Small Wins – A Parenting Victory

I don’t have to tell you that this parenting gig is hard. Like, really hard. Most days, I feel like parenting a toddler ranges anywhere between blissfully strolling through a field of wildflowers on a sunny day and being run over by a train carrying 4 billion tons of coal to the North Pole for your child’s Christmas stocking. Rarely is it one extreme or the other – it’s almost always both. At the same time. Times 1,000.

More often than not, I feel like a complete failure as a mother, co-parent, wife, friend, and person in general. But on occasion, I’m reminded that even though I may not feel like it, I’m doing a pretty decent job raising a tiny human being. Sometimes it’s a big thing, like the pediatrician telling us we made the right call to bring him in (because he does, in fact, have strep throat) or watching my son offer up a few of his unopened Easter eggs to a little girl who arrived late for the egg hunt at school.

Other times, I’ll take a step back and notice some of the smaller things that make me think that maybe, just maybe, his dad and I aren’t doing too bad. This post is dedicated to those times – the seemingly insignificant things that often get overlooked, but deserve a round of applause – because some days it’s really hard to get up after that dang train hits you.

The internet says that “Success is a series of small wins.” So here are a few examples of small parenting wins that deserve a pat on the back. This list is really just a few of my own motherhood victories. Share your own in the comments – you never know who may be fighting the same fight. And we could all use a little glimpse into someone else’s wildflower field.

  1. He can hold a fork correctly. Let’s be honest – nobody wants to be at a business lunch and look across the table to find a colleague shoveling food into his mouth like a caveman. Table manners are good, but without proper table ergonomics, manners are just frosting on a fruitcake. If your child can get the food from his plate to his mouth using the eating utensil of his choice, he’s on the right track.
  2. She remembers that you told her she could have a cupcake after school…last month. You may see this as a negative because of the major meltdown that ensued when she realized you ate the last cupcake for breakfast weeks ago. But that long term memory is going to serve her well throughout her life. Also, this means you’ve taught her to hold others accountable for the things they say and promises they make. Well done!
  3. He doesn’t smell like a foot (all of the time). Getting a child to bathe is no easy feat. Remembering to make them is sometimes even harder. So if you accomplish both of these things at least once a week, high five to you! (Bonus points if you also get them to brush their teeth on the reg. I’m hoping nobody is counting how often my child goes to school with “stinky fish breath”)
  4. YOU don’t smell like a foot. Let’s face it – when you are in the grunt of parenthood, personal hygiene is often the first thing to go. Plus, showers are a lot less enjoyable when you have an audience that is eye-level with your lady parts. Let’s all be thankful for deodorant, mouth wash, and dry shampoo!
  5. You and your partner* still love each other. Kids are innately going to love you and vice versa. An adult relationship, on the other hand, takes work, time, and desire to keep going – all of which are hard to come by when you have a 3-year-old that has never slept in his own bed for a full night and still poops his pants. If you and your partner can keep it together long enough to come out the other side, I hear it can be glorious. (*Partner refers to anyone that loves you and is part of the village helping you raise your child – spouse, parent, sister, friend, neighbor, stranger you met in the grocery store, etc.)
  6. Your child is breathing. Let’s face it. Sometimes it’s all you can do as a parent to keep your kid alive. If you child screamed bloody murder when you suggested he wear his camouflage underpants instead of the dirty ninja turtle ones he pulled out of the laundry basket, count it in the win column because you kept your child alive yesterday. Yay…

So here’s to you, parents. I know you think you’re screwing everything up and you worry that your child is too spoiled/anti-social/busy/shy/slow/talkative/stinky/etc. But I want you to know that you’re doing something right. Everyday. It may be as simple as getting your kid to dress himself in the morning. Or maybe it’s that you locked yourself in the closet to check your Facebook in peace for 5 minutes instead of giving in to the constant urge to run away to a beach somewhere and live like Tom Hanks in Castaway (but let’s be real – the lack of internet on a remote island was the real deal breaker here).

Being a mom or dad can be so hectic that you may not notice all the small wins, but rest assured that your kid does. And every single day, he sees you trying to be the best parent/person you can be. And you know what, he’s going to be just fine.

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Instant Parent – Just Add Water

If you’ve ever talked to me and wondered “How in the world did she come up with that?” or “What in the heck is she talking about?” this post will not help answer those questions. In fact, it will probably illicit those thoughts and more from everyone who reads it. Let me be the first to warn you that what lies ahead is a post in which the miracle of child birth is compared to making a Cup O’ Noodles. Proceed with caution…

Most of us will never forget the exact moment we learned we were going to be parents. For me, it was about 4pm on a Friday in early December. 2 weeks after my missed period, 7 negative pregnancy tests, and about 3 hours before a weekend filled with boozy holiday parties. Adam had tried to reason with me that I was just stressed out – my boss had recently quit and I had some family issues going on. I agreed, but for my own sanity, I decided to take one last test before embarking on the festive weekend.

I had grown tired of shelling out big bucks for the fancy tests, so I had stocked up on some tests that I found in the $0.88 bin at Walmart – you know, the metal bin with all the generic drugs right next to the one with all the boxed theater candy. Let’s just say there were no frills included in these tests. I followed the steps, waited a few minutes, and then I saw it. That second purple line. I squinted at it, tilting the test back and forth, and holding it up to the light…just to make sure I was seeing it correctly. Could I really trust a cheapie test? But alas, it was a fact I couldn’t deny. That second purple line hadn’t been on the last one. Ho…Ly…Crap.

Adam was still at work, so I snapped a photo and sent it to him in a text message.

Guys…let me tell you…when your wife tells you you’re going to be a dad, almost anything you say is going to be better than the response I got. (And gals – maybe don’t use a text message to convey the news. This kind of thing really deserves an in-person interaction.)

The text I got back was one word: “Cool.” My bathroom mirror became a sounding board for just about every profanity in my repertoire. Cool? That’s all he can say? Seriously?! Luckily for him, my phone rang a few moments later after he had stepped out of the office and could unleash his excitement. We were both ecstatic, and in shock, and neither of us had a clue what that little purple line actually meant.

The next 40 weeks went by both fast and slow. Parts of it were a blur, while others seemed to drag on and on. As the end of the third trimester approached, we began reading up on labor, delivery, postpartum, breastfeeding, cloth diapering, anything and everything we could find related to having a baby. And while those moments of finding out I was pregnant will never be forgotten, it’s the last moments of my pregnancy that inspired this post.

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39 weeks pregnant. Using my belly as a table for my ice cream sundae lunch. Still not a parent.


Let me take you back to that Tuesday night in August of 2013. I had been to the doctor on Monday and even though my due date was that Wednesday, I was told baby wasn’t coming anytime soon. I was barely dilated and wasn’t feeling anything resembling a contraction. Adam asked to go to a friend’s house to watch baseball and hang out with the guys, his typical Tuesday evening at the time. I happily obliged, realizing this might be the last chance he would have to do that for a little while. So while he was eating jambalaya and drinking beer (more on this in a future post – I promise!), I was at home doing a load of laundry and relaxing by myself.

I went to bed a little before 10pm and Adam returned home not long after. He climbed into bed, reached over and grabbed my belly, and asked if the baby was going to come soon. I assured him it was not, and we both rolled over to go to sleep. About 10:30, he got up and went downstairs to get a glass of water and that’s when it happened. For the first time since I could remember, I peed the bed. I jumped up and ran to the hall bathroom and plopped down on the toilet (there was no grace in lowering myself to the seat at 40 weeks pregnant!). I looked down at a huge puddle of water on the floor between my legs and it hit me that my water had just broken. And just like that, Adam and I went from “being pregnant and planning for baby” to “oh crap this is really happening”. This is where the Cup-O-Noodles comparison come in – just like cooking noodles in a microwave, after the pregnancy part is over, you instantly become a parent. Just break the water and wait a few minutes (or in my case, 13 hours).

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Becoming a parent – just like Cup O’ Noodles, all you have to do is add water!


A final thought: After a long and grueling labor, none of the books and articles we read mattered. All the advice from well-meaning friends and family was pushed out of my mind. The only thing I cared about was that tiny, 7lb 15oz little boy with 10 fingers and 10 toes that was laying on my chest. In the following days, weeks, months, and years, my identity quickly and seamlessly became that of a parent. I didn’t have to practice or change myself to fill the role. There wasn’t a big “welcome to parenthood” celebration rivaling my college graduation, ushering me from being a woman and wife into the gigantic and life-changing role of being a mother. My husband quickly became the doting father, embracing his son without hesitation and vowing to give him the best childhood he can. We were parents. It happened so instantaneously that I didn’t even realize it and some days it still doesn’t seem real.

There is all kinds of advice about when to get pregnant, how to get pregnant, what to do while you’re pregnant, what child birth is like, what parenthood is like. But the piece that’s missing, what they don’t tell you, and what you wouldn’t understand even if they did is that in that moment, when the water breaks and things starts to get real in the delivery room, when you go from fantasizing about your unborn child to actually holding a tiny human in your arms…in that exact moment you ARE a parent. A mom. A dad. A family. And there’s no turning back.

And if someone could go ahead and get you a cup-o-noodles, that’d be great…because you’re most likely starving and that might be your last chance for a hot meal for the next 18 years.

First Family Photo

Our first family photo

How did you learn you were going to be a parent? And how did you tell your significant other the happy news? Leave your stories in the comments – I can’t wait to read them all!

Date-iversary

Today is mine and Adam’s 9 year date-iversary. Yes – we still celebrate the anniversary of our first date. Not because we are super-sappy, uber-lovey kind of people. But because, at least for me, it is the date on which I can look back and say “That. That is when you changed my life.”

Saturday, March 15, 2008, began as a typical morning. I woke up in the little farm house I was renting in Bolivar, MO and perused my closet for something to wear. I was working a double shift for maurices that day: half of the day at my store in Bolivar and half of the day at the store in Springfield. I needed to wear something comfortable and fashionable, but it also had to be green and a little sassy. I had a date that night and we were going to the St. Patrick’s Day pub crawl (at my request – I was one classy broad back then).

I settled on wide leg, pinstriped black pants and a green tank peeking out beneath a tight black tee, accented with a green bead necklace and black ballet flats.

I was unsure of what to expect when it came to my date. We had met 2 weeks prior at a birthday dinner for my friend Rachel, and he had contacted me and asked me out via MySpace – pause for reaction. Yes, my husband asked me out on MySpace. I logged into my account* the other day to see if I could find the messages, but they were no longer available. If they would have been there, you would have seen an awkward exchange about barking dogs, lack of sleep, and my love for pub crawls. We exchanged numbers and agreed that I would meet at his house before proceeding downtown.

(*turns out it still exists and yours probably does, too. The messages were gone, but the pictures, posts, and my Top 8 were still just as I had left them all those years ago)

After a grueling 15 hour work day, I walked up to his door and rang the doorbell. He invited me in and offered me a beer. Great start! (although I’m pretty sure he offered me a Miller Light which went against my strict Bud Light only beer palate back then) I sat down and instantly knew I wasn’t getting back up. My feet hurt so badly that there was no way I was going to be able to stand/dance/party all night at a pub crawl. Instead, we sat on his couch and tried to find something to watch on TV.

We started talking, looking through pictures from his time in Europe, and sharing stories from various aspects of our lives. We’d occasionally look up and decide we wanted to watch something else, so we’d change the channel. I distinctly remember watching part of The Gremlins movie and at least one episode of Full House. Before we knew it, it was 4am and we were still sitting on the couch completely enthralled in each other.

He offered to let me stay, rather than driving all the way back to Bolivar. I had disaster-date planned and had a bag packed to stay with a friend anyway, so I agreed. He left the room while I changed into PJs and crawled into bed. When he joined, he rolled over the other way and said “Good night.”

The sun glared into the room at 9am, and being a morning person, I was wide awake and ready to get the day started. There was just one problem. I was pinned against the wall with no way out of the bed without waking a guy I barely knew. I hadn’t asked whether or not he was a morning person, so I erred on the side of not and stayed put. He eventually woke up (at 11) and took me to lunch.

We both had things we needed to do that afternoon, but agreed to meet back up for dinner. After dinner, we feel right back into conversation on the couch and before we knew it, it was 2am. He again offered for me to stay, and I again accepted. This time, when he crawled into bed, he rolled towards me and kissed the back of my shoulder before saying “Good night.” He woke up first the next morning, having to get ready for work and be there by 8am. I didn’t have to be at the store until 1pm, so he let me sleep in and told me just to lock up when I left.

When I got up to use the restroom, I found a clean towel on the counter  with a note: “Good morning – I hope you have a great day” topped with a couple of purple grape hyacinth flowers tied together with a blade of grass. He sure was smooth! After spending almost 56 straight hours with this guy and waking up to that, I was hooked.

From that fateful first date forward, he has continued to woo me. He continues to surprise me. He continues to fight for me. He continues to make our relationship a priority. He likes me. He loves me. He tolerates me. He doesn’t stay up late watching TV with me anymore, but I think I’ll let him off the hook for that one.

Happy date-iversary, my love.

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The only life hack you’ll ever need

 

life-hack-aheadOne evening last October, I was frantically searching my kitchen for a pizza cutter when I had an epiphany. We’ll get to that later, but first let’s talk about why I was in such dire need of a pizza cutter that I literally opened every drawer and cabinet in my kitchen…twice.

You see, once a month I morph into a person we all love to hate. It happens about 24 hours before the day my kid is signed up to be snack leader at his preschool. I become a #PinterestMom. Apparently, my creativity has been stifled and only recently found an outlet – making toddler snacks. I plan my snack attack with diligence, spending days looking for the perfect idea – one that will be both healthy and fun to eat.
Of course, with Halloween 20161018_12092020161018_120941

approaching, there was no shortage of inspiration for this
snack. After hours of agonizing over my selection, I went with little hot dog mummies and banana ghosts. I set out to prep the mummies the evening before, so that B could help, and planned to bake them and make the ghosts the next day just before delivering them for snack time.

This is where my epiphany comes in. I had rolled out the dough and went to grab the pizza cutter to aide in making strips to use for the mummy wraps. It was one of those “life hacks” I had seen all over the internet and it seemed to be the only way to go about my task at hand. So you can imagine my frustration when I realized the utensil was nowhere to be found. When my husband suggested I just use a knife, I scoffed (and probably whined  little), then begrudgingly grabbed the bread knife from the drawer and began the tedious task of cutting strips of dough, all the while thinking to myself, “Man this would have been so much easier with the pizza cutter.”

That’s when it hit me. Well, not at that exact moment, but hours later when I was trying to fall asleep and replaying the events of the evening in my head. But it was that moment of the replay that made me stop and think. Why was I so frustrated by having to use a knife? Why did I care so much about using a “life hack” when I got the same results in the end? What is a life hack, anyway?

I made a mental note to write those thoughts down and come back to them. I knew there was more to that feeling, and I wanted to fully dive into it. The next day I wrote a quick couple of paragraphs as a starter post and vowed to finish it soon. It’s now March, so you can see how well that went.

I read back through my initial thoughts, then spent a few days thinking it over and finally came up with this. I am going to give you my Ultimate Life Hack. But before we get to that – let’s take a moment to review what exactly constitutes a life hack.

Webster’s Dictionary defines “life hack” as follows:
:  a usually simple and clever tip or technique for accomplishing some familiar task more easily and efficiently <“Life hacks,” as they are known, are all about eliminating life’s manifold frustrations in simple and deliciously clever ways. The best involve tricks that are free, efficient and stunningly obvious in retrospect, deploying household items (like the humble toilet roll) for purposes beyond their wildest aspirations.

Ok. With that in mind, continue reading for my epiphany-filled suggestion for how to make your life run more easily and efficiently. Here it is – are you ready for it? It’s really good. Brace yourself. And go…

Don’t.

Just don’t. Don’t hack your life.  I’m not saying not to use life hacks – after all, I have an entire Pinterest board devoted to them! Plus, I can’t tell you not to use life hacks and then give you a life hack to use – that would be hypocritical. But this one comes with a few stipulations.

  • Don’t let your life become so full of hacks that you forget to live and love and experience all that life has to offer. Nobody should waste 15 minutes of mummy-making time looking for a pizza cutter when you could be laughing and making memories with your son.
  • Don’t let the absence of a hack get in the way of enjoying what you are doing. (see above about wasting time – just grab the dang knife!)
  • Choose your hacks carefully – using one may come at the expense of something else. Just because the internet says you should use a straw to remove the stem of a strawberry doesn’t mean you have to (especially if you accidentally choose your son’s favorite straw).
  • Create your own hacks that work for your life. I, for one, will never be able to do all the fun hair-hacks I see, but I know that my phone’s camera zoom makes for an excellent magnifying glass when needed.

It’s not rocket science. It’s not really even all that original. But it is something that I needed to hear again and thought maybe you might, too. Life is precious. Time is short. Rather than searching the kitchen for a pizza cutter that was most likely thrown out inside a pizza box months ago, just grab a knife and get to making mummies with your kid.

What are some of your favorite life hacks? Or better yet, share your #LifeHackFails! My most favorite one is below – it is seriously life changing when it comes to baking cakes!

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Pushing buttons

Ever wish there was a remote control for life? The past 10 days, I’ve never wished for anything more. I’ve been on a roller coaster of emotions, from the high of spending a weekend with family to the low of my father’s death and just about every level of emotion in between.

If I had a life controller, here are the buttons I would use:

Record: Oh how I wish I could have recorded the laughter and stories from my Grammy’s 85th birthday party last weekend! With all my cousins and their families there, it was an afternoon that I would gladly watch on repeat for years to come.

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Queen for a day!

Rewind: I would give just about anything to rewind the clock and go back to the days when I spent my evenings curled up in my dad’s lap. Or to go back just a few days so I could tell him I love him one last time.

Mute: Every loss results in the “would have, should have, could have” thoughts from loved ones. An untimely one makes those thoughts even more loud. Even though I know it won’t bring him back, these things are drowning out any other thought in my head.

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Pause: Boy, this one would get used A LOT. In terms of last week, I put my Whole30 on pause. I could have stayed the course, but since I was staying with my sister and eating with family every night, I didn’t want to add any more stress or burdens to the situation. I’m back on the wagon this week and plan to keep it up until vacation.

Guide: Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just flip through the guide and pick what aspect of our lives we want to focus on right now? Change the channel when the one we’re on isn’t entertaining us anymore? Or use it to see what’s coming next? Lately my brain seems to be constantly channel surfing and I can’t control where it lands. I’m back at work, trying to get my house back in order, and mothering a toddler on the verge of his terrible two’s. The scattering of my brain is making these tasks almost impossible.

As the days go on, I’m sure the grief and sadness will subside, but I’m not sure I’ll ever stop wishing for these buttons. I don’t know that I would use them if they were available, but sometimes I think it would be nice.

I’m sure many of you have been through similar times in your life. What buttons would you use (or not)?