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Written by Mama Monday

Blog posts written by mamas on cloth diapering, green living, natural parenting.

I have three children, two girls and a boy, and all of them have very different personalities. I was just thinking back to their first year of life when they were reaching milestones like rolling over, sitting, crawling, clapping, walking and talking. Both of my girls were verbal very early and Cooper, my youngest and only boy, was much less so. What’s interesting, however, is not when they started speaking, but what each child’s first word actually was because I can now see that the word each child said first is representative of their personality today.

Lauren’s first was “Dada.” She began saying “Dada” at around ten months and would point at her daddy and smile as she said it over and over. Today Lauren is a people-pleaser. She loves to make her dad proud of her and she lights up when he praises her.  She’s a class clown, an actress, an extrovert and very popular with her school peers. It makes sense that her first word was a way for her to connect with a very important person in her life.

Kate and Bear 2011

Kate and Bear 2011

Kate’s first word was “Dog.” When Kate was born our 110 pound Rottweiler/Shepard mix named Bear was still alive. Kate would point to her and shriek and smile and say “Dog! Dog!” She also loved to point at and name any dog we passed on a walk. Today Kate is my emotionally fragile child, my most empathetic child and a care-giver. She picks up on the emotions and pain of others, and she cannot watch a show if it involves suffering or dying animals (neither can I!). She shines when she is around animals and seems to need the silent unconditional love that only a dog can provide. Dogs don’t judge or correct or criticize or care if you were just naughty. They just want to love and be loved. No matter how imperfect you may feel inside, a dog looks at his human and only sees the good things.

Cooper’s first word was “Ball.” Being the youngest and the only boy in the family, Cooper has been exposed to all kinds of girl and gender neutral toys and books. However, by design, he has come out fitting every stereo-typical boy trait there is. He loves all sports, he is interested in anything he can throw or kick, and he’s a natural athlete. We’ve had friends tell us he’ll be a high school soccer or basketball star for sure. He probably will be. From about one and a half, he’d watch others and then seem to unconsciously mimic their  form.  Even as a teeny toddler he was taking the two or three dribbles players always take before a free-throw, set his feet, bend his knees and then throw the ball in an upward arc toward the basket. He’s left footed and right handed and he continues to be very focused on sports and well, balls.

Are my children’s first words simply a coincidence or am I reading into their significance too much? Maybe. But I do believe children are motivated to verbalize things that they care about. Many children’s first word might be Mama. That’s certainly a no-brainer. Identifying the Center of Your Own Personal Universe is the perfect first word to master. What was your child’s first word? Do you think it reflects anything significant about his or her personality?

While perusing Facebook lately I’ve noticed something surprising over the past few days…the Anti-Mother’s Day Trend. There are several blogs, comments and rants all based on the wrongness of celebrating this day. Why? For a multitude or reasons—like the pain it brings to those who have lost their mothers, or to mothers who have lost children, or because some people had horrible, selfish mothers or because some seem to think it put’s Mothers on a pedestal and discounts the relevance of women who are not mothers by choice or circumstance. I say, “Lighten up, people!”

Photo on 3-26-15 at 8.48 AMTo me, Mother’s Day is not “All About Me,” and it’s not “All About My Mom.” I sent her a card, I gave her a call. She’s an amazing and inspiring woman who I cherish every day, no more, no less on Mother’s Day, than any other day of the year. And what did I do today? I worked my butt off. Did my family wait on me hand and foot? No. I was the cook, the maid, the nanny and nurse all darn day just like I always am. My husband did projects around the house and frankly, I was glad he did because being in a new house means there are still about 100 projects left. Sure, I got some home-made cards and an extra hug and that was enough. Maybe our family is missing out on a new sort of Mother’s Day that is like an all-day holiday celebration where Mom is pampered and lavished with gifts. Maybe other families were bathing their Mom’s feet in precious oil, fanning them with peacock feathers and feeding them grapes while they lounged on a chaise…but not here. I was just a mom and my kids were still kids. They still bickered a little, they still whined a little and I never sat down once.

Maybe the problem, for those who don’t like Mother’s Day (and I imagine they don’t like Father’s Day or Valentine’s Day either) is that it is simply a day that they feel brings attention to something that is painful for them. The Mother-Child relationship, be it healthy and loving or toxic and abusive, is something every human being on this earth has. You might not have a child but you most definitely have a mother. Do you need to celebrate her? Only if you want to. Or maybe they are sick of the blatant commercial consumerism involved in yet another holiday that involves cards, gifts and flowers. But I wish they wouldn’t make the mistake of reading too deeply into the fact that others celebrate this one day.

Most of the Mothers today, who were given cards and flowers or chocolate (or burned scrambled eggs and pancakes in bed), aren’t feeling like Motherhood has made them into some sort of Superior Beings or that Women Without Children are Missing Out. We’re really not. What we’re feeling most of the time is a mixture of being exhausted, overwhelmed, under-dressed, anxious, insecure and guilty because we’re trying to live up to a standard that isn’t realistic. We’re too busy worrying that we might get fired for being pregnant or taking off work when a child is sick too often. We’re trying to fix lunches, do laundry, break up fights, clean poop off the floor and deal with tantrums because “we cut a sandwich the wrong way,” or “put juice in the wrong color cup.” If a child is a pill in the grocery store, we get glared at or told to “control our children.” We get criticized for breastfeeding in public and we get criticized for not breastfeeding. Mothers don’t really feel superior– EVER. So for one day out of the whole year, frankly, I think somebody noticing all that we do is NICE. That’s all. It’s nice. It’s not necessary. It’s just nice.

I’ve said many times to my own competitive daughters “Just because I said something nice about your sister doesn’t mean I don’t love you too.” Just because someone else is celebrating a mother, it doesn’t make it a statement about you, or your mother, or your children, or lack thereof. If the day brings you pain, I am sorry. But I imagine seeing mothers and their children in the grocery store, at family reunions, at school and everywhere else you might come across them in life, is painful too. One day, I will lose my mother. And, though I can barely type the words, it’s possible I might lose a child. I can’t see into the future. But I vow, that no matter how much Mother’s Day might feel bittersweet or painful for me some day, I won’t ever shame others for celebrating it. It’s just a day.

Have you noticed the Anti-Mother’s Day Trend? What do you think of it?

Minivan: a personal-use van with unibody construction sharing an automobile platform in a one-box or two-box configuration — often featuring sliding doors for passenger access and configurable, stowable or removable seating. Taller than a sedan, hatchback, or a station wagon, the minivan features a shared interior volume that can flexibly reconfigure to prioritize either seating or cargo volume, with rear cargo access via a liftgate or tailgate. (Wikipedia)

My 2012 Honda Odyssey

My 2012 Honda Odyssey

It’s been a little over a week since my 2005 Chrysler Pacifica was (cough, cough) retired due to a mechanical issue. I replaced it with a 3 year old Honda Odyssey…one of the many makes and models of the Infamous Minivan. Minivans have gotten a bad rap. For instance, if a Subaru Outback were a person, it would be a chiseled young guy wearing new running sneakers and holding the leash of a grinning chocolate lab. A Toyota Camry might be a young professional sales woman who is working her way up the corporate ladder and sporting a power suit. A pick up truck might be a bearded man with a baseball cap and a tattoo on his upper arm. And the Minivan, ahhh, the minivan. Be it the Toyota Sienna, the Chrysler Town and Country or the Honda Odyssey, the minivan would be the Frumpy Mom, wearing old yoga pants and a coffee stained shirt, who is hauling around a load of loud-mouthed, sticky-fingered, crumb-dropping kids. Wait, that does sound like me! But guess what? I LOVE MY NEW MINIVAN.

Bring on the minivan jokes. I can take it. Here are the things I love most about driving my new minivan:

1) I love that it DOES NOT have a TV. My Pacifica came with a TV/DVD player built in and I hated it. That little device caused more fights and more screaming than any person trying to concentrate on driving should ever have to deal with. We don’t need a TV in the car when the kids are strapped in because they are strapped in. I need a TV at home when they are free to roam about and I actually NEED them to sit in once place and stare like zombies.

2) I love that I can fit 8 people in it. In all honesty, I am not planning on driving 8 people around in this thing very often, but if I need to, I can. It will be especially great when grandparents are visiting or for carpooling to and from school with friends.

3) I love that the seats come out. We have an SUV that also seats 8 but the middle row is fixed. The only way you can access the third row is to climb over the middle row or to climb into the back hatch. It’s a tight fit. And the seats get muddy with all the climbing. Very muddy. Since we need to haul three kids around on a regular basis, we’ve taken out the middle seat in the middle row of the van. This means we have an aisle for our oldest to walk down to get to her seat. This “walkway” also provides an important buffer between our second and third children. It’s harder to hit your sister when you are separated by an aisle and each strapped into pilot seats.

4) I love the sliding rear doors. Let me say that again. I. Love. The. Sliding. Doors. Oh, how these doors have made my life easier. Dropping the girls off at school used to involve our tiny first grader trying to push open a heavy door while holding her backpack and being pushed from behind by her impatient older sister. Now both girls can easily get in and out of the car themselves and I don’t need to get out to either open or close the doors. I just push a button. So easy. I only wish I had gotten a minivan sooner. How hard is it to put an infant seat into a car with a heavy door trying to shut on your arm? Or what about walking back with your child and your cart full of groceries, only to realize that you actually can’t open your doors wide enough to get your child into his car seat because someone parked so close the doors won’t open? That has happened to me more than once.

So to anyone who has said they are too cool for one of these practical, sleek and awesome grocery-getters, I say–anything that makes life a little easier for busy parents is cool enough for me!

What do you think of minivans? Do you love them or hate them?

 

Have you ever experienced “Mother’s Intuition?” What is it exactly is it? It’s something a mother might feel–a sense of worry, an unexplained feeling, an odd pain or maybe even joy that she knows is not related to something she is directly experiencing in that moment. Why might she suddenly be struck with a sense of urgency, of panic, in the middle of a yoga class, when her children are at home with a babysitter? Or why might she suddenly decide she she needs to call her college-aged son when just talked to him the day before and he was fine?

Last Thursday was Moving Day. My husband and I decided to have the movers come on a weekday so that all three kids would be in school. The girls would be out of the house from 8:30 to 3:30 and Cooper from 8:30 to 12:45. Once the last lunch box was packed and school bag zipped, the kids were shuttled off to school and it was like the starting gun at the race track had been fired. Both parents moved with the sort of efficient speed that is simply not possible when children are present.

Having a small house for so many years meant that we had a limited  number of “large” possessions. The movers did their job quickly wrapping all of the dressers in plastic so that the drawers, still full of clothes, could be moved in one piece. On the other hand, the number of small possessions we had acquired with three children, and packed into that small house, was alarming.  I was tasked with running around picking up all of the stray marbles, doll purses, Lego pieces, and hair ties that suddenly appeared when the larger items were out of the way. When I had filled my 2005 Chrysler Pacifica with several boxes of  “smalls,” I told my husband I would meet him at the new house. He was going to help the movers finish up. The drive is about 12 minutes, with at least 8 of those on the highway. I called my dad to fill him in on our progress when all of a sudden my car started fishtailing and my steering wheel seemed to be useless. I screamed, threw down my phone and somehow avoided colliding into the cars whizzing by me. Thankfully, the brakes were working and when I slowed down, the steering seemed to work again…though something felt “off.” I took the exit and drove slowly and carefully the rest of the way to the new house. Needless to say it could have been much, much worse and I was thankful none of the kids were in the car with me.

Car Trouble on Moving Day

Car Trouble on Moving Day

Once I stopped shaking, I realized how very lucky I had been. I also thought about the two and a half hour (round trip) drive to a furniture store I had taken with Cooper the day before. The whole time I was on the highway, going speeds up to 70 miles an hour, I was experiencing extreme anxiety and I kept having vivid flashes of getting into a horrific accident. I wondered if the stress of the move was affecting me. In hindsight, I’m asking myself if some sort of sixth sense was at work and perhaps I was unknowingly aware of the potentially deadly mechanical failure my car would soon experience.

The picture above is my car, being towed, in front of the new house, with the moving van in the background. We now know that the steering tie rod came loose and the entire steering system needed to be replaced. I will never drive that car again.

Have you ever experienced Mother’s Intuition?

Swimming Alone With Three

Swimming Alone With Three

It was a hot summer day here in Boulder, Colorado. The sunscreen was flowing, the grown-ups were sweating and pools everywhere were filled with children and parents enjoying summer vacation.  My friend Jen invited us to join her and several other mommy friends and their varying numbers of offspring at her neighborhood pool. Lauren was seven and swimming independently, Kate was five and swimming underwater quite well—as long as she could either stand to come up for air or if there was an adult nearby who she could use as island. Fear as a life—preserving instinct was not present. Cooper, was still a cloth diaper-wearing two-year old, with very blond hair and a big belly poking out from under his sun shirt.

The number of children, ranging in ages from birth to seven years, made for a noisy, chaotic event. The air was punctuated by screams of glee as the children splashed with their friends and occasionally frustration when they were pulled from the pool to have sunscreen re-applied. There were so many friends and acquaintances I hadn’t seen in ages–some since even before Cooper had been born. There was catching up to be done, parenting notes to compare and the rare and glorious opportunity to engage in conversation with another adult. It was, however, hard to concentrate on both keeping track of my litter around the pool while trying to pay attention to what an adult friend was saying. I would listen, making what I hoped were appropriately-timed murmurs of interest, but the whole time my eyes were scanning the pool for my children. Several times I’d have to stop someone mid-sentence to look for my two younger children whom I would eventually find on a swing or in the sandbox. My oldest daughter never left the pool.

It couldn’t have been more than an hour before the amount of stress I was experiencing began to outweigh the fun of being at a pool with too many friends and their children. I couldn’t visit, I couldn’t relax and I certainly couldn’t keep track of my children who were going in three different directions. I worried Kate or Cooper would fall in while I wasn’t looking and both of them hated wearing floatation devices despite my best attempts. My breaking point occurred when I saw Kate, sans floaties, heading towards the deep end of the pool. Being over-stimulated by the level of excitement, prone to selective hearing, and more confident in her swimming abilities than she should have been, she jumped right in. I ran over and pulled my daughter out of the water who, despite potentially drowning, was annoyed rather than being appreciative, that she had been saved. I had had enough. I grabbed my blond baby, pulled Kate by the arm and barked at Lauren to come get changed into her clothes. I rushed around for several minutes, snapping orders at the girls and searching for the diaper bag so I could put a dry diaper on Cooper, who was perched on my hip.

Imagine my surprise when I laid Cooper on a lounge chair to change him out of his wet suit…only to discover I had grabbed the wrong blond toddler. I found myself staring into the face of an equally surprised two-year old, the daughter of my friend Jen. So where was Cooper?? I scanned the pool and found him sitting on the first step, not wearing the despised float suit he must have somehow pulled off himself. He was looking dangerously close to toppling head first into the deeper water of the shallow end. I could see the other moms, some of whom I didn’t know well, looking at him and each other like “Who does he belong to and where is his mother?” I have no doubt they would have pulled him out had he fallen in, but that didn’t make me feel much better about what felt like a Parenting Failure of Epic Proportions.

Needless to say, we left the pool. I was trying to “play it cool” and “laugh it off” but I was shaking inside. It wasn’t until Kate and Lauren were both fully swimming on their own that I ever took all three children to a pool by myself again.

When have your felt “over your head” as a parent?