Are my kids your birth control?

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I’ve had several friends tell me that reading my blog and all of the “fun” I’m having with my boys has given them second thoughts about parenthood (just a delay, I hope – I don’t think I’m sending anyone to get fixed just yet). First of all, this does not offend me. Not in the least. I get it. Kids are a handful. Especially mine. If I had read this stuff years ago, it may have given me a little pause too. From an outsider looking in, sometimes it may seem that I live in a hell made by the little demons I created. And sometimes, that’s not far off. But most the time, being a parent (even of sometimes challenging children), is just awesome. It really is. Especially when they’re sleeping, or at school, or with their grandparents (I kid, I kid).

When I started blogging, I wasn’t sure exactly what I’d write about. I knew some of it would be food, and some of it would be kids, but I’ve learned along the way what inspires me to write. When I cook something that makes me think oh my gosh this is the best thing ever, I get excited to share it and it’s easy to post. And likewise, when my kids make me want to pull my hair out, or when I find myself in some sort of comical situation (and usually the laugh or else you’d cry kind of comedy), I feel compelled write as well. I thought my stories would resonate with my friends who are in a similar phase of life, but I didn’t realize I’d be helping the others save on contraceptives. You’re welcome. But to be frank, the really good days are just not that interesting… unless of course I’ve set us up for a certain meltdown and my kids shock the hell out of me and act like angels. And yeah, that hasn’t happened yet, but when it does, I’m sure I’ll want to write about that too.

And I’ve also got a real pet peeve about people who act like it’s super easy all the time. They are liars. I appreciate honesty and authenticity, and so if I sat here and didn’t write about my real experience as a parent, the hypocrisy would eat me alive! (I’ve got no issue with dramatization, however). And so I give you all the truth as I live it. But since some of that truth – when they are good listeners and have a good day at school, or when they are obedient and easy going – isn’t all that sexy, I don’t feel compelled to write about it.  So my friends, it’s really not all gasoline spills and markers on the walls, nor is it licking used gum off the sidewalk or pushing each other down the stairs. No, no, sometimes it’s just sweet and simple and pure joy. I promise, the good outweighs the bad. You will be happy to get them to bed every night, but even happier to see their smiling faces in the morning… unless of course it’s before 6am… details, details.

 

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The things I didn’t know about myself… until I became a parent

Becoming a parent is an enlightening experience. You see life through a whole new lens – you gain an instant appreciation (and admiration) for your own parents; the screaming children on a plane or in a restaurant create empathy (for the parents) instead of anger; in the presence of your kids you develop critical eyes (and ears) for television and song lyrics and others’ conversations, constantly filtering for appropriateness. But the biggest change for me has been within… or a new vantage point to myself as I discover things about me that were unknown before kids.

  • I can handle a lot more than I ever thought.  Not that I ever considered myself weak or incapable, but I had no idea how much I could deal with – turns out it’s a lot.  I don’t always do it gracefully, but darn it, I can deal with two screaming kids, I can get dinner cooked, I can haul them upstairs kicking and shouting at the tops of their lungs, I can change the diaper of a kid who will not. stay. still. I can get us dressed and out the door (and on time occasionally); I can manage (and enjoy) a full time job. Yep, I can handle a lot.
  • I am a lazy person disguised as a motivated person.  So not all the revelations are positive. I’ve also discovered that I have some inner “lazy” in me.  Those who know me may find this surprising because I am a go-go-go kind of person, but becoming a parent has shown me that I have to battle lethargy more than before. Here’s the thing – pre-kids, being lazy wasn’t really being lazy. It was relaxing, it was allowed, I had time for it, it didn’t impact anyone else (most of the time). I am someone who gets inspired and motivated by things I want to do, so when you have no (parenting) responsibility, you can just do what you want. However, once you have a child, your world is, for the most part, no longer yours. The days of doing what you want when you want are gone. See ya later. And so for me, the laziness follows the lack of motivation around the mundane tasks that just have to get done. The laziness shows up when I’m not doing something I should be doing (discipline, consistency, quality time) because dang it, I’m tired.  So my friends, while I may seem like a very motivated person (and some days I am) that’s really only half the story.
  • I really like kids.  I’m sure anyone who is not a parent who has spent any length of time with someone else’s kids has questioned how much they really like kids. Some kids are charming and it’s easy, but then there are those other kinds of kids… People say that it will be different with your own, and it’s true.  Because while before I could only take kids in small doses because of all the slobber and snot and dirt and poop and the mess that follows them everywhere, with my own kids none of it fazes me. Sure, there have been some experiences that have necessitated a shower (immediately), and there have also been some gagging moments, but I really, really like my kids (understatement of the year).  And being on the parent side of this stuff has softened my feelings with other kids as well.  Turns out, I do really like kids.
  • I didn’t need all that sleep I used to get.  How incomprehensible it would have been to think I could function (reasonably well) on 6 or 7 hours of sleep.  And if I get 8 or 9, talk about a refresher. But in my pre-kid days, I thought I needed much more than that. Back then the thought of an 8am class was an impossibility; getting up at 6am on a weekend was just not going to happen.  But now here I am, sleeping less and living more and it is a really awesome thing.
  • I am quite the softy.  Cry at a TV commercial? Say what?? Used to be a pretty rare occurrence. But now, especially those darn Publix commercials (and this one) can get me every time.  And songs, oh yeah, Taylor Swift, you can get me.  And hearing stories about sick or injured kids, folks who have been married for 75 years and their spouse passes away, demonstrations of remarkable sportsmanship – all get the water works going. I think the “softy” was in me all along, just needed the pregnancy/post pregnancy hormone shake-up to bring it out. Okay, so I just watched all the videos I just linked and I’m a blubbering mess. Guess I should issue the mascara alert.
  • That I could get this pale.  Seriously y’all. It’s bad. When I go home and see all my tan and fabulous Florida friends, I get those stares that say you look good, but damn you are pale! So two things here – first, I didn’t know that my skin could actually get this white, and second, I would have never guess that I wouldn’t care. Sure, it helps to have a red-headed, fair skinned husband to compare myself to every day, but in all seriousness, I don’t have time to tan, and it is totally fine with me. One day, when I can actually take the kids to the pool and relax, maybe I’ll work on my tan. But until then, it just is what it is – I am pale and it’s okay.

The old meThe old me – tan and happy.

The new me
The new me – pale and even happier.

Bringing Home a Little Brother

When I found out I was pregnant with my second, I immediately started thinking about how it would impact my first.  Little did he know that his whole world was going to be changing.  I worried mostly about how he’d react without all the attention.  With my world so full of him, I wondered how two would fit and where the sacrifices would be made.  So my husband and I tried to be very deliberate about the choices we made when it came to introducing Beckett into our home.

The first thing we had to tackle was the new nursery – Beckett was going to use the same crib and furniture as Brogan (which Brogan was currently using).  We worried about Brogan feeling like the new baby was taking his “stuff” (especially the crib) so we opted to move him into a toddler bed at 20 months (4 months before Beckett’s arrival). The hope was that those 4 months would be enough time to unattach him from his crib.  It was – Brogan never once referred to the crib has “his”.  He was proud of his new big boy bed, and was also excited about Beckett’s new room.

We decided to make Brogan a book that would explain the transition.  We knew there were books out there, but we wanted one that he could identify with, that spelled out exactly what was going to happen to him and that showed pictures of people he knew.  I made it in Word, used clipart and pictures of his family, and even bound it with my binding machine at work.  It went through his new role of big brother, that mommy and daddy were going to the hospital to have his brother, that his Gigi was coming to stay with him while mommy and daddy were in the hospital, and what it would be like with a new baby in the house (crying, mommy holding him a lot, things he could help with).  We emphasized what Brogan was getting out of the deal – a new brother and a best friend.  We really wanted their relationship to get off on the right foot!

When we got home from the hospital with Beckett, Blake took Brogan out to buy Beckett a gift.  We let him pick it out – anything (within reason) that he wanted his brother to have.  We also gave Brogan a gift from Beckett.  Brogan was so proud to have given his brother a present (I think this was more impactful than the gift Beckett got him!) It was really neat watching him puff up with pride showing off the present that he got his new brother!

Welcoming Beckett into the family was a much smoother transition that we had anticipated.  When Brogan was jealous, it was only short-lived and didn’t seem to temper his feelings toward his brother.  Who knows if anything we did in preparation worked, if it was just Brogan’s nature, or if we simply got lucky, but I’m proud to say that they seem to actually like each other!  Brogan has a pretty big personality and is always seeking the limelight.  We worried about this need to be noticed, but didn’t consider that in the end, he would make sure he was noticed!  So if too much attention was paid to the baby, Brogan would pick up his guitar and sing a song, problem solved!

While I’m not so naïve to think they will always get along, I’m praying that this liking each other thing will last at least a little while longer.

The other day in the car…

Brogan: Mommy, I don’t love you anymore.  I don’t love you, or daddy or Beckett. I just love myself.

[silence as I was thinking through how to respond – not the first time I had heard this one]

Brogan: Mommy, I changed my mind, I only love myself and Beckett.

Brogan holding Beckett

The things I used to take for granted

I write this post from the plane, on our way back from a much-needed vacay to Vegas for my husband’s 30th birthday. This was a kid-free trip, and while I knew we needed to recharge, I was reminded of the simple things that we used to take for granted – before we were parents.

Sleep. Uninterrupted sleep that begins and ends when you say so. There is a tiredness associated with parenthood that is incomparable to any other cause of fatigue. Yes, you can be tired from a late night of partying, an all-nighter studying or an overnight shift at work. But the parent version of tired is different because it is unending – there is no reprieve in sight. Pre-kids, I never fully appreciated the luxury of sleep. I do now, and so every sans kid vacation for the foreseeable future will allow me some time to sleep more than I can at home.

Free time. Having nothing to do and no one to take care of was awesome. At home, even when there is “free time” it’s not really free. If you manage to steal away an hour while the kids are sleeping, even if you’re doing nothing, the weight of responsibility for all the things that you could or should be doing is always present. The cooking, the cleaning, the laundry, household projects, yard work, work related work, and the list continues. This too I took for granted before babies. I used to think I was so busy! Ha!

Eating. Eating where you are only concerned about feeding yourself. Not fixing plates, cutting up food, teaching manners, cleaning up messes, wiping mouths, refilling drinks, encouraging good eating, and getting to take a bite only in between feeding the little one who will squeal (and by squeal I mean high-pitch scream) when he wants more food (more on this fun behavior trait in a later post). No, before kids I never thought that eating a nice dinner with only adults would be such an indulgence. But it is, and we enjoyed it!

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Time with the hubs. Let’s face it, kids are stressful. They can create stress in even the best marriages. Sometimes you need to just be spouses again and not have to play the role of parents. A lot of our conversations were still centered on the kids, but we didn’t have to deal with the in-your-face responsibility of the kids. There were no “not it” conversations around the dirty diapers, no figuring out who will give baths. When we were a family of two, I did not fully appreciate this time. But I welcomed it on this trip. It was just us, being the “us” that we were the five years together before we had kids. It was great.

We always knew we wanted to be parents. We wanted to have kids right away and were pregnant before our one-year anniversary. It turned out for us that the grass was greener – being parents is awesome! We wouldn’t trade our side of the pasture for anything. But it is nice now and again to hop back over the proverbial fence and enjoy some of those green patches too.

Jess and Blake in Vegas

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What happened to my house?

Pre-kids, my home was reasonably put together, modernly decorated and clutter-free.  My main living space downstairs was cozy and clean, a place for everything, and everything in its place.  And then I got pregnant and started looking into the “equipment” necessary to care for a baby.  I talked to experienced mothers to figure out what we needed.  A pack-n-play, a swing, a changing station, activity mat, bouncy seat, Bumbo seat, Boppy pillows, and the list continued.  Ok, I thought, it’s a lot of stuff, but it seemed reasonable.  I’m not sure where I thought this stuff would go, but certainly not my comfy, cozy living space!  As my due date neared and we were showered with gifts, the reality of this “stuff” finally sunk in – unless I plan to spend all my time upstairs in the nursery, this “stuff” would find a home in my living room.  Initially it was a hard pill to swallow that I’d have to rearrange my perfectly placed furniture, and add clutter to a simple room. However, the changes were made amidst a pregnancy high where I was so excited for my little one to get here, I did it happily. I thought to myself, he’ll only need most of this “equipment” for the first couple of months, then we’ll put it all away and I’ll have my living room back!

Then something happened that I didn’t see coming – Christmas.  Sure, I was able to put up the pack-n-play, downsize the changing station, break down the swing, but rather than be left with the living space I once knew, the toys began their invasion. Now Brogan was the first grandchild for all three sets of our parents, and the first baby in our extended family in a long, long time… AKA spoiled rotten!  This child got everything imaginable!  Where did it go? You guessed it – my living room.  Then it was his birthday and more toys, and another Christmas, and another birthday, and well, you get the picture.  So let’s be honest, I no longer have a living room. I have a toy room with a couch and TV.  And my dinning table shares its room with a play kitchen, shopping cart, four wheeler, drums and basketball hoop.  When Beckett came along we added another layer – more baby equipment on top of the toys! But a silver lining, my furniture is now so beat up, that I almost appreciate the toys taking the attention away.  The good news is that I’ve come to terms with this change and I think I’ve been looking at the mess for so long, it’s almost like I don’t see it (denial, maybe?).  And truthfully, if the toys will keep the boys occupied and not messing with my stuff, then bring it on! In the grand scheme of things, it’s just a small sacrifice, one of many, which we as parents happily make for our kids.

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The Mommy Job Description

So apparently I never saw the real job description for the mommy position.  Sure, I read the baby books that told me I’d feed them, change them and they’d take daily naps. I knew I’d love them unconditionally; I knew I’d laugh when they were silly and wipe away their tears. But somehow, I missed the fine print.

I didn’t know that feeding them was not as simple as it sounded. Who knew it was such a pain in the butt to clean bottles?  And let’s not even talk about the bottles that get forgotten in the bottom of the diaper bag for a couple days!  Oh, feeding them is the easy part, once you get past the swatting baby hand going after the spoonful of puree.  They throw up; they spit; they leave juice spots all over the carpet.  They change their minds daily about what they like; they refuse dinner, claim they’re not hungry… until it’s time to go to bed at which time they are starving!

Diaper changing was clearly stated, but somehow they made it sound like the babies stay still for this task. They don’t.  They squirm, they scream, they kick.  They have a knack for knowing the most inopportune time to give you a “present.”  I have gone back to look and the word “blowout” was definitely not mentioned!

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Oh the naps. I just assumed the naps were a given. What was omitted on this topic was that in order for the naps to take place you have to fit everything you want to do within their nap schedule. Trying to make plans went something like this… “You want to hang out, sure, I’m free between 7:30 and 9, 11 and 1:30, 4 and 6.”  Because that works out, like never!

Okay, so they were spot on about the unconditional love.  It’s so true.  I live for their joy; I hurt for their pain. I want them to feel secure and loved, and can’t imagine anything that would ever change that feeling.

So the mommy job description left out some of the detail. Perhaps this was by design, because it doesn’t sound all that glamorous when you get down to the nitty gritty.  Perhaps focusing on the good parts ensures people keep applying!  And so you may ask, why do moms, once they know what it’s really all about, ever sign up for the same under-paid, under-appreciated job again?  Because at the end of the day, when your little one says, “I love you mommy” there is nothing better than that.

The 2nd Kid

With my first son Brogan, I was on top of things! I was ready for and anticipating every milestone, eager for him to sit up, eat solid food, start crawling, start walking, start talking, you name it. He had a strict nap schedule that we didn’t mess with; we read him a book every night. I was very germ aware – he never sat in a grocery cart or restaurant high chair without the fancy cover. Eating day old puffs off the floor was strictly prohibited. I had angst watching him crawl across a not-quite-spotless floor, cringed when he put random things in his mouth.  And then my second son came along.  My friends with more than one child told me I wouldn’t care as much about these things with the second one. I distinctly remember thinking, well maybe you didn’t care, but I know I will!  Turns out they were right. I realized there was no humanly way possible I could worry about all those things and still be sane enough to take care of the basics. Beckett spent a lot more time in his bouncy seat (although this was partially to prevent his brother from trampling him), he doesn’t get a book every night, I let him eat food off of the table at a restaurant (if I’m being honest, sometimes it gets a once over with a baby wipe, sometimes it doesn’t), he has never sat in a shopping cart cover, he eats food that has fallen on the floor, I take him out of the house with no shoes, and the list goes on.  I couldn’t keep up with his milestones either. One day I would think to myself, crap, he’s 6 months old and I haven’t started feeding him baby food yet. Or crap, he’s 9 months and he’s been in the bouncy seat so much he can’t crawl! Or more recently, at 12 months realizing he had never drank out of a sippy cup. But what I’ve come to realize is that even when all of these things that you “should” do don’t happen, as long as they are healthy and loved, it will all be okay.
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