Tag Archives: deep thoughts

The Puddle Stomping Personality Test

A couple of weeks ago I found myself in a store full of very breakable objects with a small boy.

Being a sensible sort, I left my friends and older kids to continue browsing and took my small boy outside.

We looked for things to do while the others smelled every scented candle in Lincoln, Nebraska.  This included running games…


thinking games…


and eventually led to…

Puddles.

Now, I knew puddle stomping would not be a particularly good idea on that particular day.

It was COLD out.  They were big puddles.  We didn’t have extra shoes, socks or pants.  Alex would get cold.

And he’d also get happy.

Life is short.

I let him stomp.

And stomp.

And stomp.

While Alex stomped, I noticed the reactions of people passing by.  There were three types:

1.  Those who were delighted at the sight and broke into big grins.

2.  Those who looked horrified, no doubt thinking how cold and wet he was going to be soon or what a mess he was making of himself.

3.  Those who were so busy they didn’t notice at all.

It was very interesting watching their faces!  Many of the second group looked around to spot me, no doubt thinking that I must not have noticed what he was up to.  I swear they wanted to yell at him themselves!

I loved watching the first group, and just felt a little sorry for the last group.  But mostly I just loved watching Alex in his absolute delight.

And I also knew that he was going to be wet and cold when he was finished, and we had a lot left to do in the day and no warm clothes.

Some parents would take this opportunity to teach him about “natural consequences” and let him be wet and cold and miserable for the rest of the day.  I’m not that sort of parent.  I didn’t want his fun to be at a price learned at the tender age of three about the steep price of having fun, mister.

The nice thing about outdoor malls is that there are lots of stores!  And while we get most of our clothes from thrift stores and garage sales, I know my way around a Gap well enough to know that there’s almost always something on clearance.

So when our friends were finished, we made a quick stop for a rather darling, warm pair of striped pants at the unbeatable price of $2.99 and he was nearly good as new.


(Okay, he went bare footed for a while and I carried his shoes.  Shoes were a lot more than 2.99!)

I love those pants now.  They remind me of a joyful afternoon and the sort of mama I strive to be.  And the sort of passer-by.  🙂




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The Payoff

It’s not always easy to be a parent, and it’s really not always easy to try to be a good one…

  • At 3 a.m. when you have finally gotten to sleep and your child comes and wakes you because she’s had a nightmare (for the fifth time this week)…
  • When your four year-old has a meltdown at the state capitol and you have legislators from a dozen states giving you the skunk eye as you patiently sit and discuss the unfairness of life on the steps…
  • As your child goes through some stage that everybody has advice about and you patiently wait even longer for it to pass, having faith (almost completely) that eventually she’ll be able to pee alone or talk to strangers or sleep in her own room or whatever it is that is her personal quirk…

It’s super easy to be a great parent during the light of day when you’re well rested, everything is going perfectly and your kids are being fabulous.  That’s cake.

But the tough days and nights are where the payoff lies.

Those are the times when we don’t know if we really have it in us, but somehow we do, and later they come back to make it all worthwhile.

I am getting to that phase in life where I am gaining wisdom and wrinkles.  I’ve made it through phases that I thought would never end, to the point where now I almost forget that once they made me crazy.

I am lucky enough to still have little children but also lucky enough to have big ones.  Every day I see the payoff… the fears that have been resolved, the needs that have been filled and gone away, the phases that ran their course and the happy, healthy kids who have remained.

It’s sometimes bittersweet for me to have my little girls growing up so fast.  I’m not all together ready to be done with fairy wings and princess gowns.  Like it or not, I have preteens and am inches away from a full-fledged teenager.

But I am loving more and more the adventure of having big kids.

My daughters and I are taking part in some college courses given by international students at a local college.  Victoria and I are learning German, while Anna, Victoria and I are all learning Spanish.

There is something magical about sitting in a college class with my daughters on either side of me.

My once-shy Annalee, who hid behind my skirts when she was two, now is the first to answer some questions about how to conjugate a verb in a college Spanish class.

And Victoria, who changes on a minute by minute basis, has mostly decided that I am awfully fabulous to be around and wants me to come with her everywhere.  (Okay, sometimes I’m still absolutely terrible, but I’m happy to at least mostly rock!)

So I’m here to say hang in there… to those of you in the early years that try so hard to exhaust you, to those of you who have been plugging away with your good mama hats on and wonder if it matters at all, to those of you being told by all sides advice that goes against your heart… hang in there.

I’m not naive enough to think that the hard days are behind me.  Boy oh boy do I have a lot of crazy-making mama moments in store for me, I know.  But it is so nice to have come through enough to realize that I seem to be at least going in the right direction.

Here’s to the hard work of parenting, and to the little people we’ve created who are worth it.


It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.
~Frederick Douglass


Nothing you do for a child is ever wasted.
~Garrison Keillor

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It’s Hard Work, This Mothering Business

I’ve been feeling rather raw lately.  My “good mama” hat has felt knocked from my head a few too many times and I’ve been filled with self doubt.

Several hundred times per day, three-year-old Alex tells me “Me MAD at you, Mama!”.

Seven-year-old Jack goes back and forth between being sweetly crazy about me to shouting that he hates me.

Ten-year-old Annalee has taken several nights this week to inform me of how unfair her life is, that I don’t spend enough time with her and that I’m a promise breaker and a liar.

And twelve-year-old Victoria… well, she reads this blog and gets annoyed if I talk about her, so let’s just say I do not feel like her favorite person in the universe.

I’m tired.

I’ve spent 12+ years singing lullabies, doing crafts, reading stories, playing games, taking walks, cuddling and doing everything in my power to make some pretty marvelous childhoods for these four little blessings.  And I know I’ve done well and they’re good kids and that they’re happy even when they’re yelling at me or acting petulant.

But this week… this week I’m feeling weary.

Last night, Jack fell asleep on the couch.  I covered him with a blanket and went and found a ball point pen, then wrote “Mama loves you!” on his palm.  This morning, he marched into my room and angrily showed me his hand.  “Look what someone wrote on me while I was sleeping!”.  When I explained that I had done it to be sweet, he asked for help in scrubbing it off.

Last weekend, Alex stripped off all of his clothes, climbed on top of our van and joyfully shook his business at a passing neighbor.

Several days before that, two well dressed women banged on my front door as I was cooking dinner to ask “Are those your children?”.  I looked out the door to see Jack holding a screaming, half-dressed Alex and trying to pull him off of my car (Alex dearly loves to scale cars).  I resisted the urge to say no and go back inside.

Sigh.

It’s pretty much minute-by-minute chaos around here lately.  There is puddle stomping, sidewalk painting and strawberry picking, yes, but then there is also sibling battles, tattling and wailing.

My good friend Tiffany called today to give me a pep talk.  She told me all the things I already know but needed to hear — that my kids will look back at their childhoods and appreciate them, that I’m doing a good job — and that I need more chocolate.  😉

And as I am writing this, Jack just appeared under my window gathering rose petals and asking me to come down and join him.  He has apparently forgiven me for the hand graffiti and has decided this is one of the times I’m fabulous.

It will be a few days before I get my mama groove back, and I guess that’s okay.  In the meantime, I was especially nice to myself today.  I asked Daryl to watch the boys and took a rare afternoon nap.  I chatted on the phone for an hour.  I’m off to spend some time with Jack now, but after that I have definite plans that involve hot baths, good books, bad TV and bowls of ice cream.

Some days there’s more screaming than usual.  Some days we aren’t so appreciated.  I’m comforted by the fact that those days pass, and the hard work does pay off even when you think it was wasted.  Some little boy brings you a drawing of your favorite garden spot and asks if you’ll spend some time with him, and you realize you didn’t do such a bad job after all.

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Limited Time Only

I am running out of little girls.  I am so aware lately of how little time I have left for dress-up and potions and imaginary things.  Victoria is nearly twelve and my baby Annalee is ten.

Ten-to-eleven can be a crazy age.  Kids get moody, clumsy, sensitive, confused, irritable.  They want to be big, then they want to be little.  Mothers can become the enemy, even when they were faultless up till now.

I know it’s coming.  I’ve been through it once and have seen many other beloved ten-to-eleven year-olds start on that roller coaster.

Annalee has never been a boring child.  She has been emotional, dramatic, sensitive, energetic, talkative and exuberant since birth.

She has also always been childlike.  Where Victoria was born with an old soul, Annalee was born with a brand new one.

She relished being babied when she was a baby.  Where Victoria had no time for rocking and fussed if I tried a lullaby, Annalee delighted in being snuggled, dressed up, sang to and otherwise mothered.

She was the quintessential little girl when she was little.  She loved princesses, dress-up and make believe.  Everything was pink.  Everything was frilly or feathered.  There were ponies and dolls and sparkles (though not one to be typecast there were also soccer balls, jeans and a perplexing love for math).

And now, at ten, Annalee is still my little girl.  She spent much of yesterday hanging upside down from a tree so Victoria could try out her new camera accessory.  She made up a circus show in the back yard, complete with posters advertising free admission.  She is still crazy about all things Harry Potter.  She still calls me “Mama.”  She still asks me if we can do a craft, please, just the two of us.

I don’t want to misrepresent her — this child can drive me to the brink like none of my others.  She can push buttons, throw fits, take on attitudes and make me nuts.  She is no superchild.  But she is a super child.

Today, Annalee brought me a gourmet egg dish she invented herself (“fresh, local eggs,” she told me, “with chives I snipped fresh from the garden”), watched her little brother, washed walls, scooped the cat box, drew me several pictures, organized her father’s sockets, carried branches, posed for her sister, comforted Alex and ran errands — and most of it she volunteered for without even being asked.

She is a sweet little girl.

Little.  For not much longer.

I am so aware of the ticking of the clock.  I know how little time there is left of this particular girl before she is replaced with an older, wiser, more grown up girl.  She will be just as fabulous, but she will not be this child.

She can only be little for a little while more.

Someday soon, Annalee will outgrow Harry Potter.  Before I know it, it will be time for training bras… dating… college classes… In ten short years, her childhood will be a distant memory.

Tomorrow, Anna says she’s going to wake at 6:45 so she can make Daddy a special egg for when he wakes up.  I think I’ll wake up early too, and maybe do that craft.

“The days are long but the years are short.”
(Anonymous)

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Take Chances, Get Messy, Be Real

When I tell my children the secrets to everything from a happy marriage to success in life to finding best friends, I’m pretty sure the biggest three are going to be these:

Take chances.
Get messy.
Be real.

This past week in Nebraska reminded me again how important these things all have been in my own life. My friendship with the fabulous Tiffany is a direct result of all three of these!

Tiffany and I live several states away. We met online through a homeschooling email list I run for AP parents. We met in real life when her family visited nearby Walnut Grove but our friendship was mostly long-distance until I emailed her during a rough period of her life and asked if she was up for a visit from our crazy crew. It turns out she was. And I drove my pregnant self and three kiddos 6 hours away to spend a week in her fabulous home with her fabulous family.

This was not an easy task, especially since I deal with daily ocular migraines that make driving difficult. I also have a history of panic attacks, anxiety and general fears of things like driving 3 states away to bunk up with people I’ve met once! 🙂

I knew Tiffany so well online that I knew it was the right thing to do. I figured out how to take back roads, make it work and do it safely.

We’ve been visiting each other ever since, and we have all truly become family. One of the reasons we mesh so well is because we know each other warts and all, and feel free to be our true selves.

It is tempting to hide ourselves these days, worrying that people will disapprove of our messy houses or disagree with our religious beliefs (or lack thereof) or otherwise decide not to befriend us because of some part of who we are.

The friendships that result from these artificial, cookie-cutter selves we project are not real though.

There is nothing quite as wonderful as showing your whole, flawed, oddball, true self to someone and being loved for the real you.

There are so many ways that Tiffany and I seem to be so different.

Tiffany has a fabulous, tidy, beautiful home.  I do not.

Tiffany is British. I’m American.

Tiffany speaks her mind to absolutely everybody.   I try to word everything absolutely diplomatically so as never to offend.

Tiffany is frequently bra-less and always looks classy and refined.   I typically have too much cleavage and look as if I’ve just escaped from the tumble-dry cycle in an industrial dryer.

And we adore each other. We fit. We make each other laugh.  We make EPIC messes (a nighttime mud volleyball game was especially amazingly messy). We miss each other greatly when I load up my noisy, chaotic crew and head back to Minnesota.

I am so glad that I was my real, wacky, neurotic self when I got to know Tiffany. I’m glad I took the chance of driving to Nebraska. I’m thankful for all of the magnificent messes we’ve created at her house (and helped clean up!) and the friendships that have bloomed in our families.

Take chances.  Get messy.  Be real.

It leads to the best stuff in life.

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What You’re Doing Matters

“…And I have to love you this fiercely:  So that you can feel it even after you leave for school, or even while you are asleep, or even after your childhood becomes a memory.”

Have you seen this video essay about motherhood for the Mom2.0 Summit?

It’s worth the 2 1/2 minutes.  🙂

The words:

WHAT I WOULD TELL HER:  (If I knew what to say.)

You are a miracle.

And I have to love you this fiercely:  So that you can feel it even after you leave for school, or even while you are asleep, or even after your childhood becomes a memory.

You’ll forget all this when you grow up.  But it’s okay.

Being a mother means having your heart broken.

And it means loving and losing and falling apart and coming back together.

And it’s the best there is.  And also, sometimes, the worst.

Sometimes you won’t have anyone to talk to.

Sometimes you’ll wonder if you’ve forgotten who you are.

But you must remember this:  What you’re doing matters.

And you have to be brave with your life so that others can be brave with theirs.

The truth is, being a woman is a gift.  Tenderness is a gift.  Intimacy is a gift.  And nurturing the good in this world is a nothing short of a privilege.

That’s why I have to love you this way.  So I can give what I have to you.  So that you can carry it in your body and pass it on.

I have watched you sleep.  I’ve kissed you a million times.  And I know something that you don’t, yet:

You are writing the story of your only life every single minute of every day.

And my greatest hope for you, sweet child, is that I can teach you how to write a good one.

by Katherine Center

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Thank You

Many of you know that I write a parenting column and have been writing about abuse issues lately.  I have been receiving many angry comments on those articles from parents who believe that the only way to raise good children is to use violence to “train” them.

But this post is not about them.  This post is about you.

It has been hard during the past couple of weeks to deal with all of this nastiness — to read the heartbreaking advice of the Pearls, to get the hateful comments, to imagine the lives of the children being raised this way.

What has helped me again and again is to focus on you, and I wanted to thank you.

  • For wanting to raise not just good children, but happy ones.
  • For teaching with your words and your example.
  • For knowing that parenthood means sometimes having messy houses and noisy kids.
  • For being human and trying again when you’re less than perfect (and we all are!).
  • For cherishing childhood and imagination.
  • For doing crafts.
  • For playing make believe.
  • For giving hugs, advice and second chances.
  • For letting kids be kids.
  • For having houses full of laughter and love.
  • For having empathy and kindness.
  • For bringing more goodness into the world.

I am so uplifted by all of the fabulous mothers and fathers I’ve met through this blog, on the net and in my life.

I love the way you love your children.  I love your spirits.  I love reading your comments and knowing that you’re raising a generation of children who feel loved and happy and want to make the world a brighter place.

Thank you.  🙂

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