Thursday, August 30, 2012

I haven't wanted to mention anything until now, primarily to ward off any jinxes that may incur...but, after three weeks straight of solid success, I'm going to say it (here I go...) MY TODDLER IS POTTY TRAINED!!!!!  It's true, it's true!  Can you hear the angels singing?  Can you see the pigs flying?  Have you heard that dogs do, indeed, have lips?

Yes, against all doubts and challenges, my Matilda has conquered the potty.  Lid down, chin up, we've GOT it!!!!  I just can't believe it.  Sure, she's still in Pull-Ups for nap and night time, but besides that she is fully committed to cartoon-decorated-cute-as-a-button-underoozies all the way!!!  HOORAY!

I know what you're thinking, so I'll cut right to the chase:  How did you do it????  I wish I had a 3 step, easy answer plan for you.  But, to be honest, I'm still kinda shrugging my shoulders in amazement at the whole thing.

passing on her newly found knowledge
Matilda (who will be 3 in November) has been working on this for a full 10 months.  I mean, she first showed signs of interest in the potty last autumn, and so, without hesitation, I jumped on board and started introducing her to the idea.  I didn't want to squelch any inkling of curiosity she might have, and I thought "Hey, maybe I have the miracle child who will master this by 2, so who am I to stop progress?"

We just kept it positive.  Frankly, I had no particular plan and didn't know what else to do.  I had an idea in my head that we would just hunker down indoors for a couple weeks and keep running to the potty and through a series of bribes and treats she would catch on and get it.  But, then, there's this little thing called WILL...and, so, it was two steps forward and eighty steps back anytime I "got serious" about it.

She started wearing Pull-Ups instead of diapers around the same time, getting the idea between the difference of standing up to put it on and off instead of laying down to "be changed".  Since she has a baby sister, the difference between the two became crystal clear to her, and so the concept that "diapers are for babies only" stuck early on (even though it didn't keep her from requesting to be a baby and wear a diaper, I refused to back pedal if we didn't have to).

Keeping things positive, I never punished her or disciplined her for accidents or not being interested in going to the potty.  I tried to take her to the bathroom as often as I could when we were at home, and just kept asking and explaining things.  We had a couple cute books about little girls wearing panties instead of diapers and how they used the potty (turns out there is a WIDE range of children's literature surrounding this subject - everything from the silly basics to the graphically gnarly, so I just picked something cute yet educational to pique her interest enough and not make me want to blush or cringe too much).

When she wanted to go, we went.  When she didn't want to go, I didn't push it, but rather just explained again (and again and again) about feelings in her tummy and how using the potty felt so much better than having accidents or going in her pants.

Lots of people will say to not use Pull-Ups.  I've heard it all.  I understand that if they get used to relying on it, then they won't be forced to change.  Sure.  But, after a few days of washing out 10 pairs of undies or Clorox-wiping my floor for the 100th time...I'm thankful for the option.  We would just keep alternating between Pull-Ups and real undies, letting her pick out which "princess design" or "Minnie Mouse pattern" she wanted to wear that time.  I just kept encouraging her towards the panties, but it wasn't really worth an all-out-battle to me until she wanted to keep wearing them herself.

This went on for months.  I thought we were just at a stand still.  I would offer the occasional sticker reward or Hershey's Kiss treat for going on the potty (especially #2!) and get excited and dance and be silly and praise her as if she'd just won the Gold Medal in the Potty Olympics...but, then, an hour later she'd be over it and refuse to go.

Until a few weeks ago.  I can't tell you what happened.  She just got it.  For the first time EVER, she told me "Poo poo, mommy" before she had gone, and ran in the bathroom.  I followed her, helped her with her little seat-on-the-potty, and TADA!  She did it!  I praised her profusely, and let her pick out undies.  Then, the rest of the day, I just kept asking her and when she would need to go, she actually would nod and run to the potty and do it!


Something in her just finally switched on, and she started recognizing her body's signals.  After months and months of explaining to her and conditioning her with "What-to-do's" it finally just all clicked.  Now, we've even been out to others' houses and taken short trips to the store, and she remains in control (of her bladder, anyway).

Only ONE in diapers now????  What will I do with all this extra head space???  Not only is it a bit of a sanity-saver, but it's a money-saver too!  Pull-Ups (while my friend for being a nice transitional alternative) are even more expensive than diapers.  I'm so glad to be done with them.


I've heard stories of one-year-olds being potty trained.  I've heard stories of five-year-olds still wearing diapers.  Honestly, I was just trying to listen to my kid, be reasonable, and not let the standards of others rule our lives.  If your kid has it mastered at 18 months, awesome, good for you!  But, if you are still struggling and your kid is over 3 and you're worried that day will never get here - take heart!  This is not a sign that your kid "learns slowly" or is "too strong-willed" or that anything is physically wrong (of course, ask your Pediatrician, NOT a blog-writer, if you suspect differently) but, just that your kid is working on their own time, at their own pace, and success is right around the corner (maybe you're just at a long red light, so it's harder to see from where you are).
tricks of the trade

Potty training is just one hurdle in the oh-so-many hurdles to come in raising our kiddos.  It's truly a grand analogy for childrearing in general:  It's messy, it's aggravating, it's repetitive beyond comprehension, it's exhausting and sometimes you just want to resign yourself to having them rely on you forever.  But, they won't.  And really, we don't want them to.

We want them to succeed, of course.  And now, Matilda has taken on new challenges of her own all by herself.  She gets out the stool to turn on the light.  She strips her bum bare and monkeys her way onto the toilet without even using the training seat and somehow balances herself by her own strength.  She cleans herself up, flushes, and then runs out with her undies in hand proudly announcing as loudly as she can to the world what she has just accomplished...I PEEPEE ON DA PAW-TEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!  And I couldn't be more proud.  (I mean, if she could learn to say it a little more quietly in public, that'd be nice, I guess, but who am I to rain on her parade?)

I have to admit, too, it feels pretty awesome to have passed on knowledge that she will take with her the rest of her life.  This is a big milestone for a toddler, and even though I have to give 100% credit to God for allowing me the grace to withstand such a daunting task, I feel pride when I look at that smile on her face when she has conquered the challenge before her.

You don't need Pull-Ups or training seats or even princess undies to get through potty training.  But, a whole lot of prayer, patience, and a little perspective goes a long way.  Parenting seems to be made up of tiny little slivers of seasons that can so seamlessly run together we have a hard time seeing past them.  But, they are just seasons.  They come and go, and before we know it, we are on to a new challenge, learning a new lesson, healing from another wound, or climbing an even bigger mountain.

I don't know what season you're in.  Maybe you're long past potty training, or maybe you've just started changing diapers.  But, whatever it is, it won't last forever.  And, as much as I am proud and excited that Matilda has grown out of diaper-duty, a little piece of me is sad to see that phase over - the fact that she needs me a grain less today than she did the day before.  It's never easy to let go, if even just a little.

We have to do our best to be thankful for where we are, no matter the season - the good, the bad, and the disgustingly stinky.  We can't always know what we are learning or how soon we are supposed to learn it or even why we have to be the ones to learn it in the first place...(this is the "life is messy" part of it all) but we can know that our Eternal God is in charge of all things temporary.  We can rely on His patience when we have none.  We can tap into His love when we're fresh out.  We can call on His name when we don't know what else to scream.

And the awesome part is, He always cares...every sliver of every season in every life.

Thanks God, for getting me through this ridiculous season of potty training.  It might not sound fancy or grand or pleasant, but it was an ongoing, daily, taxing ordeal in my own little world.  Sure, in the long run, it was a short phase that barely effected anyone else.  But, I'm so grateful I have a God who will listen to me whine and desire even the littlest of successes in such an enormously needy world.


Maybe Matilda wasn't the only one who walked away from this having learned something new after all.

Playing Favorites

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I've read a good share of books about marriage in my day.  I've been to marriage counseling, taken classes about communication in marriage, and listened to inspiring sermons and podcasts about how to love and respect your spouse.  I love it all.  I love marriage.  I love loving my husband and I'm not planning on slowing down any time soon when it comes to educating myself about how to be a better wife (Lord knows there's plenty left to learn!)

But, I will say that as the years have gone by I have consistently read, seen, and heard a few "habits" that I would call into question.  Many of these lessons surround the topic of criticism.  Now, we all know that criticism can be deadly for a marriage.  No man likes to be nagged and no woman wants to be called a nag.  Vicious cycles of "You always/never do this or that" wage war between couples and the outcome is never good.  One of you gets defensive, the woman usually ends up crying and the man usually ends up angry.  (Sounding familiar at all?)

Now, many of these marriage-helpers (books, sermons, classes, etc.) tell us that in order to have effective communication we need to empathize with the other person (this is good) and be careful about how we express our desire for change (here's where we groan).

Maybe you have even heard how you should "pad" the conversation: start with a compliment, ask for the change, end with another compliment and resounding encouragement!  It might look something like this:
Honey, I really appreciate when you took the trash out last night.  It makes me feel so loved when you do that without my asking you.  You're so strong, I'm just lucky to have you around to help!"

Did that make anybody else want to gag a little?  You know why?  Because we aren't idiots and we didn't marry idiots.  And anybody who isn't an idiot can see straight past that and still get annoyed at the  passive aggressive tone and continue to build resentment towards the other person.  If we are being honest, there's really not much empathy being practiced there after all.  Nobody wants to be treated like a child, and in the heat of the moment it is a lot more effective to either take out the trash yourself or just directly, nicely, and clearly ask your husband to do it and thank him for it with sincerity after he has done it.

A similar approach I've seen in other marriage-helpers has been the "4-to-1" angle.  That is, list four positive things you love about your spouse and throw one negative thing in there so it is balanced and easier to swallow.  As if some magical ratio is going to leave us feeling better, when all we really do is zero-in on that ONE negative thing the rest of the day and start a whole new line-up of grudges.

All this to say, being critical is never helpful and sugar-coating your nagging is not an effective remedy.

The thing is, we ALL pretty much know what annoys our spouse and what we need to work on.  If you have been married for any time at all, you already have a list of traits you recognize about yourself that you should be constantly praying over and tweaking to become more like Jesus.  He knows he needs to put the lid down.  You know you shouldn't have spent so much money on shoes.  He knows he should compliment your cooking more.  You know you shouldn't complain about your mother to him as much.

We know these things.  And, hopefully, we are doing something (right?) to be helping ourselves work through these bad habits.  But, you know what I don't see very often?  Telling your spouse why they are your favorite person in the world.

Wait a minute, let's back up for just a second.  Is your spouse your favorite person in the world?  Because he should be.  He was at one time.  And somewhere in there, between the texts and the dinners and the work and the chaos with the kids is the same stud that you fell head over heels for not so long ago.

Each Friday night, Josh and I have implemented what we like to call Playing Favorites into our marriage.  Call it another one of our Pardy Rules, if you must.  After the girls are in bed and we finally get a moment to breath, we sit and take a minute to tell each other two things:

1. What was your favorite thing about me this week?
2. What was your favorite thing about yourself this week?

Easy peasy.  You have all week to think about it, so I know you can come up with something.  It really can be anything - a hairstyle, that cute text he sent you, the way he handled a meeting at work, how he tucked the kids in bed that night, whatever.  It can be vague, general, abstract, specific, tangible...there are no wrong answers.  And you will be surprised how many times your answers might be the same for each other!

Here's why it works for us:  It's all positive.  Telling your favorite thing about your spouse to them reinforces what you love about them, and telling your favorite thing about yourself, shows them what you value most.  Using each day as an opportunity to seek out the best in someone can go a lot further than following up on whether or not they have changed a bad habit yet.  When you search for the best parts of somebody, you will usually find more than you anticipate.  It might take some practice, sure, but it can become great fun once you get going.

I know that your husband might groan at this idea when you tell him about it.  These things always seem like "work" or like a minefield...that, if they say the wrong thing you might take it the wrong way or his compliment might not be "as good" as yours.  The key here is to just be honest and grateful and smile when you do it, for heaven's sake!  Don't use this as an opportunity to infer a different meaning or convey a new criticism. (i.e. My favorite thing about you this week was when you finally got around to fixing the garbage disposal!)

If you pitch this idea to your husband and get a good roll-of-the-eyes in response, try it anyway.  One-sided, I mean.  Tell him to not worry about it, but you'd like to tell him your favorite thing about him and yourself this week anyway.  Be genuine and without expectation.  It still does the heart good to recognize these things and communicate them just the same.  We can't force someone to hear them just as much as we can't force someone to speak, don't worry about that.  Just let him know, smile, and leave it at that.  My guess is that after a few weeks of consistency, he'll have come up with something to reply back with...even if it is just a hug and a thank you.
giggling and tired, but never tired of giggling

Playing Favorites has hit a home run in our marriage.  Call it positive reinforcement.  Call it sappy ritual.  Call it a nice start to the weekend.  But, don't call it a waste of time.

If I ever get to feeling like that nasty critter, criticism, is creeping it's way back into my marriage, I now have something new to focus on.  The more time I spend ranking the wonderful qualities of my husband, the more of them I see.  Habits only turn from "endearing" to "obnoxious" when we stop noticing their benefit.

It's not without effort.  It's not without time.  But, I guarantee that looking for your favorite things about your husband (and, don't forget yourself!) is a new habit you won't want to break.

Toddlers Are Like College Students

Friday, August 17, 2012

With all the "Back to School" commercials I see on TV these days, it makes me all jittery and nervous with that excitement and nostalgia flooding my mind as I think back to my own school days.  It's been a long time since I've been in school and my own kids have a few years to go (thank goodness!) but, it still makes me tense when I see all those ads for pencils and notebooks and new Reebok Hightops with the velcro (okay, maybe there aren't commercials for those anymore, but ever since that style has had a resurgence in fashion, it makes me miss my grade school days!)

I started having flash backs of my school days through the years:  the boisterous elementary years, the awkward and torturous junior high days, the long and full-of-attitude-and-angst (thanks 90s music) hours of high school that seemed to tick by ever-so-slowly, followed by the happy-go-lucky days of college...footloose and fancy free, indeed.

Even though you know that those times were filled with impossible drama and heightened emotions, as a grown up now days, you can't help but look back with a bit of wonder and joy at your own naivet√©.  "Oh, it's funny how I thought I had actual problems back then!"   We always associate these things with adolescence...this sense of our "small planet" being all there is that just escalates and grows until we finally burst into the "real world" and have to get a job or have a baby or say vows to someone we would die for.

But, I don't think it starts in adolescence...I think it starts right after we are born!  And, the more I thought about this, the more I realized more and more how similar my two-year-old, Matilda, is to being just like those ripe-minded twenty-somethings daring to take on the world one foolish/brave notion at a time!  (Don't get me wrong, I love a dreamer - I grasp and grasp to hang on to my ideals with all I can!)  So, here, I've concluded a list for you to chuckle over; a "back to school" analogy for parenthood...

Why Toddlers Are Like College Students

  1. They think they know everything.
  2. They are sure you think you know everything, but are also very confident that you actually don't.
  3. They expect you to feed them whenever they are hungry.
  4. They have no money.
  5. They want to wear pajamas all day.
  6. It's perfectly acceptable for them to wear pajamas all day.
  7. They believe toast is a meal.
  8. They never make their bed.
  9. They expect you to do their laundry for them. 
  10. They like all cereal, but somehow it always ends up on the carpet. 
  11. They can relate to every television show they watch.
  12. No matter what you say to them, they probably disagree with you.
  13. They aren't afraid to tell you how they really feel.
  14. Their music is loud and annoying, but too catchy to ignore.
  15. You wish you could get away with wearing the shoes they wear cause they're just so cute.
  16. A backpack is a perfect accessory for any outfit.
  17. They hate reading but they hate lectures even more.
  18. They would stay up and play till the wee hours of the morning if they could.
  19. They can never get enough Disneyland.
  20. They are always overtired, but never want to go to bed.
  21. They can talk for hours and you still might not understand what they're trying to tell you.
  22. They think the world's biggest problem has something to do with bad guys that look like Ja'far.
  23. They expect and want you to tell them what to do when they really need you.
  24. They really need you when the toy they want costs more than your rent.
  25. They make headbands look cool.
  26. They believe a couch is just as good as a bed.
  27. They are only as nice as their last nap was. 
  28. A road trip always sounds fun to them until they are trapped in the car.
  29. They cry when things don't go their way.
  30. They cry when things totally go their way.
  31. It's really hard to sit through church without playing on the iPhone.
  32. They think milk goes great with every meal.
  33. They love to experiment with new hairstyles.
  34. Just because they wore the same outfit yesterday is no reason to change clothes.
  35. They remember every inappropriate thing you say. 
  36. They laugh at their own jokes, even if you don't.
  37. Friendship means you share dress-up clothes.
  38. They think libraries are basically only for social get-togethers. 
  39. They believe adventure and new discovery could take place anywhere, anytime.
  40. They expect to see every place on the planet that they want to see.
  41. Someone smiling at them can truly change their day.
  42. They want to play house but not commit to anything just yet.
  43. They want to make friends with everybody.
  44. They want to be the loudest person in the room.
  45. They can see right through people who don't believe in them.
  46. They always want a snack, even if they just had one.
  47. The floor surrounding their toilet is always disgustingly filthy.
  48. Their room can never be dark enough.
  49. They feel loved when we buy them stuff, even little stuff.
  50. When they pray, they talk to Jesus like He is sitting right in front of them. 


You gotta love em.  

Happy new school year, everybody!

Escape Plan (part two)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Read Aftershocks (part one) here!

 It's been an unusually frustrating couple of weeks.  Who knows if it is the heat, the potty training, or just good ole hormones giving me a short wick...but, I have found myself a little overwhelmed with the minutes and hours and days of staying home lately.  To be honest, I've disappointed myself.  I'll find myself wanting to scream into a pillow or eat an entire bag of Oreos or want to stroll an extra half an hour in the grocery store simply because both girls are strapped into compartments where they can't kill each other for one freaking second! (Deep breaths, deep breaths, deep breaths.)

It isn't what you think, I promise!
I hear they call this Stay-at-home-mom-syndrome (SAHMS) and I've heard about it going around.  Is it too much to ask for not to have my two-year-old scream at me, bark demands, or whine in that insanely irritating high pitched voice for just an entire single day?  Was I way off base imagining a motherhood that might allow for 24 hours to pass without yelling the words "Leave your sister ALONE" in such a threatening tone that my neighbors think they live next door to Voldemort?  Am I crazy to think that two little girls can't just live in harmony or at least be able to play quietly for just one afternoon????

Yes.  Yes, I am crazy.  If there is any certainty left in my life anymore, that is it.  I've gone crazy.  But, I know I'm not alone.  (Can I get an AMEN?  Are you out there?  Do you hear me?  Can you RELATE AT ALL????)

So, what are we to do?  How do we keep this up when we are faced with new and different challenges every day?  When we are pushed to our limits and still have dinner to make?  When we still want to be happy and teach our children how to be civil, intelligent, kind beings?  When we hope our husbands still find us desirable after they crunch their way through our un-vaccuumed floor, kiss our greasy faces, and ask us if we remembered to iron the shirt he needs tomorrow (we didn't)?

After all the Aftershocks that life throws our way, it is obvious that an Escape Plan is necessary to not only our survival...but the survival of our dreams as well.  Long live the dream of the Stay At Home Mother!  Here's what I've come up with for myself and the earthquakes in my life:

The Escape Plan

Safe Spots:  Every earthquake escape plan starts with determining the "safe spots" in your house.  Motherhood is no different.  Mama's got to know her safe spots.  

This starts with some serious boundaries.  If I know my kids need to get outside, need to see friends, need to go to the park...I got to do it.  I need to reach out.  Call a friend.  Go to the mall.  Something!  Get OUT of the house, and usually within 10 minutes of strolling around and just getting out the door and into to some fresh air (or air conditioning) it will seem like a whole new day.  

On the other hand - if we have been invited to someone's house, party, park, playdate, class, etc. and I just know that Daphne needs a nap or that Matilda will throw an enormous fit or that the entire course of our day will be a complete loss if we go to said event...I need to say "No thank you" and kindly decline, cancel, or reschedule.  Repeat after me:  "No thank you.  Today just doesn't work for us, but I'm so thankful you understand."  And frankly, if they are a friend worth keeping, they will understand.  Keep your sanity safe.  Protect your time and energy.  Find your safe spot for the minute/hour/day and do your best to cling to it in the best interest of your family.

Practice Drills:  I can't expect to get good at something I want to be better at unless I try and try again.  It is very hard to not just "react" when a two-year-old screams disobediently in your face for the millionth time that day.  With all the years of wisdom I have over her, you'd think it wouldn't be my first thought to just yell back in her face...but, natural response, laziness, and convenience are all too easy to fall back on when you are exhausted and overwhelmed.  I know if I yell across the room "That's it!  Go sit in the corner!" I might get the response I want...but, the over all lesson has been undermined by my lack of patience.  I need to get off my keister.  I need to walk over to her and look her in the eye.  I need to explain to her what she did was wrong and why and how she should change her actions.  

This is a very WWJD moment in parenting, and it will never get easier.  It will always be in my natural, convenience-driven-human-nature to want to take short-cuts and just have the ends justify the means.  But, then, is that why I'm parenting???  Just to churn out some cute, smart kids who might make me feel good some days?

No.  I want them to see Jesus ooze out of my pores to them each and every day.  I want to look at them and see opportunity and potential just waiting to be nurtured (by me!)  I want my initial response to their misbehavior to become merciful, grace-centered, and compassionate...even if it leads to firm, authoritative punishments being handed out.  That takes some serious practice.  

I'm not going to get this right overnight.  But, I can't let my frustrations with myself build up and then explode at the next moment of disobedience.  That's not fair to either of us.  I need new habits that all center around "more Jesus and less Emily", essentially.  

And it's okay to stop for a few minutes each day and remember some truths to help motivate these new habits:
  1. This season will pass.  There will be a time all too soon when you will look back and wish they were this small, this ornery, or this needy.  
  2. You are not promised tomorrow.  If today was the last day you saw your babies, how much more would you love on them and thank God for them?
  3. You love your job.  This is what you have been called to do.  Not someone else.  Not somewhere else.  Not sometime else.  You.  Here.  Now.  You were meant for this.
  4. Kiss them more.  You just can't stay mad at someone who is simply so kissable.  (This one works on husbands too, btw.)
Exit Route:  Know when you need a break.  I'm always astonished at how much difference even fifteen minutes of alone time can make.  Sometimes, right after my husband comes home, I will offer to go get the mail.  No matter what, even if I was having an okay day, I feel fresher, nicer, and more relaxed after just walking the 50 feet to the mailbox and back by myself.  

It can seem trivial, selfish, or even futile to schedule "alone time" as mothers.  It feels like asking for extra vacation time from a boss that already bent over backwards to give you a raise.  But, you know what the huge difference is - mothers don't get vacations.  Never.  You would be furious if your husband came home from work one day and announced that his boss just took away all his vacation time because he thought he didn't need it, right??? (I would be!)  So, why do we feel so awkward asking our friend or neighbor or husband to watch the kids on a Saturday morning so we can go get our nails done?  

Do it.  Get something on the calendar for yourself.  And, if you have had a horrendous day with the kiddos and your husband comes home in a good mood with enough energy to make macaroni and cheese...please, be honest with him about your expectations, limitations, and motivations for needing to exit the premises for a while.  Everyone will survive, trust me. And don't come home (I mean, be reasonable, obviously) until you can enter with joy, gratitude, and a new appreciation for being missed.

Survival Kit:  The final component to my personal Escape Plan is to prepare a survival kit.  You must be armed with accessible aid at all times.  Set yourself up for a successful day, in other words.  Have friends to call when you need them, and vent if you must!  Stash a candy bar marked "Emergency Reward Only" in the back of your cupboard.  Tape a new verse to your mirror that you will see every morning.  Set a reminder on your iPhone to read your Bible (and actually do it). 

Sometimes "playing robot" kills two birds with one stone
Planning activities for the day with your children can help to.  When I don't know what I'm going to do that day, attitudes always go awry.  But, if I can come up with some kind of idea at-the-ready, then we have something to spend time on, a goal to work toward, and something other than burning minutes to focus on.  Steal a page out of Mary Poppin's book and make a game of it if you must.  If I can even plan something as simple as "Make cookies for Bible Study" or "Do the dishes" or "Make the bed" and turn it into the afternoon event, then I accomplish multiple things at once and might even giggle a little bit along the way!  

Mary Poppins wasn't always so smiley because of how delightful the children were (though, let's admit, the British accent didn't hurt), she was probably perpetually cheerful because she had magic to clean up after her at the end of an exhausting day!  But, she had it right when it came to this - and I can absolutely attest to the fact that singing, games, and a little creativity turn the most mundane tasks into an afternoon of fun if you can gear yourself up for it.  (After all, what else is Pinterest good for if not creative ways to build forts out of laundry piles or teaching our kids how to spell their name in frosting???)

Motherhood is hard.  We are awesome for choosing it.  Every.  Day.  

Little growing humans are not easy to please and even harder to guide.  They strip us of energy but fill us up with pride all in the same moment.  They are little walking paradoxes, constantly challenging our efforts to want to get past the day and hang onto it forever all at the same time.  

Maybe, if we can just focus on the gift that motherhood offers us, on the grand opportunity that it is to be able to participate in the actual shaping of a person's life, with a little help and a lot of prayer, we can start to appreciate all that parenting is.  I don't know if we can ever truly grasp the impact our kids have on us.  At times it seems too overwhelming to think about, and at others it just feel like I'm so unworthy of the experience.  

The truth is, bottom line, I wouldn't change what I do for anything.  I feel blessed beyond words to get to stay home and be the one who is getting maddened and going crazy with these girlies every day.  I wouldn't have it any other way, and I never want to take that for granted.  I never want to actually escape this life that I've been given, I would labor through it all again in a heartbeat if I had to.  But maybe, with a little planning, I can set myself up for the chance to step back and see it for what it is:  the beautiful, mischievous, noisy, sweet, chaotic and crazy-to-the-brim-filled life that it is.  

Aftershocks (part one)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The other night, while we were just turning in for the night, I suddenly felt something shaking the bed.  I turn to Josh, as he was just sitting on the edge of the bed and ask "Are you doing that?" to which he all-too-calmly replied "Nope, that's an earthquake."

a lie detector? a heartbeat? Nope.  earthquake.
We swayed one second longer, as his nonchalant words reached my brain for comprehension.  EARTHQUAKE!  And then it was over.  Having lived in Southern California for years now, this was not my first quake.  But, having moved here from the part of the country where "earthquake" might as well be code for "about to fall into the ocean", it has never settled well with me (no pun intended) to be okay with a bit of a shake-a-roo now and again.  No thank you.

It would be one thing if it was left at that midnight shake...but, those tectonic plates just couldn't leave well enough alone, and it was followed by 3 more quakes within the following 12 hours.  Good gracious earth!  Get a hold of yourself!

I grew up in tornado country.  Land of Oz, yellow brick roads, munchkins, and sure - all the "Auntie Em from Kansas" jokes you could muster.  Now, don't get me wrong in my preference for tornados, they are diabolically catastrophic and terrifying.  I've seen more than my share in real life, and there is really nothing scarier for a kid than witnessing a black wall of debris tearing through your neighbor's farm only a few miles away.

But, if I had to choose (and this is particularly silly since obviously I would rather neither existed at all) I gotta say that tornados got something on earthquakes that just makes it all a no-brainer to me:  WARNING.

Sure, I suppose you could argue that us silly Californians live and breathe in an ongoing state of warning.  That, if feeling the earth move under your feet (and I'm not talking Carol King) isn't enough for you to wanna ditch Tinseltown, then by all means you are really asking for it and might as well count your blessings until The Big One sends us floating off towards Hawaii.  Fine.  But, let's be realistic.

this pic i found was just too cool not to include!
With earthquakes, there is just no warning.  No thunderstorms.  No eerie green clouds.  No hazy calm.  No hail the size of chihuahuas.  No tree-bark-stripping winds.  No louder-than-a-freight-train force.  It just happens.  A jolt.  A sway.  A shake.  A rattling, rumbling, roll that takes you a second to realize you might be in the presence of danger.  And then it's over (usually).

I'm so grateful to live in a time and place that is more or less prepared for natural occurrences like earthquakes.  I'd be remiss not to take a second and mention how it certainly makes me stop and pray for those around the world who have suffered through so much loss due to such an, yes, please, take a moment and do that.  But, that's not where I'm headed with this post.

This particular series of shakes brought something else to my attention.  Warning signs.  Or, lack thereof, really.

Parenting is full of earthquakes.  It's full of tornadoes, too, no doubt.  Sometimes you can see problems before they really start...intervening just in time to avoid tragedy or further chaos.  But, lots of times, most times, you simply never see it coming.

tuckered out from a tantrum
It's always the aftershocks that surprise me the most.  I will go to battle with my toddler over the silliest things: Yes, you WILL get in your carseat!  No you WON'T sit on your sister! Do NOT bite your nails! Please tell mommy BEFORE you need to go peepee! STOP pulling the cat's tail! Put DOWN the golf club! 

And just when I think an issue is resolved, or peace has been restored or all is right with the world once more (usually about the time I reheat my coffee yet again)...someone else starts crying over something.


It never fails.  The aftershocks keep coming.

We start the day waking up relatively calmly.  Jammies, coffee, maybe some cereal that slowly makes its way one crumb at a time from the bowl to my carpet (which my bare foot will no doubt find and shatter deeply into the fibers never to be recovered by my vacuum later).  Then, there's always an earthquake of some degree.  The initial JOLT that shocks my morning into overdrive, shooting my adrenaline sky high, and causing my eyes to twitch between caffeine intake and simply comprehending the events in front of me.
literally me at the end of today

It could be anything, really.  A poop explosion.  A spill of milk on someone's head.  A bonk on the noggin that sends one of them into a screaming frenzy.  It's never catastrophic (though, my neighbors might argue otherwise by the yelling they hear in our apartment).  But, it's always enough to initialize the domino that is "reality" for the series of aftershocks that follow.

Today had many aftershocks.  We never quite hit our pace in the day where things seemed to just settle down and everyone could take a deep breath.  Not once.  And never with any warning.

Maybe I expected earthquakes when I moved to California.  Just like I expected there would be "hard moments" in parenthood.  But, to be honest, I don't think I ever thought about the aftershocks.  It never occurred to me that sometimes there would be days that just seemed to be full of naughtiness, mischief, disobedience, outright sassiness, and that I would be the one to have to keep going, stay sane, remain calm...and stick to the original escape plan as laid out beforehand.

Ah, escape plans.  A necessary element in the face of such destruction.   This, I have yet to master.  But, I am working on it.

What do you do in those dark moments of frustration when all you really want to do is duct tape your child's mouth shut and go hide in your bedroom with a carton of ice cream??? (or something like that)

No, really...tell me.  (Get the discussion going, mamas!  How do you cope?)

And tune in next week as I tackle this question for myself.  


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

This last weekend the Pardys did something unprecedented in the Pardy home.  Unheard of.  Nearly, entirely foreign.  We did a 48 hour "detox diet" and have (barely) lived to tell about it.  Now, before you write this off as a totally "TMI" post about anecdotes of running to the bathroom all weekend, never you fear - it wasn't really that kind of body cleanse (thank goodness).  Since I'm still nursing baby Daphne, I wouldn't try anything too extreme and am not really into any kind of stimulant/crazy sort of flush.  No, no, none of that.

Since going on vacation last month and then having Daphne's birthday straight after, we had turned our usually moderately-healthy household into a regular sugar factory...seriously, I was expecting Willy Wonka to show up on my doorstep any day.  So, when I stumbled across "Dr. Oz's 48-hour Weekend Cleanse", it caught my eye and piqued my interest just enough to entertain the idea.

When I presented it to my husband (fully expecting raised eyebrows and a scoff of "Are you crazy?") I was shocked when he replied with a resounding "I could use that!"  Haha.  Alrighty then.  One long-receipted trip to Sprouts Market and we were off, so to speak.  Never before had my fridge encountered the likes of quinoa, fennel, raw ginger, or rice milk.  Needless to say I was a bit frightened and a little intimidated at what exactly might occur.

I'll be real honest here, I was pumped to get this going, but sincerely not sure if I could follow through.  After choking down the flax-seed-oil-soaked-quinoa and prunes for breakfast (sorry if you just threw up in your mouth a little bit at that) I genuinely hoped the rest of the day would be more palatable.

By 1pm I was sure it had been at least a week since we started the detox.  Turns out, I'm totally a wuss when it comes to this.  Not that I'm any stranger to depravity.  In fact, we had just agreed that August would be yet another month to entirely give up eating out.  That's right, we're at it again.  Fully cooking at home every meal and trying to pinch a few pennies here or there.  It is not easy and I can't say I'm "excited" to clean the dishes from each meal every night, but the challenge is inviting and I'm up for it knowing the reward in the end.

The challenge.  There you have it.  The real reason behind the detox.  I wasn't trying to shed any pounds or prove anything, necessarily.  I definitely had some unhealthy habits forming (I'm not sure anyone should be consuming as much Diet Coke as I had been???) But, I liked the idea of challenging myself with something short-term that seemed difficult yet attainable.

I don't know, maybe I've been watching the Olympics too much.  Maybe seeing all those crazy-fit people and their abs that pierce through my TV every night has gotten to me.  But, I just felt sluggish, slowish, and downright sloppy about feeding myself whatever happened to be convenient and around...not exactly a model example I want my children to live by!

By day two, I really thought I was losing my mind.  When you are completely in a normals state and feeling well, a smoothie the shade of anti-freeze is the last thing you want to consume.  But, when you are would rather go outside in the hot sun and mow the yard rather than drink one.  And that is exactly what "morning snack smoothie" tasted like...fresh cut grass.

Don't get me wrong, not everything on the diet was disgusting.  I could stomach the smoothing with blueberries and banana.  The vegetable soup was okay the first time around.  But, when you are dreaming of large pepperoni pizzas as you gulp down something that looks like you scraped it off the bottom of your shoe...well, it's just no fun.  That is the honest truth.  I'll say this - if you've never eaten before, or if you have no tongue - you should totally try this diet!  There is my resounding testimony.

Okay, okay, I shan't be so harsh.  No doubt my liver, gall bladder, and kidneys are thanking me.  The first and foremost point of the detox itself is to boost your body's natural "filtration system" and certainly it didn't kill me to consume massive quantities of fruits and vegetables for 48 hours.  But, am I fit to be vegan?  Heck, holy cheeseburger, no.

I'll say this - I got stellar sleep.  I sank into my bed both nights in utter exhaustion and had about 20 dreams each time that left me well rested and feeling great in the morning.  Now, that's saying something!  Surprisingly, as hungry as I went to bed the night prior, I awoke with energy and vigor the next morn.  So, take that for what it's worth.  Nevertheless, I have never dreamt of a more enormous breakfast burrito in my whole life, either.

So, what's with this challenge?  Get healthier?  Sure.  Set some goals?  I think so.  Do good for yourself?  Yes.  This silly detox taught me that it's really not a bad idea to try new things.  I would consider myself a rather "adventurous eater" and yet, in my thirties, there are still foods I have yet to eat - let alone attempt to cook myself.  That's exciting!  I think it is invigorating to capture things you feel might be intimidating (even glow-in-the-dark smoothies!) and challenge yourself to go after them.

Start small.  Try quinoa, for example (right after you google search "what the heck is quinoa").  Take a class you never thought you would.  Learn to ride a unicycle.  Ask a neighbor to dinner.  Try on scandalous lingerie (for your husband). Buy a guinea pig.  Rent a foreign documentary.  Paint on canvas with your hands.  Go out without makeup on.  Call your cousin.

Maybe all I did was flush out my liver and consume scary smoothies...but, really, I think I snuck a toe or two outside this comfortable box I call home.  Sometimes it is awesome to peak outside every now and then.  Try new things.  Challenge ourselves.  You just never know what it might lead to.


Thursday, August 2, 2012

My babiest girl just turned one year old.  ONE.  They say a lot about that first year.  You know, "the first year is the hardest", "the first year flies by", "they grow so much that first year", "they change so much the first year", and so on.  Yikes, no pressure.  It's not enough that you just want to survive the first year with your baby that it is sometimes hard to fathom actually stopping and enjoying the moment.

Every few months or so, when I pause and see my girls as girls who are beautifully growing up before my eyes (and not just as needy beings demanding my attention) I have to catch my breath at the thought of them getting older by the minute.  You know those moments?  Those I-swear-she-was-just-born times when all of a sudden you see them for who they are - those little aging faces of wonder, those chubby toes and fingers that are more dextrous by the second, those silky strands of hair that weren't covering her eyebrows just yesterday - and now, another moment has passed.  There's no catching up.  There's no going back.

I reach a pitfall of this sort a few times a year, it seems, when I find myself yet again asking God why time exists the way it does, why change is so uncomfortable, and why this temporary life feels so familiar and so foreign all at the same time? (why? why? why?)

It can feel depressing, I'll admit it.  As much as I want to be in the moment and living living living, onward, forward, totally gung-ho and full speed ahead...I also want to document every single second, not forget a thing, and capture each emotion inside the vault of my heart so I can relive it whenever I want.  But, just as I was editing the zillion of photos from Daphne's birthday party last weekend, I realized that you can never fully remember, never totally relive and never completely restore the moment that might as well have been a billion years ago.  It happened.  It was great.  It is over.  (Somebody pass the kleenex!)

I'm reminded of a famous quote from Dr. Suess.  Yes, that Dr. Suess!

"Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."

Never before has that quote been more true than when you are rummaging through beautiful pictures of a celebration that captures a moment in time with your baby.  Sometimes, I'll admit, I'm ready for the baby days to be over.  Not entirely - don't get me wrong - our family has not stopped growing yet, but for the moment we are happy to be where we're at and there's no telling when another baby would hit the scene.  Like many mothers, I struggle with living on the fence somewhere between wanting to hug my children so hard with as many kisses and squeezes that it nearly strangles them...and actually wanting to just strangle them.

Several times each and every day, I find myself questioning my own sanity, strength, or salvation when caring for these precious girls.  They are cute as all get out, but after nine hours of them pulling on my hair, climbing all over me, drenching me with their food/drinks/bodily fluids, yelling at me, let alone having to yank them off each other and rescuing them from multiple quandaries just seconds away from certain death...well, you could see how my mind wouldn't jump straight to "please-stay-this-way-forever" mode.

But then, they sleep.  No matter how much I doubt it, even if it has taken me hours to make it happen - they always eventually sleep.  Their little angelic faces, their arms and legs sprawled haphazardly about, their jammies bunched up and their stuffed animals snugged up around them.  Is there anything cuter than a sleeping baby?  (Seriously, tell me.)

And then, they cuddle.  It might be infrequent.  It might be only when they are super sleepy or feverish or just after you've given them handfuls of candy and put on a video...but, they still cuddle.  And you can't help but stare and count their eyelashes and stroke their hair behind their ears and smooth their soft cheek with the back of your hand.

And then, they love you.  I mean, they really really love you something fierce.  And you know it won't always be this "easy".

You know soon they will grow into teenagers who want nothing to do with you or your protection or your hugs or your kisses or your helping them get dressed or anything.  You know that the hardest "problems" of the day won't have anything to do with potty time or toys or throwing a fit in the grocery store.  You know that the smile they so easily shine at you, that only you put on their faces, won't be so easily made in the future just by being silly or singing or dancing.  You know when they look at themselves in the mirror in the future, they won't see that smiling, confident, silly face, but rather an image of questions, insecurity, and unimaginable expectation that society has no-doubt replaced for them (and it breaks your heart to even consider it - ugh).  You know that their unconditional love for you will most likely take a rocky road of sassiness and bad attitudes and independence and misbehaving and pain...and, you only hope that with a lot of prayer that they can come out on the other side silently thanking you for remaining steadfast and encouraging to them as they painstakingly make their way into the world, further and further away from you.

Okay, ouch.  I'm not ready to go there yet.

My baby just turned one.  ONE.  Let's not get carried away predicting a future I have no control over yet.  I'm having a hard enough time seeing her take her first steps and learn to blow kisses!

Maybe the first year is the hardest.  Maybe it's the most difficult because when you get to the end of it, you realize you are going to have to do this again and again and again (Lord willing).  Maybe it is scary because you are so proud of surviving all the worries and challenges that the first year brought, that the realization that it is only going to get tougher from here is just about all the stress you can take!  We've got a lot of birthdays ahead of us; and, taking care of this sweet baby girl and seeing her blossom into a young lady is going to only happen one day at a time.

Some days are just going to be manic.  Some days are going to get ugly and messy and not going to be worthy of taking any pictures hoping-to-remember-the-moment-forever kind of days.  That's okay.  It seems unfair to expect us parents to have to want to relive all the glorious grossness that baby/toddlerhood encompasses just so that we "savor the season" so to speak.  I'm giving you permission to not enjoy it all.

But, some days are precious.  Some days, even boring days without fabulous birthday parties, are filled with sweet moments of mundane treasures that bring smiles to our faces and hearts and minds.  Some days nobody wants to strangle anybody.  Some days have slices of heaven dunked right down in the middle of them:  ten minutes of snuggly story time, a hilarious poop accident that will make a great story later, catching your children giggling at each other when they think no one is watching, the look on your baby's proud face when she finally takes those rocky first steps.  You just really never know when those moments are going to come.

I want to notice those moments.  I want to be in them.  Create them.  Be thankful for them.  Even grieve them as they pass.  Then make more of them.  Share them.  Live them.  Celebrate them.  And keep smiling because they happened...and will happen again.

Happy Birthday, sweet Daphne.  One year done.  Today, I'm smiling because you happened.

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