I'm just ahead enough in packing for a vacation Paul and I are going on that I'm feeling overconfident in my timing so much so that I thought it would be fun to stop for a quick blog post. Tonight, I will swing right back into the pendulum of suffocating anxiety and hyper-excitement for the trip.
Here are the notes I am leaving with my mom regarding watching the boys:
S L E E P
+ If you do nothing else, make sure Thomas pees right before bed. Otherwise, he will absolutely pee his bed. If you get so much as a trickle from him though, he's good to go. Unless he vomits in the middle of the night. That's a whole other problem.
+The twins may wake in the middle of the night. Maybe pause / ignore / put in headphones or descend two floors and let them figure out their woes on their own. They can be dramatic. Otherwise, go in, give a sip of water, and avoid good eye contact.
E A T I N G
+ Thomas is only allowed to say that something is "not my favorite". Remind him of this and enjoy how absolutely disparaging he can make this comment sound as he slinks into his chair.
+ Have Thomas cook anything with you & I guarantee he will proclaim wild things like "this is the best food ever!" or "you make the best food! this is so yummy!" or "nana, you're just the best cooker in the world!"
+ Really, the boys are great eaters. They eat just about anything. Maybe take this time to clean out your cabinet and fridge!
+Alistair will eat all the things. This is good. This is also bad. He will not put non-food objects in his mouth & attempt to eat but he will literally find & eat every digestible calorie within a hundred foot radius of himself as if it is his life's mission.
+Emerick loves to entertain his table guests as well as act like he is courting his food rather than eating it. If he isn't taking his food seriously (tossing it, letting it slowly fall from his tongue, building structures with peas and potatoes, wiping it in his hair, placing on face while making funny expressions, building on spoon for fun game, swapping with brother, creating artistic pieces on plate, etc) feel free to take plate away.
D I S C I P L I N E
+ Preventative = Make Thomas work. Make him think his jobs are really important and you really need him. You will have no problems.
+ When you do have problems, refer to handy dandy reference:
----- wound up - send him off for time alone so he can cool down
----- is winding boys up - send him off for time alone so no one sends you to the E.R.
----- is whiny - tell him whiny boys go to bed early
----- is fighting with brothers - tell him to make it right or else. then give big eyes and cryptic facial expression. ;)
+ Twins = take toys they are hurting each other with for the rest of the day. Then separate each one and lock them up. Turning a blind eye helps. Also, paying someone else to watch them. Overall, just channel your inner boxing referee and enjoy!
G R E A T A C T I V I T I E S
+ The twins are ticklish in their armpits and Thomas under his knee caps
+ Give the kids spoons and turn on music. Enjoy lip syncing and booty shaking at its primal level.
+ Find an animal and set the boys loose after it.
+ Find the boys and set them loose on each other.
P O C K E T P H R A S E S T O U S E
+ "That's how we do it at Nana's house."
+ "Are we following our family rules?"
+ "I heard they just built a new prison down the road for kids who don't listen to their Nana and do exactly what she says."
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Thomas was about 3 when I asked one of my co-workers how he was going to learn how to read. How would I get him there? She had met Thomas and knew what I meant. Curious boy. Lots of questions. She said, "Read and read and read to him. Then read more and then some more. And he will learn how to read."
When no one is looking, I will type hopelessly personal questions into Google as if he is a magic 8 ball of succinct answers. I'm always disappointed when Paul's father's day present doesn't pop up and instead I've got 10,871 articles that are "helpful". When my co-worker (brilliant co-worker, btw), suggested I should just read to Thomas a ton, I was a little disappointed. Where's my easy, no-fail 17 step system to teach him to read?
But she was absolutely, absolutely right. Bathe in reading. Delight in reading. Max out the library card. Bring a laundry basket to the library to fill. Tell the kids to stop playing in the laundry basket because "no, kids. not for playing. we are putting books in this thing because I was told reading so much that I never get to the laundry does magical things to children's brains."
But as far as going beyond the laundry basket [and bins and shelves and waves of books], here are the things we have learned and tried to practice along the way.
1. There are bad books. Kick them out. A "bad book" is one you keep hiding because if your sweetie pie asks you to read it again you may just melt into the couch from boredom. A "bad book" is one that your husband comes to you about and says, "hey, I read that book about Valentine's Day to Thomas. Have you read that thing? It is the dumbest thing I have ever read. No, really. It is really, really terrible." A "bad book" is one that requires you to not only read but also manipulate things in the book like some sort of freakin mechanic, still thinks Pluto is the real deal, or that makes too many potty jokes because it knows its audience is boys and boys like potty jokes (which they do so very, very, very, very, very, very much but c'mon!).
2. When you are annoyed that your child wants to learn how to read, teach him to read. This way he has the independence to read and you can listen to him read every sign, billboard, and building name on the street from the back seat of the car, and he can say "woah. slow down, mom. I needed to read that!" and be very confused by acronyms. This is not dissimilar from being excited that you have [insert smug look] taught little Junior to go to the potty and switched over immediately to living in fear for years that he will have accidents in public and destroy your life.
3. Never bribe your kids. But also bribe them with books. I read an excellent book about how incentives and rewards deeply damage children. No joke! But to get through the reading instruction book, I gave Thomas a "surprise" every ten lessons and when I say a surprise I mean a book. Hey. Don't judge. Okay, judge. It's not because he wasn't motivated. It's because I needed him to be a little more motivated. Momma's got some laundry to not fold.
4. Stop pretending you are too cool for children's books. Thomas might be a little concerned about who his mom really is, or if she ever really was smart enough to hold a real job like his dad and mom keep insisting. And this is because last year I learned so many things from picture books. "Wow. I didn't know that." comes off my tongue pretty easily. Last year I learned about planets, cultures, countries, castles, pirates, all sorts of famous people and that eels can climb up waterfalls. I'm still thinking about those eels.
5. Read your own even better stuff near the kid. Then engage in a fun game of intellectual roulette where you subtly entice your blossoming reader (quiet laughs or "hmm"s help) to ask you what you are reading. Respond back, "oh this thing? You wouldn't be interested. It's an adult book." to which they will insist they are interested. I've read all sorts of things aloud to Thomas that were near to totally inappropriate, but it was worth the game of seeing if he could understand any of it. Which maybe is not a page right out of Parenting Like You Mean It, but I like to spice things up. Thomas still talks about Rhett coming to rescue the ladies and the Yankees burning down Atlanta. That's a win in my book, Parenting for Fun!
Thursday, April 16, 2015
I, vacillating between both great pride and great disappointment, thought pretty much everything that my firstborn was and acted and did was about me. Oh sure, I wouldn't have said it aloud. It was more of a feeling I had. It was because of MY dedication, MY sleep training, MY influence, MY effort, MY personality. And some things are about me. But the longer I'm a mom, the more I've discovered that these little people arrive all their own and we are witness to a great many things that have nothing to with us. Do we help shape them? Oh yeah. Do we help with perimeters and discipline? Sure. But there are these amazing moments that just kind've blow the lid off the pot. Here's one that just is about as true and honest as they come.
If you ran into me in public out for groceries or a bored stroll through Target, I would stop my crew (depending on store, with 1 or 2 carts) and the following would happen. I would get in a brief amount of chit chat with you and then Thomas would ask to speak.
He may say "excuse me" or "who are you" or "I don't know you" or be rude and jump straightaway at one of a dozen questions he plans to ask you. He is like one of those toys you wind up and they vibrate forward just because they can... only he is permanently programmed for such, no extra winding necessary. He will ask you all sorts of things if you don't run off right away. About your day. How you know his momma. What you dreamt about last night because he dreamt about a tornado sucking up his ninja turtles. If you like pb&js as much as he does.
The entire time this is taking place the twins will sit eerily still. They will calmly stare at you, sweetly boring into something they know nothing about, you, and would maybe, probably, like to keep it that way. They will sit so still it is as if they are playing a game of hide and go seek and their hiding spot happens to be in a shopping cart under massive fluorescent lighting. They won't talk to you. Not likely. What is likely is that they will listen to everything you say. And stare. And sit like baby ninjas.
I don't blame them. What's the point? Thomas does 90% of the talking around here. Good for him. I think the only time he stops talking is when he is eating. A couple nights ago at the dinner table I asked the kids if they wanted to talk about what made their day great. Like an old soul, Thomas raised his hand just a bit and with expertly squinty eyes as if after deep contemplation said, "let's just be quiet and not talk and enjoy our dinner." Alright then. So there. He does stop talking sometimes.
Speaking of the dinner table, there's another budding development of contrasts between the kids. Alistair and Emerick have taken it upon themselves to tell Thomas and I (and Paul when he's here) to pray before we eat. As soon as I sit down, Alistair (very adamant about this) gets my attention in his nonsense blibber blabber and pressing his palms together so I will start the blessing. As we say grace, Alsitair and Emerick beam that we've remembered and when they go to make their disjointed and adorable sign of the cross, I look across the table to Thomas and rummage through my guilty mom files for a memory of Thomas EVER trying to make the sign of the cross, but he's busy being quiet so I don't bother to ask.
Why doesn't that mom just let her kid cry it out? That little girl is just upset to be left at day care because she can sense her mom's anxiety. Oh, and this one makes me cringe... If she would have just tried a little harder, she could have made nursing work.
These are not pithy examples. These were real. These are real judgments I really felt. And now, oh now. Ha!
I've had both a child who could sleep through a tornado passing over his body and a child who wakes for sips of water as if his delicate system will just die if he doesn't have a touch of water before drifting off to sleep again.
I've had both children who are as happy as can be to be left in the care of someone else and playing with toys that are different than the ones we have at home and one (Emerick at the moment) who wants nothing more to be safely in the arms of his momma. Much tears. MUCH tears.
I've had a nursing experience that was calm and beautiful (except when he would hit me on the chest) and one that was difficult, overstimulating and altogether an experience that still makes me want to put a bumper sticker on my car that says, "I CAN DO HARD THINGS!"
I've. Been. Humbled.
My kids humble me right out the gate with those darn c-sections. No warrior, hear me cry, see me push, watch me bloom kind of birthing experiences for me. And I've been on the receiving end of that judgment. Hashtag truth.
I know just as true as the sun that there are women who think if I would have just read a little more, asked a few more questions, waited a little longer, gone to a few more classes, tried a little harder, cared a little more, challenged a little more, interviewed a different doctor, had a better plan, and prayed a little harder THEN I would have done it the right way. I know this because I've seen it written across their forehead as plain as day, like that involuntary underwear exercise we're encouraged to use when speaking in public...only in this case we can see that our momma friend is thinking their naked thoughts right on their face and you want to look away but you can't and you can't believe you can see them but you can and you wonder if she realizes she's naked.
It's one thing to say we aren't judgmental. It's another thing to truly bridge the gap between what we know to what is unfamiliar.
For me, having 3 kids has pretty much built that bridge. Some of you don't need 3 kids to make that happen. Good for you. You rock. I would hope we all don't have to have multiple kids to grow in understanding of each other. No, yeah, that's not right. There's lots of ways to do that. But since I'm more or less huddled up with these kids of mine day in and day out (whom are vacuuming as a team, without supervision, the spices that the twins dumped out while I finish this post), I'm glad that I'm growing closer to others in the process even when I'm isolated.
And just to make it clear what that means. It means me watching my kids grow into their own and realizing every day just how dumb it was that I took so much credit and claim for how they've come about.
Because I will tell you right now there is no voodoo parenting trick I'm aware of that can get a set of twins to play invisible or a kid to talk until the skin falls right off your body. And I'm so glad I've finally got that cleared up in my mind.
Tuesday, April 7, 2015
My firstborn, Thomas, turned five this winter and gave me pause to reflect on my first five years of motherhood. My gut reaction was to feel awful about all I’ve messed up. That sounds terrible, but it’s the truth. Learning the ropes of the mommy vocation has been uncomfortable for me, even gut wrenching at times. It’s been humiliating (the fit in Wal-mart) and humbling (calling my mom or texting a friend with “help. please tell me what to do”) in between all the joy I’ve felt in seeing these three unique and beautiful little souls sprout up before my very eyes.
If there is one good reason I blog, it’s because I want to encourage moms. But the truth is, it doesn’t matter how many tantrums, teething all-nighters, or vomit-catching blankets I’ve handled, I will always need encouragement just as much as the mom who is holding her brand new baby this day.
So if I share these encouragement tidbits with you, know that it’s not because I’ve mastered them & want to pass them on along with the excess baby onesies. It’s because these are the good gold nuggets of hope I cling to on those dirty, dig deep days that bring me to my knees in prayer to Jesus as I’m pushing poopy crib sheets into the washer.
1. Plant the seeds
Moms (and dads!) are seed planters. We plant and plant and plant and plant these little invisible seeds every day. We sit with doe-eyed junior and read the board book and say silly things like “turtle starts with ’t’…can you say ’t’?” Sometimes we think to ourselves, “is any of this getting through to you?” And sometimes we say “do you understand a damn thing I’m saying to you?” No we don’t. We don’t cuss in front of our kids.
But when you’ve reminded Suzie to say “please” and “thank you” no less than 1,337,878,976,962 times and she has yet to remember on her own, you just start to wonder if any of your efforts are sticking. They are. But some of those seeds sit in the ground for a long time (we’re talking grow a Duck Dynasty beard time-frame) before they poke back up out of the ground again. Keep planting the seeds. Most of them will grow something, eventually.
Sometimes the seeds are things for us, not them. I was so deeply selfish with my first that I was annoyed that I had to sometimes hold him when I ate. How dare this kid come between me and my food?! I’ve planted a lot of seeds since then. Now I’m much less selfish and just get annoyed when the kids realize I’m eating the rest of breakfast in my bedroom with the door closed, locked, bolted, and barred shut by a dresser.
2. You are not alone
Let’s talk Satan’s lies. Here’s what Satan absolutely loves, loves, loves. He loves for you to think that you are alone. He wants you to bury your head in the sand and think that you are the only mom ever who: hasn’t read a single parenting book, can’t seem to get dinner on the table without it coming out of a box or a bag, hates reading to her kids, is depressed, is anxious, is depressed and anxious, has no idea what she’s doing, let her kid cry it out, let herself cry it out, nursed too long, nursed too little, yelled today, yelled while she was nursing today, and who wasn’t ready for baby to come home…like, at all.
I promise you that whatever you are facing today with your sweet pea (who might be acting more like rotten cabbage meets poltergeist), you are absolutely, positively not alone. The second you remember this is the second you are on your way to moving on to a better place (where you aren’t hiding out in the bathroom with your cell phone). Reach out to your village. Phone a friend isn’t just a Who Wants to Be a Millionaire assist. It’s a freebie available to all of us playing Who Wants to Be a Mom Who Doesn’t Run Away to Florida Sans Family. Actually, that sounds fabulous! Well, you understand what I mean. But really, any takers on a trip to the Keys with me?? All to say, you are not alone. Remember this. It’s 100% true.
3. Celebrate the good. Deal with the bad. And move on.
Oh boy, is parenting a messy business or what?! Right when you have figured out how to get your 1 year old to take a nap mid-day and you dang near feel like a magician for that epic accomplishment, your 3 year old discovers her divine ability to say no and stomp away from you. In public. With parenting, you don’t get fully caught up to speed or that sense of relief from being finished with something.
When I have this awful feeling that I’m in the wrong head space as a mom, I remember this motto: “celebrate the good, deal with the bad, and move on.” It’s something that my sis-in-law, Moira, said one time and it has stuck with me ever since. Specifically, I think about the balance with the three parts of this. Sometimes I’m doing too much celebrating (sending my mom 1000 photos of the kids and fun things Thomas said). Sometimes I’m focusing way too much on the bad. (Dark place, my friends. Much crying and even more chocolate). And sometimes I’m just stuck and need to move on with things regardless of if the space we’ve been hanging out in as a family has been really great or really awful.
4. By feast (not by force)
Thomas didn’t sing his ABC’s correctly until he was already learning how to read, just this past year. He couldn’t count to 10 (consistently) until he was 4, but just a year later he’s doing addition and subtraction problems for fun. He’s five now and drew a robot a couple weeks ago out of a how-to drawing book for kids much older than him, but he didn’t start drawing (or having any interest whatsoever) anything other than a few scribbles the first 4 years of his life. And let me just say, that the drawing one might have been the most difficult one for me. I can’t even fully describe just how absolutely uninterested he was in anything artistic.
|I found the robot!|
These somewhat backward breakthroughs makes it sound like I taught him these things while I’ve been at home with him, but that just isn’t the case. Certain things clicked with him in a much different order than what’s deemed “normal”. What a dumb word “normal” is. It’s good for your kids to have a little weird in them. That’s often our cue to what makes them so special.
Sometimes, we are discouraged because we want our kids to either be ________________ or we want them to do x, y, and z. The problem, wonderful problem, with that is that they are so extraordinarily unique. We can’t force them into these molds that we had pictured in those days after seeing the plus sign on the pregnancy test. Your kid done broke that mold. That mold is shattered, flushed, and long gone, girlfriend.
We should be gentle with ourselves and with our children in what they are learning and what they find interesting. Dare I say it. Relax! I think it is great to invite them in to read and to see nature and to watch basketball games and to do the million wonderful things that we would want for them. But we also should watch and wait some too. They often go at their own pace. They often fly when we are least expecting it. And we shouldn’t get discouraged when it’s not as we had thought it would be. We can add to the feast. They’ll eat. And you’ll have the communion of sharing the table together. But please, please don’t despair as I did when your 4 year old stands up with all the other kids at day care and is the only one who can not for the life of him (or those hives breaking out) remember how in the hell to get from 1 to 10.
Much love from your fellow "new mom"!
Wednesday, April 1, 2015
We held our fancy shmancy uber professional name drawing for the book giveaway.
I asked Thomas to reach into a bowl & select one special momma. And since silly is on full-blast non-stop here, he thought that the celebration photo made most since with the name in his mouth.
I asked Thomas to reach into a bowl & select one special momma. And since silly is on full-blast non-stop here, he thought that the celebration photo made most since with the name in his mouth.
Laura, you've won! I'll contact you and request your whereabouts, so I can send you the book as soon as I have a moment to pry all the boys from me.... which is saying a lot... but, no, I will get it to you very soon. A belated Easter gift...that has nothing to do with Easter. ;)
Monday, March 30, 2015
I'm giving away a copy of Siblings Without Rivalry: How to help your children live together so you can live too. This is not a sponsored post. The book is a purchase I made explicitly for my readers because I love you guys. If you want the instructions on how to be entered to win the book, scroll down to the bottom of the post.
I don't know if I've shared this on the blog before, but when I found out that I was having twins, the ultrasound technician asked me if I still wanted to know the sex...considering the shock of what had just been discovered.
In that moment, I said aloud, "please don't let it be girls, please don't let it be girls." How terrible, right? For reasons stemming from my own experiences as a girl in a girl's world, I felt that parenting boys who were the same age would be easier. I felt that I would be better equipped to cultivate and encourage two separate identities, two separate sets of interests, two separate senses of self.
A lot of that feels different now. I think I just felt more ready at that time to parent two more boys because I already had a boy.
Here's what else is different, and I'm sure a lot of other parents can understand. Yes, it's pretty cool that I get to parent identical twins. I won't deny that their connection, their similarities, and their relationship is pretty special, one that almost makes a parent want to sit back and take in the magic. But it's been over a year and a half since they were born and 95% of the time it just simply feels like I have 3 separate kids. Of course, I have 3 separate kids. What I mean is that it doesn't feel like Thomas + twins. It IS Thomas + Alistair + Emerick.
There are the reality of dynamics. The reality of a first born. The reality of two boys who can hardly be told apart by almost everyone and yet are each day forming their own identities. The reality of three boys who each have their own special, unique personalities vying for attention and love all day long in all sorts of different ways.
Erma Bombeck said it best when she said that her favorite child was the one who needed her that moment. A mother of one pours herself out to her child. A mother of more than one, in transition to loving on two....or three, wonders how she could "split up" her love. She comes to find out she doesn't have to. She just gives of herself all day. [Piece of cake, right?]
But what about when we aren't loving on them? What about all that time when we aren't there? When we are listening to one cry along with his brother in the next room? When we are trying to get the dishes done and wonder if the bickering in the next room should be broken up or ignored? When we are in the car and are so tired of listening to the kids fight with each other that we imagine the consequences of strapping the oldest to the roof?
Now I know what my final hang-up was with twins. Sibling rivalry. There's been this underlying concern that I will need to be really good at navigating the business of sibling rivalry. And now I get it. I would need to be good at it regardless.
I asked for this book for a Christmas gift, but I felt that I needed to read it for some time way down the road. I was wrong. It's a book that speaks encouragement in very practical terms for any mother of any age in any stage with more than 1 kid.
This is one of the most helpful parenting books I have ever read. I will be going back to it when I've forgotten (as I will) what my role needs to look like (and not look like) in building up positive relationships between my sons.
I'm grateful that I've been spared the pain of feeling pitted against my siblings. I didn't feel that way at all even though I am aware, now, of when I was not the sister I could have been. Before reading the book I did want my boys to get along, but I also felt like I was missing a road map to get them there. This book is that road map. Of course, a parent's verdant efforts can't ensure things as we wish they would, but there are clear, explicit instructions in this book that make a parent feel at peace carrying out x,y, & z even if, in the end, the kids still can't get along that day or that year or in that way that we wish they would.
* * * * *
I'm giving away one copy of Siblings Without Rivalry: How to help your children live together so you can live too this week.
I blog intermittently. I blog haphazardly. And yet you, my readers, are so kind in still reading my words. A lot of people have reached out to me recently, simply telling me that they are reading what I write. For a SAHM who wants just a touch more out of life than being mom, those simple words, "I'm reading your blog", mean a heck of a lot more than you can know. So thank you.
If you are a momma in any way (or especially a momma preparing your heart for more), I want to get this book in your hands. I wish I had a dozen copies to give away. Alas, since it came out of my own money, 1 copy is all I can share this time.
Here's all I need from you to enter you in the drawing:
Finish this statement (either a. here on the blog b. on my FB page post of this blog post or c. my blog's FB page post of this blog post-------dang if that's not confusing). Please only comment in one of these three choices.
My desire for my children is that _____________________________________________________.
Answer however you like. Be honest. :)
I'll be putting your names in a hat and letting Thomas pick the winner Wednesday night at 6:00.
Thursday, March 26, 2015
Every once in a while this dumb thought pops up in my head:
"I KNOW about being the supportive wife to a husband who travels a lot. THAT'S what I should write about on the blog. Encouragement for women who do the same!"
And that's when I remember:
"Oh, wait. That would require me to not be a hot mess about him traveling. It would require me to actually, finally be the "together wife."
And that's when you might be thinking:
"Ashley, surely you aren't really a hot mess when he's gone. What's a hot mess anyway?"
Actually, a lot of you AREN'T thinking that because you are friends and family and know my faults. Shhhh....love you!
I haven't counted the weeks in total, but let me tell you I've put in enough time at this point it should be my second nature to roll with the traveling all easy breezy like. Instead, it's somewhere fall down the list of my traits, falling even below my inclination to put on false eyelashes (once ever).
All things I've done while Paul is gone:
+ avoid the bed like the plague because I don't want to sleep alone, so I set up camp on the couch and do the only thing you can do to make your brain go so numb you completely forget about possible intruders: watch truly ridiculous amounts of reality t.v.
+ circle town evaluating which fast food place has options that are healthy enough that I won't feel mom guilt but cheap enough that I won't feel wife guilt and realizing every time that no such place exists so I go home and make pb&js and settle for just mom guilt with a plot twist of kids grateful for pb&js....again, fanciest of fancy feasts
+ desperately eager for adult talk, I invite a woman into my home for this thing called a "play date" where none of our kids play but insist on needing 90% of my attention, leaving just enough of my energy to start 30 conversations and not finishing one of them. At the end of the "play date", I say goodbye to my friend, close the door, and Thomas asks me why I am crying
+ woken up the next day (which is hardly a thing because when you just camp out at your house for 4 days the time just bleeds together) and looked at my YouTube history and felt that I truly did not know myself anymore
+ gotten into the car on a Thursday and smiled at the kids in the backseat and said "alright kids, to the grocery store!" [pulling out of the garage...into the driveway...looking at the house and the neighborhood...] "Guys, we haven't been out of the house since...Sunday. Oh my gosh, WE HAVEN'T BEEN OUT OF THE HOUSE SINCE SUNDAY!" <blank stares>
+ gone 4 strong days without a whiny text, a desperate call, or so much as yelling at the kids. Ha, 4 days of being some mom goddess of ferocity-- reading calmly, loving generously and laughing the days away only to fall apart on Friday with frantic texts that "I need to get out of this house. I'm about to LOSE MY MIND. Would you be opposed to me leaving the house the second you come home so I can walk around the mall and pretend I'm still normal?"
Just keeping it real for you. Easy breezy like. :)