Adventures in Bathtime

I don’t know about you, maybe yours is the kind of house where bathtime is a calming experience, the end of the day when little whirlwinds finally sit still for 10 minutes and you can sit still, too. Maybe yours is the kind of house where you put a few drops of lavender oil in the bath and the little angels settle right down in preparation for bedtime.

Mine isn’t.

First off, I can’t bathe my kids at the same time anymore, because as soon as I turn my attention to one, the other is either dumping water onto the floor or taking a bite out of the soap. 

Seriously. She ate the soap. Twice.

So what I have to do is strip and wash one before the other one realizes what’s going on, then power-dry and hope to goodness that the first one actually gets dressed like they’ve been told while I speed-wash the second one. 

Even back when I would bathe them at the same time, though, it went something like this:  
Bath is over and the water has all been sucked down the drain, much to the chagrin of my littles, and I take the Princess out of the tub, dry her off, and put a diaper on her. Then I send her into her room to find her pjs. 
Big brother is a little more adamant about staying in and shivering in the now-empty tub, so it takes a little longer to wrangle him out. Finally I’m victorious, and I proceed to dry him with what you would think was sandpaper from the howls. Pause here, and chase a squealing, buck-naked baby down the hallway. 
Finally, I get her wrestled back into her diaper, and come back to Brother, who by this time is busily caking $10-per-ounce, organic diaper cream all over his little boy parts.
I kneel down to wipe his hands, and other things, when he announces, “I went potty.” 
“Where?” 
“Right there.” and he points… right where I’m kneeling. Now the warm wetness is soaking through my favorite jeans. So much for going all day without having to change my clothes. 
I sigh, wipe him off, and put a pull-up on him. Just then, the nudist appears again, and off I run to diaper her for the third time in 10 minutes. For good measure, I find her pajamas (stuffed in between the couch cushions) and proceed to dress the little darling. Have you ever tried to dress an octopus that is still a little bit soapy? Let me tell you, Two-year-old dressing should be an Olympic sport. 

About this time, Daddy comes home. 

Remember, one child is still basically naked, one is wailing that I put the wrong pajamas on her (“I WANT THE CINDERELLY ONES!”) and there is water all over the bathroom and teeth marks in the soap. 

The man takes one look that encompasses the chaos, disheveled wife with cold urine seeping down the front of her pants, offspring in various states of undress, since Princess has decided to change her pj’s without consulting me, and house that looks like it saw a civil war, and without missing a beat he says, 

“Do you have any wine left?”

“Yes, why?”

“Oh, good. I was prepared to go back to town and get some, but I guess I don’t have to. Let’s get these kids in bed.”  

Growing in Love

This morning I was getting dressed while my husband sat at the computer in our bedroom, and I knew we had to have the conversation I had been working up to for days.
“Honey, I need to tell you something.” I could see him tense up, because those words rarely mean anything pleasant. “I love you,” at this point he turned away from the computer and looked at me warily.
“I love you deeply and devotedly, and I love that you bring me things like doughnuts and oreos and wine when you come home from work. It makes me feel very loved.” At this point he was trying to hold in his laughter as he watched me hop and dance around the room, trying to fit my behind into the jeans I bought the month after our honeymoon.
“But you have to stop,” I continued, “because my clothes don’t fit me anymore!” 
By now, there was no trying. He giggled, he snickered, he howled. I wiggled, I jumped, I danced, I squeezed. I shot him a death glare as I peeled them off and pulled stretch pants out of my drawer. 
Carbs are my weakness, and he knows it. Chocolate and wine are like kryptonite, I lose all strength and will-power when they’re around. If we’re going out as a family on Saturday morning, the first two stops are the local doughnut shop and the drive-through coffee shop. I love food. Good food. And drinks. 

*Over-Sharing Alert*

In college I spent almost a year living on as little food as I could manage. I saw hunger as a sign of self-discipline and spent hours obsessing about how little food I could eat, and congratulating myself every time my stomach growled. 
Of course, within a few months I was having trouble focusing in my classes, my skin was drying out, my hair was falling out, and my social life was suffering. 

Long story short, I got help and decided that was never going to happen to me again. So now I enjoy my food, and sometimes when my brain says “I shouldn’t eat that, think of the fat content!” my heart says “But I’ll enjoy it, and I’ll do some cardio later to make up for it.” And occasionally I actually do. (occasionally do the cardio. I always enjoy the food)

I have three beautiful sisters, none of whom have had kids yet. They all have smaller feet, smaller waists, and bigger… yeah, those things all girls want to be bigger. Even the fourteen year old. Family functions are a fiasco of self-image issues for me. 
But I’ve learned something recently about body image, and here it is: 

Little girls are born without self-image hangups. 

But if my daughter, who is in that “retaining everything, human sponge” phase, hears me say “I shouldn’t eat that, I’m too fat already” or “I just wish I could lose those last 5 (10) pounds” or “Uhg, this shirt shows off my arm flab/baby pooch/cellulite!” she is going to internalize that attitude toward her body. But if she sees her mommy living her life, loving her body, and enjoying both food AND excercise, she will internalize THAT instead, and that’s the attitude I want my little one to have. Not only that, but it’s also the attitude that I want my son to have toward women’s bodies. So the way I treat and talk about my body, excercise, and food is the way my kids will view their own and (hopefully) their spouses’ bodies, someday. 


Widened hips for perching babies,
Soft tummy for littles to lean on,
Strong legs for chasing Munchkins,
Squishy arms for comfy hugs. 

No more bikinis, but that’s ok,
My body’s for more important things
These days.

Avoiding the Monster-in-Law

My mother-in-law came to stay for the weekend. 
Since Brother and Sister have extensive food and chemical sensitivities, having houseguests is always a touchy thing. All it takes is a dollop of scented lotion or a squirt of hairspray to ruin the whole visit. 
Parenting is a touchy thing. Everyone has a different idea of how to do things, and it’s personal because everyone does their best to raise their own kids. Anything I do differently than you do/did is because I think my way is better for my family, and if I’m not careful that can quickly turn into, or at least feel like, judging. With my own parents I can always be sure that, whether or not we agree, they love me and my children, regardless. But that’s not always true in the case of in-laws. There are a few things I’ve learned about relationships with parents and in-laws that helped in my marriage and family relations, so I want to share them with you.

1. You marry the whole family.
        Never go into a relationship with the idea that if you don’t like your Love’s family, they will just go away. 
Not. Going. To. Happen. 
Always assume you are going to have to deal with these people for the rest of your life. If you can’t deal with that idea, well, there are other fish in the sea. Remember, this is your Love’s family, chances are he/she feels the same way about them that you do about your own. 

2. Complaining doesn’t endear anyone.
        So you made the decision that you can deal with your spouse’s family and now you’re married. Don’t complain about them. Complaining and whining about family just creates strife and resentment, and causes your spouse to have to choose sides. 
Granted, sometimes there are real issues that need to be addressed, as a couple, with one set of parents or the other, but nearly everything can be addressed in a helpful, constructive manner. I hope this doesn’t embarrass anyone (yes, my in-laws read my blog!) but when Hubby and I were first married we moved into a house that his parents own, and into Hubby’s old bedroom. We were leaving the country, so it didn’t make sense to rent a place for a month when there was an empty house available. One morning when his parents were visiting, I was sitting on our bed with the door partly open, and his dad walked in, opened the closet, put something in it, and walked out. It’s HIS house, HIS son’s bedroom, it didn’t even occur to him that it might be an issue. But it was to me. By some insane luck, my 20-year-old self reacted correctly: I went to my husband and calmly explained what had happened and that it made me uncomfortable. Thanks to The Lord, his 20-year-old self reacted correctly, as well. He pointed out that it had been FIL’s house a lot longer than it had been mine, that he didn’t mean anything by it, and then he mentioned it to his dad and it never happened again. Wins all around.

3. Space is the best peacemaker.
        Sometimes it’s not practical, or even possible, but putting space between you and your families is one of the best ways to keep the peace. I’ve never, ever, ever met anyone who said to me, “We live with my parents/in-laws and it was the best decision we ever made.” If it can be avoided, two adult women should never have to share one cooking space. Even if you have to share a house, finding a balance and respecting each other’s space is non-negotiable. 

4. Communicate.
        Your in-laws are your spouse’s family, it’s important to treat them like family. One way I make sure to do that is at Christmastime and birthdays. Since our families live 10 hours apart, planning is imperative! Making sure each family gets the same amount of time and different ideas of what the kids want/need is just a beginning. Sometimes communication is best when it goes through your spouse, especially if there have been bridges burned in the past, but ladies, a word for you: don’t make your husband/son choose between you. Even if he makes the right decision (sorry, Mom, the right decision is his wife) he’s still going to be miserable, and so will you. Trust me, it won’t end well. Open, honest, direct, and mature communication is key to a good in-law relationship. 

5. Respect each other.
        My sister-in-law lives with us. She has been with us since Sister was born, and she’s a permanent authority figure for my kids. I’m not going to lie, it’s been difficult for both of us to learn to live together. One of the big things for me was letting her be an authority, even when I was around. A few times one of the kids would come to me with tears in their eyes and wail, “Auntie told me NO!” 
I had to learn to say, “then go talk to Auntie about it.” If I had comforted, or even dismissed the issue, that would have been disrespectful to her and undermined her ability to be an authority to my kids. Hubby’s parents afford me the same respect, and if I make a decision about the kids there is no argument from them. Occasionally they will discuss a decision with me, but always later, never in front of my children, and they frequently have good ideas that I’ve never thought about before. (Huh, well, I guess they DID raise three kids…) Not only does this mutual respect create a peaceful and secure atmosphere for my children, it also fosters good in-law relationships. 

So when Hubby’s mom said she was coming for the weekend, my reaction was excitement, not dread. When she got ready in the morning, she skipped hairspray because I’ve explained to her that it bothers the kids. When the two of us went to town together, it was a fun and stress-free outing. 
What I’m saying is, good relationships with your in-laws are not only possible, but desirable. They just take a little effort.

Precautionary Parenting

Here’s the problem with trusting your instincts and being right about a worst-case scenario: 

You’re paranoid for the rest of your life. 

I was right last July when I insisted there was something seriously wrong with my son, even though the doctor told me it was just a virus. I pushed, saw another doctor, and was right. All the nurses at the children’s hospital were amazed that he wasn’t more sick, because normally with toddlers that develop type 1 Diabetes, they are very sick when they are admitted. My friend’s 8-year-old was in a coma. Maybe that’s because some lazy doctors tell mothers that it’s a virus and dissuade them from checking blood sugar, but what do I know? I’m just a mom. 

Here’s the point of my bitter little tirade: Now I’m paranoid. 

I gave my kids beets with their snack the other day, knowing what could happen, but when my three-year-old pointed and laughed at the pink water in the toilet, I freaked and took him to Urgent Care, terrified he had a kidney infection. 
He didn’t. 
He had beets. 
I had egg on my face. 

As I was driving the 40 minutes home that night, I went over and over in my head how I was going to justify this trip to my husband. I told him in that imaginary conversation that if something was actually wrong and I ignored my instincts, I would never be able to live with myself. I was angry at him for being angry at me in this imaginary conversation. I didn’t need to justify myself, I’m a mom! I do what I think is best for my kids, to avoid those worst-case scenarios. In my mind, I let him have it for judging me and my cautious parenting. 
When I got home, I put our son to bed, and cried on my husband’s shoulder. He gently told me everything that I had been ready to say in my defense on the way home. He told me he was glad I had gone, and that I would be able to sleep that night because I had listened to my instincts. He told me that I was a good mom, and he was glad I was taking such good care of our kids. 

Yes, I’m paranoid. Yes, I overreact sometimes. Yes, I will continue to do so. 

But I will not apologize for it. I won’t write one of those “I refuse to shelter my kids” blogs. I won’t feel bad about it. Here’s why:
If I make 10 trips to Urgent Care, and 9 of them are nothing, they are still justified by the 10th. I’m not going to live my life in fear of something happening, but I’m not going to ignore my instincts for fear of overreacting, either. 
I’m a mom. It’s in my job description. 

Ode to Dad

 

I think Dads often get a bad rap, on television especially. Just watch “Everybody Loves Raymond” or “Jimmy Neutron” or “The Fairly Odd Parents” if you think I’m wrong. Even in pretty respectful shows like “Castle” and “Lie to Me”, Dad still has his “put in his place by the teenager” moments. I fully believe this attitude is a product of the feminist movement and an effort of media and advertising to empower women, a good goal, at the expense of men, not such a good method. What started as a good concept has blossomed into over-compensation, which, sadly, detracts from the original intent and cheapens it. Any debate student will tell you that once you resort to ad hominem attacks, your argument is lost. 
Thankfully, our society finally seems to be realizing the problem with this sort of gender assassination and showing respect and appreciation for dads and men in general appears to be coming back into style. Let’s hope Hollywood catches up soon, they seem to be getting the hang of it with shows like “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood”. (And yes, I’m particularly using kids’ shows as a reference point because I think this attitude shift will especially benefit kids. Young boys, specifically.)
So I’d like to remind us all to verbally appreciate the men in our life this weekend, fathers or not, and encourage them to be confident in their masculinity in a culture that says it’s better to be female than male. Men have an innate need, maybe even more than women, to receive praise from their families. Guys, that means you, too. Encourage your dad, your son, your grandpa, and thank them for being the man that they are. And ladies, be specific on the points that you love about him, and you’ll see that trait more strongly the more you praise it. I’m totally serious, the more you praise the things you like about him, the better man he will be. 
I was talking to a very experienced marriage counsellor this past weekend (ok, my own dad, who has been doing marriage counseling for the last 15 years) and he told me a very enlightening fact. In virtually every failed or failing marriage he has ever seen or heard of, the single unifying characteristic was an overarching theme of negative communication. Couples who speak positively to each other have an overwhelmingly better chance of being successful in their relationship than those who speak negatively. 
So, although thanking him for what he does once a year in June is a good start, make it a habit, and even those habits that you don’t like so much will start to change. Not only that, the more you verbally acknowledge and appreciate his good points, the better your attitude will be toward him. 
So this weekend, in addition to that chic paisley tie that your 6-year-old picked out, treat Dad to a super-helping of compliments and see the great things it does for your marriage and family. 

 

 

 

 

*Note: The author has been incredibly blessed with fabulous and godly men in her life, including grandfathers, father, brother, and father-in-law. If the men or man in your life isn’t so great, if he is abusing or hurting you in any way, please seek help with a trained counsellor or, in more extreme cases, law enforcement. By enabling abuse you are not just hurting yourself, you’re hurting him. Get him help to be a better man.*

 

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My dad and I circa 1994. It takes a manly man to let his daughter put a banana sticker on his nose. 

 

 

 

The Care and Keeping of Families: What I’ve learned so far

After 23 years of watching my mother grow a beautiful family, I think I’ve found her recipe for success.

Families require all your love and most of your time. Always make sure that all members are adequately clothed, but remember that matching is not a necessity. Food is very important to all members of the family, particularly those of the male persuasion between the ages of 10 and 30 years old. Without regular nutrient-rich feedings (regular being every 2 hours or so) some families can become irritable, hostile, and may resemble a grizzly bear in April. That being said, a 5-course-meal is not always necessary, most families benefit from the occasional pizza-and-soda night.

Play and work must be well-balanced, because without one the family drifts apart, and without the other the family falls apart. Use your own judgment in this area, you know your family best. Occasionally, let the work sit while you focus on play. Remember, families have approximately a 20-year span before the branches leave to start families of their own. Likewise, love and discipline must be mixed well before applied, because either one without the other is dangerous to the overall health of your family. Punishment should be used sparingly, and only when well-diluted in a mixture of love and affection.

Your primary focus in the care of your family should always be the roots, namely, Mom and Dad. It is impossible to give too much love, attention or respect in this area. You will also find that these particular nutrients, when applied to the roots, will spread throughout your entire family. Always make sure your roots have enough soil, time away is good. Crowded roots make for crabby roots, and if Momma Ain’t Happy Ain’t Nobody Happy. I recommend date nights applied directly to the roots at least twice a month. For single-root families, always make sure the root has time away from the branches occasionally, or the root will stress and the branches will wither.

(For details on how to start a family from the roots, you’re reading the wrong blog.)

Finally, water your family generously with prayer and encouragement. Make sure your family gets plenty of sunshine for the best disposition and health. And above all, like all beautiful and temporary things, enjoy your family!

Baby Blurbs

Dear Mom,

WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME?

You made being a wife and mother look so easy, I always thought it would be a breeze! Mom, you’ve lived with Dad for the last 25 years (Congrats, by the way, how was the trip to Spain?) and I’ve never once heard you raise your voice in anger. Not even at that “I’m-so-dumb-I-eat-rocks-and-get-stuck-in-trees” Labrador. You home-schooled FIVE KIDS, and I never once saw you lose your cool. I could probably count on one hand the number of times each year that we had boxed or processed food for dinner. Everything was home-made and delicious.

Why didn’t you tell me that it takes hours to prepare and present a good home-made meal? Why didn’t you tell me that living with a man with a strong personality requires all the patience and virtue of a saint? Why didn’t you tell me that keeping a house clean is a full-time job? And WHY didn’t you tell me that no matter how many times you wash them, dishes always get dirty again, and no matter how many loads you do, the laundry is always back on the floor by bedtime?

You had five kids! I admire you, I think you’re a wonderful mother, but FOR GOODNESS’ SAKE! Every time I turn around my darling little bundle of joy has pooped or puked on something else. And we won’t even talk about the actual having the baby part. Five times, Mom? Really? It’s enough to make me question your sanity.

At least I have such a fantastic role model. I’ll never get there, but you will always give me something to aspire to. Anyway, love to all. The baby is doing great, he is cooing and blowing spit bubbles constantly. I know it’s just a matter of time before he’s rolling over. I’ll send pictures soon.

Love,

Your Daughter

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