5 Things I Learned Today

As a proud boymom of four rough and tumble stud-muffins (counting my three awesome stepsons), I am constantly learning things that take me by surprise.

Today was an especially exciting day full of (mis)adventures, and here are five handy little good-to-knows I took home from all the fun!

  1. A toddler can catch himself–and I mean completely save himself from falling down a row of bleachers by grabbing onto his mama’s ponytail. And surprisingly enough, even if that toddler weighs 25 pounds, it won’t even pull any of mama’s hair out! (She will, though, need a few advil for the headache that comes directly after saving a child’s life via ponytail.)
  2. Once a little boy learns how to run, HE WILL HAVE PERMANENTLY SCRAPED KNEES. Both of them. Especially when it is 90 degrees outside for weeks straight and just way too hot for long pants.
  3. Cherry limeade comes up out of carpet much better than you might think it would. (Sidenote- toddlers can also reach much higher than you think they can. So if you think that your cup is out of reach, just go ahead and put it up somewhere even higher. Your carpet will thank me.)
  4. Yogurt squeeze packets are the worst invention ever. But they are really, really fun for toddlers. If mama is busy doing dishes, and the aforementioned toddler holds one by the bottom with the top unscrewed, and spins in circles all around the kitchen, it will make pretty pink designs all over the sides of the island! And the floor, and the table and chairs, and the barstools. . .
  5. And lastly: Little boys can pretty much get away with murder. Because they are just so damn adorable. This mama is in BIG trouble!!!
Yep, better wash that off before it dries

Two Horses

My 15 month-old son taught me a valuable lesson a few weeks ago at our local fair. He demonstrated, in living color, the profound truth of one of my favorite sayings: You can’t ride two horses with one ass.

We had just gotten to the front of the line for the big, beautiful circus carousel filled with glossy painted horses of every color. Long flowing manes cascaded down their necks, and fancy “saddles” beckoned, calling out “Pick me! Pick me!” to every little boy and girl who ran up onto the platform.

Hank meant business when they opened the gate, and he latched on to the first horse we came to, claiming it as his. I was just thrilled that he picked one on the outside row, as I had strategically placed his daddy on the other side of the fence with our good camera, hoping he would capture this magical mother and son moment.

Hank sat up proudly on his fiberglass saddle, gripping the golden pole for dear life as his horse started to rise and fall in those graceful waves around and around.

My little boy was in his element. And I was too, soaking up the sheer joy he exuded as he galloped slowly around in carousel circles while the tinny circus music played.

Once his toddler attention span ran out though, the novelty of his white horse wore off and he started considering his other options. Hank suddenly decided that he wanted to try out the horse galloping up and down right beside his. He started reaching for its golden pole with everything he had, squirming out of my tight hold on his chest.

I figured it would be easier to switch him over there for the rest of the ride than to fight with him about staying where he was. I scooped him up and plopped him down onto the middle horse’s saddle. This thrilled him for a bit, but the excitement from mounting his new steed quickly turned to wails of frustration.

Hank frantically pointed back to the first horse and tugged on my arm. He let out an angry squeal to convince me to listen, so I scooped him up again and plunked him right back where he started, on his original mount. But the tears kept coming.

The ride slowed to a stop, and as I carried him back towards his beaming crowd of fans (daddy and his grandparents) he proudly puffed out his chest and a big smile appeared on his face. He was already thinking about the next ride.

All through the rest of that fun-filled fair day, I couldn’t stop thinking about his carousel ride, and how I fight that very same battle. I completely understood his dilemma. Life often leaves us wanting to ride two horses at once, but once we choose, we often wish (mid-ride of course) that we were on the other one!

My two carousel horses these days are motherhood and my career. I am blessed by the fact that I have the best of both worlds: I have a fulfilling (and most importantly, flexible) job, and I also get to be somewhat of a stay-at-home mom. (Two days a week and on weekends.)

Sick baby? I can work from home, and snuggle him.

Emergency at work? I can drop him at grandma’s and run up to the office at almost a moment’s notice.

But-even with the amazing flexibility I have in my work/family life, I do often struggle with whether I am doing what I should be doing.

I always dreamed of being a wife and a mother, raising babies and making incredible home-cooked meals each day; my perfect little family all gathered around the dinner table at the same time each night like clockwork.

But in reality, my perfect little family is a big crazy blended family of SIX, and our schedule is sheer chaos. We bounce around daily; juggling shared custody of my husband’s three sons and his work-travel schedule and my three days a week at the office and a toddler and football and baseball and naps and school and doctors appointments. Somewhere in there we manage to buy groceries and cook meals, but it’s certainly never like clockwork!

In my craziest moments at home, when the baby refuses to nap and I have a long list of important voicemails I still haven’t gotten to yet and my checkbook needs balanced and dinner needs figured out and I can’t get the Tick Tock song to quit playing in my head–all I want to do is drop the baby off and head to my quiet office where I can actually get something accomplished.

But then there are days at the office when I am dealing with taxes or plumbing emergencies or unhappy tenants and I would give anything to be at home with my son, singing silly songs and reloading his t-ball tee for him 50 more times.

And if that doesn’t complicate things enough, there are also days when I drive by the little rural school Hank will go to in four short years, and I miss teaching. On those days I feel guilty for not using my Masters in Education that I worked so hard for. The one I earned proudly and then put on the shelf so I could be the best mom I could be in these important, formative years. (And selfishly, so I could savor this precious time with my one and only baby.)

On those very same days, I see my friends posting their first day of school pictures on Facebook and I actually cry tears because I don’t want to think about the day when Hank will be old enough to go to school; when I will have to give him up for seven hours a day. Five days a week.

Five days a week that will mean that I have all the time in the world to go to work, or teach again, or both–and I will be wishing I was home with my son.

I know this is going to happen. But if I can already guarantee that I will feel this way in four years, shouldn’t it be easy to be present, right now? 

Shouldn’t it be easy to enjoy every second of playtime or mealtime or snuggle time with my baby, who–overnight–is no longer a baby?

Shouldn’t it be easy to move thoughts of work or responsibilities or dreams-on-pause to the back of my mind? And just be in the moment, fully present; a focused, relaxed, FUN mom?

And shouldn’t it also be easy to enjoy the fact that I have a job that I love, that I am good at, that makes me feel accomplished and helps keep our lights on and groceries in our fridge? Without feeling guilty for missing out on three days a week of Hank time?

The answer to all of those questions is yes. Yes, I should be able to do all of those things. But the problem is, I can’t.

I should be able to ride one horse at a time, because I only have one ass. I fully realize that I can’t ride two horses at once, but just like my little boy, I want to.

My answer to the ages-old motherhood struggle of stay home vs. go to work is this: There’s no right answer. Whichever you choose will still be hard. Because as mothers, no matter whether we are staying home, or working, or working from home, or some ever-changing random combination of the above, we will always feel like we aren’t doing enough. Like we should be riding two horses at once.

Being a mom and having a career aren’t mutually exclusive–but at times it can definitely feel like they are. Especially when you want to do an exceptional job at both of them.

Hank taught me in one short fair ride, that as long as you let your heart lead, and spend some time on each of those horses–you will come out smiling. (Even if you do regret your choice from time to time. Sometimes you simply have to ride it out.)

Just like those pretty fiberglass horses; sometimes you will be up and other times you will be down.

But no matter which horse you’re on, you will still keep moving forward.

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Life is a beautiful, crazy ride – Hold on tight!

If I Were My Cell Phone, Where Would I Be?

The day started off spectacularly. Hank only got up once in the night, and he actually slept in. TIL 8:15 A.M. This was unprecedented.

Daddy was already well on his way to Nebraska for work. I scooped Hank up out of his crib, and could instantly tell he was in the most amazing mood! Usually on days when it’s just me at home, Hank is more clingy than normal, but today he was full of playful energy. After pouring him a fresh sippy of milk, I set him down to run around the kitchen. I fired up the Cuisinart, excited to have the luxury of both hands free to make myself a good coffee! No Keurig quickie-coffee for this mama today!

Well, it was a good thing Hank was entertaining himself, because I had phone call after phone call all morning long. The HVAC wasn’t working right at the building. Our electrician was fixing lights in a few suites. A gal inquired about available office space. The flower shop called to say they were having trouble delivering some flowers I had ordered for my best friend. Phone call after phone call came in, and thanks to the freshly-brewed cappuccino in my hand, I managed work from home pretty efficiently while also feeding the hungry one-year-old breakfast.

After I filled his little tummy up, I glanced over at the clock and had a minor freak-out! I still needed to get showered, dressed, makeup on, pack a lunch for baby, and get him down for his nap before I had to leave for a luncheon that started at 11:30! My wonderful dad was planning to watch Hank for me since my also-wonderful mama (his usual babysitter) was attending the luncheon with me. And I was getting picked up in 40 minutes!

I took the world’s fastest shower, threw on some clean clothes, and towel-dried my hair. That was going to have to be good enough! I looked for my phone to check with my folks about letting themselves into the house, since I would be putting Hank down when they arrived.

Hank.

I had just handed it to Hank, three minutes before, as he cruised around the bathroom like a crazy man, obviously mirroring his running-late mama. He was pulling things out of cupboards and drawers, yanking my wet towels off the shower door, and pulling clothes out of our closets. I had handed him my phone to try to keep him entertained, looking at “Hank and Daddy” on my home screen; turning it off and on, like he loves to do.

But now, the phone was nowhere to be found.

“Hank, where’s mama’s phone?” I asked him, well aware that even if he did remember where he put it, odds of him leading me right to it were slim to none.

He smiled and laughed. Clearly, this is a fun new game!

He smiled and laughed even more as I started running around the bathroom frantically, opening all the drawers, peering in all the cupboards, and crawling around our closets on my hands and knees, asking “Where is mama’s phone, Hankers? Where did you hide it?”

The harder I looked, the funnier Hank thought it was. He made sure to get in on the fun by tearing things apart even MORE while “trying to help me find it.”

He thought it was even funnier when I tried my best mama mime and acted out “phone” using both touch-screen and phone-calling charades to him. He obviously understood my charades perfectly well, because he started doing them back at me, laughing, of course! But did he take me to the phone? 

Nope.

You know what’s really helpful when you are looking for something important and you are already running late?

I don’t! But I do know that it is DEFINITELY NOT a one-year-old toddler!

Once our master bath and his-and-hers closets looked like a burglar had ransacked them, I finally got lucky. I happened upon a humidifier I used for Hank back when his crib was in our room. It was tucked under my hanging work clothes in the back of my closet. A little blinking light caught my eye from inside the dark blue plastic water reservoir. (Which thankfully, was empty.) THANK GOD for whoever commented on my Facebook or left me a voicemail or texted me or WHATEVER it was that caused that little light to blink!

MY PHONE!!!!! There it was, stuck down in the tank of the abandoned humidifier. I marveled at the fact that the hole he had shoved it through was hardly wide enough to get the phone pulled back out. That little turkey must have really worked at it, to even get it in there in the first place!
Even in my harried, frustrated state; I had to applaud my mischievous little blonde boy for his ingenuity! He found an absolutely incredible hiding place for my phone in less than three minutes, one I will know to check first the next time something I need goes missing.

What is the moral of this story?

Don’t give your toddler your phone as a toy?

Don’t keep some old humidifier stuffed back in the back of your closet, where your toddler can hide important things?

No. The moral of the story is this:

Don’t take the extra 10 minutes to make yourself a gorgeous, foamy cappuccino by hand, on a day when you have scheduled plans.

Make the 30-second instant Keurig cup of drip coffee. Because you are going to need that extra 10 minutes to FIND YOUR *#%@?!&* CELL PHONE!!!

Taking a Bite Out of Life 

Teething. . .ahhhh teething. I have spent the last nine months of Hank’s life wondering: Why didn’t God design babies to be born with all their teeth in? 

Hank has three different teeth all coming in at once, which is equal parts awful and great. The great is my way of positive thinking. I say knock three more out at once, little boy, and let’s get this misery over!

The ONLY upside to teething is the new and exciting varieties of foods we can feed the little piggy as he gets more and more teeth. He has gotten quite good at crunching, now that he has some molars, and last night we introduced him to his new favorite food – fresh sweet corn – on the cob!

I didn’t intend to introduce it to him on the cob, I was mostly just excited for him to try such a yummy new vegetable. He had never been overly impressed with corn from the freezer or a can. 

He wasn’t convinced that he needed to try this corn at first either; the beautiful pile of yellow and white kernels I cut off for him (like I do my own) did not seem to interest him in the least. He was too busy watching the rest of the table eat their corn. He was fascinated! The lightbulb finally clicked on in my mama-brain and I realized he wanted to eat his corn like a man – like his daddy and big brothers were. With his chompers, right off the cob. 

What could it hurt? I thought, so I grabbed a half ear and held it for him. It took him about one failed bite to realize he needed to really give her hell if he was going to get anywhere on that cob! 

He looked that corn cob over, opened up wide, and bit into it with those 11 sharp little teeth like he was entered in a corn-on-the-cob eating contest. He meant business! I am not sure what part of it delighted him more; the yummy corn, the fact that he was now doing exactly what big brothers and daddy were doing, or the delightful pop, pop, pop the kernels made as he bit through them. I kept turning the cob for him and he kept biting away, loving it more and more as he went. I am not sure he was even stopping to breathe between bites.

All I could see in my mind’s eye while my little man inhaled corn like a big boy, was the bugs bunny cartoon where he eats corn-on-the-cob like a typewriter, complete with the “DING!” when he got to the end of the row! 

Turn please, mama!

The pride was bursting out of me, and I even took a video of the corn-eating machine to send to his Grandpa, a corn-eating legend in our family. 

After Hank finally decided he had had enough, he pushed the (second) empty cob back into my hand and turned around on my lap. 

Oh, now I get a snuggle from my big boy, too! 

What a way to top off a great dinner! I was thrilled, so excited he had mastered a new skill and enjoyed it so much. 

I didn’t get to savor my proud snuggle long. I became much less thrilled with Hank’s new skill about one second later when I felt a sudden burning pain—

“OWWWW!!!!”

I looked down, and there was my little piggy, sinking his corn-cob chompers into his mama’s arm. And he was giving her hell!

In celebrating his corn-cob eating prowess, we had created a monster! He obviously has the biting thing down. What he really needs is more practice with some cut-off corn kernals, his spiderman bowl, and a spoon; like I originally intended. I think that might be a better skill to focus on for now. 

The adorable little teeth marks in my bicep agree with me.

Hank the Tank and his beloved corn-on-the-cob

10 Aspects of Mama-hood I Never Imagined I Would Be OK With

Becoming a mother rocks your world. It rocked mine so fiercely that I hardly remember what life was like before I had a baby. EVERYTHING changes when you have a baby, but the best part is that most of those changes are good ones! With me, for instance, things that would have totally grossed me out or driven me crazy are now just details in my day-to-day adventures in motherhood. Here are 10 things I never imagined I would be OK with once I became a mother:

  1. Sharing food. Today for lunch I pulled a day-old half of a Jimmy John’s Club Lulu out of the fridge, and tried to eat it with a crabby teething baby on my lap. Well, he wanted that sandwich more than I did, so we took turns eating bites off the same end. You couldn’t have paid me a million dollars to share a gooey, slobbered-on turkey sandwich with ANYONE before that baby came along, but these days I’m just happy to be eating something.
  2. Sharing a cup with a back-washing monster. The allure of a tall glass of freshly poured, cold water from the fridge door is hypnotizing to a one-year-old, it seems, especially when he knows it’s “mama’s water.” I cannot bear to not give him a sip of it, even though it will most likely have Jimmy John’s bread crumbs floating in it when I get it back. No big deal.
  3. Diapers. Change a diaper on the seat of my Tahoe? Sure! Change a diaper on my couch? Certainly! Change a diaper on my bedspread? Why not? Change a diaper on my knees at a basketball game or in an airplane? Yep; check, and check.
  4. Yoga pants as clothes. Enough said.
  5. Friday nights in. Bars? Dancing? Movies in a theater, even? People actually have the energy to DO those things? An exciting night for my husband and me now means watching a recorded episode of Deadliest Catch in a blanket on the couch-maybe even with microwave popcorn-before crashing at 10.
  6. Driving a mommy bus. I adored my sporty little Volkswagen back in the days of just me and my dog. Now that I haul up to six people around at any one time, I cruise my mommy bus around proudly. What’s not to love about seven seat-belts, eight cup-holders, and a DVD player with headphones?
  7. Germs. I loaded up on hand sanitizer, anti-bacterial wipes, and pacifier wipes before the baby came. These days? A quick mama-suck after a paci has fallen on some random germ-infested floor, and it gets popped right back in his mouth. I am building that boy some serious immunity. (At least that’s what I tell myself as I pop it back in his cute little mouth.)
  8. Having a Buddha belly. No, we are not growing baby #2 in there, but it definitely appears that we are! Gone is my flat pre-baby stomach, and in its place is a lovely little baby gut. Sucking it in? Nah. I grew almost nine pounds of baby in there so it’s bound to show a little, and I’m good with it.
  9. (Super) Early mornings. I used to think 9 a.m. was sleeping in. Now I know that 6:30 a.m. is actually sleeping in.
  10. Spending all of my money on the baby, instead of on myself. My current wardrobe consists of maternity shirts, my stretchiest pre-baby jeans, and my oh-so-stylish (but comfy!) slip-on Sketchers I bought when my feet grew a size while pregnant. My baby outgrows his entire wardrobe every two months, so that is where the money goes. And I don’t mind one bit! It’s WAY more fun to see those tiny little new clothes on him anyways, and I have finally realized that my husband is no more enamored with me if my clothes are “in style.” (In fact, I am pretty certain he can’t tell if they are anyways.)

Motherhood has taught me that pretty much everything I used to worry about is insignificant in the grand scheme. All that really matters is that tiny little heartbeat I helped create, and all the rest is just details. I am certain that someday I will get into some new clothes or back to a bar to go dancing, but right now my crazy mama life is pretty wonderful. I wouldn’t trade it for all the sleep in the world!

Yes that’s a maternity shirt. No, I’m not 4 months prego, it just looks like it.

A Two Coffee Morning 

My sweet babe got his first summer cold yesterday. And it’s a GOOD one. I have never heard him cough before, so I guess we have been really lucky so far! Runny noses, sure, but he’s never had a full-blown awful cold like this before. I now know that there is no worse sound in the world than a rattley baby cough.

Our house has been surviving on two miracle liquids-baby Advil and good coffee.

It was one of those long, restless nights where I would’ve gladly traded places with him, because I would have rather just been the sick one myself. Daddy and I took turns snuggling that poor lil’ sickie in the recliner, til he finally crashed around 4am, and we did too.

When our lil man woke up, his daddy brewed us the most life-changing cappucinos, and I marveled at the incredible restorative powers of Starbucks.

Once you become a parent, I have discovered, you have an amazing ability to survive on very little sleep and be surprisingly high-functioning! (Well, once you have had your miracle elixir, + two sugars, that is.)

My precious little boy is sleeping again, and hopefully his little body is fighting off that darn summer cold while he rests.

And this Tired Mama is headed to the Keurig for a strong Caffè Verona. Two sugars 🙂

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My two best friends this morning – Cuisinart and Keurig

Two Thumbs Up Tuesday: 8/2

Huge thanks to Not the Average Mama for sharing my blog post in her Two Thumbs Up Tuesday! Please go check out her blog, she is one inspirational step-mama!

Not the Average Mama

Two thumbs up tuesday

Two Thumbs Up Tuesday is dedicated to blog posts I have come across over the past week and want to share with all of you!

The Tired Mama Project: 10 Things I Never Thought I’d Be Thankful For – Erika shares her stories of her sweet baby boy. This post she wrote is very inspiring and gives a positive twist on things we just might not notice being a tired mama. Some times finding the positive in any situation will up lift your spirits.

Breathe. In. Life: An Open Letter To My Oldest Step Son’s Bio Mom – Wow. This is a powerful letter to read, especially being a step mom myself. This step mom has a deep and understanding perspective on the blended family and co-parenting lifestyle. Bravo, mama!

Home, Hugs and Huskies: The Six Things I’ve Learnt as a Step Parent – Lindsay is one of my favorite…

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I Don’t Need A Gym Membership, I Have A Toddler

I love food. Almost as much as I love my baby, my baby’s daddy, and wine. So “eating for two” was one of my favorite parts of pregnancy. I tacked on 50 pounds like it was nothing.

I thought it might be a struggle to get those 41 non-baby pounds off, but nursing was a miracle weight loss plan. The weight fell off surprisingly fast, thanks to the chubby blonde tumor that was permanently attached to my boob. Too fast, in fact.

By the time I hit the 12-month mark, I looked like a skeleton with skin. (And boobs.) I had lost every one of the 50 pounds I gained and about 13 more I didn’t have to spare in the first place. My husband was worried about his waif of a wife, so I kicked off the calf and hopped back on my pregnancy eating-for-two diet to put some weight back on.

Now that the (hyperactive) weaned calf is toddling around, I found that it doesn’t matter how much I eat, I can’t gain a pound! Toddler rearing might just be the new miracle weight loss fad of the decade. It’s a little bit like training for American Ninja Warrior, but with no Mt. Midoriyama. (Or screaming crowd of fans.) My big red button at the end of each obstacle-filled day is a big glass of red WINE. But, it damn sure is keeping me skinny! Here is a sampling of my daily exercise program, which I have lovingly dubbed American Ninja Mommy:

  • The pick-up-the-sippy-without-setting-down-the-baby squat. 14-month-olds, it seems, suddenly develop an attachment disorder, which means I cannot detach mine from my hip and set him down without a screaming, crying fit. But it’s all good! He is just pushing me to feel the burn! The deep squat is far more effective with a 26 pound weight on one arm while you scoop down to grab the milk with the other. And, repeat.
  • The “crib” yoga pose. This pose involves bending at the waist over the side of the crib, holding a hand on the chest of the almost sleeping toddler and keeping perfectly still for up to 10 minutes because he is So. Close. To. Sleep. If you break pose before his breathing changes, you will have to start from scratch. Hold that pose, mamas! Don’t weaken!
  • The stair stepper. Descend and ascend the 6 stairs that lead from the kitchen to the living room repeatedly, to retrieve the milk sippy/ball/paci/cell phone that the toddler has launched over the baby gate. Again.
  • Naked baby wind sprints. Post bath, if you look away for one millisecond to grab the lotion or jammies, the dripping toddler WILL open the nursery room door and run through the rest of the house before you can get the diaper on him. The race is on, mamas. The goal of this exercise is to catch that ticking pee bomb before your kitchen floor does. Diaper! Ready. . .GO!
  • Highchair waist bends. Meal times are all about core strengthening, ladies. Your toddler trainer will be happy to provide you with infinite spoon drops- all you need to do is bend. Pick up spoon, hand spoon to toddler, and repeat.
  • The dead- (asleep) lift. Once you have a sleeping toddler sprawled across your lap in the rocking recliner, you must rise from your seated position with the toddler held perfectly still, carry him over to the crib, and lay him down without waking him. High chair waist bends will come in handy here (see previous exercise).
  • The Time-to-Put-the-Toys-Away burpees. This exercise is a good cool down for the end of the workout, usually best done right before bed after the toddler has crashed for the night. Down to floor, grab a toy, up to your feet, walk it over to toy box/corner of the room/heap of toys behind the couch. And repeat. Repeat until you can actually see your pretty area rug again and you begin to feel somewhat on top of things. (Note: this exercise may be skipped, depending on how intense of a workout you have already had that day. You can always do it tomorrow.)

The very best part of this workout system is the $40/month you will save from gym membership fees. It can now be spent on Riesling, Malbecs, and Starbucks; the only dietary supplements recommended with this plan. Get ready to lose, mamas! (Pounds, that is!) And your happy little toddler trainer? While he may not celebrate your efforts like a paid personal trainer should, he will be the reason you wake up each new day, ready to do it all over again. And that is a huge WIN.