Tuesday, December 30, 2014

the gross kind of mom

What kind of mom am I?

The gross kind.

It's true.

I have no idea how I got this way. Maybe I was born with it. Maybe I've developed it over the years, like a well-practiced skill. Not sure.

The other day, I saw this post on Facebook - "What is your parenting super power?" Or something like that. The answers were actually pretty interesting. People said things like...

Getting my kids to love vegetables.

Making fabulous bento boxes. (I still have no clue what that is. Just a partitioned tupperware? How does putting food in a partitioned tupperware count as a superpower? Puzzling.)

Sewing unique Halloween costumes.

Planning Pinterest-worthy parties for kids.

What's my parenting super power? That's easy.

Handling gross stuff. Like a boss.

Earlier I said that I have no idea how I developed this super power, but I process things through writing, and I just had an epiphany. About ten minutes ago, Gus projectile vomited about two meals' worth of food all over the floor. Guess who cleaned it up. Yep, Murphy. If I'm the Batman of gross parenting, Murphy is my Robin. He's right there to back me up. The smellier, the better.

And not only that. If I'm the Karate Kid of yuck, Murphy's my Sensei. He trained me in on this stuff. Picking up dog poop? That's child's play compared to the countless animal carcasses I've pried from his jaws...mice, frogs, fish, random deer body parts. And if you have a dog, you know that if they eat something resembling a string, they're going to need help getting it out. The first time I did it? Nearly lost my lunch. But since then, it hasn't phased me.

Like I said, this dog trained me well.

So now, when a baby spits up on the floor, I wipe it up with my sock and one-sock it for a while until I make it back to my room for a new sock.

My kid hands me a piece of poop from the bathtub? I don't even flinch.

My sons have peas and carrots all over their faces and there's no washcloth in sight? I just lick it off. No biggie.

No kleenex for the kids? My sleeve works just as well.

Not sure how to dispose of the half-chewed grape Harriet just handed me? I eat it.

I use the Nose Frida without a filter, and the other day when my boys were desperately congested and I couldn't find the Nose Frida anywhere, I just sucked that gunk out using the classic mouth-to-nose method and spit it in the sink. Would I do it to someone else? No way. But my own kids? I can't think of anything they could ever do that would gross me out.

I mean, what could possibly be gross about these sweet boys? Well, a lot. They are boys, after all. 

But you know what? I do have one weakness. It's my kryptonite.


I cannot handle hair.

I'm eating right now...of course I am...and just typing the word "hair" made me gag a little bit. Now I'm putting the food back in the fridge. Totally lost my appetite.

Remember how I said that I didn't flinch when Harriet handed me a piece of poop from the bathtub? Well, a few weeks before that, she lifted a piece of my own hair out of her tub and said, "Here, Mom." Not only did I not take it from her. I couldn't even be in the bathroom with her when she was holding it. I just stood outside the open door and tried not to gag. Then she started pretending it was a fish.

Okay, I have to be done with that story.

Back to gross stuff that isn't hair...This past summer, Harriet and I were playing at the park and her hands were full of dirt. Well, it was actually more like mud. She was kind of freaking out because she likes to be clean and we didn't have any wet wipes with us, so I told her to just wipe her hands on my pants. She refused and started to whimper a bit. I couldn't convince her to wipe her hands on my jeans until I said, "Hon, that's why moms wear clothes."

She had a look on her face like, "Well, in that case..." and soon her hands were clean...relatively.

So I may not be very good at hosting epic birthday parties, getting my kids to love beets or organizing a seamless toy rotation schedule. But if muck and mess and bodily fluids are involved...step aside, ladies.

I got this.

Friday, December 26, 2014

a timely opportunity

I never thought this would happen, but it did. I just got my first real writing job! I'm so excited and pretty nervous too. I will be writing four to eight blog posts per month for a website called mom.me. And they're going to pay me real money! This opportunity couldn't have come at a better time. Andrew is going back to school in May to become a nurse anesthetist. This is going to be a grueling academic commitment and we doubt that he will be able to work much, if at all. I work less than ten hours per week and for now, it's not realistic for me to add any more hours. So we will likely be living on student loans for the next two and a half years. We've been saving and preparing for this for over a year now, but it's still going to be quite a stretch financially. So the fact that I can write these blog posts and make a bit of money while the kids are napping is a massive blessing.

But I can't do this without you. I need your help. In order to keep my job with mom.me, my posts need to generate 5,000 views per month. And every month, the top three writers with the most views earn bonuses...significant bonuses that would make a world of difference for us while Andrew is in school. 

Here's how you can help me out...

"Like" my blog on Facebook. I will be linking to all of my mom.me posts there, so they will show up in your newsfeed and you can click, click, click away from there. There's a little Facebook "like" box on the righthand side of this page, so you can do it now!

Ask your friends to like my blog on Facebook. Go to my blog's Facebook page and on the lefthand side, there's a spot where you can invite your friends to "like" it. This would be a HUGE help. The more "likes" I have on Facebook, the more people will see me posts and click on them.

Share my mom.me posts. I would be overjoyed if you'd share my mom.me posts via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and any other social media you like to use. Every time it's shared, it means more clicks on my posts.

Pray. This is a big blessing and it comes with big responsibilities. Please pray that I will somehow be able to find the time, energy and creativity to write good stuff for mom.me and for this blog as well. Most importantly, please pray that God will use my words to encourage parents who are feeling overwhelmed, alone, confused, or empty.

Thanks in advance, friends. Every single click means so much to me. Every single prayer means all the more. I appreciate you all a great deal.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

the worst christmas

This is not how I pictured the boys' first Christmas. Logistically, it's probably been the worst Christmas of my life.

There is no snow outside. In fact, our yard is more green than brown.

Harriet, Louie and I have all been struck down with influenza. This, my friends, is not fun. Fevers, chills, everything is sore. Even my teeth hurt. Therefore, Christmas celebrations were canceled for both sides of the family.

The chocolate turtles I made for my dad and father-in-law were a big, fat disaster. My chocolate seized. The caramel was goopy. And they're just plain bitter. At least we made a quadruple recipe. 

Out of the five books I ordered for my mother-in-law, four arrived damaged.

The gift I ordered for my mom was delivered to the wrong address.

Our Elf on the Shelf, Salt, has been stranded here for about four days.

I've gotten about six hours of sleep total in the last three nights. Poor Harriet has had an awful time sleeping.

I haven't showered in two days.

I have no voice whatsoever, and Harriet doesn't believe me when I tell her I can't speak up. "Just GET louder, Mom!" she says.

We've been distracted much of this Christmas season by Gus's MRI, which happened yesterday. I was crushed to not be able to go with, but it went really well and we got wonderful news. He has benign hydrocephalus and doesn't need a shunt. Thank Jesus.

Our house is...big surprise...a disaster. You can almost see the flu germs crawling amongst the piles of laundry and toys.

Andrew and I have been anything but merry. In fact, we had a big fight last night. More accurately, I blew up and spewed all kinds of mean things at him while he sat there. And I didn't get him any presents.

BUT...if you would have told me four Christmases ago, when I was drowning in grief and fear, that I'd be spending this Christmas pushing through my own deliriously feverish, overtired haze to comfort and snuggle my three children, I would have cried a lake...an ocean...of shock and joy. So although many of our presents remain unwrapped and we're feeling far from festive, beneath this droopy-eyed, slightly sweaty exterior is a heart bursting with Christmas cheer...and gratitude. Especially gratitude...aimed at a God who has been unthinkably generous with us.

Merry Christmas, friends.

Monday, December 15, 2014

a cool cat

I do not like cats.

Now, I realize that I’m alienating about half of my readership when I say this, but people, I have to be real. Your cats creep me out.

All of them.

Even the ones that you tell me are pretty much dogs. That doesn’t help at all.

Why? Because I’m scared of them. I don’t trust them. I think that they might scratch or bite me. Or hiss at me. And in my book, being hissed at is just as bad as being scratched or bitten.

So the other day, a very scary thing happened in our home. I asked Harriet which she liked better – dogs or cats. She answered instantly, pretty much before I even finished my sentence.


Okay. After I wrote “If My Child Marries Yours,” lots of people accused me of trying to force my children into a box, of trying to mold them to fit certain ideals. Those accusations were off base. I try to be very open and cognizant of the fact that my children’s lives may look a lot different from mine.

Except when it comes to cats. 

And here’s why…if my kids have cats in their homes, I will be afraid every time I’m there. Those of you who have cats and know me personally are now thinking, “Is she scared when she comes to my house?”

The answer is yes. A little bit, yes.

And you’re probably also wondering, “Does she hate my cat?”

The answer is no. I love that you love your cat. I love that you and your cat are friends. But the positive feelings pretty much stop right there. And for the record, it's totally okay if you don't like my dog. Oftentimes, I'm right there with you.

So when Harriet told me that she liked cats better than dogs, I tried not to panic. Instead, I cocked my head to the side, masked my panic with curiosity and asked her a question, “Why, honey?”

“Dogs have sharp teeth. Cats are nice.”

I thought for a moment, tried to control my bad mom impulses…and then immediately googled “hissing cat” on my phone.

I showed her a picture of a horrid looking cat baring scary (probably poisonous) fangs.

Crisis averted.

But there is one cat that has survived her change of heart. One cat...and a pretty cute one at that...who has stolen her heart, and for the most part, I'm okay with it.

His name is Daniel. Daniel Tiger.

Those of you who don't currently have toddlers may remember the original Daniel Tiger from Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. PBS has recently revived this little guy and the rest of the characters from the Land of Make Believe. And this time around, they're supercharged with bright colors, catchy tunes, and lots of valuable life lessons.

Wow. PBS should pay me for that plug.

But seriously, Harriet has learned so much from Daniel and his little songs, such as "when you have to go potty, stop and go right away" and "when something seems bad, turn it around, and find something good." Drop offs at Sunday school are a dream because of the trustworthy lyrics, "grown-ups come back." And when Harriet has trouble sharing, I just have to sing the simple tune "You can take a turn, and then I'll get it back" for her to have a change of heart...well, most of the time.

In the beginning, I wasn't a big fan of Daniel Tiger. He and his parents were a bit too perfect for me. It drove me crazy how his friend Katerina throws "meow meow" at the end of every sentence. And I was annoyed by the fact that Miss Elaina's clothes are on backwards. I even googled "Why are Miss Elaina's clothes on backwards?" more than once. I still can't figure that out. But I did really like one character named O the Owl - the anxious, slightly chubby bookworm.

Go figure.

Harriet dressed as Daniel Tiger while watching Daniel Tiger...and eating candy...and apparently drinking coffee?
It didn't take long for the rest of the characters to grow on me either. And when Daniel's mom had a baby around the same time Gus and Louie were born, I found myself incredibly thankful for episodes focused on concepts like "when a baby makes things different, find a way to make things fun" and "there's time for you and baby too."

Harriet has all of these little songs memorized and brings them out when she needs them. Before getting a shot at the doctor's office, she sang, "Close your eyes and think of something happy." And I've used Daniel's tunes too. When I want to help her become more independent in one area or another, I sing, "Try to solve a problem yourself and you'll feel proud." And when I see her getting frustrated, I'll sometimes use, "When you feel so mad and you want to roar, take a deep breath and count to four."

But then.

All of a sudden my daughter and this cute little tiger started teaming up against me. Now when I tell her I'm feeling frustrated with her behavior, she insists on doing the little song and dance "When you feel frustrated, take a step back and ask for help." And every time she wants me to eat something gross...which is far, far too often...she'll sing "You gotta try new foods cuz it might taste good." On more than one occasion, I've wanted her to wear something specific and she's insisted on her red jeans and red shirt. So she brings out the classic "Dress up any way you choose. Find a way that's right for you."

Well, can't argue with that, right?

Here's one that happens all the time because Harriet is highly skilled at stalling...especially when it comes to bedtime. "Hurry up," I'll say. "I'm not going to wait for you to build that tower...or put that baby to bed...or make a tiny mark on that piece of paper with each of your 165 crayons." And she'll remind me that Daniel says, "When you wait, you can play, sing or imagine anything." I mean, what am I going to say? "Oh! Well, in that case, I'll just chill right here and imagine you're going to bed."

I don't think so.

Yesterday, she was playing with my mom and I tried to join in. She sang "When a friend doesn't want to play with you, you can find something else to do." Oh...message received.

She wore this to my grandpa's 102nd birthday party.
Sometimes Harriet amazes me with what she learns from Daniel Tiger. The other day she told me I needed to have empathy. I asked what empathy is and she sang "think about how someone else is feeling...maybe you can help them feel better." Wow. My two-year-old understands empathy.

I don't think Harriet watches a crazy amount of TV. But some days I still feel guilty about plopping her in front of the screen so I can feed her brothers, take a shower or whatever. A social worker friend reminded me the other day that no one has ever come to her for counseling stating that they are struggling with the traumatic aftermath of watching too much TV as a child. Good point...and if she's going to be watching something, I suppose Daniel Tiger  isn't such a bad choice. We were going to take her to her first movie at a theater for her birthday, but the only cartoon available had machine guns in it. Machine guns in a kids' movie. Mind boggling. Watching that crazy trailer made me like Daniel even more.

You know what else I like about Daniel Tiger? It brings me back to the days when I was three or four, watching Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. I loved that guy. So many of us did. And why? I mean, it's kind of weird, isn't it? He was an older, kind of boring man with a monotone voice. The show moved at a snail's pace. The colors were muted, the set was dull, and the music was simple. But you know why I think we loved him?

Because he was gentle.

In fact, he embodied gentleness...something that children don't often get enough of. Something that my daughter didn't get enough of from me today, in fact. Is there a time to be tough? Yep. In fact, there are lots of times when we need to be tough. But there are also lots of times when perhaps gentleness would be just as effective...if not more effective...than toughness.

I'm learning that this week. From Mr. Rogers...and his little tiger friend.

Daniel and a few of his buddies hanging out with the fam in front of their new digs. And yes, that is a custom-painted Murphy figurine. 

If you have a few minutes, check out my "Won't you be my neighbor?" board on Pinterest. It's full of fabulous Mr. Rogers quotes that will change the way you interact with the children in your life.

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