Month: June 2015

It’s The Little Things…

It’s The Little Things…

As many of you may remember, I have a ridiculous obsession with lists. In fact, on top of my binders full of various to-do lists, I keep a daily have-done list in my journal.

Every now and then as I go about my day I think about all the things that don’t get written down in my “have-done” list. Today, I thought I’d take a moment to acknowledge all the things that never seem big enough to bother keeping track of.

  1. Gave my daughter 6 sippy cups full of chocolate milk. Yes, I know it’s added sugar and calories and that it should probably be a special treat instead of a go-to beverage, but it makes her happy and a non-screaming toddler makes mama happy.
  2. Tried to get my daughter to use the potty approximately 900 times…without any success. 
  3. Gave my daughter 8 million snacks. Seriously, I don’t understand how such a tiny human can have such a big appetite!
  4. Cleaned up approximately 7 thousand spills. I’m not sure how it happens, but somehow there’s a new mess to clean up every five minutes or so. 
  5. Refolded the same pile of laundry 4 times. For some reason, my daughter loves to knock over the stacks of freshly folded clothes and watch me re-do them.
  6. Hid in the bathroom to squeeze in a few moments of sanity (at least twice). I don’t know why I continue to attempt this. It almost never works.
  7. Made two runs to the grocery store after realizing I forgot milk. Again. I wish someone would have warned me that “new mom brain” never really goes away.
  8. Switched out the Disney DVDs that are always droning on in the background (at least 6 times). Whatever allows me to get some housework done, right?
  9. Read “Green Eggs and Ham” no less than 7 times. I really need to hide this one and get her hooked on a new book. Also, has anyone else noticed that the message of the book is less “try new things” and more “give in to shut up incessant nagging”?
  10. Gave at least 20 piggy back rides. I don’t know why this is my child’s preferred mode of transport, but I’m sure it’s a good workout for mom.

I’m sure I could stretch this list out to include a hundred or more little things that I do–many of them repetitively–throughout the day, but I think you get the point. What’s crazy to me is I look at this list and I know that many days this is on top of several loads of laundry, dishes, cooking 3 meals, messing with this here blog, and so much more!

The other thing that sticks out to me is that there are many, many nights where I plop myself on the couch and I look at my short have-done list, feeling like I’ve accomplished nothing, yet my body is screaming at me to get some rest. It is in these moments that I wonder, “Why am I so tired? I didn’t do anything today!”

But I have. I’ve done a lot. I just don’t give myself credit for it. 

So, my fellow tired moms (and dads!), I issue you this challenge: really look at what you’ve done with your day. Allow yourself to acknowledge all those little tasks and feel accomplished. You’ve spent your day taking care of your child, as well as dealing with all the other tasks life throws at us. You’ve done a lot today! Take a moment to bask in that glory, and then do something to recharge your batteries. Read a chapter of that book, play that video game for a few minutes, call that friend–whatever it is that you’d like to do–and then get some of that sweet, sweet sleep.

Weathering The Storm

Weathering The Storm

Growing up, I never thought twice about tornado warnings. According to my dad’s favorite story, our hometown is protected from tornadoes. An Indian Chief stood “right here” and proclaimed that a tornado would never touch this land. It’s a story I’ve heard at least 800 times, and the stats seem to back it up. Our little town has had very little tornado activity compared to the surrounding areas.

This story came to mind as the sirens started blaring Monday afternoon. I no longer live in the protected area, a fact that became very clear when I received a text from Almost-Father-In-Law telling me to get to the basement.

I turned on the radio and listened to the reports. A tornado was spotted 8 miles away and was headed towards us at 20 miles an hour. We were advised to take shelter now.

I was rounding up The Princess when Almost-Husband rushed in the door, telling me that we needed to get the basement. Upon opening the door, we found it flooded out, which seems to be a recurring problem. He advised me to stay in the hallway, which runs through the middle of our apartment and has only one window at the far end.

So there I sat, phone in hand and daughter in lap, listening to the droning voices on the radio as they repeated their warnings and gave the latest updates. Damage was indeed occurring in our area.

The air went silent as darkness filled our home. The power was out and suddenly it all seemed very real.

A number of thoughts ran through my mind as we hunkered down in the hallway. Ranging from the practical to the ridiculous:

  • The house can blow down, as long as we’re safe and the box containing all my baby pictures and other family mementos doesn’t get destroyed.
  • Oh wait. My computer! 300 pages of my novel and countless other ramblings are on there! I’ve never backed it up anywhere else! Why haven’t I backed it up? If it’s destroyed all that work is gone forever…
  • I just spent all day cleaning this house. If this tornado ruins all that work I’m going to be pissed.
  • What about the new house? We close in three days…it would be just my luck if it get’s wiped out right before we get the keys.
  • Why did we ever move? We were safe from this tornado b.s. back home!
  • Does our car insurance cover acts of God?
  • I really need to steam clean this carpet again when this is over with.
  • We’ve only had our car for a month. I don’t want to car shop again.
  • Where’s my cat? Is he okay? Why won’t he stay in the damn hallway?!
  • I wish I was wearing real-person clothes. I don’t want to be rescued in my sweatpants. I at least should have put on a real bra. 
  • The Princess is naked. At least she has a pull-up on. From now on she’s wearing clothes, whether she likes it or not. You can’t be naked in an emergency.

Soon it had died down and it was safe to leave the hallway again. Almost-Husband returned to work and I set about finding candles, since the power was still out. The good thing about being Wiccan is you always have enough candles to light a small village. Unfortunately, 90% of my possessions are currently in boxes in preparation for the move, so I had to dig a little to find them.

Once I was sure we’d be able to see, I began worrying about the power being out. I was worried about the food in the fridge going bad. I was worried about the fact that our stove is electric and it was past dinner time. I was worried about not being able to listen to the radio for updates. I was worried about not being able to charge my phone and having an emergency pop up. I was worried about passing the time without my computer, which needed to be charged. I was worried about my schedule being thrown off. I was worried that the worst was yet to come.

I set about letting everyone know that I was safe and started making plans with what to do with the remainder of the night. A friend sent me a text telling me she’d heard that our grocery store had been leveled and the magnitude of the situation really set in.

Almost-Husband returned home shortly thereafter. The shop was closed since there was no power. We milled around the house, trying to decide if the rain had stopped long enough to get the grill going so we could have some dinner.

About an hour later, the power was back. The storm had passed. We hopped in the car and drove over to the new house to see if any damage had been done. A tree had come down in the yard, but it had missed the house and all else looked fine. We decided to head to the gas station and found that everything on that side of town was still without power. Roads were blocked off and there was no where to turn around. We drove out past the grocery store and saw that the diner area had been wiped out along with some other damage to the building.

We had to drive a bit to be able to turn around. The traffic was a bit heavier than normal and when we got back to our side of town, the two gas stations were jam packed. People were coming from surrounding towns to gas up and get whatever they needed, in addition to everyone in town.

As I sit here writing this post, it all seems very surreal. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and everything is peaceful. Although there was significant damage to many buildings and homes, the damage wasn’t nearly as widespread as it could have been, which is something we should all be thankful for. To those who did endure property damage or had their place of business impacted, my heart goes out to you.

As for my family, I am extremely thankful that neither the apartment, nor the home we are purchasing, sustained any damage. We weathered the storm together. Despite my anxiety issues, I managed to stay relatively calm and collected, which is no small feat. And, although there was certainly some fear involved, we made some interesting family memories.

Today, I feel a new sense of clarity. Life is full of storms, and it seems to have been a rather rainy season for our family for a while now, but we always get through it. More importantly, we always come out stronger. There is always something to learn, even from the worst of times. As long as we have each other, what’s a little rain?

Yes, Her Shirt Is Backwards. No, I Do Not Care.

Yes, Her Shirt Is Backwards. No, I Do Not Care.

It may come as no surprise to most of you that independence is something I believe in fiercely. In fact, it was Almost-Husband’s non-conformist, free-thinking attitude that first attracted me to him upon our first meeting way back when I was 16.

It follows naturally then that now, at 28, it is a value we both wish to instill in our daughter. We also want her to have a sense of creativity, competency, and confidence. I’m assuming most of you feel the same to one degree or another.

The thing is, these are not lessons that can be taught with words alone, especially when your child is very young. Instead, they are taught not only by our actions, but by our reactions to daily occurrences. We must be mindful of the kind of messages we are sending if we want to raise children with a healthy sense of self.

To illustrate these types of non-verbal lessons, let’s look at the example that seems to be drawing the biggest reaction in my daughter’s life right now: dressing herself.

We let The Princess pick out her own clothes each day, the only exception being occasions where we are expected to dress up (weddings, holidays, etc), in which case she still gets to choose from pre-approved options. I want her to feel free to express herself in anyway she chooses and to develop her own sense of style, which often results in hilariously mismatched outfits, because let’s face it, 2 year olds don’t really care if vertical stripes go with horizontal stripes.

They also don’t care what the weather is like or whether their clothing is on backwards…

You may note that both her shirt and her shoes are on backwards. What you can’t see in this picture is that it was also 80-something degrees out. You also can’t see the attempts at getting her to at least put on shorts.

“Mommy’s wearing shorts. Daddy’s wearing shorts. Do you want shorts?” I ask, as my child runs up to me with a pair of long pants.

“No, just fine,” she replies.

“Are you sure? It’s hot out.”

“Just fine,” she repeats, a bit more emphatically.

I shrug and let her continue. When she starts sweating she’ll change her mind, or she’ll learn to deal with the consequences of her decisions. Either way, it’s her body, not mine.

As she puts her shirt on, I gently point out that it’s backwards. She does not care, once again replying with “just fine.” We do the whole dance again when she puts her shoes on the wrong feet. We point out what’s “wrong” and offer to help, but we don’t push the issue or force her to change. There is a reason for this. A few reasons, actually.

The first has to do with fostering independence. We don’t want her to feel like she absolutely has to do something one way simply because that’s how everyone else is doing it. We want her to know that it’s okay to think outside the box and march to the beat of her own drum. Just think of all the great inventions and advances we would have missed out on if no one dared to try anything different!

The second reason, which may be even more important, has to do with developing her inner voice and her sense of competency.  It’s the same reason I don’t refold the towels in front of her when she’s helping with the laundry. Or, for a more concrete example, if a child brings you a drawing that looks like this…

…and tells you that it’s a bird, you don’t say, “That looks like crap. You should have done it this way…”. You tell them it’s a very nice bird. She’s proud of accomplishing a task and I don’t want to trample on that. By constantly correcting a child, you’re giving them the message that they are always wrong. I don’t know about you, but I do not want my child’s inner voice to be one that says, “I never do anything right. I’m stupid. I fail at everything.” I want her to feel like she’s capable and to celebrate her accomplishments so that she keeps practicing those skills and naturally progressing, instead of giving up.

The third reason really comes down to a simple phrase I heard my grandmother use quite often, “pick your battles.” Why waste energy on something as silly as clothing? If you make everything a fight, kids learn to be secretive or combative. If they feel you are on their side, they are more willing to listen to you when you offer advice.

Whether it’s dressing herself or some other task, we help her when she asks for it and offer help when she looks like she’s struggling, but we don’t push or step in unless it is a health or safety concern. 

I believe children learn best through exploration and encouragement. I also believe it is my job to merely guide her as she develops at her own pace. To me, being a successful parent is raising a child into an adult who is capable of thinking for his or herself and running their own lives. To get there, we must begin with allowing them to master tasks on their own, started with the basics and increasing with difficulty as they grow mature.

Tomorrow it will be more household chores. In a few years, it will be schoolwork. Before I know it, it will be bigger decisions, like choosing the right career path. But today it is clothes, and I embrace her backwards shirt.

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Cape Town, South Africa