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When Fun Wins

I let my kids play in the rain.

I do this because I am addicted to the look of sheer joy that comes across their face when they are happy. The excitement of playing in the rain is one that is not matched by many other things.

I am fascinated when I watch them play in the rain. While most adults race through the rain to stay as dry as possible, kids will stand with arms outstretched hoping to catch every single drop. They are immune to the discomfort of being wet. They don’t mind that their hair is messed up. They don’t notice the dirt sticking to their damp legs. They are too caught up in the thrill of the moment to notice those things.

Kids are like this at the beach as well. Remember when it was fun to get buried in the sand? Remember the sensation of having sand surrounding your little body? Kids don’t think about how annoying it will be to wash the sand off later. They aren’t thinking about whether or not a dog has peed in this exact spot of sand. They just want you to bury them and sculpt a new body on top of them.

These disturbances of sand and water are too minor for kids to take note. Kids have an amazing ability to recognize the greatness in something, rather than becoming weighed down by the discomforts of a situation.

I used to be like this. I used to love to play in the sand. I used to love to play in the rain. I loved to sit beside a puddle and splash my hands in the water. But eventually, I grew tired of getting dirty. I hated the discomfort of wet socks in sneakers. I came to believe that staying clean and dry was more desirable than the alternative. My eyes no longer sparkled when I found myself caught in the rain.

That’s why I let my kids play in the rain. So that I can remember the feeling of complete and absolute joy. So that I can remember what it’s like to let fun win. I know there will come a day when my kids are tired of playing in the rain. They too, will grow up and choose to walk with an umbrella rather than get wet without one. That time will come soon enough.

For today though, they still delight in the rain.

Advice from an Expert Worm Catcher

I’m a mom of three preschoolers. That means I get asked roughly 10,000 questions every day. Most of these questions I have answered before, sometimes even within the last 5 minutes. I’ve become so accustomed to these questions that I’m able to answer them without hardly thinking about them. But yesterday, one question stopped me in my tracks. It was a question I had never heard before.

“Mom, can you help us catch worms? Because you are such a good worm finder.”

I don’t want to brag, but I am pretty good at catching worms. The trick is to not use the hand shovel thing. You will cut the worm in half if you dig with one of those. You need to use the little rake thing (can you tell that I am NOT an expert gardener?). The hand rake, or as official gardeners might call it: a cultivator, is the perfect tool for finding worms. It loosens the dirt without splicing the worm. But this post is not about my worm finding technique.

The question above was asked by my 5 year old son. Lately he’s been really into fishing, okay maybe just casting a fishing pole in the front yard, but it’s relatively the same in his mind. He needed worms for bait. Earlier that day, we’d spent some time collecting worms which is where he discovered my mad skills.

At that moment, I could not think of anything more important to do than go outside and dig for worms. The weight of my son’s question was not lost on me.

Most days, I go the entire day without having a moment like I did yesterday. Most days, I worry about the laundry and the dishes and forget that I live with three little people who will not always be so little.

There will come a day when I am no longer the expert worm catcher my son thinks I am. In fact, I won’t be the expert on anything in his mind. He will see me for the flawed human that I am and not think twice about letting me know his opinion of me.

There will come a day when his eyes won’t light up when I tell him I’m subbing for his Sunday School teacher. There will come a day when he won’t climb into bed with me at 6 in the morning and cuddle. There will come a day when I can’t pick him up and tickle him just to hear his adorable belly laugh.

It’s tempting to be sad about the inevitable passing of time. To be angry that we are not able to freeze time during the good moments and enjoy them longer. Because like I said before, these moments do not fill my day. There is laundry to be done and dishes don’t clean themselves.

In two weeks, my worm catching apprentice will enter Kindergarten. For the next 13 years, he’ll spend the majority of his waking hours somewhere without me. I will eat lunch with him only two of the seven days in a week. Our opportunities for worm catching are limited.

So you can understand how easy it was to answer that question yesterday. Only a fool would have said no.

Perspective Dinners

We have a group of friends that happen to all have children much older than our children. In fact, the next youngest child is at least nine years older than our oldest child. All of the families have children that have graduated high school. The group gets together a few times a year as a chance for the college-aged kids to see each other again and for the parents to reconnect. They are some of my favorite dinner parties of the year.

I love to talk to these friends. They are seasoned parents. As a whole, they’ve raised 11 children. They’ve seen it all. There is no story of mischief they haven’t experienced. As my husband and I share the latest of our kids’ antics, they look on and smile. As our kids run up from playing in the basement with the older kids and ask us for more chips, our friends cannot help be reminisce about the past when their kids that age.

Every parent of young children should have these types of friends. There is no parent who can offer more perspective than a parent of a child who has graduated high school. I listen and try to soak in the words they offer me.

“It goes by in a blink of an eye.”

“It seems like just yesterday when I was in your shoes.”

“You will not believe how fast they grow up.”

They all agree. Not one would argue with the statements above. And yet, from my side of the coin, I seem to be light years away from their stage of life.

I’m thankful for these friends. I’m thankful these friends have welcomed our family into their group. I’m thankful for their older children that keep my children busy in the basement so that we can have an uninterrupted conversation with other adults.  I’m thankful for their words of advice. I’m thankful for their perspective in life.

Someday I’ll be in their shoes. My kids will be grown and I’ll be the one longing for the days when my kids were so young and cute. I will be telling the exhausted mom that time goes fast.

So I will believe them. Though it seems impossible, my heart tells me they are right.

What To Do If You Spot A Mother of Multiples in Public

We’ve all been there. You are in the grocery store, minding your own business and suddenly you see a mother with two or three (heck, these days maybe even four) children around the same age following her around. Now for some of you, the more seasoned people watchers, spotting a mom of multiples is no big deal. But there are others of you, you know who you are, who just can’t look away. Suddenly, you’re entranced by this family and cannot help but stare at them as they move about the store. Sometimes it’s because the children are dressed alike, other times it’s because the children are causing mayhem throughout the aisles. Whatever the reason, they’ve got you under a spell and you are not quite sure what to say to this mom or if you should just remain a quiet bystander.

As a mother of multiples, I’m gonna help you out. I’ll provide a few topics that maybe you could role play with a friend so that the next time this happens to you, you won’t be so bewildered. It might seem that the mother is so caught up with keeping her children from pouring milk jugs on the floor to notice you, but like all moms, mothers of multiples can in fact see you watching them. They see that smile on your face, or that look of disgust, whatever the case may be. Most likely they won’t say anything to you if they catch you looking at them. Believe it or not, it’s even more awkward for the mother of multiples to start the conversation. There isn’t much she can say.

“Don’t you just love how I dressed my twins alike today?”

“I bet you didn’t even realize they were triplets, did you?”

So the onus is on you, the spectator, to speak up. You don’t have to. You can remain silent, but can I offer one suggestion? If you decide to keep quiet, go ahead and just go on about your business. As I said before, the mom has probably noticed you. It’s best to just move on.

But if you just can’t stand it, if the suspense is just killing you as to whether the kids are just three kids close in age or in fact triplets, here are some tips.

“Are they twins (or triplets or whatever the case maybe)?” this is a great opener. It’s quick and to the point. It’s a great way to gauge how social the mom wants to be. She’ll most likely answer something like “yes” or if they are not, she’ll answer “No, actually they are 13 months apart.”

Don’t be embarrassed if you guess wrong. Chances are, you are not the first to ask. This question will not come as a shock to her at all. Listen carefully to the tone in which they answer. Some moms might just be having a rough day. Don’t take it personal. Personally, I’ll talk to anyone who talks to me. I spend most of the day talking with preschoolers so any adult interaction is a great relief. I can’t speak for all moms though.

Now that you’ve broken the ice, I’d like to suggest your next phrase be a compliment. Comments like “You handle it so well” or “you look so refreshed and put together. I only had one kid and I never looked as great as you” serve as a gentle boost in self-esteem for these moms.

Other phrases like “I don’t know how you do it” or “You must have your hands full” are okay but a little obvious. Of course she has her hands full. And lets be honest, she doesn’t really have a choice in whether or not to do it or not.

Here are some tips on what not to say. Don’t tell the mom about the twins that your cousin’s neighbor had. As moms of multiples, we’ve heard all the stories. The one exception is if you have twins in your immediate family. If you are a twin, or have twin siblings, feel free to speak up. (It goes without saying that if you have twins yourself you can say something, but chances are if you are fellow parent of multiples, you will not be at a loss of words when you encounter other parents of multiples so I really don’t feel I need to address this at all)

Also, I’m just going to say it. We know what you are really asking when you say “Do twins run in your family?” or “Were they a surprise?” We know you are just trying to get at whether these twins were a result of fertility treatments or not. Maybe I’m wrong; maybe your question is innocent in its intentions. But keep in mind, we get asked this question over and over again. We’ve had people butcher it. We’ve heard “Are they natural?” and “Did you use any help?” I’m just going to say it. It’s doesn’t matter. When you walk around with your singleton (that’s what us parents of multiples call children who are not multiples) no one feels the urge to ask you about your fertility issues. Does it really matter that much more with multiples?

One more thing you need to know. I’m not going to go into great detail on this one but here is a quick lesson on identical vs. fraternal twins.

If the twins are boy/girl, they are fraternal. 100% of the time. There is absolutely no need to ask this question.

Okay, I think I’ve covered the main issues. I hope you’ve found this helpful. My goal is not to chastise, but to educate. The staring is much worse than actually engaging in a conversation. Good luck!

More Than a Princess

I love to listen to my kids talk about what they are going to be when they grow up.

My boys read books about firetrucks and want to be firemen. They build things out of their tinkertoys and want to be architects. They see their daddy speak in front of a congregation and they want to be pastors.

My daughter wants to be a princess. She also wants to be a mom. I would love for her to be a mom. I love to hear her talk about wanting two babies, a boy and a girl, just like her and her twin brother. I feel good that I’m doing something right if she considers my main occupation to be something she would like to be.

But I also want her to know she can be a scientist. She can be an engineer. She can be a doctor.

In addition to knowing the story of Rapunzel, I want her to know the story of Grace Hopper. Grace was a pioneer in the field of computer science and conceptualized the idea of machine-independent programming languages which led to the development of COBOL, one of the first computer programming languages. I understand about 25% of that sentence but I want her to know that she can learn to understand all of that sentence if she wants to.

I want to teach her about Rachel Carson who’s attention to environmental concerns led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. Her writings about the dangers of pesticides helped changed the culture of pesticide use and led to a national ban on the use of DDT. This ban is cited as a major reason for the comeback of the bald eagle and other nearly-extinct species.

I want her know the story of Marie Curie, the first person to earn nobel prizes in two different categories — Physics and Chemistry. She coined the term “radioactivity” and she discovered polonium and radium. Curie faced extreme obstacles, being a woman in her field, and had to work hard for respect among her peers.

I get that a children’s book about radioactivity might be a bit difficult to explain, but we have a book about Loius Pastuer and the discovery of microscopic germs. I’m sure someone somewhere could come up with a book about isolating radioactive isotopes that children could understand. If they made the cover pink, I’m sure my daughter would love it.

Raising child of both genders, my children are exposed to all types of toys. I’d like to believe my husband and I do a good job of fostering non-gender stereotyped play. My son has a doll that he’s more attached to than my daughter is to any of her dolls. Both of my sons enjoy cooking in our play kitchen. Every so often, I can encourage my daughter to help her brothers build a train track. But mostly she just wants to have tea parties with her Barbies and push her baby in a stroller.

In closing I leave you with this video. I first saw this in college while taking a seminar about children and media.  My teacher showed us this SNL commercial. I found it hilarious. I now see the element of truth to this commercial.  My daughter would totally rather play this version of chess than the other version. (If you don’t see a video below, here is a link to the website: http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/chess-for-girls/1357683/)

An Open Letter to the (Late) Bug From My Garage

Dear Bug From My Garage,

I feel I owe you a small apology. I cannot help but feel your death could have been avoided. We met so briefly as you were scampering down the driveway. I misunderstood that look in your eyes to be a look of excitement but I now realize it must have been a look of fear. In hindsight, being chased down the driveway by three preschoolers must have been terrifying for a little guy like you. You had no way to know they didn’t mean any harm.

You need to know they had the best of intentions for you. You should have seen them carefully choosing which bucket to make your new home. They searched the yard for the perfect items to fill it with. The sticks and dirt were meant to provide you comfort and remind you of your natural environment. I hope you were able to find some relaxation during those first few moments in the bucket.

Which brings us to the incident with the bubbles. I must confess, I was otherwise occupied mowing the lawn and did not see my children pour the bubbles into your new home. That must have been terrifying for you. Please know they meant no harm. See, we recently lost our only pet, a goldfish. You can see why it was only natural for them to assume that all household pets thrived in a water environment. Maybe if I had only let them get a dog, you would still be with us. I can vouch for these kids that they aren’t the magnifying-holding ant-burning type. They don’t seek out to harm insects. They only meant the best.

Please know you did not die in vain. For the fifteen or so minutes that you were a member of our family, all was right in the world. The joy you brought to them temporarily extinguished all animosity they usually hold for each other. There was no fighting, no hitting and no yelling, just a mutual love for a new pet. You could argue I should have seen the writing on the wall. As their mother, I should have known they would not know how to properly care for a beetle. But please see it from my perspective. Do you know how infrequent these moments of unity are?

You should also know your calls of distress did not go unnoticed. Moments after your passing, a beetle friend of yours managed to fly under my sunglasses and wreak havoc on my face. In your memory, instead of squishing him, I merely flung him into the yard. I cannot confirm nor deny whether he survived the blades of the lawn mower. But that can hardly be blamed on me if he didn’t.

In conclusion I’d like to thank you for the memories. I’m sure my kids have already forgotten about you, which became evident about an hour later when they captured a worm, but I will always hold a special place for you in my heart. Thank you for providing 15 minutes of peace in my otherwise crazy day.

Sincerely,
A Grateful Mom

The Little Boy with the Toy Story Backpack

He is my first-born.

Spending time with him always brings back memories of a simpler time. A time when you could schedule your entire day around the needs of only one child. A time when going to the grocery story was a fun excursion to get out of the house, not a stressful event that ends with tantrum and tears. A time when you could take a nap with the baby and there was no threat of another child waking up too soon.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad he has siblings. I know he would be bored around the house without them. I enjoy watching him play super heroes with his brother. I love hearing him help his little sister with the words to a song. He loves to be the big brother to twins. He’s so proud of his younger siblings.

He’s the child that made me a mom. And that is always something he’ll have that his siblings won’t. His siblings will always be my babies, but he will always be my first baby. He will hit most of life’s milestones before his siblings. He’ll be the first to enter Kindergarten, the first to become a teenager, the first to drive a car.

And so, when I stood and watched him walk away with his grandfather, ready to board a plane to take him halfway across the country yesterday, I couldn’t help but look in disbelief. Is that five-year-old pulling the Toy Story backpack on wheels really my little boy? He looks too grown up: walking through the airport like he does this every day, casually looking back at me and waving one last time before going through security.

Whether he’s 5 or 15 or 25, he’ll always be my first baby.

No, That Man Is Not Your Daddy

My kids like to play a game when we are in public. Unfortunately the game is not called, “Let’s see how well-behaved we can be so that Mommy is extremely proud of us.”

Instead, they like to pick on unsuspecting men within earshot. The game usually goes something like this:

Child #1 sees a man nearby and yells, “Daddy!” in his direction.

I casually look in the man’s direction to see if he has heard my child while simultaneously trying to encourage my kids to keep moving away from the man.

Child #2 is now on board and yells a bit louder, “DADDY!”

Child #3, not wanting to be left out, shouts at the top of his/her lungs “DADDY!”

Child #1 then usually says something like “Mommy, he’s not answering us.”

There is now no question as to if the man has heard them. He looks at us, gives a polite smile and tries to go back to his business. Please keep in mind, sometimes this is in a grocery store so even when I think we’ve lost him, one wrong turn down an aisle brings us back to the poor guy. Upon seeing the man again, they begin the name calling again, this time changing it up to make it more interesting.

“I love you Daddy!”

“Daddy, where are you going?”

“Daddy, are those bananas for us?”

I try not to think about what this poor man is thinking. Best-case scenario is that he has kids of his own, understands the embarrassing things they say in public and thinks nothing of my children and their claims of paternity. Worst-case scenario is that he thinks I’ve planned this little routine as a way to meet men in the grocery store. Upon considering this scenario, I make sure my wedding ring is extremely visible and say something like, ‘Silly kids, Daddy — my husband who I love very much — is at work.”

I’ve learned to try to minimize my reaction during this game. The more I panic, the funnier this game becomes to my kids. If I can remain calm, they usually give it a rest after an agonizing 3-5 minutes.

Because it happens so frequently, I try to avoid potentially awkward situations by steering clear of men, though I’ve yet to find a women and children only grocery store to completely eliminate the problem. I’m sure even if I did, they would come up with something else to embarrass me with.

At least the Daddy game has a level of absurdity that most men can recognize. It’s when the comments are genuine questions they want answers for that things get complicated.

“Mommy, is that person a boy or a girl?”

“Why does that man have a ponytail? Ponytails are for girls!”

“What are those bumps all over that girls face?”

“Why does that man have no hair? Why don’t you let me have no hair like him?”

“Mom look! She looks like Grandma!”

“How come that woman isn’t smiling? She didn’t say ‘hi’ to me.”

Thank goodness they are so cute, otherwise, I’m not sure how we’d ever survive in public.

What’s the craziest thing your kid has ever said in public?

The Mom with Stickers in Her Hair

At what point do I no longer have the excuse to leave the house looking like a complete disaster?

A few weeks ago I noticed that I had a camel sticker in my hair. To my knowledge I had not been around stickers all day, so I was unable to put a time stamp on the arrival of the sticker in my hair. I’m pretty sure that I had been to the grocery store and Target that day. There is a very high probability that the camel sticker came with us.

The shocking part about it was that I was not that embarrassed. My reaction was more like “Huh, a camel sticker in my hair. How odd.”

About a week ago, I noticed another sticker on my shirt. It was one of the reward stickers I give to my kids when they’ve done something good. It was a round smiley face sticker with “Great Attitude” written around it. This time, instead of taking it off, I thought to myself “You know what? I have had a good attitude today.  I’m going to keep this sticker.”

I wore it for the rest of the day. Errands and all.

I don’t think I’ve completely let myself go. I get dressed every morning. I shower daily. I even blow-dry my hair at least 50% of the time. But after 9 AM, it’s all downhill. The truth is I’m so busy chasing three kids around all day; I have no time to redo my hair or change my clothes. At no point before I leave the house do I think, “I’m about to leave the house. There is a good chance I have applesauce on my shirt and half of my ponytail has fallen out. Maybe I should grab a quick look in the mirror. It couldn’t hurt.”

Nope, that’s not how I think.

This is okay when you are the mom of a baby. People expect that. They know you haven’t slept in weeks. But I sleep through the night. I don’t change diapers all day. At some point people stop making excuses for you. At some point you just become the mom that always seems to have stickers in her hair.

I am trying to get better. I am doing my best to look decent in public.

But I can’t make any promises. We have a lot of stickers in our house.

 


A Letter to the Class of 2013

Dear Class of 2013,

No, that’s not a typo. I realize that it’s 2012. I know you are still juniors. But I have some things to tell you and if I wait until next year, these things won’t be relevant anymore. If I wait until next year, this letter will be filled with statements that begin with “you should have” and “I hope you didn’t.” Next year, you will have plenty of people giving you advice. Next year, you’ll be sick of people telling you what they think.

So I’m writing you a message this year, before you are sick of hearing advice and while you still have one more year of high school ahead of you. While you still have a year to act on the things, I’m going to tell you.

Here it is:

Attend a School Event. 
Some of you have probably already done this. A million times. But some of you haven’t. Some of you are too cool to go to a football game because your school isn’t good at football. It doesn’t have to be a football game. Go to a chorus concert or a school play. Having trouble deciding what to go to? Go to something one of your friends is participating in. If you have a friend that devotes six out of seven days during the season to an activity, the least you could do is go watch her once. Years from now, your days in high school will be a blur. You probably won’t remember the ordinary everyday moments. But you will remember the time you saw your friend score the winning goal at his soccer game.

Thank a Teacher.
Chances are, by now, you’ve had one teacher that has made an impact on your life or at least your academic life. Let your teacher know. Write him a letter. Stop by her classroom and tell her in person. It’s different in college. You might have a professor that you really like, but there might be 80 other students in the class with you. There is a chance you’ll go four years without ever connecting to a professor like you connect with a high school teacher. High school teachers know your name–they know what sport or instrument you play. They had your older brother and will someday teach your younger sister. It’s different in college. High School teachers put in way more time than they are paid for and are often overlooked when it comes to praise. Go ahead and thank one. Thank them all. They will appreciate it far more than you realize.

Enjoy Your Weird Family Traditions.
Okay, so maybe it’s a little embarrassing that your dad makes everyone in the family listen to Jingle Dogs while decorating the Christmas tree. Maybe you hate the fact that every Super Bowl your mom insists you dress in the team colors of the team you are routing for. Do you want to know a sad truth? This is the last year you will have to do it. I know that doesn’t sound sad–it probably sounds awesome. When you graduate though, there is a good chance your parents will have to decorate the family tree without you. If you’re lucky, your roommate and you will agree on a small 2-foot fake tree that can fit on your dresser. When you are sharing two bags of chips with 20 other freshmen at your first college Super Bowl party, you’ll miss your mom’s homemade buffalo wings. Here’s another secret: there are weird family traditions in your house that you don’t even know about. Like the fact that your mom makes you say the high and low point of your day every night at dinner. No one is going to ask you that in college. So humor your mom for one more year. Answer with something more than “High point was hanging out with Chris” and ” Low point was taking my history test.”

Make Amends With That Friend.
I remember tensions were running high my senior year between my friends and I. Maybe we were stressed with college admissions and final grades, but I seem to remember a lot of bickering between us. I’m thankful that we never let that bickering get the best of us. I graduated with amazing friends. Though today most of them are merely Facebook friends, I don’t harbor any resentment for things said in high school. Apologize. Forgive. Do a little of both. Don’t let friendships go bad over a few harsh words said in the heat of the moment.

Don’t Stress Too Much.
This next year is going to be stressful at times. There will be college applications that will keep you up at night. There will be days of waiting for an email from your top choice school. You might receive great news. You might be accepted into your dream university. You might be offered a big scholarship. But you might receive bad news. The school you’ve been dreaming about since you were 7-years-old might reject you. You might have to attend your safety school. It’s going to be okay. No matter what life throws at you, you will survive. Lift that chin up. You have come too far to let this get you down. Despite the pressure you are feeling from your parents, they will still love you if you tried your best. I bet they’ll even love you if you didn’t try your best. They are your parents.  It’s their job to love you.

Celebrate Your Birthday With Your Family.
I get that you want to go out to dinner with your boyfriend for your birthday. I’m sure he’s awesome. He’ll probably even take you somewhere extra nice. But you need to tell him no. Go out another night and celebrate your birthday. Celebrate with your family this year. Depending on when your birthday falls, this could very well be the last time you celebrate your birthday with your family on your actual birthday. Family dinners will be replaced with a phone call and a card sent in the mail. If you’re lucky, your parents will figure out a way to deliver a cake to you in college, but it won’t be the same. You’ll miss the look on your parents’ face when they marvel how you’ve grown another year older. So this year, celebrate with them. They are the reason you have a birthday to begin with.

I don’t know what the future holds for you. But I do know this is your last year living at home. (Okay let’s be honest, we know that’s not true. In this economy, you’ll be right back under your parents’ roof when you graduate college. But it will be different.) This next year marks the final chapter of your childhood. Do me a favor, enjoy it. You’ll spend the rest of your life buying your own groceries, paying your own bills and making adult decisions.

People will tell you that these are the best years of your life. I think they are wrong. I think the year I married my soul mate was pretty awesome. The year I held my first child for the first time was pretty great too. The year I gave birth to twins was crazy, but still amazing.

But there is something about your childhood that you will always reflect on. Good or bad, your childhood is what has made you the person you are today. You don’t forget the moments that define you.

You have one more year. Make it a good one.

No pressure.