No More Sunsets

A friend of mine was (half) joking with me recently and said that I take too many pictures of my kids. This friend also doesn’t have any children. She is an amazing photographer. She has snapped pictures that I would gladly have hanging in my home. She is always capturing really interesting subjects; a sky blue door next to radiant red flowers in a flower-box, an old rusty sign with the sunlight hitting it just right, a yellow leaf fallen onto still green grass. I mean, I do see these things and think they’re beautiful, but I never think to snap pictures of them. I think it has to do with that “new eyes” thing I spoke about before. When you become a mom, you change on a molecular level. It changes the way you see, hear, feel and yes, even smell at times.

When she made this comment, I wanted to respond but I didn’t know exactly how to explain it. So I just told her, “When you have kids, you won’t see the sunset as vividly. You’ll see your kid’s silhouette dancing in front of it.”

A bright, beautiful boy holding a pumpkin. Maybe not as artsy, but much more picture-worthy to me.
Some beautiful, bright pumpkins.


Round Two: The Food Saga Continues

Tonight I made mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli, apple slices and Easy Chicken Nuggets. The woman who wrote the recipe promised these things would be similar to, but even better than the restaurant chicken nuggets. I have to say they looked like the real deal and because I made them myself, there were no creepy white or purple stringy things in them. My husband said they were awesome.

Both boys refused to eat anything but the apple slices initially. Luke pouted and pushed his plate away and Noah went into negotiator mode. But despite his best attempts, I did not give in.

“But Mom, I want new food.”

“This is new food, Noah.”

“No, Mom. I want oatmeal and raisins.”

“No, Noah. I am not making another dinner for anyone tonight. You may eat this or nothing.”

“But, Mom I am starving.”

“Good! So eat this dinner and you won’t be starving.”

“No, Mom. I am not starving for this food.”

“Then you must not be starving.”

You get the idea. Circles for hours. Luke had a melt down. He cried and shrieked wrapping himself around my leg begging me for other food while I nursed Gracie. I had to hide my face to keep from laughing at first but then his hysterics started to get to me and I felt terrible for not giving in. Still, I stayed outwardly strong. Scott didn’t get home until almost 8:00. Thankfully, his mom was over and helped me deal with Grace so that I could focus on cleaning up the kitchen and keeping them out of the fridge and pantry again (Thanks so much, Alison. You are a blessing). I was smarter this time and put their snack foods on the highest shelves so they couldn’t get to them.

At about 6:45, Luke caved asking for the chicken. I reheated two of the chicken nuggets. He stared at them again and pushed them away. I dipped the smallest one in ketchup and said, “One little bite, Lukey? Just try it.”

He opened his lips fractionally and I gently pushed it in. He chewed and a very small smile crept across his face. “Good?” I asked quietly. He nodded still smiling and leaned his head on my arm. I gave him another. And another and another and soon there were only two little pieces left. I wanted to cry tears of joy. He ate them. He liked them. I don’t care that it was meat. It was real food that I had prepared. It was a battle and I’d won. I let him have some grapes as a reward. Still no special treat. That would have required him clearing his plate. But I’ll still take it!

Noah went to bed without dinner. Maybe next time…

I cannot tell you how exhausting it is; how difficult it is, to stay strong and not give in to their crying. Consequently, it makes my heart break for parents who can’t afford to feed their children every day. It makes me determined to raise kids who appreciate what they have and not feel entitled to anything; not even their chicken nuggets. Lately, I have become very aware of the repercussions of giving in to your kids all the time. You create little monsters who think they are above the rules. They won’t respect you on many levels, not just dinner.

Though I am fairly certain I have pulled a muscle in my brain tonight by enforcing my new dinner expectations, I am glad I am doing it now rather than waiting for a bigger issue when it is far too late.

Tough Gnocchi

I was in the kitchen on Wednesday night scrambling an egg, trying not to burn a piece of toast, rocking the baby with one foot in her rock and play cradle, telling Noah to stop being mean to his brother, and keeping an eye on a grilled cheese frying in a pan next to the egg. Suddenly, I could see myself as a spectator and I was laughing at myself. “What the hell are you doing, you silly, crazy woman? These kids have got you wrapped around their fingers!”

I was so angry at myself because this is pretty much my life every single night. And I get mad at my husband for having to work late and not being there to help me. But in this moment, I realized I am doing nothing to help the situation. I slid the kids their plates and waited for my dinner; the crusts of Noah’s grilled cheese and the bits of egg that Luke doesn’t eat. Ugh. Really?? When did I become this push-over? How do I stop? I hardly slept Wednesday night.

The next day, I went to pick up the boys at school. The teacher’s aid had been in charge of the classroom that morning and pulled me aside.

“We’re having a bit of an issue with Noah,” she said. “He’s…well, he’s a bit of a boss.”

“Tell me about it!” I said rolling my eyes. “We’re working on it.”

“Well, I know he’s a great kid,” she patted my arm. “He wasn’t like this at all last year. But I think since it’s his second year and he has his younger brother in the class he thinks he is in charge of him and a lot of the other first year students. We have this issue with a lot of second year preschoolers, so don’t beat yourself up. But I am concerned because he is being quite mean to his brother.”

I could picture exactly what was happening. I see it every day at home. Noah bossing his brother, our next door neighbors’ kids and even me. This isn’t exactly news to me. I’ve just always chalked it up to him being a strong-willed kid. But I also see Luke going along with it and I am always worried that because of his more passive demeanor it could be damaging to him.

On my drive home, I had a talk with Noah about being kind and being a good leader, not a boss. But I could tell he wasn’t really listening. He was distracted by the Lego car he’d taken to school which I had told him not to. I was noticing a trend. Noah thinks that the rules don’t apply to him. Not just in school, but in everything. And I have allowed him to be this way.

No more. I have to stop him now or we will have so many more problems later down the road.

1. I called his teacher that night and we agreed it would be beneficial to Luke to have a day without Noah at school each week. So now, Noah will be going to school Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Luke will go Tuesday and Thursday. Luke will be able to work and learn away from Noah and Noah will be with more second year preschool kids who will not tolerate his bossiness.

2. I bought a large dry-erase calender board and called it “The Happy Choices Chart.” For each day that Noah gets a good report at school from his teacher about being kind to the other kids, he will get a smiley face. If he chooses to be a boss and a bully, he will get a frown. If we have a whole month of happy faces, we will take him to his favorite restaurant, Applebee’s. He agreed to the plan. I have also told his teacher that I need some sort of a verbal report each day as to how he has done.

3. Noah also understands that the same rules apply at home. He needs to be kind to all of us at home and listen better. We will also give him a smiley face for the days he’s not at school.

4. This one is more on me. I need to be better about enforcing not only a dinner time, but requiring that the kids eat what I make for dinner. This one is really tough for me. It is such a huge commitment to make a real dinner almost every single night. But I need to do it and I have to be strong because Scott will probably not be home to help me with the kids while I make dinner and he probably won’t even be home in time for us to eat as a family. Because he’s in finance, he works late a lot this time of year all the way through April 15 of the following year. But no excuses. I need to do this for my kids.

So last night, I made skillet gnocchi, a salad, garlic toast, and had a bowl of grapes. It was quite an ordeal to get it all ready and also to keep the boys from literally climbing like monkeys into the pantry and fridge trying to get their usual dinner items. But I did it. I kept calmly telling them that they would be eating what Mom and Dad were eating tonight and if they chose not to eat that, they’d get no other food. They were terrified. Noah broke down crying more than once.

Scott actually surprised me and came home at 5:30 instead of going to the gym after work. I had told him about my plan and he was very supportive of helping me on the first night of its execution.

“Boys, I want you to help me by setting the table,” I announced.

“Do what?” Noah asked. I showed them how to set a place at the table and handed them the forks and spoons and glasses to set out. Then they (sort of) helped me set the table. There were four spoons in the salad bowl and napkins on each chair, but that’s alright! The effort was there. Scott sat down at the table holding Grace on his lap and I brought the food over. We said a quick blessing and Scott made his plate.

“Looks great, babe!” he said. I put a little of each item onto the kids’ plates. Luke recoiled as if I had put a spoonful of snot on his plate.

“I don’t wike it!” he said.

“That hurts my heart, Luke. Please say, ‘Mom, I’m not used to this.” I corrected him.

“I’m not used to this,” he muttered.

“Me neither!” Noah yelled crossing his arms.

“That’s okay,” I said calmly. “We will get used to things by trying them.” They quickly ate their grapes. Noah dipped the cucumbers from the salad into ranch and gobbled them up. He also apprehensively nibbled his garlic toast, then to his surprise ended up loving it and wanting more. He wouldn’t touch the gnocchi.

“Everything’s really good, honey. Thank you,” Scott smiled at me from across the table. He could tell I was feeling very anxious about this meal. “I’ll do the dishes,” he added.

“Thank you,” I smiled.

Luke wanted more grapes. He refused to eat anything else. But he did get hungry later in the evening and agreed to try the gnocchi. I reheated it for him. It got to his lips and he started crying. Noah also was asking for a snack before bed but was denied. I was so worried sending them to bed hungry. Especially Luke. He’s so thin already. But they slept through to morning and ate a great breakfast.

It wasn’t really a win, but I feel like it was a solid step in the right direction.




Over Facebook

I am experiencing a certain type of euphoria today. Colors are brighter. Sounds are sharper. Flavors are more intense. I am free from Facebook. Allelulia!

This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while, actually. It also makes me more excited about the prospect of blogging. Here I can take my time with my words and say what I want to say. And if you’re interested, you’ll read it. If not, that’s okay too! I am not spending any of my day scrolling through my newsfeed looking at old high school friends’ home renovations or envying photos of a former co-worker’s three-week vacation to Europe.

Maybe I will get to clean my bathrooms today. Or maybe not. But I know one thing, I won’t be spending any spare time on facebook! I’m living my own life and feeling far less pressure to be documenting my experiences to share with 200+ people, of which only a dozen or so probably care. That might even be over-shooting it.

My very wise cousin Angela once told me, if something isn’t adding meaning to your life, you probably don’t need it in your life. I will miss seeing pictures of all of my friends’ and their kids, but hey maybe we can actually try getting together one of these days! It’s so strange to me that we live in a time where we can know so much about people without ever actually seeing them.

Tell you what, I will put on a kettle of tea and make a loaf of chocolate chip banana bread and you give me a date and time and we can actually talk, face-to-face, about our lives while our kids scream around the house making real memories. And don’t worry Grammie Ellie, I know we live far and it’s not easy for you to get here, but I promise I will email you pictures of the kids.

I am just going for simpler, more controlled communication. And probably sounding like a stick-in-the-mud, but I’m okay with that.

Dear parents, you need to control your kids. Sincerely, non-parents

Matt Walsh, If I ever get a chance to meet you, I’d gladly shake your hand. Thanks, on behalf of moms with misbehaving kids at grocery stores all over the world.

The Matt Walsh Blog

To the fan I lost yesterday:

I don’t owe you an explanation, but I thought I’d offer one anyway. I do this more for your sake than mine. You see, maybe, as you later suggested, I was in a bad mood. Maybe I could have been a bit more polite about it. Maybe I’m more sensitive to it now that I have kids. Maybe I’m just sick of hearing these comments about parents. Maybe I know that my wife has to take the twins with her when she goes grocery shopping sometimes, so she could easily be on the receiving end of your sort of bullying. Maybe I took it personally.

Whatever the case, there I was, walking down the aisles of the grocery store looking for the ingredients for a new chili recipe I wanted to try. I heard the kid screaming from a distance; the whole store heard…

View original post 1,453 more words

Camp-Out with Daddy

I am excited to finally have a chance to write today! It was such a busy weekend. I didn’t have a moment to put fingers to keys. But I am able to report many personal and family accomplishments which occurred in the last 72 hours.
Saturday morning, I ran my first 5K (3.1 miles) since having Gracie. I ran with a fellow mom friend who had a baby twelve days before I had Grace. We did the Run or Dye 5K. Proceeds benefited the American Lung Association. We were covered head to toe in pink, orange, purple, yellow, green and blue powder dye at each half mile marker. The boys thought it was hilarious when I got home. It was so much fun and thousands of people participated. It wasn’t a timed run but we did finish it. It was a nice way to ease back into competitive running.
Saturday afternoon I came home to a mess of a house but it’s ok, because Scott kept the boys fed and happy; priority number one. Sweet baby Grace, however, refused to take a bottle the whole time I was gone so she was famished and very excited to see me. As soon as I got out of the shower, I took care of her. It was the longest we’ve been apart since she was born. I had been so nervous to even sign up for the race because of her aversion to bottles, but Scott promised me he would keep trying and even though it didn’t work, she did survive. I don’t want to do that on a regular basis, but it proved to me once again just how capable Scott is.
The whole rest of the afternoon, Scott and the boys played outside. It was a gorgeous late summer day. I could hear Noah’s excited yelps as he zipped around the yard. Luke came in once or twice for an “iPad break,” but went right back out. They ate an awesome dinner (Noah actually had a grilled cheese and a peanut butter and jelly). Then as I was serving dinner, I glanced out into the backyard and noticed my crazy ambitious husband setting up the tent in the backyard…
…It was a gorgeous day, but the lows at night had been dropping well into the mid- thirties. Quickly, I grabbed Grace out of her exer-saucer to interrogate Scott.
“Whatchya doin’?” I asked shielding the sun from Grace’s eyes.
“Setting up the tent. What’s it look like I’m doing?” he asked slightly exasperated.

Now back it up about a month or so. I had suggested to Scott that he do a backyard camp-out with the boys, but he’d never quite gotten around to it. We’d had such a busy summer with something going on every weekend that prevented an ideal opportunity for a camp-out. I did consider this before I chose my next words.
“I know you have been wanting to do this for a while, and it is so sweet of you to want to do it now, but don’t you think it might be a little cold outside tonight to do this?”
“We’ll have the space heater,” he said gesturing to the fire hazard space heater and extension cord lying nearby in the grass. I could tell this was going to be a closed discussion. I pressed my lips together and knew the only thing left to say was, “I will get the blankets and sheets for the air mattress.” I bit my tongue before I said, “fire extinguisher.”

Dusk was fading to navy blue and the temperature was dropping quickly. I had taken Gracie with me to the grocery store for a few things and also to distract myself from having an anxiety attack. Now, I should say, I trust Scott most of the time. And even in this instance, I didn’t doubt his ability to keep the boys safe. He has been hunting in much colder weather without a space heater, countless times. He has been camping more times than I. He is far more “out-doorsy” than me in most ways.

But the what-ifs were buzzing around my head again… Luke had been fighting a cold… What if Scott fell into one of his coma-like sleeps and didn’t wake up if one of the boys needed to go potty… What if the tent caught on fire… or a coyote came out of the woods and started attacking them? I shook my head at my own imagination and put the groceries away. I went out and took their picture and kissed them all good-night.

I kept a constant vigil on the tent from inside the house after I put Grace to bed. I turned on a movie that Scott would never watch with me; Pride and Prejudice. It’s my go-to any time he’s away hunting or on business. But tonight, Knightly and McFayden weren’t doing as great of a job holding my attention. The only thing separating my babies from the night were four thin, nylon walls and their daddy. I craned my neck more times than I care to admit, looking for the inevitable blaze to be dancing in the pitch dark.

Grace was up about every two hours to nurse and I never really calmed down enough to fall into a deep sleep after feeding her. The only phone call I got from the tent was Scott asking me to go turn off the sprinklers. Apparently one had popped up under the tent and was spinning around underneath them. That was actually quite funny and I could hear the boys giggling hysterically in the background.

Camping Boys

But somehow midnight melted to two-a.m., two a.m. bled into four, and at about six in the morning, with a very gloomy sunrise, my brave boys shuffled into the kitchen. Their cheeks were rosy and they carried their blankets. I kissed them and asked them if they liked it. They both started chattering at the same time about how cool it was. Then I heard Scott tumble into the house, arms full of sheets and all of their gear. I looked up at him smiling, “Good job,” I mouthed. He gave a tired, but victorious smile.
“Who wants pancakes?” I asked.
The boys started jumping up and down, “We do!”

Scott dumped everything in the laundry room and told me that he was going to take a hot shower. Apparently, he froze the whole night so that the boys could have the air mattress and the space heater to themselves. And I realized in that moment, once again, what a great man I had chosen to be the father of our kids.

He was very happy (and sleepy) the whole morning until I told him we were going apple picking that afternoon in the rain. Then I remembered what a crab I had chosen to be the father of our kids. But he took a nap and recharged enough so that we even had fun getting soggy at the apple orchard. And now it’s Monday and for once, I think he was very excited to be going back to work.

The Best Birthday Buddy a Daughter Could Ask For

Tomorrow I will be turning thirty-two. I will admit, thirty-two looks a lot different than I thought it would look when I was younger. I remember thinking that by my thirties, I would have more answers. All I really have are more questions. I thought I would be totally comfortable in my own skin and be very confident. But I find more than ever, I feel like I am screwing it up and everyone knows it. I feel like the most unorganized mess of a human being. I am deeply flawed.  I am selfish. I am bossy. I am impatient.

These are traits that are hard-wired into me and I have to try every day to be the opposite. But I’ve had the best teacher to show me how. She started teaching me from the day I was born how to be a better person. Take for example the fact that I was born the day before her twenty-second birthday. That’s right on the last day of her twenty-first year, she was delivering me (naturally) into this world. Talk about a pain in the a**. She was recovering in the hospital on her birthday. She was probably excited, but also scared to death. But she’s never even hinted at regretting any of it. She has always said I was the best birthday gift she ever got.

She has had to share her birthday with me for most of her life. And for years, I have believed I was so special to be born so close to my mom’s birthday. But now I realize that growing up, she was just sacrificing her day of being special to make sure that my day was more special. She has always made our birthday cake but let me blow out the candles. She threw parties for me and my friends on my birthday and probably had a big mess to clean up on her birthday.

Now I finally understand how much my mom has given through the years for me and my siblings because I am a mom. I was given new eyes the day my son was born. I see through the same eyes my mom has seen through for thirty-two years. I can appreciate all of the sacrifice she made for me and my siblings. She stopped working outside the home to make her full-time profession a stay-at-home-mom. It was the 80’s! She didn’t raise us in a time of play-dates every day. She and my dad worked very hard for everything they had. She had my sister nineteen months after me and my brother 20 months after her. My kids are even further spaced and I am still ripping my hair out daily. AND she even had a fourth kid! (Sorry, Pops. That won’t be happening.) There were no iPads to keep us busy while she made dinner. We never had cable T.V. to entertain us while she stole ten minutes to take a shower. There was no facebook to help my mom keep in touch with her friends. My mom didn’t go to college. She got married and had kids. She grew up quickly, much younger, and far more alone than I did.

Mom, I know you’ll read this. I just want to thank you for giving me the best birthday gift(s) of all. Thank you for sharing not only your day with me from the minute I was born, but the rest of your life. I finally see that once you become a mother, you’re a mother for the rest of your life. Thank you for showing me what selflessness looks like. Thank you for teaching me humility. Thank you for showing me unconditional love every day of my life. These are things you can’t give a person, but can only teach by example. You are the best role model a person could ask for. If I learn nothing else beyond what you have taught me these past thirty-two years, it will be okay because you have taught me the things that matter most.

You are an angel on earth and I love you. Happy birthday.

Our Birthday
My pretty mom and our family at our bday celebration this year