh and instead pretended this sort of thing happens EVERY DAY. (I know it doesn’t. I know it doesn’t happen to anyone. Ever. Never Ever.) Thank you to the other librarian who successfully shut the door for me without making eye-contact and then shuffled the boys over to some legos or that wooden castle thing they love.

THANK YOU, nightmare, for reminding me why it’s ok to be dehydrated sometimes.




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Explaining Stuff

I feel like I almost never speak my mind.

Outside of my inner circle of friends, it is rare that I say what I’m really thinking. This will, I’m certain, come as a shock to many people, in part, because I never shut up (sorry! I love to gab; this is true.) But the truth is that I often refrain from saying what I’d really like to. I’m afraid to offend. I don’t want to turn off. I don’t want to rile anyone up.

Because the biggest truth of all is that I cannot take confrontation. I completely shut down. And then I cry, which feels like the biggest defeat of all. It’s hard for me to defend myself in any way when I’m doing that red-faced, blubbery, incoherent tear thing. So I try to keep it cool.

In failing to deal with my tear-trigger, I always dreamed to become one of those articulate, quick-thinking speakers. A woman who can snap at someone to stop them in their tracks, turn off the ammo firing at me, and flip it on its head. Well, I never quite figured that out. But I admired people who could.

Now we have a president who can seemingly do just that.

He disarms with his words. His cunning, quick tongue fires at anything in his way. The man can stand his ground. He can seemingly take on anything in his path. He can use derisive little one-liners to bring about pause.

He sounded less presidential. Less professional. He sounded like a man without any real ammunition at all.

What I thought I always aspired to has been, in fact, the exact opposite of what I thought I wanted. Being well spoken, informed and effective is very different from firing at will. It’s different from ridiculing others simply for the sake of it.

I don’t like engaging in political conversations because, remember, I hate confrontation. I don’t like having to defend my ideas because I can’t. But even more importantly than that, I don’t want everyone else to share my ideas. They’re mine. You’re allowed to have yours. You’re supposed to have yours. Please, have yours!

But having children gives me a reason to think more critically about my stance on things. It means needing to consider my opinions and defend them, not because I’m being attacked, but because someone wants to know and understand where my ideas came from.  And I feel like it is my moral obligation as a citizen and as a parent to at least know how I feel and why I feel that way.

So I need to have an opinion about politics. And our president. And how to speak to others. And how to engage with people whose opinions I do not share.

LM1 is precocious, to say the least, and he’s always picking up on things and asking questions.

With the political climate being what it is, I have had our television tuned into the news more mornings than I’d like to admit (because we try to limit screen time….because we’re trying to pretend that limiting screen time makes us better parents).

This week I had the news on while I made breakfast, and I heard the phrase “SOB” spoken full-out on the television. I was shocked that the tv let out such words. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure we’ll hear it at an Eagles game or in a zillion other places, but for my three-year-old to hear it at the breakfast table, I thought, Whoa! When I heard someone say SOB on the tv I felt HORRIBLE for having the bomb dropped over pancakes and chocolate milk.

Lesson learned: no more news at breakfast.

But there’s more to learn here for me: I realized the reason it was on the news was that our nation’s president used the phrase to describe other Americans.

And I thought about how this abrasive language, which degrades other human beings, has become a part of our everyday norm. Now this guy is calling another nation’s leader “Rocket Man,” a childish, irrelevant term that is insulting at the human level.  (Note: I’m not saying Kim Jong-un is a great guy or anything– I don’t really know him or his politics.) But is name-calling accomplishing anything?

I’m confused about when name-calling became a part of politics.

The president has an opinion about how NFL players are using their celebrity as a platform to disrespect the American flag. He has an opinion about what should be done by leaders within the NFL to alleviate the protests.

That’s cool. Have an opinion. Voice an opinion. Share your thoughts and feelings and encourage others to consider your side and take action to defend your opinion.

But do we need to degrade our fellow men with rotten language and cheap insults?

Won’t our thoughts and ideas come across in a clear and articulate way when we refrain from this behavior? Aren’t we supposed to listen to each other in order to best resolve conflict? No one is listening from the moment anyone drops a nasty insult. That’s what stops the listening.

I need to understand these things better because I want to explain this life to my sons. I want to tell them what’s right and what’s wrong. I want them to learn to choose for themselves what is right and wrong. But I also want mentors and adversaries to help model productive behaviors and ways in which to engage others– the people we agree and disagree with. There are good ways to engage in discussing our differences of opinion. There are productive ways to ask questions, to learn, to be heard, and to listen.

So how do I explain that?

Interesting read from the New Yorker. Not sure how I feel about this one, either. But for now, I think I’ll keep trying to inform myself as best I can. I’ll inform my opinions and decisions with facts and news and information. And I’ll try my best.


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A New Natural State- Loving the Little Things

Love this day of tossing lettuce at the ducks. Amazing.

There are a few things in life that return me to what I have always thought of as “my natural state.” This phrase is simply my way of saying I’m blissed out– finding that peaceful space in my heart that is old and familiar, joyful and quiet. This feeling is something that had become less common since the little ones came along. It was just plain hard to get into my comfort zone and feel like myself.

Perhaps that sounds strange or sad– but having small children means there are more than a handful of things I cannot do for the duration and quantity of times I used to do them. This is not something to grieve– or perhaps it is, to a reasonable extent.
These pieces of my natural self felt lost:
– not getting out on the boat to read for 3-6 hours with Hubs at the bow.
– not working out at the gym for 2 hours at a time (let’s be honest– some days I’m lucky to get 15 minutes before a sweet older woman in a blue polo comes to remove me from the elliptical machine because “your baby won’t stop crying without you.”)
– not swimming by myself at the beach for an hour because, inevitably, someone wants to swim with mommy. (Still thankful that someone has yet to be a shark.)
– not taking time for simple pleasures like sipping coffee alone in a bookshop and perusing the aisles for new authors and titles means leaving my kids with someone who is not me.
– not writing. Because when I try to write while anyone in the house is awake (man, woman, boy, girl, infant, houseplant) I am distracted quickly by the other things I need to accomplish to keep our house afloat (no, we don’t live on a houseboat, but how many dishes in the sink is “too many?”). This means I write and rewrite, then I get frustrated, then I hate the paragraph I constructed, then I’m angry because I think this makes me a terrible writer– that I can’t write amidst chaos and noise.
Swallowing these facts over the years made this mom frustrated and resentful about it— which became so engulfing that I started to crave the feelings of frustration and resentment. THEY started to feel like my natural state.
Seriously. And, sadly.
I wanted to feel sorry for myself that life had changed– and fell into the seeming comforts of the “you’ve got it so toughs!” And the “it’s so hard for new mommys” and the “lets cry togethers.”
But those feelings didn’t get me so far. They distracted me from blissing out over new, intoxicatingly beautiful moments with my kids. They slapped me in the face and made me cry, and the pain took me away from catching the most incredible new memories we were forming as a family. Feeling sad and frustrated were normal and natural, but I let them take over. They distracted me from seeing that my natural state of being was changing, growing, and morphing in exciting ways.
My new self is a pretty decent mommy. What has felt, at times (too many times, if I’m being honest) like draining self-sacrifice has actually been an awakening toward a more mature, fuller, wholer (yes that’s a word (ok, no, I don’t think that’s a word)), less make-up wearing, more bra-free self.
Life is born in perspective. I was so busy mourning my former self that I forgot to welcome my new self. So my natural state, my blissed self, now includes recognizing and working on the following:
Real Fact: Life is different now.
Real Fact: I need to be more flexible. Everyday. Always. Endlessly.
Real Fact: My natural state is different than it used to be, but it doesn’t make me unnatural.
Real Fact: I can swallow my pride (ugh, literally my least favorite pastime!) and let myself go so I can become the me I have been waiting to become for a long time.
My natural state can appreciate:
– seeing my kid pantomime a pitch from the pitcher’s mound. While he cannot say pitcher, mound, swing, or miss, his heart and physical self are practicing for what’s to come
– reading books for 45 minutes with little men who don’t know how much mommy loves to read, but who love it all their own because we get to snuggle and ask each other questions (this week, particularly, about dinosaurs)
– seeing LM1 finally ride the tricycle uphill on his own– without even noticing the amazingness of his accomplishment, as if he was born to always do it
– hearing LM1 ask to visit family members we haven’t seen in a while because his memory and acknowledgment of love are so pure and natural, he merely has to ask and receive its sweetness
– seeing LM2 rebound from a fall like it was no big deal because, arent they all?
– admitting when I need a break, calling a grandparent, and accepting help from others
What have you noticed about yourself this week!?
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Slowing Down

I came across something recently that I thought to share. I read In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms, by Dr. Laura Schlessinger. I’m not one for uber-conservative, traditional thinking, but the title grabbed me just enough that I felt compelled to buy and read the book. I knew NOTHING about Dr. Laura or her radio-empire. So, it was an interesting read, needless to say.

I can’t say I would absolutely, resolutely recommend the book. I’m not into telling women what to do with their lives. I’m not into preaching at anyone to say that one way of living or behaving is better than another. So, some of Dr. Laura’s words fell flat for me. Hyper-generalizing the human experience feels so unfair. But my big take-away from her book has been in my heart for a few weeks now. I am playing something over and over again in my mind.

Dr. Laura admits that being home with the kiddies can be difficult sometimes. She acknowledges that the doldrums and monotony of housework and childcare can sometimes overwhelm. And although it sounds kind of simple, her solution for that was:

Play with your kids. 

She talks about the benefit of slowing down, relaxing, and letting yourself play with the kids. This made me consider how interesting it is that we’ve changed a woman’s title from “House Wife” to “Stay-at-Home-Mom.” One idea behind the change, as I understand it, is to acknowledge that the primary focus of the day should be on the children. We are moms before we are home managers. We are not home to clean and keep the house in order so much as we are home to care for our children in the best way possible.

When I feel like I’m failing, when I feel exhausted when I feel like I can’t get anything right, I have been thinking about that as my purpose and role:

To play with the kids. 

It’s my job to teach them, to show them, to speak with them, to share with them. It’s not my job to keep a perfect home or to make sure I finish every single thing on my To-Do list. It’s my job to raise beautiful, compassionate, self-aware, well-rounded children. And since kids learn through play, love, and attention, that’s where my energy can go when I’m bored, tired, or disenchanted.

I get down on the floor, pull out a toy we haven’t used in a while and use my imagination. I get creative. I force something up from deep down inside myself and look for the childish spirit that needs time to sprint around.

So, I’ve tried to follow through on that. I’ve worked to bring the idea into other areas of my life. When I’m just feeling plum out-of-it or a little blue, I look for some fun. I look for the things that make me feel more myself. I let myself laugh and giggle and play. The kids are learning by my example to turn a bad mood into something fun and uplifting.

I’ve even recommended the thought to Hubs. If he’s worn down, less enthusiastic, less himself, I say, “Let’s go have some fun.” We drop our projects and find something exciting to recharge our batteries.

A little play every day.

It sounds so simple, and yet, how often do I make time for real fun? Being a grown up gets a little less than sometimes.

What fun stuff have you been up to? What’s making you smile, laugh, or giggle with glee?

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Getting Better

One of my favorite songs of all time is probably Company of Thieves, “Oscar Wilde.” I’m pretty hard on myself much of the time, so I relate to the song’s refrain, which reads:

We are all our own devil
We are all our own devil
And we make this world our hell

I am a most skilled, excellent self-criticizer. I don’t know that I make my life a living hell, but I’ve been brutal enough a few times to make it pretty gosh-darn terrible. Plenty of times, the self-criticism is mostly in my head. (I’m using that as an excuse…..Can you hear it? I’m like, “Hey, it’s not so bad to beat yourself up if no one else can hear your bones cracking!”)

This negative behavior has been an awful burden to carry around that I’ve been working to unload. One of the best things about having children, for me, has been their ability to help me broaden my own awareness about the things I haven’t paid enough attention to in the past.  Having children makes me want to be a better person ALL THE TIME. I want to be positive and self-encouraging and a beam of sunshine so their lives are sprinkled with magic. But I noticed the most incredible thing recently:

My kids can tell when I’m faking. My kids can tell when I’m nutty and weird and grumpy. They can tell when I’m not seeing the forest for the trees: when I’m failing to live in the moment.  

So, if I want to be a ray of sunshine, and teach my kids how to become their own rays of sunshine, I REALLY need to fix the biggest trouble I’ve been carrying around with me.

This problemo of mine became super visible most recently when I got upset with my son. I say with in italics like that instead of writing at my son because we BOTH became upset. He did something super lame-o, which I noticed later was not really lame-o at all— it was typical three-year-old behavior with minimal side-effects after we got through it. It was a string of events, all of which were totally silly: he took a really long time to get dressed, he put his underpants on backward, he refused to wear a short-sleeved shirt on a 90 degree day, he refused to wash his hands after pooping, and he told me he didn’t want to go to the playground after asking to for about thirty minutes.

He literally defied everything in our typical morning routine, just for shiz and giggles.

He launched an 8-minute sass-a-frass episode on me at about 8:30 a.m., before my cup of green tea or breakfast. So far as I could tell, none of this was happening because he was hungry or tired because we’d just woken up and he’d eaten breakfast thirty minutes earlier.

So I got terse. And I got louder than my normal inside-voice-volume.


I even want to hate myself a little for typing that in all caps, but what other way do I have to express my sincere seriousness for hating myself in a cyberspace such as this?

Anyways, I got louder and visibly frustrated and said, “Man, you are driving me nuts. Let’s just get this stuff done, get out of the house this morning, and get to the grocery store so we can go to the park!”

And he said, “Oww, Mommy. You’re hurting my ears with your voice. I don’t like that.”

“I don’t like it either!” I said, “So put on your clothes, wash your hands, and let’s go!”

This made him cry. Not like the frustrated, sassy tantrum cry. Like the “You just scared me” cry.

I wasn’t soft or gentle or perfect Mommy. That is the Mommy voice he is accustomed to. And he doesn’t want to do business with grouchy Mommy any more than I want to do business with grouchy LM1.

When he started to cry I felt like crap. I was like, “Ugh, Kim! Pull yourself together! Why aren’t you dominating this Mom thing as soon as you wake up, after you’ve gotten sleep and had a great weekend, etc, etc, etc.”

And then it kind of hit me. I’m too hard on him because I’m too hard on myself. I hit my default button and started to yell at myself inside my head. But in that moment I noticed that getting loud and then getting pissed was a huge sign that I am always way too hard on everyone. My expectation is somewhere through the roof and my kids can see that better than I can. Especially my three-year-old. Mr. Perceptibility.

It was a Monday morning, and we didn’t need to run out the door. Maybe we needed a shirtless hour after breakfast. Maybe we needed to wear underpants backward. Maybe we needed to wear a long-sleeved shirt in the AC for 10 minutes (or more) before we were just about ready to get out the door. The high standard I hold myself to turns me into a grump. It turns out that it turns my kids into grumps, too.

Why was I rushing to get out the door? Why was I insistent on having a pattern or a specific schedule after a long weekend away? Why was I such a royal pain in the rump? Turns out, I was driving him nuts. I was driving myself nuts. It was all about me. I’m hard on us. I get it. I need to tone it down.

Lots of times, when I look at the kids and wonder WTF is going on, I need to remember that I’m the adult. I’m the grown up. I set the tone. I help them to learn how to set a lovely tone, too.

So, I’m trying. I’m learning. I’m taking it one step at a time and looking to make improvements without the nasty backtalk in the back of my mind. I’m trying to keep it real and take it easy.

So, we had a naked dance party. We took it all off (not me, the kids) and we listened to Taylor Swift’s recommendation to “Shake It Off.”

What new parenting tricks have you learned today? SHARE!

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The Little Things

A few weeks ago I got into a conversation about having children. A couple was still in contemplation mode about whether or not to have children and they wanted to know a bit more about the items I might put in the hypothetical “worth it” column.

Being a person who always knew she wanted children, my “worth it” column started when I was little, playing with dolls, rocking them to sleep and feeding them pretend peas. But I have a few friends without children, and I respect and honor that we all make different decisions. I look at their lives and find value and “worth it-ness” in their choices and the lives they’re forming, too.  I guess you could say I can find worth-it-ness on both sides of the coin.

The decision to have kids is one that I don’t feel I belong in at all….because I want everyone to make the choice that is best for him/her/them. But, I was prompted to think about this and give a real answer. It felt interesting enough to blog about.

Regardless of my moral dilemma, I was prompted to think about this and give a real answer. So I did. And even though I feel about 98% confident that my answer will change over the years, for right now, at this phase in our lives, here’s what seems to be capturing my heart enough to use as an argument:

I love watching how our children are learning to mimic facial expressions. I’ve noticed my sons often smile or look confused or tease me, and the looks on their faces are so HUMAN. I know that my kids are human, but they look like little adults, like professional homo sapiens who have translated expressions and gestures into real-life, fully recognizable and understandable meaning.

LM1 will say, “Are you kidding me?” or “Wait, that’s not right!” or “This should do it!” or “No, Mommy, that’s not right,” and he’ll make this face that tells me, “You are a weirdo, Mommy. Life is unclear and you need to explain yourself, immediately!”

The joy is that I can tell exactly what he’s thinking before he’s said it. But I cannot do this with many other people. Maybe my kids are more transparent than regular thinking, breathing adults.

I like to think I just know them.

Other times, LM1’s face tells me that he’s sad or disappointed before he reacts with the tantrum– the hazy, confused, raucous pandemonium that also tells me he’s sad or disappointed. LM2’s cries are now understandable. I get it. I look and listen, read his face, and somehow I get what he needs. It’s amazing.

There’s something strangely amazing about history repeating itself….

I guess you could say that this neat little trick isn’t enough of a reason to have kids. Because we have beloved family and friends to whom this may apply. And you’re right. So what’s the difference? What’s the big deal?

It’s the fact that the expressions they make are duplications of the ones my husband makes. And that is the most heartwarming, deliciously beautiful thing to see. It’s incredible and exciting and bewildering to see our children look like the man I love. And even that may sound silly. It may sound bizarrely minuscule in the grand scheme of beautiful blessings or things to fall in love with. But that seems to be what all of life’s greatest treasures are. They are small things that seem stupid when you say them out loud. And then when you feel them in your heart, their grand and mystifying perfection simply makes you smile a little bigger than you ever did before.

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Tricks of the Trade

We are more than half way through the summer, and it seems that vacationing with the babes is getting easier. There is always so much to pack, so many things to remember, and a zillion things I manage to forget. BUT, I think we’re getting a little better each time. Here are a few new tricks we’ve picked up that seem to help the kiddos for the long rides and crazy times!

1.) Keep food close. I always pack more than one bag of food, a cooler for stuff that will spoil, and then spare goodies in the diaper bag. Fruit and Goldfish are great. Even if it’s just crackers or individual apple sauce pouches, I try to keep stuff on hand for when someone gets whiny.

2.) Keep spare clothes in plastic zippie bags. For me, I’d much rather let them get messy and clean up later so as to keep every body cool-tempered. That means they eat in the car and make little messes all over. What can you do? I pack at least two outfits in zip lock bags to keep them fresh and offer a change of clothes when necessary.

3.) Tire them out before the car ride. Driving tired means the kiddies will prayerfully sleep, even if just for a short while, when we’re driving. They don’t like car seats, they don’t like feeling trapped, and they don’t like sitting for long periods of time. But they LOVE to sleep. This trip I made sure to have the kids swimming, running, and playing before we got into the car. It made them much less irritable and when we hit nap-central, we cruise-controlled our way through town.

4.) Plan ahead for rainy days. Summer time means rain, so I like to have a short list of plans for when rain comes along. Museums are great. I also pack rain coats and warmer clothes so that we can play in the rain. It can’t be avoided, and it’s super fun, so why not plan ahead so we can enjoy? This year we remembered umbrellas, too, and LM1 thought fishing with an umbrella was about the coolest thing he’d ever done. He fished off the pier in his raincoat and umbrella and became the wettest kid to catch a fish. #MISSIONACCOMPLISHED

5.) Work in a nap. I know when we’re on vacation everyone wants to have non-stop fun. I know, on the other hand, that fitting in a few really good naps is paramount to making it through the week. Make time for these, divide resources and find a way to let baby or toddler sleep it out a bit. This makes for much less grumpiness and way more fun in the waking hours you have together.

6.) Pack a play bag. I let my boys fill a backpack with some of their favorite toys before we go. It gets them into the routine of packing and brings the comforts of home on our trip. I wouldn’t recommend bringing a MOST FAVORITE toy, just in case it were to get lost. The toy backpack has helped in restaurants, on the beach, and in the houses we’ve visited.

What do YOU love to do to help make vacationing easier? I wanna know!!!

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