Dear My Children: He’s always loved you

To my children:

I get the appeal of mom. 

I mean, really, who doesn’t?

Someone to comfort you when you’re upset because your scoop of ice cream fell off your cone, or because you smacked your head on the side of the dining room table while you were trying to reach down and pick up your crayons?

Someone who makes chicken alfredo just the way you like it?

Someone who pretty much does exactly what you need her to do exactly when you need it?

Winning.

There are no boundaries with mom.

You can come find her wherever she might be. Whether she is out in the kitchen making dinner, or in the bathroom, trying to catch a shower. There is nothing wrong with her having an audience even during her most private times, right?

You can talk to her pretty much anytime, too.

Whether you sneak up to her side of the bed at 11 p.m. or 2:35 a.m., or pull on the bottom of her sweater when she is on the phone or you decide that you have a lot of questions about the sky when you are all in the car and she’s just trying to catch a break and listen to the radio.

It’s obvious that her whole world revolves around you, too, because she’s always making you something to eat, always finding your lost toys, always tying your shoelaces, always the one to change your sheets when you puke or pee the bed, always there so that you can climb up into her lap.

…But what about your dad?

You know mom loves you. Because she is pretty much always there. Because she never says no. Because it’s obvious that if you aren’t happy, then she isn’t happy.

Mom is the constant one.

Or so it seems….

From the day I brought you home from the hospital, and for the months ( years, really) after that your world circled around mom, much like she circled around you.

In your tiny eyes, your dad was just the occasional visitor.

Rob with the kids Father's Day 2016

I had to remind him often that you guys DID love him. That you asked for him after he left the house for work in the morning. That as you grew, and I slowly became not quite strong enough to lift you up over my head to play rocket with you, or to toss you up high in the air, that he was the only one who could do those things well enough to make you guys squeal with delight from somewhere deep down in your bellies.

I don’t think he always believed me. Because it was kind of obvious that mom was much more appealing to you guys. Mom had the kisses that made the boo boo’s better. Mom made the food that kept your tummy happy. Mom smelled just right, felt just right, looked just right. 

But what about your dad? 

Your wonderful dad. 

How much joy I felt when one day, I realized that daddy finally believed that you guys really, really loved him, too. Because you guys had finally realized just how amazing your dad is.

In the meantime, though, your father was very patient. Because he is actually the constant one, too.

I write this with tears in my eyes because I want you to understand, to know deep down to your bones, how much your father loves you. I want this knowledge to be just as plain and clear to you as the sunshine on your face. He has always loved you.

I write this in all earnestness because I know that in some ways your affection and love for me is a byproduct of the role that I have in your lives. And I know that your daddy, at times and in certain ways, had to actually go through the motions of earning that kind of love from you.

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He had to fight for it. Like when he got home at 5:30 in the evening and you were all little and went off to bed by 7:00, and during the only time that he had with you all day, you were tired and fussy and cranky.

He had to fight for it when you only ate from mommy’s bosom and couldn’t be bothered with any part of the outside world for thirty minute chunks of your day.

He had to be persistent when you would bonk your heads or trip and skin your knees, fighting me off from wanting to get there and scoop you up first because it was just wired in me. 

But he reminded me that he had everything under control. He still does.

How he clamors to be with you all still. He fights to be with you. He longs to be with you. 

He has photos of you hanging on his wall in his office. He has the pictures you drew of that one thing that, well, we don’t really know what it is, in the bottom of his top dresser drawer. He saves every peace of construction paper artwork that you scribble the word “daddy” across.

He took what he could get in the beginning, while you clawed your way up mommy’s leg because that was what you knew, what you preferred.

He waited. And has made the most of every stolen moment he had with you.

He made those squeaking sounds you liked with his mouth while he played with your chubby cheeks, and sang you “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” when you woke up from a bad dream and instinctually cried out for mommy.

He asked to be the one to go in to your rooms in my place, and he scooped you up in his big arms and sang softly to you while he swayed with you in the dark until you went back to sleep.

Long before you realized that daddy was super strong and could swing you around the yard by only your arms, and long before you were about to turn 6 and went on your first camping trip with him, and definitely long, long before you both beseeched and begged for him to carry you BOTH up the stairs at the SAME TIME, he loved you.

I mean deep down to the bottom of his being LOVED you. 

Mommy has made you thousands of meals, folded your sheets and clothes thousands of times, and kissed your tiny faces thousands of times, while we went through the motions of hundreds of days together. 

But your father has always longed to be home with you instead of behind a desk a thousand times. He has wished the hours at work away so that he could rush back home to you, even when you turned him down to instead have mommy put you to bed.

He was rejected hundreds of times for mommy, but patiently bided his time. He has always been there, waiting for you to give him a chance to prove that he’s just as good at mommy at a lot of this parenting stuff. 

He has waited eagerly for those moments. Like the first trip to the library, the first to the zoo, your first swimming lesson, your first tee ball practice. He bided his time until you understood enough to realize that he was amazing, too. And that he was just as willing like mommy. 

He’s been ready for these moments. The chance to fish your shoes out from under the couch. The times where he pulls his car into the driveway, and you guys are already standing barefoot on the porch, smiling and waiting for him. The chance to kiss your swollen bug bites away. 

He has worked for these moments. And he doesn’t always get to be here for everything that he wants to be here for. Like greeting you in the morning when you still have sleep in your eyes, and your hair is a tousled mess. Conversations over breakfast. Squeals in the backyard while you play with the garden hose. 

He has to love you from somewhere else a lot of the time. But I promise that he does. I promise you he always has.

And he always will. 

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40 summertime activities for moms that are $10 or less

Summer is coming.

(Cue the Game of Thrones references)

I actually like summertime. The mosquitos. The humidity. The profuse amounts of sweat, sweat and sweat trailing down my back. It’s great. 

No, seriously, I really do like summer, especially a summer in Maryland. Steamed blue crabs, Thrashers fries from Ocean City and beach traffic. Basically, summer is coming, so I may as well say I like it because there is nothing I can do about it. 

I am actually ready for my son to be done with school for the year. I honestly never want to make another peanut butter and jelly sandwich or search frantically for shoes for as long as I live.

Seriously, why are 90% of my sons shoes missing?? At this point, my only solution is to just buy more shoes. Because I don’t feel like looking for them. 

I know that for as anxious as I am for the school year to be done,  once mid July rolls around….I’ll probably be anxious to have some semblance of structure back in my life. Actually, I will be anxious for my littles to have structure back in their lives. 

At first, blowing bubbles and playing in the sprinkler will be fun. There will be popsicles and sun hats (that stay on for three minutes) and bathing suits. Long days, later bedtimes and maybe some sleeping in. 

That’s before we all run out of steam. Before they don’t know what to do with themselves, and mommy doesn’t know what to do with herself. 

I see a lot of lists floating around this time of year containing an endless supply of summer activities for the children. And that’s great. I do like to keep those lists handy, they take the guesswork out of my days. 

But, honestly, I don’t want to make paper mache and origami swans and tye dye shirts and do all of the things. I could probably fill up everyday with a host of activities if I wanted to. But that simply isn’t practical. By August, I’d be in the fetal position in my closet. 

While I will probably never run out of ideas for things to do with and for my children during these long months, I will be wondering what I can do to save the last shreds of sanity I have left  after I have drug out the baby pool, filled it with the hose and then hauled kettles full of warm water back and forth from the house seven times, only for my children to declare that they don’t want to swim anymore. 

Where is MY summer? Where is my lazing about, my moment to enjoy blue crabs and longer days? Where is our chance to take advantage of long, sunny days and breezy, warm evenings, moms? How can we moms savor a little bit of summer for ourselves??

Never fear, I have the answer.

What if there were lists that had simple, fun things to do for both kids and moms? I decided to do the interwebs a favor and create such a list. You’re all welcome.

Here are 40 activities for moms that cost less than $10, need hardly any energy for and can do with the kids in tow:

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1.) Have a cup of coffee while sitting on the back porch before the kids get up.

2.) Watch a marathon of The Good Wife on Amazon when the kids are napping or in bed.

3.) A Starbucks drink.

4.) A Starbucks drink while wandering around Target.

5.) Meet a fellow mom at the park for a playdate. 

6.) Hide in the kitchen with a spoonful of peanut butter…

7.) …Or a spoonful of peanut butter, covered chocolate chips.

8.) Pop in a Disney movie for the kids, while you enjoy some sweet tea.

9.) Watermelon.

10.) Call your husband at work to chat for a few minutes.

11.) Go for a drive with the kids with the windows rolled down and the radio turned up.

12.) Let the kids play in mud while you watch…from over there.

13.) Let the kids play with the hose while you watch…from over there.

14.) Arbor Mist.

15.) Put a bunch of pillows on the floor, lay a blanket down, and let the kids nap together in a pile. You can nap with them or in the other room.

16.) Pop popcorn.

17.) Put the kids outside, and let them eat ice cream.

18.) Invite other kids over for distraction a play date

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19.) Go for a walk.

20.) Let the kids “wash” the car.

21.) Call your bestie, just to chat, while the kids are distracted with cartoons.

22.) Take your kids to the park after dinner and turn them loose until the sun sets.

23.) Fill up the sink and let the kids play in it while you sit and watch.

24.) Tortilla chips and guacamole.

25.) Tortilla chips and guacamole with a friend.

26.) Bake cupcakes.

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27.) Let the kids run around all day in their bathing suits.

28.) Squirt the kids with the hose

29.) Hide and Seek – you are always the counter. 

30.) A beer with your husband on the porch after the sun sets and the kids are in bed. 

31.) Forgo all of the house cleaning for the day. 

32.) Catch fireflys 

33.) Let the kids finger paint

34.) Use paper plates as often as possible. 

35.) Go to the library.

36.) Play outside with flashlights after the sun has set. 

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37.) Blow bubbles – even inside on a rainy day. 

38.) Go to grandmas house (hint: take the Arbor Mist.)

39.) Let the kids catch toads (just keep em outside)

40.) Go to the library

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And ALWAYS, no matter the season:

KEEP A STASH OF CHOCOLATE

It isn’t just yummy. It’s about being prepared.

 

 

 

When Motherhood Feels Big

It was one of those kinds of days.

The kind of day where you spend what feels like half of it stuck in traffic, banging your face against the steering wheel and the other half of it bowing to the whims of a toddler in what amounts to a futile effort to keep your sanity.

It’s the kind of day where you don’t care if the person sitting in the car in front of you with the license plate from Virginia sees you crinkle your face while you try to hold back tears of frustration.

I don’t have an answer for why the other day seemed so wrong, except:

It seems obnoxiously huge, this motherhood thing.

I knew that I was supposed to celebrate being a mom on mother’s day, and as much as I couldn’t wait to seen my children’s chicken scratch on the inside of a card, and see the exuberance in their faces when they handed me the gifts they chose, I also wanted to ask them why they didn’t care about me being their mother the other day, when I spent 30 minutes begging against all odds for them to eat their dinner. 

Why don’t they care when I have to haul 30 pounds of everything to and from the car, and that when I sit down I don’t instantly want to get back up to take them to the bathroom or fetch them a drink.

Why don’t they care that when I vacuum the floors I don’t want to do it again because they left play dough all over the carpet and it dried out and crumbled overnight?

Why don’t they care?

The other day I sat on the floor  in my daughter’s room, packing up my infant’s clothes, one of my least favorite parenting tasks. I gently folded one tiny onesie after another, and my heart broke while doing it.

All that I could think was that this could be my last baby, my last time packing away newborn onesies for the next potential baby. And that Ellie is, most likely, my last daughter.

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Some days, I cannot stand living in this Lego and yogurt infested circus, and yet it pains my heart to think that everyday, I am that much closer to it being over.

While packing things away, I opened up totes full of baby clothes from my two older children and saw the keepsakes that I had held on to from them and had to laugh at myself.

I saw stained onesie after stained onesie. I saw clothes that were clearly lived in, not pristine and crisp and dainty.

I tried to think about the things that were going through my mind when I decided that while I could give away other things, I just couldn’t part with the white onesie with purple hearts that had food stains around the collar.

I had to keep that knitted sweater with the pink heart on it that had pudding stains down the front. 

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I just had to keep the pants with all the dirt stains on the bottom of them from my little ones scooting around in the grass on their rear ends.

I kept the things that weren’t perfect. I have boxes and bags full of them. And when I see them, it lets me see that I got some things right. 

I’m trying to envision that Ashley from three years ago, kneeling down on the floor, packing up those clothes. Running her fingers over the baby-food colored stains and picturing her middle daughter, then an infant, sitting in her high chair, covered in food. She pictured her son, when he covered himself head to toe in Crayola marker, while sitting on the backstops in the kitchen.

That’s what she wanted to keep close. That’s what she remembered. That’s what I still remember.

Motherhood seems so huge to me.

It’s terrifying. It’s both a calamity and a joy. It’s intimidating. You don’t just “accommodate” motherhood. You can’t simply make some room for it. Everything in your home and in your waking hours (and let’s be honest, our bed time hours, too) becomes about being a mother. 

And as our family has grown, and so with it the amount of laundry and dishes and noises and messes, and it just keeps getting bigger and bigger and more and more hectic, and I wonder how I am supposed to do everything that I need to do, something profound occurs to me:

Life will never be this simple again.

The dishes and laundry and crumbs and messes will replenish themselves. But the children will grow. They will stop asking me to play with them. They will stop needing me in the middle of a night when a thunder-storm wakes them. 

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They won’t be messy, one day. They won’t instinctively reach for my hand when we walk through a parking lot, or want to go get ice cream just because it’s a Tuesday.

This will all go away.

And sometimes, after days of being grouchy because someone smeared jelly, yet again, on my table-cloth, I catch my breath because I realize that I’m forgetting to see all of it. I only see messes and inconveniences, instead of seeing how large motherhood is. 

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Motherhood is more like a destination. It’s too big to be just a thing, too alive to just be an idea or even a role that we play. It’s bigger than we think that it is, and our reach goes further than we think that it does as moms. 

Our years spent parenting are going to amount to more than dishes in the sink, stains on our clothes and interruptions in our sleep. When we look at the micro, instead of the macro, we will miss out on so, so much. 

Sometimes, for me, motherhood is like a mountain on the horizon, with an air of mystery, a sense of challenge. Sometimes, for me, motherhood is like a shade tree, a place to rest, a place to stop and savor and watch. Sometimes, for me, motherhood is a winding road, lined with uncertainty and a newness like nothing else. 

Motherhood is so many things. Motherhood is huge.

It’s never just about the stains on the onesie. When motherhood feels big, it’s okay. Let it. It is big. It’s largeness won’t dwarf you and your efforts. And it certainly won’t dwarf your love. It will only highlight and enhance all that you do. 

Let it.