Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Five Things That Have Made Me A Better Mother

You have heard it all before. Motherhood is hard. Motherhood is unpredictable. You may not ever really feel like you know what you’re doing. While all of these things are true there is a lot of joy, wisdom, and knowledge that come along with being a mother.
I have to admit however that I haven’t always found the joy, wisdom or knowledge I was hoping to have.  There have been many days that have been filled with frustration and doubt. There have been days that I have wanted bedtime to arrive sooner rather than later. There have been days that I have cried on the phone to my husband while he is at work. There have been days I yelled more than I would have liked. Those have not been my proudest moments as a mother.  I finally figured out that there were some things I needed to change.
Redefining the idea of the perfect day.
I needed to realize that the days are never going to be “magazine or Pinterest perfect”. The kids are not always going to have on clothes that match or are stain free for that matter. We are not going to be able to do the perfect craft once a week to hang on our fridge for all our relatives to see. We are not always going to eat perfectly prepared organic meals and that is okay. Sometimes the perfect day is going to be spent inside in our pajamas. We are going to eat pretzels and cookies and watch way too much television. We are going to throw caution to the wind and feel a sense of freedom.
Ignoring the noise.
I spent way too much time telling my kids to quiet down. “Stop screaming.” “Why are you guys so loud today? “ I got sick of hearing my own voice telling them to quiet down. I finally realized kids are loud. Everything they do is loud. Moving from the kitchen to the living room? Loud. Talking to each other while right next to one another? Loud. Talking to each other while in separate bathrooms? Ridiculously loud.  I finally embraced the volume level around here. 
Allowing them to feel proud even if it’s not perfect.
At the end of every day we tell our kids to clean up all the toys they were playing with before bed. Often times that means they have to clean up the equivalent of a small toy store that only sells super small pieces. I have specific bins for all the toys. For some reason I expected a six year old and a three year old to always put things away in the correct bins. I found myself saying “Okay good enough” and then reorganizing everything after they were in bed. Why? Why on earth did I feel the need to do that? I realized one day that they were trying really hard. I realized that they were in fact putting away all the toys and they were proud that the floor was no longer a mine field of Legos. Instead of “good enough” I started saying “great job boys” and they started trying even harder. Lesson learned.
Allowing them to make mistakes.
It’s so hard sometimes to not intervene in every little thing my kids are doing. When our six year old was learning to ride a two wheeler for the first time I was constantly saying “Oh watch out!” “Try leaning more to your left. YOUR OTHER LEFT!” He got off his bike one day and said he was giving up. After giving him the whole when you don’t succeed at something right away that doesn’t mean you give it up speech I realized I needed to back off a little. I didn’t bring up the bike for two weeks. Then one day we were all outside and he went into the garage on his own and got out his bike. I stood on the other side of our yard biting my tongue and allowed him to lean the wrong way and ride directly into our shed one too many times. After about twenty minutes he got the hang of it and the smile on his face was worth the bite marks on my tongue.
Slowing down.
Our days are so busy. Between rushing around from one place to the next I often find myself saying “I can’t wait for this day to be over.” One day my six year old chimed in with a “Me either!” Wait just one second. A six year old should never want the day to be over before it’s even begun. I realized my stress was rubbing off on them. My constant worry about rushing off to the next place or checking off the next thing on the list of things to get done was stressing out my kids. I decided to make a constant effort to try not to feel so rushed. The email sitting in my inbox can wait. I don’t have to make it to every single PTA meeting. Target will still be open tomorrow.  I decided to slow down. I decided the extra hour of us running around outside was going to trump the homemade lasagna I was going to make. I decided grilled cheese and apple slices were going to have to do. I decided to be here instead of at the next place and I’m so happy I did.

Don’t get me wrong our days can still be chaotic and full of stress. I don’t always know what the day is going to bring, but one thing I do know is that doing these things has made me a better mother. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

If You Give A Toddler...Anything

If you give a toddler a crayon know that at some point she may draw you a beautiful picture…on the freshly painted wall.  Then she might drop said crayon into the heater so that come winter you wind up with a rainbow made of wax on your floor.

If you give a toddler a marker accept the fact that he will probably draw a mustache on the dog.

If you give a toddler Play-Doh you will find dried Play-Doh for months in places like your bed after that one big lapse in judgment.

If you give a toddler a cup of juice and tell him to be careful not to spill you have most certainly guaranteed that he will in fact spill it…everywhere.

If you give a toddler yogurt on a Monday and she loves every bit of it she will hate it when you try to give it to her on Friday. 

If you give a toddler his own clothes to put on after breakfast you will still have a naked toddler at dinner.

If you give a toddler a time line you will most certainly be even later than you planned.

If you give a toddler free reign of the house you will most likely wind up with toilet paper all the way down your hallway leading to him in your bathroom having a party.


If you give a toddler a hug you will get a hug in return that makes you forget about all the other stuff until you try to bake cookies “with” your toddler the very next day.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Less Than Perfect Is The New Perfect

Before I had children I had such visions of the type of mother I would be one day. I had it all drawn up in my head and tied up so neatly with a pretty little ribbon.  I would be THIS kind of mother but not THAT kind of mother. I would do THIS with my children but I would never do THAT with my children. I would be perfect and my children would be perfect too.

You can stop laughing now. I finally did. You see it’s easy to say you will be a certain type of mother before you actually are one. It’s easy to have all the ideas in the world about how your days will unfold, how your children will be neatly dressed like a page out of the latest J. Crew catalog, how your house will resemble the cover of Pottery Barn, how you and your family will enjoy calm breakfasts while the perfect looking dog lies quietly on the floor. Then you actually have children and you realize that is never going to happen.  You're just happy if your kids clothes don't have stains, and your coffee is lukewarm.

You see the problem with creating such a detailed image before you face the reality is that the letdown can feel huge. By letdown I do not mean my children, I mean me. I had created an idea in my head of me being a perfect mother.  I would be a mother who never loses her cool, is always showered, dressed and sporting a little bit of makeup, a mother who spends every moment of her day enriching the lives of her children.  In my fantasy the laundry was always done and put away, the house was always clean, and the food shopping was always done way before anyone had time to notice the milk had become questionable.  My children always ate perfectly prepared balanced meals. We spent time throughout the day reading, building, playing, baking and dancing.  I know my fantasy was quite elaborate.

Quite a few years into this whole motherhood thing I found myself going to bed disappointed in my performance more often than I care to admit. I started feeling constant pressure about why the house was a disaster more often than not, why I allowed my children to watch more TV that particular day than I swore I would, why I burned the dinner, why I was still pulling clean clothes out of the laundry basket instead of putting it all away and why this was nothing like I had pictured. Where was my Pottery Barn house? Where were my J.Crew kids? Where oh where was my perfect dog? Why wasn't I showered?! Then it hit me. All of those images were in my head. They weren’t part of my reality and if we’re being honest I don’t think they are part of many people’s reality.

Want a perfect picture? This is the reality.
Unfortunately what is part of our reality is putting way too much pressure on ourselves as mothers to be perfect, when the truth is our children are better off that we are not.  We are always teaching our children that they don’t have to be perfect they just have to try to do their best. We teach our boys to put forth their best effort and we will always be proud of them. Perfection is just not attainable, not for them and certainly not for us. I sat down the other day after the boys had gone to bed and I had that overwhelming feeling of disappointment in me come through again. It had been one of those days when you aren’t even really sure what you accomplished. The laundry sat unfolded, the vacuum never got turned on and the craft project I had promised the boys we would do never got touched. I had yelled at both of them for fighting with each other amongst other things. I felt like a giant failure. Motherhood may be one of the only jobs that you aren’t supposed to admit you failed at that particular day. Everyone has a bad day at work every now and again but motherhood comes with so much more pressure. After all doesn’t every little thing we do in a day affect our children?  It turns out it doesn’t.  That’s right you heard it here first. Our children are not in fact affected by every little thing we do. Our children have the amazing ability to look at the big picture and see it for what it is. It’s not perfect but it’s life. It’s not always pretty and it certainly doesn’t come wrapped up in a beautiful ribbon but when you take the time to breathe you realize you are doing all right. They are doing all right. When you take the pressure off of yourself to be perfect the light shines through and makes it all clear again.

That night after I stopped beating myself up for our less than perfect day I went in and checked on each of the boys. I kissed the two year old and tucked him back in as he slept ever so soundly. I then went in to my five year old, kissed him on the forehead and whispered I love you buddy. He rolled over and said Mommy I love you more.  As I closed his door I took a deep breath and made myself a promise that the next morning I would live in the moment, that I wouldn’t stress about the whole check list, that I would be with my boys in the present and that is something to wrap a ribbon around.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Farewell to Summer

Summer is coming to an end. It’s getting darker earlier. The air has changed. The “end of summer” bugs are out. It’s an obvious shift.  My kid go back to school next week and while part of me is jumping for joy inside and out the other part of me is desperately trying to hold onto these last days of summer with them.

I’ve spent a little over two months with my kids at this point. To be clear I have spent 7 days a week, 24 hours a day (minus the 8 hours they sleep if I’m lucky) and countless minutes and seconds with my sweet, adorable (sense my sarcasm) boys this summer. The other day I couldn’t help but think to myself “Okay toughen up pansy. You only have two weeks left. YOU CAN DO THIS!” If I’m being honest, which I am, my kids are pretty awesome but they are also pretty annoying. Between all the bickering amongst each other and the constant whining and begging for snacks a mom can only stay calm and normal for so long. That being said summer with kids is like that guy you loved to hate.  You know it’s not going to be easy but you love it just the same.

Now that the end is near I am having mixed emotions about it actually ending.  It dawned on me the other day as I repeated myself for the 5th time that it was time for us to leave the beach, that this is the last summer they will be this age. I know every summer is the last summer my kids will be “this age” but it really hit me this time. Next summer I will no longer have a six year old who starts the summer off just ending kindergarten and ends the summer confident and ready to enter into the first grade. Next summer I will no longer have a three year old who just ended his first year in preschool and is eager to begin his second year in the “big classroom”.  I will have two boys a year older, a year wiser and a whole year changed from who they are this year.  It hit me that summer is like childhood, ever fleeting.  This has been a great summer. A summer filled with memories with family and friends. It’s been a summer filled with beginnings and endings and I think it’s only appropriate to say farewell.

A Farewell to summer,

It’s so hard to say goodbye to a season I love so much. It’s hard to say goodbye to the smell of barbeque grills from near and far. It’s hard to explain how much I will miss the sounds of kids riding bikes, catching fireflies, making S’mores and running through the neighborhood yards. I will miss the lack of a schedule. I will miss sitting down with my kids for a relaxed breakfast that consisted of them throwing food, me telling them to stop and all of us somehow laughing despite the chaos. I will miss the days we spend down at our lake. I will miss the 5,006 times they asked me for a snack and the 4,998 times I actually said no.

I will miss the times they were able to spend with their cousins swimming and laughing because I know how much I loved that time as a kid.

I will miss not having to worry about bedtime but instead allowing them to catch just one more fish, or make just one more S’more, or catch just one more firefly.

I will miss it all. So I say goodbye to one of my favorite seasons. I say goodbye to summer. Next year I will once again greet you with open arms. I will have two boys who are a year older than they are now and I know we will make great memories like we did this year. I’m never ready to let you go but I am always ready to see what you have in store for me next year.

I’m not dumb enough to think that all ideas of joy should be based on summer but I am smart enough to know that every idea of summer should be based on joy.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

This Is Motherhood

Before I became a mother there were things about motherhood I knew everything about (try to control your laughter) and there were things about motherhood I knew nothing about. I picked up all the books my friends who were new mothers suggested and suddenly I knew EVERYTHING there was to know about motherhood. After all I had read every single book there was to read on the subject of motherhood and I had a dog so clearly I was an expert. I had been preparing for motherhood for as long as I could remember and I was beyond ready. I have always been a firm believer that you don’t just jump into the water before finding out everything there is to know about said water. (I’m really fun I swear.) So it was my belief that in order to become a mother I should learn everything possible about babies and children beforehand.  So I did just that. I didn’t just read books. I asked question after question to all my friends who were already mothers.

I found out everything I should be eating and not eating. I found out the best ways to make sure my baby would sleep through the night. I bought the best products that were going to help my baby stay happy and engaged throughout the day.  I was ready…for a baby right?  The funny thing is throughout all the books I read and questions I asked I never once thought to ask the most important question: What is the one thing about Motherhood no one told you? I wish I had asked that because in my opinion you can prepare for labor and for all things baby like diapering, feeding, rocking, and swaddling but nothing prepares you for motherhood.  Bringing home a baby is just the beginning of a long journey. Some of it is beautiful and amazing and some of it is hard and lonely. Here are some things I wish I had known about motherhood:

1.     Motherhood is beautiful and terrifying all at once.

2.     You won’t always be happy as a mother.

3.     You will always love your child/children but there will be times you don’t like them and that is completely normal.

4.     There will be times you will want to cry in the corner.

5.     There will be times you do cry in the corner.

6.     You will learn you are so much stronger than you thought.

7.     The first time you hear your child laugh you will find a part of your heart that you didn’t realize existed and it will make you smile a smile you didn’t know was possible.

8.     You will doubt yourself.

9.     You will at some point sound like your mother and it will make you both cringe and giggle.

10.   You will share information with your friends that you never would have thought was appropriate before kids, things like “OMG I haven’t pooped in at least four days!”, and “Why are my nipples so sore this kid doesn’t even have teeth yet?”, and “I’m seriously telling my husband the Dr. said 4 more weeks.” They will laugh with you, cry with you, and understand you in ways that only a mother can.

11.     You will do anything for sleep. For example a person who may have said she would never rock her child in a glider all night just to get some shut eye will do just that. Hell I would have swung on a swing at 3am by myself in a park to get my first born to sleep for longer than 1 hour at a time. Seriously!

12.      You will learn as you go and that is just fine. Your kids will somehow think you know what you’re doing, until they’re teenagers of course and then you are suddenly the biggest idiot on the planet.

13.      You will feel judged by others.

14.       You will judge others.

15.      You will empathize with other mothers in public. You are now part of the club and sticking together is how we survive.

16.      You will sit and stare at a wall while your child naps because you haven’t had a moment to yourself in who knows how long.

17.       You will look forward to going to the dentist.

18.     You will feel protective in a way you never thought possible. Hey there mama bear.

19.   You will love your spouse in a different way than you did before you had children. 

20.     You will learn to let some things go.

21.     You will sometimes miss who you once were.

22.    You will learn from your children.

23.   You will experience love that is all encompassing, beautiful, terrifying, and endless.

24.                        There will be good days.

25.                        There will be bad days.

26.                        There will be excellent days

27.                        There will be horrible days.

28.       You will come out of each day tired but strong.

29.      You are more prepared for this gig than you give yourself credit for.

30.      You are not perfect but neither is the mother next to you or the one next to her. It is our one commonality.

Motherhood comes with pressure. It comes with pressure from the people around us but most of the pressure we feel comes from ourselves. I think motherhood is something to tackle day by day. I read so many books it was as if I thought I could prepare for the entire journey before I even had a child. What I’ve learned along the way is that there is no book that can prepare you for the love you will feel and the doubt and disappointments you will experience on this journey.

 At the end of the day we all want to raise our children to be successful and caring adults. Instead of worrying so much about that though I think we need to stay focused on the here and now. If our children go to bed feeling loved we are doing our job. The days aren’t all going to be perfect but that’s life. Motherhood isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. It’s filled with storms and clouds. It’s because of those storms that we are able to appreciate the rainbows.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Plan

I worry too much. I always have.

I worry about everything. I always have.

I worry about the little things.

I worry about the big things.

I worry about the laundry getting done.

I worry about dinner.

I worry about homework.

I worry about the mess.

I worry about the clutter.

I worry about getting to where we need to go on time.

I worry about the kids.

I worry about being a good wife.

I worry about being a good mom.

I worry.

Don’t stress about the small things they say.  It isn’t until you are faced with a big thing that you realize how small the small things  really are.  I’m a mom. I worry because I love my family, but the truth of the matter is my worry won’t solve problems.  My worry will keep me up at night, but it won’t fix things.

My worry won’t change the words that I know I will hear over and over in my head. The worry won’t change the fact that I can’t control it all. It won’t change the fact that I would wish this away if I could. It just won’t.  When you hear a doctor tell you that there is something wrong with one of your children your world crashes down around you. Instantly. What was once your reality is long gone and you look down the road to a new reality hoping for answers.  When you’re a kid you think love can solve everything. The truth is it can’t but it sure does help.  So does hope. So I refuse to lose either of those things.  Life is changing for us and that’s okay. We will go forward with our new knowledge and we will come out stronger on the other side of this seemingly dark cloud.  

Aortic Aneurysm she said.  Significant size she said. We will figure this out she said. He is still a normal 2 1/2 year old she said. We are sending you for more tests she said…and then she handed me a tissue and just like that I looked at him laughing and playing and I smiled because hope and knowledge are what we have and that is a whole hell of a lot.  Life doesn’t go as planned but the plan is life.

What I'm listening to:

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

One Small Moment

It’s the little moments that hit me the most. It’s something so small that stops me in my tracks, makes me take a deep breath in and suddenly floods me with memories of years gone by just like that. I know for some parents the big milestones are the things that take their breath away, things like their child’s first word, first steps, first tooth, and first year of school. For me it’s different. I never know when a small moment is going to sneak up on me and throw me off balance for a bit. I recognize it the moment it does though. It floods me with all too familiar emotions all at once and suddenly I realize time has moved without me realizing it and life has changed.

As parents we want our children to grow and to change because it’s the biggest sign that we are doing our job right. We spend our days in the daily chaos of meals, sports, school, homework and all around crazy schedules that it’s easy to miss what is happening right in front of us. Our children are figuring out their way in the world and while we would like to hold their hands the entire journey there will be times when they may not want us to and that’s okay.

My oldest son is finishing up his last two days of kindergarten. I’ve seen the obvious changes. He’s gotten so much taller. He’s become much more confident. He’s become a great reader. He’s interested in new things like sharks and crocodiles. He no longer likes to watch shows like Curious George because he would much rather watch shows like River Monsters. He’s changed and I’ve loved watching him grow this year.

Today I headed to school to pick him and one of his friend’s up at the end of the day. As we walked home together I asked them both how their day was and they both replied, “It was good.” I allowed them to walk a little bit in front of me so they could feel some freedom from me and my 3yo, but I decided to listen and observe the two of them. They giggled and talked about different things they were discovering along our walk. “Look there’s a butterfly!” one of them shouted. “I can’t wait to see the school buses pass us.” the other one replied. Suddenly it happened. I watched my little boy walking hand in hand with a little girl from his class and I realized a shift has happened. Don’t get me wrong my little boy will still hold my hand and trust me I will be holding onto his for as long as he’ll let me, but it was the first time that my little boy walked in front of me hand in hand with someone else without a worry in the world of how far I trailed behind.

I took a deep breath as memories of him as a baby rushed over me. I was brought back to a time when it was just a boy and his mom spending the day making new discoveries of butterflies and birds and filling our space with giggles and cuddles. A very wise friend once said to me, parenthood is hard but if you blink you will miss it.

 I decided today on that walk home that I would put the image of my little boy reaching out to hold a little girl’s hand in my memory book and keep it there for as long as I can. I have a feeling one day it will be one of the memories that comes rushing back to me and makes me realize time has yet again moved on and things have changed.
What I'm listening to:

Friday, June 20, 2014

Eli Pacheco Guest Post: What If Dads Carried a Purse

Today I am so lucky to have Eli Pacheco of Coach Daddy. A couple weeks ago I wrote a post for Eli about The five things I've lost as a mother. He was so fun to work with I decided I had to have him over on Outsmarted Mommy. I figured I had to run him on a Friday since I have my Motherhood Monday series with all my awesome Mommy bloggers why not have him for my very first (and possibly only) Fatherhood Friday. Eli has three girls so I can't imagine he will feel out of his element amongst all us ladies. Please give him a warm welcome ( I know you will) and enjoy this hilarious post about what men would carry if they too walked around with handbags.  

History has a history of shaming men.

Walk the plank, matey. Don the orange jumpsuit, inmate. Ride a scooter, ye of the DWI.
Few are as painful - or universal - as when we're left holding the bag. You know, your lady's purse. Or pocket book, for you Southerners. What in the name of Chewbacca is in those things, lady?
Things would be different if the fellas carried around handbags.
We fellas jam what we can into our wallet, until they're lousy with receipts and shopping lists. Some men stuff their dashboards with everything from Big Mac boxes to boatloads of invoices. And don't even look in our trunks.
But If I had to carry a bag - and I don't, and I won't - but if I did, it'd be svelte and efficient. And I'll tell you just what would go in it. This doesn't mean I have any desire to know what's in yours.
Beyond chapstick and used tissue, that is.
Keys, mobile phones and wallet belong in a man's pockets. Why else do men wear cargo pants? If I swim against the tide and place these items in my bag, I'll just induce the famous panic grab.
You've seen it: It's when a man spontaneously pats every pocket he has to locate keys, phone and wallet. It's like an inner swat team, dispatched to find the essentials his wife will yell at him for losing.
Behold, my list. I've included justification, although, aren't they self-explanatory?

Deck of cards

Got caught holding a purse for 45 minutes or more? Induce a mind-numbing game of go-fish with the kids. Or play war with another unsuspecting chap trapped in the Today's Woman section at Kohl's.

Beef jerky

Stranded in a broken elevator, traffic jam or poetry reading? Snap into a Slim Jim. It's not as tasty as homemade jerky, but the packaged stuff if perfect for survivalists.

Baseball (with a sharpie)

You never know if you'll meet someone autograph worthy. I saw former US soccer star Danielle Fotopoulos in a pizza joint in Greensboro once. I asked her to sign my baseball.
Danielle: "You want a soccer player to sign a baseball?"
Me: "Yes. This way, you'll never forget me."
Danielle: "Yeah - as the freak who asked me to sign a baseball!"
*-she was smiling when she said this.


Such a fixture of my blog. I would carry my trio - the original, the Hoth trim, and Endor fatigues. You never know when a photo op will break out. A 42-year-old man carrying Star Wars figures is normal. My mom says so.


I won these beauts in a giveaway on Work in Sweats Mama blog. This from the man who splurges on dollar-store glasses. These make me feel pretty like Ponch. So I keep them in their sheath and case like a good boy.

Sunflower seeds

This satisfies not only my sodium requirements, but also my kids' need to spit. It's a lot of work to get a little seed out of a little shell with just your mouth stuff. But we men specialize in all things hard work and limited reward.

Notebook and pen

Handy for those fleeting Go Ask Daddy questions that pop up at inopportune times. You know, like during illegal traffic maneuvers and weed-infested searches for lost golf discs. It will make you look official as a coach if you don't have a clipboard handy, too.

Animal crackers

Would a vegetarian eat animal crackers? It doesn't matter in my family. These are life-giving, and I could do much worse. A boxful of these critters staves off post-practice hunger until I can get the kidlets home for apples.

Cords. lots of cords.

Everything needs charging, you know? And nothing gets a fella in hot water quicker than letting your cell battery die. Unless you come home late with glitter all over your shirt. In which case, you'd better grab your bag.
You'll need the beef jerky and animal crackers while you sleep out in the yard.
# # #
When he's not rounding up stellar sentences for the 6 Words challenge or answer the kids' questions, Eli Pacheco writes a blog called Coach Daddy.  You can find him on Google Plus, Twitter and even Pinterest, where he feels as comfortable as a window-shopper in Victoria's Secret.