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Never Forget

Never Forget

The time Ellen found my ink pad while I was putting an Etsy order on the porch to be picked up by the mailman.
The time Ellen found my ink pad when I stepped outside to leave a package to be picked up by the mailman.

Our front yard has been our third child this last year and we’ve dumped a significant amount of money and more importantly time into it. One evening, Noel and I were out watering our yard’s newest acquisition, a nice patch of Buffalo Grass. As we looked at the yard we talked about how great it was looking and how excited we were to see things continue to improve. One of the old ladies in the neighborhood hurried over while we were out and we greeted her with a friendly hello to which she replied, “It looks like you’re finally landscaping!” (Apparently a year’s worth of weeding and planting plants didn’t count.) The conversation only got worse as she insinuated that we were dragging down the property value of the neighborhood and then finished by telling us it was such a shame we’d killed the tree in our front yard. (We’re still a bit confused on that one since it’s growing leaves . . .)  Noel optimistically said he thought the tree could rally with a good pruning and I forced all the politeness I could muster into saying, “We’re getting there, but you know money and time are hard to come by.” She shook her head at us and headed back home. Noel and I fumed in silence for a little bit and then he said, “I should have told her, ‘If that tree is the only causality of our yard makeover it will be a miracle; we’ll be lucky if our children survive it!'” We both doubled over laughing.

The time Ellen dumped 5 lbs of sugar on the floor while I was doing laundry.
The time Ellen dumped 5 lbs of sugar on the floor while I was doing laundry.

Every time I find myself offended or going through a really hard time, I tell myself to remember how hard this is or how much it hurts. Not because I have crazy plots for revenge or because I want to dwell, but quite the opposite. I never want to forget how miserable those last weeks of pregnancy are, how humiliating it is to be asked to leave a church meeting because your baby is babbling, or how difficult it is to work in your yard when your kids are trampling plants and running into the street because I never want to lose my empathy and I especially never want to be the one causing hurt feelings. Instead, I want to be the one offering an encouraging word or a helping hand. Thankfully, I’ve also been blessed to brush shoulders with those that do remember. Fragile, little old ladies have offered to hold my babies if my arms get tired, moms of older kids have stepped in to help when I was about ready to give my kids up for adoption, and complete strangers have helped me on and off planes the few times I’ve flown alone with the kids. These are also moments that I never want to forget because I want to remember how meaningful small gestures can be.

The kids helping themselves to a snack while I pulled dandelions out of the lawn.
The kids helping themselves to a snack while I pulled dandelions out of the lawn.

Don’t think I’m fooled into thinking life will be easy when my kids are out of diapers or even out of the house. I know that there’s always some sort of challenge around the corner, that’s just life, but I also don’t want to be one of those people that says, “Oh well you think this is hard, wait until . . .”  I really think there isn’t a more depressing thing a person could say to someone who is struggling. While facing adversity (both big and small) helps refine us into better people, I think we also go through tough times so we can help other people. And really, isn’t a better person someone who helps others?

Cooper begging to be pushed on the swing while I was digging up a hated weed bush.
Cooper begging to be pushed on the swing while I was digging up a hated weed bush.

Someday I’m going to be the little old lady on the block and a young family will move in and hopefully I’ll still remember the challenges of those days. Instead of criticizing them for not mowing their lawn the second it gets shaggy, I hope I’ll encouragingly call out “Carry on, warrior. Six hours till bedtime.” And maybe, I’ll even offer to let those kids come play on the awesome swing set in my backyard (which we’ll hopefully have by then) so their mom can get something done.

And in case you were wondering, me typing this blog post is a close duplicate of the "What I really do." From whatmyfriendsthinkido.net
Me typing this blog post is a close duplicate of the “What I really do” photo. From whatmyfriendsthinkido.net
My Newest Gear Acquisition, Ergo My Favorite

My Newest Gear Acquisition, Ergo My Favorite

I’ve tried to keep things fairly simple with my baby gear. The nurseries have been free of bells and whistles and I’ve even forgone a lot of things that I’ve heard make motherhood more convenient. (I mean I didn’t own a Boppy pillow till Baby #2 and even then I DIYed it.)  However, when it comes to actual baby gear, you know the things that help me haul my baby from point A to point B, I don’t scrimp. I’m a momma on the go, so I need my stuff to be effective and reliable.  With great care (and sometimes plain old luck) I’ve curated my collection: my beloved Maclaren that’s traveled all over the country (literally), the versatile and trusty Chariot, and the handy Kelty child carrier that’s seen more 14ers than your average Coloradan. My most recent acquisition is one that I wish I had purchased three years ago.

The Ergo makes me feel like Super Mom. (And no the baby isn't mine.)
The Ergo makes me feel like Super Mom. (And no the 2nd baby isn’t mine.)

I’ve been coveting an Ergo Baby for quite some time, but haven’t been able to talk myself into buying one because I’m cheap and it seems silly to get one this late in the game. However, my growing distaste for our second child carrier (an off brand thrift store find), a little extra Etsy shop cash lying around, and my smooth self-talk about how even if I don’t use it for very long and never have any more children my sister will be very appreciative of it some day  were enough to persuade me. (Are you reading this, Hope?) Noel’s plea for me to just buy it so I would stop talking about it may have also been an influencing factor 😉 I of course found a pretty good deal and have fallen in love with my Ergo Baby. It’s way more comfortable for hiking than our off-brand pack and will be perfect for our trip to Alaska later this year since it folds down compactly. Even though Ellen is almost a year-and-a-half old, I use it all the time around the house. I’ll put it on so I can make dinner when she’s grumpy or so I can mow the lawn without her under foot.

Noel hauling Ellen up a mountain.
Noel hauling Ellen up a mountain.

My main motivating factor in writing this post wasn’t just to brag about my Ergo Carrier, but really to let you know that if you want one Zulily is having them as one of their deals for the next three days. (They even have a few organic ones!) At first it made me sad because even though I got mine on what I considered a killer deal, this one’s even better, but I decided to stop being sad and share the info so maybe someone else could be happy. If you’re in the market for a good baby carrier I’d highly recommend this one. And no Ergo Baby isn’t compensating me for this; pretty sure the blog isn’t popular enough for corporate freebies.

Even Cooper isn't too big for the Ergo.
Even Cooper isn’t too big for the Ergo.

 

House Arrest

House Arrest

The place where I'm spending way too much of my time these days.
The place where I’m spending way too much of my time these days.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m cut out for this whole motherhood thing. We’re finally giving potty training a valiant effort and just as I suspected, I hate it. I feel like we’re in jail. A jail where there’s a little boy that runs around bare bottomed, pooping in closets the second I have to divert my attention elsewhere. Unfortunately, the only common thread in every potty training method is not to get upset. I think my efforts in this regard have been quite impressive. I’m pretty sure if we all get through this alive, I will be in the running for a Nobel Peace Prize.*

We fed our local missionaries dinner the other night and they asked if there was anything special they could pray about for our family. We joked that they could pray for Cooper to be potty-trained. You better believe that was an awkwardly funny prayer. I’m still waiting for an answer to it though.

Maybe at least by the time we’re done with this, my hardwood floors will gleam since I’ll likely have been given the “opportunity” to thoroughly clean every square inch . . .

*Seriously though, there is much the nations of the world can learn from a mother about promoting peace, choosing your battles carefully, and the art of negotiation.
I May Not Be Cool, But I’ve Got Swagger

I May Not Be Cool, But I’ve Got Swagger

The other day Noel and I were talking about how we’ve arrived at that place in life where we know we aren’t cool, but it doesn’t even bother us. Not to say that we’ve let ourselves go, but we’re in a spot where we can be confidently comfortable with who we are. With that attitude comes a certain swagger, as Noel called it, that makes a person look better than they did when they were putting forth so much effort to look hip.

Pants

Today, I came back from the grocery store and changed into running clothes. (Yes, I know that’s backwards from the way most people do things, but I would much rather workout than go to the grocery store, so I have to do that first so I won’t make excuses and postpone it inevitably.) As I was throwing my jeans on the bed I noticed they had a giant marker line going down the back. Not only had I paraded those pants around the store, but I wore them to a trendy new restaurant last night and they probably were drawn on then too. (Don’t tell me you never wear your jeans more than one day. It’s good for the planet and my laundry pile.) Instead of being horrified  and freaking out about all the people that could have potentially seen me wearing those embarrassing pants I just thought, Huh. Wonder when the kid managed to do that?  and put them aside to be stain treated. Honestly, even if someone had noticed and pointed out the green scribbles on my butt while I was out, I probably would have just chuckled and said something like, “What can I say, my kid is really artistic” and walked away with a swagger in my step.

The Mother of All Fartleks

The Mother of All Fartleks

fart·lek  noun ˈfärtˌlek

A form of running in which the runner varies the pace significantly during the run. It is usually regarded as an advanced training technique, for the experienced runner who has been using interval training to develop speed and to raise the anaerobic threshold. 

Guide for Mother of All Fartleks Workout

  1. Decide to go for a run on your treadmill while your kid(s) are awake. 
  2. Set treadmill to desired speed.
  3. Begin running.
  4. When your child(ren) tries to get into something or begins to cry, jump off the treadmill, sprint to their location in the house, quickly rectify the problem, and sprint back to the treadmill which you left running.
  5. Repeat until desired mileage is met or your patience has expired.

Results: If this program is followed on a regular basis, you should see significant improvements in your cardiovascular health as well as mothering reflexes.

Warning: All exercises and other forms of physical activity can be dangerous, especially if performed without medical advice, proper supervision and/or pre-exercise evaluation. Always consult your physician or health care professional before performing any exercise, especially if you have any chronic or recurring condition, and/or if you are pregnant, nursing, or elderly. Take great care when jumping off a treadmill whether it is running or not.

IMG_0032-001
Example of workout utilizing two kids.
Workout tool in action.
Example of workout utilizing one kid.

 

Be the Good

Be the Good

I remember having a conversation with my mother when I was pregnant with Cooper and telling her that I couldn’t listen to the news because it freaked me out and made me wonder what I was doing bringing a child into such a terrible world. My mom told me she’d felt the same way when she’d had me and pointed out that I’d turned out okay. I left the conversation feeling less worried and the thought came to me, “Well, Audrey what would happen to the world if the ‘good people’ stopped having children?”

It’s easy to be dragged down by the difficult things we see or experience in the world. Because the terrible things are often so obvious and are the things that make the headlines and the gossip rounds, it really can seem like the bad is overpowering the good. But it’s important to remember that good is a force too. A powerful force, but one that is often easy to overlook because it isn’t sensational and is so often displayed in quiet and subtle ways. Perhaps, we’re doled out such small doses because it is so powerful.

Right before Christmas, I started reading the book Left to Tell by Immaculée Ilibagiza.  I normally wouldn’t choose to read about the Rwandan Genocide during a season that elicits feelings of joy and merriment, but it was a book club selection that I’d postponed reading and it was soon due at the library. Surprisingly, reading the book did not end up making me feel depressed, but it made me reflect on my faith, blessings, and ability to be optimistic. Despite losing almost her entire family and being hunted by former friends and neighbors,  Immaculée  is a very positive and optimistic woman full of love and forgiveness – some of the strongest forces of good.  I was struck by many of the things she said, but felt a need to record this quote in my journal, “God is the source of all positive energy, and prayer is the best way to tap into that power.”

I still worry about my kids, I am a mom after all. I worry that the world will rob them of their innocence and whether they will make good or bad choices as they grow older. Most of all, I worry that my parenting won’t be good enough. I try to quell those worries though and remind myself that good is a powerful force. A force that can overcome my inadequacies as a parent, a force that can help me or my kids survive tough times, and ultimately a force that comes from God.

My new sign and mantra. Inspired by Pinterest and made possible by wood found in my attic. Now I just need to hang it.
My new sign and mantra. Inspired by Pinterest and made possible by wood found in my attic. Now I just need to hang it.

 

The Lies We Tell

The Lies We Tell

When I was ginormously pregnant with Ellen, everyone was always telling me how wonderful pregnancy was and how I just “glowed.” I know they were all trying to be encouraging, but it didn’t feel wonderful and if anything I was smoldering, not glowing. One Sunday, one of the sweet little old ladies at church engaged me in a conversation that I found quite refreshing. “It’s hard, isn’t it?” She said. “When I hear all those women talk about how wonderful it is, I think they’re either lying, or they must be cuckoo-crazy!” Amen sister, amen.

During my journey in motherhood over the past few years, I’ve noticed something about moms. We stretch the truth a lot. We over exaggerate our kids capabilities, gloss over our own inadequacies, and outright lie about how we love all the hard parts. One time, I was reading an acquaintance’s blog where she said she “didn’t mind” waking up in the middle of the night with her little one because she just “cherished those quiet moments they spent together” and would be “sad when they ended.” Now, I for one have never leapt from my bed in the middle of the night thinking, “Wahoo! Special snuggle time!” I’ve grumbled, I’ve rolled over hoping the crying would stop, and I’ve even yelled passionately when I’ve walked into doors in blurry stupors. I’ve always minded and rarely cherished. In my humble opinion, either this woman was lying or she is cuckoo-crazy. Either way, there’s something unhealthy about it. Yes, there is something to be said about having a positive attitude or “faking it till you make it,” but what about the other moms listening who now feel guilty because they don’t love losing sleep? I’m not saying we should all constantly vent our frustrations about motherhood, but I think we should be more realistic.

There are many parts of motherhood that are wonderful, but there are also those moments when you wonder: What was I thinking having children? or How can I do this? That doesn’t make you a bad mom, that makes you human. And maybe once we admit that we aren’t perfect we can spend less time fretting and more time enjoying the sweet moments that being a parent has to offer.

Young, Hot Mom

Young, Hot Mom

 “You can have a career anytime, but there’s only a short period of time you can                                 be a young hot mom.” – Cerie from 30 Rock

 A little over a year ago, some ladies from church invited me to join their book club. The first meeting I attended was held at a member’s house that I had not previously met. I’d chosen my outfit for the evening with care; something that nicely accentuated my new baby bump in a way that made it readily apparent that I was indeed pregnant. When I parked my car in front of the address I’d jotted down, it didn’t look like many people had arrived yet and I approached the door with the slight worry that I was at the wrong house. Armed with the month’s literary selection, I knocked on the door. The apprehensive face of the woman who answered did little to reassure me that I’d found the right address.

“Hi, I’m here for book club.” I held up the book the way detectives hold up their badges in crime shows.

“Oh? Oh!” The woman’s apprehension turned to puzzlement which she quickly tried to hide. “I don’t think I’ve met you before . . . ”

“Pam invited me.” I offered in an effort to lend myself some credibility.

“And how do you know Pam?” At this point I still hadn’t been invited inside and the questions felt less like small talk and more like an interrogation, albeit a kind one. Did they regularly have unwanted people try to sneak into their book club? Perhaps this was all more elite than I had thought.

“Um, I know her from church. She  lent me her book.” I held up the book again.

“Right, right come in.” She finally motioned me inside but continued questioning. “I haven’t been to church in a while, are you new?”

“Fairly. My husband and I just bought a house here a few months ago.” At this point the woman started laughing.

“I’m sorry,” she said, “When you came to the door I thought you were a high school student trying to earn money for a booster club or something. I was all prepared to tell you I didn’t want any cookies. You just look so young.”

I’ve spent the last fifteen years having people think I’m anywhere between five to ten years younger than I actually am. These type of encounters have always made me irrationally self-concious and have led me to defensively do silly things like consistently round up my age. (As if saying I’m 27 instead of 26  makes that big of a difference.) When we first moved to Colorado my age based insecurity peaked.  In Utah, based on my actual age I was in the normal age range to be a mom, but in Colorado I’m at least ten years younger based on actual age and an alarming 20+ years younger according to my falsely perceived age. Generally, if I see a young woman about my age at the park with  a bunch of kids she ends up being the nanny. Initially, I tried really hard to seem mature, but  it just translated into a boring wardrobe and undoubtedly standoffish conversations. I didn’t really have any friends and even worse it didn’t seem to make any difference on how old people thought I was. When I was put in charge of teaching the twelve-year-old girls at church one of the other women, who was only five years older than me mind you, even said, “Oh that’s perfect. You’re just a baby and were pretty much one of them just yesterday, so I’m sure you can relate really well.”  Her words stung and I wasn’t sure whether to punch her in the face or start crying. That first year that we lived here was a rough one.

One of the common things people tell me when they’re trying to apologize after grossly mistaking my age is, “You’ll enjoy it when you’re older.”  When we bought our house and thus switched to a different neighborhood and congregation I viewed  our move as a new start. I decided I was tired of being boring and wasn’t going to wait till I was old to  enjoy my “youthfulness.” I brought my flirty skirts out of hiding and adopted a good sense of humor. I decided I’d rather be fun than mature. This new change in attitude has been quite enjoyable. When I was pregnant with Ellen I had myself a good chuckle every time I got to use one of my calculated quips when someone at Target mistook me for a pregnant teen working on number two. And instead of feeling depressed when high school security officers mistake me for a student, I get a kick out of how their jaws drop when I tell them I’m flattered they could mistake me for a high schooler after I’ve had two kids.

Since I’ve quit being so uptight my age seems to be less of an issue and my circle of friends now ranges from women in their twenties to their nineties. Dare I say my new attitude about my age has made me more mature? Maybe . . . well, until you see me on the playground at the park with all the toddlers or dancing in the aisles at the grocery store anyway. But, at least I’m young enough to be able to do that 🙂

So That’s What They’re For

So That’s What They’re For

When we were in the hospital after Ellen’s birth we received a customary visit from the hospital’s lactation consultants. Since I was a veteran they mostly just made chitchat, but when they asked how long I’d breastfed Cooper they got all sorts of excited. “You breastfed for a year? That is awesome! You’re super mom!” I was afraid they were going to pin a big ribbon to my chest and parade me around the maternity ward that’s how excited they were. Who knew my tendencies to be frugal and lazy could earn me such a title? I’d thought that I was just a typical mom, not one of those fringe moms that breastfeeds her toddler and newborn at the same time. But as other moms have confided in me and as I’ve looked at the statistics, I’ve realized that I’m actually more of a fringe mom than I’d thought.

Since becoming a mom, I’ve been really surprised at how crazy conversations on topics such as breastfeeding can get. Just check out the comments on pretty much any article or forum about breastfeeding and you’ll see what I mean. Yikes. I definitely don’t want to jump into that mudslinging battle. At the risk of offending someone I almost didn’t publish this post, but well, here we go.

I’ve always been a fairly prudish person and never would have thought that I would be passionate about my right to expose myself in public, but I’m coming to find that I actually am kind of passionate about it. When I first started nursing Cooper I was really bashful about breastfeeding. I pumped bottles to take to church the first couple of months of his life and spent way too much time hiding in gross bathrooms or hot cars. The first time I nursed in public I did it out of pure necessity because we had an out of control baby and at least an hour left on our bus ride. I was surprised at what a non-issue it was. In fact, people were probably happier since my baby was no longer crying. For months I had been imposing this completely unnecessary inconvenience on myself. Once I fully embraced my rights as a breastfeeding mother, breastfeeding suddenly became the best thing in the world.

I know that there are some legitimate reasons why some women cannot breastfeed (you adopted, medically you are unable, etc.) and I don’t hold that against you (and you shouldn’t either), but for those that are just hesitant, here are some of the lesser discussed reasons why breastfeeding is awesome and you should give it a serious go:

  1. Breastfeeding is Free. Free! Why anyone would voluntarily decide to buy formula makes absolutely no sense to me financially speaking.
  2. Breastfeeding is Simple. You don’t have to remember to buy anything from the store and you don’t have to remember to pack bottles or deal with warming up water. You can literally be one of the spaciest, most ill-prepared people alive and still provide a meal for your child without any thought or planning on your part.
  3. Breastfeeding is Convenient. You don’t have to plan your outings around places that have hot water available. Also, you don’t have to anticipate when your baby is going to be hungry or deal with a screaming baby while you prepare a bottle. Once the baby starts to fuss you can plop right down wherever you are whether it’s the side of a trail in the mountains or a bench in Ikea. (Both of which I have done.)
  4. Breastfeeding Burns Extra Calories. This can help you lose some of that baby weight, or at least help you not feel too guilty when you eat a second (or third) brownie.
  5. Breastfeeding Gains You Friends. Breastfeeding moms tend to congregate. I’ve had wonderful conversations with other nursing moms at the park and one of my favorite things about church (other than the spiritual enlightenment of course) is hanging out with other moms in the “Mother’s Room.” It kind of feels like we have our own special club and I’ve made so many friends this way.
  6. Breastfeeding Gets You Time to Yourself. I’m generally not shy about breastfeeding (with the aid of a cover or blanket of course), but sometimes if I just want to be alone, breastfeeding is always a good excuse to get away from everyone else. No one ever argues with you when you say you need to step out to feed your baby.
  7. Breastfeeding Gives You a Sense of Empowerment. There’s just something amazing about how a woman’s body is able to effortlessly create the perfect meal for her little one. And if you’re a prude like me, you may find you kind of get a rush from nursing in public. It just feels so edgy 🙂

I’ll also admit that being a nursing mom isn’t all sunshine and roses. My issues have been few and easily manageable, but I know moms that have persevered through much worse and still recommend it.

Time Goes Marching On

Time Goes Marching On

Time is funny.  It’s supposedly consistent with each minute only being 60 seconds long, but it rarely feels that way. Sometimes it forces you to count the seconds, other times it hurtles and you can barely hang on, and sometimes it just slips peacefully by.  Even in retrospect, the days that seemed like years and the months that flew by too quickly all get rammed together becoming timeless. Moments both long and short run into each other. Nine long months of pregnancy are instantly overshadowed by two hours of labor and just as quickly passed by mere moments of looking into a newborn’s eyes. The memory, whether of misery or ecstasy, is still there, but the duration suddenly becomes irrelevant the very second it passes by.

I look at my husband sitting next to me on our porch swing and simultaneously think I can’t believe we’ve been together for six years, it’s only been six years?  My no longer little siblings are all growing up. Dating, going to college, getting married and generally turning out to be really great people. I’m a parent, my parents are grandparents, and my grandparents are great grandparents. One single event, a matter of seconds, pushed all of us back a generation. 

When I tell my little boy his “Binky went bye-bye” and he doesn’t beg for it, I feel surprised that I’m the one who’s close to tears. Suddenly, he’s not my baby anymore. For two years his cries in the night had me counting the seconds to keep from losing my temper, wondering if I would ever sleep again. Now that his nighttime wakings are less frequent, I find myself hugging him tighter and lingering in his bedroom longer than I used to.

Ellen has started to roll over to get to things she wants. She’s grabbing at toys and almost wrestled a Popsicle out of my hand and into her mouth the other day. With Cooper, I was always urging him to tackle the next developmental feat, but he always seemed too content with where he was and did things on his own schedule. Now I look at Ellen and think, Baby Girl, slow down. Don’t grow up so fast. Then when she spits up all over me I think Geez, this stage can’t pass fast enough. 

I anticipate some day I’m going to wake up and be surprised to find that I am old. I just hope that I can look back and say I made the most of the time that I was given.