December 29, 2014

IKEA might just make motherhood easier

After weeks of planning, poring over their website, researching and measuring, I made my list and made the pilgrimage to IKEA yesterday. I call it a pilgrimage because it's on the far side of town, and the massive structure requires as much forethought and planning as a week-long vacation. Especially since I was bringing my toddler with me. To help me with my list and my toddler, I asked my mother to join us. She's awesome that way.

IKEA is kind of amazing. They have genius-designed products that they manufacture as cheaply as possible, and as a result I am finding new ways to organize my home even while I ask myself "Which one of these shelves looks the least like dorm room furniture?" And to me, an organized home is an organized life, and is thus less stressful which makes motherhood just a bit easier. I have yet to understand why they sell fabric by the yard in patterns of stick people kissing, but that's beside the point.

IKEA also makes me laugh -- they're the only retailer the size of an airport located in a suburb with massive McMansions that specializes in showing us how to organize 300 square-foot houses. But hey, they've convinced me that I'm in love with cubbies and bins.

Since they have designed their showrooms and walkthroughs like wandering paths through forests of immaculate retail wonderlands, and purposely make my shopping take 5 times longer than it should, they've thoughtfully included amenities to make my toddler happy: Shopping carts that spin in circles, a cafeteria with fries and meatballs served with jam, a toy area meant to be played in so my son can soil his diaper in front of everyone (which is also thoughtfully close to the restrooms), and random bins of stuffed toys to give him some eye candy while I'm eyeballing bathroom fixtures.

Now that I've figured out their game, and found websites showing me how to hack their products into unheard-of new uses, I came armed yesterday. I spinned my son in the cart, plied him with as many snacks as he wanted (even gum or mints), and most importantly I kept moving. What I ended up with was a fairly well-behaved kid who helped by putting items in the cart for me and was too distracted to throw fits. Heck, he even had a real conversation with the woman behind us in line.

December 16, 2014

why my son will and will not believe in santa

They're everywhere. Santa snacks. Santa lights. Santa greeting cards. Santa sitting in every mall waiting for you to sit on him. And with all this Santa-ing comes the question: Is he real to you? To your kids? Have you decided, or passively let media and your kids' classmates decide for you? Honestly, what you do with your family is probably already awesome. This post is just about how I address this in mine.

This was a bit of mild contention with my husband and I before our son was born, and for a long time I figured it was an either-or choice. Now that the boy is almost 3, and remembering references like Santa and angels and baby Jesus, it's time to start helping him shape his Santaview, like his worldview.

For instance, I'm starting to tell him that we exchange presents at Christmas to honor Jesus' birth, much like the wise men brought presents to Jesus when he was born. I don't frame it like "you'll get presents" because it's not about getting. It's about giving and honoring as celebration. The more we emphasize the gift of Christ, the less we focus on gifts in general. Besides, my son's current units of currency (bribery) are mints and sugar-free gum, and I'll milk that as long as I can.

While I can completely bypass the Elf on the Shelf thing (which I still see as a trend for some reason), Santa is too deeply entrenched in American culture to ignore. I can tell my son that Santa is a real person who used to give presents to needy children, and the ones he sees in the mall are pretending to be Santa. Ergo, Santa is pretend. He won't get presents from Santa, though, not until he understands what our family has done with this tradition (albeit unofficially): a present from "Santa" means it's something special from someone secret. And he doesn't even have to write a letter to Santa to get it.

Just don't ask me where the Tooth Fairy or Easter Bunny come from. One ficticious battle at a time.

December 15, 2014

pregnant with an alien - a dinner conversation

I went with my husband to his office Christmas party the other night, held in a private area of a chef-owned restaurant. This was a typically small affair, and a rare gathering of a virtual company with their significant others. There was plenty of great food, great wine, and great conversation. I actually enjoyed myself quite a bit, though nothing prepared me for our dinner conversation.

We sat at the end of a long table, with me next to the boss' wife and across from his daughter and her husband. I didn't know how long this couple had been married (it couldn't have been more than a couple years), but her questions revealed a lot more than her youth.

As is natural, she asked about our son. Interestingly, she (politely) asked how long we waited to get pregnant. I told her a brief version of our story: we waited a long time, and when we finally started we had problems. Did I get IVF or some other assistance? No, by the grace of God we had our son naturally. Do you mind if I ask how old you are? Sure, I'm 45. (eyes widened) I... never would have guessed that -- you look so much younger. (smiling) Thank you! Did being pregnant feel like having an alien growing inside your body?

(pause to giggle on the inside, then smile gently)

My answer: I've heard it described that way, but that wasn't my experience at all. When you are pregnant, you begin bonding with the baby right away. You are feeding this baby with your body, and when the baby is born you continue to feed him with your body, to the best of your ability. During pregnancy, the bond between the mother and child is physical, physiological, and psychological. And when you feel the baby start to move it becomes more real and even more powerful. So by the time the child is born, you've already bonded together. It's an amazing experience.

Not your everyday dinner party conversation, but I was so glad to share my experience with someone who was eager to hear it.

December 1, 2014

18 ways my child embodies faith

In my prayer group this week, we took turns praying for each other and asked God to give us words and pictures to help the person we were praying for. What God revealed to each of us was healing, profound, and intense -- especially for me, which was unexpected. Prayers and deep longings that I never thought to ask for (and didn't then) were revealed and answered. Most of it is too deeply personal to share, except what the Lord had to tell me about my son.

As a toddler, right now my son perfectly embodies what it means to have faith like a child. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus said “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:16-17) Among His other words for me, I have been meditating on this one to try and understand it as deeply as possible.

Little children have many behaviors in common, but here I am building a list of my son's characteristics that I can see the embodiment of faith in. So far I can see 87 ways my child embodies faith:
  1. Trusting completely
  2. Open eyes
  3. Open heart
  4. Curiosity
  5. Always learning, growing, and changing
  6. Following after his parents, yearning for closeness
  7. A mix of independence and utter dependence
  8. Accepting gentle instruction and guidance
  9. Feeling safe in his parents' arms
  10. Separation anxiety
  11. Tantrums (don't we all get upset when we don't get our way?)
  12. Uninhibited nature
  13. Unquestioning love
  14. Without shame or ego
  15. Thriving in his parents' joy and approval
  16. Occasional doubt and rebellion
  17. Pouting after discipline, but always seeking restoration
  18. Loving fun and laughter
Some of the things on this list aren't shiny and pretty. But you know what? Real faith is just that. It is unique to each person. It is a relationship and a journey with no end. In a way, I envy my son for his pureness and simple beauty. I guess that in itself is a reflection of faith and the kingdom: Purity. Simplicity. Beauty.

With that in mind, what is Jesus saying when he tells us to accept the kingdom like a little child? Perhaps the way a child accepts his parents: Following. Yearning. Loving. Open. Uninhibited. Pure.

November 26, 2014

random thoughts on being thankful

I have learned that it is okay to be thankful and stressed out. It is normal to feel depressed and hopeful. It is beautiful to cry.

November 25, 2014

toddler sees a quarter moon

I picked up my son from daycare yesterday, just after the sun had set. We walked outside and he saw the quarter moon.

*GASP* "What happened to the moon?! Did it broke?"

November 24, 2014

the first view of the christmas tree

Yesterday I put up the Christmas tree. Yeah, I know, it's not even Thanksgiving yet. But I'm so excited to celebrate the season with my family, and we're hosting Thanksgiving, so I am in a bit of a rush to set a festive atmosphere. I am waiting until after Thanksgiving to put up the ornaments though.

Anyway, the boy woke up on the wrong side of the bed after taking a long afternoon nap. He would just randomly scream at nothing, wail after stubbing his toe or getting frustrated with a toy. I told him he could help me set up the tree, and he was certainly interested in playing with the tree stand while I hauled the pieces upstairs. After finally coaxing the stand out of his hands (more screaming), I got the tree set up and told him to come look at it. He preferred to play on the stairs, so I left him alone. After a while, he made his way up the stairs talking to me or himself.

After a few minutes I realized it was very quiet. I walked around the kitchen corner to find him standing still, staring open-mouthed at the Christmas tree. Six feet of gleaming white plastic with brilliant, twinkling lights in front of the living room window. I smiled to myself. This was the tree that we bought when I was in the midst of depression in 2010, as it felt like a beacon of hope.

The season of wonder. The one I've been waiting for so I can finally see it through his eyes. The chance to show how beautiful the whole world is because we're celebrating the birth of Jesus by exchanging presents and baking cookies and decorating everything from the state capitol building to the artwork on the refrigerator. The season of joy, love, and hope.

November 19, 2014

the redemption

The other night, I was sitting in a restaurant with two women -- one a good friend who'd supported me through my entire motherhood journey, the other a friend of hers who'd joined our prayer study. We were talking about dreams and visions, and I recalled one that I haven't shared in this blog before.

On a random day at the gym, early in my pregnancy, I saw a vision. First I saw a woman with long, dark hair (who I assumed was my OB-GYN) delivering our baby. Next, I saw my husband in a t-shirt holding the baby. I understood clearly that God was telling me Everything Will Be Okay. Visions for me are very rare, so I paid attention and was shocked to the core.

Here is how things came full circle to fulfill my vision.

On a snowy evening the day after Mother's Day 2010, I went to the hospital where I learned I was experiencing my first miscarriage. Days later, I went to a clinic across the street from my OB-GYN to have my D&C to clear out the tissue and prevent infection. The doctor who helped me had long, dark hair and empathetic eyes. It was first day of the worst year of my life.

At 5:00 a.m. in late February 2012, I began the labor pains that, 22 hours later, would bring me my son. My OB was unavailable that day.

Guess who showed up to deliver him?

As I told this ironic part of my story, the other friend (who may just become mine as well) spoke up and told me that as she was listening, one word flashed through her mind. Redemption.

That word was for me.

Redemption from the ashes of my miscarriages to the miracle of our child. Redemption from the pain and guilt of delaying parenthood to the humbling, awe-inspiring bliss of overcoming infertility.

The dictionary has seven definitions for Redemption:
1. an act of redeeming or atoning for a fault or mistake, or the state of being redeemed.
2. deliverance; rescue.
3. Theology. deliverance from sin; salvation.
4. atonement for guilt.
5. repurchase, as of something sold.
6. paying off, as of a mortgage, bond, or note.
7. recovery by payment, as of something pledged.

Redeemed. Rescued. Atoned. Recovered. All that and more, Lord, all that and more.

November 18, 2014

random thoughts on being the best mom

When I step back from the temptation to feel guilty for not following dozens of authors' opinions on The Best Way To Do Everything For Your Kid, I realize the truth:

The best mom I can be is doing my personal best, and that makes me the best mom for my kid.

November 17, 2014

antidepressants are helping

It's a funny thing, antidepressants (ADs). On the one hand, I see them as beneficial for so many people. On the other, I tend to consider them the very last option for myself. I'm not really anti-medication, I just prefer to find natural ways to nurture myself first.

The first time I took ADs was a severe (to me) depression that followed my infertility diagnosis. Now is the second, and this time I don't feel depressed so much as I am anxious, stressed, feeling guilty, and suffering sleep disorders. Well, it turns out that anxiety and depression are like fraternal twins. I also have learned that, sometimes, regardless of the healing that follows depression, it can come back through a simple chemical imbalance.

So I shouldn't feel guilty about needing help. I cannot deny a conflict in my heart because I will always be profoundly grateful to God for his gift of my son, but for now I'm moving forward with medication. After only two weeks on the AD I can honestly say that I feel like a new woman. I'm not crazy-happy-unicorns-and-rainbows happy, but the ball of tension I have carried around in my gut has subsided. I'm much more patient and joyful with my family, and my son has been doing better because of it. Case in point: the other day my son was making ugly faces at me in defiance for gently telling him to take off his shoes. I made a similar face and genuinely laughed out loud, and he reacted by also laughing hysterically. It was awesome.

I guess this is my season for getting practical help while continuing to seek closeness with God, family, and friends.

my son's questions at age 2

After church yesterday, my son was very chatty in the car and started asking me some questions.

"Mommy? Do we eat trees and leaves?"
"No, we don't eat trees and leaves. But some animals do."
"Oh.... Do we eat plants?"
"Yes, we eat lots of plants."
"Do we eat animals?"
"Yes, we eat animals. But only some of them."
"Do we eat Daddies?"
"Uh... no. We do not eat Daddies."

October 30, 2014

working mother guilt

I sat in the chair in my therapist's office the other day, filling out a brief questionnaire to guage my level of depression. The answers had numbered scores next to them:  0, 1, 2, 3. I ticked each one off -- 0, 1, 1, 0, then came across the one asking me how guity I feel. 3. Guilty as charged.

So here's a not-so-brief confession and list for my typical week's full of working mother guilt. I feel guilty for:
  1. Working part-time
  2. Working at all
  3. Considering working full-time
  4. Wanting to work and not having the desire (capability?) to stay home
  5. Having my child in daycare
  6. Considering having my child in daycare full-time
  7. Having my child in therapy someday for all the daycare he endures now (if some parenting experts are to be believed)
  8. Not fixing healthier meals more often
  9. Feeding my child a steady diet of mac & cheese instead of kale (no wait -- I don't feel guilty about that)
  10. Weight gain
  11. Spending money on clothes as a result of weight gain
  12. Imperfect parenting
  13. Judging my husband's parenting
  14. Not potty training my child before he's 3
  15. Inconsistent potty instruction
  16. Not using sticker charts for potty or chores or whatever the hell else they're used for
  17. Letting my son swallow gum instead of fishing it out of his mouth (or giving it to him in the first place)
  18. Praying and reading my Bible inconsistently
  19. Forgetting to pray or read
  20. Blowing off prayer or reading
  21. Not volunteering more
  22. Not wanting to volunteer at all
  23. Wondering whether I should volunteer
I should do this, I should do that... pretty soon I'm shoulding all over myself.

Why in the world am I beating myself up? No wonder I'm halfway to being a basket case every time my son has an unstoppable, stratospheric temper tantrum. On some level I'm busy blaming myself and, yes, feeling guilty for not preventing it.

I realized something recently. It's not just the guilt of a working mother. Because of the living hell I endured through my two miscarriages and infertility diagnosis followed by God's gift of my son, I have this tendency to think of my gift of motherhood as “happily ever after.” As in, I should spend every day being grateful and not blown apart by the challenges every other mother on the planet experiences especially if she's working outside the home. Some might call this survivor guilt.

Not that I'm not grateful every day, but that’s just not realistic. Tomorrow has its own set of challenges. My biggest challenge right now isn't finding my next job (although that does take a lot of mental energy). It's accepting the reality that parenting is hard emotional work regardless of the journey to get here, and that I'm as human as the next mom with a mind and heart and needs of my own. The fact that my needs generally come dead last on any given day is, I suppose, beside the point.

I don't think antidepressants are going to absolve me or otherwise erase these guilty feelings, so I'd better look elsewhere. I'll explore that more in an upcoming post.

October 27, 2014

losing his last nap and my sanity with it

My son's life is a series of transitions, and currently he is transitioning away from his midday nap. I'm not sure, but I think this transition is supposed to last a couple of months decades. Some days, he naps. Others, only if he's strapped into a carseat and forced to sit still for an hour. Still others, like this past weekend, he skips the nap and slips into a coma right before dinnertime.

Friday we let him nap since we couldn't reasonably wake him, then he was a major crankybutt until bedtime. Sunday we just gave in and put him to bed. Predictably, he was awake at 5 this morning. Argh!!!

Meanwhile, I've started seeing my therapist again, and my next appointment is tomorrow. I’m thinking of going back on antidepressants for a while. My insomnia is just an absolute plague, and when I can’t sleep I can’t handle my son very well (let alone the rest of my life). Case in point: Yesterday was day 6 of terrible sleep for me. The day went okay, but of course the boy didn’t nap. Late in the afternoon he just got more and more upset, throwing tantrums over next to nothing. I knew it was because he was exhausted, but every episode just ratcheted up my stress level. I was trying to put lotion on him after his shower and he got all fussy, yelling etc., then he full-on hit me in the face (not hard, of course). I grabbed his arms and rather yelled “I know you’re upset but I won’t let you hit me!” This shocked him enough that he burst into tears, so I held him and he continued fighting me. My husband took over and I just sat in the chair in our son's room sobbing, helpless to the situation.

In a way, it was a blessing that he crashed at 5 and my husband and I had a quiet evening together (we even got to eat dinner in front of the TV!), but then of course I couldn’t sleep and then he was up at 5 this morning… Whatever "it" is, I’m starting to lose it.

As my therapist reminded me last week, a happy mom is a good mom. What's a stressed-out, depressed, overweight, insomniac mom??

The most productive thing I did last night, since I was awake, was go into the living room in the dark and talk to God. Actually, I argued with him. As I poured out my frustration, I said I felt like I was talking to a brick wall, and asked Him to let me know He was actually listening. After a while, I turned on a light and started reading my Bible -- a Good News Translation version that my dad gave to me on my 13th birthday. I randomly flipped over to the middle section, wordlessly asking for a Psalm. Up in the left hand corner was a drawing of a person leaning over another one who was lying in bed, and the caption was from Psalm 23:4. "Even if I go through the deepest darkness, I will not be afraid, Lord, for you are with me." Tears in my eyes, I turned off the light and went back to bed.

October 15, 2014

hyperactive or spirited?

I resist the tendency to call my son things, slapping labels on him. Certain labels like Sweet, Lovey, Cuddly, Active, Busy... those are fine and appropriate. I have a harder time listening to someone use the term Hyperactive. Labels like that tend to grow suckers and attach themselves before being proven appropriate.

Case in point: Monday we returned from a three-night stay in a cabin in the mountains. My son was surrounded by family, mountains, s'mores, and a couple of new toys without access to television or even radio for the most part. Once we got home, he spent the afternoon getting reacquainted with his toys. Every one of them. He was so focused on bouncing from one toy to the next and the next, and seeing what we all were doing that it took several minutes of coaxing to get him to the dinner table. Somewhere in there a relative remarked on how he seems hyperactive. I've heard this person use the term before, but I don't think they realize exactly what they're saying.

According to the great collective wisdom of the internet, a hyperactive child is engaged in constant activity, is easily distracted and impulsive, can't concentrate, and is aggressive. Um, he's 2 years old. I'm pretty sure almost every 2 year old is like this to some degree.

Oh yes, he's very active. He's a bouncing Tigger most of the day. However, he is also capable of playing with Play Doh for 45 minutes unless I take it away because he's eating it, and loves to watch the animated movie Robots for at least 20 minutes at a time (when we usually turn it off because it's a bit too stimulating). I'd say he's capable of concentrating when he's interested in something.

But hyperactivity is generally associated with ADHD, and that is impossible to diagnose in a child as young as mine.

Another label that I'm less bothered with, but still hesitate to use, is Spirited. Spirited kids are more active, to be sure, but also more sensitive to environmental stimuli, and changes in general, and are more deeply affected by other people's moods among other things. They're also more intense and dramatic. Hm, actually this sounds more like my husband who happens to be an artist, but I digress.

All of this means very little to me. It doesn't impact my parenting choices, it doesn't make me look at him through diagnostic lenses, and it certainly doesn't make me want to medicate him. My son is not quiet (and I'm scared when he is). He's not introverted, to say the least. And he's not shy. He's just beautiful. I would say he's a bright rainbow of colors all day long.

Now if only I could convince him to turn down the rainbow at bedtime...

October 9, 2014


In a book about mothering, I read recently that the average woman goes through some kind of life transition about every 3 years. Looking at my life, I know the author is right. Apparently it’s time for me to brace myself for the winds of change again.

Last month, I blogged about experiencing what must be the onset of perimenopause (or the coming apocalypse of my reproductive system). Yesterday I learned that my position will more than likely be phased out due to budget cuts, and my boss is very kindly giving me a heads up to start looking.

Stress? Me?

At first I didn’t want to tell my husband for fear of worrying him before I had some kind of good news to go with it, like I Have a Plan! or Guess Where I’m Going to Start Working? But I confessed my situation early this morning and he was grateful for it.

As usual, I want to be wildly optimistic about my choices given my level of experience and strong networking ties. But I also don’t want to make any choices out of fear, jumping to a rock just because it gets me out of the creek. In other words, I’m scared. Which makes me angry. But I don’t have any person to be angry with, including myself, so it just frustrates me.

The hardest part about being in any tough situation is to just be in it. To not jump for safety or solve the problem as fast as possible, but to reach for God’s hand and be quiet and wait. And so I am. Kind of.

The Lord has brought me through the hell of infertility, through multiple layoffs, through bad relationships, and toward peace in every situation. In short, he gives me what I need most: Himself. And that is certainly what I need now.

My biggest question isn’t where I should work, but how. Full time? Part time? Contract? Ugh.

I’m putting out feelers and inquiries in a few key places today, and trusting God to lead me where he wants me to go. To me, that’s what waiting on the Lord means – doing what’s in front of me and looking for his guidance along the way, knowing that by putting my life in his hands I can rest knowing that he will lead me toward peace.

The irony of my daily devotional never ceases to amaze me.

Hebrews 13:6
So we say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”

October 8, 2014

things to remember when your child gets angry

This is a link to an article I received yesterday from a website I'm following very closely -- 11 Things to Remember When Your Child Gets Angry

At first I thought "Oh, so now I can't even put my two year old in time out?" But I guess it's more situational. I don't send him away because he's screaming. We give him the "uh-oh song" when he does something inappropriate like banging a toy on the wall after we've warned him a couple times not to. I have to say that this distinction is helpful and important.

My son gets pissed off about a lot of things, like waking up too late or not wanting mommy to pick him up -- "No! Want Daddy!!" Well excuuuuuse me...

As if on cue, this morning I had a chance to live out the website author's advice. I'm pretty sure my son has an internal compass that tells him when Mommy wants to get out of the house early (so I could attend a Weight Watchers meeting, no less). He played, he ran away, he dawdled. I think it took half an hour to convince him to put his pants on. Yeah, that kind of morning. I was frustrated enough when it was time to leave that my husband (God bless him) stepped in to gently force him out the door. The boy then didn't want to get in the car seat, and my blood was about to boil. I stated very firmly that we had to get into the car seat so I could give him a mint, and that we need to leave because Mommy's running late.

Seriously. When has the argument that we need to leave EVER resulted in compliance? Never. Ever.

He went ballistic. I mean, practically foaming at the mouth screaming and crying. I stopped. I changed my approach instantly, realizing that a) he had no control over these big, scary emotions and b) this wasn't an emergency and I could spare a few minutes. I gently put my hands on him and said soothing things like You're okay. You're safe. I'm right here. I love you. And I let him cry for a bit. Then he told me he wanted some things, including a snack bar. I said "You got it. Let's get you into your car seat and I'll get you a snack bar." He was still crying, but let me buckle him in. I got the snack bar and we drove off and he was fine. Darned if that loving tactic didn't work beautifully.

Lesson learned. When my son is at his worst, that is when he needs me or Daddy the most.

September 25, 2014

random thoughts: is spam a legitimate protein source?

Yesterday, as I was browsing the canned meat section, I actually considered whether my son would like Spam since he generally won't even look at a cut of meat. I read the ingredients: pork and associated byproducts, water, salt, and sugar. Yeah, probably he would. I just couldn't bring myself buy it. I will continue to pretend I have standards.

early riser

Captain Sillypants came creeping into our room at 4:30 this morning and plopped a stuffed animal on my back. I jumped and startled him, causing him to fall onto his bottom in the dark. We told him it was still nighttime, to go back to bed, but he wanted to sleep with us. In our exhaustion we acquiesced. So, every time I started drifting back to sleep I’d get a foot in my back or hear the jingle of his plush puppy. Sigh. I gave up and made coffee at 5:30, and he was up complaining he was hungry at 6:00 (guess who's going to bed early tonight if it's the last thing I do?).

So I dropped him off at school early and treated myself to a breakfast burrito from a gourmet food truck. The end.

September 22, 2014

toddler toothbrushing

As it turns out, I can no longer brush my son's teeth. It is one in a long list of things that I can no longer do for my child and cannot make him do for himself (potty training is another subject altogether). Such is the world of the toddler. Toothbrushing, however, is sort of non-negotiable. It has to be done, even if these are his practice teeth.

I didn't have great brushing habits growing up. In fact, I didn't start brushing twice a day (instead of once) until I was in college. It's embarrassing, and I have the fillings to prove it. My kid is not going to grow up with teeth rotting out of his head if I have anything to say about it.

Try saying that to a two year old who's only interested in brushing his toes, eating the toothpaste, and running into the other room every time I break out the dreaded toothbrush. As far as he's concerned, my son is done when he's chewed on the thing for ten seconds. Until recently, my best tactics were the "tickle brush" when I hold him in my lap and tickle him to laughter with one hand while brushing with the other, and brushing each other's teeth (which led to him using my toothbrush and me getting a case of germophobia).

A couple weeks ago I asked a coworker what worked for her kids and grandchild. She swore by the electric toothbrush -- a $6 novelty that promises to need replacement every few months. A ridiculous indulgence, I told myself, but I tried it anyway.

And you know what? It bloody works! He's so interested in the silly thing that he'll let me brush his teeth again, and for longer than 4 seconds. He wants to turn it on and off, and loves the bit of independence it gives him since I'm not trying to wrestle him into using it. He's just starting to really try and emulate me when I brush at the same time, so I lather him with praise for the bit he does.

And if that fails on occasion, I'm not above giving him sugar-free gum to chew for half an hour. Ahem.

September 16, 2014

"gimme kiss"

This is what my son says to me lately, every time I drop him off at daycare. And he means it -- he'll give me a kiss, then walk away, then turn around saying "gimme kiss" and come back for another one. This will happen 3-4 times before I duck out the door and on to work.

Sigh. I just love that boy.

jesus vs yoga part 2

Everything comes down to love. That is the deepest lesson I can learn as a follower of Jesus, whether it's about my faith or someone else's.

After my first post on jesus vs yoga, a wiser person than me invited me to study Romans 14. The book of Romans was (by most accounts) written by Paul, who was busy trying to wipe out Christians until Jesus intervened and gave him new life. I point this out to underscore the irony of a man who had once been defined completely by religious legalism that later showed how much more important love is.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul urges us to resist judging each other and recognize that each person's walk of faith is unique. My relationship with Jesus looks different than my husband's, my friend's, and anyone else's. Such is the beauty of God and faith. And because of this, I have the responsibility of working out my own faith rather than being overtly concerned about a friend's whose faith may just be weaker than mine. My faith is strong enough that I can, in fact, do yoga exercises without absorbing the tenets of other religions and philosophies that are not in line with biblical theology. They're just poses, after all. While that may look different for someone else, the best thing for me to do is love my friend and, if asked, explain why I'm taking a break from yoga for a while.

Paul uses the analogy of food and drink, which was a far more divisive issue in that day than it is now. But, lest we think he's only talking about food, he then uses the example of how one person considers a day sacred while another considers the whole week sacred. Both do so to honor God, so it doesn't really matter.

If I believe in my heart, after careful prayer and discernment, that I can do yoga exercises without compromising my relationship with Jesus, then I should as long as by doing so I don't hurt someone else's faith journey.
22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.
That second sentence really stood out for me, and I'll be meditating on it more. May your journey of faith bring you closer to Jesus and deeper into love.

September 10, 2014

random thoughts: doing more with less

I was at the gym yesterday, in the zone on the elliptical with my favorite book, when two teenage girls hopped onto the machines next to me. Their giggly girly energy, coupled with the music one of them was playing on a phone, irritated the crap out of me. Then I realized that, being teenagers, they'd likely move on to something else within 45 seconds. I was right. I congratulated myself on sticking to one thing.

For whatever reason, it reminded me that I used to do a lot of things all the time. Now I do just a few things the best I can, and ignore the rest. Call it selective multitasking.

September 8, 2014

jesus vs yoga

I have practiced yoga for about 6 years, though I have been a follower of Jesus for much longer. And now, though I've consciously deleted the Eastern mysticism aspect from my yoga practice, I suddenly find myself at odds with it and am considering another path to wellness.

Yesterday, I went with a friend to an outdoor yoga session, which on this particular day was free and open to the public. My friend is a yoga instructor, and though I don't know her very well I do know that she loves yoga and loves the Lord.

As we waited for the session to begin, we talked about her vision to help young women who've been victims of abuse by teaching directed yoga classes. She admitted a specific fear of moving forward with this, and I started to see the conflict that she may or may not be aware of.

All morning -- before, during, and after the session -- I felt ill at ease with the entire event. From the emcee's "Namaste" greeting (which I replace with God Bless You), to the encouragement of bending my "third eye" to the mat in submission, to the ending relaxation which was organized to look like a gigantic hug in the shape of a heart while we were encouraged to feel the connection with each other and everything else -- I felt the conflict in my heart and asked Jesus for help.

Why was I feeling this now? Maybe it's because my friend shared a great deal of how much she believes in the yoga practice and its associated Eastern philosophies such as chakras, and I knew I was hearing blasphemy. If my friend didn't see the conflict, I certainly did, and it made me very uncomfortable. But I thanked her for the experience and went on with my day. Later, my husband asked me why I didn't enjoy it. I told him "I felt like everyone there were true believers, and I just couldn't drink the punch." Later that day, and this morning, I have been researching this conflict so I can be better informed.

I am praying now for wisdom and discernment, and asking God to reveal the plank in my eye long before I even consider pointing out a speck in my friend's eye, lest I reveal myself as a hypocrite for practicing yoga at all.

The question is, can a person love Jesus and enjoy yoga?

Instructors run the gamut from the spiritually removed to true believers, so influence could be a matter of who I'm learning the practice from. I use the analogy of horoscopes: Reading a horoscope in the newspaper is fairly harmless and far removed from drawing my own astrology charts, but at the end of the day my indulgence in it takes me away from Jesus and toward self-worship by seeking my own answers to life's questions instead of asking Jesus for his guidance. So I don't do it anymore. Why would yoga be any different, especially since its original philosophies, which are still current, are diametrically opposed to biblical teaching?

This is the question I am now asking myself, and the obvious conclusion is that it isn't and I need to make a change.

I admit that it makes me a little sad, but instead of signing up for my regular yoga class at the gym I'm going to try pilates which does not involve any spirituality and includes all of the stretching, strengthening, and concentration that I love so much. There are plenty of other Christians who've turned yoga around as a Christ-centered spiritual practice, and I might check out a DVD to see if it works for me. But since I really want to get out of the house for this kind of exercise, I'll see if pilates scratches the itch without exposing myself to deeper wounds.

September 4, 2014

the coming apocalypse -- or perimenopause and the closing door of fertility

Since my body is no longer compatible with the pill, I started tracking my cycle and have observed that it has shortened to every 3 weeks. Since my recent exam came back normal, I am concluding that this is a symptom of perimenopause -- or as I like to call it, The Coming Apocalypse of My Reproductive System. Ha!
All hilarity aside, this means I suffer from anxiety, sleep disorders, mood swings, and other hormone-related side effects more often -- to my dear family's detriment as well as mine. It could possibly explain my inability to concentrate and remember things too, like grocery shopping and locking my keys in my car (which I did just the other day).
It's making me increasingly frustrated.
Reckogning that perimenopause is a signpost of aging and subsequent infertility is kind of depressing in its own right. Oh yes, all women go through it unless they skip this stage by surgical necessity. But that doesn't make this part of the journey more enjoyable.
I am all the more confronted with the reality that our childbearing time is over as quick as it began, even though it's as much choice as circumstance.
Yes, I'm 45 and as strong as I feel some days, I know this is a precarious time at best to consider another pregnancy. As I recently told someone, I don't expect lightning to strike twice. It would seem foolhardy to put the Lord my God to the test (Matthew 4:7). But like the end of a lifelong frienship, feeling the door slowly close behind me still makes me melancholy.
In the meantime, I'm booking a consultation with an herbal specialist to see what I can add to my diet to help balance things out in the mood and stress department. I owe that much to me and my family.

September 2, 2014

random thoughts: me vs the chocolate bar

Chocolate bar: Serving size, 1/2 a (big) bar
Me: Really? I was only planning on eating a couple of squares, but if you insist...

August 21, 2014

1 thing i wish we DID bring on our toddler road trip

The other day I outlined 7 things that made our toddler road trip great. As soon as it went live, I realized I left something out: the one thing i wish we DID bring on our toddler road trip.

Oh, we forgot things. Okay, I forgot things. In fact, I forgot a whole bag of things -- books, good instant coffee, an extra cup and plate for the boy, snack pouches I'd bought specifically for the trip to offset the endless parade of junk and restaurant food... sigh. Whatever. We lived.

Ironically, that bag also included a book called "The Family Traveler's Handbook." Ahem.

What I really could have used was a frigging night light.

How annoying is it to sleep in a hotel and turn on that gawd-awful fluourescent bathroom light at 3 a.m.? Not to mention the horror of accidentally looking at myself in the mirror at that dreaded hour.

Note to self. I'm putting one in my travel toiletry back tonight for our next trip (though a next trip isn't even on the radar for the next half year or more).

"i wanna go IKEA!"

Why? Why does my son say he wants to go to IKEA? Maybe it's because the shopping carts twirl in every direction, or because he can play with their toys and then scream when I won't buy them.

Sorry Son, Mommy's not willing to drive to the ass-end of the city on a week day just to indulge you for the fact that you probably just like saying the word "IKEA."

i am going to make real food from scratch

This weekend I am going to make real food from scratch. That sounds ridiculous, because I make real food at least a few times a week. But I'm talking about old fashioned food production: applesauce and yogurt.

Why? Because they're the two things my son and I happen to love most, because they're actually easy to make, and because I'm convinced that anything I make at home is better in quality and taste than anything I can buy. Most days, anyway.

I've discovered the kitchn, an all-things-food blog that is downright inspirational. They have the yogurt recipe and it's ridiculously easy. The inspiration for applesauce comes from my neighbor's tree. Half of its branches reach into our yard, and I'm sick of just picking up the squirrel-eaten ones off the grass and ignoring the free bounty. It's probably as close to organic as I'm gonna get at that price, as my neighbors don't do anything to the tree -- no water, let alone pesticides. The tree's only company is birds, squirrels, and their two dogs. Think what you might about that, but at least it's all natural.

I'm pretty sure I can heat milk, cool it down, stir in a half cup of yogurt, and let it sit in the oven overnight. I'm also pretty sure I can boil unpeeled/cored apples and run them through my food mill that I bought for $3 at a second-hand store several years ago and have basically never used but just admired since it's about 50 years old and fully functional.

Now that half of our weekly meals come from Dream Dinners, I spend far less time managing meal planning. It's starting to uncover my foodie roots. I actually love cooking and baking, and eating at chef-owned restaurants. I'm also making dietary and exercise changes so I can back the scale further away from the 200 lb mark that I'm uncomfortably close to. Because of all these factors, I'm looking forward to creating a few easy foods that will nourish us and help keep me from eating crap. Wish me luck.

August 20, 2014

a simple prayer

I love that my son is growing up in the church, and that from his earliest years he's being introduced to the god of the universe as the loving, perfect god He is who wants to live with him forever. And very slowly, I'm trying to reflect my beliefs in front of him so he grows up understanding that I believe every word that I just said.

So far, I don't often get take that opportunity. I miss learning moments of pointing out God's creation, I swear too often, and I'm not exactly reading Bible verses out loud day and night. But I'm learning to do one or two things consistenty, and one of those things is prayer.

I pray with, or rather for, my son every night that I tuck him in. The Lord's prayer is way beyond his comprehension, let alone memorization, and the old "Now I lay me down to sleep" has always sounded morbid to me. Why would I die before I wake? Gives me the creeps. So I made up my own. It's simple and focuses on gratitude first.

Thank you Jesus for today
Thank you for my family
Protect me as I go tomorrow
In Jesus' name

Some nights he repeats some of the words like "today" or "tomorrow." Sometimes he folds his hands along with me. He usually says Amen after me. Most of the time he's content to just listen and absorb it as another bedtime routine, which suits me fine. And some nights I actually forget. Fortunately, God's not checking an attendance sheet.

Another prayer we do together when we think of it is saying grace at the dinner table. I won't even tell you how rare this is, but we've nailed down a simple format that he'll memorize without too much trouble.

Bless the food
In Jesus' name

Eventually I'll expand into other things like reading the Bible and praying with my son, and helping him express himself through prayer. But faith doesn't have to be complicated, because Jesus didn't come to start a religion. Simple is the way to go.

August 18, 2014

7 things that made our toddler road trip great

5 days, 2 hotels, 1 car. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right? It actually wasn't. A learning experience, to be sure, with lessons I'll carry with me long into the future.

We drove with my mom two states away for a family reunion, arriving early to spend time with my brother and his sons (hence the second hotel). I don't think my son has ever eaten in so many restaurants in so few days, and for the most part he was pretty well-behaved. I even learned how to change a blowout in a dirty, cramped bathroom with him standing up! I felt like I was earning my stripes at times, but those moments were rare. We all enjoyed each other's company immensely, especially the boy who is a born extrovert and loves loves loves people.

The first hotel we stayed in had adjoining rooms for us and my mom. She stayed in the single king room, we took the double queen. We had the boy sleep in one bed with a border of pillows around him, while we slept in the other. And -- miracle of miracles -- he slept! The first night he woke up and cried a bit, but I shushed him back to sleep quickly. No big deal. In fact, it was nice to sleep in the same room and see him wake up smiling at us. Letting him go bug Grandma while I was showering was a big plus too.

The second place we stayed was a rustic duplex-style cabin -- the four of us stayed in one, and my brother and nephews stayed in the other. With 3 bedrooms in each, there was plenty of room to spread out (despite sharing one bathroom). The boy contented himself exploring the rooms, the grass, the people, the dirt, and anything else that looked appealing to a 2 year old.

While the trip wasn't completely devoid of minor temper tantrums and such, it was far more successful than it could have been. That said, here are 7 things that made our toddler road trip great.

  1. Sitting in the back seat with the child. He gets bored just like anyone else, so having my mom along on the way up was a godsend! Six hours in the car with only two extended stops for lunch and playtime was a good balance. He was so excited he didn't even nap until we were almost at our destination. On the way home, I sat in the back seat with him. We only stopped once, since he actually took a 2 hour nap.
  2. New toys, wrapped as presents. Just simple things -- a couple of new cars, a couple of books (I brought the tablet with new games and we never even used it) -- and a new backpack for them.
  3. Old favorites. We brought two lovies and a plush puppy that he adores. Comfort objects made a big difference, especially at bedtime.
  4. His comforter. One more comfort object.
  5. Flexible bedtime. I'm usually a stickler on this one, but letting him stay up just half an hour later practically guaranteed an easy bedtime and good night's sleep. I gave him every opportunity for a solid nap, but didn't stress if he didn't sleep his normal amount.
  6. Play Doh. Not in the car, of course. But during some down time or when he was getting bored at the hotel, this was perfect.
  7. Prayer. I do believe that God answered my prayers for a successful trip and gave me peace. And even though my brother, cousin and I came down with a stomach bug at the end, it was really great.

August 11, 2014

random thoughts: the analogy of the sea and the lighthouse

The other day I told my husband how I see us parents relating to our toddler's temper tantrums. The boy, having little control over his emotions, is like the sea -- sometimes calm, but given to raging storms. We are like lighthouses -- solid and steady. As much as the waves of his emotions crash against us, we have only to continue to guide him as the storms pass.

August 6, 2014

a blessing for mothers of young children

I came across this on someone else's blog and, after getting choked up a bit, knew I needed to repost it. Be encouraged!

"Oh, Mothers of young children, I bow before you in reverence. Your work is most holy. You are fashioning the destinies of immortal souls. The powers folded up in the little ones that you hushed to sleep in your bosoms last night, are powers that shall exist forever. You are preparing them for their immortal destiny and influence. Be faithful. Take up your sacred burden reverently. Be sure that your life is sweet and clean."

-JR Miller, a 19th century preacher, The Family

August 4, 2014

I turned 45 and didn't take a single picture of my son or me

You might think I'd want to immortalize the occasion, but it just didn't work out that way. It was a simple day that included church, a nap, and comfort food surrounded by loved ones.

We joined family and friends at a restaurant that specializes in overweight-family-style eating with endless side dishes and generous heaps of fried hushpuppies. My husband described the ambience as "Disneyland and a retirement home had a baby." It's big, country-thematic, inexpensive, and super entertaining if you're under 5 -- which, HELLO, is exactly the reason I picked it!

Seriously, when we were ushered to our table we passed by an area with a sign declaring it an "adults only section." As if it were some animal exhibit at the zoo. "Ooh, look at all the childless diners... how sad and quiet they look..." Not like the screaming-tasmanian-devil-toddler-section we contributed to sat in.

Most of us ordered the fried chicken, while my mom broke the spell with liver & onions. I had hoped to convince the boy of the wonders of fried chicken and gravy-slathered mashed potatoes. What did he do with a chicken leg? Stabbed and dismembered it with a toothpick flag and straw, then declared he was "all done." The chicken certainly was. Oh well -- at least he enjoyed playing with ice cubes and straws. I made a point to smile and thank him, more than once, for being a good boy in the restaurant. It seemed to help. I'm still working on the positive-reinforcement tactic.

After we ate, we strolled down the hallway and came across a theatrical display of googly-eyed plush chickens sitting atop hay bales, automated to talk and sing songs. My son, because he is under 5, LOVED it. He danced to the music, stared open-mouthed at the talking chickens, and could only be lured away with the promise of buying treasure with the wooden nickel our server gave him. What did I do? I stood next to him, dancing along with him, beaming with joyous pride and hilarity at our little moment together. And although I thought about it, I did not whip out my phone and take a photo or video. I allowed that time to absorb me, deeply imbedding the sweetness of its beautiful memory like honey poured over hot biscuits.
Some moments are so precious that to preserve them artificially is to diminish their value.
Well, my husband did take a photo of us from behind, unbeknownst to me. But the moment is still mine.

Although I don't put a big priority on presents, my family chose to bless me with some special ones. My husband gave me a lovely, purse-sized day planner (partly in response to my failing mommy brain) and brought me a glass of champagne along with my own happy-birthday-cupcake while he sang to me. My mother gave me a big, glass rooster to decorate a different spot in my kitchen since the last one met an untimely demise, having crashed to its death from its perch in the window sill. My friend, knowing something of my heart's desires, gave me two journals; a directive journaling book and a songwriter's journal (more on that another day). And my other friend gave me an adorably girlie cut-glass bowl with butterflies christening the edge.

July 31, 2014

all our kids want is more of us - taming the 5:00 frenzy

As a working mother, one of the hardest things for me to do is to stop multitasking and be present for my son.

Case in point: the 5:00 frenzy. When my son gets home from school, he's already had a full day with friends, food, teachers, and play time. What he really wants at that moment is me. And what am I doing? Cooking dinner, washing dishes, emptying and reloading the dishwasher, wiping countertops, sorting mail... anything but paying attention to him. This is the point at which he starts demanding gummies or treats, and opens the fridge (unless I've locked it) to find something to get into. I get mad, I give him a snack which is never good enough because I can't get it to him fast enough while my attention is divided, and within 30 seconds he falls apart.
Hooray weeknights.

Is he really hungry? Maybe, maybe not. In my quest to curb this daily madness, I have received two wise pieces of advice. My mother has suggested that when he gets home, I stop what I'm doing and just play with him for 10-15 minutes. Never mind the dishes and dinner (no matter how nice and homemade it might be) unless I'm putting away frozen food, which I can do quickly. As much as I'm in a hurry, he is definitely not. He misses me and wants to reconnect. My mother-in-law suggested that I give him a small snack and just eat dinner a little later (What? And ignore the almighty Schedule?). This loosens the pressure valve of getting dinner on the table, but ironically it also forces me to stop what I'm doing and pay attention to him by giving him a snack and asking him about his day.

Some days I incorporate both strategies, others one or the other (or if it works out, Daddy jumps in and plays with him until dinner's ready). Some days I forget and do neither, and reap the consequences.

I'm still working my way through the book Strong Mothers, Strong Sons. In a section about listening, the author points out the importance of giving our children our attention by saying that they don't care whether we bake goodies from scratch or from a mix, or if we buy them at the store. All they want is to sit at the table and eat them with us.

It's so hard for me to unplug from my multitasking. My brain is going 100 mph especially from 5-8 p.m. But above anything, my kid needs to know that he's more important than whatever is for dinner.

July 22, 2014

random thoughts: the tantrum behind the tantrum

I think most of my son's explosive moments can be summed up in one sentence, if only he could say it:

"I don't know what I want and you won't give it to me!!"

Yeah. I'm mean like that.

July 19, 2014

so my toddler may have swallowed a piece of plastic

I may never know, but there's a good chance my son swallowed a piece of plastic that broke off of a little spoon while we were eating ice cream yesterday. No bigger than the size of the white part of my pinky fingernail.

I was running out of things to be paranoid about, anyway.

So I called the pediatrician, and the nurse told me that since he didn't act like he was choking or anything, if he swallowed it it did not go into the lungs. Fortunately, as she explained, everything below the lungs gets bigger on its way down so more than likely it will pass through. I have to watch him over the next week for signs of stomach aches, bloody stools, or vomiting which could indicate that the piece has gotten caught on its way down.

My mom and I prayed for the boy that afternoon, but as I laid down to sleep I started thinking about him again. I knew I wouldn't stop worrying, so I got up and prayed. I asked God to dissolve the piece of plastic if it's still in there and restore his health. After a few minutes I got the sense that my petition had been heard, and I felt peace.

I went to bid him a final goodnight, and opened his door. It was completely dark except for a dim nightlight, and I hadn't turned on a light to pray. As I started to close his door behind me, out of the corner of my eye I saw three bright, white lights flash in a row -- pulse. Pulse. Pulse. At the first one I figured it was my eyesight adjusting, but by the third I realized something was different. I looked around -- everything was dark and still. I checked the CO2 and smoke detectors in the hallway -- normal. Headlights? No -- the blinds are closed and the door was too far shut for them to come in no matter what the angle. Burglar with a flashlight? Unlikely, since the pattern was steady and not erratic.

What did I just see? Or, what did I miss?

I went to my son's bed and just rested my hand on his torso. Breathing normal. I went back to bed and eventually went to sleep.

July 17, 2014

there are only 3 things i need to do before i die

I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to get a little weary of giant lists of 50 Places to See Before I Die, 25 Coffee Shops to See Before I Die… it's exhausting. I only have so much time on this earth, and as much as I love travel, coffee, and many other of life's pleasures, I don't need a list reminding me of all the things I may not have time to do. So I made up my own.

July 7, 2014

thoughts on turning 45 with a 2 year old

It's a few weeks away yet, but I treat it as if it's a year. I don't feel like 45 is a celebration. More like a nail positioned at the middle of my coffin, reminding me of my mortality as every day brings me closer to that reality.

Oh, that sounds terribly morbid. Let me start again.

I'm about to turn 45, and most all of my peers are either 10 years younger than me or, if they're my age, are dealing with teenage or fully grown children. How do I feel about that? Weird. And kind of funny.

I made peace with our starting-a-family-in-our-40s status a while ago, especially when I learned we are part of a growning demographic. The fact that I don't actually know anyone else in our demographic is not the point. The point is, today is all I have and I don't spend it wishing I was somewhere else in life -- that I was younger when I had our son, that I paid closer attention to my career development, that I had my own house years ago rather than six months ago...

We can all go down that road, can't we?

And yet, turning 45 with a toddler is serious business. At a time when most women my age are at the top of their professional game, I'm working part time so I can spend more time with my son. When others are getting close to being empty-nesters, I will be past retirement age when my son is in college. When other parents would encourage their children to put off marriage and family in favor of careers and "playing the field," I'll be trying not to tell my son too often how much I'd love it if he married early, started a family when he has the most energy (and can give me grandchildren while I'm still around), and bypassed the aimlessness of those years known as our 20s. It's also weird to have friends many years younger than me that already have many years more experience parenting.

I'm kind of exhausted most of the time, but I will say that it has gotten easier lately. In fact, just in the last few weeks I've noticed that I have been better able to accept my son the way he is rather than getting frustrated because he's not just a little older (i.e., spills less, talks more, is potty trained, etc.). Because you know what? Again, today is all I have.

Our adventures as a family are just beginning. I don't have to be buddies with another couple who's our age trying to start a family. It would be fun, but it's not necessary. Having friends no matter where they are in life makes everything more colorful, more bearable.

I mentioned that being 45 with a 2 year old is funny. What's funny about it? When my son is a teenager, I will be in the throes of menopause. Ha! He'll never know what hit him, poor guy. And he won't be able to get away with anything because his parents will have a lifetime of experience and will see trouble a mile away. I hope.

Finally, as much as being middle-aged with a toddler is uniquely exhausting, I also think he'll keep me young. After all, I can't afford to lay around and watch TV -- I have to maintain a level of mental and physical fitness just to keep up with him.

Bring it on!

July 3, 2014

what's for dinner - dream dinners part 3

This week we've had three Dream Dinners meals. All were good, portions were pretty accurate, and since my son generally eats very little for dinner, two meals gave me lunch the next day. Already I'm spending less time grocery shopping and worrying about what to make for dinner. Tonight, however, I will purposely build a meal around a box of mac & cheese just so my son doesn't wonder if I'm trying to starve him by not serving his mainstay meal. Last night he absolutely refused even one bite of plain rice. He had some plain yogurt instead. Oh well. I'm over it.

I'm picking up my next set of meals this Saturday, giving us three or four meals per week through July.

Of course, this gets me thinking about making my own freezer meals. Surely I can do this on my own for a lot less money? Obviously I can, but therein lies the trap I'm trying to free myself from which is the time-consuming planning, purchasing, and prepping. I don't know. Maybe at some point I'll do just that. But for now, I'm content to dine the Dream.

how to get your toddler to sleep - extinction

I have a book that I have read parts of at various times: Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth M.D. It is one BIG reason why my son sleeps pretty well now and, if I have anything to say about it, far into the future.

When the boy was several months old, getting him to sleep at night was a nightmare. We had first trained him early on (like, 6-8 weeks of age) and experienced early success. Sleeping 12 hours a night at 4 months old was due to part training, part natural tendency (I don't think I can take all the credit since every child is different). We used the book and got him back on track.

However, recently his bedtime ritual has included several drinks of water, more stories, longer back rubs, blah blah blah. I'd had enough. I picked up that book and searched for our situation: reluctance to go to bed. Whatever the reason, whatever the age, their recommended method for retraining is the same: extinction. As in, quit reinforcing that behavior and leave him alone when it's time to go to bed. Does he cry? That's okay. Give him time to settle himself down -- he's apparently forgotten and needs to be reminded.

My poor, exhausted husband emerged from the boy's room last night, and I pointed to this extinction method. Sometimes us parents need to be retrained too! So we left him alone. Did he cry? Yep. We ignored him. Did he stick his fingers under the door, randomly whine, and say "Hi Mommy...?" Yep. Ignored him again.

Within 10 minutes he gave up and went to sleep on his own. Training and a lock on the outside of the door work wonders.

June 27, 2014

what's for dinner - dream dinners part 2

I finally followed through on my threat, and went to my first uh... assembly session? at Dream Dinners yesterday afternoon. Two weeks ago, I started an account online and signed up for the intro offer. I picked my appointment and showed up.

The young man who helped me showed me a tray to put my stuff in, the apron I'd wear, and the printout with my selected dinners. Then he mentioned I could enjoy a complimentary wine, beer, or soda. I was enjoying it already.

The setup is kind of like a salad bar, but you assemble ingredients into Ziploc baggies for either 3 or 6 portion sizes. There are several stations arranged in a big rectangle, one station for each dinner. I followed the posted directions, put my baggies in the big cooler where my name was already written, and washed my hands dutifully between assembling most dinners. One thing I like is being able to control ingredients and portions. Extra cheese? No problem. Less chili powder? I'm in control. Plus, there's nothing going into these dinners that I wouldn't put in there if I was making it from home. When I was done, I enjoyed a second glass of wine and ordered the next month's dinners.

The dinners are mostly entrees only, though some come with a side of fries. Examples are marinated chicken breasts, sliders, pasta dishes, and flank steak. Sides and desserts are extra, though reasonably priced. The pricing for the dinners is slightly more than fast food, far cheaper than dining out. As I was selecting my next appointment, the employee noted that I could choose a date where they would assemble my dinners ahead of time for me. The price for that service is a mere $20. But I'm most interested in what I'm saving -- hours of shopping, chopping, marinating, and cleaning (and how much is that time worth?). What I'm gaining is more time to spend with my family on weeknights and less resulting stress.

I had only one question: "Can I still enjoy a glass of wine?"
"Absolutely!" was his reply. Apparently they have several customers who do just that.
I'll definitely be back.

June 26, 2014

3 lessons learned on our first toddler road trip

Sunday we drove to Glenwood Springs -- a mountain town about 2.5 hours away -- to wet our feet in the wonderful world of road tripping with a toddler. I'm sorry, did that sound sarcastic? It's not. Entirely.

This was a test. A test of our ability to get away for a weekend as a family. A test to see how the boy would do in a longer car trip. A warm-up to a much longer car trip coming in August.

The result? Not bad. Plenty of good things. And enough lessons learned to make the next one easier. After all, it was only one night and even if we didn't get 5 minutes of sleep it wouldn't take a week to recover. By the time we got home, we felt closer and more competent as a family. Like, Okay, we can do this!

The drive out was pretty non-eventful. After 1.5 hours of driving (and after the boy napped a little), we stopped for gas and food, and took this to a nearby playground so he could work out some energy. Unfortunately, this was cut short by a lightning storm, so we finished our fries in the car on the way to the hotel.

Once we were checked in, we headed to the indoor pool for recreation. After that, it was showers and relaxing in the room followed by our search for dinner downtown. We found a casual place with a 15-minute wait. I waited with the boy outside so he could run around. But by the time our table was almost ready, we decided it was too raucus and noisy (most were watching the big soccer game) so we walked down to another quieter establishment. The boy was still bursting with toddler energy, so despite the fact that we got seated right away, we decided this place was too quiet for us. What was just right? Getting pizza to go and eating in the hotel room.
  • Toddler road trip lesson #1: if your kid has been in the car for half a day or at least 2 hours, assume you will not be able to sit in a restaurant for dinner.
Our next challenge was getting our son to sleep in a queen bed surrounded by pillows. Until then, he'd never been in anything but a crib or toddler bed, so I was um... panicky skeptical. But I took DH's lead and we followed through with it. Did he fall asleep? Yes -- after an hour of tuck-in time and negotiation and drinks of water until he was too tired to fight it. Did he wake up? Yes. About 1 a.m., DH went into his room and decided to sleep with him so he'd settle down. I dozed in and out until I couldn't take the encroaching daylight at 6:00. The boy got up at nearly 7:00, and DH had the gall to sleep another half hour.
  • Toddler road trip lesson #2: assume it will take you at least one hour to put your kid to bed after a day on the road, because it will not be the same as his bed at home. And don't plan on him staying there.
Despite our poor night's sleep, we were all in a good mood. We ate breakfast in the lobby, then walked around outside so the boy could watch some construction workers and a garbage truck worker. There is no better entertainment! After we checked out, we headed to another playground to give our son plenty of time to get himself worn out before the trip home.

He did reasonably well on the trip home, but for some reason I had neglected to pack any toys for him - just a couple stuffed toys and his favorite blankie. So I bought him a Matchbox food truck at the grocery store before we headed out. Worked like a charm for only 99 cents. We even stopped for ice cream about 30 minutes from home, which was a fun diversion and his first experience with an ice cream cone. That was a sweet moment!
  • Toddler road trip lesson #3: toys. Just bring 'em.
I don't plan on bringing a ton of toys on the next trip, but I will remember the rules of airplane flying with toddlers: new toys, new books, old favorites, and room for more.

June 25, 2014

can children see angels? i sure think so

A few days ago, my son and I were in the master bedroom in the afternoon. He looks over in one corner and says “Hi Daddy! Hi…” I looked at him, looked at the corner, and said “Do you see Daddy? Do you see a man that looks like Daddy?” He said “Yeah” while still gazing in the corner and kind of smiling. I said, “Do you see an angel?” He didn’t respond, just stared into the corner. I wasn't freaked out or anything; in fact, I felt perfectly calm and just smiled.

Got chills?


I'm still reeling from yesterday's report of the toddler who died after being left alone in a cabin for 90 hours. I would like to think that he was in the company of angels in those last hours, and that he was welcomed home early with cheers of joy rather than surviving the hell of an abusive/neglectful parent.

My best friend, knowing that I don't quite understand the depth of my own emotions in this, offered me very good advice: "You are gonna feel towards things you never thought you would before…that is sad. I’m sorry you came across that article. I don’t understand some mental illnesses…but unfortunately it’s part of life... that baby is in heaven with Jesus now…no need to be sorry…think of what his life could have been with that mother had he lived."

Matthew 18:10(NIV) 10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.

June 24, 2014

i will never understand neglect that ends in death

Someone help me understand how a parent can repeatedly leave a 3 year old child alone for hours -- or days -- at a time. I shouldn't have read the story, but I felt compelled. And I can't stop crying. I know, it happens. It keeps happening. Too often. Drugs? Dementia? Desperation? Delusions? Sometimes I hate this broken, heavy world.

Damnit. Just damnit.

June 21, 2014

what's for dinner - dream dinners

I'm not sure why I've procrastinated for so long. I mean, maybe it's pride. Maybe it's because a box or frozen dinner is cheaper. Maybe I just keep forgetting. But after two solid years of ripping my hair out trying to enjoy cooking when I'm also trying to enjoy my family in the workday evenings, I'm going to give Dream Dinners a try. I just signed up.

Dream Dinners knows my pain. The pain of a working mom who wants to eat real food without the hassle, drama and expense of going out (or the nasty alternative of fast food). The pain of juggling the demands of a working parent who also needs to eat every day and wants to see their kid for more than 5 minutes of said day. Geez, if only we didn't need to eat every day!

It looks like they have locations around the country, and the few friends I know who've tried them practically swear by them for convenience, price, and healthy options. I literally have nothing to lose (I already waste money at the grocery store buying items that I later forget what I was going to use them for -- pathetic, I know!).

Of course, this will only cover three or so meals per week. But I think I can make the rest of it work. Surely.

Here goes nothing.

June 18, 2014

audiobooks for long commutes

Since my commute is so long (30-40 min each way), and because as a working mom I have precious little time for reading books but love learning, listening to audiobooks seems the best way to get in some more reading time.

Total number of books I've listened to so far? 0. Until now.

A few days ago I started listening to the audiobook version of The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief by Francis S. Collins. Our pastor cited it a couple months ago, and stated that there is room in some people’s worldview for both creation and evolution. I had intended to read it since then, since I’d like to learn more about the integration of faith and modern scientific discoveries about the universe -- particularly from the perspective of a former atheist.

The book is fascinating. It makes me want to delve deeper into science. I remembered recently that, despite the fact that I'd been kicked out of high school no fewer than three times for lack of attendance and my senior year was defined by an extra-heavy load of day and night classes in order to graduate with my class, astronomy was actually my favorite subject. It was my only B in an ocean of Cs and Ds.

This morning, as I was listening to the fourth chapter which deals with quantum physics, I was reminded of one truth about myself: I have never felt so alive as when I am learning. Case in point: several years ago I attended a six-week lecture course on basic human anatomy and disease at the local natural history museum -- a fun course designed for high school and college students (or anyone else) who wanted a brief overview before making a decision about medical school. Why? Three reasons: I was curious, it was free, and I had time on my hands. I also love being around smart people and gleaning insight from their knowledge.

Sometimes I wish I'd pursued a science career (not med school though -- I like research more than taking care of others). Why pursue such knowledge now? I don't know. No reason not to. I think I will get old when I decide there is nothing worth learning about anymore.

Maybe there’s a good reason I currently work for an aerospace company?

June 17, 2014

potty training fail and random success

Last week I talked about the top 5 signs my son is ready for potty training, and I geared up by reading a highly-rated and seriously detailed book. I honestly thought training the trainer was the way to go. Then reality slapped me back to the ground.

I had the book and the potty training doll and the treats. Then I forgot my precious book at work. In a panic, I downloaded it on Kindle Saturday morning (training day). Then my mind started flooding with endless questions: In what order do I perform all the steps? Do I warn him that we’re starting the half-day marathon called potty training? What if he doesn’t do anything – do I still reward him? What if there are interruptions, or he just keeps asking for treats? My mind was reeling.

By mid-morning I called it quits. Yep, I chickened out of potty training. I felt ill-prepared to take on this momentous task. Monday morning I polled my friends to see what method worked best. And you know what? Most of them had an unorganized, downright lackadaisical way of going about the whole thing. I began to wonder if it was possible that I was overthinking this. Who, me? The one who analyzes processes like a chef hunting down the Perfect Recipe?

Based on my friends’ input, I decided there was one small step I could take: I would begin with one small ritual with rewards. So last night, I excitedly told my son that we would start learning how to use the potty before bathtime. If he went, he could get a special potty treat as a reward. He sat on there for maybe 10 seconds before deciding he needed that treat. My reaction? “Oh well, that’s okay. We’ll try again next time. Let’s take a bath.” I didn’t give him the treat, which he wasn’t happy about, but we moved on.

This morning as I was in the bathroom putting on makeup, he came in and I asked if he’d like to use the potty. He said “Yeah.” I took him through the steps of pulling down his shorts, helped him get into position, and reminded him to point his thingy down so that when pee comes out it will go straight into the toilet (no guard on this seat).

What did he do? He farted. Ha! He looked up at me in surprise, and I exclaimed “Good job! Mommy’s so proud of you.” He decided he was done, and we moved on. There was no mention of a treat.

When I dropped him off at daycare, I mentioned how ready he is and they said that no, he hasn’t gone there yet either. Not 10 minutes later, one of the teachers called me to announce that he pulled off his shorts, marched right into the bathroom, and peed in the toilet. I told her it was okay to give him a gummy bear as a special potty treat.

Can I just tell you how much that made my day?!

I know, this is just the beginning. And complete success could be months away. One small step for (little) man…

So, for now, I think I’ll take my hands off the reins and follow his lead a bit more. I will encourage and praise him for every tiny effort. Maybe, like a fellow mommy blogger, I’ll just say no to potty training.

random thoughts: accept each other to love one another

I have come to understand that it is easier to accept people the way they are when I accept the fact that it's not up to me to change them. That, in turn, makes it easier to love people right where they are.

June 12, 2014

toddler tip - t shirt as pajamas

My son's been pretty cranky about getting dressed for school (or anything else) lately. I decided this week that, especially since he doesn't have many short sleeved pajama shirts, I just put him in tomorrow's t shirt to sleep in. I'd do it with the shorts too, if it weren't for the diaper thing.

One less battle.

June 11, 2014

recovering from family visits and why my husband is father of the year

My MIL stayed with us for two weeks. It was a good visit. We spent time together, she had plenty of quality time with the boy, and we didn't get too worked up over anything. The boy was thrilled to haver her around -- enough so that, toward the end, his sleeping habits became erratic. It would take over an hour of taking him back to bed and getting him to settle down, long after the bedtime stories and lullabies and tuck-in had happened. Naptime started to get just as hard. It ruffled my feathers to say the least.

Once she went back home, it still took a couple days to get back to normal. I think we’ve now recovered from my MIL’s visit. Bedtime is still kind of a battle, but at least he’s going down the first time instead of continually getting up.

Last night I just about blew my top – he didn’t want a bath, wouldn’t let me help him put on his nighttime diaper or jammies, refused tooth brushing completely by screaming at me… I finally yelled "That's it! You're in time out!!" and went into the other room where DH was standing. I walked past him and pounded my fists into the bed to let out some anger while our son continued to scream and cry in his room. It wasn’t a pretty scene. I was so frustrated I wanted to scream and cry myself.

Fortunately for all of us, DH took over. He went into the boy's room and shut the door. I went and sat on the couch with my head in my hands, feeling like an idiot for losing my temper. The boy continued to cry and scream for several minutes, but DH didn't give up. He stayed in there, rocking the boy in the rocking chair and just holding him until he finally settled down. Eventually the boy settled down enough that he let DH tuck him into bed -- something he has demanded exclusively from Mommy for the past two weeks -- and actually went to sleep.

And that is why my imperfect, ever-evolving, back-aching, long-suffering husband of 13 years (as of next week) is Father of the Year. This one's for you, honey.

June 9, 2014

top 5 signs my son is ready for potty training

Yesterday, DH and I decided that this coming Friday is Training Day. We (uh.. that really means me since he's working) are going to potty train the boy. Below is a list of the top 5 signs we know our toddler is ready for potty training.
  1. He wants to help me by being in the room, trying to wipe me with tissue way before I'm ready, and flushing the toilet for me. Hey, I'm not shy about letting him get to know the ropes.
  2. He plays with the integrated toilet seat and enjoys putting little bits of tissue in there, then flushing to watch it go down.
  3. He doesn't want me to change him when he's got a number 2, but then he wants to wipe himself as soon as I get started (I haven't given him the opportunity to play with the contents but I'm sure he would).
  4. He investigates the area with a finger.
  5. The other day, we put him in his room for naptime. According to the evidence, he apparently took off his diaper, peed in front of his bed, then went to sleep naked below the waist on his bed where we found him 2 hours later. If that's not a sign, I don't know what is.
I bought a book with over 300 5-star reviews (Toilet Training in Less Than a Day) and am building a short shopping list:
  • A doll that wets
  • An extra stool for the downstairs bathroom
  • A second integrated toilet seat for the downstairs bathroom
  • A variety of tasty drinks, treats, and candies
  • Special stickers
  • Big-boy briefs
  • A special reward for mommy to be enjoyed at the end of the day
I'm totally intimidated. Isn't that silly? It's such a big milestone and I've heard so many stories that I assume it will be difficult and last months. I could be wrong. But I'm more afraid of missing this glaringly obvious window of opportunity. Lord help me. :)

June 5, 2014

remember who is in charge of your child

I just ran across a blog post talking about a mother's experience at a doctor's office, where she encountered a note saying that a doctor or nurse would spend 5 minutes talking to her child alone -- without any parent present. As she later found out, this time would not be to determine if the child has been abused. Oh no. This is to talk to the child about sex and drugs and offer free assistance like abortion counseling and condoms.


Not only this, but apparently in this glorious state, the 12-17 year old children have online access to their medical records which they can block from their parents.

Again. WTF?

I don't remember giving birth to a ward of the state. I'm pretty sure my son is his parents' responsibility and, while a few years ago this would barely have been a blip on my radar, you can bet this mama bear will do everything in her power to keep parental authority where it should be, which is complete and intact.

I cannot tell you how much this angers and deeply disturbs me. I can only imagine what a bleeped-up society my son will encounter when he turns 12 in another decade. Until that happens, I better step up my game and keep tabs on what political people think they should control in my family's life. It's also a strong reminder of how and why it's so critical to continually build a strong, positive, and open connection with my son. You never know who might try to erode it.

June 3, 2014

random thoughts: sick again?

I can’t believe I just did this: shut my office door and laid down under my desk for about 10 minutes where I dozed off and on. I think I have a virus that my son passed on – he was sick from both ends for half a day Sunday. We thought he overate the day before because he was fine the rest of the day. Me? Not so much.

I need to go home.

May 30, 2014

random thoughts: does anyone over 40 get eight hours of sleep?

I used to have trouble going to sleep. Now I just wake up about an hour and a half too early. Sometimes I think I just can't win and I'll die of exhaustion. Sigh. Maybe it's a sign of the times -- the times being too old to get enough sleep.

May 28, 2014

choosing words that build my child's spirit

Last week I talked about how we can build (or break) our children's spirits by how we talk to them. I just wanted to mention one little thing that I'm trying to do and am doing occasionally in the moment. I am pointing out things I love about my son directly to him when I know he's listening.

For example, yesterday we were sitting at the table having dinner (I had to tell him it was a snack to get him to come and eat, but that's another post). He was near the end of eating and getting silly. We would smile at each other and he'd take another bite of something, making a bit of a game of it. At one point, I said "I love the way you smile, son. I just love that about you." He smiled even bigger.

Another time, he said "Bless you" in response to someone's sneeze. I remarked "That was very nice of you, son. I love the way you bless others."

I think I've done this maybe three times in the last few months, and I see a look on his face that I can't quite describe. It's like he's lifted up just a little, encouraged by sincere and positive feedback. It's not like this is rocket science. Positive is as positive does.

I just love feeling a new connection that comes with this little exchange of beauty in the moment.

May 27, 2014

the mother in law comes to visit

Saturday night, my mother-in-law (MIL) flew in to stay with us for two weeks. She is her own person and has a special set of idiosyncrasies, and I love her just the way she is.

On Memorial Day, we broke in a new grill by cooking for her, my mother, and our neighbors across the street whose little girl is the same age as our son. My MIL got a picture of the two of them sitting in my lap, with me smiling down at these two adorable playmates. Watching them romp from room to room, chase each other through the kitchen, and put on my and my husband's shoes prompted me to rename them Bonnie and Clyde. Gonna have to keep an eye on these two!

I also love watching my son play with his grandmas. He adores them both completely and just glows in their affection. I'm also really grateful that they're both retired, and even though my MIL lives two states away she finds cheap air fare to come visit whenever she can. When both grandmas are around, this kid can hardly contain himself with so much joy (and mischief).

Hosting my MIL also comes with the normal challenges of having extra family around, but that isn't too big a deal. She has her own room and bathroom downstairs, so we don't get in each other's way and she doesn't have to worry about the boy waking her up. There are times, however, when I find myself stretched just a little bit by the strength and openness of her opinions. I take them seriously and respect them, and just hope she doesn't get too offended if I don't always follow them. But that is the dynamic nature of a blended family: different communication styles can flourish or flounder. In that case, respect goes a lot further than anything else. When all else fails, we can center on what we have in common: our son and a mutual love for science fiction and astronomy. This kid is destined to be a Star Wars fan.

That reminds me -- I should probably talk to her about acceptable discipline in our house. Probably too late now, since she's taking care of the boy today, but worth mentioning what we've been doing.