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).

cup-o-noodles

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!

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!

cake-life-hack

 

 

The 7th Grade Science of Parenting

One of the last things my OBGYN said to me before discharging me to embark on this glorious world of parenting was this:  “I like to call the first child the great American experiment.” Thanks, Dr. B.

But after 19+ months, I’ve realized he’s right. Here’s how it goes. You get all this advice from family, friends, doctors, and Google, then you have to figure out what is going to work for your family.

• You create a hypothesis.
• You test it.
• You evaluate the results.
• You adjust accordingly based on your conclusion.

And you thought you’d never use the scientific method in real life. 

I’ve been doing this cycle for longer than I want to admit, with a full night’s sleep as the goal. Lately, my observations led me to begin a trial during which we do not turn the tv on until after the nugget is in bed. And so far, it had been working pretty well.

Enter March Madness. If you know me, you know I really like MM. And my son has inherited this from me. The kid LOVES “backey ball”. So I had to make a decision.

Stick to my experiment and miss a couple of games.
OR
Give in and turn on the tube.

You can probably guess which option I chose by the mere fact that I’m writing this. We put the game on, and I proceeded to become a human basketball goal for my tiny tot for the next hour. When the tv would catch his eye, he’d turn around and snuggle into my lap to watch approximately 90 seconds before he would be back up and staring in his own game. Those moments of holding him and seeing how intently he was watching the game are moments I will cherish.

I realized I needed to savor that moment of happiness because I would probably need it in the middle of the night when he was crying and kicking Adam in the face. But the eternal optimist in me still hoped that maybe tv wasn’t the variable that was affecting his sleep. Maybe he’s just getting better at it. WRONG.

Maybe it is the tv being on. Or maybe it’s the stuffy nose. Or maybe there is zero correlation and it’s all dumb luck. But after last night, I just don’t have the energy to try and figure out if my experimental deviation was a failure or not.

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Bath time backey ball