Category: parenting (page 1 of 4)

Nashville Day Two: Maybe we should have quit while we were ahead?

Oh, Day Two. You had to make it difficult didn’t you?

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So maybe I didn’t check to see if the observatory was open on Mondays and we just headed there. That one is my fault. It’s the risk of that whole spontaneity thing I was talking about yesterday. But we found a quaint (albeit slightly boring) Agricultural Museum to visit. There were lots of opportunities for cool pics though so that’s always a win!

We also took a brief tour of Nashville thrift stores and scored an awesome and appropriately creepy Madonna & Child porcelain bust to add to my collection.

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The real trouble came later on when one of the kids got what seems to be a stomach bug. But, hey, at least they waited until we got to a restaurant to throw up. And now I don’t have to worry about checking “Clean up my kid’s puke from all over the bathroom stall of a Tex-Mex restaurant” off my bucket list. Hooray for that. (In related news, the restaurant did not have a spray bottle of disinfectant to give me to clean up the massive vomit storm and suggested I just wipe it up  with a towel. And THAT, my friends, is why you always hover over a public toilet seat! ?)

The above mentioned bathroom adventure meant that we needed to pay a visit to the in-hotel laundry. Which was fine except someone left a package of kids menu crayons in a pocket and, well, now ALLLLL of our clothes have been adorned in a crayoned Ombré effect. Ahhhh, adventures.

Tomorrow we head out to the Adventure science museum and The Dyer Observatory (assuming no one else falls victim to the mystery puking virus) and our bar is set pretty low for a successful Day Three…

A slow steady beat.

Life has been busy and good and hard and crazy and boring all at the same time. I think that is what is means to be a mom. Or maybe just what it means to be a human.

Either way, when I sit down to blog it seems like I have nothing to report and everything to report. My life is so busy in the seemingly mundane stuff (homeschool, cook, clean, appointments, repeat) and none of it feels very blog-worthy or exciting. And most days I’m dead tired by 8pm (though not tired enough to go to sleep until 2 am) and I get right up the next day and go about my business and focus on getting through the week.

But, as is typical every New Year, I feel myself being a bit introspective and evaluating what has worked and what hasn’t throughout our last trip around the sun. We’ve successfully sustained 5 kids for the last year so Yay to us for that. And we’ve paid the bills and had some creative time and fostered new friendships.  Our word for 2016 was CREATE. Our family chose that word together so we could focus on creating community, friendships, art, handcrafted goods, opportunities, new skill sets, and whatever else we felt lead to create. It was a good word. It was a good(ish) year. It could stand to be improved upon and I think 2017 is just the year to do it.

I don’t like New Year’s resolutions (or revolutions as Traveler calls them) but I do have some goals for this year. I’m feeling like CHANGE is the word for 2017. Some of the change will be self-directed (healthy lifestyle changes, creating emotional margin) and some will just be inevitable (moving to a new home and all that goes along with that).

One of my big goals is to get out of the “let’s just survive the moment” mentality that I get stuck in. I’m not gonna lie, 75% of my life is chaos that I am just trying to manage. I’m talking about kids, animals, therapies, doctors appointments, fingers stuck in car doors, spilling fake Halloween blood all over the leather seats in my new van kind of chaos. You know, standard stuff. And I just want to survive most days. But I get this sense that by forgetting to be present I am missing out on the really good stuff. The snuggling on the couch at 3:30 in the afternoon just because we can and the siblings making special breakfasts for each other because they’ve been spending their TV time binge watching Master Chef Jr. Those things are ordinary and quiet and good and special.  My biggest struggle is that in my rush to move forward I forget to keep still and see them.

I’m changing that this year. I’m going to change my habit of survival mode mentality. I’m going to be present and love the little things. I’m going to look for them. And I’m going to take a page out of my friend Katie’s book over at Mama The Reader and create a gratitude jar. A place to collect those moments to cherish for later.  A place to collect the good for our whole family. And a place to teach my kids to start looking for those moments early on in life.

We’re on the move a lot in the Loving family and we could stand to keep still for a bit. Ironically, in this year of change with a literal move looming in the Summer months I am vowing to keep a slow steady beat going in the pulse of our family. I am choosing to work toward a slower and happier pace in those moments when it really matters. This season of life is moving at a break-neck speed and I can’t do much about that. But I can work to cherish where it matters. And that is going to be my change for 2017.

 

(Also, this post started out as a simple photo dump of some of the moments from the last few months but then apparently my brain needed to unload as well. Here’s some random moments from the holidays that have been simple but also kind of lovely.)

Delaware trip and visit to DuPont.

Delaware trip and visit to DuPont.

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Visiting an Amish farmhouse in Lancaster.

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My Christmas Eve helper crashed out at the wrapping paper station.

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Lobster from Maine for Christmas dinner.

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“MINE!” (A.K.A. The perfect picture of what it means to live with a two-year-old.)

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Christmas card pic…didn’t get one? That’s because only half of them actually made it into the mail. Oops.

Lazy Potty Training: The sequel

Remember a few years ago when I told you how I potty trained Ivy? Basically, I was lazy and let her decide when to be potty trained. Well, for some reason, I didn’t learn my lesson there. Because about the time Traveler was approaching 3 I decided he needed to be potty trained. Not because I really cared whether or not he was, but more because kids are supposed to be potty trained at 3, right? And lots of other people I knew were potty training. So, I did it because I thought I was supposed to. And it didn’t go well – as in pee puddles in the dairy aisle of Trader Joe’s. So I gave up. Mostly because he was so not interested. He cried every time I even put him near the potty. He hated it. It was miserable for everyone.

That’s about the point where I told my husband that Traveler was going to have to beg me to let him wear underwear because unless he really wanted it I was not potty training any time soon. Fast forward to last Monday. Traveler wakes up and asks to wear underwear. My first thought was, “Really? Seriously? Please please please no!” But I put it on him. And he didn’t have an accident all day long. Not the whole week. As of today, he has had one accident and it wasn’t even a terrible traumatic one. And he’s wearing underwear all the time. No pain. No tears. Not even much bribing. It has been a piece of cake.

Which leads me to my point. (You were wondering when I was going to get there, right?) The number one parenting stress in my life comes from worrying about what my kids are “supposed” to be doing versus what they need to be doing or what they’re ready to do. When I step back, stop comparing, and think about my kids as the individuals that they are everything works so much more smoothly.

You would have thought I would have learned this lesson when I was stressing over the fact that Traveler wouldn’t go to sleep on his own in his bed when he was 2.5. I thought he would always be falling asleep on the couch snuggled up in my lap. Because, after all, kids are supposed to go to sleep on their own by 6 months, right? I mean, let’s forget that it was infinitely easier and happier for both of us if he laid down beside me on the sofa at bedtime and fell asleep all snuggled up. And let’s forget that I enjoyed babying him just a little. If you read too many parenting books you’d believe he would never be able to sleep on his own. He’d be ruined for life. But, one day he climbed into his bed and announced that he wanted to go to sleep in there. And for the last 7 months he has gone to sleep in his bed with no problems. So apparently I didn’t ruin him for life. Yet.

My litmus test has always been (and continues to be) to ask myself whether I truly see him going to college engaging in the same behavior I am worried about. That was true for breastfeeding. And diapers. And sleep training. All of it. Letting my kids do things on their time and not some random prescribed plan enforced by mainstream parenting “experts” has always served me well. I guess one of these days I’ll start to remember that before freaking out…

They say it takes a village, right? (a.k.a. parenting advice needed!)

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I used to think that at some point you just got the hang of parenting and it ceased to be so much of a challenge. I just assumed that when it came to the little things it was all pretty standard and there was a one size fits all solution. I’m pretty sure the last time I thought that I was pregnant with my firstborn because I KNOW that I couldn’t have thought that after actually having kids. The thing about kids that you may not realize before you actually have some of your own is, they’re human beings. Unique, individual, different, challenging human beings. So you never really get the hang of it anymore than you can get the hang of dealing with the rest of humanity.

Case in point, my Juniper. You have never met a sweeter, more lovable girl. She is so easy to snuggle and she loves nothing more than to be in your arms. She’s laid back and happy. Unless, that is, you take away the one thing she loves the most in this world. Her mom. Or, perhaps more accurately, her mom’s boobs. She is a breastfeeding fiend. It was rough for a while because the child has never taken a bottle a day in her life. Not when I spent two whole days pumping enough milk so I could go on a date (I’m miserable at pumping). Not when I made Dr. Sears’ goat milk formula for her. Not when I broke down and tried regular formula. Or whole milk. NEVER.

But we muddled through that time because (and this is my M.O. for getting through tough parenting seasons) I knew it couldn’t possibly last forever. And I was right because she will now happily take a sippy cup. With watered down juice. Not milk in any way shape or form. Juice only. But, and correct me here if I’m wrong, I’m thinking when babies turn one they need whole milk, right? Or is that one of those mainstream parenting myths? Because I’m not quite sure what to do since she won’t drink milk or water on its own.

She still nurses on demand so I guess she’s getting most of what she needs that way but I can’t let go of the thought that she needs to be transitioning to some other kind of milk at some point. Unless I want her to breastfeed until she is five. And despite all my hippie dippy leanings, I do not feel like nursing her until she starts kindergarten. So, tell me, oh crunchy granola mothers of the internet world, does my baby need to transition to milk (breast, whole, almond, coconut, etc) in a sippy cup or is she okay to be nursing on demand and drinking a bit of super watered down juice in a sippy? I’ve truly never had a kid refuse to drink from anything other than, well, me. : )

Things I’ve learned this week. (And it’s only Monday.)

1. “Shark Teeth” is the word for when your child grows permanent teeth behind their baby teeth without losing the aforementioned baby teeth. “Freaked” is the word to describe my reaction to seeing two sets of teeth growing in the exact same place in my 5-year-old’s mouth.

2. Hobby Lobby will not make you pay (no matter how much you insist) for the $6.99 decorative plaster ball that gets chucked violently across the store and decimated by your 2-year-old in his fit of rage at the indignity of being forced to ride in a shopping cart. Thank you, Hobby Lobby. You have earned a customer for life.

3. A bank-wide computer glitch can prevent all bank customers from accessing any money for an entire day and in those instances there is nothing at all that can be done to get your money while the computers hold it hostage. Scary but true. The moral of the story? People who hide cash in their mattresses or floor boards might not be as crazy as I thought.

4. When you’re at your son’s first dentist appointment and he has an epically dirty diaper just moments before getting in the chair and you realize you came to the dentist with diapers but no wipes it is good to know that Trader Joe’s Oatmeal Make-up Remover wipes also work on the other end of the human body.

It’s been a busy day around here. Can’t wait to see what I get to learn with the rest of my week…

Happy Days.

So much has happened in the last 3 weeks. So much. New baby. Easter. Birthdays. And lots and lots of life. I’ve been meaning to post pics and an update for a while. But I’ve been busy.

Let me just say that being home alone during the day with 4 kids has been both wonderful and exhausting. I’ve never felt more outnumbered than I do lately but at the same time I’ve never felt more like I am exactly where I am supposed to be. Despite my struggles with postpartum depression after each pregnancy, there is also a part of me that feels more alive right after bringing a new baby into the house than ever before in my life. That is certainly true now. I’m tired. I’ve been sore from recovery. The kids are wild. Coordinating naps and schoolwork has been a nightmare. Traveler has been whiny and jealous and needs constant holding. But despite all of the challenges there is something about all of this that feels so right. It just feels natural for us.

There are moments when Thomas and I look at each other and think, “Hey, we might actually be able to pull this off. We may actually be able to do this whole ‘parenting a big family’ thing.” There are other days, too. But, I prefer to focus on the ones where we are victorious. No matter how small those victories may seem.

And I know I’ve said this before, but I hope we’re not done with new babies. Because these moments? They are blissful. But even more blissful are those days when the kids are playing together or laughing at the dinner table or running through the backyard like wild savages and screaming gleefully. The days of a full are house are so joyful to me.

When I tell people I’d like to have one more I mostly get looked at like I’ve lost my mind. Maybe I have. But, I tend to believe that sanity is overrated really. Because this? This craziness? This is where I want to be. Even when I’m fairly certain the inmates are running the asylum. It’s where I belong.

Our family has become such a team lately. Everyone has a part to play. Everyone has a job. And each person is so important. So essential. And I feel like a grown-up. But in a good way. Not a “hey you need eye cream and to color your gray hair” kind of way. Though I probably do need to invest in a good under eye cream and I definitely found a wiry white hair buried on my head the other day. I feel like I’m coming into my own, I guess. It’s taken me almost 32 years to feel like I know who I am (or at least who I am becoming) and it feels good to be in a place where I feel true to myself. I realize my job as a mother is to teach my kids about life, the universe, and everything but in reality they are the teachers so much of the time. I’ve learned who I am by being their mother. I’ve learned a lot about my strengths and even more about my weaknesses. And I’ve learned that being human and admitting to my faults and failures doesn’t make me less of a mother. It makes me a better mother.

Most of all, I feel a very holy sense of responsibility for the lives in my care. I think most parents would tell you that whether you have one child at home or ten, being a parent is such a sacred thing. It is filled with mystery and wonder and love and frustration and challenge and ease and it is a hundred feelings rolled up into one package. And the love is overwhelming. And the love is what keeps you going. Even on days when you feel depleted to your core.

I think that’s where I’m resting right now. When I’m tired, when I’m frustrated, when I’m questioning whether I can do all of this well, I am remembering how much I love these little people in my care. And when things get crazy that love is enough to make every wild moment worth it.

That and being able to capture pictures like these for future blackmailing…

Rocking.

Tonight I am rocking my baby to sleep. And, yes, he’s nearly two years old. I know conventional wisdom says  I should have him “sleep trained” by now. I know he should be on  a schedule or able to put himself to sleep. And really I know he can do these things. Some nights (though not most) he does. But, most nights find me sitting on the floor beside his bed and rocking or snuggling him to sleep.

I do it for him. I do it for me.

And tonight as I’m rocking him I can’t help but breathe in the smell of him. My baby who’s becoming all boy more and more each day. My baby who, today, smells like sunshine and the backyard with the faintest hint of strawberry lollipop lingering on his cheeks. In the crook of his neck, I smell his daddy. My baby, who wants to be a big boy like his dad, insists on taking showers every morning. Showers with Old Spice body wash. And so, at two years old, he smells like a baby and like a little man. Its a smell I wish I could bottle up and keep forever. A smell I’ll find myself wishing I could wrap around me like a blanket in 20 years when he is off becoming a man in this scary world or climbing to the top of some mountain in pursuit of the desires of his wild heart.

Motherhood brings with it a host of smells you spend your days trying to forget. It’s the ultimate dirty job. But not this smell. Not the warm soft scent of my baby’s sweet head. He smells like all the things he loves. And a bit like the people who love him.

Rocking such a big and strong toddler to sleep is wearing me out. He is heavy and perched high upon my chest. He is anchored like a stone upon the belly that is swollen with the presence of his sister who will be born in just a few short weeks. It is exhausting to rock him like this. And yet I can’t force him back into his bed while he is so willing to be held and snuggled. I know in less than 3 months I’ll have an even smaller baby who will depend on me completely and just considering how much I’ll have to balance is a daunting thought. My body is tired and sore from pregnancy. It will likely never be quite the same again. Motherhood brings with it a myriad of exhaustive aches. But none more welcome than the ache of a heart that is filled to bursting with love for her child. And none more surprising than the feeling of one’s heart being so full of love that you cannot imagine it being able to hold any more love than it currently does and then finding, joyfully, how far it can stretch to love another.

No, I will not quit rocking my baby boy to sleep. I will hold him in my lap as long as he wants. Because before I know it there will come a day when my lap will be empty of the weight of a sleeping child. My arms will ache to be filled again with the feeling of such a simple and pure trust as a baby has for a mother. And in those days I know I’ll not regret these moments spent lingering with my baby. I’ll not regret spoiling him for a few months more before he grows too independent to need my arms to rock him.

And in a life filled with more regret than one ever means to have, I will cherish the moments that I know I savored to their fullest.

Some days it is so hard to be a good mom.

One of my most important goals in life is to be a good mom to my kids. I want them to know they are loved. Loved by me. Loved by their dad. Loved by their Heavenly Father. And I want them to know that having them was one the most wonderful and defining decisions of my life. I want them to never doubt how much they mean to me.

But I have these days every once in a while where I do a terrible job of conveying this to them. Days like today. Days where I am jarred out of sleep at 6:30 by my 6-year-old and 4-year-old climbing on me and fighting over who’s turn it is to play with the ocean puzzle first this morning. Days where my 18-month-old screams at his bedroom gate because he’s desperate to get out of his room and into the cat food, litter box, toilet, or undersink storage of household cleaners. Days when everything seems so exhausting.

On these days I want to be patient and kind and long-suffering like all the moms in my Ladie’s Bible study seem to be. Instead I am short-tempered and surly and quick to anger like a slightly more maternal version of the Incredible Hulk. It feels like I spend the whole day failing.

This morning was a rough one. Trav is still recovering from coxsackie or Primary Herpes or whatever it is that ended up making him a total mess for the last week. He’s still grumpy and clingy and needy. And I would be too if I’d spent the last week with bleeding mouth sores and a runny nose. My heart aches for him. And Kai is going through this phase where she’s convinced that I may turn into a mean button eyed mom (NEVER let a sensitive 6-year-old watch Coraline) and so she runs to check on me every 5 minutes to make sure my eyes have not turned to buttons. And Ivy…well, actually, Ivy is still sweet easy-going Ivy. Unless she and Kai get into an argument. At which point she turns into Brad Pitt in Fight Club and is suddenly a vicious scrappy little thing. And that happens at least once a day. Plus I’m pregnant. And still sick at 15 weeks which is just cruel. And it occurred to me this morning that I am going to be pregnant for another 5 months. Then nursing for another 18. And that is 2 years before my body will even remotely be my own again. Though, let’s be realistic here, my body may never be my own again. And, Lord, how that does wear me out.

And really? How selfish am I? Because I am blessed to have three beautiful, wonderful, engaging children. I am blessed to be able to get pregnant with more children. I am blessed to have a husband who loves and provides for us. And I am whining like it is the end of the world because there are days when things just don’t go my way?

I read a Christian blogger once who said she never wanted her girls to know how hard it was for her to be a mom some days. She said she always wanted them to think it was effortless on her behalf. I think this is unfair to her kids. Do I think kids should think their moms have to work to love them? No. Do I think it is okay for them to know that some days are harder than others and that I love them and care for them even when it is hard because they are worth it? Yes. I do. Maybe that I’m wrong for that. I want them to know that when they are parents it won’t always be easy. I want them to know that it will always be worth it. I want them to know that there were days when I had to fight against my selfish flesh and that on those days I did so because they were more important to me than anything.

That’s why on days like today when everything settles down and they day seems a bit less manic we sit down on the couch and talk about mommy’s bad mood. I apologize to them. (I think it is important to apologize to your kids when you’re wrong.) And I tell them that some days I have to work to be unselfish just like I expect them to work to unselfish when they don’t feel like sharing. I tell them that God loves me even when I’m wrong just like He loves them even when they’re wrong. And I make a batch of cookies and watch cartoons with them on the couch. (And, don’t let me fool you. They’re totally break & bake. I’m no Donna Reed, y’all.)

I’m counting on the fact that cookies and snuggles can repair these little mistakes I make every once in a while. I’m counting on God to let me rest in Him and parent better each day. And I’m totally counting on the fact that one of my kids will grow up and buy me a beach house as a thank you for all the snotty noses I wiped and fights I refereed on a daily basis. I’m kidding. That’s asking a lot, I know. I’ll take two out of three. (As long as one of them is the beach house.)

When did it get to be August? (alternately titled: Things I’ve been doing instead of blogging.)

Wow. It’s been like 3 weeks since my last post. How did that even happen?

Being unplugged for this long has been pretty darn nice. No self-imposed pressure to publish posts. No kids begging me to close up my computer. And, aside from the occasional moment of guilt over neglecting my blog, I’ve been quite relaxed.

But, no blogging means I didn’t get to tell you all about my recent crazy trip to Wendy’s where the manager told me it was normal for my milkshake to taste like “sour vomit” (True Story. And I’m publishing it tomorrow. I promise.) and I also didn’t get to relate the traumatic tale of the first time Kai accidentally walked into our bedroom without knocking after her dad had gotten out of the shower and hadn’t grabbed his towel yet. (My eyes! My eyes!) That was funny stuff.

Lest you think I’ve spent the last 3 weeks eating bonbons on the couch I’ll let you know what I’ve been up to. It’s been a productive few weeks. While I wasn’t blogging I was:

– getting Kai ready to start 1st grade in a few weeks and figuring out our preschool curriculum plans for Ivy.

– watching lots of cartoons on the couch with two cuddly little girls while their little brother napped.

– sewing 3 adorable little girl dresses and several baby gifts for friends who are adding little ones to their families.

– learning to crochet.

– making 27 pints of freezer pickles and bagging & freezing 20 quarts of Zucchini.

– planting okra & squash and getting really excited about what we’re planting in our fall/winter garden.

– adding bunnies to the homestead as pets and poop machines for our compost bins.

– eating bonbons and watching soap operas. (Not really! Just checking to see if you were still reading. Where do people even get bonbons BTW?)

So, that’s it. I guess the short answer to what I’ve been doing while I wasn’t blogging is simple. I’ve been enjoying life with my kids. Not too shabby, I’d say…

To wean or not to wean? Top Ten Questions about how this process works…

Considering the fact that Traveler is the first of my three kids that I have successfully managed to breastfeed, I never thought I’d be in the position of nursing my 14-month-old. I’m betting that hearing that I’m nursing my toddler has you all now divided into two groups. Based on people’s reactions in real life there seems to be the “Good for you!” group and the “Ewwww!” group. It’s funny how divisive breastfeeding can be.

My plan was always to go with the child led weaning route. I guess I just figured he’d be leading us down the path of weaning by now. I’m kind of ready to wean. Traveler on the other hand? Not so much. So, here’s my question to all you nursing moms out there. How does this work?

1. Will he ever actually be ready to wean on his own?

2. Do some babies just need a push in the direction of weaning or am I just trying to rush him before he is ready?

3. How long does the weaning process generally take?

4. Is “Don’t Offer, Don’t Refuse” the best approach to take? I’ve not been offering but he asks an awful lot so not refusing doesn’t seem to have reduced the frequency of nursing sessions yet.

5. If I let him keep nursing until he’s ready to give it up how do I handle his insistent bra unfastening in public? When he wants to nurse and we’re in a public place he practically climbs inside my shirt. Any tips for keeping a very strong willed toddler out of there?

6. Because he eats regular food and drinks from sippy cups whenever he wants I’m thinking at this point he is mostly nursing for comfort. So, will it send him into therapy in adulthood if I try to force him to taper things off?

7. The biggest challenge seems to be that he cannot go to sleep without nursing. Even if he’s had a bottle and is totally full he HAS to nurse in order to fall asleep most nights. How and what do I replace this bedtime ritual with?

8. In the meantime, how do I handle the snotty comments from people who think I’m doing some sort of freakish psychological damage by continuing to nurse?

9. Should I just back-off and wait it out? Or should this weaning process be an active one with me trying to convince him it is time to be done?

10. How did you successfully wean your little one?

Got an answer to one (or more!) of the questions? I’d LOVE your advice. You’d think a mom of three would know more about this, but I’ve just never crossed this particular bridge before…

For more Top Ten Tuesday, head over to Oh Amanda’s!

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