It takes less time to do thing right than it does to explain why you did it wrong.

Among A Worthwhile Wreckage

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Years of mentoring parents-to-be in childbirth classes has made it obvious that there is a veil between what we think we are preparing for and what actually happens in the liminal spaces between this and that. Between preparing to do the work, and actually having to crawl on our knees in the muck through a trial greater than we imagined. We guess we know what it will mean to shift from one kind of life to another, how we will be strong and capable; but in the end, it is only a trick of the mind, giving us the courage to begin hard things before we’ve any idea at all just how hard they will be or what the cost or how it will change us.

 

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Real life is…

Pictures from phone 247

This is real life…

“Stop making me crazy and do what you need to do please.”

“Don’t tell me what to do Miss!”

“I’m not fighting with you. “ (Yet, here we are arguing). “I’m not your mother and I refuse to be yelled at like I am.”

“I know you are not my mother. But Miss I don’t want to do this.” How dare he refuse my awesome assignment?!

“Do you know how much effort I have put into this? How long making this took me? That I see YOU more during the day than I do my OWN son.”  I’m reaching my breaking point, pulling at straws, I can’t lose this one. A genuine hurt stops my rage as I utter the last phrase; the student ceases waging war against my assignment.

“I see you more than my own mom too.”  We’ve come to an understanding. This power struggle last year started the term of endearment dubbed upon me by my students: Mama Miller. I served as a substitute mother for 120 8th graders. I felt deep confliction—sometimes I parented my students better than my own child. And in return my students gave me something I did not anticipate. I cannot articulate exactly the gift…just that I am forever changed by the relationships developed.

A hardship for working mothers that plagues us is the realization substitute caregivers spend more quality time with our child than we do. I work two jobs, constantly seek a third, and in the midst of laundry, dishes and dinner I feel lost in the webs of parenting. I give less of myself to playing trains and farm. Bath time? A mere formality.  Lullabies? Exhausting after ten minutes of rocking.  But each day when I roll in exhausted and bags hang under my eyes someone applauds me for somehow managing it.

I don’t know why I love the exhaustion other than how much I love being my baby’s mama. Even on days when I don’t love being my baby’s mama. I tear up when a student tells me “that’s what’s up” when I speak about my devotion to parenting. Real life is I get a few precious hours with my toddler daily. I get weekends trying to emulate someone else’s routine for him. Real life is…knowing I work to provide, knowing I’m missing out, and accepting that for now it’s ok.

Once I overheard a student at my former school speaking about his mother. He told his peers how much he loved her and the immense gratitude he feels. I hugged him and started sobbing. He asked, “Why are you crying Miss?”

“Because Eduardo, I hope with all my heart baby H says the same thing about me someday.”

“He will Miss. I know he will. And Miss, we feel the same way about you now. You’re a good mama, Miller. To all of us. ”

Real life is… I’m a good mama.

Tis the Season: Candy Canes in Crafts and Science

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Hello! I’m new around here

My name is Jessica, and I spend my days as a stay-at-home-mom of two wonderful little girls who are six and almost two. I also get to have fun hanging out with my nephew for the day while his mom and dad go to work. He’s two and a half and a huge light in my life.  I’m exceptionally lucky to be married to my high school best friend and to have an amazing circle of women who help me get through this journey called life. I’m looking forward to writing for Rocky Parenting and getting to know you all a little better!

My oldest daughter is the kid that’s constantly asking “How is that made?” I’ve seen countless Youtube videos about the process of making shoes, books, tires and even hotdogs (blech!).  With Christmas coming up, I felt like a visit to a candy factory would be right up her ally, so I began researching where in Colorado we could go to see the candy making process firsthand. Hammond’s Candy Factory popped up and looked to be a pretty fun time.

 

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On Signing

Remy’s been walking in earnest for almost a month now. Everyone said walking would be the big game changer. I disagree. This month Remy also began signing back to us. And that has changed everything.

A baby sits in a highchair, looking off camera for more food.

Now that Remy can ask for food, he eats a lot more often.

We began using basic signs with Remy around six months, when he started eating at the table with us. “More” and “all-done” were pretty consistent. We signed “eat” less frequently. And I’d been signing “milk” on and off since the beginning. A huge help to us in deciding whether and how to try signing with Remy was Joseph Garcia’s Book “Sign with your Baby”. I highly recommend it.

Anyway, this month Remy began signing back to us. It has been revolutionary.

I’m new at this tiny human thing, so maybe it’s just me, but it blows my mind that Remy has independent thoughts and desires. Remy, who used to not be able to move his own body. Remy who didn’t even really exist a year ago. This kid remembers things: he remembers where he hides ball point pens and ping pong balls. He remembers that there are cherrios on the kitchen counter. He remembers where the pans are kept. He remembers that food is a thing that he might want at any place or time.

And now, Remy can ask for things. When Remy realized “more” would get him stuff, he signed it all the time. It was fun to see him realize his own agency in the world.

 

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Still Learning

Small rewards

I’m writing through the fog of a bad head cold today. A side effect of having small, independent-minded, growing humans in the house that I am sure you all are intimately familiar with. I mention this not to remind you that your next bad head-cold is only one germy kiss away, but rather because it is harder than usual to keep track of important things like syntax and grammar when your sinuses feel like great big watermelons around your eyeballs. With that in mind, rather than tell a story today, I’m going to share a few ideas for something that I was surprised would be so important to me when I became a mother: Mental stimulation.

I have always enjoyed a love of learning, but those first months after having a baby put a bit of a damper on my greater curiosity because I was just so interested in my own tiny human (and also too busy and sleep-deprived and hormone-inhibited to focus on much else). Eventually, though, I began to long for mental stimulation beyond what I could get reading Fox in Sox for the 5th time in a row.

 

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Think Before You Speak

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I wrote this blog just about a year ago at mrsmomdragon.com.
As we are entering the new school year, I just thought that it might be a good reminder to all of us…kids and adults alike.

“If you can’t say anything nice”…

We’ve all heard it.

When I was little, I remember getting told that occasionally. Now, as a mom, I have found myself saying the same thing to my own kids. It’s usually when they’re in a heated argument over who gets to sit in the middle seat or a great debate over who ate the last piece of licorice. Usually, I am able to end the arguments pretty swiftly by confessing that, “IT WAS ME! I ate the last piece, and it was GOOD!”

Yes, my kids fight. And yes, sometimes, when they do…they don’t say very nice things.

We’re all guilty. Things have been said that we wish we could take back. Words spew out of our mouths that should have gone through some type of filter first. But once the words have been spoken, they’re out.

Emaleigh came home from school yesterday and explained to me that a friend of hers told her, “So and so doesn’t like your haircut because it makes you look fat.”

Wow.

As she told me this, her eyes began to well up with tears. I thought to myself, what compels people to say such things; such mean and hurtful things. Things that now, every time Emaleigh looks in the mirror, is going to question.

The worst part of this: So and So… is an adult. A grown woman who is sharing her thoughts on my daughters haircut to others. Sharing it in a manner, or around people, that she figured it would never get back to my little girl…yet, it did. And those words can never be undone.

 

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Evidence of a left-kneed mother

Pants. Pants. I wear holy pants.

It is tradition for men to drop to one knee before the ones they love. Well, did you know that mothers do it, too?

Every.

Single.

Day.

When I’m applying a band-aid, I kneel before my child.

When I’m helping him into his snow pants, I kneel before my child.

When we’re packing the backpack, I kneel before my child.

When I’m playing Candy Land on the living room carpet, I kneel before my child.

While I’m applying sunscreen, I kneel before my child.

When we’re setting up the tent, I kneel before my child.

When we’re picking up spilled Cheerio’s, I kneel before my child.

When I’m pulling tight shin guards off sweaty legs, I kneel before my child.

When I’m listening to last night’s dream, I kneel before my child.

It is love. It is true. If my children had shiny engagement bling for every time I’ve knelt before them in love, they would be as glittery as a department store Christmas trees.

If you have time for reading: a pre and post natal annotated bibliography

Remy enjoys chewing on books

Remy approves of this annotated bibliography.

A few friends have recently asked me what books I found most helpful while I was creating Remy, so I thought an annotated bibliography might be helpful for some of you out in internet land. The first half of the list contains mostly pre-natal focused books, the second half contains books mostly focused on your baby once he or she has arrived. Links are to Amazon.

 

Mostly Pre Natal

Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives 

I’ve mentioned Origins before, so I’ll just briefly say that this was by far the best big-picture perspective book on pregnancy that I read. It helped me to think about ways to take care of myself and my baby without scarring me about the immense responsibility of creating a life.

Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy 

I found the Mayo Clinic Guide to be straightforward and thorough. I used this book as an overview for each week as week and to answer more specific questions as they came up. There are also extensive sections on trying to get pregnant, the delivery process, and fresh-from-the-hospital newborns. If you like a good deal like I do, be aware that there are two editions of this book. While most of the information is the same, the first edition does not have all of the beautiful pictures and graphics that the second edition does. 

What to Expect When You’re Expecting 

This book gets a bad rap as being alarmist and over the top. I mostly agree. However, there were a few times when I appreciated it’s over-thorough explanation of everything that could be wrong with me or the baby. Even still, I usually cross referenced what I read with the Mayo Clinic Guide. 

 

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On celebrating the mundane milestone

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This week, Tom and I celebrated our ninth wedding anniversary. “Why, Mel!” I hear you saying, “You must have gotten married when you were just a baby.” That’s very nice of you to say. We were babies, actually. Each of us is lucky that the other turned out to be such a lovely human being, because when you are that young, sometimes it is hard to tell for certain.

Anyway, nine years is not generally cause for a big hulabaloo – that will be next year, the big ten, of course. Still, nine years isn’t nothing. We had a lovely, two part celebration. Pre-Game: Ray LaMontagne at Red Rocks with one of Tom’s old friends who turned out to be a very nice person. Day-of: bacon at breakfast and dinner with two good friends and our baby. It was a low-key, laid back, simple kind of celebration – just the way to celebrate nine years of a low-key, laid back, simple kind of marriage.

Thinking about celebrating our odd-year anniversary got me thinking about other things that we’ve been celebrating lately that seem out of sync with the normal celebration calendar.

 

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“Hope is a beggar.”

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Sometimes there is not enough chocolate in the shake to right the wrongs of the world. I curse myself for not having any chips in the house and where the hell did I stash the Nutella? Currently, my tastebuds must tolerate freezer burnt Tin Roof Sundae. I am a shitty mom. There…I said it. Not always, but enough that when I leave a store with a raging toddler in tow or when I hang my head in shame as my two year old melts down at the church potluck I know the eyes in the room locked their gazes on us. And those gazes teem with judgment. And I feel absolutely rotten as a parent those days.

Today I woke up knowing I needed to call the power company to prevent a shut off, I realized I paid one bill TWICE, and I looked up how much money I could get for donating plasma. I took two calls from collections and threw expired food out as if I didn’t feel incredibly guilt in doing so. Today a sweet man emptied my dishwasher, took out the trash, and brought me to the park to watch the geese. But I couldn’t settle my heart or enjoy the kind gestures—my inability to accomplish anything coursed through my veins like caustic material hijacking my life force.  Being a shitty mom weighed me down today.

 
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Now I know many people will stop me here and provide kind words of encouragement. They will build me up reminding me I parent a toddler, for goodness sakes, alone! They will tell me to keep my head up despite the circumstance and situations thrust upon me as a result of divorce. I will cordially thank them and feel guilty for whining. Here’s the deal. A few weeks ago a wonderful man, Dr. Wayne Thomas, came to visit my school to teach students about never giving up hope and accepting one’s lot in life as an opportunity to reshape your world.  He reminded them to take accountability for their crimes, to work on restoring the harm they generated, to stop blaming the situations they encountered for their path. Dr. Wayne aimed to share his own experience as a convicted felon to demonstrate to students that jail is not the end of the road for them. He spoke at length about hope. The boys shrouded themselves in artificial apathy—each one a touch inspired. I gleaned a lot from Dr. Wayne’s realism and inspiring approach. However two items stuck with me: stop complaining and blaming the situation because in the end no one really cares until you change it and determine if you are either interested or committed to something. What does he mean? Interest means one may like the idea of blogging; commitment is the notion one would crawl through fire to obtain authorship. This changed my world— I can’t complain about my situation. Who cares? All I can do is change my view on how I handle it.

 

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On Maintaining Perspective

Creating Art is very serious business, clearly

Sometimes, being a law school parent is a good way to lose perspective.

I often marvel at my law school parent cohorts who have multiple children, many of them old enough to be living their own lives full of events, activities, desires, and impulses. I consider myself lucky to have a 13 month old who may be gregarious but, thankfully, does not yet schedule his own play dates or karate classes.

I’ve been more than a little stressed out this week – sorry everyone in my life for acting crazy.  This has, of course, affected my ability to just be with Remy or just stare at Remy while he sleeps or otherwise marvel at how wonderful he is. (Full disclosure: Remy’s naps are my only chance to read for class or write briefs or enter billable hours or do whatever pseudo-attorney things I do, so I have never, not even once, just stared at Remy while he sleeps.)

Yesterday, in a desperate attempt to get something done, I put Remy in his highchair with a piece of white paper, a box of crayons, and some honey crackers. I immediately felt like a bad mom, since I was immobilizing him and working while he was awake. I felt a little better after remembering that I had only been driven to do this after Remy refused to take an afternoon nap of any kind.

Here’s the thing, though. Remy loves to eat honey crackers or plain crackers or anything that might remotely be considered a cracker. And he has just discovered this week that he can color. So it turns out that, for awhile at least, Remy didn’t mind being trapped in the high chair.

 

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On Toddler Negotiations

Yup, that is a croquet ball. It goes on walks with us now. Also, there's a rock in his other hand. These things are important.

Remy loves to be outside.

I know this for sure now because he can tell me. When Remy wants to go outside, he wanders away from whatever we have been doing and finds his shoes. If it is still early in the morning, he will also toddle off to his room to find a pair of socks. He will bring these to me and set them down at his feet. He will look at me expectantly, like I should be able to read his mind. Like I should know what to do with a pair of shoes that have been so nicely laid before me. If I am too slow, he will pick up a shoe and set it on top of his foot and then look at me again. To make sure I am paying attention.

If it is looking cloudy, or if we can hear the wind inside the house, Remy will go to the hook that his yellow coat hangs on and tug at it a bit. Sometimes, if it is particularly early, Remy will seek out my socks and shoes and bring them to me as well.

But always, at the end, he stands by the back door with the giant window and gently hits the glass with the palm of his hand (thwak! thwak! thwak!) until I come to unlock the door and set him loose into the world.

One day this week, after following this lovely ritual, we were outside when it started to get chilly. We had been outside for a while. It had been a warm and pleasant afternoon, and it seemed like a good time to go in and get dinner started. I helped Remy up the front step, ushered him into the house, and closed the door behind us.

Total meltdown commenced.

All of you veteran parents out there no doubt saw this coming. But I was completely taken by surprise. Remy had never thrown a fit like this before. I was curious in the way that pedestrians are curious about car wrecks. It was just so interesting.

First, he tried to open the door. I was impressed that he managed to reach the door knob and jiggle it around a bit. When that got him nowhere, he tried to pry the door open by wedging his fingers into the gap between the door frame and the door itself. Also unsuccessful. He screamed and stomped his feet. He hit the door and cried. It was amazing.

 

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On Being Still

This week Lent began.

Lent is, hands down, my favorite season. My small family is not Catholic, but we believe in embracing truth and beauty wherever it can be found. And Lent is truly a season of truth and beauty. Lent has three main tenants: prayer, fasting, and alms giving. For the past eight years or so, my husband and I have embarked on a number of Lenten adventures. One year we fasted during the day for the season. One year my husband gave up talking. One year he shaved his head every day and I covered my hair. And always, prayer, fasting, and alms giving are in the background of our journey.

This year I decided to take on a period of silence. Many of you know that I drive around 3 hours a day to and from school and work. Most of the time I use my driving time to stay connected to the world through NPR or maintain membership in bookclub by listening to audiobooks. With Remy and working and reading for class and writing briefs, I have had very few opportunities for quiet reflection in the last year. So I thought, why not take back my time in the car?

Let me just tell you: I haven’t been successful yet.

I was feeling really good on Wednesday. My drive is short, and I was with Remy for most of it. It was easy not to turn on the radio. Thursday was okay, I made it most of the way to school but none of the way home in silence.

Friday I got a reality check. First I thought, “I need to know what’s going on in the world, so it’s okay if I listen to NPR until I get to the highway.” I was “rewarded” with this StoryCorp interview. I literally sobbed for most of the story and at least one story after. A good reminder that I should just stick with the plan, and turn the radio off.

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What do you do with baby teeth?

My oldest daughter got brave and helped me grab a photo of teeth she is sure are hers - she is the only child to have a silver baby tooth. She told me she would in no way ever want to see or touch them again.

My oldest daughter got brave and helped me grab a photo of teeth she is sure are hers – she is the only child to have silver baby teeth. She told me she would never  want to see or touch them again.

The other day I caught the kids snooping. They found a box full of memorabilia and were having a fun time going through it. It included items such as the hospital bracelets that no longer would fit around their arms and old birth announcements. They all agreed that the note I wrote to their dad over 20 years ago, asking him out, was perhaps the most important document in their own individual creation story and should therefore be framed.

After going through the box, they gingerly packed it up and placed it back on the shelf. As I walked by the area later that day, I noticed a Ziploc bag on the ground containing a small tooth. A baby tooth. It must be one of the first because now they all reside in a dresser drawer we call the “tooth drawer.” And that got me thinking, what on earth are you supposed to do with baby teeth?

To be perfectly honest, those little teeth with their sharp root ends, sometimes still holding a drop of blood, seriously creep me out. I am not surprised in the least that the tooth fairy has been the subject of a horror movie in the past. What kind of winged creature comes around in the middle of the night collecting discarded body parts?

 

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Maybe Baby

Around Thanksgiving last year, we got a call I convinced myself would never come. Because my hubby is a Type 1 Diabetic, we put our kids in a study called Trial Net. Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune disease, which basically means your immune system attacks you instead of viruses or bacteria. Trial Net tests periodically for a few types of auto-antibodies.

Up to this point, neither of our kids has tested positive for any diabetes related antibodies. But in November, Girl Q did. It seems silly, in some ways, to be so devastated and overwhelmed by something so vague, something so uncertain.

But I was.

The shadow of diabetes has always lingered in the back of my mind–it’s not something I want for my kids. On the other hand, I’m married to a wonderful, capable diabetic who really tries not to let diabetes run the show. I know that it’s doesn’t have to be a death sentence. I know that even if Girl Q does develop diabetes, we’ll all do the best we can.

The researcher said Girl Q is positive for only two antibodies, out of a possible five that they are able to test for right now. Even the positives were very low, she said. Even if she was positive, she still might not develop diabetes.

I asked if there was anything I could do. Anything at all. She said that fish oil (you know, the omegas) was the only proven supplement to reduce the autoimmune, inflammatory process. I asked about Selenium (which reduces autoimmune activity in adults), she didn’t know if that would help. I asked about wheat and milk. Even though there have been studies and numerous questions about the role of nutrition and the development of autoimmunity, they’re basically inconclusive.

I know the facts. I know that even though we’ll do everything we can, she might still develop diabetes. But I also know that I’ll regret it if I don’t try, at least a little. I don’t want to get to that moment and wonder if she has diabetes because I didn’t at least try the fish oil thing or cut milk, or excess sugar out of her diet.

 

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