Busy Mama? Tired Mama? Overworked and under-appreciated Mama? Did you just roll your eyes and recoil at the thought of yet another social engagement? Trust me, this is one you do not want to miss!
I attended one of these parties a few years ago, and ever since, my husband has been asking me to have another one. He is such a big fan that he even offers to help with the planning, the shopping, and the preparing.
As parents we often find ourselves over-worked, over-booked, over-tired, and over-scheduled. The last thing we need is to add yet another thing to our calendar, right? Wrong! I am here to tell you that it is time to plan a date night.
I recently wrote about why we should date our children but I think it’s high time we start dating our spouses too! If you, like us, have gotten lost in the chaos of parenting young children, it is time to get back to where you once were. Time to focus on your marriage, to focus on your “us.” Taking time out for the two of you will help you rejuvenate, relax, and reconnect. You will strengthen your relationship and bolster the core upon which your family depends.
When you have one child, individual time with each parent is a given. Once you have more kids than you have hands, things can get a little, okay- A LOT – tricky. However, this special one-on-one time is so important, for both the parents and the child.
Before you had additional kids, did you wonder how you could possibly love another human as much as your first born? By taking time for your second, third, fourth children you will clearly see how your love for each child is just as strong and as equally unique as each child. Taking time to nurture a special relationship between you and your child will bring you closer and establish a solid foundation upon which to grow.
It Strengthens Individual Bonds.
Carving out special times and making memories will strengthen your relationship. On a recent trip to Chicago my daughter and I took a shortcut through the American Girl Store. She is only 20 months old and doesn’t have many dolls, but the second we walked in I got to see her skip and hop for the first time. She was literally beaming like a kid in a candy store as she ran around pointing at every single doll and stuffed animal. Always a Daddy’s girl, I was not-so-secretly thrilled when we walked out of the store and Daddy went to pick her up and she shook her head and ran to me 🙂 (And no, I did not buy her affection- we left empty handed in case you were wondering!)
It Boosts Self-Esteem and Confidence.
Have you noticed how your child lights up when you pay them special attention? Every positive affirmation helps them to become more confident in their abilities. Simply sitting down with a child to read a book validates them as individuals and shows them that you want to be with them. Without others around they feel safer expressing their feelings, sharing thoughts and ideas, or trying out new skills.
You Get to know One Another Better.
My days are generally chaos. A happy chaos, but still chaos. Some hours go by in a complete blur where my only goal is to make sure no one gets hurt. However, it is in those one-on-one moments that I truly get to know my children. C isn’t being overshadowed by his big brother and starts practicing his words and shows off his silly personality. T gets to snuggle all she wants without having to share my lap with her brothers. J gets to do all kinds of “big boy” stuff and thrives on the attention he grew accustomed to in his first years of life.
You Take Time Out from the Crazy.
Since we have three kids, individual time usually comes when one parent takes one kid and the other has two. And honestly? It’s a nice break for all of us! Once you are out numbered, having two kids is just so much easier than three! Don’t get me wrong- I remember thinking having just one was hard. Whatever your situation, changing up the routine is a nice break.
They OPen Up MOre.
Think about how much closer you feel to someone when you spend time with them. On a one-on-one basis, people are much more likely to open up and you get to know each other so much better. Kids are the same. When we have time to just hang out, J talks more and I get a better glimpse into what is on his mind. Quieter kids come out of their shells. There is going to come a time when each child needs each parent for different reasons. It is essential to establish this rapport and comfort level early on.
It Shows them they are Unique Individuals in the sea of siblings.
While the gift of siblings is one of the greatest things you can give your child, it is still important for them to have solid relationships with their parents. We strive to have alone time with each child at some point every day. Perhaps we are more sensitive to this because we have twins, but we want each of our children to know that we value them as individuals. Each day, even if it is just for a few minutes to read a book, play a game, play on the swingset, etc, we take time for each child.
It Allows them to Do Things They Can’t Always Do.
C is a very adventurous and impulsive toddler. I can’t trust that he won’t jump off the highest playground equipment or try to jump in and swim with the ducks. Unfortunately for him, that often means I have to strap him in his stroller, hold his hand tighter than he’d like, or constantly yell “no” when he tries to explore his limits. Unlike his older brother who I could shadow at all times, I have to hold him back more. So when we get one-on-one time, we run to the park where he is free to run and climb to his heart’s content. Our 4-year old gets to do “big kid” things that we can’t do with his younger siblings- go bowling, swimming, kayaking, etc.
Here are some simple ideas to spend individual time with your kids. The key is to preface it as “mommy/daddy-daughter/son date time” and no matter what it is, it is special:
Learn Together: Read, color, build, write, attend storytimes and music classes, visit museums, do puzzles, play games, paint pottery.
Eat Together: Have a picnic, plant a garden, bake cookies, plan and cook dinner, make pancakes, share a special treat, go out for ice-cream.
Work Together: Run errands (they love it!), have a cleaning race, do crafts, do a service project.
Play Together: Mini-golf, bowling, swimming, building snowmen or sandcastles, ice-skate, ride bikes, play catch, practice a sport, go to the park, participate in a race.
The best advice is to ask them what they want to do! You may be surprised that all they really want is to be with you!
As a stay-at-home mom of an almost-5-year-old girl and 7-year-old boy, juggling two part-time jobs that I also do from home (can you say “multi-task”?), I am tired.
I’m tired of pretending to be interested in the intricacies of my son’s Minecraft village. I’m tired of feeling like a PR rep for the food I’m trying to convince my daughter to eat (“But Sweetheart, this type of mac and cheese is all the rage with First Graders these days!”). And I’m tired of staying up way too late just to relish in the peace and quiet that only exists after my darling children are snug in their beds.
But – truly, truly, TRULY – the thing I’m most tired of is saying “no.”
All. Of. The. Time.
I sound like a broken record of negativity and I’m over it. So I took a page from a friend’s playbook and declared a “YES! Day.” It’s meant to be an entire day when you literally say ‘yes’ to everything your kids ask to do. Being the Type-A, control-freak kinda gal that I am (and for our family budget’s sake), however, I did mentally set a few parameters:
Activities that charge a fee or admission were OK (within fiscally responsible reason).
Other purchases were OK as long as the kids used their own money. (I still see this as fun for them because I often say ‘no’ to the junk they want to buy… Even with their own money. Yes, I am that mom.)
I didn’t announce YES! Day ahead of time, lest they stay up all night scheming about how to take the fullest advantage of the opportunity. Heck – I didn’t even announce it that morning. I just started saying ‘yes,’ which was a sneaky-sort-of fun for me. [Insert evil mom laugh that will later be used for when I threaten to embarrass them as punishment.]
And, finally – and this is more of a suggestion than a guideline – I did this on a day where we had little-to-nothing planned. Otherwise, I’d inevitably find myself slinging the N-word all day long just to make the day work.
So, our YES! Day went a little something like this…
YES #1: During breakfast, my son asked me to play Gangnam Style on my phone. I obliged and, as usual, I start dancing. Then the kids asked to join me.
Why, YES, you can!
So we danced like fools in the kitchen while our Eggos waited patiently.
YES #2: I had already planned to take the kids to the movies so, after breakfast, off we went. I paused at the concessions stand, fully prepared to rack up points on my Old Navy Visa by buying popcorn, candy and even – gasp! – soda. But the craziest thing happened: Nothing. They didn’t ask for a single thing. [Mom scratches head.]
YES #2, again: After the movie, they hopped on one of those scales in the lobby that charges a quarter to give a digital weight reading. Well, both of my kids plus two of their friends hopped on simultaneously, I actually put the quarter in (this is the anomaly), and we learned their combined weight was 164.3 pounds. It was such a cute moment and 25₵ very well-spent.
YES #3: I needed to stop at the grocery store on our way home from the movie and – despite the fact that it was almost lunchtime – they each delightedly scarfed down a cookie from the deli.
YESSES #4 & #5: We topped off our day with a post-dinner trip to the splash pad (their favorite place for summer fun) and stayed up past bedtime to enjoy popsicles in the driveway.
At bedtime, I finally divulged my secret. I got a strong finger wag from my son who – with the spirit of a spunky, 75-year-old school teacher – semi-scolded me with an “I thought something was going on today, Mommy.” My daughter, on the other hand, was quicker to mentally replay the day and recall moments she really could have capitalized on. In retrospect, she was a bit miffed.
I have a feeling they’ll both catch on much quicker when the next YES! Day rolls around.
Did I have to say “no” for some things? Of course. But they either (A) had no bearing on the current day (No, you can’t have a playdate with Alex this weekend, he’s out of town.) or (B) were for their protection (No, you can’t skip through the Kroger parking lot without holding my hand). Aside from my aforementioned parameters, I really did my best to stay true to all other requests.
All in all, I mark our first-ever YES! Day a success. I’m 90% sure I confused the heck out of my kids with all those yeses. I’m 95% sure that I typically say “no” entirely too much and for things that don’t really matter. And I’m 100% sure we all had a blast.
I think I’m ready for the next YES! Day!… Well, almost.
Wanna play the question game? The what? Here, in the stage of endless questions from inquisitive young people, I stop and think about all of the interrogations we encounter throughout life and realize that while this stage is exhausting, it is also simpler than some of the other questionable times we have faced. Unlike in Jr. High when we could simply yell out M.Y.O.B. (mind your own business) to anyone and everyone at all times- because it was cool- I find that as we get older, the questions get harder and quick answers less satisfactory.
Our kids LOVE cucumbers. It is their #1 go-to snack. So naturally, when planting our first vegetable garden, we bought a few cucumber plants. Little did we know that they would THRIVE and we would be faced with a new dilemma. What the heck do you do with so many cucumbers?! One can only consume so many dipped in hummus or tossed in a garden salad. “We should have planted zucchini!” I exclaimed, because I know there are so many different ways to cook with it. Little did I know that these savvy people had already come up with incredible solutions to our cucumber conundrum.
This incredible basil, chive, cucumber and corn salad from Sumptuous Spoonfuls will surely be a crowd pleaser at any summer soiree.
The Midnite Baker may have cornered the cucumber market with these two tasty recipes!
This delicious tomato, cucumber, avocado salad from Green Valley Kitchen makes great use of all of the season’s colorful tomatoes to accentuate the cool cucumber.
My favorite thing about going to a spa is the cucumber water. Try this extra flavorful version from Krystal’s Kitsch.
This colorful and zesty Mediterranean Cucumber Tomato Salad from Ceara’s Kitchen will be the perfect addition to any meal. You could even treat it as a salsa on top of chicken or fish.
One of my favorite soups is a classic gazpacho. Here’s another awesome summer soup- chilled cucumber avocado soup from Pickles & Honey. It is nice and creamy, made with only real, wholesome ingredients.
This marvelous cucumber mango salsa from Oh My Veggies is the perfect accompaniment to any grilled dish. Throw it on top of steak, burgers, chicken, fish, or just your classic tortilla chip for a refreshing burst of flavors.
Put your garden cilantro to use as well with this flavorful cilantro-lime cucumber salad from The Food Charlatan.
No foodie roundup is complete without a festive beverage! Check out this creative recipe for a Cucumber Martini from Happy Hour Projects.
You can also find all kinds of non-food related uses for cucumbers such as beauty secrets and cleaning products here or here!
Stay tuned for my next garden round-up – those tomatoes are not far behind! What crop would you like to see a round-up for?
I’ve had a soccer ball at my feet since I was four-years-old. Suffice it to say I am an avid fan and could not wait to watch the Women’s World Cup final tonight. What I didn’t expect was to be struck with an overwhelming feeling of melancholy in the moments that I wasn’t on the edge of my seat.
I’m not sure if it was watching Wambach’s emotional interview before the game started or just poor hormonal timing, but instead of celebrating along with them, I found myself on the sidelines, lamenting the end of an era.
Ironically, I have never been a huge Wambach fan. I don’t dislike her- she’s obviously great- I just prefer Rapinoe’s style of play. Five years ago I probably would not have given her interview a second thought.
But tonight, now that I’m a mother, I was watching out for Abby.
As she tried to power through her pre-game interview it was evident that she didn’t want to accept this. I hurt for her as she choked up when discussing how her body is telling her that time is up. Through clenched teeth she spoke so highly of her teammates- the ones she is not ready to leave. She wasn’t touting her legendary career- she was basically implying that she isn’t ready. As she accepted the trophy she kind of stood off to the side, perhaps feeling as if she was not really a part of this anymore. Abby doesn’t feel done, doesn’t want to be done, but her body is telling her that she is. It reminded me of people who say they just “knew” when they were done having kids whereas for others their bodies decided for them.
I now realize my reaction is two-fold. It is the acceptance of aging as well as the constant struggle to slow down time.
While I obviously never played professionally, I have recently begun coming to terms with the body’s aging process. It struck me that my time for playing sports at a competitive level has passed. (If you need further proof, two months after having a baby, in front of the high school team you coach, kick a soccer ball as hard as you can. You will soon realize how much ab strength that requires and how little you no longer possess!) My husband can no longer “just run a marathon” with very little training. My speed is not going to be my saving grace in athletic endeavors. In fact, we are more likely to get hurt doing the most basic of things. (i.e, throwing out your back tying shoelaces, anyone?!)
Of course adult leagues abound and we don’t have to completely write ourselves off from the sports we love, but when you are used to doing something pretty well and your body no longer cooperates with your brain, it can get very frustrating. I find that I have less frustration when I play sports I was always just “okay” at- I am much more forgiving of myself!
In general, I am very proud of my body for what it can do as well as what it has done. Carrying 14 lbs of twins in a 5’2 petite frame is no joke! My arms are far stronger than ever before due to carrying 25 lbs in each arm up and down the stairs all day long. I can still build endurance and strength pretty quickly. But it just isn’t the same. Sometimes I just miss running up and down the soccer field. And yes mom, I DO wish I had those extremely muscular legs that I always tried to cover in high school- the ones you told me I would wish back.
Just as we all will, Abby will undoubtedly move onto many great things in her next chapter. It’s true- there are definite benefits to getting older, wiser, etc, but it is equally true that sometimes it is just a big bummer. It stinks when your body dictates your limitations. You are forced to realize the end of an era.
My soccer player days are over and now I get to be a coach. I’ve always looked forward to teaching my children to play sports, but here’s the problem. I’m not ready! In the useless battle of trying to slow down time, I often feel sad. Time just goes too quickly. I know I will happily cheer my kids from the sidelines and would love to be a “Soccer Grandma” one day, but not yet! In my head I feel like my “babies” should be swaddled in soccer blankets- not needing me to lace up their cleats and secure their shinguards. I fear that if I blink they will be playing under the big lights of their high school stadium, embarrassed by my cheers in the stands.
I generally embrace the present moment (click here), enjoying whatever stage of life we are in. After all, there truly is nothing we can do to stop it. However, there’s a reason almost every single person you meet when you are out and about with a newborn tells you to enjoy this precious time. It’s okay to lament the passage of time, as long as you are still living the time you are in to the fullest! You never know what is around the next corner- each chapter is full of incredible potential!
As a follow up to this post, I have decided to write you a little ditty. If you ever catch yourself feeling judgmental, sing this little song to the tune of Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” 🙂
Be Kind To Your Motherhood Friends For we all should support one another.
We all just want what is best
For our children and families.
You may think that your way is right
But be open to different ideas.
Join together in the motherhood plight,
and from the mommy wars free us.
Ever since you burst into our world, you havecaptivatedour attention. You mesmerize us with your big curious eyes and keep us thoroughly entertained. From the explosive diapers to the unpredictable toddler years, you have truly blessed us with the most fantastic display.
You light up the darkest night- in fact you illuminate our entire lives. You scatter your joy for life wherever you go. Your boisterous nature and loud booming laughter fill a room faster than any shooting star. You dazzle everyone you meet with your glorious smile. Yourcolorful, multi-faceted personality makes you who you are. You areloud, excitable, fun, sweet, tender, and bright. With such greatvariety, you could never be adud.
You even said so yourself. You simply “sparkleandshine“.
You may still be small, but you are so very powerful. You start off shy, graduallybuild up intensity, and leave your mark on people’s lives with a bang. You catch us off guard and you take our breath away.
We find the rate at which you acquire knowledge so very impressive. Your ability to enlighten others with your perceptive thoughts is truly awe-inspiring. You honor traditionand do things a certain way because “that is just how we do it”.
You can be both solemn and celebratory– sometimes within seconds of one another. You demonstratea flair for the dramatic as a growing toddler fighting to express your independence. You make every dayexciting. At times your adventurous ways are daunting,intimidating, and over-bearing. Yet no matter how trying the day, you leave us with lingering good feelings and special memories.
As you blast out of toddlerhood, ready to spread your wings and strive towards becoming independent, please remember this: No matter where you go or what you do, we will always be there,oohing and aahing for you. We will be your flag pole, supporting you as you wave- as you test your strength and blow in the breeze.
You’ve seen ’em- posts about “real moms” houses, bodies, lifestyles, clothing, etc. (What real women look like in a bathing suit, What real moms’ houses look like, What real moms do during the day.)
But let me ask you this:
Is the mom who keeps her house neat and clean any less of a mom than you are?
Does the fit mom who works hard to maintain her six-pack care less about her children than you?
Does the bottle-feeding mom not want her children to be well nourished? Does the mom who only serves her children organic, free-range, hand-picked food care more about her child’s well-being?
Do the attachment-parenting moms want their children to be well adjusted? Do the homeschooling parents want their children to be well educated?
Does the working mom not want to spend time with her child? Does the stay-at-home mom contribute less to society?
Does the wealthy mom not put out as much love as you do? Does the young mom not want to take care of her child?
Does the adoptive mom not love her child as much as a biological mother?
Do other moms cheer less for their child’s successes? Do they worry less for their future? Do they cry less when their kids hurt? Do they want less for their children?
Before we cast stones, consider this: We all have our strengths, and we all have our weaknesses.
The fit mama’s workout may be the stress relief you find in a bubble bath.
The foodie’s gourmet meals may yield the same sense of accomplishment as the crafty mama’s Pinterest-worthy success.
The creative party planning mom may feel as confident in her element as the put-together fashionable mom.
A clean house may give one mom as much clarity as sitting with a good book gives another.
The working and stay-at-home moms feel equally overwhelmed and exhausted.
The breast and bottle feeding moms are both nourishing their children.
The public school mom wants her children to learn and achieve just as much as the private and home-schooling parents.
One mama’s high powered business suit is another mama’s well-worn play-in-the-mud jeans. Does that mean they don’t love their children equally?
One mama is great at doing art projects with her children and the other recognizes that isn’t a personal strength and enrolls her child in a class. Is one better than the other, or is the child still being exposed to art?
Or think of it this way.
What if the clean mom is battling OCD and envies your ability to just leave toys laying around?
What if the bottle feeding mom wanted to breastfeed more than anything but has a medical issue preventing it?
What if the skinny mom is battling an eating disorder?
What if the working mom has no other choice but to support her family financially?
Think about what insinuating that they aren’t “real” moms or “real” women does to their already fragile self-esteem.
In sharing pictures, words, thoughts about “REAL” moms, we are in fact just starting yet another mommy war. Don’t make others feel guilty because they aren’t exactly like you. Much of it stems from jealousy, hurt, insecurity, uncertainty, etc. Whatever the reason, let’s pause to consider the fact that we are all REAL moms.
Real moms want what is best for their children.
Don’t judge the crafty mom for sharing her passions in a themed birthday party and make her less of a mom by saying “real moms crafts look like this”. Don’t belittle fit active moms who have always made fitness a priority just because other moms don’t have similar body types. Don’t hate those who flawlessly keep their house clean just because that isn’t your forte. Don’t envy the stylish moms just because you prefer to go sans make-up in yoga pants. In general, the people being criticized are not criticizing you back. They don’t care what you are wearing, how much you can bench press, or what you served your family for dinner. The artistic mom doesn’t think you are neglecting your children because you can only draw stick figures.
Speaking of stick figures, supermodels are real too. No, most people don’t look like them, no, we don’t want our children solely equating beauty with the tall thin women plastered all over the media, but they are people too. They have thoughts, feelings and breathe the same air as you.
Real moms comfort their children when they cry. They feed their children. They bathe their children. They read to their children. They hug their children. They laugh with their children. They make sure their basic needs are met. They lead by example.
We are all moms. We don’t all have to get along, but can we at least accept that we are all REAL women who breathe the same air and live on the same earth? We all have children and do what we think is best for them. We all have different strengths and interests. We have different viewpoints, backgrounds, and experiences. Lets look at all mamas, all women as a team. Whether or not we agree on the big and small issues, we all have responsibilities to our children and are striving to do it right.
Type A or B, anal or laid back, helicopter or flag pole, caviar or granola, breast or bottle, skinny or plump, stretch marks or wrinkle free, young or old, working or SAHM, clean or messy, tall or short, athletic or clumsy, holistic or not, breast or bottle, homeschool or private, wealthy or poor, we are all people. We are all real.
We are all mamas, and to our children, We are the only realitythey need.