Saturday, September 27, 2014

All My Beans In One Jar

I often imagine my life as a series of jellybean filled jars.

Stay with me while I explain: Imagine a row of jars, all of them labeled. The labels might include quality time with kids, housework, personal time, relationships, friendships, etc. Are you with me? Now imagine that you have only 100 jellybeans. Those 100 jellybeans represent your time, energy, blood, sweat and tears. You only have 100 of them, that's your 100 percent. You can try to evenly distribute your jelly beans, sure. But sometimes, without a doubt, some of the jars have more than others. And it changes, constantly. The trick is that if one of your jars needs more jellybeans, you have to take some away from another jar.

Do you know what happens to these jars if they go too long without enough jellybeans? They crack.

Right now, I have too many beans in one jar. My Parenting Jar is overfilling and my Housework Jar is suffering, albeit more full than most others. My Personal Time jar? It's been completely empty for a very, very long time. And yeah, it's about shattered.

You hear a lot that being a parent has a lot to do with balance but I'm convinced that total balance is impossible. Can I really play with my kids, keep my house under control, get myself dressed (for hell's sake, DRESSED), plan dinner with friends and then treat myself to a pedicure that night? It probably sounds doable, right?

I have to tell myself that no one can do this. There is just no one on the planet who really has all of their jars filled respectively and can keep them that way. When my Parenting Jar is filled, as it has been, I feel good. I feel needed and loved and my kids are certainly happy. But when my Housework Jar is lacking some beans, I'm frazzled and frustrated. I like waking up and having room in the sink to start a pot of coffee. I don't like washing a coffee cup. Sometimes, it's the opposite. Sometimes, I spend the entire day scrubbing, organizing and clearing clutter. But usually, I have to sacrifice time with my boys to accomplish that. Usually, I have to tell Kade, not right now, I've got to get this cleaned up. So even though I wake up the next morning to a shiny kitchen and clean socks (hallelujah), I'm feeling guilty for not spending enough one on one time with my kids and feel that I have to make up for it.

Just like that, beans from one jar are tossed into another. Back and forth, back and forth. I think my problem is my all-or-nothing attitude. Instead of transferring maybe, one or two beans, I dump all the contents of one jar straight into another.

When it comes to other jars, say my Personal Time Jar, I'm utterly and completely shattering that glass. I realized when Ian got home from work yesterday that I hadn't gotten dressed. I was in my pajamas from the night before. The kids were extremely happy, clean and cared. They had long bubble baths and extra stories and I breathed them in until they were settled for the night. The house was (mostly) straightened. But seriously, I haven't painted my nails, gone for a run, or worn makeup in weeks. In fact, I realized the other day that I'm out of makeup. When did that happen? None of my clothes fit and I'm feeling generally sloppy.

 This bothers me for two reasons. One, I used to pride myself on taking care of the way I looked. It made me happy to wear nice clothes and take the time to feel put together. For some, this doesn't matter. But though I'm comfortable in my own skin, I feel good when I do those things. My self-esteem is taking a very serious, direct blow. And two, I know I could be an even better mom if I took the time to take care of myself. The jellybeans need to spend some time in that jar, sweeten it up. When they hop back into the Parenting Jar, they'll be more shiny and colorful than before (this is becoming a seriously cheesy metaphor).

It's time to do some rearranging. This weekend, I'm dumping some beans into my Personal Time Jar. I'm going to go for a walk, paint my finger nails, wash my hair, shave my legs (oh gross). And maybe I'll start paying closer attention, aspire more to evenly distribute some of my time, energy, attention.

But maybe not. There's a good chance that a week from now, that jar will be empty again, cracking. I'm okay with that. This is all a learning curve. 

We have to remember that we are somebody, even apart from our kids. We were somebody before our kids. We have to remember to take care of that person. Because this person, matters.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

What's What Wednesday; on a Sick Day with some nitty gritty

Around midnight last night Kade woke up with a cough and was impossible to get back to sleep. Daddy got up with him, met his intense demands and coaxed him back to sleep while I snoozed. I can only tell you this story because it was relayed to me this morning. Daddy's are sort of awesome that way.

A formal Sick Day commenced at our place, starting with an embarrassing amount of screen time. I think it's important to bring up days like this on the blog. It's too easy now to only show the pearly whites of your life. I've read a lot of blogs- seen a lot of moms- with happy, clean kids smiling and baking and doing crafts. What they're not showing us, things that I'm sure are there, are the yoga pants, the messy house, the fussy clingy babies demanding to be held while those blog posts are written (mine is sitting in my lap, watching me type this). Those blogs are inspiring and I read a lot of them, but it's important to remember that they're people too. They have messy closets, spit up on their shoulders,

After the house was destroyed, the pony tail was pulled by the infant for the umpteenth time and Kade passed out watching cartoons, I was ready to crawl back into bed and start over.

When Kade woke up, he smiled coyly and requested homemade crackers. "I almost feel better Mama. I just reallllly need homemade crackers."

The house is a wreck, the sink is already full, but the baby is sleeping so let's take advantage. Anything to get my big boy feeling better and this sick day over. Operation Ritz Crackers, GO!

What's Cooking?

Homemade Ritz Crackers

The first day I made these, Ian came home for work and I popped one in his mouth. I was super excited after spending the day perfecting them. I said, "Tastes like a Ritz cracker, RIGHT?!" He said, "Yes... only better!" Good man. That's what I like to hear.

1 stick unsalted butter (8 Tablespoons)
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup water

1. Combine the flour, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, baking powder and sugar in a mixing bowl.

2. Add 6 Tablespoons of the butter to the flour mixture, a small pat at a time.

3. Combine with your hands until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.

4. Add the vegetable oil and combine.

5. Add water, a little at a time. I usually pour with my right hand while mixing with my left hand. It's a messy job.

6. Once the dough forms, roll it out onto a lightly floured surface. It's important to roll out the dough as thin as possible to get the perfect crunchy cracker.

7. Cut shapes with cookie cutters and transfer onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. Poke some holes into the crackers- this is an important part of what makes them crunchy! You can use a fork or a chop stick.

8. Bake for about ten minutes but don't leave the kitchen! Depending on the thickness of your crackers, they could burn very quickly. Keep an eye on them!

9. Melt the remaining 2 Tablespoons of butter and add the other 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

10. When crackers are out of the oven, brush on the butter "sauce" and sprinkle crackers with a little bit more sea salt.


I think it's important to touch down on some "Nitty Gritty." The fact that no, no one is perfect and we should totally stop beating ourselves up. I also think that we need to stop judging each other. We're on the SAME TEAM, mamas! Sometimes days don't go like we planned so we just have to run with what we have. So, I'm just going to put it out there: 

Here you go, my baby sometimes sits in his bumbo on the table. I know, he could fall. But I like to think I watch him very closely. 

Or, how about this one? 
CO-SLEEPING. I know, dangerous. Bad Mom. 

Last one, okay? That's my boob, on my blog. You're welcome.

No one is the perfect mother! Remember that even those pearly whites sometimes have hidden cavities. 

Until next time, friends. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Great Expectations

I set a timer for Kade to clean up his toys. "Okay bud. I set your timer for 10 minutes. You need to have your blocks cleaned up before it goes off or it will be straight to bed." He asks why and I start to wonder if he's too young to understand. No, I give myself a pep talk, he can learn anything. "If your toys aren't picked up, we won't have time to read books. It will be straight to bed." I sat down and watched him as he picked up the toys and played with them. He started building with the blocks and ran to the closet to find his Thomas train. Five minutes later, I gently reminded him of the rule; "You only have five minutes to be all cleaned up." He threw a handful of blocks in the basket and got distracted again. He was back to making train whistle noises. I winced when the alarm went off and the room remained a mess. His face was utter, sheer panic. He grabbed his toy shovel and started at the blocks, tears welling.

I hate this part of parenting. The truth is, we did have plenty of time for books. There is always time for books and I want to read to him. It's my favorite part of the entire day. Smelling his hair, nursing Ezra and reciting A Fly Went By is my calm. Some people do yoga, I do story time. 

At the same time though, I know he has to learn boundaries and expectations. When mommy asks him to please pick up the toys, he has to learn to do it. I wish I could do it for him forever, really. That's the catch 22 of parenting: you plead with them to stay little while simultaneously wanting and needing them to get big. 

It's hard to do the big things sometimes. Unfortunately, Kade's room is a mess of toys and he went straight to his bed without a story. I think it was just as hard for me as it was for him. Kade is a lover of books. If I obliged, he would have me reading for all hours of the day. Seeing him nurture this love, helping him to nurture it, is such an exhilarating part of parenting him. It's my favorite part. Taking that away from him, even for a night, is pure torture.

I beat myself up about these moments. Now that he's asleep, I feel guilty. I start battering myself with questions: Was it fair? Was I mean? I read to Ezra, was that just rubbing it in? What else could I take away from him that would work?  

At the end of the day though, I have to be confident in my choice as his Mama. Tomorrow we'll try again. I can bet he'll be more willing to clean before that timer goes off- my baby wants his books. 


We did big and little things today. Little walks to the mailbox turned hour long walks through the woods. Long walks through the woods turned painting sticks, turned funky art project. A second walk, close to dinner, turned a two hour stroll and a quick jar of chicken noodle. Sometimes, you have to throw out the timer, too. 

Take your time, baby.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Expression Vs. Protection

Kade is growing like a weed. New clothes are lasting a few months, sometimes weeks and with preschool starting, it was time for a new wardrobe. His summer clothes are worn from play- knees faded, shirts unraveling, socks missing and black on the bottom.

We took a long bus trek to Target and things started out great. We got pizza, chatted about our week. Ezra slept while Daddy wore him. Mama leaned in for lots of Kade kisses and we all bustled to the kid section in search of some new duds. Everything was going swimmingly well.

That is, until, we chose underwear. The underwear section is divided into two very distinct sections. To the left, bright pinks, hearts, sparkles. To the right, blue and cars and superheros. Kade was immediately drawn to the sparkles because hello, who doesn't like sparkles? He chose a package of pink, sparkly Minnie Mouse underwear. Then, his eyes caught the Elmo ones. They were even more pink, more sparkly and were embellished with hearts and a loopy lace-like waist band. His face lit with excitement as he held them up to us. "I want these ones."

Daddy and I just stared at each other. We work hard to let Kade just be whoever he is. I don't think it's right to tell him he can or can't do something because it doesn't meet his gender typicality. I won't ever tell him what boys play with or that a certain color is "just for girls." It's not fair to snuff out his joy when he comes to me proudly pretending to breastfeed his baby dolls. It's not fair to be more excited when he plays with cars for hours on end (which he does daily). Both instances make him happy and proud and so they do the same for me. I don't feel uneasy when he sometimes chooses what society considers "Girl Stuff."  And I certainly don't feel more proud when he often chooses "Boy Stuff."

For the last four years, this has worked for us. We let him be his own little self; a perfect little being who loves cars, kissing babies, painting and baking. He's a spectacular dancer, has one hell of an arm and insists on cuddles and singing before bed. If life had a "Boy Section" and a "Girl Section," Kade would be right in the middle.

Now, with preschool starting, we're feeling raw and confused. Because yes, we wanted to let him have the pink Elmo underwear. But no, we don't want the kids at school teasing him. Where does the line of expression end and the line of protection begin? We got down on his level and tried to explain: "Baby, I know you want those. But some kids don't understand that. They think those are for girls and we don't want them to tease you. They just don't understand..." My heart broke, literally ached in my chest. This was absolutely not fair. Steam might have been coming out of my ears as I thought, Fuck Society. My baby loves Elmo and they don't have them in the "Boy Section." Why should I make him settle?

"But I want them."

The options were to let him get the pink ones or insist on the "Boy" section. We thought about getting him the pink to wear at home and buying Cars for school. What would that teach him though? That he has to hide? I felt so helpless.

The thing that really just gets me is that it doesn't have to be this way. We have this fresh little generation- eager and incredibly smart. They could end the line drawn in the gender sand. But it has to start with us as parents- We have to stop deflating their self-esteem when we don't agree with their preference. We have to let them choose what they want and most of all, we have to teach them to be accepting of others. Kade doesn't notice if a girl plays sports or has short hair. He won't notice if a boy wears pink. He just wants to play, laugh and especially learn.

I want a society in which we focus on education, charity, growth and faith more than the color of our underwear.

In the end, Kade chose the Cars underwear. It took some serious talking and none of us felt great afterwards. We didn't tell them they were only for girls- we told him that some people don't understand that they can be for boys too.  We felt, as parents, that we needed to protect him. Kids are mean and I don't trust his teachers to protect him. At his last doctors appointment, the nurse let Kade pick a sticker. She pulled out Jake and the Neverland Pirates. She stated, "I have princess ones too but you don't want those. Those are for girls." Turns out, Kade wanted the princess ones. Who was she to say what he wanted?  This is obviously deep rooted- generation after generation being told what's acceptable. I think other things matter substantially more.

No, society isn't ready for our Kade yet. That's so hard and frustrating.
But my baby will change the world, I know.