First There was Puberty…Now greys?!?!

In the back of my mind I always knew this day would come.  I knew that it would be a gradual, slow process…and I always figured that I had plenty of time to figure out a game plan on how I would deal with “that day” when it arrived.  I mean…I am still so young…I’m only 35; I still have time…right?  COME ON…I still feel like I’m in my 20’s.  Sure my ability to pull all nighters is a thing of the past, and sure my idea of partying is sitting on my couch after the kids go to bed, a glass of wine in one hand, petting the cat with the other, as I watch the latest DVR’d episode of New Girl…but I’m still young at heart!  I still giggle and snort when the server at Taco Bell asks if I want a hard or soft taco, and I can’t help but crack up when I answer “We’ll take 3 hard and the rest of them soft please!”  Who does that…an immature person, that’s who, NO mature adult would ever laugh at that, right?  And when a co-worker recently told me that she lives and loves it in Intercourse, Pennsylvania (it’s a town…funny right?), I nearly peed myself from laughing so hard!  Again…no mature middle age adult would find something like that funny, am I right???  And let’s not forget that I’m the mother of a 2 year old…I still get a monthly period…and I’m not yet retired.  So why the hell am I finding so many grey hairs on my head…WHY??????

 

My crisis started last weekend.  I had just finished washing my hands after going potty (notice, mature adults DON’T use the word potty…EVER!), when I turned to dry my hands something shiny coming from the mirror caught my eye.  At first I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from, so I turned my head again…there it was again!  So I looked closer, and closer, and even closer…and what to my wondering eyes would appear…it was a shiny grey hair, a very long, curly, shiny grey hair!  I was shocked, mortified to be exact.  Whose grey hair is that???  It couldn’t be mine.  I don’t have grey hair!  I carefully followed that strand of hair all the way up to my scalp.  I took a brief pause, (no way, this thing is attached to my head), took a deep breath then gave a gentle tug…”Ouch!”  Oh my fricken god, that sucker WAS MINE!!!  I became frantic…I pulled off my hair tie and started a frantic search for more, hoping the there were no more, but considering the length of that last one…something told me there would be.  I was right…there were more.  I found 6 just that morning.  By the next day 2 more were found.  By that evening I handed “Daddy” a comb, laid on his lap and made him search!  According to him it was all in my head (duh!)….”I’m telling you, I don’t see any,” he said.  Yeah right!  Like he would tell me if he had!!!  I could have a head full of grey and he would never say a THING!  Ugh…you useless…SMART man!!!

 

So here is where I am now.  Emotionally and psychologically I’m so confused!  How did this happen?  When did I go from the young, fun-loving 20 something “feeling” year old, to now this older mature woman with greys in her head.  I demand that mother nature, or whomever it was that decided that I was at this “Next Phase” of my life re-consider this whole thing!  I demand a do-over, a recount, I want to file an appeal because guess what…I DO NOT FEEL MIDDLE AGE!!! So there, take that life!  Now What!!!  Aaah, yeah…now what???

 

If there is such a thing as virgin hair, mine would be it.  I have very long curly hair that hasn’t been chemically treated since I was in my very early twenties.  Because it is curly, I don’t really trust anyone doing anything to it, most especially playing around with chemicals.  My curly hair is just like me…soft, sensitive, a little crazy and frizzy at times, yet obedient and compliant when it needs to be.  It does all this without the need of chemicals or crazy hair products.  All it needs is a little moisturizer in all the right places and, wallah!  I’ve got beautiful, shiny, dark curly hair.  Now that I’m faced with this curse that I’m convinced my teenagers have put on me (I have to blame someone), it looks like I’m going to have to turn to chemical hair dyes to keep the grey at bay!  I never thought I’d be this woman.  I always pictured myself accepting this change and taking it in stride as a rite of passage of sorts.  However, I never thought that this would happen in my 30’s…no sure why as so many of my friends, some younger, some not much older, already take steps to get rid of the grey every couple of weeks.  So why is it that it caught me so incredibly off guard? It’s crazy, right?

 

So anyways my dilemma now is how do I take that next step and lose my hair virginity, without completely damaging my beautiful locks.  Obviously I know I’m going to have to go to a professional hairdresser, but what do I ask for, what do I look for, and what do I stay away from?  My hair is curly and dry by nature, so chemically treating it will only make the dryness worse.  How do I put the moisture back in?  What products do I need to buy, what treatments will I need to do now?  So many questions…I feel like a kid trying to get my hands on all the answers!  You see…yet another reason I feel like I’m not ready for this.  Shouldn’t I already know all this stuff…I’m in my mid 30’s you know?  I just feel like I should already know what to do.  I just picture mother nature sitting on her couch somewhere, watching my confusion from a distance as she snorts and laughs and (hopefully) pees herself a little…because “boy did she really get me this time!”

 

So here is my question to all you fellow mama’s, who have already crossed the grey hair threshold and have de-virginized their heads, what do I look for?  As a first timer, what questions should I be asking, what type of “dyeing” should I be asking for?  PLEASE HELP EDUCATE ME PEOPLE!!!  God knows I need all the help I can get!!!

“Flawed Mommy”…No Better Name To Define Me

 

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A follower on my Facebook page recently commented on a picture that I posted.  The picture was that of a dozen cupcakes that I had baked for my kids earlier that day.  The cupcakes turned out beautifully, and had cute little pink and yellow flowers.  The caption for the picture read, “To combat the gloom of this windy, cold day, I made some flower cupcakes to remind the kids of what’ to come…Spring!!!  I can’t wait to get this cold winter behind us.”  The comment that the follower posted was “I don’t know why you call yourself flawed mommy!”

 

That comment absolutely made my day!  It had been a very tough day, tough week…as a matter of fact tough month, and it was nice to hear the compliment!  As it is true for many of us, I had more balls in the air that day then I could juggle.  I was stressed, tired, sad, frustrated…all very common emotions for all of us parents…heck for all of us grown-ups!  Yet no matter how tired I am, I always manage to find the energy to keep those thoughts and feelings to myself…to not let anyone else know that I am struggling… that things are hard…that I  may not be coping.  The truth is that on that day the reason that I baked was because of what I was feeling…it was my outlet.  I created something beautiful to help me forget all the ugliness that was going on inside.  Earlier that week I had received news that my latest job assignment was moved to a site that is 90 minutes away from where I live, making it difficult to take care of my responsibilities at home if I chose to accept it.  I was also mourning the death of a friend’s 10 month old little girl, who had passed away earlier that morning from a genetic disorder.  Even though expected, her death left me feeling so incredibly anguished and broken.  On top of all that, my 2-year-old little girl is headed to surgery in about a month, and even though it’s a simple minor surgery, the worry from imagining them taking my little girl out of my arms and watching them walk away with her to put her under anesthesia and perform a procedure…I feel so incredibly anxious when I think about that moment.  Not to mention that I still need to come up with the $2,000 deductible that I will need to pay prior to the surgery date.  I can honestly say that on that day I was baking cupcakes not because my kids asked for them, or because I was even in the mood…I was baking because the creation of those cupcakes is something that I can absolutely control.  I can sit with each one, and carefully take my time to create something simple and beautiful.  The words “Simple” and “Beautiful”…two words that did not apply to how I was feeling about “Life” that day.

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When that follower saw the picture of those cupcakes and asked me why I called myself flawed mommy, it really made me think.  I took her comment as it was intended, a compliment, but later I felt as though I was not any more deserving of that compliment than anybody else.   Truth be told, the word “Flawed” fits me perfectly!  Just because I bake cupcakes (when I’m frustrated or sad), and my house is clean (only when I know that company is coming over!), and the kids are clean and bathed (on most nights!), does not mean that I am perfect.  It just means that I am GREAT at hiding my imperfections.  I have made plenty of mistakes.  From getting into an abusive relationship, to bringing 4 innocent children into that relationship. Choosing my career over my children, because at that time I thought the money and our material things would make up for my absence.  Leaving my children to be cared for by an abusive father while I worked to support our family (because he could not hold down a job), and not noticing the clear “signs” that my children were being abused (I honestly thought he would never hurt them…his anger had always been directed only towards me).  I have at times pushed my children too hard, to the point that a few years ago my oldest, feeling as though he could not measure up…or do anything right, became depressed and started talking about suicide…he was only 12.  His grades had dropped from straight A’s to F’s…I completely missed the signs that he had ADD, or that he was being abused at the hands of his father while I was at work.  Instead of realizing something was wrong, I punished him until eventually I had taken away everything he loved to do…leading to the depression intensifying, and guess what?  I missed those signs too.  Those are my BIG mistakes; I also have a lot of little flaws.  My decisions are often driven by my emotions.  On my worst days, I yell at the kids or my husband simply out of frustration…because I’ve had enough…not of them but of whatever life happened to have thrown at me that day.  It does not happen every day or every week…but it does happen.  There are days where I let the kids go to bed without doing their chores, or I do their chores for them, simply because it is easier than having to nag and nag and nag.  I sometimes leave the clothes in the washer too long and then have to re-wash them, only to switch them to the dryer and then forget about them until they are so wrinkled I have to run them through a dryer cycle again.  I forget conversations, appointments, and sometimes forget where I put things…especially important things.  I am inpatient, and I like to be in control (even when things are out of my control).  Man!  I could go on and on for pages, but I promise I won’t put you through that torture!

 

The point is, I have made A MILLION, actually more like a GAZILLION mistakes…and I have just as many regrets!  Sadly, I’m sure I’m destined to make many more.   But see, that’s why I called myself “Flawed Mommy”, because I am flawed.  Flaws are imperfections that are a part of me, of you, of everyone.  We all make mistakes and regardless of what people may want you to think, NO ONE IS PERFECT…NO ONE!!!  Coming to terms with what your flaws are…that’s the hard part.  It’s hard to admit when your choices are wrong, even harder to admit that you have made mistakes that have negatively affected your family or children.  But guess what, admitting that you are flawed, and being honest with yourself…that’s what in turn helps you overcome those imperfections.  I have learned from my mistakes, and I have been humbled by them.  My Flaws DO NOT define who I am, instead they teach me what I need to do…be aware of…think about in order to become the person…the mom…the daughter…the wife that I want to be.  “Flawed Mommy”…there is no better name to define me.

Caring For My Mom & My Kids: How Will I Balance It All?

704198_565113520170887_1073349151_o_edited-2It’s been two weeks since my mom’s double knee replacement surgery and thankfully she’s finally home and resting comfortably in her own bed.  The days after the surgery were followed by a lot of tense and scary moments, as she battled through the pain and sudden realization that she (at least for the moment) could no longer care for herself.  Depending on the help of others is just not something my mom is used to doing, and the sudden loss of independence left her feeling scared and anxious.  Thankfully these feelings and her anxiety resolved themselves over the few days she was at the rehab center, and she is now pretty much back to her normal self; although still not thrilled at that she needs to rely on others for help.  Every day brings noticeable improvement to her mobility, which in turn gives her the satisfaction of knowing that soon she’ll be back to handling things just the way she likes! ;)

 

The one thing that really surprised me through this process is the way that my siblings and I reacted to the situation.  We saw our strong, independent mom become a sad, crying, scared, mess.  If she had been anyone other than our mother, I would have easily attributed the change in personality to being nothing more than a temporary reaction from the stress and pain of the surgery.  However, because it was our mother, my siblings and I jumped right onto the anxiety roller coaster, and joined our mother in her feelings of helplessness.  Truth be told, we just did not know how to cope with seeing her in such a fragile state…it was as if we were all overcome by “Deer In Headlights” syndrome.  None of us saw this coming, and none of us knew what to do about it.

 

As the days wore on and my mother’s release date came closer, my siblings and I tried to come up with a plan for our mother so that she would have the help she needed upon being discharged.  Originally, since I work from home and since someone is always here, we made the decision to have her come to my home and stay with us until she was able to go back to living on her own again.  By staying with me, my two brothers who live out of state would have peace of mind knowing she was here and that someone would always be with her, while at the same time it would allow my sister, who has a son with Autism and who works outside the home, to help with her care when she was free to do so.  After the terrible scare that we had with her, my brother who lives in North Carolina decided that he would change his plans and stay in Pennsylvania through the end of the year so that he could be home and help her recover “in her home”, which is where she is most comfortable.  At first this seemed to be a good idea, until I realized that there may a strong possibility that she may not be ready to be on her own come January 1st.

 

Knowing our mother as well as we do, we all realize that she will do everything in her power to try to regain her independence way before she is ready.  My mom does not know how to ask for help, or even how to openly and happily accept it.  My concern now is that when my brother leaves, she will no longer going to be willing to come and stay at my place, and instead will do everything in her power to regain her independence…even if her new knees are not ready.  Even on her first day home, while barely able to climb up the two front steps or get into her bed without help all while grimacing in pain, she still gave us all permission to leave her alone citing that she would be fine.  Even with the doctors warnings that she would need help, and that a fall would be dangerous, and that she should not overdo it…she is still not heeding those warnings.  I saw all of this coming so days before her discharge date, I approached my brother to express my concerns over letting her go home.  To my surprise and sadness, my brother refused to even hear my concerns over the situation.  He wouldn’t give me the courtesy of listening…he refused to even acknowledge that I was trying to have the conversation, instead sending me away feeling as if my concerns were unfounded and just plain silly.  He was here, he was handling things, and therefore it was none of my business…at least until he leaves.  That was essentially his message to me.  Never in my life had I ever had this type of interaction with one of my siblings…I was shocked and devastated by the way the conversation ended.

 

I am still completely shocked by what transpired last week.  I’ve always had a good relationship with my siblings including my brother, and yet last week I saw our relationship unraveling before my eyes.  My brother has no children, and it’s wonderful that he can take the time off to help take care of our mother, but at the same time he will be going back home in just 12 days.  Then WHAT??? Who’s going to help our mother then?  My other brother has already returned home to New York where he lives and works, my sister has a full-time job and a son with special needs, and while I work from home…I work from MY HOME.  My business is here, my phone lines, fax lines, my office equipment…all here.  Who is supposed to step in and be in her home to make sure she is getting at least one or two warm meals a day?  Who is going to be there when she gets in and out of the shower (to make sure if she falls she gets help)?  Who is going to go downstairs to get her water so she can take her medicines?  Who is going to be there to make sure that if she decides to venture down the stairs on her own that she doesn’t suffer a fall, and if god forbid she does, who is going to be there to notice and get her help right away?  Who???

 

I am the mother of 5 children, between the ages of 2 and 17.  I am responsible for transporting my Kindergartener to school in the morning and then picking him up at noon on the days that he is with me.  I am also responsible for picking up my 12-year-old at 5pm after her practices, and the picking up my older two boys at 5:30pm after their practices.  Not to mention I then have to take my 17-year-old to work in the evenings, then add to that other school activities and functions.  My mother lives 30 minutes away from my children’s schools….so just how in the world am I supposed to always be there for her while still managing my children’s schedules?  I do not want to have to choose between my children and my mother, yet I feel as if that’s what I am being expected to do.  In a way I feel that as great as it was for my brother to sacrifice himself and his life for 3 weeks so my mother can be comfortable in her own home, at the same time I feel like he is going to leave my sister and I in a situation that is going to prove impossible for her and I to manage.  I get that by being home my mother may be able to recover more quickly, but let’s be real, he’s not going to be able to be here long enough for her to be considered recovered!  So what  now?

 

I never thought that my family would be one of “those” families that bicker and fight as it relates to the care of their loved ones.  I just never thought this could happen to us.  I’m hoping and praying that my brother is right…that she will be ready to be on her own come January 1, but something tells me that he’s wrong.  Just a few minutes ago I spoke to my mother about Christmas.  She asked me how I would feel if we canceled our Christmas day brunch (just 6 days away); she wanted to know if I would be upset.  I told her that of course I would not be upset.  When I asked her why she didn’t think she could make it, “I just don’t think I’ll be ready yet.  I’m still really struggling getting around and being on my feet”.  My hopes that things will be okay by the 1st of the year have been shattered.  If she doesn’t think she’ll be ready to spend more time on her feet in 6 days, how in the world will she be ready to be on her own when it comes time for my brother to leave, just 6 days after that?  Now, how am I supposed to pick up where he left off and still tend to the needs of my children in two separate homes?  I am so disappointed in my brother’s decision, and even more disappointed that he has put all of us, including our mother in such a predicament.  He will go home, while the rest of us are left trying to figure out how we’re going to make this work.

 

While I’m happy that my mother is home, and even more happy the she is progressing nicely, I am devastated by how the next few weeks are probably going to go.  Because of my brother’s decision, my sister and I will be left no choice but to give her the independence that she so wants, but is not yet ready for.  We will have to leave her alone from time to time to take care of our children, all while hoping and praying that she stays safe and is okay while we are gone.  She is now confined to an upstairs bedroom in her home, unable to make it down the steps to her kitchen without help.  In my home she would have stayed in our spare bedroom downstairs.  With her walker she would have had full access to the living room, dining room, and our kitchen, all on the ground floor.  She would have had the grandkids cheering her on, helping her get back on her feet, and she would never be alone (unless she wanted to be of course).  That’s what makes me the saddest, the fact that she will now be spending so much time alone…unable to easily fend for herself.  Even sadder is the fact, that she will also miss Christmas morning with her grandkids, an event that she has been a part of for 17 years in a row.

 

Also weighing down my heart is that I now feel as if I have to find a way to repair my relationship with my brother.  Even though I feel his decision was wrong, I know deep in my heart he really thought it was the best decision at that time.  I feel hurt by the way that he treated me, but as I said, I know he was just following what he thought would be best and advocating for my mother.  Honestly, I don’t think he realized at the time how difficult her recovery would be.  Who knows, maybe if he had known, his decision might have been different.  In any event, I’m giving him and I time to cool down a bit, and after the new year I will again approach him and try to find a way to make peace.  With any luck we’ll be able to talk about it, and discuss what we can do differently to prevent this from happening in the future.  I love my brother and my family dearly.  I know that he and I will get through this, and in the end our relationship will be stronger.  I really believe that!

 

Have you ever encountered conflict among family members with regard to the care of your loved ones?  How did you handle it?  For those of you who balance taking care of your parents as well as meeting the needs of your children, how did you achieve that balance?  I would love to hear your stories and advice.

 

 

Coming To Terms With My Parent’s Mortality

 

It is Tuesday night around 8:30pm when my cell phone rings.  My mother’s picture flashes on the screen and I’m suddenly hit with a twinge of anxiety…”Hello?”  “Hi, its mom just wanted to talk to you one last time before tomorrow.  Remember that I love you and those kids, so give them all a hug and kiss for me.  Also, my Will and Power of Attorney along with all my life insurance information is in my filing cabinet, top drawer, second folder.  In the third folder behind that, you will find the deed to the house, information on all the bills and taxes, as well as my funeral information and my last wishes.”  I could feel the lump in my throat painfully growing as she talked, and suddenly I was overcome with emotion…a tear slowly streamed down my face.  Out of fear that I would end up sobbing like a baby, I took a few seconds to compose myself before I responded.  “Hello, are you there?”  “Yes, I’m still here mom…thank you for organizing that for us.  What time are you scheduled to be there in the morning?” I responded.  “I have to be there by 5am”.  “Okay mom, I’ll be thinking of you.  Remember that I love you, and I’ll be up to see you tomorrow afternoon.  I’m certain you’re going to do great!  I can’t wait until you’re all better …we’ll be out walking the malls again in no time!!!” I said trying to sound really positive…trying to make is sound like I was okay.

 

My mother was headed to the hospital the next day for double knee replacement surgery.  I had prepared myself for this moment since she was originally diagnosed with arthritic knees two years earlier.  It was clear to all of us, as she slowly lost her mobility, that surgery was inevitable.  Even so, this process has been very difficult not just for me, but for my other siblings.  Watching our mother’s knees slowly deteriorate, and watching her slowly shuffle along,  the pain of each step painfully displayed on her face, has brought all of us closer to facing the fact that our mother is not getting any younger.  In fact, we are coming to the realization that someday, she will no longer be with us.

 

Death is a part of life…everyone knows it and for the most part we all learn to accept it.  However, when it comes to my parents and facing their mortality, I’m left feeling anxious and overwhelmed.  I’m okay with death, I understand it happens.  I’m okay with the fact that someday, I too will no longer be here…but my parent’s not being here seems unfathomable!  How can life go on without them…I am alive because of them…they have always been here…life without them wouldn’t seem…well…like “life”, could it?  My parents were my first constant in this ever-changing world.  Schools change, friendships change, interests change, routines change, but our parent’s…they are always the same, they are always there.  I have never had to live without either of them, and I’ve never existed without them.   No wonder I feel so insecure and on edge every time I glance at them and realize they are getting older.  Truth be told, I DON’T want to face a world without my parents.

 

In the months leading up to my mother’s surgery, she has been extremely open in sharing with all of us her anxiety over making sure all her affairs are in order in the event something were to happen to her.  She has spent the past few months organizing her life and making her wishes known.  She has been very transparent with all of us with regard to her finances.  She’s constantly making sure we know where documents are kept, that we know that there are insurance policies, and that we have phone numbers for those organizations, or people we need to contact.  She has worked very hard to make sure we know exactly what to do after she’s gone.  She wants the peace of mind that comes with knowing that she has done everything in her power to help us get through those first few months.  She wants us to be okay.

 

I know what she is doing and why she is doing it, but at the same time, this is all so hard to deal with.  My brother’s especially have taken these conversations quite hard, and have chosen to try to avoid the subject whenever it comes up.  For my sister and me, the reaction is a bit different.  We have children so we know how she’s feeling…what she’s thinking.  From the moment we find out we are pregnant with our babies, we spend every moment of our lives trying to take care of them.  Even when contemplating our own mortalities, we still think of our children and try to devise plans to make sure that they are safe and taken care of after we are gone.  I have thought of what my death would mean to my kids, and a few years ago I had a Will drawn up to clearly spell out my wishes as it pertains to my children.  I have spoken to different family members over time in “matter of fact” and random conversations, regarding my wishes; what I want to happen when I die, how I want my kids to be raised, what I want them to know about life, and what I want them to know about me.

 

Having done the same for my own children, I understand what my mother is doing.  She is trying to take care of us…to protect us…this is her way of assuring that we will make it through.  Even knowing this, it doesn’t make it any easier to stomach.  It’s hard to have these conversations with her, and be part of her planning.  It’s hard to hear her talk about her funeral, how she wants to be cremated, how she wants her ashes spread over the ocean off the coast of Puerto Rico (where she was born).  It is even more difficult to think that as the oldest she has asked me to be her health care proxy, which gives me the sole authority over her medical care should she not be able to make decisions for herself.  It is hard to think that very difficult decisions, decisions that I may not want to make…will be left squarely on my shoulders.  It is an extremely painful thought, but I am also honored that she asked me.  As difficult as all of this is, I feel that it is my duty as her daughter to help her feel at ease that her wishes will be honored.  She is busy trying to take care of us after she is gone, so my job RIGHT NOW, is to be here and give her peace of mind, knowing that her children are open to the conversation…available to talk through these issues and decisions with her…and most of all make her feel at ease with the fact that because of her and because of her actions…in the end we will be okay.

 

Have your parents or grandparents ever approached you and had a conversation over their end of life wishes and preparations?  Where you open to the conversation?  If you have children, have you thought about drawing up a Will to spell out your own wishes with regard to their care?  Please leave a comment; I would love to hear about your experiences.

Toddler Masterminds: Operation Drive My Parents Bananas

 

After becoming a witness (or worse a victim) of your toddler’s  mischief, do you ever find yourself looking  at your kid and wondering if  behind those big chubby cheeks, adorable grins, and big round eyes, there is a toddler mastermind who’s out to get you?  Is it me or does it seem like children have this unspoken plot, a conspiracy of sorts, to turn mom’s and dad’s into grumbling, mumbling fools, who run around screaming and pulling out their hair while chasing after their precocious off-spring?  All the while these supposedly innocent children, run around screaming and giggling in delight as if they really enjoy the sight of their frazzled, disheveled parents, slowly losing control and eventually collapsing out of sheer exhaustion.  Is it just my toddler, or is it all toddlers???  Can you relate?

 

Yesterday was such a day.  My two year old “Lilly” has really stepped up her game lately.  She has intensified her efforts to drive me absolutely “BANANA’S”, with such high jinks as putting the cat in our bathroom cabinet where he stayed meowing so pitifully (poor cat) until I heard him and came to the rescue about an hour later.  Shortly then after she took it upon herself to dump out a laundry basket of folded clean clothes, spilling them all over the floor and then proceeding to do the Yo Gabba Gabba “Wiggle, Wiggle” dance all over them.  As I ran to the pile of clothes to refold and put them back in the basket, she then figured that since I was busy folding laundry, it might be fun to help herself to juice box after juice box, opening a total of 5 of them before I came into the room to check what she had gotten into.  After nap time she somehow managed to get her hands on her sister’s Blistex, and proceeded to paint her hair and face with the slimy, petroleum like solution (I will note that even after a second bath this morning she still smells like baby shampoo and Blistex…I have to say not a bad combination…who would have thought!).

As the afternoon wore on little “Ms. Lilly” raised the bar as she went…probably because you know…this is the time where mom’s sanity is most vulnerable!  By the time evening rolled around her stunts had me on the verge of a nervous breakdown.  I was physically exhausted and mentally drained.  She had already served about 8 different rounds of time out, and towards the end it looked like she was starting to enjoy serving her time.  However here we were, 7pm and just a bit shy of the best time of day…BED TIME!  I knew the time was near, and apparently so did she.  As I worked to help “Bugsy” finish his homework, “Lilly’s” last two antics of the day, literally sent this mommy into “Crazy Mommy Land”!  Out of sheer exasperation, all I could do was put her back in time out and break out the camera to document her shenanigans.  Take a look for yourselves.

 

 

As I’m helping “Bugsy” finish his homework, a shiny object on the wall catches my eye.  I quickly turn to look and what do I find?  That’s right, my car keys were stuck inside of the electrical outlet!  And see the black cord below the keys, that cord goes to our vacuum cleaner which was not plugged in when it was originally put there.  My little girl took the initiative to remove the outlet covers (which were purchased and put there as part of our attempt to baby proof…a lot of good that did as you can see), and then plugged in not just the vacuum but also my car keys.  As shocking as this was, I was more shocked and relieved that there weren’t little hands still attached to them!  God must have had his angels protecting this child, for thankfully she was not harmed.  I am sure that she did not get shocked or zapped in any way, for moments after she came out of time out (from putting the keys in the socket), she immediately attempted to put a pencil into the socket.  This mommy was not a happy camper when she saw that.

 

 

Shortly after trying to plug the pencil into the socket, I decided that maybe it was time for some constructive play so that I could ensure her safety and well being while helping “Bugsy” finish his homework.  I put her in the high chair with some crayons and a coloring book page and sat her against the wall directly across the table where I was sitting with “Bugsy”.  Not much chance that she could get herself in trouble there, I thought to myself; WRONG!!!  About 5 minutes later I look up to check on her, and find her standing up in her high chair, facing the wall, and happily coloring on the wall behind her with a green crayon!  In those 5 minutes girlfriend had managed to un-button the lap belt of the high chair, stand up, and begin painting a wall mural!  I am still in awe of how good she has become at undoing just about any kind of latch.  You cannot keep this girl down…she is an escape artist…and a true toddler mastermind!

 

 

 

 

Needless to say bed time rolled around immediately after the high chair incident.  On this night, “Lilly” had succeeded…she had won!  I still don’t know how it happened, but this little 25 lb person, managed to break her mommy’s otherwise even keeled personality.  By the time my head hit the pillow that night, I was a nervous, anxiety riddled, stressed out adult, whom was counting her lucky stars that the day was finally over.  She had shaken my “parenting” confidence; she had tested my resolve.  As I laid in my bed staring up at the darkness I slowly inhaled and exhaled and thought, “I need to regroup, figure out where I went wrong, and pull myself together… for tomorrow…is ANOTHER DAY WITH A TODDLER!!!”

 

Is it just my toddler, or is it all toddlers???  Can you relate?

Six Ways In Which Giving Birth is Like Hosting Thanksgiving Day Dinner

 

I’ve had the pleasure of hosting Thanksgiving Day dinner for approximately 6 years now, and although it’s one of the toughest meals that I put together the entire year, in the end it is always worth it.  As I sit here,  two days post turkey, thinking back through the events that transpired, I’ve realized something.  Hosting Thanksgiving dinner is a lot like giving birth!  Here’s how:

 

NUMBER 1: Planning

From the minute you find out your expecting a baby, your attention shifts to preparing for what’s to come.  For weeks before your little one is due you begin the process of buying supplies, you plan out what you’re going to feed them (breast or formula), how you’re going to diaper them (cloth or disposable), binky or no binky, and even what clothes they will wear home from the hospital.  You also plan out the birth: who will you call first, who will grab the hospital bag, which roads will you use to get to the hospital.  You make a birth plan: pain meds or no pain meds, who will be in the room, spontaneous rupture of the membranes, or is the doctor allowed to break your water, who will cut the umbilical cord, etc, etc.  Everything about the process of bringing a baby into the world consists of a carefully crafted well thought out plan…as it obviously should.

Preparing for turkey day is very similar.  I already know a year in advance that I will be hosting again come the following Thanksgiving.  For weeks before the big day I’m already contemplating what I will need to buy, what are some of the menu options I would like to try, will I need to buy more chairs, or maybe new table cloths.  As the day gets closer I then switch to building out my menu: what will I cook, what ingredients will I need, how many people will I need to feed, what paper products will I need to buy, what centerpieces I will use, etc, etc.  About a week before, I start planning out the schedule for the big day:  What will I cook first and in what order, how will I create an effective rotation of baked items so that my oven is always cooking something, while I prepare the next item that needs to go in.  Which items require more prep work?  Which items will need to be refrigerated after cooking and how much room will I have to fit all those items in the night before?  Which items can wait to be cooked Thanksgiving morning?  All of this creates a carefully crafted, well thought out plan of how things leading up to the day are supposed to go.

 

NUMBER 2:  Anticipation

As your baby’s birthday gets closer and closer, the anticipated arrival of the “big day” leaves you feeling excited and terrified at the same time!  You realize that you have done everything in your power to prepare and get ready.  You have read every book and internet article you can get your hands on, in hopes of knowing exactly what to expect when the day finally arrives.  Deep down you can’t wait to get it over with, but at the same time you kind of wish you had more time…you know…to prepare some more!  It’s a very exciting time, and you know the real work is about to begin!

 

As Thanksgiving Day gets closer and closer you are similarly left feeling excited and terrified, all at the same time.  Like with baby, you have put in countless hours, reading over recipes, making shopping list, looking at place setting ideas and fall decorations on the internet.  Pinterest becomes your new obsession as you look through pictures and instruction for DIY centerpieces and decorations.  You have done your research and feel prepared.  It’s a very exciting and stressful time that leaves you wishing that the day would hurry up and get here, but at the same time you try and wish it away for a few more days, so you have more time…you know…to prepare and rest.  The real work is yet to come!

 

NUMBER 3:  Reality Sets In

The moment you have been planning for finally arrives and your baby is on its way!  You jump into action and begin the careful execution of your plan.  It’s the middle of the day so you make your first call, your husband.  His secretary informs you he is in a meeting and after you explain the situation she assures you she will find him and get him on his way home.  Your second call is to you mother as she will be watching your oldest little one while you’re in the hospital.  After trying her home number and cell phone and getting no answer you begin to panic.  Your husband arrives about a half hour later to find you in pain and a bit of frantic.  He takes over getting your oldest ready; he grabs your bag and loads up the car.  In the meantime your mother calls back, apologizes “sorry I was at the grocery store when you called”, and she agrees to meet you at her house in a few minutes.  After dropping the oldest off you get on the freeway, the easiest and fastest way to the hospital, and realize there is a car accident 5 miles ahead causing a large traffic jam.  By the time you arrive at the hospital you are panicked, in pain, fearing that the baby will be born outside…in the CAR!!!  Thankfully you arrive, get checked in, and get into your delivery room and suddenly the contractions STOP!  It was a false alarm.  Your are then packed up and sent home to once again await the big day. 

It turns out that no amount of planning, prepared you for today!

 

Thanksgiving is very much like the scenario above.  You have put into place a carefully choreographed plan where you start with the prep work; you start with your desserts.  You cut up apples make your pie crusts, prepare the pie filling, and then just as you’re ready to put everything together you hear your two year old fall and cry out in pain.  You leave your pies for just a moment to check on your little one who fell and got a bloody nose, and suddenly you hear your oven go off, signaling the pumpkin pies are ready to come out!  So you pick up your little one while holding a bloody tissue to her nose, proceed to sit her on the counter so you can pull out your pumpkin pies.  Now your oven sits empty, and you know you should be putting the apple pie you have yet to put together into the oven so you can stay on schedule, but your little one still needs you.  So you take care of your little one, take some time to cuddle and make her feel better.  Thirty minutes later you’re rushing around trying to piece together your apple pie so you can get it into the oven before the start of the next crisis.  By the end of the day you have had more interruptions than you can remember, and instead of having pre-cooked 6 dishes, you find yourself having only finished 3.  By this time it’s bed time so you hurry the little ones off to bed, hoping that you can still save the schedule and the plan by finishing up after the little ones finally go down for the night. No sooner does the last child fall asleep, when suddenly…you’re too tired to go on!  So instead you look at the time and think, I don’t need much sleep…three and half hours should be enough…I’ll just set the alarm clock and get up early!  That should give me enough time to get everything done, right?

See, it turns out that no amount of planning, prepared you for today!

 

NUMBER 4:  It’s Beautiful!

You have been laboring now for hours…seemingly an eternity!  You are hot, sweaty, exhausted and just when you think you can’t take another moment of this, your body and your doctor’s tell you it’s time to push.  It takes everything in you to muster up the strength and courage to make those final pushes to bring your little one into the world!  You push and push with all your might until finally, that beautiful, gorgeous, slimy little person emerges.  You take one glimpse of that little baby and you are in love…what a beautiful baby I have created, you think to yourself!  It’s the most beautiful baby you have ever seen!

 

After laboring over a hot stove for hours…even days, you are finally approaching the moment you have been frantically preparing for.  Your turkey and all the trimmings are either in the oven, or sitting in a warmer ready to be served.  You put the last minute finishing touches to your table, you organize the plates, cups, silverware, napkins, and making sure everything is as it should be.  You are exhausted, hot, and sweaty.  Just as you’re ready to fall out from the exhaustion of getting little to no sleep for two days, you hear the oven beep…turkey is ready!  With what little energy you have left, you make your way to the oven…you take a deep breath…close your eyes…say a little prayer…open the oven door, and then…OH MY, it’s BEAUTIFUL!!!  With its golden color, the little thermometer thingy popped up to show that it’s ready…it’s the most beautiful turkey you have ever seen, your beautiful creation!

 

NUMBER 5:  Family Time

After months of planning and preparing, and after hours of laboring, your brand new bundle of joy is finally here!  As exhausted as you are, you now have to get ready, for in a few minutes there will be barrage of family and friends eagerly coming through the doors of your hospital room to meet the newest member of the family.  After giving birth, this is no easy task.  You are sore, exhausted, and an emotional wreck, but even still you get yourself all dolled up; you brush your hair, do your make up, put on a huge smile and in they come!!!  Everyone comes in, excited and happy as they happily talk about the momentous occasion and your new bundle of joy!  Everyone is so happy, and seemingly unaware of the exhausted mess that you are and feel.  You happily put on a smile and giggle and talk, and even though you’re so glad they are there, and that you get to share this experience with all  your loved ones, deep down inside you can’t wait until they all leave, so you can finally get some sleep!

 

The turkey is done and now all that’s left is getting you ready and dressed.  You slowly force yourself upstairs, jump in the shower and come out feeling refreshed and ready for bed.  You quickly shake off the feeling, and rush to do your hair and make-up.  You walk past your bed and stop…it’s calling you, and your body is answering.  Your brain craves sleep, but it also knows you still have a show to put on.  Your guests begin to arrive, you put on a smile and for the next few hours you entertain your guests.  You have a great time talking and sharing stories of Thanksgiving’s past, you love your family and love spending time and enjoying their company.  As the hours wear on you start wondering, do I look as tired as I feel?  Do they notice that I can barely keep my eyes open, and are just too polite to say anything?  Eventually as your guests start to leave you find yourself glad.  You love having everyone around, and you’re so glad that they came but even still you can’t wait until the last person leaves…so you can finally get some sleep!

 

NUMBER 6:  Never Again

It’s been a few days since baby entered the world.  You’re slowly getting yourself and your house back to normal.  For the most part, visits from family and friends have died down, as everyone has met the little one and they are giving you the time and space to let life return to normal.  You’re still exhausted from the ordeal and still excited and thankful you got to experience the birth of your child, and most of all that you got to share it with your loved ones.  Even with the euphoria that you feel over all the wonderful things that have happened the past few days, you look back and think to yourself…NEVER AGAIN!!! 

That is until about a year later, you see a newborn baby while out and about, and think to yourself…AWW, I WANT ANOTHER BABY!

 

It’s been a few days since Thanksgiving ended.  Family and friends are still calling to thank you for the meal and wonderful time.  You have fond memories of the experience and are so thankful for the opportunity to spend time and enjoy a nice meal with everyone you love.  As you slowly piece your home and kitchen back together, you think back to that day and recall all those wonderful memories that were made, it sure was fun, everyone enjoyed themselves, it was really nice, and then one thought crosses your mind…NEVER AGAIN!!!

That is until about a month later, when you look back at the pictures of that wonderful day and think to yourself…I CAN’T WAIT UNTIL NEXT YEAR!!!

 

Did you host Thanksgiving for your family this year?  How did you survive the frenzy of cooking and entertaining?  Can you relate to my experience?

Teaching My Daughter Those Things I Learned Too Late

My sweet “Desibelle”, 7-years-old.

 

 

It’s 9 o’clock on Thursday night, and I’m busy taking inventory of all the things I still need to get done before tucking myself in for the night. There are toys on the living room floor, school bags in the middle of the entry area, there’s a pile of clean clothes waiting to be folded, and there are dirty dishes in the sink. The familiar sound of rustling papers breaks my concentration, and I look over into the dining room to find “Desibelle” (12) sitting at the dining room table.

 

 

Me:  It’s 9 o’clock honey, it’s time you wrap that up and head to bed. 

 

Desibelle:  Aaaww…I still have so much work to do! This writing assignment is due tomorrow and I still have to finish writing the rough draft and then I have to type it…

 

Me:   That seems like a lot of work to do in one night, when did the teacher give you the assignment?

 

Desibelle:  Well she gave it to us on Monday, but I had a soccer game that night so we got home late, remember? Then on Tuesday and Wednesday we were at dad’s and there was so much going on, and their computer wasn’t working…and I couldn’t concentrate…and on top of that I was really tired. I figured I would have time to do it today; it’s just taken me longer than I expected.

 

 

I felt myself losing my cool, did I hear her right…did she say, in not so many words, that she left the assignment for the last minute? How could she do that? I spend sooo much time talking to her about prioritizing, and organizing, and how managing her time is so important with all the after school activities and the fact she has to bounce from our home to her dad’s and back again every week. How could she do this? I expect so much more from her.

 

 

Me:  Why would you leave something so important for the last minute? After all the times that I’ve sat here and talked to you about keeping up with your work, and about making sure you are doing your assignments as soon as you get them, and about the importance of managing your time and prioritizing the things you need to get done! I am so DISAPPOINTED! I expect better…ESPECIALLY FROM YOU!

 

 

As soon as the words escaped my mouth I wanted to take them back! Oh my god…did I just do that? Did I just tell her that I expect more from her than I do from her other siblings? As I reflected on our conversation later that night, I had the sudden realization that I do have different standards for my daughter than for her two older brothers. As much as I wanted to fool myself into thinking that I treat them equally, there was no denying that I have the bar set just a bit higher for my daughter. Why is that? Is that really fair to her? Is that fair to my boys?

“Desibelle” was my only daughter up until “Lilly” was born just two years ago. For 10 years Desibelle was the princess of our castle. She was smart, funny, and witty. From the day she was born, she has exuded this aura of femininity, loving everything cuddly, pink, or pretty. She has a heart of gold, going out of her way to help anyone, or any living creature in need; easily willing to sacrifice herself for the sake of someone else. She has such a deep level of empathy for people, that often I find her taking on the responsibility of solving other people’s problems, including my own. In fact, when she can’t help someone, she often feels responsible, as if she could have done more to help. From the minute my little girl was born, I saw in her, glimpses of a younger me. A more innocent me, before all the pain and baggage I currently carry became so ingrained into my soul.

 

About 5 years ago I remember talking to a friend about how wonderful my little girl was. My girl friend was commending me on what a great job I was doing in raising this sweet, loving little girl. I remember we were both going on and on about all those qualities that were such a part of her personality, all the things that made her so incredibly special. Out of nowhere it suddenly dawned on me that all those wonderful qualities could someday backfire and cause her pain. I started seeing all these horrible images of my baby girl taking on bad relationships, and surrounding herself with selfish, negative people as she tries so desperately to right the wrongs of the world. I started picturing my sweet girl hurt as those around her, try as she might, let her down or take advantage of her.  I could feel her pain and see her sorrows, I could feel her disappointment so real and so raw, and that’s when I realized that the person I was seeing was not my little girl…it was me.

 

Looking back, that was the first time I realized just how much my little girl is like me.  As her mom, watching her show such love and compassion for others was so rewarding, yet at the same time terrifying.  As she got older, she would continue to amaze me and others with her random acts of kindness.  As wonderful as those moments were, I could feel the tightness in my chest, as the ball of dread my subconscious had been building, got bigger and bigger.  There’s no other way to put it…I’m terrified of what will become of my baby girl’s heart and soul once the “real” world gets a hold of her.  I’m so afraid that the pain I have felt because of my mistakes and my sheer inability to judge people’s intentions correctly will show up in her.  I’m afraid that the terrible things that have happened to me will happen to her as well.  All those moments which left me shocked, hurt, and battered.  The incapacitating sadness and debilitating depression that would soon follow because once again, someone I trusted, someone I was trying to help, broke my heart.  As her mother my biggest fear is having to stand idly by watching as each heartbreak chisels away another layer of her beautiful soul.

 

I know that I cannot change her, and let’s be real, I DON’T WANT TO CHANGE HER.  As a matter of fact, I wish there were more people in the world like her, like us.  She will grow up and do great things in her life, likely making a positive difference in the lives of the people she encounters. To help her, I want to equip her with the tools to help her become a confident, responsible young woman.  I’m trying to teach her to be independent and self sufficient.  I’m trying to teach her that setting goals, and working hard to achieve them is the key to success.  I’m trying to teach her that no matter what, she CAN DO ANYTHING she puts her mind to.  My goal here is to empower my daughter, I want her to know that because she is the one ultimately in charge of her life, no matter what happens, she will be okay.  I want her to be confident in her ability to make decisions and to rise above her mistakes.  I myself learned these lessons all too late, after enduring years of pain and heartache.  What hurt me weren’t the people who wronged me,  but my insecurities.  It wasn’t until I hit my 30’s that I realized how strong and capable I was.  I’m making certain that my daughter knows the power within herself, and that she is confident in her abilities to overcome ALL obstacles she will be confronted with in her life.

 

In that regard I know that I am right.  It makes sense for me to equip my daughter with such knowledge.  However, after the conversation I had with her over her homework being left to the last minute, I had an epiphany.  Why do I feel so strongly about teaching her these things but not her older brothers.  Shouldn’t I also be preparing my boys for the big world and the harsh reality that it is not such a friendly place?  Of course I’m already preparing them to be responsible, confident men.  I teach all my kids those values which I hope will someday make them into successful, self sufficient adults.  But why do I push my daughter a bit harder than the boys?  The answer is quite simple, although still I’m left feeling quite conflicted, I’m trying to prepare her for what may come.

 

Simply put, life for a woman in today’s society is hard.  We live in a world where so many of us start our families with a partner and through circumstance end up raising kids on our own.  A lot of us have to balance a spouse, kids, home, and work responsibilities seamlessly.  We allow very little room for error in our own minds, and often live through a constant sense of guilt.  The reason I’m pushing my daughter so much harder than my boys is because I want her to know that she can overcome the struggle that comes with being a woman in today’s society.  I want her to know that her value should not be measured by the way that other’s see her.  I want her to know that those that hurt her or take advantage of her are not worthy of her.  I want her to know how to dig deep within herself to find the strength to move on past disappointment and sadness, past her own mistakes.  I want her to be confident in the fact that with hard work, there is hope and opportunity beyond the hurt and struggle.  I want her to never give up on herself or on life.

 

I would love to hear your thoughts.  Do you find that your expectations of your children are different depending on their needs or personality?  Are there certain things that you may enforce more strongly with one child than with another?  For those of you with both daughters and sons, do you find yourself parenting them differently?

Shared Custody: Coping With Household Transitions

 

It’s been about 2 months since the start of the new custody arrangement.  Per the agreement, the children spend 2 nights in their father’s home, then transition to my home for either 2 or 3 nights (depending on the week), and then back to dad’s for 2 day, etc.  This is a very complicated arrangement, and I am very proud of my children, as they have been extremely flexible with their dad and I, and have gone above and beyond to help ease the change.  I am a very lucky mom, and feel blessed to have such wonderful kids.  They have been amazing throughout, and if not for their efforts, this arrangement would not be possible.

 

One of the toughest issues that we have had to deal with since the start of the custody split, has been the difficulties that come with the children’s transition, as they move from house to house.  My oldest Diji (17), suffers from ADD so transitions for him tend to bring on a lot of anxiety and stress, as he tries to keep himself organized with regard to school and his extracurricular activities.  With every transition he becomes irritable and moody.  He also has trouble focusing, sleeping, and sometimes eating.  He’s worked very hard through the years to manage his ADD without medication, instead relying on what he’s learned through cognitive-behavioral therapy.  His grades since the start of the custody arrangement have suffered, but I am noticing that 2 months into the transition it is getting easier for him to get re-focused in a much shorter period of time, than it did in the beginning.  I am hoping that with continued support and encouragement, he will be able to take even more control of the anxiety he feels every time he has a change of environment.

 

My two middle children, “Doodle” (14), and “Desibelle” (12), seem to be coping the best.  They are both very easy-going kids that pretty much go with the flow.  I believe that this personality trait is the reason they are doing so well, considering the difficulty of this arrangement.  I am very proud of the two of them as they have really stepped up, and are doing a great job at staying organized and planning ahead.  Their grades are right where they should be, and for the most part they seem to be doing well.

 

The youngest, “Bugsy” (5), seems to have the toughest time making the transition back into our home.  His first day back is always the toughest and involves a lot of tantrums, crying, whining, and behavior that for the most part he outgrew long ago.  When he first returns home he is always happy to see us, but within a few minutes he reverts back to a younger version of himself.  Suddenly I have a clingy, whiny 5-year-old who wants to sit on my lap and be cuddled the entire time.  During this period he becomes difficult to please, and it seems like everything we say or do leads to a meltdown.  At the same time he’ll become defiant and will have trouble listening and following directions.  This type of behavior will continue for the rest of the day, and then by morning his temperament and behavior will revert back to normal.  It is very difficult to handle him during his first day back, as a lot of the behaviors that he exhibits are behaviors which he knows are unacceptable, yet he seems to not be able to control.  It’s obvious to all of us that this behavior is completely related to the transition.  I have a strong feeling that “Bugsy”, like his older brother, may also be suffering from anxiety that is intensified by the custody arrangement.  Not only does he struggle when returning home to us, but then again when it’s time to pack up and leave to his dad’s home.  He cries, begs, and pleads to stay home with us.  When all that fails and he realizes that he has no choice but to go, he then resorts back to the behaviors he exhibited his first day home…crying…whining…tantrums…defiance…anger.  It’s very tough to watch and handle him, as it seems that no matter what we do to correct or redirect him only escalates his frustration.

 

Initially these issues with my oldest and youngest son’s caught me off guard.  Their behavior and reaction to the change was something that I did not expect.  For some reason I was under the impression that their transition back into our home would be smooth, because I assumed they would be happy to be back home.  I didn’t realize the difficulty and struggle they would feel coming home to me, the person whom they have lived with, full-time for most of their lives.  Those first few weeks taught me that to make this new lifestyle easier for them (key…easier for THEM, because they are the ones most affected), I needed to let go of what I considered to be “normal” for us, and instead start a new way of thinking and doing things that would be more in line with our new life and the needs of my children.  Here are a few tips that have helped my children and I cope with the house hold transition:

 

TIP #1:  Allow Your Children Time To Transition

The first few times that the children returned from their fathers I really pushed them to return to “business as usual”, meaning right back into their regular routine…just as if they never left.  However, it wasn’t long before it became clear that the kids were having a tough time jumping right into their every day schedules.  For the older children, when I pushed them into their routine, they became angry and resentful; for “Bugsy”, well in one word…tantrum!  It became clear that the kids needed to use their first day back to re-acclimate back into our home.  They needed time to sort out and readjust themselves into the “new environment”.  This is something that I never expected, but after much thought I realized, why wouldn’t they need time to sort themselves out after coming home.  Think about it, even as adults when we return home after being away several nights, doesn’t it take us a couple of hours or even a day before we get can ourselves, mentally and physically, back into the “every day”?  So why would it be different for a  child?

 

Instead I now allow my children one day to get themselves sorted out and back on their schedules.  Amazingly, the three older kids work this out on their own, and typically resume what I call “normalcy” all on their own without much encouragement from me.  I just step back and let them figure it out, and they always do.  For the 5-year-old it’s a little tougher as he’s not yet old enough to regulate his own schedule.  For him I just give him what he needs, whether cuddles, extra affection, and one on one play.  I’m also more lax with regard to nap time or bedtime that first day, pushing the start times off by 30 minutes to an hour.  I follow his ques and work with him to slowly acclimate back into the routine.  By day two it’s business as usual for all!

 

TIP #2:  Allow Your Children To Vent, And Really Listen To Their Concerns

The first week of the shared custody arrangement, I had this picture of my kids returning home to me in great moods, excited and happy to be back.  In reality what greeted me as they walked in the door was 4 very different personalities, all with a different perspective on coming home.  Although the kids were happy to be home, some were annoyed (let’s face it, worrying about packing / unpacking / then packing back up 2 days later is not fun for anyone), other’s were irritable (great, we just did chores at one house now we have a whole other set of chores to do here!), and my little one was just off (It’s hard keeping track of all those rules…in one house you have one set of rules and expectations, and now in this house we have another set of rules and expectations.  It’s hard for a 5-year-old to keep track, never mind understanding why that is).  All four of my children came home and made it very clear they were displeased in some way over the situation.

 

I have learned that it is important to allow the children to voice their displeasure without fear of judgement or retribution.  It’s important to remember that children are allowed to get angry.  They’re allowed to be disappointed.  I do not take the things they say personally or feel like I have to defend myself.  If they become loud or disrespectful I do not yell back and send them to their room.  Instead, I calmly let them know that I understand that they are angry, and that I want to listen to what they have to say, “but please do so in a respectful way”.  I listen intently to my children’s comments, and assure them that I care about how they feel.  I let them know how upset I am that they are having a tough time, and reassure them that both their dad and I love them, and are available to help them through this.  I have found that by showing my children that I care about what they are feeling, they are more receptive to future conversations, and less likely to become angry and resentful.

 

TIP #3:  Do Not Superimpose Your Own Feelings Onto Your Children

I have 4 children taking part in this arrangement, and all of them have a different take and feeling over the situation.  Sometimes their feelings and what they express match my own feelings, while other time they do not.  Very often through this process my children have shared certain feelings with me that have hurt me, not intentionally, but because deep down I wished that as their mom, my love would be ENOUGH for them…that somehow because I have been their sole caretaker for most of their lives, that I would hold a larger place in their hearts then the father whom rarely made it a point to be around.  All of this was unfair and unrealistic on my part…I know that now.  Children, as nature intended, love both of their parents unconditionally!  They don’t love one over the other…they just love them equally.  I never really understood that until about 6 months ago.  As their mom it is NOT my job to second guess their feelings for their father or to show them why he is not worthy of their love…my job is to encourage their love for him and for me.  It is healthy and good for them to love us both, and as their parents we need to respect each other’s place in our children’s hearts.

 

I never talk badly about the father…I never put him down…and I never talk to the children about our conflicts…ever!!!  When my children show excitement over getting to spend time with him, I get excited with them!  When they say good things about their dad, whether in normal conversation or because they are trying to upset me, I tell them “That’s wonderful, I’m glad you’re having such a good time…or that you’re getting along so well with your dad”.  When they tell me that they hate the arrangement and that they want me to fix it, or that they blame me for what they are now going through, I never let my feelings over the situation show.  Instead I tell them, “I know this is hard.  Your dad and I are working hard to make sure that things get better and easier for you” or “I understand how you feel, but both of us want to spend time with you and be a part of your life.  How can WE help make this easier for you”.  As hard as it is, it is critically important to not let my real feelings show.  My children will be better for it, and more inclined to talk to me about their life with their dad, if they feel that I am not affected negatively, by the things they tell me.

 

Tip #4:  “Amicably” Incorporate The Other Parent Into Everyday Conversation With Your Children

In a shared custody arrangement, children spend their time in two different households with two different sets of parents every week.  One of the hardest things I had to do was face the fact, that my children have a separate life that is part of “their” everyday, but not a part of mine.  I had to accept  that they have a life apart from me, and I had to get comfortable talking to my children about that life.  I also had to come to terms with the fact that I was now sharing the responsibility of my children’s care with someone else.  In order to ensure that there was no interruption and to make it easier for my children to transition in and out of these two lives, I had to find a way to seamlessly make both lives fit together into one.  In order to do this, I began bringing up their father in every day conversation, especially when we discussed future plans.   For example, “The new batman movie comes out the night that you’re with your dad.  I know how much you wan to see it, maybe you should ask him if he wants to see it with you.” or “You have a test Friday and you’re with your dad Thursday night, don’t be afraid to ask him to test you on the study guide”.  By mentioning the other parent in everyday conversation, it really helps the children feel like there is continuity in their life, it helps merge the two separate households in their minds, therefore minimizing the disruption when they transition households.

 

Tip #5:  Improve Communication With The Other Parent

This was a biggie for me, as “Ex” and I have a tough time communicating.  However since this arrangement came to be I have gone out of my way to talk to him about things that happened while the children were in my care, as well as upcoming appointments, assignments, and any other issue he needs to be aware of as the other parent.  I’ve also made it a point to reach out to him and discuss difficulties the children may be having, along with working with him to resolve major issues.  We also discuss punishments and enforce punishments that are issued at each other’s houses.  As they say, achieving that UNITED FRONT is essential.  Overtime our communication has improved, and hopefully will continue to get better as time goes on.

 

Tip# 6:  Support The Co-Parent When The Children Are In Your Care

There are times when my children come into my home angry with their dad.  As I mention in tip #1, I allow them to vent, but immediately stop them if they begin to speak about the other parent in a disrespectful manner.  One of the values that I try to teach my children is that they need to treat ALL adults with respect.  Even though I may not always like the things that “Ex” does, or the rules he has in place at his home, he is their father and the secondary care giver.  They are to respect him and treat him in the same way that I would want them to treat me.  In the event that my children tell me that their father did something that I don’t agree with, I NEVER let my kid’s know that I disagree with his actions.  Instead I remind them that they need to be respectful of their father’s rules, and then separately and away from them discuss it with “Ex”.  As an aside…I never, ever jump to conclusions about what the children tell me has occurred.  I’ve learned through my experience that often their perspective on a situation, is different then what actually transpired.  Talk to the other parent and always give them the benefit of the doubt until you actually discuss it with them.

 

Tip #7:  Encourage Your Children To Resolve Their Own Problems As IT Relates To The Co-Parent

This is a biggie for us.  While some of the kids are happy visiting with their dad, my oldest & youngest boys really struggle.  They often tell me how they feel about the visit, what they don’t like, what annoys them.  I listen intently then ask them, “Have you spoken to your dad about how you feel?”.   More often than not they do not talk to him about their feelings and instead vent to me.  I love that they can talk to me about how they feel and what they are thinking, but let’s be real, there’s not much that I can do about their experiences while they are visiting “Ex”.  The person who can do something about it doesn’t know his children are struggling because they aren’t comfortable discussing it with him.  Unfortunately, life is full of obstacles and problems that need to be overcome, and even though I may want to, I will not always be there to solve my children’s problems.  Instead my job as their mom is to show them the steps they need to take to make it through life’s obstacles.  This is a prime example of a situation that I am unable to resolve for them.  Instead I empower them, by encouraging my children to talk to their father, “I feel bad that you’re having a tough time at your dad’s, have you told him how you feel?  He won’t know your struggling with this if you haven’t told him.  If you talk to him, he may agree to change some of the things that are happening”.  So far my children respond well to this approach, although they still do not feel comfortable discussing all their issues with him.

 

Tip #8:  Be Patient

Patience as define by my trusty dictionary is, the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.  A shared custody arrangement brings a host of challenges, troubles, and suffering not just to the children, but to the parents.  It is essential that anyone in this type of arrangement be patient with themselves, their children, their spouses, and even the co-parent.  It takes a lot of hard work, consistent effort, and a lot of trial and error before the arrangement becomes normal to all parties.  Most importantly, remember that the children are the ones in the middle of this crazy life, so it is so important that the adults in their lives show an extraordinary level of patience with them.  This arrangement is difficult enough for the adults, but for the children…there are no words to describe how difficult this is.  Imagine living out of a suitcase every day.  Imagine going from place to place several times a week with no end in sight.  No sooner do you finally get comfortable in one environment when suddenly you have to pick up and move again.  Imagine a world where you have to constantly remember, oh yeah…I can’t wear those shoes because they are at the other house.  As an adult, none of us would make the choice to live like that, yet we force our kids to do it.  Knowing this, we need to allow them to be angry, we need understand when they act out, we need to be sympathetic when they throw tantrums, and we need to be patient with them.  When they act out respond sternly but with love.  Then after things calm down go back in a calm way and discuss their feelings, what prompted the misbehavior.  Encourage conversation, even when what they say is hard to hear.  Patience is what is going to see everyone through this stressful time.

 

We are still fairly new to shared custody, and I’m always looking for better ways to deal with the difficulties that this arrangement presents.  Please feel free to share what has worked for you and your families.  What types of things does your family still struggle with?

 

Human Breast Milk In The Work Freezer, Gross???

This is a picture of “Lilly’s” first nursing session, about 5 minutes after her birth. I will always treasure this picture, as it was the beginning of our breastfeeding relationship.

 

There aren’t many topics in life that can turn this positive understanding girl into an angry raging, “about to lose my mind”, kind of person.  Even through the election process when people would post incredibly insensitive, down right insulting, sometimes sexist, sometimes racist comments…I still didn’t bat an eye and took it all in stride.  But just two days ago I came across a Facebook post that literally sent me down an angry spiral, that even now I’m still not able to get out of.  The post reads as follows:

 

*** “Who in the hell is lactating and thinking it’s all good to put that in the work freezer, I really want to know?? Grossed out!” ***

 

WHAT!?!  REALLY!?!  The fact that this person called the act of pumping “lactating” shows how uneducated this individual is about breastfeeding.  Sadly this message was posted by a woman…a middle aged mother.  I was so shocked and angry by the message she posted that I deleted my response to her 4 times (Sheesh, I’m still surprised at the horrible, vulgar things that I typed to this woman…so out of character for me), before I decided I better just keep my thoughts to myself.  The entire incident left me wondering when in the world did human milk become so gross to people?  For god’s sake, put a picture of a breast or for that matter two fully naked breasts in front of men and even women, and “gross” is not likely going to be the word they use to describe the human breast.  So if it’s not where the milk comes out of that people have a problem with…then what the heck is it???  Why is it that we’re okay with putting milk from a cow in a work refrigerator, but stick a baby bottle with human milk in there and suddenly  everyone looses their appetite.  I just don’t get it, and if someone could actually explain it to me, I would really appreciate it.

 

After the first shock wore off, my thoughts then turned to that wonderful mother, who came into work that day to provide for her family, and while doing so, took the time to lovingly express milk for her baby.  I have been that woman and can tell you what a struggle it can be to find the opportunity to pump, and even worst I know how difficult and time-consuming the entire process can be.  I give a lot of credit to mom’s who strictly pump their breast milk to feed their baby’s from bottles.  I’ve had 5 children and I can tell you that as many times as I have pumped, the largest amount I have ever expressed from my breast is 3 ounces of milk from each side.  Mind you that was after 20 to 25 minutes of pumping with a Medela Electric Pump!   Pumping is hard, it takes time, and a lot of sacrifice which breastfeeding mom’s do gladly, for they know what they are doing is to the benefit of their babies.  I don’t know the mom whom this person was talking about, but I know that I respect her for the wonderful choice that she is making for her baby.  I know that I wish her continued success in her breastfeeding journey,  I pray that god will provide her with  the support that she needs to continue and that he please shield her from the uneducated commentary of people who are so obviously insensitive and clueless.

 

As I continue to be bothered by this “shocking” Facebook post, I’ve come to the realization that normalizing breastfeeding won’t  possible until the government, health care providers, employers, and mother’s themselves, educate the public on the wonderful benefits of breastfeeding.  Not only that, but we need to enforce that mistreatment of breastfeeding women, through judging, commenting or other forms of bullying…WILL NOT BE TOLERATED!!!  Much like the way that society and employers have reinforced that behaviors such as racist remarks, sexual harassment, or remarks over someones sexual orientation are not acceptable, we NEED to do the same with regard to breastfeeding.  The positive effects of doing so may not show right away, especially within the current adult generation, but overtime it will make breastfeeding more acceptable, and more a part of the norm for future generations.

 

My youngest baby just turned 2 years old, and I have breastfed her since the day that she was born.  I am proud that not only did I grow this baby inside of me for 9 months, but that after that, my body (through my milk) continued to supply her with the nourishment to help her brain grow, help her develop a strong immune system, and help her grow into the beautiful, confident, precocious, smart, and adoring little girl that she is.  She is two now and I have plans to have her weaned sometime in the next 6 months, or even the next year if she needs it.  But even though I know that both of us are almost ready for this phase of our relationship to be over, I am still a little sad.  Breastfeeding her (and my other children) has been such an honor and an accomplishment that I will always be proud of.  I’ve been a mom for 17 years, and I have a lot of regrets with regard to mistakes I have made in parenting my children; breastfeeding doesn’t even come close to being one of them.  Lucky for me I had the support of my family, and more importantly I have learned to focus and care more about the needs of my children, then the negative comments of those on the outside.

 

My message to breastfeeding mom’s is don’t get discouraged.  What you are doing is one of the most wonderful, selfless, nurturing acts that a mother can offer to her children.  An act so simple, so basic, so instinctive, that our babies know how to root for the breast from the minute they are laid our chests for the first time.  It’s the way it was meant to be, and has been since the creation of man.  I know that not all mother’s can or choose to do it and I understand.  I myself was not able to nurse my 4th child much past his second month due to a health condition, so in no way do I cast judgement on those who choose or are not able to breastfeed.  All I’m asking is that we show breastfeeding mother’s support and respect, as it relates to the decisions they make.  Most of all we need to get rid of the taboo and disgust that come to people’s minds when they think about human milk.

 

I would love to hear your opinion about this topic.  Have you ever experienced something like this yourself, whether it was said about you or someone else?  How did you handle it?

 

 

Weekend Clutter Challenge: Weekend #1 Results (Impressive!)

Last Friday I made the decision to give all of you a glimpse of the mess that is my world!  The piles of clutter and disorganization fill (and sometime overflow!) certain parts of my home!  As stated in my earlier post, it’s not that I don’t want for my home to be clean and orderly, it’s that with 5 kids and 2 adults in one house the messes form faster than this mama can keep up with!  Between that and the fact that I spend 80% of my day feeling exhausted and defeated, it’s sometimes easier just to close the door, or look far off into the distance as you walk through a room in the hopes of not seeing the mess that you know is there.  This method works great at first, that is until you end up tripping (and almost killing yourself) over an unseen toy that you missed because you were walking through a room with your eyes staring off into the “imaginary horizon”!  Trust me…I know! :)

 

So as I posted last Friday, I will be tackling the clutter every weekend by focusing on one goal at a time.  This weekends goal was to get my children’s bedroom clean, organized, and to somehow convince the kids to donate the toys they no longer play with.  Working on this room was not easy, as it required collaborating with a 12-year-old hoarder (Desibelle) and a 5-year-old (Bugsy) who stakes a claim to all the junk that the 12-year-old agrees to part with.  So after about 3 hours of negotiating, consoling, pleading and begging, we finally achieved the results I was hoping for.  See for yourselves!  Week #1 of the Weekend Clutter Challenge, is deemed a success!!!

BEFORE
This is currently “Desibelle” and “Bugsy’s” room, soon to become “Bugsy” and “Lilly’s” room. Ugh, not pretty! :(

AFTER
Yes!!! We got an entire trash bag of trash out of the room, and convinced them to donate another trash bag full of toys.

AFTER
The toy kitchen whose pieces were all over the room. Now they are neatly stored in a bin inside the kids closet. Hoping that will help keep the mess down a bit.

AFTER
My daughter’s dresser. She wouldn’t allow me to take pictures of it before when it was messy, because she was too embarrassed. Now that it’s clean, she is happy to share it with all of you. :)

“Bugsy’s” side of the closet.

“Desibelle’s” side of the closet. The bins pictured contain items for her doll house, the kitchen, and her collection of zhu zhu pets. They are now all neatly stored away.