Six Pillows, Two Throws

I finally lost the battle. 

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.

Wait—WHAT? 

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? 

It’s OK.

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.

And I’m all in. 

Hmm, I wonder if he knows how those trash bags got wrapped around the island?

I Could Not Have Been More Wrong About Sleep Training

HANK

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–look into some sleep consulting.

Thankfully, he agreed. (He was tired, too!)

Must. Make. Coffee.

CUE THE EXPERT

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.

  1. 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!)
  2. 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.
  3. 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, happy Hank!
  4. 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*
  5. 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.

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I even had enough energy at night to stay up and sew Hank some special ‘Digger’ curtains, to make his room dark–as instructed!

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:

SlumberBaby

Jenni is simply amazing. Like change your life amazing. She is my sleep savior, and my entire family is functioning better than we ever have, thanks to her wisdom and guidance.

(BTW–It doesn’t matter where you live, either, she got us lined out entirely by email! Awesome, right? And amazingly do-able. She found a plan that worked for us and it truly did work for us!)

Sweet dreams, Tired Mamas!

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I can sleep 11 hours straight, can you do that?

 

 

Puzzle Pieces

 

My little boy, Hank, has three heroes: his three big brothers. When they are with us, they throw balls with him and dive onto pillow piles and build endless towers to knock down. They make him laugh like neither their daddy or I ever can. He idolizes them; he wants to be just like them.

There is an electric charge in the air on the days when daddy arrives with Hank’s three big brothers in tow. He can sense when they are coming, and he can hardly contain his excitement. The door barely clicks open and he is running to the top of the stairs, squealing; racing to get to them. 

His puzzle is complete on the days we have the boys; all the pieces of our family are in place and his world looks as it should.

But three days later the puzzle falls apart; three major pieces of it suddenly go missing, and he has to try to make sense of it in a one-and-a-half year-old brain which knows nothing of parenting plans or shared custody. Nothing of divorce, or of real mamas and step-mamas. I am sure he thinks I am his brothers’ mama too—why wouldn’t I be?

“We”—our six-pack—is all he has ever known. I do not look forward to the day I have to explain things like divorce to my precious boy. Explain why his brothers have another mama; how it’s not me. Why they have another home, too, on the other side of town, or why he will go to a different school than they do.

I don’t know how to explain why some mamas and daddies don’t speak to each other, even though they share the same children.

And most of all, I worry about explaining why his big brothers have to leave us for half of every week. Because before he can truly understand, he won’t understand, and I know there will be tears.

I don’t want him to be heartbroken half of every week, his best friends in the world lost to him again. I know it is coming. I can already see the gears turning in that precious little head, wondering; the start of the dissonance.

Lately on the days without his brothers around, his little lip trembles when he sees their pictures. He runs into their rooms, just to check.

We will see them soon, sweetheart, I tell him, soon.

Hank’s big brothers have huge hearts buried under their tough exteriors. They play and wrestle and high-five and cuddle and pick up and carry and comfort their little brother. I know they miss him, too, when they are away.

They don’t treat him any differently because I am not their mama, too. They love him just like they love each other, even though they don’t say it.

Hank has no place in one of their two worlds, but they live for him in our world. They amaze me every day with their maturity and compassion. Their resilience as they bounce between lives; their acceptance of their new family.

When daddy loads them up to take them back to their mama’s house, Hank stands in the doorway waving his special wave. He opens and closes his little fist to each of them, saying I Love You, even though the words don’t come out yet.

His big brothers answer him with the same wave, their code, their secret send-off. The words don’t come out of their mouths, either.

But they don’t have to. He knows.

 

Originally posted on Tribe Magazine at: http://thetribemagazine.com/puzzle-pieces/#ixzz4OodjbHiL

Best Buds
Bookends

The Picture of a Family

This past week I did something I thought I might never get the privilege of doing in my lifetime. 

I picked out five nice dress shirts that matched (but not too much) for the five handsome boys in my life; put on a scarf from my closet that tied them all together, and dragged my six-pack down to Two Moon Park for a half hour with our favorite photographer. 

We actually took family pictures

Professionally-done; a true family photo shoot. 

I almost couldn’t believe it happened, but I know one of these days, that amazing photographer is going to email me a link to check out the proof that it actually did. 

The pictures that will prove that I have my dream family, when sometimes I feel the need to say “pinch me” because this can’t actually be MY life. 

I have a husband who is not only hard-working, caring, and smart; but a wonderful daddy as well. (And handsome, to boot!) He is my soul mate and my best friend. It took me a while to find him, but I know I was supposed to find him in my lifetime.

I have three stepsons who are the sweetest, most well-behaved boys you will ever meet, and even more importantly–the BEST big brothers.

And we all have Hank. The little boy I dreamed of all those years and finally have; blue eyes, blond hair, and a beating heart. 

I still have to pinch myself about him, too. Every day.

This family of mine is my whole world now, and I have been focusing on my gratitude now that fall is here. Things are slowing down–thank goodness–we’re catching our breath after our crazy summer, and Thanksgiving time is right around the corner. I have never had a year to be so grateful.

I literally have everything I have ever wanted. How many people can say that? I mean, say that and TRULY mean it? Probably not very many.

It’s not what you have in life, but who you have in life that truly matters. And I have the most amazing people in mine.

I want for nothing. My cup runneth over.

And maybe I will believe it myself, once I have one of those amazing Tina Stinson photos on my wall as my proof that it isn’t just a dream I’m about to wake up from.

Until then, will somebody please pinch me?

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

On Being a Mama

I can pretty much sum up my entire life right now in three words: tired, happy, mama. I have never enjoyed anything more, worked harder at anything, or lost more sleep over anything in my life before my dream came true and I became a little boy’s mama. I try and try to put it into words, but I can’t find a way to adequately express my love for that little blonde boy, my great big dreams for him, or how hilarious I think all of it is sometimes. What I can put into words though, are my experiences as a tired, happy mama (and a tired, happy step-mama too). Here are some of them so far.

Being a mama means hearing the baby cry on the monitor when you only have one leg shaved, but jumping out of the shower anyways so he doesn’t have to cry any longer. It is also knowing darn well that you won’t get another chance to shave that other leg today, so it’s just going to have to go ahead and stay prickly.

Being a mama means cleaning boy pee off of the toilet seat, the floor, and the wall, yep that’s right, the wall; for the 50 millionth time and wondering if they are ever going to pick the seat up or learn to aim. (Or pay full attention while aiming.)

Being a mama means sitting at a baseball game in 97 degree July weather and dumping water over the baby’s head every 10 minutes so he stays cool, so we can be big brother’s full cheering squad for All-Stars.

Being a mama means washing load after load of boy clothes, spending hours of your life turning shirts inside out, picking grass pieces out of dirty socks, and trying to figure out which clothes go to which of the four boys. And eternally searching for the mates to those 6 or 8 socks that never seem to match any of the others.

Being a mama means making coffee its own food group, and looking forward all day to that beautiful glass of chilled white wine you can pour once they are all tucked in for the night and you can finally put your feet up and do YOU for a few minutes.

Being a mama means loving every second of your weekly Costco mission, pushing the heavy loaded cart through every aisle with a perma-grin on your face because the baby in the front of it smiles, waves at, and talks to every stranger who walks by him, and it makes both your day and theirs every time.

Being a mama means laughing your head off when your one-year-old’s favorite new pastime is standing next to you in your closet while you get dressed, so he can slap your once-toned thighs repeatedly because he thinks it’s hilarious how they jiggle.

Being a mama means knowing before you get there, that Spot IS actually in the basket, but acting surprised for the 5th time that night when he lifts the flap and finds him, just as delighted as he was the first time.

Being a mama means hours of washing and cutting-up, warming and testing, spoon-feeding bites, and sitting beside the high chair, dodging flying food and wiping messes off the floor. And doing it all over again 3 hours later.

Being a mama means letting him fling an entire package of Always panty-liners one by one across the bathroom while you get ready, because you know it will buy you just enough time to get your makeup on.

Being a mama means spending an entire night in a recliner with a sick baby on your lap, taking his temperature every 5 minutes and watching the clock tick the hours slowly by until you can give him his next dose of baby Advil.

Being a mama means crying your eyes out after you put the baby to bed on the night of his 1st birthday party, because according to the rest of the world, he is a toddler now and no longer a baby.

Being a mama means making a running mental list throughout the day of all the little things you need want to do once everyone is tucked in; like paying those bills, finishing up your own laundry, looking up that new recipe you saw online, or watching that recorded episode of the Bachelorette you have been dying to see – but then being so tired you just collapse into bed at 9:15 and do none of it.

Being a mama means dropping the baby off at Grandma’s for the morning so you can get caught up at the office, and feeling like a part of your body is missing all day until you get him back in your arms. Because part of your body really IS missing – your heart stays with him every time you leave him.

Being a mama means laughing, crying, praying, napping, wondering, playing, hoping, reading, practicing, teaching, learning, cleaning, chasing, hand-holding, snuggling, soothing, loving, and living.

And did I mention drinking coffee?

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This little boy has my heart.