Tag Archives: parenting

Motherhood: The Lesser Known Lectures

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By the time I got pregnant with our first child, I considered myself something of an expert on motherly lectures, having been on the receiving end of countless iterations of such classics as “If Everyone Else Jumped Off a Cliff, Would You Do It, Too?” and “This Hurts Me More Than It Hurts You.” I could recite “Well, I’m Not Everybody Else’s Mother” in three languages, and I was already rehearsing “Money Doesn’t Grow On Trees, You Know” in anticipation of the onslaught of kid-centric advertising sandwiched in between Saturday morning cartoons.

In short, I thought I was prepared.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Perhaps our kids are just unique. Or maybe my memory of childhood is not that clear. Whatever the cause, I have found myself cast adrift, forced to spin parenting soliloquys from thin air for situations I never dreamed of as I prepared to bring a new little life into the world. It was clear as soon as my tiny darlings began to walk and talk and interact with others that there were some pages missing in my Motherhood Manual, key lectures that I was forced to deliver with little or no preparation. Allow me to list a few of them for your edification. And, as if the subjects aren’t strange enough, remember–these are all speeches I’ve had to give more than once:

  • “Girls Don’t Like to Be Told They’re Squishy, Even If They Are”
  • “The Coffee Table is Not a Surfboard” (closely related to that maternal classic: “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things”)
  • “Are You Really Standing There Telling Me You Didn’t Do It When You Know I Just Saw You Do It?”
  • “Underwear is Not Optional”
  • “You Two Are Family, and Family Doesn’t Hit Each Other In the Face With Light Sabers”
  • “If You Come Upstairs to Wake Us Up Before Six A.M., Your Hair Better Be On Fire”
  • “School Starts In Ten Minutes! Why Didn’t You Tell Me You Needed to Dress Up As a Dr. Seuss Character/Baseball Player/Ice Cream Sundae Before Now?”
  • “Don’t Just Say You’re Sorry–Show You’re Sorry”
  • “After You Belch or Pass Gas, The Correct Response is ‘Excuse Me’, Not ‘Good One!'” (This one is not limited to the children of the house, I’m sorry to say.)

How about you? What unexpected parenting lectures seem to take place over and over in your house?

Crowning the New Spelling Queen

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The spelling bee brought together all the private schools in the area.  Grade by grade, the spellers stepped forward to sit in a row of cold metal chairs beneath the glaring gymnasium lights.  Fourth grade started things off, drawing numbers and sitting in order, nervously fidgeting and kicking their feet while each awaited his moment to stand up and twist the letters of the alphabet into one of their numberless permutations.

In the stands, I was tense.  Not for the outcome, which didn’t concern me so much, but for Katie’s feelings.  Part of her struggle with Asperger’s is an occasional inability to cope with strong emotions, and I was afraid of how she would handle the losing part of competition.  Would she be overwhelmed and burst into tears of disappointment?  Or would she bear up with stoic seriousness until the round was over?  Although I had tried my best beforehand to prepare her for the possibility, I held my breath every time she stood to spell.

Round after round, she spelled each word correctly.  On a couple of them, she asked for a sentence or a definition.  The pronouncer told me later that as he watched her mull over each word, he could see the exact moment when the light bulb went on in her head.  She spoke the letters clearly and confidently, emphasizing each one with a jab of her finger, as if she could see the word hovering in the air in front of her.

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Finally, it was down to two.  Both girls did a wonderful job, but in the end, Katie was declared the winner.  A big grin lit her face and she did a silent herky of joy as the announcer congratulated her, then turned to me with an expression of amazed happiness that clearly said, “Can you believe it, Mom?”  The second place winner, who will be the alternate in the next stage of the competition, tapped Katie on the shoulder and, with the beginning of tears welling up in her eyes, graciously said, “You did a good job!”  “So did you!” Katie returned, and a cacophony of congratulations swelled around us.  For the rest of the day, Katie was a mini celebrity at school, delighted recipient of hugs and compliments everywhere she went.

I thought I couldn’t possibly be any prouder of her.

This morning she proved me wrong.

On the day of the spelling bee, the judges had explained the rules of elimination, including the procedure for having two spellers left in the competition.  At the moment Katie won, I had been expecting her to have to spell another word to claim victory.  When they suddenly declared her the winner, the attendant hubbub as I filled out papers and made proud phone calls to friends and family swept that detail to the back of my mind and I didn’t think of it again all day.  This morning, however, I woke up with it nagging at me, and wondered if a mistake had been made.

I dug the rule paper out of Katie’s desk and looked over it again, but it didn’t shed much light.  I paced and fretted, fretted and paced, until Paul urged me to do whatever it took to set my heart at rest.  I couldn’t stand the thought of disappointing Katie and somehow taking this victory away from her, but I knew that it was important to make sure everything had been done fairly, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that it wouldn’t be right to let it go without checking.  So I took the matter to Katie.

I explained to her that I was wondering about whether the administrator had made a mistake on the rules.  I pointed out the rule to her and told her what it would mean if we called the spelling bee officials to investigate.  “They may consider the results of the spelling bee fair and binding, or they may ask us to come back in so that you can replay the last round of the competition again.  If that happens, there is a chance you could lose, sweetie.  What do you think we should do?”

She only paused for a second.  Then she sighed a little and said, “Let’s call them, Mom.”

I thought my heart would burst.

As a parent, you always wonder if the lessons you are trying so hard to impart to your children are sinking in.  Treating others fairly, being honest in small things and large, doing what is right even when it is most difficult or costly–these are the hallmarks of integrity, and to see it blossoming in my child made the joyful celebration of yesterday pale into insignificance.

I pulled her up into my lap and told her that.  Later, we called the spelling bee arbiter and explained our concern.  He cleared up my misunderstanding of the rule and reassured us that Katie’s victory was well-earned and would stand.  He wished her good luck and reminded her to study.  He remembered her, he told me, for the smile that lit up her whole face when she got a word correct.  “Like she has a glow inside,” he said.

Yes, I thought.  Yes, she does.

May it shine on.

Look Over There!

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My friend Family Phil was kind enough to invite me to guest post on his delightful blog, A Family Runs Through It.  I’ve been enjoying Phil’s unique point of view as a stay-at-home dad and homeschooling guru for quite a while now, and I heartily recommend a visit for a fresh perspective on parenting that will make you laugh and cry and think, in turns.

Head over to check out my post on playing games with your kids, and stay to take a look around Phil’s world!

Confessions of a Mommy Blogger

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When I started blogging, I never intended to write a “mommy blog”. I just wanted to write. But they say to write what you know, and what I know in this season of my life happens to revolve around potty training and PBS television, cheerios and crayons–all the flotsam and jetsam of an existence defined, at least temporarily, by the two precious souls I have in my care.

So I write about boogers. About bedtime rituals and birthdays. I blog our sleepless nights and our busy days. I share my rare flashes of parenting insight and the cute things kids say. Sex talks, sibling rivalry, pancakes, puke (did I mention puke?)—nothing is above or below my purview as a member of Team Procreation.

I am mommy. Hear me roar.

There was a time, when I was younger, that I feared becoming a mother. I was afraid of losing myself—of having my love of great literature usurped by a cultish devotion to Dr. Seuss, of trading in my stylish clothes for a uniform of baggy sweats with permanent spit-up stains, of not recognizing the girl in the mirror as the one who dreamed of travel and adventure and changing the world in some sweeping stroke of divine inspiration.

I’ve been a mother for a decade now, and I can honestly say that I haven’t been lost, as I feared, but found—transformed into the self I never knew I always wanted to be.

There have been changes, true.

I’ve learned that love truly does conquer all, including my fundamental aversion to handling other people’s body fluids.

I’ve rediscovered my inner child. Also, my inner chef, my inner therapist, and my inner drill sergeant.

I’ve uncovered fears that far eclipse the loss of my skinny jeans.

But in essentials, I’m very much the same as I ever was.

I still love great literature, but my definition of greatness has widened to include the likes of Seuss and Sendak, sandwiched cozily next to Bronte and Browning on our bookshelf.

I still enjoy a beautiful pair of shoes, or the perfect little black dress, but what I’m wearing isn’t nearly as important to me now as what I’m modeling for my children in my choices and actions. (And judging from pictures of the good old days, I wasn’t as stylish as I thought I was, anyway.)

I still love travel and adventure, but now every adventure is seen through the fresh eyes of childhood, wonders piled upon wonders, a mystery around every new corner.

Most of all, I still dream of changing the world, but I realize now that the change I envisioned will not sweep through on a grand gesture of mine, but will creep tenderly in through the hearts that are growing beneath my care, hearts soaked daily in the waters of love, compassion, faith, and hope.

And the Divine inspiration? Well, I couldn’t do any of it without that.

So there it is.  I have a Mommy Blog, and I’m proud of it.  (But check back in fifteen years or so for posts about beautiful shoes.)

No Carrot? No Problem!

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Yesterday was a perfect snowman day. It was about 34 degrees. The seven inches of powder which fell earlier this week, covering the icy sediment below and closing schools on Tuesday, had softened up into a beautiful, dewy slush. After dropping Paul at work and Katie at school, Caleb and I indulged in an impromptu snow fight, and every handful of snow became an instant snowball, no packing required. One missile, targeted at my head, missed and hit the side of our apartment building instead. It clung there in an icy clump of mush; I could almost see the word “splat” hanging in the air above it. Like I said, a perfect snowman day.

After we picked Katie up that afternoon, the three of us headed over to North Idaho College. The students hadn’t yet returned to class, and the campus was covered with acres of pristine, undisturbed snow. At least, it was undisturbed before we got there. After spending the whole school day obeying a “no snowball throwing” rule, Katie was eager to paste her brother with a couple of good ones, so the snowball fight continued with Katie in my place. (I declared myself off limits–you know, since I was holding a camera and all.)

Twenty minutes later, once the artillery ground to a halt and the mutual whitewashes petered out, we got down business: our snowman. Conditions were so ideal that the snow nearly rolled itself into balls, and before long we had the traditional three-tiered personage taking shape beneath our hands. But Katie seemed upset. “Wait a minute! How can we make a snowman when we didn’t bring a carrot for the nose?” she asked. I declared it a problem-solving opportunity and set her to finding embellishments for our icy friend while I worked at stabilizing and smoothing the snowman’s structure. She came back with two long sticks for arms, and for the nose, a short, fat twig that substituted very well for a carrot (with the added benefit of being less attractive to Bambi and his relatives, who often come down from the surrounding woods to graze.) Being fresh out of lumps of coal, I had to improvise some eyes and a mouth from the tiny, hard cones I found underneath a nearby fir tree.

Finally, we stood back to admire our handiwork. It was getting dark, but I snapped a few pictures with my pocket camera, praying that I wouldn’t drop it in the snow, since I couldn’t feel my fingertips anymore.

On our way back to the car, I asked the kids what they thought we should name our newly created frozen friend. Katie started to mull it over, but Caleb instantly piped up, “His name is Odie!” And Odie it was.

I know Odie won’t be with us long. The streets are running wet with ice melt today and every so often the silence outside is punctuated by the soft “whump” of piled up snow sliding off of the roof. Nevertheless, he’s already accomplished a lot in his short life. He’s helped to foster the creative spirit in two enthusiastic young minds. He’s brought smiles to the faces of passersby, invoking visions of their own snowmen and snowman days. And he’s contributed another brick to the house of happy childhood memories I hope we are building for Katie and Caleb.

Who needs a carrot?

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It’s a Dirty Job

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In terms of visceral reaction, it was a little like stumbling across a bunch of dead bodies in the basement.

Ugh.

I can barely write about this without gagging.

It’s true what I learned in the second grade. Boys are, in fact, gross. And since the boy in this particular story once threw his own poop under the bed, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. But I was.

The kids woke me up early this morning, and I was still half asleep as I stumbled through our morning routine. Paul usually gets up with the kids on Saturday so I can sleep in, but today he left for a day of snow skiing with the guys just as the rest of us were rubbing the sleep out of our eyes. So there were no reinforcements around when I made my gruesome discovery.

I was making Caleb’s bed, pulling up the sheets and tucking them under the mattress, when I felt something hard and pointy scrape across the back of my hand. Thinking it might be an exposed nail head, I ran my fingers along the inside of the bed frame. It was rough and pebbly, and I was completely flummoxed as to what it could be, so I pushed the mattress away from the bed rail to have a closer look. For a moment, my brain couldn’t even register what I was seeing into a known category. When recognition finally clicked into place, I recoiled in horror.

There, pasted against the hidden inner surface of Caleb’s bed frame, were a hundred thousand petrified boogers.

Yes, boogers.

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(Author pauses to indulge in a renewed fit of shuddering and retching.)

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It took forty minutes, reams and reams of antibacterial wipes, and all the mental fortitude I possessed to clean up the abomination. It was a magnificently revolting sculpture, layer upon loathsome layer, the cumulative work of many months of secretive mucus deposits.

All the time I worked, Caleb worked with me, while I lectured him mercilessly about germs and Kleenexes and the importance of not being disgusting in relation to his future dating prospects.

I mean, who does that?

Four year old boys, that’s who.

How naïve I was, thinking that the grossest part of parenting was behind me with the burp cloths and the dirty diapers. Apparently good hygiene education covers a lot more than cleaning behind your ears and washing your bits and pieces. If “don’t wipe your boogies on the furniture” has to be expressly spelled out, then what other instructions have I overlooked? “Don’t save toenail clippings in your toybox”? “Don’t keep used toilet paper”? “Don’t leave peanut butter banana sandwiches under your bed”?

That’s it. I’m starting a list. Feel free to add to it.

I just can’t handle any more crusty surprises.

*shudder*