Life Lessons

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I love having friends with kids older than mine.  Granted, I have a stepson who is in middle school, but I have not parented him from the beginning which is a little different.  I love when a girlfriend with three children older than mine assures me, “I promise – it does get easier.”  It does?  When might that be?  When they’re able to bathe on their own?  Get their own breakfasts and get ready for their day by themselves?  For about five minutes last week I turned on HGTV and watched a renovation show I used to love.  During those few moments I had this vision of myself getting to do some of my own projects someday or watching a 30-minute show in peace…while the sun is still out.  Those days have been gone for so long, I can’t even remember them. Continue reading “Life Lessons”

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of a Shower

There are certain things promised to us as human beings and also, as Americans.  But once you become a parent, I believe you give up many of those rights, whether you realize it at first or not.  One being a long, hot shower.  Not that any of us should be taking long showers, especially in drought-ridden California…but maybe just a shower a day?  Or…a shower every couple days?  Is that too much to ask?  Apparently so.  And the days I do manage to get one usually involve a screaming toddler on the other side of the shower door, so I have to finish in lightning speed.  Real relaxing.

Continue reading “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of a Shower”

What my kids have taught me about life – Part 2

A follow up to my last post on this subject matter.  Kids – they can be stubborn, picky, funny, and loving…and they do offer some tidbits on living.

  • Eat when you’re hungry…not when you’re scheduled to.  And eat only what sounds good off your plate.  Who cares if it’s a tan starchy food and nothing else?  I laughed aloud when I saw this book about picky children on Amazon – ‘You Have to F*****g Eat’ – the genius follow-up to ‘Go the F**k to Sleep.’  Man, this author hits the nail on the head!

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  • Recently when at a park, my daughter ran around for a good hour with a little girl she made friends with.  Later on, I asked her if she knew the little girl’s name.  She said, “No, momma, she only spoke Spanish so she didn’t understand me.”  I love that they didn’t let a language barrier get in the way of a fun time.
  • If you need to pray, just open your younger sibling’s mouth and yell down his or her throat because “Jesus lives in people’s hearts” so that’s how He can hear you.
  • Be brave.  When my daughter was hospitalized last summer, she was braver than I could ever imagine being.  The doctors and nurses kept commenting how warm and easygoing she was.  For such a traumatic situation, she sure didn’t show any signs of distress.  I wish I could take such things in stride like that.
  • Have good follow-through.  Once in a great while I let things slip through the cracks.  Okay, probably more than once in awhile.  Lately, I feel my follow-through has left something to be desired.  But my daughter – she doesn’t let much slip through.  She’s always quick to remind me of any promise I made or the treat I mentioned she can have later in the day.  Kids don’t miss a beat!
  • Be observant.  How come the they always find the tiniest new thing I have in the house and they’re completely drawn to it.  And if you play ‘Memory’ with your kid, you feel completely inadequate.  I can’t remember what I ate for dinner yesterday, but they remember the placement of every.single.card.  Their little brains are sponges.
  • To make the most of your day, make sure you wake well before the sun comes up.  Don’t wait for the 6 o’clock hour – sleeping in is overrated.

 

 

 

 

Swing Kids

Sometimes I don’t know how us mothers do it…as I sat rocking my son from 1:30 to 2:30am early Monday morning, I didn’t know how I would keep pushing through.  I kept thinking, how in the world will I make it through the day tomorrow?  All I knew is in that moment, in that hour, he needed me.  When he woke for the day at 5:20, I had the very same thoughts that I had three short hours earlier.  Somehow, some way though, I did make it through the day.  Just like always.  Even if it was one of those typical Mondays – smoke alarm going off from bacon I burned, a short car nap for my son (no transfer to crib) which meant he and I never got the rest we needed.  That kind of a day.  A friend was coming for dinner, so I had an extra time-consuming meal to make.  Yet it all worked out somehow.  Again, it always does.  I felt overwhelmingly grateful when my head finally hit the pillow at 9pm.

As I sat and rocked him for that hour Sunday night, I couldn’t help but wonder what is in us as mothers that pushes us like nothing else?  We think of giving up sometimes, but we don’t.  We never do.  When we don’t think we have the strength, we somehow find it.  When we think all of our patience is gone, we manage to muster up some more when we need it.  How us mothers do it, I’ll never know.

I feel like parenting is perhaps the biggest test I’ll face in life.  I’m constantly worried I’m failing the test…and failing it miserably.  When they don’t eat the way I want them to, I feel like I’m a failure as a parent.  When we have a challenging night (or week) of sleep, I wonder what I’m doing wrong.  Even when they’ve gotten ear infections, I’ve actually questioned if there was something I could have done to prevent them.  It’s absurd.  Where does this guilt come from?  Many of us have this intense need to strive for perfection, but that will assuredly result in feeling like a failure too.

It’s easy to look at the next parent and think they have it all together or it doesn’t seem like they’re facing the same challenge I am at the moment.  But why would they be?

At times we will undoubtedly switch places and we’ll be on a high when they’re on a low…it’s a constant ebb and flow.  I sometimes picture parenting as all of us playing on a park playground.  We’re all on different equipment, trying it out.  While a friend and her child may be swinging happily together this week, my little one may be slipping off the monkey bars into my arms.  No one’s ahead of anybody, but we are all on an equal playing field.  What happens next is anyone’s guess.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from parenting, it’s that things are constantly changing.  I’m not sure why anything surprises me anymore!  What I feel matters most is how I handle whatever it is that’s changing at the moment.  For me, it means pushing through until I know I can get a break.  After a rough week I’ll always need a refresher to press the recharge button in order to take the reins again come Monday.  I don’t let myself get to the point of burn-out because that’s just not good for anyone in the house.

And so, I plunge into yet another season of self-care.  Recognizing what I need following a draining week can be the best way of taking care of myself.  I may not get to refuel for a bit but eventually I know a small break is coming.  A pedicure, a cup of tea with a friend, or a workout session alone will typically do the trick.  It’s nice to block out the noise, tune into my thoughts, and just “be” for a few hours.

And I have to remind myself to take heart that next week will probably look brighter.  These phases – they thankfully don’t last forever.

And hopefully, we’ll be the ones on the swings next week.

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Time to ‘Let it Go’?

Halloween has come and gone.  Not surprisingly, the day saw countless Elsas, many Annas, plenty of Olafs and even carrots and reindeer running around.  My daughter was one of the Frozen fanatics, dressing as America’s favorite Ice Queen.  Since the day she first saw the movie, she declared she would be Elsa for Halloween.  There was no changing her mind.

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The obsession with this movie is mind-boggling in some ways.  We even went to a Frozen-themed Halloween spooktacular at our friends’ house, complete with snowball fights, aqua-colored tortillas at the taco truck and a visit from Anna and Elsa themselves.

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I guess I can’t say I don’t understand the hype – I’m definitely a fan of the movie, and I enjoy the soundtrack, even if I can sing it in my sleep I’ve heard it so many times.  The message of the movie is great, in that it isn’t the typical Disney plot where the princess is rescued by a handsome prince.  It shows sibling love, and a girl who is ashamed of her gift but slowly accepts it, coming into her own.  It’s been nearly one year since Frozen was released in theaters, and the obsession is as big as ever – as was telling from Halloween.

So instead of hating, I have embraced the hype, being a parent to a preschooler who loves Frozen as much as the next little girl.  Here are the best parts about this movie in my mind:

  • “Let it Go” is a song that plays in my head all day – my mantra you could say.   You can use it about house work, your child grating on your nerves, or a whole other slew of things.  It just works.
  • The obsession kids have over this movie provides comedic relief some days.  One time I thought I was being nice by putting the soundtrack on in my car for my daughter when she suddenly screamed, “Nooo!  Don’t turn Frozen on!!”  I was shocked.  “Why not?”  “Because I don’t have an Elsa braid in right now.”  Oooooh.  Of course.  You can’t sing along to Frozen songs without a french braid.  What was I thinking.
  • Even though my poor stepson groans every time the soundtrack comes on in our car, it has calmed our other son down on numerous car rides when he was a bit younger.  He especially loves, “Do you want to build a snowman” because of the little kid voices, I think.
  • My one-year-old son has been connecting two words lately to complete a phrase.  His first phrase was “I do” and the second was “let it go” – sad, but true!  I’m sure he knows all the words to every song, even if he can’t belt them out like his sister.  He’s heard them enough times too.
  • I am no Disney fanatic (I have visited Disneyland exactly 3 times in 9 years of living in Southern California) but I find this site linking Frozen, The Little Mermaid and Tangled together fascinating.  My daughter pointed out several times that Rapunzel is in a scene of Frozen and I never paid much attention to what she was saying – but she’s right!  Whether or not it’s true, it’s cool seeing a movie from my own childhood connect with one my daughter loves now.

Yes, sometimes it’s annoying as a parent, being inundated with all things Frozen – but, all in all, there are worse things for a child to be into, in my opinion.  This is one trend I won’t be sad to see go…but while it’s here I’ll sit back and enjoy what seems like the 100th showing of the movie in our house.  Pass the popcorn one more time.

Halloween Stresses Me Out

It’s that time of year, and I have once again procrastinated on Halloween costumes.   For me, for my daughter (at least part of hers is done) and I haven’t even begun to think about what my little guy will be.  Halloween always stresses me out.

I’ve never really been a fan of dressing up – chalk it up to being self-conscious, frugal, or a combination of both.  I think I’ve passed that along to my kids now – not that they know it.  Mostly the frugal/cheap side of me.  Half the time, one of my kids thinks they want to wear a certain costume but when it comes down to it, they change their mind.  Also here in Southern California, the weather is famously unpredictable in October.  So you may be in trouble if you buy a bulky, warm costume for your child and then there’s a heat wave.  For the rest of the country, the weather is just as uncertain – I feel like it was always cold and raining on Halloween growing up.

And you might have to help steer your child in the right direction in the dressing up department…if it’s too scary or you have a feeling they may not want to wear it when it comes down to it.  When they’re older, it can easily get inappropriate so there’s that too.  There’s a lot more than meets the eye to just picking out a costume, it seems.

Then there’s the candy you need to buy for the trick-or-treaters coming to your house.  Sometimes you buy a ton of candy and no one shows up.  But the times you don’t have enough, ironically, it’s a record year for trick or treating in your neighborhood!  Everything is a crap-shoot for this holiday, it seems!

The kids stay up later than usual, they taste some candy, and inevitably the next day is a bit of a downer.  The excitement is over and you have cranky, tired kids on your hands.  I’m thankful this year Halloween is on a Friday so I’ll have help the next day.  I have a feeling the teachers of the country are grateful for this fact too.

The other thing is all this prep goes into just a couple of hours – it’s too much.  The kids rarely wear their costumes again – I refuse to spend much money on it for that very reason.  I’m just frugal about certain things though – my husband and I chose to have a very small, inexpensive wedding with a simple dinner afterwards in order to use the money on other things.  That’s just us.  Everyone values things differently – I know many people do budget vacations and we are more likely to splurge on travel or experiences than actual material items.  But I digress.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t spoil the holiday for my kids – if they’re excited, I’m certainly excited for and with them.  I can totally get into the spirit…I just maybe feel it’s a little overrated is all.  This year we have some low-key plans with friends and I’m certain it will be a really fun evening.  Family, fun, friends and food – mixed in with a little spook – how can I not be on board with that?

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 {photo courtesy of my daughter}

 

 

 

Not So “Super”market

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Twice last week while at the grocery store with my children, a stranger who had less items to buy approached me to ask if she could cut in front of me in line.  Both times I said, “Sure, go ahead.”  The first time didn’t bother me and even the second time I wasn’t too phased – but that time, I only had about 8 items in my cart, not a whole week’s worth of groceries.  And what was more perplexing is that the woman said, “Thanks, I’m in a big hurry” and then proceeded to slowly count out her exact change to the cashier.  Not to mention, right before her request, my son started crying and I picked him up.  When it was my turn to check out, the cashier said she was appalled at the woman’s behavior.  She said she can’t understand when people ask someone with children to cut in front of them.  And she pointed out that I had a fussy baby in my arms, which made it even more rude.

Not gonna lie, a few minutes into the customer’s coin-counting antics, I did think to myself, “No problem, lady – you go first and take your sweet time while I hold my son and do everything one-handed!”  I was glad the cashier seemed equally, if not more, annoyed.

I can’t say I was surprised these two customers asked such favors of me, as I’ve noticed a pattern these past few years of post-baby grocery shopping.  I’m finding I’m the regular recipient of not-so-nice glares from kidless customers.  It’s already a challenge to please two children while I mentally note what I still need and what aisle it’s in.  And then to deal with rude strangers on top of it?  Not fun.

One time maybe 6 months ago, I had the baby in the Ergo and my toddler in the cart at a grocery store I frequent often.  I remember both of my little ones were having an off day.  I reached down to grab a 6-pack of soda and one slipped out and fell onto the floor, exploding all over me and a tiny bit went onto another shopper’s ankle.  The look of disgust and horror (instead of sympathy) on the woman’s face made me cringe.  I mean, it was clearly an accident, and my hands were full.  Of course I didn’t expect the woman to help clean it up or anything but I just felt she could have acted a little bit nicer.  She would not even look at me so that I could apologize – she turned around and left the aisle as quickly as she could.  I leaned down to grab the can to stop it from spraying and then tried to clean it while keeping one hand on my baby who was practically upside down in the carrier.  I told a store employee about the mess so no one slipped and fell and he didn’t seem too thrilled either.  It made an already challenging morning feel even harder with all the small obstacles adding up.

I hate that a trip to the store feels like I’m a burden to others, when in reality, I’m just doing what everyone else is there to do:  buy food to feed my family.  I just happen to have my children in tow.  Sorry, they’re not old enough to be in school and I’m not going to get a sitter every time I need to run an errand.  I’m not sure what to think…are people just rushed?  Self-centered?  Simply focused on their own agendas?  Are their kids grown and they’ve forgotten what it’s like?

Whatever the reason, it has made me more mindful since becoming a mother to hold doors for parents with strollers and pick up the item a toddler throws from a shopping cart for the baby-wearing mother.  Sadly, I know I wasn’t perfect at going out of my way to help out before I had kids.  But, as this blogger so eloquently put it, it’s actually worse when the parent of grown children behaves in this way.  I couldn’t agree more.  The entire blog post is perfection, but here’s that excerpt:

Fine. Ignorant non-parents, who don’t know what they’re talking about, imposing ridiculous standards on actual parents because it makes them feel superior. I get it. I don’t like it, but I get it. As bad as you people are, you’re not nearly as horrible as the second type: actual parents with grown children who judge other parents, as if they haven’t been in the exact same situation many times. I had an older guy complain to me recently about babies that cry during church. He said: “Back when our children were babies, you didn’t have this problem.” Interesting. Apparently babies didn’t cry in the 50’s. The whole “crying baby” thing is a new fad, it would seem. These folks who had kids a long time ago seem to have a rather selective memory when it comes to their own days of parenting young kids. 
Read more at http://themattwalshblog.com/2013/09/15/dear-parents-you-need-to-control-your-kids-sincerely-non-parents/#jzUzVWSzQ0sML0Mx.99

Non-parent, parent with grown children, parent with children present, it doesn’t matter.  We are all doing what we can.  Please, please know that I am not trying to bother you or ruin your shopping experience by just ‘being.’  I’m just trying to get through my list too.  I would appreciate your patience at times and please excuse me if I move a little slow through the aisles.  And if we make eye contact, you could actually smile back at me.  That may be the bright spot of my morning.

 

 

What my children have taught me about life…so far

Seeing life through the eyes of your children can be a beautiful and refreshing perspective in many ways.  Perhaps we can learn a thing or two from them.

  • Enjoy the simple things.  Whether it is a walk outside to look at trees or collect sticks, there truly is joy to be found in even the most mundane aspects of life.

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  • And on the flip side of that coin, there is raw emotion, sadness and disappointment to be felt, too.  And that is equally okay.  Kids are great at getting their feelings out – adults, not as much.  I’m learning to feel what I need to feel in the present.
  • Persistence.  Babies and children are the epitome of persistence.  If only adults tried and kept trying as children do.  Whether it’s my son’s walking, falling and doing it again and again until he has it down or my daughter showing me she can get that door open if I only let her try – it is really a lesson to be learned for us adults.  Oh, to have that kind of perseverance and stamina.  It makes me want to try harder.
  • A zest for learning.  My daughter’s constant question asking is her way of figuring the world out and how it works.  I wish I had such a hunger for learning anything and everything like that kid!
  • Be an individual – and don’t care what other people think.  My daughter’s outfits are a prime example.  She wants to express herself creatively and I love her for that.
  • We all need a break to recharge.  Children almost always need to take a rest, whether it’s a nap or some downtime, in order to refuel.  Us adults are guilty of not taking breaks seriously.  We can all use them or we will surely burn out.
  • The sweet gesture of holding a friend’s hand or giving a hug is natural and loving – I feel like it isn’t as easy for me to do this, but children don’t overthink it when showing affection…they just do it.IMG_1837

I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned from my little ones in just a few short years.  We teach them and they teach us right back.

Mom Misconceptions Part 2

Another round of those moments I assumed would be different once I had children….

I recently saw this post and completely related to it – when did having kids get dropped off to birthday parties become a thing of the past?  Is this a generational thing?  When I made a list last year to have a party for my daughter’s 3rd birthday, the total was around 75 people and that did not include anyone under the age of 2.  There is no way to have all of those people in our house and where would they all park?

In the end, I had her pick 3 little girl friends to invite and I provided food, cupcakes, goody bags (and wine for the moms, who happened to be my friends).  The girls went outside, played dress-up together, colored and ate.  It was the perfect little party and in no way overwhelming for my child.  When I read the above-mentioned article, I was in complete agreement.  I am so down with the drop-off party!  I hope people start doing it as my daughter gets older.  Birthday parties seem to be every single weekend…does anyone else feel they’re a bit overrated??

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I’ve touched on this before, but I never realized the incessant talking – and more specifically, the talking in circles – that would take place with toddlers.  For example, this conversation happened on Saturday with my 3-year-old:

Her:  “Mom, why am I taking a break from Sunday school?”

Me:   “You’re not.  You went the past 3 weekends.”

Her:  “No, it was the past 5 weekends.”  (5 is her go-to number)

Me:  “Oh, ok.”

Her:  “Well, can I take a break from Sunday school?”

Me:  “I guess, if you want to.”

Her:  “No, I really don’t want to take a break.”

Well, that really solved a lot.  Sometimes I have no idea where anything is going in conversations with her…these seem to happen quite a bit lately!  They leave me very, very puzzled.

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The idea that two of your own littles ones close in age will play (or play well) together.  When, if ever, does this happen?  I know mine are still pretty small, but I am constantly intervening.  It’s almost worse than if it was just one of them playing independently.  Inevitably, one will hurt the other on accident (or on purpose, let’s be honest) and I must stop what I’m doing for the hundredth time.  I guess I thought they would be happy to have each other.  There are glimpses of this at times, so I’ll keep hoping it gets better in the future.

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Back to the sleep issue (mentioned in my other Mom Misconceptions post) – my baby, bless him, has been sleeping like a dream for 5 straight months now.  No wake-ups that whole stretch except one, ironically, on Saturday night (darn eye teeth, I think).  My nearly 4-year-old who has dropped her nap will now crash out before 7, but going to sleep that early means a wake-up may possibly happen in the night.  To inform me she has to potty (just do it – no need to wake me!) or like the other night, to say, “Aubrey told me today that I can’t do a cartwheel.  But I can.”  Is she really wanting to discuss gymnastics and friends at midnight?  When do they ever continuously sleep – or when is it that us parents get to sleep, I should say.  I hear we will worry when they’re teens and out at night, so really, I guess once you’re a parent, sleep is for the birds.

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I never knew driving would feel so tumultuous at times.  Tantrums and meltdowns in the car are no fun.  I feel like I may lose my mind.  When I’m trying to navigate to a new place, that makes it even worse.  I’m attempting to hear Siri, but the cries or screams make it near-impossible.  Luckily, these episodes don’t happen too often, but when they do – Lord have mercy on  us all.  Sometimes, all you can do is laugh and that is what I often find myself doing!

 

 

Wonder-lust

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Whenever I see quotes like this about travel, my heart flutters a bit.  I have always had ‘wanderlust’ in me – my dad took me on trips around the country growing up, and I was able to go to Europe and Australia in the years right before I had my first child.  My husband and I were actually set to go to Spain, Italy and France when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter.

I was so looking forward to that trip – but about a week after the positive on the pregnancy test, I came down with pretty bad nausea.  It was so severe that I had to go to the hospital a couple times for IV hydration and I was unable to work until it subsided.  For those two months all I did was lie in bed all day while vomiting continuously.  It was one of the most miserable times of my life and, of course, my doctor wouldn’t let me go on our planned Europe trip (not that I could imagine climbing onto an airplane during that godawful time).

Long story short, we cancelled our trip and realized it would be quite some time before we headed anywhere too far – especially without children.

I’ve traveled a decent amount post-kids, I guess, but obviously, it just isn’t the same.  The trip we took in March of this year to see family in Washington, D.C. was no exception.

We scheduled the trip over my stepson’s spring break – but, due to the the crazy long winter much of the country had seen, we ended up getting more of a winter wonderland.  Thank God the aptly titled “Frozen” DVD was released that week ’cause that’s how us Californians felt and that’s what we watched indoors.  A lot.

The trip began with a bout of food poisoning for me and an airport shuttle that never came.  So we booked to LAX with a neighbor driving our jam-packed SUV, quickly checked our luggage curbside and then I hit the pavement throwing up.  On the red-eye flight I had to take several trips to the restroom because I was so sick.  Meanwhile, the baby screamed every time I passed him off to my hubby – so sorry, fellow passengers trying to sleep.  I felt especially awful for the couple sitting next to me!  I think they for sure thought they would be coming down with a virus, ruining their vacation.

Once we arrived, we had exhausted, cold, complaining, coat-wearing kids who were stir-crazy out of their element.  We did some sight-seeing and had some fun dinners out, but we definitely had envisioned a different trip full of warm weather walks, playing at parks and seeing the outside monuments.  Despite the cold, we had a great time and celebrated our little guy’s first birthday with family, which was priceless.

The way home, unfortunately, also proved to be eventful just like our departing trip.  It included a crying, exhausted toddler, tons of traffic on the freeway which got us to Dulles super late, a potty accident with our 3-year-old, and kids who barely slept on the nearly six hour flight.  Yes, six long hours.

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Some moments of the trip were challenging, some were peaceful, some were amidst laughter and good meals and family time.  Was it worth it?  Yes, absolutely.  Would I do it again anytime soon?  To be honest, probably not.

A couple months after we returned, I read Rebecca Woolf’s account of traveling with FOUR young children out of the country.  I have the utmost respect for her for even attempting this!  It made me feel better, knowing I’m not the only one getting glares from fellow airplane passengers and managing mini crises during travel days that drag on and on.

I’m glad we have kept traveling and not let fear or what people think hold us back.  But I know I’m not putting my kids through anything longer than what our recent trip entailed.  At least not when they’re so little.  Yet I long to go back to Europe and I want to see so many other places I’ve not yet been.

How do you do this with small children?  How do you satisfy that need to explore?  Do you bring your kids along?  I honestly have no idea.  But I don’t think this wanderlust is leaving me anytime soon.  I wonder if when they’re older and bigger we can go more places and see more things.  I wonder if sometime soon we can leave them with family and get away.  I wonder, I wonder, I wonder…until then, I can only dream and hope I’m on my way…sooner rather than later.

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