I Tried not to Blink, but I Did

Motherhood is a tricky sport.

The days are long, so long. You spend your time wiping butts, cleaning up spilled milk, driving aimlessly for hours while the toddler naps, rocking the teething baby in the wee hours of the night, doing laundry, and then more laundry, and then some more laundry. The to-do list never gets shorter; it simply seems to grow exponentially with each tick of the clock.

And then somewhere in it all you blinked, and your tiny little, chunkalicious pickle; the child who first made you Momma, is this gangly, beautiful girl; a person you can’t really call “little” anymore, though she’s only 6.

IMG_0309

I tried so hard not to blink. I really, truly did. I told myself I wouldn’t. I knew that my time was precious and it would be so fast. And I know that I still have 12 more years before she’s an adult; but I’m 1/3 of the way done raising her. Because I’m a daughter, too, I know she’ll flee the nest, a bundle of independence and self-reliance, a brilliant lady that I have had some hand in – only time will tell if she’s amazing because of or in spite of. But I’m really hoping for the former.

I know I can’t take all the credit. So very much of it is nature, even though some days I wish I could take credit for it being nurture.

But then some days I’m all too happy to blame it all on nature, because she’s a pickle for a reason.

IMG_0277

I can’t tell you exactly when this very attached little girl became so independent. I don’t know the day, the time, the moment. I just know everyone told me she’d be dependent on me forever if I carried her all the time, nursed her until she self-weaned, let her co-sleep as long as she wanted, didn’t force her off to preschool, or elementary school.

And yet I held her close. So, so very close. And all ready she is so far some days.

So lovely and beautiful, but more importantly so vivacious and inquisitive and driven and powerful.

No other person drives me quite as crazy as Miss H. But no other person reminds me so much of myself, only so, so much better (thankfully!). I see in her all of my faults, but I also see in her all of my beauty. And even more so, I see all of her beauty and person, and you guys, there aren’t words.

IMG_0291

I have moments where I have to stop and ask God what in the world He was thinking, granting me with this dear girl. How could He be so certain that I would have enough patience and love to help shepherd her tenacious spirit? How did He know I’d have to delve deep into myself to become the calm, mindful momma she would need? Or what that just part of the plan? Was that the reason she’s mine?

That child has all ready moved mountains. I cannot imagine what the rest of her life will bring. But I do know that I am incredibly thankful to have a front row ticket to it all.

I blinked. I tried so hard not to, but I did. And she’s practically a little lady.

IMG_0340

Parenting with “It” (aka Anxiety)

I’ve written this post so many times in my head.

But putting the words down in print is a whole new ball park.

It’ so much bigger. So much more.

So much more real.

When I was kid I was often told that I had an overactive imagination. That I was dramatic.

IMG_0214

I took it at face value and assumed that those were bad things, which in turn made me assume that I must be bad somehow, which of course only fueled the fire roaring deep within me that I’ve only recently been able to name: anxiety.

If my mom was running five minutes late getting home from work, picking me up from a friends house or an afterschool activity, she was, no doubt, face down in a ditch after a horrific car accident taking her last few breaths before forever leaving me an orphan.

You may chuckle; I can roll my eyes at it now. But those feelings were very real for me. Until I actually saw my mom again, there was no convincing me otherwise. I just knew this was the only possibility.

And thus went so much of my childhood.

IMG_0221

As I entered college and adulthood I had a pretty good grasp on it. I was able to chalk it up to overactive imagination and learned to not watch shows like “Criminal Minds” if I was going to be spending my night solo. Basically, I learned how to cope with it, grasping at strings, because I didn’t realize it was an it that needed to be coped with; that there was actually healthy ways of learning to manage it.

If you’d have asked me a year ago if I had anxiety, I’d have said no without even questioning it.

But I’ve been around the block a few times since then.

I had a lot of anxiety while pregnant with M.

IMG_0238

Every day that J walked out our front door, I felt sick to my stomach. I knew for sure it was the last time I’d see him. When I’d kiss him goodbye as he left for a work trip, I’d linger, wondering if this was in fact the very last time I’d ever touch him, taste him, smell him, see him. Was I saying goodbye? It seemed likely.

I spent most of my pregnancy unable to shake the feeling that my perfectly healthy little M would not survive.

I know. I know. If you’ve never experienced anxiety you’re thinking, “that’s batshit crazy!” I get it. Because even in those moments, those moments of panic and worry; I knew it wasn’t rational either. It’s all I had to hold onto sometimes.

The turning point was the first day I picked Mr. B up from preschool after M was born.

IMG_0216

I had all three babes in their seats, driving the same 7 minute drive I’ve driven hundreds of time, when I was overcome by unrelenting dread. My heart was racing, I felt hot and clammy, and all I could think of was if our car were to hit a slick spot in the road and run off of a bridge into a raging river, I’d never be able to save all three of them. It was not raining, nor is there any river, let alone a raging river, anywhere I typically drive. Most especially not on the short drive home.

It felt so real though as I raced through the scenario in my mind. I could let H swim by herself. She was the best swimmer of the kids; she stood a chance. But if it was a raging river, she didn’t stand a very good chance. And how could I ever forgive myself for letting her fend for herself because she stood the best chance, if she didn’t actually make it?

And the boys. M didn’t stand a chance; a tiny new babe. He might not even make it to the surface. And B is so squirrely he might drown me while I tried to save him. And who are we kidding? I’m not even a very good swimmer, the boys probably wouldn’t make it at all.

And thus it spiraled until I pulled over, certain I was having a heart attack.

You guys, that was one of the most surreal, terrifying moments of my life. And the whole time I just kept telling myself it was completely ridiculous and irrational. But it wasn’t helping.

J psychoanalyzed me through it later which was insightful, but wasn’t a cure for it. The anxiety.

IMG_0243

I’ve not had a moment like that since, thankfully.

I’d be a liar if I said it was all miraculously gone, but it has gotten significantly better since I’ve been able to put a name on it and do a lot of research.

I like to think that I won’t have bouts of anxiety my whole life, but I probably will. The good part is that I’ve had large chunks of my life where it’s been nearly nonexistent, or at least manifested itself in more helpful ways (we eat a significantly better diet than most of America thanks to it, ha!).

The truth is, I will probably always be a little hyper vigilant about doing things “right,” especially parenting, because I can’t get past the anxiety of the “what ifs” if I screw it up, even in small ways. It doesn’t mean I actually do it right, but it is definitely why it seemed crazy important that we create a beautiful nursery three times over for babies who never actually spent a night in said nurseries.

It plays a role in why I strive every day to know better, to be better, to do better.

I can’t make the anxiety disappear, but I can do my best to cultivate it for good. I can find healthy ways of living with it and dealing with it. I can be in control of it instead of allowing it to control me.

Everyday I am learning more about these sweet babes God entrusted with me. I’m learning so much more about me and the little fires that make me me. I’m learning about parenting my children with all of our quirks, with inevitable bumps along the way.

IMG_0208

But from the view I have of these three kidlets, I’m pretty certain that despite my anxiety, these babies are going to be straight up masterpieces. So I’ll take it; imperfections and all.

Meeting Everyone’s Needs

A good momma friend with one lovely babe asked me recently, “How do you meet all of their needs? Some days I feel like I’m failing to meet the needs of just one!”

First and foremost, there is not such thing as “just” one. Things are certainly different, perhaps a bit more chaotic, than when we had only one babe; but I was definitely winning and failing just as much now as we were then. Just in different ways. So whether you’ve got one kiddo or 12, you’re still just as deeply in this as the rest of us.

But how do we meet the needs of three kids daily?

Well, some days we don’t.

Most days we do though.

Sometimes, oftentimes, we have to put ourselves aside. I feel quite strongly about self-care, but I also know that this season of life is so terribly short, so many times I just don’t get to come first. Some days I have to run off of fumes and one measly square of dark chocolate and delicious wafts of my husband’s coffee (thanks, Sweet M, for not loving caffeine as much as Momma does).

We’ve rearranged our lives for this current season (the parents of three children, one a young infant), to best meet everyone’s needs. We decided early on that working out would not be a priority until M is at least 6 months old. I feel much better when I exercise each morning, but M and his siblings feel even better when they get adequate rest and snuggles (and they wake if Momma gets up).

We made budget cuts and changes to allot for a housecleaner. It sounds really luxurious, but when you’ve got control issues like I do, it’s super helpful, but slightly stressful. But this is what we need right now so that we can spend more time focusing on our babes, on our marriage, on ourselves, as opposed to cleaning toilets. The time will come around soon enough when we’ll be back at it ourselves, but for now, this is it.

Meeting the needs of three kids means some mornings I accept being Groot for my four-year-old and spend over an hour saying nothing but “I am Groot” no matter what is going on. Actually, this is pretty entertaining for me. I accept this role as often as possible.

It means spending longer at the Farmer’s Market in the hot sun than I personally want in order to let them play music for the second time.

IMG_1123

IMG_1124

IMG_1125

It means that when I am super looking forward to a solo grocery shopping trip, I am the one who sucks it up and realizes that B really needs some special Papa time and change my plans to accord for taking M and H with me so that J and B can go to the Wonderlab for two hours.  And then when we come home I have to tweak our media rule so that B can play quietly for an hour while I nurse and love on a teething M and J appeases H by making a very fancy dinner with her that she chose all the ingredients for while we were shopping.

IMG_1127

It means dressing up in the fancy clothes my daughter chose for me even though I’m exhausted and haven’t showered in two days because she insists on it in order to eat the delightful meal she and her papa prepared.

IMG_1132

IMG_1148

IMG_1145

IMG_1144

IMG_1142

It means reading an extra super hero book to B at bedtime, and taking a deep breath and telling my tantruming six-year-old that I really need a hug and to cuddle when all I want to do is flee downstairs and mentally check-out for the night.

It means sleeping (well, laying mostly awake during night hours) with a baby on my chest for most of the night and loving on him while he fusses through sleep because of those dang teeth ripping his gum tissue as they push their way to emerge above his flesh.

IMG_1158

Now don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t mean J and I are chopped liver who never get our own needs met. As I said, self-care is really important to me.

It just means that sometimes we don’t. And we have to be okay with that in this season.

And sometimes our babes don’t get their cups filled either.

Some nights, I admit, I’m not as loving as I should be. I don’t make allowances for extra books and stick with our two book rule because I just have nothing left to offer in that moment. I know I’m hanging by a thread and that my need for some solo quiet time is greater in that moment than my child’s need for an extra book (welcome to parenting as an introvert!). Some nights, most nights, it’s reversed, but it’s okay that some nights it is this way, too.

Sometimes I am not half as patient with my feisty, vivacious daughter as I wish I were. When she is crying at me for the umpteenth time because her swimsuit is the wrong color or she’s misplaced her favorite hair bow or the pencil isn’t sharp enough or the bandaid is crooked or, or, or…yeah. Some days I just sigh and walk away until I can collect myself to be the loving, patient momma she needs. And sometimes, not often, but sometimes, as much as I dislike it, I can’t be the momma she needs at all. And I really hate that. But it is what it is.

So how do I meet the needs of three kids? I don’t. I do. I try.

Sorry, Adorable Holiday Outfits; It’s You, Not Me

When H was born, that kid was decked out to the nines from day one.

Truthfully, they’re still mostly wearing Cadillac clothing while I’m over here with most of the same things I wore in high school.

I love clothes. I love kids’ clothes. I especially love that I have a Fancy Nancy little girl (though she’s admittedly getting less fancy with each passing day). So when one of those kids – or myself – hones in on a clothing item, I’m sold. I cannot say no.

Over the years they’ve had perfectly themed holiday outfits. Specials apparel for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, 4th of July, Halloween and Turkey Day.

Y’all, that’s a lot of utter adorableness.

But I’ve had enough.

Yes, me. I’m done.

Cost aside, I cannot keep up with the ridiculousness of special outfits for one-time use days. I’m even including family pictures in this – the horror! They’ll have to make do with what’s in their closets. And since they’re overflowing as is, I feel confident they will somehow grow up, the children of a millennial and a Gen X-er, mostly intact, without adorable, coordinating, holiday outfits (they’ll have lots of other reasons for therapy, I’m sure, but if it’s because of the lack of holiday outfits, I’ll probably call it a win).

But if we do want to do some simple math and factor in cost, we can. We’ll say each holiday outfit cost $15 (and we all know this is a huge under estimate). That’s $45 per holiday. Above I listed 7 major holidays (let’s not even discuss family photos). That’s $315 on outfits they literally wear one time (and it’s likely double or triple that, but J might read this so…we’re sticking with $15/outfit).

Yeah. I’m just going to sit and think about that number for a moment. And all my other first world priveleges while I’m at it.

Don’t get me wrong; holiday outfits are cute! And kids are practically like life-sized baby dolls; gotta dress ’em up while they’ll still let you!

I mean, look at this cuteness pictured here,

1470024_493407684091754_273175319_n

here

581798_10103424487960539_1238817391_n

(that’s homemade, ya’ll!)

here,IMG_6088

here,

IMG_3861

(Look at the adorableness I created for last 4th of July!)

and here.

Easter-11

 

Who can look at that without gushing?

Regardless of gushing, however, this madness has got to stop.

It’s a miracle if I shower daily. The idea that my kids need perfect little holiday-themed outfits is no more.

In this season of life I’m all about simplifying. Everything.

So I’m sorry ridiculously over-priced, undeniably adorable holiday outfits, you’re out.  Momma ain’t playing that game no more. So, so long, sayonara, adieu and adios. We won’t have even a frenemy relationship.

My adorable mismatched, self-dressed hooligans will have to suffice. And let’s just be honest, they’re probably cuter that way anyway. A whole lot less maintenance anyway.

All About Reading: The Only Reading Program You Need

IMG_9748 IMG_9753 IMG_9746 IMG_9742Look no further; I’ve found the reading program of your dreams.

When we first started considering the world of homeschooling, something I was originally sure I would never do because it was so foreign to me, my greatest fear of all was that of teaching my children to read.

I mean, that’s the foundation for everything. The rest of their lives.

That’s kind of monumental if I should screw it up.

I researched “how to teach your kid to read” until I’d left no link unclicked, no book unread, no person’s anecdotal story untold. I needed to know everything.

And after a few trial and errors, we finally stumbled into All About Reading.

All of my prayers were answered.

My kids love it. And I’m not just saying that! (And no, they’re not paying me to say that either!).

Yesterday when I had to take B to the doctor, H asked to bring a book. We only have 29384793849813 books, but she chose one of her All About Reading readers. Seriously. And she read it for nearly an hour to her little brothers.

After sleeping most of the day away with a fever over 102, B woke up at 6pm and begged me to please do his “schoolwork” with him.

Guys, they love it that much.

Now don’t get me wrong. We’ve had a few hiccups. When the content has been particularly challenging for H (aka, she hasn’t fully understood it within the first 5 seconds and it’s taken more like 5 minutes for her to get the gist of it), then H would get all mad and “I caaaaaan’t!” But that’s more tell-tale of her personality than of the program.

B has had zero interest in learning his letters, and it’s not been something I’ve pushed at all. I want my kids to learn as organically as possible. I definitely need resources to help with that, but I want it to be as true to their nature and developmental readiness as possible. But B asked me a few weeks ago if he could have his own reading program after watching H do hers; and of course, yes! Yes, you can, sweet boy.

I ordered him the pre-reading program when I ordered H’s next level up. And he loves it. He asks to do it each day. He’s eager to do it. The lessons are just short enough to keep his attention, but long enough to help him transition into what it will look like someday (waaaaay down the road most likely), when he’s ready to do a full actual reading lesson.

And the actual reading lessons are short, too. We very rarely spend more than 20 minutes on a lesson each day. And when we do, it’s often because we’ve done two lessons that day.

Truthfully, I’m learning things I didn’t know before. Reading rules that maybe I was once taught, maybe not. But the English language in all of its complexities is making more sense to me now, so I can only imagine it’s serving my children well, too.

My favorite part might be how laid out it is for me, the teacher. The teacher’s book literally tells me word for word what to say to my kids to explain the lessons and help them understand. I couldn’t mess it up if I tried!

So whether you’re homeschooling, or just need some additional resources to help your kiddo read, I cannot recommend All About Reading enough!

My Little Wild Card

Since M has been born, H and B have been all about me recounting their birth stories to them.

At this point, I’m telling them their stories so often that I’ve got them down to be pretty short.

For H: “I pushed for two hours, and then finally, I gave one big push and you came flying out. None of that cute, ‘oh the head’s out! Now the body!’ stuff. Just one push and bam! You were all out! And you were screaming (at this point I make a fake baby cry, which they find hilarious), the cord looped around your neck once, and you promptly pooped all over me. And I didn’t even care. You were perfect.”

So much of that short story sums up H’s personality too. She does everything on her own time. Sometimes she drags her feet and it feels like she’ll never be where I’d like her to be, and then when she’s ready she’s all in, and I’m flailing to catch up with her. She’s loud and in charge. Always. And even when there are obstacles that might hinder others (cord), she’s unaffected and still greatly intact; a mighty little girl. And, let’s be honest, she doesn’t care who gets pooped on along the way, ha. But she does it all gracefully, and you don’t even care, because she is so damn lovely.

And B: “Your labor was 8 hours of sporadicness, off and on. But when I was ready to push, all 9 pounds of you came out with ease. They placed you on my tummy and you were so calm and peaceful. I kept squealing that you were a boy, because I was convinced until then you were a girl, but you were so perfect. And right when I started to worry that you should be crying, you let out the most beautiful little noises.”

And again, it’s all so much of who B is now. I’ve always called him my wild card, which is funny because it is his sister whose middle name is Wilde. But I’ve never quite known what to expect with B. He’s ever changing, a rhythm enitirely of his own. Much like his labor. But once he’s ready, transitions are always so seemless for him. My tiny, peaceful observer who is always changing things up, and making sure he doesn’t get lost in the mix of it all.

Oh B. Sweet, lovely, adventurous, mischevious B.

There is something special about that boy. He’s changed me as a momma so much.

When he was one year old he was diagnosed with elevated lead levels. If it’s not something you are very knowledgeable about or have experienced yourself, it’s one of those things that is easy to brush off as “no big deal” and “thank goodness it isn’t my kid” and not think anymore of it than that.

What followed was two and half really intense years of researching and educating myself on something I’d never really ever heard about before. I spent a lot of sleepness nights just watching that lovely child sleep, wondering why him? Why us? What had I done wrong? What could I have done better?

I’ve long surpassed that. I know it wasn’t anything we did or didn’t do. Not even our historical house that I was sure would be the culprit. After extensive testing inside and out; it was ruled out. It didn’t stop us from doing renovations we couldn’t quite afford though. Or converting us to a more hippy lifestyle and The Great Purge of all plastic toys (we have since, obviously, added “unsafe” plastic toys back into the mix). We even had him and H’s car seats replaced.

It’s challenging to battle something when you don’t even know what it is exactly you’re fighting. But we knew exactly what we were fighting for, and that is all that mattered.

We will likely never know the true cause. Was it environmental? Something ingested (spinach and other produce can often have high lead levels if grown in soil with high levels)? Was it from his toys or carseat (lead in plastic is mostly unregulated)? Was it, as suggested a highly likelihood, that his body simply could not filter and remove the lead from his body, so “normal” exposure quickly rose to toxic levels in his tiny body?

We don’t know. We know it wasn’t until he was 4 years old that he finally had “normal” levels (there is no “normal” level – any lead is bad. But under 5 is considered acceptable. By someone).

But being B, he never let’s anything slow him down.

He’s got such a versatile personality and is up for nearly anything. I had no idea what was in store for us with B, but I couldn’t have asked for a child more perfect for this family.

He’s forced me to change ideas, to learn new things. His personality has taught me to parent him a different way than his sister, and likely his baby brother will be just as outstandingly original.

He’s allowed me to see first hand how sometimes pushing a kid is not in their best interest; that slow and steady wins the race. That he will come into his own on his own time. That first is not always best, that fast is not always best. That he is best, just as he is. And that some days I will have to dig deep into my parenting resources to figure out just how to parent such a laid back, sensitive little dude without causing too much damage in the process.

I think it’s easy some times to get caught up in what works with one child. We decide it’s law and we’ve got everything figured out. Even when your second child is as “easy” as B, you still have to be ever-changing and ever-bending. It’s okay to change your mind; it’s okay to do things differently.

Some days I worry that my little wild card will slip through the cracks of it all. That his laid back, easy personality will get overlooked because he just isn’t as needy or verbally demanding.

And then I remember that tiny, peaceful baby on my chest. And how he squawked just so in reassurance that he’s perfect; and can certainly never go unnoticed.

 

 

Disciplining for the Long Term

It never fails, whichever parent spends the most time with the kids ultimately ends up being the primary disciplinarian. Not on purpose, but simply because they’re around the most so statistically they’ll be the one there the most to correct.

You know what? It sucks.

There is nothing I loathe more than disciplining my children.

We are primarily non-punitive. We don’t do time-outs or other arbitrary punishments. I do send them to their rooms to read some books or play quietly when they’re clearly overwhelmed with too much togetherness and just cannot summon it within themselves to treat one another lovingly and kindly; but they’re just having quiet time playing. They’re not sitting in a corner “thinking about what they’ve done” (because what kid is actually contemplating their “misbehavior” in time-out?).

We are all about talking and working together over here. I know a lot of people roll their eyes at that. Once upon a time I said, “Gentle hands” and “Hands are for hugging not hitting” so many times I wanted to roll my eyes too. But somehow we all got through that phase in tact and they pretty much know not to hit now; time-outs, being yelled at, and spankings not needed.

But still. B’s always had a temper, and H is so dramatic and sassy. It’s exhausting.

I remind myself daily what my goals are for my children long term, not necessarily today. And just focus on those.

Most of the time it seems like they’re utter angels for J, and absolute hellions for me. But when I break it down, I probably get more sweet angelic moments than he does; I just also get those crazy terrible ones too.

I want so badly for our days to be all sunshine and roses that I have to bite my lip from screaming, “I want to be freaking Miss Honey but you’re all a bunch of baby Trunchbulls making this impossible!” (We are obviously reading Matilda right now.)

On those more stressful, gray-hair-inducing days, I pour a glass of wine and remind myself that they are such precious little gifts. That they’re disciplining me (and by discipline, I mean teaching, always, always, always), just as much as I am them. Which is why it is so very important that I show them immense grace and patience, even when I have to search deep down into my core and muster up the very last slivers I have left in me, because it will always be worth. The pay out will far exceed what I must put forth right now.

But some days it is so challenging. That terrible little monster named Jealousy pokes her head up when I find it seeming like all the time J has with them is fun, and I’m doing all the hard work.

Then I am reminded that it’s not true when I watch him in the throes of it. Baby on his hip, H demanding he help her, B crying for his attention, and him just standing there, needing to get a million other things done. I’m not doing it all alone. Some days are longer than others, but he’s in this just as thick as I am.

It’s not all roses and sunshine. Not even remotely close. But it is all beautiful in its own crazy, chaotic, every-challenging way.

So although I despise the least fun parts of discipline, I just keep reminding myself that I’m helping to model and teach them to be kind and loving little people, and sometimes that means I have to correct and reprimand and have them angry at me, and I have to do it all with patience and gentleness, because we are disciplining for long term results, not punishing for in-the-moment mishaps.

*** The winner of our giveaway for Strengths Based Parenting is Shelley! Thank you all who participated!***

 

Growing Pains

So I had planned on transferring the majority of my old blog over. I mean, there are like 450 posts – that’s a lot of writing.

But as I read through so many of my old posts, I realized that maybe I didn’t want to bring them over.

Let’s just be honest here.

I was a completely different person when that blog started than what I am now.

And I guess that’s the learning part of it.

But geesh. I was downright awful at times.

Five years ago my life was still very black and white. Black and white served me well though, up until that point in my life. It got me where I am. There was always a very clear cut right and wrong for me. In everything.

The idea of there being a gray area, or – gasp – varying shades of gray, was simply unfathomable.

Now, that got me excellent grades in school and helped me find a guy who met my exceedingly high and difficult standards. But if there is nothing else I’ve learned in parenting, it’s that there simply is no black and white.

That doesn’t mean I don’t view a lot of parenting ideals in black and white still. I’m pretty steadfast on many of my views, but there are a lot of things I realize aren’t a big deal.

As I was telling two of my closest friends a few days ago when I asked them how they didn’t tell me how flat out awful I used to be, I commented that H and B are all ready planning Christmas. Yep, in June. They know what gifts they want and what sort of cookies they want to make for Santa. They’ve asked if they can leave the reindeer carrots and a glitter trail to our house. B advised me that the chimney needs cleaned out and that he is certain Santa Claus does not like almond milk.

Guys. Two years ago I’d have been over here all panicky like, “Wheeeeeere did I go wrooooong!? Don’t they know the true meaning of Christmas? Why are they just asking for gifts!? OMG! I didn’t tell them Santa is real! In fact, I flat out told them he is pretend and we read a whole book about the real St. Nicholas. So whyyyyy do they want to make him cookies? And for Pete’s sakes they know reindeer can’t fly, so why would they play into this silliness?”

No joke. That used to be my train of thought.

And now I’m just like, “Cool. Sounds fun. Whatever rocks your boat, kidlets.”

I used to get my panties in a twist over wording. Wording! Of course I don’t bribe my kids! The horror! I explain to them in the step in which things will occur. “First you get in your car seat. Then you get a lollipop.” Let’s just call a spade a spade. “If you get in your carseat without screaming for a fucking hour beforehand, you can have a lollipop. The whole bag if we can drive across town with zero screeching.”

I know that a lot of it is my hardcore perfectionism gene. And I’ve been working on fixing that (but changing your DNA is HARD). But geez. How did I have friends? How did I not completely suffocate my kids in ridiculous, unbridled, never-quite-there perfectionism?

Good grief.

So anyway.

I’m leaving that whole blog up. Peruse it at your leisure. Chuckle at how crazy uptight I once was (and okay, okay, still am in more ways than I truly want to admit). But I’m just going to leave that there and start fresh (though I may pull things over as I see fit).

And we can all just be thankful that over the years I’ve grown. Oh, how I’ve grown. Painfully sometimes. And yet it’s been for the best as it’s all brought me to this very point in time.

Let’s go forward from here, learning from my ridiculous growing pains, and learn together how to raise sweet, caring, well-rounded, open-minded, self-actualized little people who will make the world a truly better place.

Year One Down

So we officially made it through our first year of homeschooling.

Let me tell you, saying you plan on homeschooling, and actually doing so, are two completely different things. I’m not sure I fully realized what I was getting myself into until it was too late, ha.

But trust me, I’d do it all over again. Obviously. Because this year I will have two being schooled.

Fortunately for me, I’m super unschooly, so it made things easy this year. J loathes the term “unschool” because he says people associate it to watching TV all day as opposed to a belief that children can lead their education into the directions of their interests.

We used a formal reading curriculum. It’s important to me that they learn to read properly, at an age appropriate time (not aged 5, unless they’re truly ready on their own, but somewhere between ages 6-8, when they’re naturally ready). We did a few lessons here and there from All About Reading, but didn’t get serious about it until the end of April. She plowed through it like nobody’s business and I cannot wait to start the next level with her, as well as All About Spelling.

Because H was technically kindergarten aged this year, and she had done half-day kindy the year before, I didn’t feel compelled to be too overly ambitious with her. Which turned out to be a good things, because the last 6 weeks of my pregnancy did me in, and about the first 12 weeks after sweet M was born we did nada in terms of actual school.

So what else did we do for the school year?

Well, the two absolute most important things was that she PLAY and that I READ to her. I pushed H and B out the back door nearly every day for some free range play in the yard . I think there is very little in life more important than kids being outside and being able to play unhindered from their parents. I definitely value this as an infinitely important part of their homeschooling.

And it should go without saying that there isn’t much more you can do to help your child’s education than to read to them. And then to read some more. And right when you think you might go absolutely hoarse, or possibly insane from reading the same book 20 times in one day, read a little more.

She helped me cook daily. She helped do the math to double recipes, to add up how many 1/3 cups we needed to get 2 cups of flour. We did science experiments like they were going out of style. Okay, okay, J mostly did the science experiments with the kids. The really cool ones anyway. They built things with hammers and nails, painted pictures, wrote her own stories. She got her groove on in dance class, gymnastics, and soccer. Practiced her piano every day. We read so, so much about Paris because she’s obsessed. And we read so much about dinosaurs because he’s obsessed. We counted snails and baby diapers.

We discussed the miracle of childbirth until I was nearly miracled out. We watched so many videos on YouTube about it. And then she got to put her hands on her baby brother’s body and help him enter the world. You can’t really top that.

So I’d say all in all, we had a super successful first year of homeschooling. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for us!

Today is Dad’s day

I am so fortunate to be surrounded by so many amazing dads.

My own dad: the amazing human who makes up half of my DNA – mostly my twisted sense of humor. He’s always been one of the best people in my life, and one of the few people who I know would drop everything and do anything for me if I ever needed. You don’t get that from very many people; Lord knows I love him to pieces.

My ex-step-dad: you know you are deeply loved when another human makes the conscious decision to stick around be your parent, and to be an amazing grandparent to your children, when there is nothing binding him to do so. I genuinely couldn’t be luckier to have this guy participating in our lives.

And J. My sweet, amazing husband. The dashing father of our three babes. He is everything I ever hoped for in a partner, and then some. I grew up knowing a lot of not-so-stellar dads, so I was a wee bit leery in the men department. But I was upfront with him from the beginning; if we were going to do the kid thing, then he had to be all in. He didn’t get nights and weekends off. He didn’t get a free pass because he’d had a crappy day at work. He was there. Committed. 100%. It was kind of a silly discussion; because he was so committed even before then.

Those tiny babes have each had him wrapped around their tiny fingers from the day of conception. And more so, they’ve been fully wrapped around his heart.

There is nothing more beautiful, or sexy, than a man in love with his children. I do not take for granted for a single moment that he has always been an equal parent. He’s changed just as many diapers, paced the hall in the middle of the night with a colicky baby just as often, mended owies, kissed hands, been spoon-fed spaghetti by toddlers, and had eyes rolled at him just as frequently as I have.

He’s ever-calm in a way I still don’t understand how he manages. All hell can break loose and he’s the one cradling kids and meeting everyone’s needs while also making it explicitly clear in the gentlest of voices that families must always work together and be loving.

And there are other dads that we are surrounded by that are so great. J’s best friends. The husband’s of some of my dearest momma friends. My step-dad. My future brother-in-law is going to be a bang up dad; he’s so great and loving with my kids all ready.

When scary stuff in the world happens, it always makes me so sad. But then I remind myself of all the men I know who are raising strong, kind, loving children who will never hate another human based on race, gender or religion, and it makes me feel so confident that slowly this world will be a better place. Because of J, because of other hands-on, gentle, forward-thinking papas, there will be a whole generation of kiddos one day who only know love. (And obviously their mommas are helping there, too!)

So here is to all the dads today! To all the papas who love their babies fiercely. This is your day. You so deserve it.