Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Woman in Her Thirties Completes the Baby Stage

Guess who's potty trained?

At three and a half, and over six months of accidents, non-compliance, and frustration, it's official. Aaron is potty trained.  (Want to know the secret? There isn't one. Kids will stop crapping their pants when they're good and ready. So throw the books away and deal with that as fact.)  And to make matters even... more... he's finally decided use his monkey-like powers to climb in and out of his crib.  So daddy is taking the front of his crib off today, giving him his first 'big boy' bed.*

*Yes, at three and a half.  I have held on to the crib with bloody fingernails with both of my children. I'm all about containment, people.  

It hit me, last night, that these two momentous events are proof that we have exited the baby stage.  My babies aren't babies anymore.  They aren't toddlers.  They're... what is the word for this age?  I'm leaning toward 'big little monkeys'.

It is impossible to compile everything one learns while being a mother. Especially in the first years. I keep thinking back to all the advice I got during my pregnancies, both solicited and unsolicited.  Some of it was so spot-on, so important, that I feel I owe money to the person who gave it to me.  And some of it... well... some of it I wish I had ignored.  So here's my list of baby-truisms, for whatever they are worth.

1.  Take as many pictures and videos as you want.  Videos especially.  

Every few months, an article goes viral about how we need to turn our phones off and be present with our children.  They are reminders that we are social-media junkies and time-wasting jerk-parents.  Of course, some of that is true.  Turn off the phones and play with your kids.  But for all the times I'm grateful I've done that, I'm equally grateful for the times I've pulled the phone out to take a video. When my kids are teenagers and hate my guts, I have a computer full of videos like these to keep me happy:


2.  It's okay to not love the baby-baby phase.

Full, true confession.  I really struggled-- a lot-- through the infant stage.  Breastfeeding was so difficult for me and brings back unpleasant memories.  Recovering from a vaginal birth, recovering from a  C-Section... not fun.  Doing those things on no sleep while feeling chained to the house... especially not fun.  For the longest time, I've felt like a bad mom for not loving that time, especially when so many people told me to cherish every moment.  Every woman is different in this, and it's okay to know that.  I prefer pants-pooping toddlers to wailing newborns, and that's just the truth of it.

Cute as hell, though.  Cute. As. Hell.

3. Beware the parent wearing rose-colored glasses.  

Something happens to a parent after their child turns about five, and continually gets worse as the child grows.  They forget, black-out, or otherwise choose not to remember the truth of things.  They say things like, 'My first born never cried! I swear! He was a perfect angel!'  And you, the new mom who hasn't showered in three days, comforting your wailing three-month-old, want to punch that person in the face.

I've caught myself doing this, too.  It's a survival mechanism.  'Anna was a much easier baby,' I'll say, comparing her to Aaron, when the truth of the matter was that she didn't sleep, cried until she made herself puke, and refused to feed herself until after she turned one.  It's the same reason women 'forget' the pain of childbirth-- survival of the species.  But I wish someone had told me that when I had little, little babies and thought I was losing my mind.

4.  People's definitions of things vary WIDELY.  

As I have complained often, loudly, and for many years, I didn't sleep for a very, veeeery long time. There were a few good bouts here and there, some lasting more than a few days, but for the most part, I didn't sleep.  THIS MADE ME INTO A PSYCHO CRAZY PERSON.

To this day, when someone brags about their six-week old who 'sleeps through the night', I get pangs.  Violent ones.  But I have realized over the years that people define 'sleeping through the night' very differently.  According to the myriad sleep books I read, 'sleeping through the night' means a six hour stretch, somewhere around the month-two month mark.  That could be 9:00pm-3:00am.  Or 7:00pm-1:00am.  Do you see where I'm going with this?

I am a normal human being, who defines a decent night of sleep as 10:00pm-6:00am.  If my kid is awake at 1:00am and up every hour until 6:00am, THAT AIN'T SLEEPING  THROUGH THE NIGHT.

Same applies to a child being 'a good eater', or 'an easy traveler', or 'potty trained'.  People define those things very differently. Quite frankly, I can't wait until the day where I say something like, 'oh, my kids were pretty good sleepers', and actually mean it.  It will mean my rose-colored glasses are firmly in place, and probably will not move for the remainder of my existence on earth.

5.  The right thing to do is what works for your family. 

A friend gave me this advice at my baby shower, and oh, how true it is.  True regarding the day-to-day logistics of life, and true regarding the overarching job of creating a working family unit.  I have luxuries many mothers don't have.  I also have challenges many mothers don't have.  So the choices I make must be what works for US, and not what a book tells me should work for the life I don't have.

And this, more than anything, is the advice that sticks with me now that my babies aren't babies anymore. A woman in her thirties can easily figure out what works, logically.  She's probably a master at juggling schedules, multi-tasking, and keeping everyone else happy.  Well, at least alive.  But the challenge is taking the family unit we created-- whatever it looks like-- and accept it for what it is. Accept it, and then embrace it with gratitude.

Monday, January 4, 2016

A Woman in her Thirties Resolves, in 2016

Dude.  It's 2016.  Can you even?

I'm starting to understand what people are talking about when they talk about the chaos of the holidays.  We had some serious chaos over the last couple of months, but also some serious down time (strep throat and a Christmas Eve fever will do that to a family).  There's chaos I make time for, like cooking huge quantities of food:

And Santa:

But plenty I don't make time for, like the Elf on the Shelf stuff and a barrage of presents.  So, all in all, the holidays were manageable, the kids felt some serious magic, and the Christmas decorations are packed and put away on January 4.  For the win!

I've been blogging here for a long time, so anyone reading knows how much I love a good list.  Every New Year I get annoyed when people post anti-New Year's Resolution downers such as, "Why your resolutions are bound to fail", and "Why not choose to be a good person every day, not just January 1?"  I get that, but I have to say that's just not the reality for me.  I love making New Year's Resolutions, and very often keep them.  So take that, haters.

I've been thinking a lot about my 2016 list, so here goes.  Subject to change, as always:

1.  Meditate

Yup, you knew that was coming.  I'm a big ol' yoga hippie now, and meditation is extremely difficult for me.  I'm going to aim for two minutes a day.  That's it.  Two quiet minutes.  I hear the benefits are amazing-- we shall see.

2.  Teach independence

I have these wonderful, wise, and kind neighbor friends, who (lucky for me) have older children.  I went out with them last week and we talked about the importance of teaching kids to do things themselves and understand natural consequences for their actions.  I AM TRULY TERRIBLE AT THIS.  I spend so much of the day chasing after my kids, picking up after them, doing things for them that they should be doing themselves.  No more, 2016!

3.  Look for the 'value add' before saying yes to anything

This is an extension on my revelations in my last post, but it's worth making a priority this year.  I'm getting much better at saying no to things, but still struggling with seeing each and every moment as valuable.  Often, I'm trying to fill my days (and I do-- I fill them to the absolute brim).  So, before saying yes, I'm going to look at the value it adds to me, my community, my family.  If it's something that's just filling time and keeping us busy, then it's a no.

4.  Stop feeling responsible for other people's happiness

Ah, this is the biggie for me this year.  You know those people who have a party, and the whole time they're going around asking people if they're having a good time, if they need anything, what else they can do?  That is me.  I come from a long line of people like this: always caught up in the feelings of other people.  It seems noble, but it's actually a huge energy suck and waste of time.  A woman in her thirties can't make other people happy-- she simply isn't that powerful.  I'm going to let go of that this year, if it kills me.

5.  Disconnect

I love our connected world, I love social media, I love all of it.  However,  when I look at the parts of it that are valuable to me, it's a small percentage of the actual time I use it. Take email, for example.  How many junk messages do you get in one day?  I get about 100,000 (slight exaggeration).  How many friends on Facebook do you have that post things constantly that you either don't like or don't care about?  Unsubscribe, unfriend, disconnect.  (Especially as the elections near, amiright??)  Connect in the ways that are valuable, and disconnect from the crap that isn't.

Happy 2016, friends!

Friday, December 11, 2015

A Woman in Her Thirties' 2015 Revelations

2015 has been a great year for this woman in her thirties.  I'm a little overwhelmed at the idea of trying to recap it all, so instead I'm going to list some life-changing revelations I made in the past year.

1.  This age is the best

When my kids were babies, I thought I was missing something.  Everyone ooing and ahhing all over them, telling me to savor every moment. No doubt, that age was cute.  But it was SO FLIPPING HARD. At least for me. Now, at three and a half and five, I can honestly do that whole #stoptimeplease hashtag.  Because it's awesome.  Still crazy.  But awesome.

2.  Bring your own lunch

There are very few places my children will eat an actual lunch.  One is the pizza place pictured above, and the other is Panera.  After spending more than a few frustrating afternoons as well as more than a few wasted dollars, I decided at the beginning of the summer that I was DONE.  So I bought those cool bento boxes (pictured above, but my lunches are no where near that cute) and any time I know we'll be gone for lunch, I pack it before.  And that goes for me, too.  LIFE CHANGING, I tell you. 

3.  Reverse technology

When Anna was a baby, I got a Nook for reading.  I have read many, many, many books on it.  For three years, it was pretty much the only thing I used for reading.  Then, last year, I got an iPad.  The intention was for me to read on that, but I was annoyed by the backlighting options and found myself in the public library again checking out "real" books. And then I did something crazy- MATH- and realized how much money I'd spent on books since using an e-reader.  Almost every book I've read in 2015 has been an actual, paper book.  Free.  From the library.  

4.  Breathing

I have struggled with back pain for a long time.  Finally, in 2015, I got my old lady bootie to the chiropractor and acupuncturist.  She said lots of things that I knew, but more things that I didn't know.  Such as I DON'T BREATHE PROPERLY.  Did you know there's a way to breathe properly?  In your belly?  So I've gotten poked and beaten up by the chiropractor, which has been fabulous, but the thing that has really changed for me is that when I practice belly breathing my low back doesn't hurt all the time, and I'm a much nicer person as a result.  

5.  Just say no

Being a woman in her thirties, particularly a mom, is a major balancing act.  In my twenties, I felt obliged to say yes to everything.  But the best thing is that since I'm a full-fledged woman in her thirties now, I feel completely okay with saying no.  Join an organization I only feel lukewarm about? No.  Spend all weekend hustling from practices to playdates?  Nah.  Go out with a group, even if I really would rather be in bed by nine?  Nope.  Don't get me wrong-- we are busy, hustling, every single day.  But the things we are doing are choices I'm trying to make consciously, and that feels good to me.  To all of us.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

A Woman in her Thirties, Suddenly, Five

Dear Anna,

Today you are five years old.  Five!  Can you handle it?  Can you? (Trick question.  I know you can. You've been counting sleeps until your birthday for weeks now.)

Such a momentous occasion deserves one step further back down memory lane.








I'm not going to do that thing I always do, which is lament the passage of time. Five years have gone by quickly, that is true.  But now that we have come upon five, it seems clear to me that all those parents before me knew what they were talking about when, as I struggled through the baby years, they said the best was yet to come. You're a little lady now, your own person.  And what a beautiful person you are.

A little about you:  You are So. Much. Fun. Everything you do, whether it's walking to the park or reading your books at night, or going to school, or spending time with your friends, or even a trip to the supermarket, it is done with what I can only describe as Anna Joy.  You love everything.  You love everyone.  You trust everyone.  You see beauty and happiness in everyone and everything.  

It is a sight, Bubbie, because I have bad news for you.  You know those movies you don't want to watch, because you're scared there might be a bad guy that might give you bad dreams?  Well, those movies aren't nearly as bad as the real world can be.  Someday, I'll tell you the week you turned five was a week of global tragedy.  Of cruelty, disaster, and then more cruelty on top of that.  Being a woman in her thirties right now, a mom of two beautiful children, I'm torn between the world in which we live and the world in which YOU live.  I used to get frustrated when, as a teacher, I would see parents shielding their children from the world.  But now, I get it.  I completely get it.  I want you to live in five-year-old bliss for as long as possible. 

Slowly but surely, I'm starting to understand that I'll never master this parenting thing.  I will never be a perfect mom, a perfect wife, a perfect woman for that matter.  But I can promise you one thing: whatever ups and downs the world has in store for us, YOU-- exactly the YOU you are-- have been a blessing beyond anything I could have imagined for my life.  I'm so proud of the wonderful little person you are.

So happy, happy birthday to my fun-loving, silly-song-singing, fart-joke-loving Bubbie Bubba Roo. Your happiness is infectious.  Your heart is generous.  You are everything hopeful in this messed up world, and because of you, I have hope for the future.


Sunday, October 18, 2015

A Woman in her Thirties at the Apple Orchard

Ain't no place like Minnesota in the fall, and this fall has been beautiful. So I'm going to post some pictures from our visit to the Apple Orchard today, while I talk about some other stuff.

A friend's daughter died tragically last Sunday, and our community has been grieving deeply for her and her family.  We feel the loss of this child as if she were our own.

Anytime something like this happens, I notice a few things. The first thing is the need to do something.  Anything.  I am a woman in her thirties who does not obsess over details, but I found myself this week a part of an army of friends and neighbors calling florists, plotting maps to strategically place balloons, and stressing about meal-delivery schedules for the family.  Yes, all of this is a show of love for a family going through the unthinkable.  Of course.  But none of it will bring this little girl back to her parents, and as we ran around town like busy bees, this knowledge stung.

Also, the goodness of people.  I would love to say this is Pleasantville-specific, but honestly, I don't think it is.  People are, for the most part, so damn good.  They are so giving.  For every kind act I witnessed this week, there were countless more kind acts behind it. 

Because when something horrible happens, people often say, 'I can't imagine'.  But they are wrong.  Of course they can imagine.  Especially if you are a parent, a friend, a neighbor... you can imagine what it would be like to lose the things-- the people-- most precious to you.  That imagining is what springs you into action, whether it be balloon-tying, meal-preparing, or good ol' fashioned prayer.  It humbles you to the point of submission.  You fall to your knees, despite yourself.  

This whole week, I was struck by how vulnerable we are, every single day.  Call it whatever you want, but whatever sense of control or security we have over our lives is false.  Laughingly so.  Why do we live as though silly things matter?  Why do we let people's opinions of us determine our happiness?  I am just as guilty as anyone else of this, but maybe after this week, I will be less so. 

There is nothing we can do to make ourselves less vulnerable to loss.  We could shut ourselves in, I guess, but that is a loss of its own.  To live is to be vulnerable.  To love is to recognize our small blessings and large miracles.  If not for ourselves, then for those who hurt alongside us.

Monday, October 5, 2015

A Woman in her Thirties Writes the Damn Blog

I've prided myself on being a woman in her thirties who finishes what she starts.  Says what she means. Means what she says. Doesn't make excuses.


I have no less than FOUR blog posts recently that have lingered, unfinished, somewhere in cyberspace.  Why? Well, I can't be sure. It's not that the posts themselves are bad, or that there's anything specific keeping me from writing.  I just haven't felt the blogging ju-ju lately, which is sad, because my kids are SO cute and hilarious, and I have lots of great things to say about them, at the very least:

Aaron, on ice skates for the first time.  I mean, hilarious!

Ain't no shame in stealing someone else's creative writing idea (umm... on second thought, maybe there is...), so I'm going to do that whole five on fifth thing, to get myself caught up on the happenings of my own life.  Here goes:

1.  School is cool

We are back in school, and let me tell you how happy I am about it.  A long summer break makes zero sense to me, and why we don't all embrace year-round school is a mystery.  That is a rant-worthy post in the making, but let's just say the world is spinning with a whole lot more sanity now that we're back in learning mode.

2.  Walking in the rain is also cool

Anna's pick up time is 2:45, which gives Aaron and me two options: we can either get in the car and drive the two minutes to her school, or we can walk and enjoy the beautiful weather while it lasts.  Guess which one we pick, almost always?

 There's a little free library on our way, and we pride ourselves on grabbing all the good books the second they appear.

 While my hair does not appreciate walking in the rain, the kids find it totally thrilling. So, sorry hair! 

Aaron always brings Sharkey, and always brings a snack. Most of the time he falls asleep mid-bite and drools the snack all over himself by the time we get to Anna's school.  Good times.

3.  I published another book

This one has been an emotional journey, even more so than the first.  That is another post, and then another after that.  You can buy a copy here! (Only if you want, no presh, obv.)

4.  Pleasantville is so pleasantly Pleasantville 

When we moved here, so many people told us how great a place this is to raise a family.  I've seen that countless times over the seven years (!!!) relocating, and now that the kids are getting older (how it is possible I have a three and four year old, by the way?) I can really see it.  And appreciate it.  Even though you-know-what is coming.

Anna, posing with the firefighters who came to hang out at our neighborhood block party.  One of four or five parties of the summer... I lost count. 

Aaron doing is favorite thing in the world- going to the lake and throwing rocks in. 

5.  After school activities are for the birds

I've been struggling with balancing our new school lives since September. I am a classic over scheduler, but I'm trying to take control of that.  I heard a writer speak last Friday about the importance of living in the moment, about how fleeting all these times are, and when we're shuffling and hurrying about, we miss it.  So, with that mentality, I've been getting better at saying no to things. We all need to (okay, especially I need to) take the time to stop and smell the roses.


Sunday, September 6, 2015

A Woman in Her Thirties' Summer List (for next year)

Well, Summer, as of this week you are over. It's been a great, busy, fun summer, as evidenced by my lack of postings. Sigh. To quote myself countless times over the last few weeks, 'I'll be much more organized when the kids are back in school'.

I was talking to someone recently about how I'd done some things 'wrong' this summer.  She has older kids, so she encouraged me to write down the things that I did right and the things I did wrong so I can remember for next year.  (When, of course, the kids will be an entire year older and much different than they are now.)  I like this idea, so here goes:

1.  Don't overschedule. And for the love of God, don't underschedule.

I am an overscheduler by nature, and this has unfortunately extended into my parenting.  There were many days this summer-- many days-- where we were running all over creation from wake up to sleep time.  In some ways this was good, especially when it came to camps and classes.  But in other ways, it felt like half of our summer was spent rushing in car.

Here are some of our scheduled activities:

(Anna's summer camp- worth every penny.  Well structured and enough time for mom to get a break.  Next year, Aaron can go with her instead of wistfully waiting on the playground for her to be done.)

(Ballet.  This was the first on my list of activities that were going to have to go once I realized just how badly I'd overscheduled our summer.  The only reason it worked was because J and I figured out a ride share/babysitting situation.  Anna loved it, of course.)

(Theater camp.  I mean, obviously I love theater camp. And I LOVED that Anna loved theater camp.  But the drop off/pick up times caused me untold anxiety this year, so I've got to figure out a better way for next year. Because she WILL go next year.  Obv.)

(Book buddies.  This was a bit of a dud for us this year, but since Aaron only just turned three, was our only option for him.  He did not love it, so of course I didn't love it.  Thankfully next year he'll have more options.  IF he stops pooping his pants.)

(Swim lessons.  Our lessons this summer were Saturdays at... wait for it... 8:00am. Let me tell you how many people gasped in horror when I told them that.  But I don't have children who sleep in, and I certainly don't sleep in, so 8:00am swim lessons worked out great for us.)

(Little Gym.  Forgive the horrible picture, but it's the only one I took.  This was the only place I could take both kids at the same time and actually sit in a waiting room and wait for them.  I brought my iPad and got some work done.  Then we went to Panera for dinner.  This class was awesome, for all of us.)

2.  Downtime

Based on the pictures above, you're probably wondering if we ever had a day where we had nothing on the schedule.  We did!  And those were hard days for me, because this momma loves a good schedule.  But here's how we filled that time.

(Swimming.  Lots of swimming.  Our favorites were Sunday afternoons when Daddy could come too.  Anna jumped off the diving board! And Buddy finally stopped drinking the pool water.)

(The zoo.  God bless the family pass to the zoo.  The Minnesota Zoo is awesome and we went lots.  The last two pics were at shark class, and it was really fun!)

(Is there anything better than walking around Lake Harriet in the summer? Not really.  The second pic is probably my favorite of the summer.)

3.  'Gardening'

(BCK got my very first 'garden' going this year, which is to say she started some tomato plants for us.  This is our first cherry tomato, and we've been enjoying the 'harvest' all summer.  And by 'we' I mean me, because I love tomatoes, and no one else in my family really does.)

4.  Vacation

There was simply not enough vacation time this year, but we did do our annual Dirty Dancing trip up North with our friends.  It was just as fun as last time, despite much cooler weather.  Here are some highlights:

5.  The State Fair

No summer post would be complete without a post about our annual State Fair gorge-fest.  This time, however, we were joined by my esteemed sister-in-law and her equally food-fun husband.  She blogged about our experience in depth, so I won't recount it here.  Let's just say... fried olives.  And then let's just say cheese curds.

(I would insert a picture here, but my computer has given up on me.)

I'm looking at my post so far and realizing something. Yes, it was a busy summer, but how could I possibly complain?  We had no illnesses, L's travel was totally manageable (it won't be, starting this week), and look at all those smiles!  So yes, logistically, I'll probably do things differently next year. But even if I don't, if that's how happy we wind up, I'd say a woman in her thirties is doing pretty great.