An Honest Mother’s Day

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It’s Mother’s Day. That day that honors mothers and the work we do. I love the idea. Motherhood is the most talked about calling. I can find hundreds of blogs, memes, internet threads, articles, trending hashtags, and any other media bit about motherhood. Yet it is also the most controversial.

I was pondering this today. I’ve read blog posts comforting mothers. Telling us it’s okay that we don’t have it all together. I’ve read posts commending mothers who haven’t caved to consumerism and instead stick to old fashioned ideals. I’ve even seen posts stating they refuse to celebrate Mother’s Day because mothers should be celebrated every day. Everyone looking to cleverly offer a new perspective on motherhood.

I am not that clever. Unlike Matt Walsh’s mom, I did take my kids to Disneyland. I do let my kids watch movies. I’m not perfect. I also wish I had clever words of comfort on this day of all days for all us hardworking mommas. For those of us who feel like we fail each day to be that perfect mommy we see plastered on our Facebook walls. But I have none.

All I have is a life lesson. I used to get my hopes up when Mother’s Day would approach. This day is MY day. It will be a day I get to do what I want and relax for a change. Each year would leave me disappointed. My husband didn’t do enough. My kids were naughty. Angels didn’t follow me singing a chorus of alleluia behind me. But I eventually learned that Mother’s Day works much better if I approach it the way I have learned to approach life. Prepare for (and then promptly discard) the disasters and enjoy the successes. Don’t know what I mean? Let me give you some examples:
I woke up at 5:45 am to get the grocery shopping done since our bare essentials were now non existent and I would have to resort to eating hamburger helper…without hamburger…and juice with a suspicious expiration date. Not exactly pampering. So I discard that…and remember that I also woke up to several notes taped all over the house:

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I also got to walk out to the car and get into it without negotiating three peace treaties and a cease fire…and I drove to the store without listening to Let it Go, the most ironically named song I’ve heard. Definitely something to enjoy.

Of course King Toot proceeded to smack me on the face when he was angry today…twice. The kids spent at least 90% of the morning shrieking, yelling, and tattling. I cried. Also, several preschool workers were unable to do nursery this morning so I spent much of the morning scrambling to get the nursery classes covered. I’ve discarded those moments…in favor of the moments where several people stepped up to help. I even got to attend service instead of working in the nursery myself.

My husband had to work on Mother’s Day so I have spent most of the day without him. But I choose to instead enjoy the fact that my sister, who has lived half a country away from me for several years, moved back to my city this week and we spent the afternoon together. Our kids played well together and it was a fun and (mostly) relaxing afternoon of conversation with my life-long best friend.

So yes, parts of the day sucked. There were some tears. There were moments where I felt I had failed. But there were beautiful moments filled with family and friends and selfless love. So I guess today is a pretty good representation of motherhood in general. There are moments of beauty. There are moments where you soar and you finally feel like maybe you’ve got it figured out. But there are also moments of failure and compromise. Those moments where you just hope to make it to the end of the day in one piece. We just need to choose where to focus. It’s Mother’s Day so I will focus on the positive…today and everyday.

Now excuse me, I must go feed my children cold cereal from a box while watching a movie because…Mother’s Day.

Some selfies with those little people who made me “Mom”

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Sasquatch…now six years old!

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My four year old Urpling

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The youngest little trouble maker…the two year old King Toot…

You say it’s your birthday!

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This post has really no point, except that I haven’t posted anything in about a year so I figured I should write something so I can keep the illustrious title of “blogger” and it’s my birthday so voila! Instant topic! (Not posting may have been caused by various incidents that have left me tired…and may or may not have included things like King Toot locking himself in our bedroom and wreaking havoc while we try to unlock or remove the door knob to save our room from complete destruction, a trip to the lake with a new kayak, a three year old that I swear will be hitting puberty tomorrow based on her bipolar meltdowns….you know…life)

So…it’s my birthday! I would put myself in the category of “not old but no longer young”. The older I get, the less I care about huge celebrations. I still want to do something to commemorate the fact that I came into this world and began existing…mainly because I’m awesome and such an event should be commemorated sheerly out of principle.
But no longer do large parties entice me. No, now I dream of other things to make my birthday special.

– sleeping in. Past dawn. And waking up not to alarms, wailing, fussing, fighting, bawling, etc. But to actually just wake up because I am no longer tired.
– a nap. One that isn’t interrupted with someone yelling at the top of their lungs “I pooped! Can you wipe me!” Yes, I am grateful that they now poop in toilets (minus one) as it saves money and is a lot less messy. Yet it’s still hard to rejoice when everything is actually quiet and that hope for a few moments to catch up on sleep seems to become a reality…only to reach beautiful sleep and be awoken to yet another bottom needing to be wiped. (I have sometimes morbidly wondered what the girls would say if I answered that question with a no)
– cake. and cookies. and good fatty, chemically altered, greasy or sugary, yummy goodness. Basically, I want to engorge myself like the glutton I am constantly trying not to be. A neighbor girl brought cake to Bible Study last night and the left overs are on the counter. The only thing preventing me from making that breakfast is that the kids are awake and so I’d have to share it if I did. Oh, and I’m NOT counting calories today. It’s my birthday so I don’t need to have the depression that comes from knowing you ate a weeks worth of calories before breakfast.
– my birthday doesn’t even need to be free if complaining and whining. I just want today to be the day where other people deal with it. To hear Sasquatch whining, “She won’t be a puppy for me, and she’s touching my puzzle, and the dog licked my toy, and my brother is breathing my air” and know that I don’t have to meditate with patience and wisdom every spat that erupts. That when Urpling starts shrieking, “No! It’s mine!” or wailing because I asked her to turn off the TV so we can eat, someone else will tell her that life will surely go on if she’ll just get off the floor and try living again.
– all inquiries from children will receive the following answer, “that question should start with dad…”

Basically I want to be a lazy sluggard who eats what she wants when she wants to, lays around doing pretty much nothing but eating, and then celebrates her eating by eating some more. (did I mention I have an unhealthy attachment to food? I’m sure if I had a therapist they would have a field day…which is why I don’t have a therapist…)

So basically, it’s my birthday so I’m off to go eat and ignore my kids. Hope your day is great too!

PS. I’m joking. I love my kids…I won’t ignore them. I’ve set aside time from 1:55-2:09 this afternoon just for them.

PPS I also want to celebrate by playing hours of the crack laced game of Candy Crush…so everyone should send me free lives for my birthday!

Update: My kids chilling with me this morning…Happy Birthday to me!

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Fourth of July tips for families with small children

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Fourth of July, a time to celebrate our country, all it represents, and the freedom we have! There are a plethora of activities one can partake to celebrate this wonderful holiday…usually surrounding a grill, alcohol, and the lighting small explosives. But once kids enter the picture, things change. In order to both survive AND enjoy the night…here are a few tips I’ve gleaned over the past few years as a parent.

– bring sunscreen and apply liberally. This ensures the days after The Fourth are not spent in misery. Although you should also bring a large set of tongs or a leash…as once the sunscreen is on them, they become more slippery than a sea slug out of water.

– bring lots of water. I don’t care if it’s cloudy, breezy, whatever. Keep yourself and especially your kids hydrated. We like to add squirts of a flavor to get our kids to drink more (like Milo, or kool aid or something like that) not a lot, just enough to entice them.

– Don’t pay a lot for the fun events. Why? Because, the overstimulation of crowds, loud music, overdose on sugar and hot dogs, and gun fire sounding fireworks for some reason can cause a meltdown. Got me as to why, but we’ve had years where I’ll lead a screaming kid out of the park…freaked out and panicking. It’s never who you think either. The risk taker, the oldest, they all have done it. So don’t be that parent grumbling and angry because they just spent 40 dollars to go see fireworks and the bounce toys and didn’t get to enjoy it. It’s at least a little easier to be the understanding parent if you didn’t drop a bunch of money to get there. Free is best. It could look like a fairy was spitting in the sky and little kids will be impressed so don’t pay for the big stuff until they’re older.

– Connected with the previous point…plan on mishaps and go with the flow. Do NOT have your heart set on any specific event. Plan a smattering of things, have back up plans available. For example, pick a fun place to go for fireworks, but also have a plan for if kids start freaking out. Like sitting in your car on the side of the road watching them from afar while eating pints of Ben and Jerry’s you bought at the gas station on the corner.

– Bring ear plugs for the fireworks. Who doesn’t love fireworks on The Fourth? Our oldest loves to watch the fireworks. But for the first few years she would start screaming and would be inconsolable until we left. I may or may not have been that parent grumbling as we left the park, with my oldest shrieking and my toddler giggling. We figured out it was the noise. It freaked her out. Ear plugs did the trick. Now that she’s older it’s not a problem but it saved us a lot of hassle the past few years.

– Have a DD (Designated Driver) Sir Smiley and I aren’t big drinkers. But some people are. Whatever, not here to judge. But I will totally get all Judgey McJudgerson on you if I find out you were drinking and driving. Big key thing to remember, you won’t know your impaired. The first things to be affected by alcohol are your reaction time and judgement. These are two things that are hard to see or notice unless put in a stressful situation. So even if you’ve only had a few, don’t drive. Drag along that preggers friend and make her drive…or take a cab…or a bus…or walk…or sleep it off at a park (which might get you busted for other things…but at least you won’t run the risk of killing anyone). So I hope I made a point. Don’t drink and drive or I’ll hunt you down…and do something to you. Not sure what but I can be fairly creative, so consider yourself warned.

– Do something with your kids to teach them about what we’re actually celebrating. It’s not about hot dogs, burgers, ice cream, parades, or fireworks. So do something to talk about the history of our country, what our rights are, or what the Declaration of Independence meant.

I wish you all a Happy Fourth of July!

Father’s Day…just as important as Mother’s Day

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I didn’t know where I was going to go with the post, but it ended up being a weird combination of a rant and a dedication all wrapped up into one. My apologies for both the length and seriousness. Never fear, I will soon be back to my lighthearted, short winded self soon. But this all started as I was dwelling on Father’s Day. My hubby was insisting that we not get him anything. I had a problem with that, as I felt it was important for the kids to celebrate daddy. (Sasquatch made him a card, and insisted we buy him a football. So that’s what he got.) This got me pondering about the fact that Father’s Day isn’t advertised for as much, have as many displays, or as much attention as Mother’s Day.

But fathers are just as important. A father needs to be involved in his children’s lives. Here is a list of statistics I got from Dad’s World. I’ve only included a few, but I recommend reading the whole list. (the site has references which I have not included here…check out the Dad’s World site for a more detailed list that includes annotations)
-63% of teen suicides come from fatherless homes. That’s 5 times the national average.
-85% of children with behavioral problems come from fatherless homes. 20 times the national average.
-71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes. 9 times the national average.
-Daughters of single parents without a Father involved are 53% more likely to marry as teenagers, 711% more likely to have children as teenagers, 164% more likely to have a pre-marital birth and 92% more likely to get divorced themselves.
-Even in high crime neighborhoods, 90% of children from stable 2 parent homes where the Father is involved do not become delinquents.

This is how important a father is. We downplay it because we don’t want single parents to feel bad. This doesn’t mean that kids who come from a single parent household will grow up to be delinquents or dropouts. There are plenty of successful single parent families out there. But an absent father does put children at higher risk. When there isn’t a dad, something is missing. There are a lot of problems in our society that would start to heal if Dads would step up and do their job (and Dads need not be biological…father figures in general are what we’re missing).

Maybe it’s just me, but society as a whole treats dads as less than moms. We look at it as progress when we see Dad’s more involved…but only if they’re more involved in ways we approve of. Whether it’s baby wearing, going on play dates, staying home while the mom works, supportive in the natural birth process, etc. which are all fantastic. I’m not saying that these are not signs of progress. But when we see a dad coaching a baseball team, or playing catch, or giving his baby a bottle with formula we’re not impressed. Not only that, but have you watched a sitcom in the last twenty years? Often the dads portrayed as bumbling idiots who would be lost if it weren’t for the mother. Most of the show is spent watching the father first ignore the sage wisdom of the mother and try to do it his way…only to realize he’s wrong (as usual) and comes around to the “right” way of thinking. The mother’s way of thinking. (Now, take this with a grain of salt as I don’t have cable and haven’t watched any of the more recent family shows. So please, if you know of some that break this mold then tell me cause I will add them to my list! ) I find all this troubling.

So my question is this, what message are we sending our children and our fathers? We’ll only accept you if you do things Mommy’s way? But this is completely skewed. My husband does things differently then me. But we’re a team. HIS OPINION MATTERS! Mothers need to get over this mentality that it’s “my kid” and we’re doing it “my way”. We insist men bow to our wishes, that if we disagree it’s the mothers opinion that is the default setting. Daddy doesn’t like cosleeping? Too bad. Daddy wants to rock the baby to sleep but Mommy read that one article about self soothing so she insists they use Cry It Out. It’s not that these are bad or good, but it’s insane to take the legs out from underneath fathers, deny them the right to voice an opinion or make decisions, and then bemoan the fact that father’s are not involved.

Step back and watch a father at work with his kids. That’s what I do, and do you know what I see? Magic. Absolute magic. Our kids react to him in a way that is completely different from me. He sees things in a way I never would and if I had been so busy trying to fit him into my mold I never would have been able to witness it. Those times he made me step back and let my kids do something on their own, I got to see them light up with pride in the success of achieving something difficult. The tough choices where we may have disagreed but I trusted him to know and want what’s best for our family. In those moments I have a choice, support my husband and demonstrate the respect for him I want our kids to have, or undermine him and show my kids that his opinion doesn’t actually matter. There is no better way to gut a father then that. Those moments where we disagree and I step back and at least compromise with him…not demand he do it my way…those are moments I want it clear to him and our children that I trust him. That he is essential to this family and we need him.

How about my own dad? I have always had a great respect for my dad, and that was instilled in me by my mom. She showed great respect for him in how she spoke to him and about him. No jokes at his expense, no insisting we do it all her way. They worked together and it made our home one that was deeper and fuller. My most cherished memories ever (not just with my dad, but out of all of my memories) came after I had been “camping” with my grandma at some campground in a tent trailer. I came home and my dad basically told me that he’d show me what real camping was. He then took me to the boundary waters in northern Minnesota. No motorized vehicles allowed, only a canoe, our gear, and a hole in the woods to poop in…and it was amazing. I saw a moose from only a few feet away…while in a canoe. I went down some small rapids to avoid a portage. I was eaten alive by Mosquitos. I saw bears, memorized every kind of bird, and didn’t brush my teeth for days. To this day, they are my favorite memories.

I love my mom, and I think I’m pretty awesome too. But we can’t be dads to our kids. She would never have taken me camping (she still hates it to this day), or let me go down the rapids. She would have fretted about my safety and comfort. I do the same thing. I say to my kids a lot, “That’s a daddy activity” which they know really means, “I’m having a small heart attack and picturing your imminent death as you climb that two foot rock. Daddy will handle this much more objectively”. Our family needs him.

So this is my very long winded dedication to the dads out there. Who are stepping up and leading the way. Who teach their daughters what it means to be truly loved so they don’t fall for the first trashy pick up line thrown at them. Who give their sons strength to stay true to who they are and not bend under pressure. Thanks Dad for all you did to make me the person I am today, and thanks Hubby for all the magic you do with our three kids. I am truly blessed by all the men in my family.

Hope

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I try not to be too serious…it tends to give me a headache and I find a sense of humor is invaluable when one has three small children. But there are times where I feel more like an ocean than a babbling brook (see, I used some imagery…you can tell this is a more serious post already, can’t you?). Today is one of those days. Today I was sitting with my kids and we were making the Friday is Sad but Sunday is Glad cards (see this post)and talking about what it meant. It put me in a contemplative mood as this time of year always does (and rightly so). This world really sucks sometimes. Korea’s blowing stuff up, or will blow stuff up, or may blow stuff up, and there’s the whole profile pics all shoving in your face stuff about marriage rights, and the gun control issue is still up there as well. It makes me frustrated. It makes me frustrated because this is a time of great hope and people just can’t see it! This week, of all weeks, people are talking about all the wrong things…in my opinion. We are approaching the celebration of the greatest love story our world has ever experienced, and it’s one that includes each and every one of us. It’s greater than Romeo and Juliet, or Miss Bennett and Mr. Darcy, or even Bella and Edward (read that last part with a hint of sarcasm…or more than a hint if you like)and it is our love story. We don’t just have to read about it…we can experience it. God became flesh and suffered every possible temptation, and then the weight of every sin of every person throughout time was placed on Him as He died. We’re talking a complete separation from God and all the things that come with it (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control). He did it purely because of His unconditional love for you. It’s mind blowing.

I am sitting here trying to share this hope with my kids, because as much as this world sucks sometimes…there is a great hope that it won’t always be this way. Such an incredible love was shown to us and I want my kids to truly understand and experience that love. I don’t want my kids to become “religious” or to be really good at talking like a Christian. I want them to grow up loving God and experiencing His love for them. To truly have a relationship with Him. Just teaching them facts is easy…teaching them who God is, and showing them how to experience His love is much more difficult. But it is the goal I strive for every single day.

So no politics for me this week. I want to dwell on the wonder of God’s love for me and share that wonder with my kids. So Happy Easter!

Flashback: The Grand Finale

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Here it is…the final installment of my flashback series. The grand finale of this whole escapade. If you haven’t yet…it would be best to read the other flashback posts first so you know what exactly is going on here.

There is:
Flashback: Planning the Surprise

and

Flashback: Troubleshooting

We load up the van and leave around 1am the Sunday before Christmas…right after Sir Smiley got off of work. We drove for about 14-15 hours and then stayed with my sister for the night. Then off again at 8 in the morning on Christmas Eve and drove for another 14-15 hours and arrived at the house of Sir Smiley’s sister at 1am on Christmas morning.
We all hung out for a bit as we settled the kids down on various spots on the floor. We also hid the van around the corner. Of course Sir Smiley’s sister (We’ll just call her Auntie and her husband Uncle…my brain is fried and coming up with cute nicknames is just not in my mental capacity at the moment) wondered if we’d pulled it off. Did Mr and Mrs Optimistic have any idea what our plans were? Auntie commented that Mrs Optimistic had commented that Sir Smiley finally had Christmas Day off but didn’t know what his plans were because he hadn’t called her all week. We decided they probably hadn’t figured it out and headed to bed…or the floor.
The next morning Mr and Mrs Optimistic were supposed to come over for breakfast around 10. I gave the kids baths and got them all dressed and ready. Then I helped make breakfast. In the meantime I also texted Mrs Optimistic wishing her a Merry Christmas and mentioned we should Skype later. She responded that she would like that but first she was headed to Auntie’s for breakfast (wink, wink). Auntie texted them and told them to text her when they were on their way over.
When the text came we hid our kids in the kitchen in the back of the house so that we wouldn’t be seen and waited. The girls knew the plan….not a sound until we told them and then they were to run around the corner yelling “Merry Christmas!” as loud as they could.
We hear the door open and wait a minute. Then the girls run around the corner just as planned. The response is silence. We don’t hear a thing. Wondering if she passed out we come around the corner to see her hugging the girls and crying her eyes out. Right then Mr Optimistic came in looking as surprised as could be. Pretty sure they didn’t have a clue. We all sat around chatting and eating breakfast together…and for the next few hours Mrs Optimistic would occasionally leak a few tears of joy. She had all her grand babies under one roof for Christmas. Those moments were worth all the long hours of driving and exhaustion.
There you have it. The whole long journey and adventure for our big Christmas surprise. I now am back at my sister’s house. I head out tomorrow for my last two days of driving that will bring me back home. This is definitely a Christmas for the memory books!

Flashback: Troubleshooting

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I am still here in balmy MN…I think it was above zero today. I will need to thaw for a few weeks when I get home. I have a few more days with the in-laws and then I start a long windy trek home where I visit various relatives around the country as I head in the vague direction of home. In the meantime, here is another flashback of planning this surprise trip. This is basically a summary of all the little issues that popped up while trying to plan this surprise.

The first was trying to talk to various people we wanted to visit without it getting back to Mr and Mrs Optimistic. Mostly was a heavy handed warning to not breath a word of this on the social media sites…like Facebook.

I kept wanting to blog about the joys of trying to pack for a two to three week trip but of course that may have clued them in that something was up.

Talking about Christmas plans with them…without actually talking about our real Christmas plans. I had to avoid Skype as my poker face is awesome. And by that I mean my poker face is awesome for anyone playing against me as you can always tell when I’m hiding something.

Figuring out logistics of how to actually surprise them. Do we head over to their house and try to sneak in without them seeing? Also, how to make sure they had enough food at the meal for 5 extra people. Then the issue came up when they decided they wanted to have the family Christmas the Sunday before. That took away his sister’s excuse to come visit. Ultimately we decided to have his sister invite them over to her house for breakfast. That way we didn’t have to sneak in and we knew to make enough food for an extra family.

Then we had to try to hide all evidence that we were there. We planned on hiding the van around the corner and try to keep the kiddos quiet and out of sight.

We also couldn’t tell Sasquatch about the plans we had. Mainly because she can’t keep a secret. If she’s excited about something…the world must know. Since Mrs Optimistic would notice if we didn’t call her for a month we just kept it a secret from the kiddos too. That way Sasquatch wouldn’t spill the beans.

But, amazingly, we managed to navigate all the weird twists and turns and shockingly enough they had no clue.