I’ve made stunning 4-tier wedding cakes, perfectly iced in homemade buttercream; cakes which took days to bake, ice, assemble and decorate.
It was nothing for me to crank out 4 loaves of bread from scratch on any old Saturday morning, or whip up a few dozen cinnamon twists to send to work with my hubs for his crew.
I LIVED for brioche, trying every recipe I could find until I finally made the perfect, airy loaf. (I’m pretty sure this is the exact brioche Marie Antoinette was talking about.)
I used to be one hell of a baker.
Until I had a baby, that is.
These days, I feel good when I get a box cake made on time for a birthday in our household, and even better if I actually remember the candles!
So when my sister stopped by with a dozen gorgeous red apples, fresh off their tree a few days ago, I was inspired. I just HAD to bake something. Something GOOD.
“Hank!” I said. “Let’s bake a pie!”
Now, friends, this is NOT what a perfect apple pie is supposed to look like. Not even close.
What it does look like, is exactly what it is: a pie a toddler baked.
Old Me would never have stood for it. Old Me would have thrown out the torn-up, over-worked pastry that sat in our fridge two days longer than it should have, and made fresh. She would have rolled it and lined that pie plate smoothly and evenly, then pinched perfectly-even flutes all around the edges to seal the top.
Today though, for the first time ever, I had a helper. And Hank wanted to do it ALL. He wanted to roll the crust out with the big huge rolling pin. And mix the ingredients. And peel the apples with that fun old crank peeler his great-grandma gave us. He wanted to do all of it.
All. By. Himself.
So, you know what I did?
I let him!
I’m NOT that perfect baker I used to be–I just can’t be. I’m way too busy being mom. (And that’s even better.)
When that sweet two-year-old woke up early from his nap today, we spent that extra hour making the ugliest apple pie I have ever made.
It may be the ugliest pie I’ve made, but it is the pie I’m proudest of.
(And it tasted far sweeter than any of the pretty ones ever did.)
The fur-baby that stole my heart was 165 pounds of Blue Merle muscle–a majestic Great Dane named Roscoe.
Roscoe was more than a dog–he was a full-on family member. He got me through several moves, a difficult divorce, and countless single nights when every creak and crack in my big empty house kept me up at night.
I knew that my beautiful behemoth of a dog was special, but I never truly appreciated his full worth until he became a watchdog for not just me, but for my baby boy, as well.
When our little bundle came home from the hospital two years ago, Roscoe didn’t complain–even when he got moved from his cozy living room corner to a bed in the heated garage. (It was the baby’s turn to nap in that nice warm spot by the fireplace, you see.)
So, he let him.
Somehow from day one, Roscoe knew it was his job to watch over that little boy, and watch over him he did.
For two blessed years.
Sadly–we just buried our almost 12-year-old, geriatric gentle giant a week ago, under a big cottonwood on the family farm. I know his spirit will keep on watching over all of us–especially Hank, who over the last two years had become his very best friend. Those two sweet boys taught me some pretty big life lessons–one of which is how meaningful animals can be to little people.
I hope that as you read along, you nod in agreement because your little ones have a furry friend to love on like Hank did. But if you haven’t gotten a pet for your child or children (yet!), dear reader, here are five reasons why you may want to consider it!
Our big dog and our little boy were two peas in a pod. Anywhere the toddler went, the dog was sure to follow. And vice versa. On the swingset, digging in the dirt, playing ball on the lawn, picking strawberries–these two adored each other’s company. We couldn’t go for a walk unless Roscoe came with us, even when it meant he had to give up his beloved afternoon nap.
If Hank could have slept on Roscoe’s dog bed with him every night, he absolutely would have.
From the time he could walk, our toddler helped me with all of our dog chores. He understood that the first thing we did each morning was let Roscoe out, and he looked forward to it every day. He helped me fill his food and water bowls, and he even helped me clean up the “land mines” in the yard. (He was the “locator,” and I ran the shovel.)
Having a dog taught our toddler a world of responsibility, and most importantly–it taught him how to care for a loved one.
3. Teachable Moments
From learning a universal nickname for dogs–“Coco”–to learning that dogs will do almost anything for a milk-bone; our gentle giant was also a wonderful teacher for our little boy. He taught him that dogs don’t really like to be ridden like horses, even if they are the perfect size. He taught him that “woof” means “come open the door please.” He taught him that Great Danes make wonderful pillows for naps on the lawn. He taught him that it is important to hold still when you are getting your toenails clipped. He taught him that sometimes when we get old, our bodies just can’t keep up anymore. He taught him that even though saying goodbye is scary and hard, it is something that we can get through.
He also taught him the true meaning of the phrase “loyal friend.”
Our huge dog kept an amazing eye on our little boy. Roscoe was Hank’s shadow, never venturing more than 10 or 15 feet away from the tornado toddler–even when that meant a LOT of getting up and laying back down! I loved knowing that whenever I watered flowers or weeded beds in the yard, I had an extra set of eyes on Hank while he played.
Roscoe truly loved his “job,” and Hank loved having his own personal watchdog.
5. Lifelong Memories
Even though he is gone now, Hank still talks about his big buddy “Coco” everyday. Any dog we see gets a chubby little finger point and a loving “Coco!” exclaimed with a huge smile. Whenever I tear up or mention how much I miss Roscoe, Hank grabs his stuffed puppy and gives me a kiss with it. I have countless amazing pictures of these two together, and I will never forget their two years filled with those special moments. Their relationship–although much too short–gave all of us a lifetime of heartwarming memories, which I thank God for everyday.
There’s nothing quite like the magic of big dogs and little children.
So, please. If you have a family dog, let your little ones climb all over him, even when he’s a little bit muddy. Let them snuggle up to him and get those trademark slobbery dog kisses, right on their little faces. Let them help carry the water bucket, even though it splashes all over the garage floor.
I promise–it’ll all be worth it.
And if you don’t have a family dog?
Then someday–if only for your kids’ sake–I hope you’ll change your mind.
The funny thing is–I didn’t really even notice that I had lost it, until last night. Not officially.
The fact that I didn’t even notice further solidifies the fact that I truly have LOST the battle. For good.
My Type-A personality has now officially been replaced with a new type: Type Mom.
Without even realizing it, I stopped doing the one thing I ALWAYS did, every morning, to keep my sanity.
As long as I can remember, I have religiously made my bed each day–perfectly, and arranged it like a Threshold ad for Target: six pillows, two throws. Two standard king pillows, two big shams, the minky sable body pillow that I sewed before I got pregnant; then the square burlap/chevron accent pillow as my finishing touch.
Then of course–at the foot of the bed–one robin’s egg blue throw, and one sable throw.
My perfect bed.
My happy place–perfectly in order, even if just in one little corner of our crazy house. My nice, organized landing spot to fall into after each kaleidoscope day in this blended family of six.
The one thing I could make look perfect, and walk away from; knowing it would still look exactly how I left it at the end of the day.
Unlike the rest of the house, hit by all of our daily tornados of little league and toddler toys and dirty clothes and clean folded clothes and grocery shopping and LIFE.
But last night, when I went to pull off those perfectly arranged pillows, they weren’t there.
They were in a heap on the floor, exactly where I’d left them the night before.
And when I really thought about it hard–they were there the night before that, too.
How did I stop this tradition–this thing I’d tried so hard to maintain for so long–and not even notice?
I’m a mom now, that’s how.
I think my brain simply needed those brain cells, that little extra bit of RAM, to deal with more important things.
Like explaining to a two-year-old why he can’t, in fact, go to the moon, even though he really, really wants to.
(This has occupied a surprising amount of time, over the last three days. He REALLY wants to go.)
My effort is much better spent worrying about Big, Important things like that, than making sure the bed looks perfect. Because I am finding, in these crazy, wonderful, (numbered) days, just how big and important they actually ARE.
So, somewhere in the last month, I subconsciously gave up the ghost on the perfect bed.
And you know what?
Because right now, in the crazy trenches of mamahood, I guess I don’t need that little corner of perfectly folded and tucked organization, anymore.
My life now can only be summed up appropriately in one word: chaos.
Not the lovely kind of “let’s cross over,” though, Liz Gilbert-style. There was no “attraversiamo” here, no “let’s.” I had no say in the matter.
No–the crossing over I experienced today landed me right smack dab in uncharted territory. And it has definitely not been lovely.
Today, my two-year-old-in-one-week cherub and I took a parenting turn for the worse.
We boldly entered the Land of NO.
Andso far, itisterrifying.
Terrifying–because today; in one crazy, irrational display of toddler manipulation, that adorable little cherub figured out that he doesn’t HAVE to do what mama says.
He figured out that he can, in fact, do the exact opposite if he wants to. And all he has to do is say NO.
But here’s what really gets me. He could already say no! And it was so cute–those first few weeks–whenever he used his new word!
Me: Do you want some more strawberries, Hank?
Hank: (in precious singsong) Umm, no-oh!
Me: (still in new-parent la-la-land) Awwwww! Isn’t that cute? He said “No!” He is so SMART! Another real WORD! And look how he makes his mouth into that round little “o” shape! Goodness, that’s just adorable!
Whathappened to THAT no? Howdidwemorphfromdarling baby no to demon-child banshee-screaming NO!?
Whatever it was, it flipped like a switch in that smart little brain this morning. On the stairs. In “time-out.” (Another relatively new concept.)
It went like this:
Me: Hank, please. Mama needs to go to work, so I need you to be a good boy and let me change your diaper so we can get you dressed.
Me: You don’t tell mama NO. We are changing your pants whether you want to or not!
Hank: *rolls eyes*
Me: Don’t you roll your eyes at mama!
Hank: *scrunches both eyes shut. Juts chin out defiantly *
Me: (inner monologue) God, help me. I am clearly not qualified to raise this child.
Hank: *eyes still closed*
The rest of our day brought more refusals, more time-outs, more counting-down-from-fives and a lot more NO. The demon-child version. I have never heard so much unexplained screaming. I have never done so much daytime praying. Or counting to ten. Or taking deep breaths.
All I could think about, all day, was how right all those people were about the “Terrible Twos.” Apparently, we have entered them. Exactly one week early.
I get it, now–all those toddler tantrum jokes and memes. I get the meltdown over not getting “the blue cup.” We had one today because Hank wanted the BLUE paci.
(But not THAT blue paci.)
I see why cutting the sandwich bread the wrong way can cause a full-on come-apart. Hank came-apart over mandarin oranges because the sections had already, (thanks to mommy) come apart.
(Which HE had wanted to do. Himself.)
Drew Barrymore’s picture of her daughter, sprawled across the Disneyland concrete, in full-on kid-fit, makes so much more sense to me now. Because now, I have seen my own child, spread eagle on the kitchen floor, kicking and screaming, for who-knows-why, exactly.
I tried to channel Drew’s cool, collected calm all day while my toddler’s world crashed down all around us. But it is harder than I thought.
Just ignore it.
Just forge ahead, go on with your day.
He will eventually get over it.
How on earth, a small, hardly-speaking toddler can out-wit and out-stubborn a grown adult with a Masters in Education is beyond me. (And more than a little embarrassing.)
Today–in all of its glory–left me wishing for my baby back. The baby who didn’t argue; the one who laid there, cooing and smiling as I changed his diapers, whenever I damn well pleased.
The baby who weighed nine manageable pounds, not the thirty-plus of rough-and-tumble I can hardly hold onto, kicking and bucking on the carpet, dirty diaper dangling perilously by one tab.
The baby who never told me NO.
I would do anything to swap him out, for one of those again. Maybe just for a few days, just until I can figure out how to handle this new, scary world we just landed in. I would gladly rock the baby keeping some new tired mama up around the clock. That–I was great at. Those days, I knew what I was doing. Because whatever I did, always seemed to work.
Today–nothing seemed to work–except my smart little boy’s brain as it filed away notes on how to outsmart his mama.
I don’t know if I am cut out for this. I need an emergency crash course in Toddler.
I never saw the wrinkles coming until they were just suddenly there. I was admiring a cute picture of Hank that I had snapped of me holding him a few months ago, and once I stopped looking at his adorable mug and glanced up at myself, I freaked! I couldn’t believe that was MY face. . .with this sudden influx of crow’s feet??
When did I suddenly age ten years overnight? (Maybe in those two years when I hardly got any sleep at all?) Hmmm–maybe. But my goodness, those wrinkles sure carved themselves in deep!
After the long hot shower I finally got in at 10:00 p.m. last night, I had yet another realization about my changed life. What the heck happened to my underwear drawer in the last two years? Who snuck in and traded all my fun frilly cuteness for granny panties?
I certainly never dumped out all those adorably-patterned VS under-roosies that used to fill up that drawer, and traded them in for mom underwear. If I had known that was coming, I may have reconsidered the whole idea of motherhood!! Somehow, they must have just slowly replaced themselves while my conscious wasn’t paying attention, one Target 3-pack of stretchy Hanes at a time.
I don’t think I have ever fully realized just how “adult” I am these days. How adult I HAVE to be, that is! It is still sinking in–almost two years later–that I am someone’s mother now.
All of these changes are a whole lot like trying to keep the house clean. You don’t necessarily see it getting dirty, you just notice it once it IS dirty. Once it’s already too late to prevent it.
I just packed up baby clothes that no longer fit my baby because he is no longer a baby. He’s suddenly a little “big kid” now. Who just sported his first pair of pull-ups, because he just started using his big-boy potty. Boy, did that ever help it sink in that he isn’t my little baby anymore. (But wasn’t he, just yesterday?)
Potty–training. And that big-kid baseball cap that just this month became permanently attached to his little blonde head. Just like his bro-bros.
Again–all good changes. All blessings. (Well, maybe except for the wrinkles and the mom undies–I’m going to have to learn to live with those.) But I need to learn how to live with all my changes, whether I like them or not. The only constant in my life these days is change. Isn’t that true for all of us?
My main problem is, I somehow need to figure out how to absorb all that time, all those moments, all the little bits that come in the middle between one stage and the next. Because I don’t want to only remember the milestones. The big moments. I want to remember all of it.
(Because after all–it is all of these beautiful little moments that have earned me such impressive laugh lines. 🙂 )
See those knee-highs scattered all over my closet floor? (You have to look hard–they blend in pretty well!) When I walked in to get dressed after my shower this morning, Hank pointed at them proudly and announced, “Poop.”
“Poop?” I asked him. To which he clarified, “Yeah! Co-co poop.”
Ahhhh, Roscoe poop. My knee-highs, once they were pulled out of the box and scattered around by my toddler, look like dog poops. Gotcha.
(And yes, that is a carabiner in Hank’s mouth. No, I am not sure why there is a carabiner in my closet.)
I call this one: Still Life with Horse, Chocolate Egg, Dump Truck and Diapers
Clearly, we have a digger-obsessed little boy. They ALL have to join him for breakfast, or he will not eat breakfast. So to this, I say: Ok, fine. Line ’em up, digger man.
All the way home from work today, Hank entertained himself (and me) by balancing his goldfish snack cup on his head, then making it fall off. Over and over. (Don’t worry–I took this picture at a red light.)
Hank really REALLY wants to be a baseball player like his big bros. He could not be happier about Little League starting up again!
And what better way is there to end a crazy day than with a lovely bubble bath (with your favorite excavator)?
Tomorrow, we get to do it all over again, and I am sure by the end of it I will have even more pictures that need explanations.
**Good night all, from one crazy toddler and his Tired Mama!**
Two words have been bouncing around in my brain a lot over the past year, as my barely-walking 1 year-old baby rounded the corner on toddlerhood and headed towards that looming milestone of horror–the Terrible Twos.
The two words I am referring to are: Parenting Style. While taking Advanced Human Development, I studied the three main types, so I thought I had it all figured out. I was prepared to be an effective parent someday. It was as simple as this:
Be too strict: you’re authoritarian and they’ll resent you. Be too lax: you’re permissive, and they’ll run all over you. Be perfectly balanced–authoritative–and your kids will turn out respectful and responsible. How hard can it be to achieve a balance of being both demanding and responsive? Not that hard, right?
It can’t be!
I mean–we don’t want to raise complete hooligans, but we don’t necessarily want silent little soldiers, either!
Seriously, how hard can this be?
Well. . . I’ll tell you. Here I sit, a month away from the TERRIBLE TWOS where all hell promises to break loose, and I am pondering just how well my “Parenting Style” is actually fitting in with the above logic. Am I doing a great job of being the perfect Authoritative Parent?
Honest to goodness–I couldn’t even tell you. While I shoot for authoritative, I like to call my current parenting style “A Wing and a Prayer.”
Parenting, it turns out, is WAY HARDER than I thought it would be when that little plus sign miraculously appeared on the pregnancy test.
I have found, that as hard as you try to do all the mom things just so and devote enough time to all the age-appropriate brain-stimulating activities, life happens. Things get real. Houses get dirty. You still have to figure out how to pay all your (steadily increasing) bills.
And then; just when you think you have finally gotten a handle on the whole baby thing, theyturnintotoddlers. (I’m convinced toddler must translate into tornado in some language, somewhere!)
All the things I promised myself I’d do or not do, suddenly went out the window. To avoid complete insanity, I evolved into practicing a new Parenting Style centered around one premise: what works. (Hence the wing and DEFINITELY the prayer.)
Here is what that looks like in my house on any given day.
“Ok, so let me get this straight–you absolutely must wear your glow-in-the-dark pajama shirt all day today instead of getting fully dressed?”
“The only way you will let mom take a shower is if you get to watch Bob the Builder on the iPad?”
“You suddenly hate everything I just cut up for you for lunch–which I should point out, are all things you loved yesterday?”
And–“You WILL NOT go to bed unless ALL your diggers are IN your crib with you?”
Well, ok then!
This is why my new Parenting Style is such a beautiful panacea for stressful parenting! I finally figured out that while it may feel like it, these are not mom fails.
These are simply tornado survival tactics.
Did we still get out the door, fully clothed (in something) and get to grandma’s in time for me to get to work? Check.
Did mama get a shower without a screaming fit? Check. (And he’s learning technology skills, right?)
Did he still eat a healthy lunch? (Even if today’s first lunch all got packed back into tuppers for another attempt at dinner?) Check.
Did he still sleep through the night, (even though he may have rolled over onto a hard plastic toy a few times)? Check.
These days, I consider even a fair amount of cooperation from the little tornado a huge success. I may not be hitting the qualifications for perfect Authoritative Parenting, but you know what? That’s OK. I don’t have a perfectly-behaved soldier, but I also don’t have a complete hooligan. What I do have is a little boy who knows he is loved, loves us back, listens to us (most of the time) and most importantly–gets to love being a kid.
I call that a huge win!
If you happen to be one of the elite Authoritative Wonder Parents out there, perfectly balancing your demanding with your responsive, I applaud you, and I envy you. (Can you let us in on how you do it?)
And to the rest of you out there, parenting littles the best you can. . .maybe even identifying somewhat with my ‘Wing and a Prayer’ Parenting Style–cheers to us! We may have a little lower bar, but you know what I call it?
I cannot find words to express how grateful I am that today is the first day of spring.
It was a looooooong winter!
Between huge snowstorms and subzero temps and keeping the home fire burning (literally) and staying on top of work and motherhood and kid activities and an awful lot of work-widow “single-parent” nights while the hubs traveled here and there. . . .it was a long winter.
This past week the temperature hit the 70s, the snow melted, and–FINALLY! I had the urge to blog for the first time in months. What was stopping me before? Exhaustion? Chaos? Yes. Both.
A good friend gave me an even more perfect explanation for my seasonal writer’s block though: my inspiration was hibernating.
She was right! It was!
I didn’t have a single extra brain cell available with which to create or express or ponder or record or even just report the goings on of my crazy life the last few months. Because it was just that–crazy.
I am still trying–my New Year’s intention–to be content in every day. Contentment in chaos is difficult, it turns out! So is calm, so is peace, and so is presence. I seemed to subconsciously realize around mid-January that if I had 10 spare minutes of energy, it needed to be focused on my family. So my writing and my new-found glass obsession both simply did what they had to do to survive–they went into hibernation.
The other change that has helped me survive the long winter? My social media presence. I am online about 1/100th of the time that I was in 2016, and you know what? I could not feel better about that choice! The old me couldn’t walk down the stairs without scrolling my newsfeed. And now I can go days without a single peek at the book of faces. The connections are great, but what drained me was the time, andmore recently, the negativity. I realized the very limited time that I have right now is too precious to waste reading bullshit political articles, or watching as 25 different people/pages all share the exact same news clip with different reactions.
I simply don’t have time right now to worry about page views or likes or shares.
I need that time to worry about hugs and mealtimes and snack times and nap times and tuck-ins and washing those favorite digger jammies so he can wear them again.
I also need that time for listening and supporting and laughing with and loving and enjoying my best friend (the hubs!) when he is home. Because all the days when he’s gone, my whole world just feels like winter.
I need to spend my moments watching these four brothers play ball and laugh and teach and practice and tackle and race and wrestle. Because every time they go away and come back again, Hank’s bigger. They’re all bigger.
God usually has a funny way of getting messages to me, but I always get them, loud and clear. This week I got the message that I am doing the right thing; by focusing more on what matters most, and letting everything else fall by the wayside. Loudandclear.
I had just grabbed Hank after a perfect two hour nap, and I was feeling guilty that I had fallen asleep as well, rather than being “productive.” With 30 pounds of groggy toddler in one arm; I stacked his sippy cup of milk, his snack, a water bottle, and my phone all up on my Chromebook with the other; then headed down the stairs in a balancing act of multi-tasking greatness.
Somehow as we got off balance, I knew I had overestimated my capabilities. I managed to slide most of the items onto the banister as I squeezed Hank to my hip, but I watched in slow motion as the sippy cup full of milk went rogue and bounced end over end down the entire length of the staircase. Spraying milk in grand arcs all along the (carpeted!) stairs and the beautiful dark stain of the wood banister.
LOTS of milk.
I turned to Hank, who was equally enthralled by the display, (it looked just like those park fountains that spray the water up in the air in pretty patterns) and all we could do was laugh. He then offered up an adorable “Uh-oh!”and shrugged his little shoulders.
I held him closer to me and stood there for a few seconds, taking it all in. I had just summed up my life (as of late, anyways) in one milky disaster.
I have been trying to do too much at once. And it just got messy.
I got the message.
I have to hold what is most important to me, closest to me, and let all the rest fall away. (Even if some of it does get messy at times!)
This springtime is the only springtime I will ever have with an almost two-year-old, who discovers something new every single day.
I don’t want to waste these days, these hours, or these minutes.
Any precious moment I am not working, this beautiful time of year; I will be spending with Hank. I will also savor the times when I get the privilege of enjoying his amazing daddy and his incredible brothers, too.
I have to find my peace in the chaos by leaving my phone in the house, while we play ball out on the lawn.
I can catch up on the news some other day. . . .or not at all.
I can blog once a month, instead of weekly, and that will have to be good enough for me.
I know I will still write my books, make my mosaic masterpieces–another day, when I have more time. More energy. Less laundry.
(Maybe when he goes off to preschool?)
Until then, and until next time, happy spring!
*Make time for you and yours, and make sure to enjoy those little moments!*
Ahhh, motherhood. Literally there is no aspect of my life that I am more grateful for, than being a mama.
But oh, does motherhood test our patience.
Toddlerdom, especially. And I have landed right smack dab in the thick of it.
This morning, I woke up with my uterus HATING me. I would have given anything to stay home on the couch with a heating pad and a cup of coffee, but nope–this mama had a busy work day planned!
As I scrambled to get myself organized for work, I snuck upstairs to use the bathroom without a little helper. (When we have my stepsons home with us, I can’t use the main level bathroom at all, because our darling Hank loses his mind whenever I lock him out. We have a temporary open-door policy right now, simply because I have learned to pick my battles.)
Well. As soon as I got up there, peacefully seated; Hank the wonder toddler runs in, full-speed for the bathtub, and turns on the hot water full blast! Then he starts reaching for the water to splash in!
So what’s a mama to do? I jumped up immediately and hopped–gunny-sack-race-style–over to the tub and turned the water back off, right as it was getting hot. I then hop-hop-hopped my way back over to the “potty”, so I could actually use it.
But now I had a helper again, who was really intrigued by that whole hilarious exchange! I performed all the toilet paper tricks I could think of, to keep my little water-boy away from the tub for another minute or two. Thankfully, it worked.
I gave up on the idea of a shower. I threw on some clean clothes, ran a brush through my hair, and pulled a ponytail through a ballcap.
More toddler craziness ensued. Breakfast went from the fried eggs and toast I wanted to yogurt-in-the-car, but I managed to throw together a lovely, balanced little lunch for the adorable monster.
Let’s just say that by the time I got a road-coffee poured, the monster dropped off and headed to work, I was wound up tighter than a corkscrew. I kept thinking over and over in my head how overwhelming this stage can be–at times–especially how I cannot even sneak away to use a bathroom in peace unless my cherub is dead asleep.
And the kicker: No one else in our family has that problem! Not daddy! Not the big brothers! Oh no; to everyone else, a bathroom break or a shower or bath is a lovely, private endeavor. Withnotimelimit.
But for mamas–it turns out–it is a spectator sport!
(With a ticking time bomb that resets itself every time, so you better not dawdle, either, mama! Don’t even think about taking your smart phone in there with you–the one time I tried to catch up on my news feed in the bathroom with my toddler helper nearby, he put an end to that plan. How, youask? By ninja-sneaking a hot wheels corvette right into the toilet. WHILE I WAS SITTING ON IT. Yep, I’ve replayed and replayed that one in my mind, and still wish I’d have seen that coming!)
I had a good therapeutic stress-cry on the drive in while I guzzled down coffee #2. (The cry was no-doubt related to the hormones that caused the PMS that caused the bathroom incident to make me cry.)
I hammered out a few hours of work, which felt a little bit like a vacation (?) and when I hopped back in the car to head home, my entire perspective suddenly changed at the sound of one strangely familiar guitar riff.
I cranked the volume up when I recognized the song–Shambala! Three Dog Night.
I laughed out loud, and immediately thought of my best friend, which put a huge smile on my face for the first time all day! Shambala used to be her ringtone! And it was exactly the uplifting message of love and light I needed to pull myself out of the funk I was in!
Wash away my worries, wash away my pain, with the rain in Shambala. . .
(If you haven’t heard it, listen here. It’s great!)
All afternoon since I heard it, I have been singing the high refrain in my head on repeat (Howwwwwww does your light shine, in the halls of Shambala. . .) and it made me think about my own light.
Here I was again, letting my light get dimmed by the everyday, totally normal, stress and craziness of motherhood.
I don’t need to run away to some mythical, peaceful paradise (the true meaning of ‘Shambhala’ in sanskrit) for my light to shine. (Even though at times, I would like to!)
I just need to hum this song in my head, because it is ridiculously joyful and pulls me right back to where I need to be. Smiling and laughing. Right on through, both the sunshine AND the shit-storms.
So even on days that seem (literally!) downright shitty (thank you, toddler bathroom help!), do what I will be doing, and think of Shambala. Hum it in your head, and wear those flowers in your hair–inyourmind!–my stressed-out sisters.
Because this too shall pass. Some day, my husband assures me, toddlers eventually do decide that mama can be in a bathroom with a closed door. Withouttheminit.
I hope he’s right!
Lastly. If you do have a shit day, you hum that happy, hippy song, but you still aren’t quite feeling that peaceful, mystical paradise? Crack a good wine then, too. Because whenever good music can’t get me out of a funk, a glass of good red can.
I have a hilarious, chubby blonde cherub of a son, who is 19 months old.
Being that little boy’s mama has been one of the biggest blessings in my life. Motherhood has made me more patient, more understanding, exponentially more grateful, and it has simply made life more meaningful.
It has also made me really, REALLY TIRED.
(Hence, the blog.)
The constant tiredness of motherhood surprised me–even though I had been warned! I thought Hank’s daddy and I would be such a great team for this whole parenting thing, that we would just take it all in stride. In marrying him, I had married a boy-dad extraordinaire, who already three amazingly-well-behaved sons on his resume. And while I was new to mamahood, I wasn’t totally clueless–I mean, I do hold a Masters in Elementary Ed so that had to count as somewhat of a prerequisite for parenting, right? I can teach, therefore I can certainly parent. Right? Ha. Not exactly! Teaching taught me a lot about kids, but it definitely didn’t teach me anything about how to get them to sleep well!
For the first year and a half, we had a very sweet, very well-behaved baby who slept well-enough, but not great. I was good with it; I mostly chalked it up to nursing him for over a year, even in the night. Was he using me as a pacifier? Probably. But I loved that middle of the night cuddle time, so I didn’t mind those wake-ups! Once I finally night weaned him, I still got up once or twice with him every night, and cuddled him til he zonked out again, because it worked. It didn’t take too long, and he didn’t cry that way. It worked for him and it worked for us, so that’s what we did. The path of least resistance.
Even though I was constantly tired from all the interrupted sleep, the hubs often reminded me how much worse things could be, since Hank always did go back to sleep pretty easily in the night. He had plenty of memories of almost NEVER sleeping with his first-born (who had acid reflux issues) so I figured he was right. We were simply dealing with normal parenting tiredness, and I just needed to drink more coffee! Suck it up, buttercup!
AND THEN. . . CHAOS
Enter holidays, 2016. Between his big brothers bouncing back and forth every other day to accommodate two households’ holiday/work schedules, discovering the magic of SANTA, and being cooped up inside thanks to two feet of snow and sub-zero temperatures–let’s just say our “normal” schedule went a bit haywire.
Sleep became pretty nonexistent in our household, from before Christmas right on up into 2017. The snuggles in the chair that normally put our little boy right to sleep (or almost to sleep) just quit working. He slept in fitful stretches and only wanted to snuggle, but wouldn’t even fall asleep on us anymore. Getting him in the crib meant a major fight every single time. We tried letting him cry after we were sure all his other needs were met and he had no fever, but without a firm plan we weren’t getting anywhere except more frustrated. I finally broke down and told the hubs I wanted to–at very least–lookinto some sleep consulting.
Thankfully, he agreed. (He was tired, too!)
Well, lucky for me, I have a dear friend from high school who just happens to be a sleep consultant. AND-she happens to be a mama herself, to little ones who SLEEP WELL.
I wanted to get me some of that! So I swallowed my pride and asked for help. And only one week later, I can tell you that it was by far, the BEST parenting decision I have ever made. If you are reading this, and if you are even somewhat considering sleep training your child/children/future children, please keep reading. I want to share some of the most surprising things I discovered when we sleep trained Hank.
My biggest surprise of all: Even after our worst night which included some serious crying, he did not hate me in the morning! Not even a little bit! On the contrary, my morning cuddle-time with Hank has become my very favorite time of day. He wakes up happy, rested, and proud of himself for sleeping well. We definitely make up for those late night snuggles in the daytime now, and I enjoy them so much more now than I did zombie-style at 3 a.m. (Wishing I was asleep in my bed, and then feeling guilty about that!)
I didn’t have to let him “Cry-It-Out” nearly as long as I thought I would. (Or as many times throughout the night as I thought it would take, either.) I think it is somewhat like ripping off a band-aid; once you decide to do it, it hurts most right when you start, but if you just get it over with it is not as bad as you thought it would be! The anxiety I had about letting him Cry-It-Out was worse than actually letting him do it. Once that first difficult night was over, it got much easier, (on all of us) much faster than I expected it would.
His overall mood has improved! I thought I had a pretty well-rested, happy toddler before; but now that I have seen Hank-on-Sleep, I almost don’t even recognize him! Hello, happyHank!
I still can’t believe how simple bedtime has become. I never dreamed I would be able to lay him down in his crib–completely awake–and cover him up with a blanket, tell him I love him and goodnight, and walk out, without so much as a peep. He actually goes TO SLEEP. Within minutes. *Amazing*
And lastly: Today, for the first time ever, Hank actually told me he wanted to get in his crib and lie down. During our pre-nap snuggles in the lazy-boy, he pointed at his crib and sighed a sleepy, adorable sound. “You want to lie down in your crib now?” I asked him, and he nodded his head. So? I carried him over, tucked him in, and he napped for over an hour, with NO CRYING. Yep. It was pretty much his idea. For the first time ever. Mind = Blown.
So–I am thrilled to recount our experience and brag up my amazingly helpful sleep consultant, because I know there are so many tired mamas just like me out there, who are too stubborn (sheepishly raising my own hand here) or too scared or too paranoid or too embarrassed or too whatever to give sleep training a try. I know. I read all those scary articles too. I googled everything I heard on the subject, too. I read both sides, and we chose to stay firmly planted on what-we-knew-worked-well-enough, until it just didn’t work any longer. Now that we finally gave it an honest chance, I am kicking myself for not doing it sooner!
I now have my evenings back, for me-time, or hang with the hubs-time, or bubble bath with a good book and a glass of wine-time. Anything but collapse into bed exhausted (because I know he will be up soon) time.
Thank goodness we finally consulted with an expert on sleep. And to any of you other tired mamas out there–I hope you do too, if you need some guidance. Don’t go down with the sinking ship. There isn’t enough coffee in the world, when your kid just won’t sleep, believe me. I know firsthand.
Oh and that amazing sleep consultant I keep talking about? You can find her here: