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Lessons for My Military Children

ImageApril is the Month of the Military Child. In honor of military children around the world, especially the three special ones in my house, I am going to focus my writing this month on them.

As any parent would, I have several lessons I would like to bestow upon my children. As we begin to prepare for another possible move, I find myself thinking about the lessons I would like my three kiddos to learn, specifically from the life as a military family. 

Our Country & Our World

  1. Many people ask us why we do what we do (choosing to be a military family). I bet one day, you too will wonder why our family does what it does. Serving our country is important to your Dad and me. It’s not always easy, but it’s important to be a part of something that is bigger and serves more than just your self.
  2. While at your young age, our country and world seems totally huge and gigantic… it’s really not. We have one little planet and one human race to take care of; it is our responsibility to do our best. Being a military family is one of the ways our family contributes to the greater good.
  3. Our country and world are made up of a variety of cultures, incredible scenery, and amazing people… being a military family affords us the opportunity to experience so many unique parts of our world. Open your heart and mind to these cultures, environments, and people… you will be a better person for it!
  4. We may or may not always agree with the choices our government makes. We may or may not have voted for our leaders. But we are part of a democratic system… it is our responsibility to vote and our responsibility to accept that sometimes our choices might not win out. However, we should always be respectful. Always stand-up and be quiet during the playing of our National Anthem… and if your friends are being loud and disrespectful, nudge them with your elbow and show them what to do.

Moving

  1. Sometimes, moving is the pits: Saying “good-bye/see ya later” to dear friends is hard and it hurts your heart. It’s okay to feel sad when we leave good people and good places… it’s proof that we have lived life to the fullest. Cherish those friendships and memories. They are worth emails, phone calls and texts (when you are old enough to have a phone), FaceTime calls, and plane tickets!
  2. For anywhere between two weeks and a month (or more?!) all of our household goods are packed up into boxes and put on a truck. We won’t see them, or use them, or need them. This is kind of great. We have each other, we have food, we have enough clothes to get us through. The most important “things” in our life are not our things at all… the movers only have our stuff… we – our family- are our treasures.
  3. While moving is hard and sad, it is also an awesome adventure that gives us the opportunity to see new places and meet new people. You may have no idea what is waiting for you at our next home, but I guarantee that you have many good things ahead of you. Trust in the future and be bold!
  4. Not all families get to try on new houses, new neighborhoods, and new cities every three years or so. We get to try new paint colors, new curtains, and new bedroom layouts. We get to make new friends, plant new gardens, and enjoy new seasons. We get to explore new museums, eat at new restaurants, and be a part of a new community. Make the most of where our Navy path takes us; let’s leave a little bit of our family’s love in each new city and take a little bit of that city with us when we leave. Memories will last forever.

Separation

  1. Being a military child, means you have had to spend pretty big chunks of time away from your Dad. This is the hardest part of being a military family, and we (your Mom and Dad) know it’s hard for you too. We are proud of how well you handle this challenge and are impressed by your strong hearts.
  2. When you struggle with the challenge of Daddy being away and act out at school or home, we understand. While “being frustrated because I miss Dad” is not an excuse for poor behavior choices, we understand you are coping the best you can. Sometimes Mom and Dad are super frustrated and want to have a melt-down too…. Sometimes we actually do!
  3. When Dad is gone, you are stuck with just me… your mom. I know I don’t have all the answers to your many science-y, engineering-y questions. I know my wrestling, swing-pushing, and daredevil-allowing skills do not reach the supreme level of your Father’s. I know that sometimes it’s probably pretty boring and monotonous to wake-up and see only me all day long, every single day. I know all that, and I’m okay that I don’t measure up to being both Mom and Dad. I give you my very best Mom skills and Mom love, and I fill in as much as I can in the Dad skills and love too… but there is no replacing your Dad, and that’s okay. He’s pretty awesome.
  4. No matter how far away the Navy sends your Dad, he’s really not all that far away. There is a little bit of him in each one of you and as your Mom, it is a treat for me to see him shine through you! The Navy can’t really separate us from your Dad, because he is always in our hearts and on our minds… and your smiles, and the funny way you sniff your nose, and your laugh, and your dance moves…

Family & Friends

  1. The military life gives us the opportunity to have friends throughout the Unites States and the world. Not every civilian kid can say they have friends on the East Coast, Midwest, West Coast, Hawaii, Japan, and Germany…. But you can! That’s pretty neat. Enjoy having friends all over the world… keep in touch with them, learn from them, and visit them as much as you can!
  2. While the Navy has moved us many times, they have yet to move us close to our family. So while our blood-relatives are far away, we lean on and share our daily lives with our military family. These are the people who just so happen to be stationed with us, but who held you when you were first born, cheered for you when you learned how to ride a two-wheel bike, celebrated birthdays with you, listened to you talk about your latest Lego creation, picked you up from school, went to your dance recitals, shared meals with you, shared stories with you, shared memories with you… and so much more. Our family tree is more like a family vine… we have become so entangled with other branches that we can no longer tell where our family ends and theirs begins. We are so very blessed to be part of such an amazing military family.
  3. We always wish we could see our extended family more. The lucky part of living far away from our family, is that when we do get to see them, we get to have them stay with us! If we lived closer to them we might visit them during the day and then go home to our own homes. But when we are so far apart, they get to come visit with us and tuck you in bed and sing you goodnight lullabies. You get to wake up with them and eat breakfast with them. You get to share your entire every day with them. Visits from your grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and other family may not fully make up for all the time we don’t get to see them, but those visits are so very special and need to be appreciated.
  4. When it comes down to it, through the moves, the separations, the friends that come and go, OUR military family… the three of you… are the most important thing to your Dad and me. Although we may not be able to “put down roots” I pray that you will always know, without a doubt, that you are rooted in our hearts. No matter where the Navy sends us, you will always have a place to call home because you will always have your Dad and me.
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Military Life: Phase One of PCS = Lots of Waiting + Lots of Emotions

The never-ending waiting game as a Navy spouse

The never-ending waiting game as a Navy spouse

My husband is in the midst of one of the most common military traditions there is….he’s waiting for his next set of Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders.  Along with him, I wait.  My kids wait too.  We all know they’re coming.  We’ve been anticipating them since the day we moved here three years ago.  On one hand PCSing is the most concrete and consistent part of the military life; on the other it is the most fluctuating and uncertain parts of the military life.  So, while I wait and wonder about what the Navy has in store for us next, I will write.

I have several non-military friends who know that our move is coming up soon and they all ask the question, “Do you know when you are moving yet?”  My response is usually, “No. Well, yes… sort of. Not really, but probably we think this summer.”  And their response is usually <partially open mouth to ask the next question and questioning eyes searching for what the next question should be> “Oh. That must be stressful.” And it is. It is stressful to not know the “when” and the “where” (never mind the “how”) of our next move. But a PCS is so much more than just stress, it’s a great big ball of conflicting emotions!

There is the strong and all-consuming desire to know, no matter what the orders say, to just know, where and when we are going next. This strong desire just to know means my husband answers the same question every.single.day: “Have you heard from the detailer yet?” If he is able to skirt around that question, I can pretty much promise he will get nailed with, “When do you think we will hear from the detailer?” The poor guy just can’t avoid these questions and he rarely has answers to give me.  Unfortunately, the lack of information only strengthens the desire for knowledge, so when I can’t fulfill that desire with concrete factual facts, I give in to daydreams and online searches.  I am now an expert with Trulia, MilitaryByOwner.com, Rent.com, and Craigslist.  Three + bedroom, two + bath, finished basement, Walk-in closet!! Compare those listings with Greatschools.org… Google Map them with the nearest Crossfit and Target (what more does this girl need, really?) and I have single-handedly spent an entire evening finding our dream house in three different towns we probably won’t live in!!!

I cannot tell you how thrilled I would be to be able to tell the kids where they will be starting the next school year. My daughter knew from the very first day we moved here, that she would go to Pre-K, Kindergarten, and 1st Grade here… then in 2nd Grade she would get to go to a whole new school in a whole new state.  She has handled the expectation of the move very well, but I would love to be able to show her a picture of her new school building.  I would love to show her the school’s web page and pictures of students who already go to that school.  We could look up the names of teachers, and we could look at their school calendar.  We could begin to imagine what life for her (and her two brothers too!) will be like. And the idea of that is thrilling.

I would be so excited to be able to start looking for a house for our family to call home.  As a stay-at-home mom, our house is not only our home, it is my office, my place of business, my break room…. My world.  Moving to a new home stirs up tons of energy for me… good energy about new curtains and throw pillows and rugs and lamps and bedding and towels and everything else available at HomeGoods…. And bad energy about all the stuff we should really get rid of, the kids’ clothes that haven’t been sorted in ages, the heavy bin of books my husband insists on keeping forever, the nest of dust bunnies hiding behind the television console that will soon be allowed to escape when the movers arrive.  Most of my energy goes towards imagining how I can best organize our house and home and workplace to be a place where we can all feel comfortable and “at home”… even though it’s a brand new home for all of us.  I would start planning and imagining my future home tomorrow if I could.

I am anxious to know which town and neighborhood we will be part of.  Community is one of my favorite things in life and I am aching to know what our future community will be like.  We have lived in military housing where everyone knows just about everything about each other and we have lived in apartments where I basically didn’t know anyone at all.  I wonder what our next community will be like! Will we have places to explore? Will there be fun day trips to add to our adventure? How will our family fit into this new and unknown community awaiting us?

And so I wait with lots of questions and not too many answers… and while I ache for the knowing, I have to admit that on the flip side, there is an equally strong and all-consuming desire to NOT know, no matter what the orders say, to desperately deny, that we will be moving somewhere else.  For the first time in our Navy career, my desire to stay blissfully ignorant is incredibly strong… almost (maybe more?) stronger than my desire to know.

I love it here.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE it here.  The weather is completely and totally amazing.  Seriously, sunny and 70s nearly every day – upper 50s is “super cold” and upper 80s is “super hot”.  We live in a climate that makes you want to get outside and enjoy life.  The idea of living in a place that actually has weather <gasp> totally makes me feel deflated.  I do not own a jacket or a coat right now, I don’t need one! Imagine living someplace where I might need rain boots or snow boots or… pretty much anything other than flip flops! Bleh.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE my kids’ schools and their teachers and the learning environment they are in on a daily basis. We have found schools that employ teachers who genuinely love kids and love teaching them; schools that encourage our children to want to learn and be creative and solve problems; schools that help me be a better parent as they help my kids be better kids. When I imagine the last day of school and saying good-bye to the Kindergarten teacher who taught my daughter and son to read, my heart breaks and I am filled with a longing to take her, and all the other teachers who have helped shape my children, along with me.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE our home and our neighborhood and our town.  The playgrounds actually get played with and the neighborhood garden blooms with flowers, vegetables, and herbs.  There are parades and community events and activities and just about every day there are people out riding bikes, jogging or just out for a walk.  Even on my drive to Target or Crossfit, the scenery is absolutely gorgeous. I consciously try to be appreciative of the beauty around me.. there are mountains and oceans and sunny skies all over this place!

Living in a place that makes me feel my very best is one of the luckiest things that has ever happened to me.  I am grateful for the Navy bringing us to this part of the country (twice!).  More than anything though, I am grateful to be living in a place where I have some of my very most treasured friends.  The people I have met here, and the people whom I already knew but got to know even better, have made this tour one for the record books.  The friendships that were strengthened through my husband’s deployment days will always be a part of who I am.  The friendships that grew deeper and closer through various detachments, or wildfires, or family emergencies have made me a better person.  I have girlfriends that have become sisters, and entire families who have become a part of our extended family.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE the people I have spent the last three years with.  I know that these friendships will continue no matter where or when we leave, but there is something ever-so-special being neighbors with the people you love the most.   While I have said “see you later” to many Navy friends that I have made here already as they PCS’d across the country, I am deeply (to the core) saddened when I think about saying goodbye to my friends who are still here.

And so I wait.  I wait for my husband to come home from work with the look in his eye that he knows something I don’t know and that “something” is our next big Navy adventure.  I wait for the news with the thrill of the idea of that big adventure, and the sadness of ending the one we are on today.  I look forward to settling into our new home while my heart dreads the day we close the door to this one.

 


Motherhood: It Is What It Is

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Baby #2. Sometimes motherhood turns our lives (and our expectations) upside-down.

At some point after having my first baby, I felt a heavy pressure to be the perfect super-mom.  I’m not entirely sure where the pressure came from, perhaps because many of my friends were first-time moms and we were all aiming for our too-high expectations of what stay-at-home motherhood meant.  The strive for perfection may have been exacerbated by the ability of fellow moms to post photos of the adorable kids, happy families, perfectly healthy lunches, and perfectly groomed selves on Facebook.  Surely, the never-ending pins of perfection on Pinterest cemented these expectations.  Regardless of where, why, and how this expectation came to be, I was definitely suckered into the unrealistic black hole of Supermom.

I busted out my label maker and bought cute baskets to maintain Pinterest-worthy closets; I dressed my daughter in cute outfits that coordinated with her blanket (and pacifier – oh yes I did); I did my best to actually get a shower and put on normal-people clothes.  I put on a smile and tried to “enjoy every minute” knowing that my little girl would be “grown before I knew it!”  Meanwhile, I had a nagging thought in the back of my head… how in the world am I going to keep this up for the rest of my life?!  Surely, this was how life as a new mom was supposed to look, right? Right?! Lucky for me, I got a valid excuse to let it go.

When my daughter was six months old, I found out I was pregnant with baby #2, and in the ensuing weeks of exhaustion, nausea, and moodiness I decided that Supermom I was not and Supermom I no longer wanted to be.  I just needed to keep my baby girl alive, my soon-to-be baby healthy, and me at least a little sane.  No more striving for some ideal that I thought I “should” be.  I’m not a Supermom; it is what it is.  If someone didn’t like that, well, it had nothing to do with anyone else.

Now, approximately seven years later, we (moms in general) have swung to the opposite extreme of expectations.  I have recently come across several blogs shouting the importance of “I’m messy and you should be too!” All of a sudden (or maybe it’s been a gradual shift and I’m just more aware of it now) there seems to be a push to strive for a chaotic, messy, and slightly disgruntled attitude about motherhood. While letting go of the desire to present our lives as similar to Pottery Barn Kids perfection as possible, there seems to be pressure to now participate in the “My Life is More of a Hot Mess Than Yours” competition.

Please don’t get me wrong, I love love love the idea of mothers having the freedom to be genuine.  To embrace who we are as women, mothers, and wives… the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful… is the best thing we can do for ourselves and each other.  I love the acceptance of the messy side of motherhood as I definitely land on the chaotic side of the motherhood spectrum.  The problem I do have with this pendulum swing from perfection to hot mess, is the judgments that seem to be attached to both extremes.  Now that we have finally seemed to recognize and accept that not all moments of motherhood are wonderful and delightful, we have also begun to shun those mothers who do actually celebrate the moments that are “perfect.”

For example, if a crafty mom sends her child to school on Valentine’s Day with perfectly perfect valentine’s for the rest of the kids, another mom is ranting about how over-the-top it is.  If a mom chooses to prioritize a clean, tidy, and well-decorated home, she’s labeled as disingenuous and her priorities skewed.  If a mom cuts her child’s sandwich into a fun shape and makes fruit art at lunchtime, she’s deemed to be one of those moms…. “Too much time on Pinterst.”  Heaven forbid a stay-at-home mom shows up at school drop off at 8am in non-yoga pants…. most likely she will receive a few glares and strange looks from fellow moms who chose not to get dressed up for school drop-off.

So where does that leave us?!  Well, technically right now, it leaves us with me being judge-y about other moms being judge-y about other moms just doing their thing.  That’s a whole lot of judge-y.  And that’s NOT the point.

The point is….. as women and mothers…. “IT IS WHAT IT IS.”

Whether or not your house is messy, should not reflect on anyone but yourself.  If it’s tidy, great.  Cleaning is obviously important to you.  If it’s not, great.  Cleaning is obviously not your top priority. IT IS WHAT IT IS.  If you go to a friend’s house and it’s a mess, embrace it. Who cares?! The fact is, it has nothing  to do with you. If your friend’s house is tidy, embrace it.  Who cares? The fact is, it has nothing to do with you.  The same goes for the mom who has the craftiest invitations and the mom who gives the plainest store-bought ones; the mom whose child could be a model for Gap Kids and the mom whose child is wearing the same cowboy boots every single day; the mom whose house is well decorated with throw pillows and art, and the mom whose house is well decorated with toys and laundry. IT IS WHAT IT IS, and it has nothing  to do with anyone else.

Let’s stop judging…. Whether it’s the good, the bad, the ugly or the beautiful.  If you see a mom do something you think is amazing, give her a compliment instead of making a snide comment, “Ooooh, don’t you always do just the craftiest thing?! Of course you would make us all look bad!” That’s really not a compliment and there’s no good reason to make another mom feel bad for doing something great.  If you are a mom who happens to be able to do some of those extra-fancy things, I encourage you to make sure you are only doing it for your enjoyment and the enjoyment of your family… it shouldn’t be about what other people will think of you or the expectations you think they have for you.

So… if another mother isn’t quite living up to your standards (whether they are high or low), try to remember… IT IS WHAT IT IS and it has nothing to do with you.


We All Need A Little Mama Love (From Ourselves)

Love (Two red hearts)

I had intended to write this post nearly two weeks ago.  I typed the title into the title line and saved the draft so I would remember what I wanted to write about.   So a few weeks ago, I thought I wanted to write about how us moms out there in the MotherHood need to take care of ourselves and cut ourselves some slack. We need to enjoy a little break from all things Motherhood.  Interestingly enough, I needed this post, personally, two days ago. However, the actual message I ended up with was pretty much the opposite message I had originally intended to write.    

To start at the very beginning (it’s a very good place to start), I was stressed out this week.  There were a variety of factors, including but not limited to: my husband heading out-of-town for training for a handful of days (not a long time in Navy terms but long enough to throw me off a bit), the Navy moved a dear friend away (again), I heard some really tough news about a friend’s health, and I had made commitments at my kids’ school that were a little bigger than I had anticipated. Plus, I had the general stresses when trying to be a mom, wife, friend, and human being. 

Apparently I wasn’t the only one who was being affected by the stress because a few days ago I was told that my son’s kindergarten teacher needed to speak to me after school.  She kindly explained that my little dude had hurt another kid in his class. (Note: when your neighbor is sitting “criss-cross applesauce” on the carpet during music, it’s not nice to try to squash his knees into the ground.  You should probably keep your hands to yourself.) “Oh. Goodness.  Well, thank you for letting me know and we will definitely talk about this more at home.” says Betsy, who now wants to cry a little bit.  After talking to my son about his choices and my expectations for his behavior in the future, I thought I had it handled and went about my day.  And then I went about my next day until about 10:30am when the phone rang.  Oh, boy.  He was at it again at school and this time had decided that pinching another child during music class would be a good idea.  This time not only was I getting a phone call from the teacher, but he had been sent to “see the Problem Solvers” (a.k.a. “the Principals’ Office”). “Oh. Goodness. Again. Hmmm. That’s not good.” says Betsy, who now has quiver chin and tingling nose.  Thankfully my little dude’s teacher is a sweet and gentle lady who may have been trained by Disney princesses in handling awkward, uncomfortable, and “tragic” motherhood moments.  I didn’t burst into tears right then and there.  

So, I had been off kilter and feeling frazzled, and then in my over-dramatic mind anyway, I was failing my son.  Because, of course, it’s all my fault if he does something wrong, right?! Well, when I’m stressed out that’s pretty much the only logical answer.  It must be because I haven’t taught him empathy enough (I read an article somewhere that empathy  was the most telling sign that your child would be a contributing member of society, so now I have a mean kid who will become a bully and that will lead him to juvenile delinquency…. he’s pretty much straight on the road to prison) and I haven’t given him enough attention during the last week while his Dad (his buddy of all buddies) was out on the aircraft carrier (risking his life by landing a big giant airplane on a small bouncing boat in the middle of a big deep ocean for the sake of our country’s freedom).  Do you see how a little bit of frazzle can up my drama-meter?! Let’s keep going, because I surely didn’t stop there.  It’s my fault because I haven’t followed-through on absolutely every single warning I gave him, and I haven’t taught him self-control because sometimes I lose my patience which makes me use my “shouting voice,” and probably it’s all my fault because he’s a middle child and middle children are usually the ones that feel neglected, so “way to go”me for having a sister before him and a brother after him.  It’s all my fault.  I am the world’s worst mother. Ever. 

I pretty much sent that all in an email to my husband.  Lucky guy.  I’m sure he was thrilled to read it.  Luckily for me, I was also able to call my sister and tell her all of my frazzled thoughts too.  My husband (via email) and my sister(via phone), both of whom were apparently not frazzled, but very logical, reminded me that kids are their own persons and they make mistakes.  They test limits just to see what will happen, and sometimes test limits knowing exactly what will happen but do it anyway.  My son will cause problems and  get himself into “pinches” (pun intended).  My job is not to prevent him from making every single bad choice, but to make sure he learns from those choices.  My job is to respond to the little offenses in a way that will motivate him to make better choices when faced with the big offenses.  

In response to this potentially failing Mama moment,  I realized that while I need to maintain some “me” time, I also need to be more intentional in my Mama time.  I had totally been coasting through some of the parts of motherhood that needed a little more effort.  I had been focusing a lot of my time and energy on other people outside of my family, with good intentions but maybe to the detriment of my confidence in my ability to be the best Mama I can be.  That’s where I needed the Mama Love.  I needed to spend a day thinking about how much I love being a Mama, on the good days and on the bad days too.  

So I busted out my poster board and made a behavior sticker chart.  I put my phone away after school so I could hear more about his day and who he played with and how music class went.  We picked out books we want to read together and made sure I had one-on-one time with him every day.  Basically, I stopped being too busy, too frazzled, and too distracted to really love being a Mama.  

So bringing this all back to needing some Mama Love….  I had anticipated writing about needing Mama Love by taking the opportunity to take off our Mama hats.   But this week, I realized sometimes my Mama Love needs to come from taking off all the other hats I wear and putting that Mama hat squarely (or maybe on a jaunty little angle) on my head.  While it won’t always be easy, but because I have gained some confidence this week, I will wear that cap with neither pressure on myself to create perfect kids nor fear that they will make poor choices. I clearly know: they will not be perfect and they will make very, very poor choices (particularly during music time). 


The Fun of Motherhood

Starting at the very beginning, my most favorite joys of motherhood were meeting each of my three children.  All of my kiddos arrived via c-section, so our first meetings were rather sterile, but oh so perfect at the same time.  After months of anticipation, day dreaming and getting sneak peeks through ultrasounds, the moment of meeting each child face-to-face for the very first time will forever be burned in my memory.  When my daughter was born (the first of three babies) I was certain there was something “wrong” with her because the nurses bundled her up in a blanket right away and the only thing I could see was her tiny face.  I thought they were hiding something from me. (They were not.)  When my first son was born (baby #2) a short fifteen months later, the doctors made sure I got to see him all squirmy and slimy before wrapping him up and bringing him to my husband who held him next to my face.  Finally, when baby #3 arrived we were all laughing… we had not found out the baby’s gender this time around, and I was certain she was a SHE.  Well, he was a HE and he was a BIG he.  The anesthesiologist announced, “Get that kid a paper route!”  Each arrival holds a very special place in my life.    I will never forget the first time I laid eyes on each face, whispered into their tiny ears, and stroked their smooth, chubby cheeks.

Meeting Baby #3

Meeting Baby #3

I’m not sure if I can put the rest of my favorite joys in any particular order, but the next one that comes to mind is the deliciousness of a baby/toddler/preschooler after bath time.  In our house, we do bath time pretty much every night. There’s something so sweet about snuggling with the little babe who smells like lavender and is all cozied up in clean pajamas.  As the little one grows, post-bath time continues to be pretty wonderful.  The toddlers are no longer sticky, usually a little bit calmer and a lot more snuggly in preparation for story time and bed time.  Even the pre-schoolers are fresh and clean (aside from those temperary tattoos that seem to stick to my kids for an incredibly long time!), ready to settle down for the night, and full of sweet kisses, hugs, and noses.  Bath time seems to not only wash away the dirt and grime, but the crankiness, tantrums, and stress from everyone’s day.  I love me a fresh baby!

Loving Bath time

Loving Bath time

Post-Bath Time fun.

Post-Bath Time fun.

I absolutely love watching my little munchkins explore and learn about the world we live in.  Seeing them feel sand and snow for the first time, watching them explore national parks, taste new foods, and just “discover” the world around them brings me such joy.  I am reminded of how wonder-filled our days are.  My kids help me to slow down and experience life with my eyes wide open.  I am thankful for their enthusiasm and curiousity to learn and try new things.

Discovering snow

Discovering snow

Discovering the ocean

Discovering the ocean

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Discovering sticks!

Perhaps some of our most wonder-filled moments happen during the Christmas season.  We like to keep our Christmas holiday Christ-centered, but we also celebrate the “magic” of Santa Claus and the fun of exchanging presents.  One of my greatest joys of motherhood happens on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning.  Our family has created traditions that the kids look forward to with great excitement.  I love the anticipation of Christmas morning and thrill of seeing the goodies beneath the tree for the first time.  Almost nothing beats the joy of Christmas in our house!

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Christmas morning hair.

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Santa, I believe!

LOTS of sprinkles on Christmas cookies

LOTS of sprinkles on Christmas cookies.

Right after the joys of Christmas, I also want to add the joys of Disney!  Taking my kids to Disney World a few years ago was one of my all-time favorite motherhood moments.  To see their faces light up with excitement and awe of Disney magic was totally awesome.  My daughter was filled with pure bliss to meet her favorite Disney princesses and characters.  My husband and I couldn’t help but feel the joy and excitement too.  Living life through the imaginations of my children is my most fun part of motherhood.

Exploring Minnie's house

Exploring Minnie’s house

Loving on the Minnie Mouse

Loving on the Minnie Mouse

Comparing jewelry with Pocahontas

Comparing jewelry with Pocahontas

While time is definitely flying by and I will wish I could relive these moments over again, I also love, love, LOVE, watching the kids grow-up into the people they were made to be! I love see them learn new skills; first steps, first words, first Lego creation, first two-wheel bike are moments that I treasure for each one of them.  I love to see their personalities bloom as they grow and mature.  I love to know that each day they are becoming more of the wonderful person they were created to be.

First Day of Pre-School

First Day of Pre-School

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First Day of Kindergarten

Not only is it completely amazing to watch your little ones grow into big people, I find it even more amazing to watch my husband grow into a most wonderful father.  I watch him teach our children to play fair, to tell the truth, to have self-control, and to be respectful.  I watch him play ball, have tea parties, race cars, ride bikes, and camp in our back yard.  I watch my children wave to him when he leaves the house and hug him when he gets home.  I watch my family grow stronger because of the father that he is.  I fall in love with him a little more every day.

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Daddy and Son #2 (2012)

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Daddy and Son #1 (2011)

Daddy and his little girl (2008)

Daddy and his little girl (2008)

And speaking of love…. there is nothing more enthralling than the feelings of love I have for my children.  To have these little people in my life who have captured all of my heart is sometimes more than I can believe.  They are my heart, and my life.  Though they bring me tears on occasion, they bring me smiles daily.  My life is full because I have been given the most precious gift of being their mother.  I am thankful every day. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. that I get to be their Mom, MaMa, and Mommy.

Me and My Boys

Me and My Boys

Me and My Girl

Me and My Girl

P.S. This post and photos has made me realize I need someone else to take photos of me and my kids.  Almost all of the photos that include me are “selfies” from my phone!  

 


What Every New Mom Wants Her Husband to Know

IMG_6531I have a handful of friends who are either expecting or recently welcomed a child into the world.  For some, this is their very first time.  For a few others, they are welcoming baby #2 or 3.  This write is for all of them and their husbands.  (I am three years out of having a new baby so I am now in the “safe to write about this topic” with my husband.)

She is more tired than you are.  I know. I know you are tired too, but you really are not nearly as tired as she is.  She is physically tired from sleeping in 2-3 hour chunks for the last several months. Yes, months. You may be tired from waking up with the crying baby, but she started this motherhood with a sleep deficit from waking up every few hours to pee or roll over or grab a few TUMS.  She is more tired than you are. Let her have that title.

If you really must complain about how tired you are (all new parents have the right to announce their astonishment at the lack of sleep), please please please begin your complaint with, “I have no idea how you are functioning… I’m so tired;” “You must be exhausted because I’m so tired;” or something along those lines.  New Mom will appreciate your respectful nod to her own tiredness. Unless of course, she fell asleep before you finished your sentence.

She really wouldn’t mind hearing your compliments. Everyone likes to hear that their hard work is not only noticed, but appreciated and admired.  New Mom is no different.  In fact, she is probably putting more effort and energy into your new little bundle of joy than she has put into anything. Ever. However, her effort is overlooked by the wee one who most likely responds to her hardwork with screams, spit-up (the ultimate insult to a nursing mother), or a smelly poopy diaper.  So if Baby isn’t going to say, “Gee, Mom, you really are amazing! The way you keep calm, the way you sing that sweet song, the way you know just how to hold me when I have reflux…. you blow my mind away,” then, it’s up to you, Dad.  Compliment the way she handles the baby and the way she handles herself.  Point out the things you never knew she knew how to do so well.  Notice the way she can cradle the baby in one arm and fold clothes/text her friends/bake bread/anything with the other.  Notice that she took a shower today!!! That’s HUGE.

New Mom is working darn hard these days.  She deserves a tip of the hat, a compliment, a compliment in front of others (!), a hug for a job well-done. She deserves encouragement when she thinks she messing up the whole thing, she deserves a reminder that her body created a whole new being and no one else could do a finer job. She deserves a boost when she’s so tired she’s almost crazy and a kiss when she climbs back into bed for the fifth time each night.

She thinks she looks pretty awful. Okay, maybe not every woman thinks she looks “awful” after having the baby, but I think most do.  If your New Mom is a lucky lady who has a body that bounces back quickly, that’s awesome for you and her… but I bet she’d still like to hear that you think she’s a beauty.  For the average woman, post-baby is quite possibly the ugliest few months or years.  Let’s start with the physical, since that’s the easiest.  Crazy stuff is happening with her body.  The belly, the feet, the ankles, the hair falling out,  the sweatiness… oh, the sweatiness in the middle of the night… the boobs that might look nicer but are oh so painful, it’s sort of a head-to-toe disaster.  Now, you may not think she looks like a disaster (I sincerely hope you do not) because you can see all the beauty that she is as a New Mom, but she thinks you do.  Let’s move on to her new fragrance, because that might be the most obvious.  New Mom probably smells… interesting.  A little bit of her old self, add quite a bit of sweatiness from those night sweats, plus a whole lot of breastmilk that leaked sometime during the night or day, and a splash of spit-up most likely down the back of her shoulder or even in her hair…. subtract daily showers and you get…  Mmmmmmmm. Yeah, that doesn’t make a lady feel amazing! If you notice her new “perfume,” just don’t mention it.

Not only is she battling post-baby body, she’s also been battling the fact that she watched her body balloon from pre-baby to full-term baby. That’s pretty incredible.  Imagine holding your hand 6-8 inches in front of your belly… and over the next few months your belly would just grow and grow and grow.  I know I used to poke the front of my full-term belly and think, “HOLY COW… how in the world am I, me, myself, that far out there?!” So it’s not just the fact that Baby is now born and her body is different, it’s that she’s watched her body morph from the one she knew for years to this foreign expanding, shrinking, swelling, leaking, stinking thing she has now.  She will go back to normal. She will. She just might not believe that yet.

Remind her that she’s beautiful – she was before Baby and she is after Baby – and, at the same time, know that that probably won’t be enough…. but keep reminding her anyway.

She really wants a break. She really would like some time off.  You would too, I know.  But this topic is not about you, so there.  New Mom is giving and giving and giving some more of herself to the wee one and she could just use some time where she does not have to give to anyone.  She also really really does not want to ask for it. She would really really really like you to suggest it.  Is that silly? Yes. Does it feel like she is playing games? Yes. Is she? No. Remember, she’s tired, she thinks she looks a mess, she knows she smells like old cheese… could you just make this suggestion instead of making her ask?

In the early days of Baby, and if she is nursing, she can probably only take an hour or two before she’s back on the job.  You could let her sleep in; you could take Baby (and siblings) to the grocery store or Home Depot; you could drop her off at the nail salon or a friends house while you drive around with Baby so she knows the little one will get a good nap.  The best breaks are when New Mom can not hear or see or smell Baby.  Give her a break… a real break.  I can almost guaranteee she will come back to you and the babe much more relaxed and enjoyable to be around.  (Also, this is setting you up well to show her how capable you are as a Dad.  This could lead to her having complete faith in your abilities to take care of your little prodigy… which means she won’t micromanage the house/children  in months and years to come.) This one is a win-win for everyone!

She may have lost her mind a little.  New Mom’s brain is amazing.  Pregnant Mom’s brain is something short of amazing… at least mine was.  I just couldn’t put thoughts together well. No, I just couldn’t put thoughts together at all.  But take a look at all that New Mom is keeping track of in those first few months.  There’s the eating schedule including how many ounces were ingested (including how much from each side if she’s a nursing mom), there’s the diaper count – dirty versus clean… don’t want to run out!, there’s the sleeping schedule and lengths, there’s the exactly how old is Baby right now count (this is probably only for a first-time New Mom), there’s the constant tally of which “thank you” notes have been written versus need to be written, there’s the adult meal schedule that may or may not be delivered by friends and family, there’s the knowledge of the first few chapters of What To Expect the First Year (and where Baby is or isn’t measuring up), I bet she even knows how many clean onesies are in the drawer and she has an idea when she will need to do laundry.  That’s just the beginning.  That’s just Baby stuff, not to mention normal adult stuff. And she’s sleep deprived.

So if you’re New Mom has a crazed look on her face, it’s just that she’s counting and tallying and measuring things in her head.  Or she fell asleep with her eyes open.  It’s best to just refer back to the first few suggestions above and give her a compliment or give her a break.

On a serious note, also keep an eye out for postpartum depression.  This is real.  I, for one, experienced depression after my third baby.  You and your New Mom need to take this seriously.  It’s a touchy subject to put on the table, but it’s definitely worth it.  There is a variety of treatments available and the treatments seriously work. If you suspect she may be experiencing moods that run deeper than “baby blues” I strongly suggest talking to her about your concerns and encouraging her to talk to her OB/Gyn as soon as possible.

She’s pretty awesome.  You probably know this already. Yes. You do. The coolest thing is that New Mom probably has some new-found self-awareness of her awesomeness.  She’s a Mom.  She might be a Mom again or maybe Mom for the first time. It doesn’t really matter.  She, by the grace of God, brought a human being, into the world.  No matter how tired or ugly or overwhelmed or crazy she feels, she knows she did something awesome.  Celebrate her! Celebrate her awesomeness!  Celebrate the awesomeness of your New Family!   (You are pretty awesome too, by the way.)


A Day (or Nine) Late… My New Year’s Reflections

Pad of Paper & PenI’m pretty sure if you are a blogger on New Year’s, you are almost required to write about your New Year’s Resolutions.  Or about how to best stick to your resolutions, or why you should NOT make resolutions, or something resolution-y.  I don’t want to rock the Blogging boat, so I’m going to….. write about my New Year’s Resolutions… which I am deciding to call my New Year’s Reflections instead.  

Why I am abandoning the word “Resolution”:
I make a resolution to not make a resolution this year.  For me, a “Resolution” is too formal, too much of a rule, too much intimidation.  I find it hard to start out the year resolving to do (or not do) anything.  I am, to my very core, a rule-follower.  This personality trait baffles my husband, but there’s nothing I can do to change it.  So if I make a resolution, I’m going to drive myself bonkers trying to follow the rule I set for myself.  But how am I supposed to know what’s in store for me in the next year?! I might make a fitness goal, and then break my leg.  I might make a parenting goal, and then four weeks into the year realize it is ineffective.  You get the point.  Those scenarios would drive me bonkers.  Not only would I kick myself for breaking my resolution, I would also be disappointed that I made a lame resolution.  In the words (sort of) of the Soup Nazi…. “No Resolution For You!”

If not “Resolution,” then what?
I’ve read my fair share of blogs and articles about starting the New Year off on the right foot.  From a little bit of this one and a little bit of that one, I’m deciding to have “Reflections” this year.  I’ve spent the last week (see, there’s an excuse for why I’m late to this blog topic) trying to decide what I want out of this year.  I don’t need to write “rules” for myself to follow, but more generalized goals.  Spending a few days reflecting on the upcoming year has left me with the following thoughts:
1. I love to write and I don’t do it nearly enough.
2. I reached some fitness goals in 2013 that I didn’t know I could reach… I’d like to keep that up for the next year.
3. I have gotten in the habit of losing my temper with my children. I don’t like me when I do that.
4. I have the most amazing husband in the whole wide world (sorry all you other married ladies) and I want to make sure he knows I know it.
5. I love keeping in touch with friends and have gotten out of habit of sending hand-written cards.  Falling out of touch with people hurts my heart, so if for no other reason than selfishness, it’s time for some cute cute stationary.

What I hope comes of my reflections:
At the end of 2014, I would like to see that I have spent my year bettering myself. That I was purposeful with my days and have become a more authentic Betsy. If I had made “Resolutions” I would be looking to see if I completed a check-list of Things To Do. I would like to take my “Reflections” deeper than a list.  I want to see growth, challenges, failures, and successes.  I want to see my year filled with moments spent on my personal priorities that are unique to me; not a year spent doing things that I thought I “should” be doing.

Steps to take in the right direction:
As a writer, the most important thing for me is to put my ideas in writing.  Fuzzy and floating around in my brain at first, as soon as pen hits the paper or fingers hit the keyboard my thoughts solidify into something I can see.  So in order for me to spend 2014 going in the right direction, I need to write out my plan.  Remember, these are not “Resolutions” or a checklist I need to do every day, it’s more like a map with many different routes to take.
* Before sitting down in front of Real Housewives or any other terrible television show, I need to ask myself if I did something to make me a better me.
* When it comes to writing, I need to stop being fearful of what other people think of my writing. I will own it… the good and the bad. I will write because I love to write and not because it’s fun to get good feedback.
* When it comes to fitness goals, I’m not sure where I will end up at the end of 2014.  I had to take some time off from the gym, so I’m way behind.  I’d like to get back to where I was, strength and cardio-wise, but I don’t know when that will happen. For now I will just go to the gym and work as hard as I can. Whatever happens, happens.  I know something will happen if I keep going.
* When it comes to the kids, I will see them for what they are: kids. I won’t hold it against them and I won’t allow myself to get angry when they behave like kids. When I fail at that, and actually do get angry, I will speak to them like I would speak to my best friends’ kids.  I will try to teach them through example and through patience and hopefully through grace too.
* When it comes to my husband, I will verbalize the kind thoughts I have for him. Or maybe I will write them down since that comes easiest to me. I won’t forget to do the little things that show him I appreciate him and I will try to make his days a little happier. I am so thankful to be married to such a great guy, I surely need to find new ways to let him know.
* When it comes to keeping in touch with friends, birthday cards would be easiest. Everyone has a birthday. Or maybe just keep a stack of fun stationary handy and start with an addressed AND stamped envelope so it actually gets in the mail.  This priority coincides with my writing goal so that’s an extra bonus! 

I’m not planning on doing all five of those things every day.  I’m not planning on doing any of them perfectly.  However, I am planning on these priorities guiding my choices throughout the year.  On December 31st, 2014, I plan on my year reflecting these intentions back to me.

Cheers to You!
Whether you made your Resolutions or chose to reflect on what you want to do in 2014, or maybe did neither one at all, I wish you a very Happy New Year!  Thank you for taking the time to read my silly thoughts and thank you EVER so much for leaving comments. I look forward to sharing more with you in 2014.  I can’t promise it will be good-reading every time, remember, I’m just working on writing more frequently… maybe quality will improve with time too?! Anyway, I hope each and every one of you has the best year yet.


Heavens to Besties!!

Some of the most important people in my life are my best girl friends.  I am a lucky girl to have found my best girls and today’s blog is for them… 

15 Reasons Why I Love My Best Girl Friends:

  1. You have noticed and asked me why I haven’t blogged in a long time.  Thanks for supporting me by reading my blog and encouraging me to get back at it.
  2. You have made me snort-laugh, which only makes me snort-laugh more.  Extra props to those of you who snort-laugh with me.
  3. You have sent random post-cards to say hello and let me know you are thinking of me.  Thank you for brightening my days most unexpectedly.
  4. You understand that talking on the phone is practically impossible for me with three kids in the house and you happily text along with me.  Thanks for enduring my paragraph texts and/or emoji obsession.
  5. You have eaten frozen pizza at my house on more than one occasion. Thank you for not complaining that I am not a gourmet chef.
  6. You look past my messy house. Thank you for making it so I don’t even have to apologize for it any more.
  7. You make Girls Night Out so fun that I have to repeatedly ask my babysitter if I can stay out later.  I do not thank you for the babysitting bills I have paid though.
  8. You understand my enthusiasm for making t-shirts slogans for just about anything.  Thank you for not rolling your eyes at me every time. 
  9. You let me be dramatic which sometimes includes me hitting you on your arm or leg or shoving you across the room.  Thank you for being my punching bag when I get too excited.
  10. You have witnessed some of my most embarrassing attributes (non-plucked chin hair, sweaty arm pits, inability to pee when others are within ear shot, etc.) and have loved me anyway.  Thank you for letting me borrow tweezers, promising me no one notices my arm pits or leaving the public restroom, etc.
  11. You love to dance. I’m pretty sure if you are one of my best girls you must love to boogie… at least a little. Or a lot.
  12. You have pushed me to be a better me. Thank you for the advice, kick in the pants, and support you have given me, even when I’m whining and complaining.
  13. You have loved my kids almost as much as I do.  Thank you for being surrogate Aunts to my kids and giving me a hand in raising the most important people in my life.
  14. You have encouraged and celebrated and supported Paul and I through the ups and downs of our marriage.  Thank you for being there for us when we had babies, deployments, and every day in between.
  15. You have made me feel loved and accepted and confident in the person I am. Thank you for being my best girl friends!
    I hope that one day me and my best girl friends can recreate this photo!

    I hope that one day me and my besties can recreate this photo!

     


A Day trip to San Francisco: I Spy Eight Jumping Jacks and Johns

This week my family began our summer vacation.  We started with two days in the San Francisco Bay Area.  We have long-time family friends in the area, and they were dear enough to open their house to my family of five.  Their home was our jumping off point for a day trip into San Fran. The city is one of my favorites, but I saw a whole new side of her this week…  A little less fun, culture, and romance and a little more freezing, waiting, and toilet stops (johns).  You’re intrigued, no? Let’s get started:

John #1: Before hauling off to the BART station we wisely use the john at our friends’ house.  This is not that significant seeing as how all trips must start in the john when you have kids.

Arrive at the BART station, get tickets, make our way through the turnstile, get to platform, wait for train, kids super exciting – have ants in their pants. Jumping jacks to calm down and “I spy an American flag; an orange construction cone; a train coming down the track!” Board train, transfer train, children bored. “I spy an American flag; an exit sign; a boat; a tunnel.” No johns on the train, also unable to do jumping jacks on train due to safety concerns (safety of children and bystanders).

John #2: Upon immediate departure of train station, we need a John. Powell Street station is also a big mall; we find a john quickly and use it. All of us… if one goes, we all go!

Cable Cars are a top priority for this trip. I researched from home; we get in line early when the line won’t be so long…. It’s two hours long.  It’s also very cold.  Jumping jacks to warm up the kids and “I spy an American flag; people running; a large white capital ‘g’ (Gap store, score!); a giant ice cream cone.”

John #3: an hour of waiting, kids need a john, husband takes kids to john, I stand in line, realize I am freezing. I do camouflaged jumping jacks (one leg out, bounce a little, shift weight to other leg, bounce a little… also looks like I need to find a john, ironically).

My husband returns with Starbucks and kids, I confess lack of warmth and go buy an overpriced sweatshirt. “I spy a stupid tourist who thought it would be warm in San Francisco in July and is now walking around in an expensive American Eagle sweatshirt that says “San Francisco” on it so everyone who sees her today knows her whole story.”

John #4: Cable car ride: awesome. Front row seats for kids, husband and I hanging on the outside like we are in a movie: awesome.  Disembark cable car at Lombard St. and kids need a john. Walk to nearest coffee shop, order a coffee, we all use the john.

Lombard Street (the crooked-est street EVER, if you didn’t know) is cool, but very much uphill. No need for jumping jacks thanks to steep incline, but “I spy an American flag; a blue door; a no parking sign; a curvy street sign.”

John #5: Walk all the way down to Fisherman’s Wharf with no need for a john. Huge surprise.  Promise kids Rainforest Café (despite everything in me screaming we should not be eating at a chain restaurant), find restaurant, take pictures with giant gorilla, now we need a john.  Luckily, we are in a restaurant already.

While waiting twenty minutes for our table, guess what we did?! Jumping jacks to keep us busy (how many jumping jacks can you do?!) and “I spy an American flag, a blue macaw flying; a gorilla beating his chest; a tree frog climbing a branch.”

John #6: You don’t think we left the restaurant without using the john again, do you?! No way. We all used the john one more time before leaving.

No trip to San Fran would be complete without seeing the sea lions at the pier. So off we march to see the silly animals, make up conversations trying to guess what they are barking at one another: “do you see those silly kids over there on the pier doing jumping jacks?! Their mom must be crazy.” “Sure thing, but at least they are entertaining us!”

John #7: Psych! Johns (men’s and women’s) at Pier 39 have the longest lines. No dice. Gonna have to hold it, kiddo.

Crowds of people, stands selling everything-especially winter hats… in July, people(!), statues of pirates to be photographed with, people riding elliptical bikes (?), boats on the water… ideal for a game of I Spy. Also, big grassy hill in front of Ghiradelli square is not only ideal for jumping jacks, but cartwheels as well. We did some of those just for fun.

John #7 (for real this time): We order chocolate milk from Ghiradelli… huge mistake, head over to Cable Car pick-up spot, get in another line, husband takes boys to john. This time we forsake “if one goes, we all go” and daughter stays in line with me. Seriously boys, what is the deal with all the john stops?! Daughter is the oldest, so starts a more serious and detailed battle… “I spy an American flag on top of  a brown building, a blue circular window; a small boat with a red stripe; a pair of orange shoes.” (It’s awkward when your child runs up to the lady wearing orange shoes and points at them and then yells to you “These shoes, mom?! They’re orange! These must be them!”)

Cable car back (front row again, sweet!), into BART station, wait for train, jumping jacks competition to make time go by faster, onto train, one stop and train is broken, everyone off train, and….

John #8: After waiting for 5 minutes for the train to pick up all the stragglers from the broken train, we need to use a john. No public johns in the BART station. We go up to the exit and ask a worker where the closest restroom is and he graciously lets the kids use the staff ‘s john.  As last child is pulling up his pants we hear the rumble of the train below us. We go down to platform. Train is gone.

Seventeen more minutes until the next train. “I spy a sign with two people laughing; a sign with two people laughing; a sign with two people laughing.” This station has the same billboard up repeatedly. I am so over I Spy. Everyone’s legs are too tired to do jumping jacks.

We get on our last train to take us back to our friends’ home, surely the kids will sleep, maybe I’ll even shut my eyes for a few…..

Or…

“Mom, wanna play I Spy?! I spy… with my little eye…… an American flag.”

BONUS FOR READING A WHOLE BLOG ABOUT BATHROOMS:
SAN FRANCISCO TIPS

Tip #1: There are no public restrooms at BART stations.

Tip #2: Powell street is a great place to start your San Fran adventure… lots of things to “spy” while waiting in line for cable cars, lots of stores to buy the sweatshirt you will need when you realize it is FREEZING even though it is late-July.

Tip #3: The line for the cable cars is long. Very long.

Tip #4: Super cute coffee shop at the corner of Taylor and Lombard Streets. They have snacks and sandwiches too and a bathroom.

Tip #5: Almost all maps (from BART stations, etc.) offer some sort of discount many restaurants. We scored free appetizers at Rainforest Café.

Tip #6: It is fabulously entertaining to try to guess what the sea lions are barking about to each other at Pier 39.  Without fail two sea lions start to wrestle and fight, it’s fun for the whole family to try to guess what’s going on. Or maybe my family is just easily amused.

Tip #7: Do not order hot chocolate (or maybe anything?) from Ghiradelli store at Ghiradelli Square… it’s crazy in there. The hot chocolate is a cup of hot milk and five chocolate bars… for us to drop in the milk… and wait for them to melt… and then mix together. Not quite what we were hoping for with three little kids antsy for their hot cocoa.

Tip #8: If you ever play I Spy, the American flag is a pretty handy one to use. Fortunately there always seems to be one flying nearby and that’s pretty awesome.

 

 


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