Isn’t It Worth it?

My Facebook feed has been filled with posts condemning leprechauns to the hottest hell. My email is flooded with other mom bloggers who can’t even bear to write another Valentine. I’m over here, just getting into the groove of it all. You know what, though? I kind of like it.

See, in the grand scheme of things, I’m relatively new at this. I mean, my kids aren’t even old enough to go to REAL school yet. I realize I am just at the dawn parenting. But I don’t quite understand what everyone’s complaining about regarding the holidays. It seems that parents are exhausted with all of the “special occasions” that go on once their children get to school. You’ve got the fall equinox, then there’s Halloween, and Thanksgiving, and Christmas, and New Year’s, and 100th Day, and Valentine’s Day, and Dr. Seuss’ birthday, and Pi Day all before spring break. Several of these holidays, I realize, have been paganized, but let’s put religion aside for just one minute. (I realize that just pissed off about 100,000 people, if that many people even read my blog, however, I have a point, and I’m getting to it.) Let’s just say for a minute, that the crazy people who came up with all of these ideas (the non religious ones, people, stick with me here) were, I don’t know, trying to MAKE CHILDHOOD MAGICAL?????

It’s not all about abhorring the Pinterest mom who came up with the great cupcake idea that is going to require you to stay up all night. It is not about spending money on stuff. It doesn’t have to have anything to do with competition. But you get ONE chance with your kids to give them a magical childhood. Then they grow up and learn about checkbooks and debt and car insurance. Why NOT find a bunch of reasons to have fun with them?

We do birthday parties. We do Easter baskets. We go trick-or-treating. We go on random picnics and hikes. It’s exciting to watch their eyes twinkle. There are some times where I miss the boat.  Once, I had this grand plan to go to the library and get books to relate to each season and event so that my kids would be literate and well-read. But then there was that time that I lost a $1.99 book from the library which they charged me $20.00 for, therefore, I’m kind of on the outs with that establishment now, so my kids aren’t going to be reading about spring time. But we probably will plant seeds, and play in the mud and stuff, and it’ll all work out. Another time, we were invited to make gingerbread houses with some friends. My friend happens to have a master’s degree in All Things Art or something, and she had this perfectly designed chalet for her child. Our, ahem,  gingerbread shed, fell apart on the way to the car. Clearly, we had found my weakness. The kids didn’t mind, though, and you know why? Because gingerbread houses taste the same no matter how they look. And, because we all did it together. It was FUN.

Before you judge the amount of work that you think needs to go into a special day, think about the outcome. Will your kid be excited? Will it be a magical day? If so, isn’t it worth it?

11986427_10102710479658835_4413411907470257755_n
Harrison’s “excited face” at Thanksgiving Dinner.

What It’s Really Like to Work Out as a Mom

A few months ago my sister in law asked me to come speak at a health and wellness group she runs. She gave me two topic choices that I could discuss: Living a Healthy Lifestyle with Anxiety and Depression, or Finding Time to Exercise and Stay Fit When You’re a Mom of Young Children. Although I would be committed to sharing one of the most raw parts of my personality, I chose the former. I didn’t know why back when I chose it. I didn’t know why when I went to speak. But today, I remembered why.

After several weeks of the Virus That Would Not Die, this week I finally felt good enough to set some fitness goals for myself. An avid exerciser (not all Crossfit crazy, but committed nonetheless), I was missing my workout routines and gym time. I got out my special colored pens and wrote down my goals for the week in my planner. And apparently, that is where they shall stay.

You see, people don’t quite understand why it takes moms years to lose the baby weight. They can’t figure out how a stay at home mom can’t find time to work out. I mean, she’s not at work, right? Get on that treadmill, lady! Exercise gurus shout out, “There are NO excuses!” but I have to politely disagree. There are tons of excuses. Here are a few I’ve heard:

  1. I couldn’t finish my ab workout because my two year old daughter refused to get off of my stomach while I was attempting crunches.
  2. I had to return from my run (with children in jogging stroller) because someone had a blowout diaper. After cleaning THAT up, I didn’t have the energy to go back out.
  3. My toddler was awake thirteen times in the night, which meant I was awake thirteen times in the night. If I’m running on barely enough sleep to make it through the day, you can bet I’m not going to tire myself out more by getting a workout in.
  4. I worked a ten hour day and then spent the remaining hours preparing a meal for my family and snuggling my children.
  5. I can’t use my weights with my children in the room because they think they are the Hulk himself and try to participate as well. This can get dangerous.

There are some days, however, that you do figure it out and get it done. Or at least, you make a valiant attempt to do so. My goal today was to do 40 minutes on the treadmill. This would get me back in the swing of things after so many days off of exercise. Here’s a rundown of how I  imagine it would have been sans children, and also my day in actuality:

Without Kids: 

Get your sneakers on.

With Kids: 

Get your sneakers on. Put children’s sneakers on. Put them on again because one of the kids took them off. Find another pair of sneakers for the second child because these ones are “too wet”.

Without Kids: 

Go downstairs to treadmill.

With Kids: 

Pack enough snacks to survive a zombie apocalypse. Bring crayons and paper. Throw in some playdough. Don’t forget the sippy cups. Change a diaper.

Without Kids: 

Put headphones on, enjoy workout.

With Kids:
Put headphones on. Take headphones off fifteen times to remind kids not to A) go back upstairs without supervision; B) spill snacks on the floor, or to C) color your sister’s hair with the markers that somehow got mixed in with the crayons.

Without Kids: 

Enjoy workout peacefully. Feel great sense of accomplishment once done.

With Kids: 

Jump off treadmill in a fury because one child decided to climb up and then fall down basement stairs. Check for injuries. Figure the adrenaline from a potential accident is enough of a workout for your body today.

I somehow managed to get all my steps in today, according to my Fitbit, but I can tell you for sure that most of them were because I was tending to the needs of my littles, not because I was solely focused on a workout regimen.

The truth of the matter is that if you’re a parent with young kids, the challenges of staying fit are going to increase exponentially. This may be why I didn’t want to speak about this topic in my sister in law’s group. I can manage a mental illness, and even help others through it; but throw in two pint-sized time bombs, and I’m a basket case. I’d love to have a lot of tips for you, and give you ways to get it all done, but you know as well as I do that children are unpredictable. We do the very best we can, but their needs come before ours.

I’ve seen moms dozens of times who come into the gym to work out. They drop their kids off at child watch, and get no more than 20 minutes into their routine before little Suzie Mae has a diaper explosion, or Jeffrey James has a meltdown and needs his mom. Every single time those parents come running, away from their health and wellness, and right into the arms of their babies. You know why? Because that’s what we do. And that’s ok. Health is balance. It will all come together in the end.

If you’re like me and you are struggling to find the time to fit in your own exercise routine, take a step back. Look at all you do. Use what you’ve got. And remember, you are doing an amazing job.

Here are some pictures of my favorite workout moms. Got any to share? Post them in the comments. We want to see you managing it all!

How to Escape Parenting Loneliness

No one tells you when you have a baby that your circle of friends might change. It might grow or shrink, but regardless of how it morphs, it comes as a surprise. There are several people with whom I spent my childless evenings and weekends who I haven’t seen in a couple of years. There are also people who swoop in and become your saviors, bearing coffee and an extra set of arms. But after the infant stage is over, you can bet that at some point the loneliness is going to set in-that is, until you find your “people”.

My baby just turned two yesterday. First of all, I can’t believe it has been two years since she came into this world. Second, I am blessed for so many reasons to have her in my life. It was definitely a day to celebrate. We had a small party for her-some of her preschool friends were there, and since they can’t drive yet, their parents came too. Just kidding. The fact of the matter is that not only does Ella have some awesome little pals, but her friends’ parents are also amazing people.

These fellow parents are people I see all the time. We chat at preschool drop off and pick up, we all go to the gym at the same time, we run into each other at the coffee shop and the bank, and there is always a play date at the playground in case we haven’t had enough of each other.

These are the people who will ask if you’ve got an extra diaper in your bag because they forgot a spare. They’re the ones who will wipe your kid’s nose if you have your hands full. Somebody needs a snack? One of us always has enough goldfish crackers to go around. Nobody ever had to sit down and say, “OK, which one of us will always have baby wipes?”, or “Someone needs to be really good at teaching the kids to share.” It just happened. When they say it takes a village, that’s no joke. But what they don’t say is where you find that village, or how those people come together.

You find that out one day as you and a fellow parent are sitting at the gym lacing up your sneakers that she, too, is perplexed by the severity of temper tantrums that her three year old has. Or maybe, you take a poll from these moms and dads to see who else lets their two year old use a pacifier. Of course, you find out it’s not just you. At some point, it comes up among a few of you how lonely staying at home can be, even if pint-sized people are yelling your name all day long and you can’t even pee by yourself. Then you laugh so hard you cry and maybe pee your pants a little because one of your fellow comrades reenacts her child’s outrage at losing one raisin on the floor of the car. After that, you head back to your minivan with a little spring in your step and a smile on your face. The point is, once you can come to terms with the reality that parenting is messy and imperfect, you open yourself up to other parents who have come to the same realization. You will fill in each other’s gaps. Together, you will make this big world safe for your little kids.

So, when you get that lonely twinge-and you will; take a minute to look around at the other parents of children that your kids interact with. I promise that no matter what any Facebook meme says, they’re not judging you. They’re looking for you. Look back. Smile. Share some goldfish crackers. Laugh when your kid eats hers off the playground asphalt. And with that, simply by being real and imperfect, and embracing the imperfection that is parenting, the path to friendship will be formed.

12190993_10153810311076383_7663958398599443936_n
because sometimes you need someone else to read to your kid…even if it’s a book about a farting dog.

The Terrible Issue of Mom Guilt

Mom Guilt. You simply can’t win. Even with the utmost preparedness, this heart-wrenching feeling will creep into your soul very early on in parenthood. I hear it stays FOREVER. I am not a perfectionist, and I knew going into this parenting thing that I was going to do my best but that my best would, with all certainty, not always be enough. And that’s kind of odd because I am literally the only mother my children have. It’s not like I can compare myself to someone else. I’m the only one.

Something about motherhood causes us to look in on ourselves from a not very clear perspective and scrutinize every single thing we do. Let me take that back. Sometimes we are too tired to think that hard and then we feel guilty for not having the energy of Mary Poppins, which starts the cycle of feeling that we’re falling short all over again.

Today, our family definitely had a case of the Mondays. Upon waking, Harrison managed to wet two different beds within fifteen minutes. Who on earth has that much pee? He crawled into our bed at an hour way too early to warrant getting up and snuggled his little body right up to mine. The only reason I didn’t send him straight back to bed was because he was being quiet which is no small feat for my kid. All of a sudden, after I had just about drifted back to sleep, the whine came. “My paaaaannnnttsss are wet!”

Shooting up like a rocket, I jumped out of the bed, and shooed Harrison out immediately. Because, you know, it was THE ONE DAY that I had the waterproof mattress cover in the dryer. He stood there, soaked in pee, whining at his embarrassment and discomfort while I hurriedly took the sheets off the bed.

Luckily, my cat-like reflexes prevented any pee from getting on our new mattress. No harm, no foul, right?

Wrong.

I had sent Harrison up to get new clothes, and somehow this meant to him that he should wrap his pee-soaked self up in HIS blankets and pee AGAIN on HIS bed. Upon tearing off those sheets I realized that his mattress was done for. (No, I did not have a mattress pad on there, critical people of the internet; it melted in the dryer the last time I washed it. I am seeing that my track record with mattress pads is not very good.)

After haphazardly bathing him, I demanded that he get clothes, and hastily moved on to the rest of my morning routine, which, as I said before, had started much earlier than I usually like. I hadn’t had much time to reflect on the whole pee situation because it all happened so fast.

It dawned on me about fifteen minutes later that Harrison was still in his room. I could hear his little voice up there talking, so I assumed that he was playing with his toys, and keeping a safe distance from his not-so-impressed mommy. It wasn’t until he yelled down, “Mama! Can I come down now?” that I realized he thought he was being punished with time out, and that was why he had stayed up there so long.

He came down the stairs, fully dressed and gave me a hug. “I’m sorry for making a mess, Mama. Sometimes accidents happen.”

And then, my heart melted into a little puddle on the living room floor. He was right; sometimes accidents DO happen. And, he is THREE. That means his frequency of accidents (in all forms, mind you) is probably going to be quite high. I looked at my boy, wearing his pants on backwards, but so proud that he put them on himself, and I realized how gently I need to tread on this subject.

In no way do I want to shame my son for having an accident. But it frustrates the living daylights out of me that he didn’t follow the morning rules, which are to get up and pee and then wait for the alarm to go on before coming downstairs. I had no intention of giving him a time-out either. He just assumed that was next on the roster. Although my emotions consisted purely of guilt that he perceived that I was so angry, the truth was that I wasn’t really angry. What I feel sad about is that I made him feel that way.

About ten moms at preschool informed me that my child had his pants on backwards. Each time, I responded proudly, “Yes, they are. But he put them on himself.” And then I walked away. Perhaps, if that morning hadn’t been decorated with other toddler crises, I might have been more diligent in getting my boy to learn to put his clothes on correctly. Letting him go to school proudly and independently dressed was my way of telling my son that he was doing a great job at being three. It was also my hope that he’d understand that sometimes mommies make mistakes too-in the way we express ourselves to our littles.

Today, the guilt was from how I reacted towards my son over a bathroom related accident. Yesterday, it was probably over not giving my children enough vegetables at meal times. Tomorrow, it’s going to be something I didn’t even know I could feel guilty about. I know it’s not going to end, but I do know that even though this mom guilt is painful and often detrimental to our self perceptions, we can use these times to learn and grow. If you get to the point where you feel like you aren’t doing something right, take a step back and look at your kid. Backwards pants? Shoes on the wrong feet? No haircut in recent history? Imbalanced diet? Maybe. But catch that smile on his face, and you’ll feel a little better. You’re doing a lot of things right. 10445590_10153000133216383_6505831723216859207_n

Why You Can Never Be Sick When You’re Mom

What I think might the biggest injustice of parenting is that moms (and dads) can get sick when their kids are sick. There should be some law about this-like maybe only one person per household is allowed to be under the weather at a time. Alas, it is a cruel, cruel world we live in, and I have been fighting this ridiculous virus on steroids (I’m not on steroids, the virus must be, because, you know, it’s really strong…anyway, moving on…) for nine days. Everyone in my household has been sick alongside me.

There is a special Murphy’s Law to this whole parenting thing and there’s a chapter just for times like this. I think it’s called “Mom Can Never Be Sick Alone”.

Rule #1: If you are sick, someone is sicker.
No matter what, your issues are not nearly as serious as those of your family. For example, I have had this bronchitis-like cough going, and my nose is running like a faucet. The sinus pain is unbearable. But for some reason I don’t get fevers. Harrison, on the other hand, has spiked a 101.4 temp twice during this illness. Justin has a ruptured ear drum. And I’m just a whiny baby with a runny nose. This means that no one can take care of you and you just have to muster up the strength to bring everyone else soup and gingerale.

Rule #2: You cannot sleep.
Pre-child, I could take a sick day and sleep off my illness. This almost always worked and I would be back to normal a day or so later. As a matter of fact, I am a professional sleeper. But now, when I need it the most is when I get the least amount of sleep. Someone else is awake, or coughing, or needing fresh sheets, or a glass of water. Mommy is not sleeping.

Rule #3: Everyone else who gets sick will lose weight and you will not.
Loss of appetite? Sure. For the kids and the husband. Everyone is losing weight like it’s runway week and I’m over here mowing down like it’s my last meal. Why can I not have one tiny benefit of being sick and drop a few pounds in the process?

Rule #4: You’re going to be sick during something important.
I wouldn’t mind getting sick if it happened to be a week when nothing was going on. That way, I could at least recover without stressing about missing something. Last year’s major illness occurred two days before Christmas. It was Ella’s first Christmas and I wanted it to be spectacular. Never mind the fact that we had company coming! When I went to Urgent Care, the doctor said I hadn’t been sick long enough to worry about anything. I asked him how on earth I was supposed to function on the biggest day of the year in this state. He gave me some antibiotics and sent me on my way. I am pretty sure he’s a father. Either that or he took me seriously when I threatened to hit him over the head with a roll of wrapping paper. This year, it was our Mexico trip. I fell ill RIGHT before we were supposed to leave. NBD though, getting your kids to a different country is easy-peasy especially when you’re a sniveling mess.

Rule #5: Something’s gonna break.
Dishwasher? Dryer? Car? Something you need will break and you will be too sick to deal with it, thus leaving you further incapacitated. The good news? You won’t take that little luxury for granted once you get better!

During this cold and flu season, I wish you moms the best. We’ll all recover, eventually, and so will our families. You’re doing the best you can, I assure you, although you might feel like the sludge on the bottom of that coffee cup you left sitting on your desk for two weeks. This, too, shall pass.

IMG_1246
This is her sick face.