Friday, March 29, 2013

Winter: We're Done.

Winter. We've gotta talk.

Like any uninvited guest, I wondered when you would finally leave. Sure that first snow fall was exciting and nothing rivals the starry nights of a crisp evening, but a 12.5 inch dump of snow on the first day of my spring break?  That's just cruel.

We were expecting to do a lot of this,

but ended up shoveling snow all weekend long.  While I might have gotten a good workout, I'd rather stick to aerobics thankyouverymuch.

Today was beautiful. Are you repenting of your capricious ways?  The kids and I definitely needed the walk.

So the next time you're feeling moody, just think of these kids.

Do you really want to disappoint them?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Dear Grocery Store Women:

#1: Dear woman at the grocery store who looked at my baby's bare feet and snidely said, "where are her socks?"

Yesterday was a tough day. After having all three of my kids wake up multiple times the previous night and then greet me very happily at 6 am, I was exhausted and barely hanging on.  My life as a stay-at-home parent is fraught with constant fights, endless messes, and incessant self-doubt. I am my harshest critic, especially in parenting. Instead of offering harsh advice, wouldn't a little kindness go further? And how did you know that I had socks to put on my baby? (I didn't, by the way, they had mysteriously disappeared over the week.)

I realize that maybe you were having a hard day and felt the need to look at me and my kids with judgment to make yourself feel better.  That's fine. I have those days, too.  But something that I am keenly aware of is how much we all struggle in life.  That woman who is carrying a coat-less child around during a snow storm, how do I know that her daughter didn't throw a series of tantrums while her mom tried getting her coat on?  Or that they even own a coat?  I don't. Instead of looking at her through my limited lens, I try to give the benefit of doubt.

#2: Dear woman at the grocery store who looked at me as I was wrangling my three kids in the check-out line and said, "you are doing awesome, keep it up!" -

Thank you.  I hope I treat everyone I meet with as much kindness as you showed me that day.


Two strangers who said vastly different things. While one led to a night full of parenting self-contempt with phrases like, "you worthless lump, how could you go out without putting socks on your baby's feet?" running through my head, the other led to a day in which I cried many tears of joy.  Finally, someone recognized how hard I work to keep calm while out with my kids.

It is my goal to be more like grocery store woman #2.  Rather than more parental judgment in this world, we need more support.

Which one are you?

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Power of Perspective

When discussing how certain things are really tough right now (like expensive car repairs) I said to Ben,

"Things may be tough, but at least we're not getting eaten by vampires." 

I call that PERSPECTIVE.

--personal status update, January of this year

(Yes, I'm totally quoting myself. Because, why not?)

I am not a big fan of current usage of the word, "perspective."  I think that it's often misused in an attempt to dampen their personal struggles. In a  "Oh you're going through depression?  Well why don't you get a little PERSPECTIVE and stop complaining?" kind of way.  In it's pure definition it's a concept I readily apply to my own life.

2b: the capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance 
(Merriam Webster online dictionary)

If I start to feel all blah and dreary about life, there are three things that always cheer me up.

When I'm feeling particularly crabby about laundry, or any other chore, or the massive piling therein, I just remind myself, at least we have a washer and dryer.

From the basement apartment that we inhabited when Ben and I were newlyweds to the big town home we first lived in when moving to Missouri, we always had a washer and dryer.  But last year, when we moved to St. Louis, we didn't.  For 1 year we struggled carrying 8-10 heavy bags of laundry up and down three flights of stairs to our little car, buckling all three kids in car seats, driving 20 min to a decent laundromat, and spending the next 4+ hours doing laundry.  Now that we have a washer and dryer again (and a dishwasher, BAM!), I do not abhor laundry like I used to.  Nothing rivals sitting in a tiny apartment with bags of dirty laundry and only one or two pairs of clean clothes for your kids hoping everyone can last until the weekend for laundry day.  Yep, I'll take my constantly growing pile of laundry in the basement to that any day.

When the weather threatens to upend my mental stability, I remember that, at least we have parks nearby.

Most of my parenting life, I've also been within reasonable walking distance to parks.  I remember spending hours just playing at parks when we lived in our tiny 2 bedroom apartment in Utah and loving it. When we moved to that awful place in St. Louis, the closest parks were all about a 10-15 min drive. There wasn't space near the apartment for the kids to play in and we were often stuck inside - especially while I was pregnant and when Baby A was just born - All. Day. Long.  Now that we live right next to a park and we have a nice, big, backyard, and are within walking distance of stores and other parks, I am blissfully happy.  The weather hasn't permitted much use of either the parks or the backyard, but they're there, and that's all that matters.

If all else fails, I just think, "hey, at least I'm not pregnant."  Enough said.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Truth of Three Kids

On my former blog (you can see the archives here) I once wrote about having three kids.  At the time I said something like, "it's easy in some ways - like the baby stage - and difficult in other ways - like parenting my older kids."  Now that I'm 7.5 months into the whole thing, I have a rather different perspective. This is what parenting three kids really looks like on a daily basis.

Scene I: Nap Time

All three kids are screaming for various reasons: the 4 year-old wants a different lunch; the 3 year-old wants to watch a fire truck show; the baby wants to be picked up and probably nursed. I grab the baby and attempt to reason with the 4 year-old regarding her lunch only to have her scream at me, throw various items, and run to her room.  The 3 year-old, in the meantime, is so tired he starts making random messes - pouring orange juice all over the table and floor, dumping cereal out into the pantry, emptying out the toy boxes - so I gently lead him into his room and put him on his bed.  I try to nurse the baby while reading a story to the 3 year-old only to have the 4 year-old, a little happier now, run in and start demanding different stories.  The 4 and 3 year-old soon start jumping on and off the bed, on and off me, and running around the room.  As I'm still nursing the baby I can only parent from afar and, by this point, I'm a bit beyond patient parenting. After several attempts to convince all the kids to just lay down and sing songs with me, I huddle in the corner with a dazed look on my face pretending I'm on a shady beach, book in hand, soaking up the sun rays.

Scene II: Post Nap Time Debacle

Since nap time probably didn't happen, thanks to the shenanigans mentioned above, I try a new method.

"Okay kids, go play in the back yard (weather permitting) or down stairs with your toys."

If I'm lucky, the baby is asleep and I fool myself into thinking I can get some homework done.  But, before being able to start on homework, I must take care of all the random liquids and foods spilling from various places in the kitchen (so I can work in the kitchen and keep tabs on all the kids).  Fifteen minutes in, the 3 year-old has tried to escape down the street multiple times, the 4 year-old has come in demanding a snack 79 times, and the baby has decided she's not tired anymore.  So, with a semi-messy kitchen and a pile of homework still to complete, I sit on the floor and contemplate the possibility of cloning another me.

Three kids means more of everything - more crying, more messes, more battles, more hugs, more kisses,  MORE.

Excuse me while I hide in a closet.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

To My Young(er) Self:

Having this baby (and others to come) will change your life in many good ways (complete adoration of another human being) and some not-so-good ways (crippling anxiety and depression).

Despite the massive amounts of information you consumed prior to birthing your daughter, you will have no idea what you are doing.  There are many wise people surrounding you who understand the difficulty of parenting, let them help you.

Sleep books will promise a lie - that they can train your baby to sleep through the night for life. Your baby will sleep, then not sleep, then really not sleep, then kind of sleep again, and finally sleep through the night, only to repeat the cycle when she teethes, gets sick, when you are in a different place or move, when another sibling arrives, and so on and so forth.   Her bedtime routine will change over and over again.  You will want to pull your hair out wondering what you are doing wrong.  But, you are doing nothing wrong.  As one very wise person once stated, all kids' phases - good and bad - pass.  Don't fret about it.

Go with the flow in parenting.  Let your kids be kids.  You will have a great time watching them develop motor skills, language, social skills, and many other things.  Learn to laugh rather than feel frustrated at the messes they create.  Messes are just a sign of children being children.  Be adventurous.  Be relaxed. As much as you can, enjoy this time with them.

If you don't enjoy the time with them, don't feel stressed about it.  Some things are not enjoyable - poop messes, tantrums, colic, etc.  That's okay.

You are doing great.  Even when you feel like a absolute failure.  Even when you stay awake at night analyzing everything you said and kicking yourself for doing/saying something wrong and curse yourself for bringing your children to such an imperfect mom - you are doing great.

Your children will love you.  They will forgive you.  They will learn with you.  You will teach them to be kind, compassionate, respectful children and they, in turn, will teach you patience, understanding, and how to love unconditionally.

As much as some things get easier, some things get more difficult.  Your children will go from being absolutely dependent on you, to screaming for their own independence.  They will have their own thoughts about everything and will make sure to express these to you at very inconvenient moments.

Sometimes you will cry.  Sometimes you will feel so frustrated that you have to either remove them from the situation or yourself so you can both regroup.  This is parenting.

Don't let outside observations or comments get to you.  Remember that even those who seem to have perfect and easy children still struggle with various things.  And don't take parenting books and websites too seriously.  Use pieces of advice that would suit you best and let everything else go.

Above all, let love guide you.  And drink copious amounts of caffeine.  You'll need it.