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7 Parenting Lessons from ABC’s Scandal — April 13, 2015

7 Parenting Lessons from ABC’s Scandal

I have stacks upon stacks of parenting books sitting on my (very overloaded) bookshelves, but most of them are only half read. As I flip the pages, I just think to myself, “This isn’t real life.” Sure, they’re great ideas to aspire to, but at the end of the day, different things work for different moms. So I started turning to less-conventional outlets to find the practices that worked best for me: other moms, blogs, websites, and, you guessed it, Scandal.

I remember walking through Michael’s looking for craft supplies for my two-year-old who was throwing a bit (read, a lot) of a temper tantrum and I told myself, “Just wear the white hat. Do the right thing.” That got me thinking about what other little nuggets of wisdom I could find in my favorite show.

So I binge-watched the series (for research, obviously), and came up with these pointers:

1. Always wear the white hat

Dinner is wrecked, your baby is screaming, the laundry isn’t folded … the list goes on. You may want to burn the white hat, but don’t do it. The only thing that can keep you sane is the thought that you can and will rise above. Do the right thing: wear the white hat. Because if you take it off, let’s be real, who knows what monsters may arise.

2. Gladiate

Fierceness is a quality that comes along with parenting territory — it’s your right as a protector and parent to that little human you made. Don’t apologize for being your child’s gladiator. It’s a title not easily won, but it’s one that you deserve.

3. Utilize your resources

Pope and Associates have a lot of resources at their fingertips, but sometimes they have to take the back way in. Now, I’m not saying you should threaten and blackmail to get your kid in that private school you’re eying, but take stock of your natural talents, and see how they can get you where you want to be.

4. Know the power of wine and popcorn

This one’s pretty self-explanatory. We all need those moments of bliss when the kids are in bed and we forget about the to-do list. Uncork that bottle, pop that popcorn (extra butter, thank you), and for the love of Olivia Pope — relax.

olivia pope wine

5. Stand in the sun

Where is Jake Ballard when you need him? At the end of the day, you have to live in the truth as it presently is and face it head on. Otherwise, things stay broken, and you never end up moving forward. In my mind, this mentality is paramount when raising children, because only when you acknowledge the truth of the present can you amend your plan for the future.

6. Make jam

With that being said, you also have to have an element of “making jam,” that is to say, a dream or fantasy that you look forward to but isn’t quite reachable yet. Take that vision, hold on to it, and make it your happy place when you’re certain that invasion of the body snatchers has happened and your child has taken momentary reprieve from normal human behavior.

7. Handle it  

Part of parenting is being 10 steps ahead in terms of thinking of a solution. This goes hand in hand with multi-tasking and looking at every side of a situation, all things that Olivia Pope excels at. Next time your spouse asks if you’ve done the grocery shopping and/or paid the bills, just tell them, “It’s handled.” They’ll respect you for the force of nature you are and feel discouraged from asking any further questions — a mother’s dream.

While I’m not quite at Pope & Associates’s level yet, remembering these things in the heat of battle (also known as when you’re trying to cook breakfast with a baby on your hip and she burns her arm on the toaster) has restored a minor sense of sanity in this crazy thing they call parenting.

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What moms really wants for Mother’s Day —

What moms really wants for Mother’s Day

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Obviously we adore those macaroni necklace. And, who wouldn’t need another mug?
Cheerios and syrup for breakfast? In bed? Bring it on!

Moms really cherish everything those sticky hands make for Mother’s Day.

In any case let’s be realistic here. Here’s what we truly need for Mother’s Day?

We need to make tracks in the opposite direction from you. Every one of you.

“I simple. 60 minutes alone will do the trick. Simply an hour to rest in. That is the thing that I need,”

This isn’t a motion for a white tea pedicure or ocean -clean facial. Not a ladies’ night out with margaritas. Not even a shopping spree.

Just. Some. Peace and Quiet.

It’s a sweet thought, this Mother’s Day thing. Why not set aside one day to praise the person who conceived and watch over us?

It’s simply the execution that is all screwed up. Take, the Mother’s Day breakfast myth.

Gracious, I’ve done these. In the early years, I wound up outside, strolling and bouncing my daughter here and there down the walkway outside the fancy cafe. He erled on my nice shirt and sucked on my macaroni necklace while whatever remains of the family stayed at the table, appreciating their meals.

“The thing I despise most for Mother’s Day is going out to eat, Mother’s Day is straight up there with Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve — days I dodge going out if I can help it, on those particular days most dine-in places are busy and the wait time is ridiculous”

What about a surprise night out at a restruant in the middle of the week without the kids? Spare me from only one night of supper/dishes/and bath time.

On that night, you imagine I’m out for a top secret meeting and you deal with things at home.

Only thing is there is no meeting. Table for one, please.

Boy Says Goodbye to Pet Fish in Funeral — April 12, 2015

Boy Says Goodbye to Pet Fish in Funeral

WARNING!!! You may get emotional

We all know that explaining death to a kid can be pretty difficult, yet this feature impeccably sums up the experience.

The story needs almost no presentation, as it basically a toddler saying farewell to his absolute best companion — Top, the fish. From the sweet farewell kiss, to the flush, to the minute he understands his companion is gone forever …  you’d must have a cold heart not to get shaken up over this one.

Pardon us while we go get the tissue box.

Should Smoking Around Kids Be Illegal? — March 30, 2015

Should Smoking Around Kids Be Illegal?

Growing up, my dad smoked, and so did nearly all of our family friends. It was the late 70s and early 80s. You could still smoke almost anywhere. When my parents hosted dinner parties, a thick smog of secondhand smoke would gather in the air over the table. Our car reeked of cigarettes. To this day, the smell of stale cigarette smoke makes me think of dozing off while my dad drove us home at night. It relaxes me, and makes me feel safe.

One thing I’m not nostalgic for, though, is the asthma I battled as a kid, or the chronic bronchitis I suffered every winter. Of course it never occurred to me as a child that my dad’s smoking might be to blame. As a teenager, a cyst on his throat scared him away from smoking. Years later, after a bout of walking pneumonia, my mom found cigarette smoke left her short of breath, and banned their friends from lighting up in the house.

In some states, it’s now illegal for parents to light up in cars the way my dad did. Other states have made it a crime for foster parents to smoke both in the car and in their homes. But one doctor recently suggested we need to go further. Adam Goldstein, an MD and professor in the Department Family Medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, argues that parents should not be allowed to smoke around children, period. And he’s calling on medical organizations to put pressure on legislators to label smoking a form of child abuse.

Goldstein says that we consider driving drunk with a kid in the car child abuse. So why shouldn’t we say the same about smoking? Kids who grow up in houses full of secondhand smoke, like I did, have asthma and respiratory problems, some of which, like pneumonia, require hospitalization.

I have a complicated response to this proposal. On the one hand, I know from experience how terrible it can be to grow up in a smoky house. To this day, I measure weak on lung capacity tests, despite being an avid runner in good shape. My dad’s smoking, which he began as a teen and didn’t stop till his early 40s, may have affected his long-term health. Did it take years off of my life too? And what about my mom, who now has similar issues with her respiratory health?

On the other hand, I bristle at the thought of calling my dad an abuser because he had an addiction to smoking. It was a different time. I honestly don’t think my dad would have kept smoking if he knew it was a major contributor to, if not the sole cause of, my asthma.

What’s more, I have trouble with the thought that the government can tell us what to do in our own homes. Today it’s cigarettes, what if tomorrow it’s soda and chips? Those cause diabetes. Should we ban parents from buying them too? We’re seeing all too clearly in Ferguson how race and class play a part in policing. I worry it would mostly be parents of color and parents living in poverty facing scrutiny over their smoking habits.

I am all in favor of replacing cigarette branding with messages and images about the damage that smoking does to our health. I love that New York City offers free resources to help people quit smoking, and wish that those were nationally available. And I think that public education should in particular target parents, so that they know the consequences of their actions on their children. Should smoking around a child in your own house be considered a crime, though, with potential court action and fines? That strikes me, a victim of secondhand smoke, as too extreme.

7 Ways I’ve Changed as a Wife Since Getting Married at 21 — March 26, 2015

7 Ways I’ve Changed as a Wife Since Getting Married at 21

MomsRForever

 

Do you know what I hate about men?

The fact that they can exert almost exactly ZERO effort and lose weight — and meanwhile, I am busting my buns to every workout that Jillian Michaels and her manly muscles have ever created and do you know what happens to me?

I gain seven pounds.

Yeah, that’s right. Since giving birth to my fourth child and ballooning up to the biggest I’ve ever been in my life, I still continue to be biggest I’ve ever been in my entire life. I’ve been working hard to maintain a positive attitude about it, telling myself that my body tends to hang on to weight when I’m breastfeeding and that I will get there with patience and exercise and a healthy lifestyle. But dang if I’m not freakin’ annoyed that my husband can drop 20 pounds by simply cutting pop out of his daily diet just like that when he decided to hop on my healthy-living bandwagon.

What a jerk.

There’s a lot that I’ve learned about my husband and myself over the years in our marriage and last night, as I attempted to run three miles in a desperate plea to the universe to help me button my jeans, I thought about all of the ways that I’ve changed since I first walked down the aisle as a young and naïve bride of 21 years old.

1. I’m more secure in who I am as a person.

I realize not everyone gets married as young we did, but I spent the first few years of our marriage in a frenzied, frantic state to figure out who the heck I was as a person. I had the husband and the baby right away, so I felt like I had to have the rest of it figured out too — turns out, it is OK to learn along the way.

2. But less secure with my body.

On the flip side, (my advance apologies if this is TMI) I’m actually a lot less secure in my body, which shows, of course, in the marital bed. I’m still trying to figure out this weird phase I’m in, but it’s almost like I’m in the process of re-learning my sexuality after having kids. Which, I guess makes sense since I am basically dealing with an entirely new body. But it’s been eye-opening to realize how much power a wife’s confidence can have on the entire relationship. Shakira was right, my friends — the hips don’t lie.

3. I’m way more calm.

I often wonder if my hormones have just leveled off after having kids, because holy crap was I a crazy person when we first got married. Or maybe I just have less energy to get worked up about stupid things because I have four little people to keep alive every day, but in general, I’m a much more calm and relaxed person than I was as a newlywed.

4. I’m much more open about my feelings.

You may be expecting that marriage causes couples to eventually run out of things to talk about, but I’ve actually found the opposite to be true — I talk my husband’s ear off about everything now. I used to be the absolute worst about bottling up my feelings, emotions, and stress, shutting down, and then eventually exploding. It took us a while to learn the ropes, but now that I know I have the tendency to shut down, I go overboard to open up and prevent that from happening.

It might mean my husband has to hear about all my feels, all the time, but it’s better than the alternative, so so be it.

5. I accept my husband for who he is.

I had a lot of hopes and dreams for my marriage — I envisioned weekends spent together, cutesy bed-and-breakfast getaways, and of course, traveling the world together in retirement. But it’s taken me exactly seven years and counting to realize that my husband just is not the man who enjoys any of those things. Every weekend means more work in his shop and there will be no world travels in our future, because my husband hates to travel.

There will never be any cutesy weekends spent browsing antique shops and drinking coffee. My husband is just not that person and I had to accept that before I could learn to be happy in my marriage.

6. I know the importance of giving my husband his space.

Again, call me crazy, but I kind of thought that to be a successful married couple, you had to find your solace in each other — almost like spending time together would be the way to charge our respective batteries, so to speak.

But I’ve found that exact opposite to be true. Alone time has always been important, of course, but it took a long time to witness the long-term effects that a severe lack of “me” time — for both of us — can wreak on our relationship as a couple. When you have young kids, sometimes couple time might not even be as important as me time, because that’s truly what recharges our batteries and makes us an even stronger couple.

7. I know how to ask for what I want.

I have learned that our marriage really and truly works better when I ask — specifically for what I want — instead of hoping that my husband will know or getting angry that I have to ask in the first place.

Sometimes it looks like asking for help with housework or telling him I just need to vent or even tossing him a baby and running away for 10 minutes, but whatever it is, I’ve let go of any resentment about asking for what I need. My husband is happy if he knows exactly what I want and need and as a result, so am I.

How have you changed as a spouse since you got married?

I Am Officially Tired of Buying Diapers — March 24, 2015

I Am Officially Tired of Buying Diapers

diapers blog

Well, lately I’ve been wearing the financial pants in my family.  Today I am going to talk about a different kind of pants- diapers and pull-ups, specifically- and the fact that I am officially tired of buying them after five long years.

Tired. Of. It.

I buy pull-ups for daytime and diapers for overnights.  I buy them at the grocery store, the department store, and the drug store- with coupons if I’m lucky.  I currently spend $10-$15 dollars per week on something that adds no value to our lives or to the planet.   I might as well be shreddin’ $20 bills over here!

I Am Officially Tired of Buying Diapers

My oldest potty-trained quickly and easily.  But my youngest?  I’m afraid to say it, but I just don’t think she cares enough at this point.  She’s also busy- real busy- and doesn’t want to stop what she’s doing to go to the bathroom.  She would much rather just pee her pants and continue picking flowers, riding her bike, or playing in the sandbox.  Ewww…  I’m tired of buying diapers, but I also don’t know what else to do.  A few strategies I’m considering:

  • Potty Timer– A relative suggested I set a timer and simply tell her it is the “potty timer.”  Then I just need to take her to the potty any time it goes off.  Perhaps she will think it’s a game and get on board.  Maybe?
  • Naked Weekend– Several people have suggested I let her run around naked outside for a day or two.  The idea is that she might recognize her need to potty better if she literally felt pee run down her leg (as opposed to it being absorbed by her clothing).  That might be possible on the weekend, but I’m not sure how cooperative she would be.
  • Fun Potty Time- Others have suggested adding food coloring to the toilet water or wearing a funny hat when it’s pee-pee time.  Sounds crazy to me, but I’m honestly willing to do anything at this point.
  • Wait- I keep reading that kids who aren’t interested in potty-training might just need more time.  I’ve considered putting our plans on hold for a few months and trying again this fall.

So, that’s it.  I’m officially tired of buying diapers, but must continue to do so for the foreseeable future.  Hopefully I’ll figure out a winning strategy sometime soon.  Until then, I envision lots of laundry, frustration, and tears coming up.  Stay tuned.

Did you have trouble potty-training your kids?  What strategies worked for you?

 

Easter Egg Hunt Party Ideas — March 23, 2015

Easter Egg Hunt Party Ideas

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Do you plan the same old Easter egg hunt for your children year after year? Maybe it’s time for a new approach. Take Easter up a notch from boring green Easter grass and tired plastic eggs.

Tired of the same old hunt? Easter egg hunts can be fun for all ages, especially when you put a new twist on the festivities. We’ve got a few new ways to outsmart the Easter rabbit this year.

Dusk hunt

Why not send your kids hunting for Easter treasures at twilight instead of first thing in the morning? Even though it won’t yet be dark, hand them flashlights, and send them on their way. They’ll be sure to love this new twist on the traditional egg hunt. If it’s highly unlikely your child will be able to wait all day to search, either set up the hunt the night before or give your children a little something from the Easter bunny in the morning with a note that explains they can’t search for their loot until dark.

Treasure egg hunt

Aye, aye mateys! A fun spin on an egg hunt is to send your kids searching for “buried” treasure. Give your children eye patches and maps to follow to find their hidden treasure eggs.

Leave clues along the way from the Easter bunny (“fur,” paw prints or even carrots) to let them know they’re on the right trail. You can hide fun-filled eggs along the way and when they reach the end of the hunt, they will find their treasure. Burying the treasure is optional.

Color-coordinated eggs

To make sure each child gets the same number of eggs, assign them their own color. But to instill a little friendly competition, tell the kids there is one color they can all search for: Gold. Hide one golden egg in the bunch. Whoever finds that egg gets an extra special prize. Just don’t forget where you hid the eggs or how many eggs the kids are supposed to find. Make sure the eggs for younger hunters are easier to find.

Egg puzzle

Tell your children the Easter bunny left them a puzzle, and they have to locate all of the puzzle pieces to find out what the grand finale prize is. To set up the puzzle, on a large sheet of paper, write a message to your children. Then, divide up the paper to look like puzzle pieces and cut out the individual pieces. Hide each piece in an egg. Once the kids have found all of the puzzle pieces, they can lay them out on the floor to read their special message and find the big prize the Easter bunny left for them.

Creative (and sugar-free) egg stuffers

Mix it up this year and take the candy out of Easter. Yes, you read that right — ditch the sugar. The kids are already “hopped” up enough on their natural energy anyway. Fill the eggs with fun surprises the children will never expect.

  • money
  • movie tickets
  • stickers
  • gum
  • IOU notes (Example: One large banana split to make up for all the sugar lost on Easter!)
2-Minute Healthy Egg Breakfast Your Kids Can Make Themselves — February 25, 2015

2-Minute Healthy Egg Breakfast Your Kids Can Make Themselves

 

Egg Breakfast dish1

As a busy mom, I decided to take a good long look at our family life and realized that so many of the jobs I was taking on myself could be given to my kids. Rather than teaching them that I was the answer to all of their needs, it was time I start teaching them to be the strong, independent souls I truly want to raise.

This decision led to a few minor changes, like no longer packing school lunches. This opportunity was the perfect way to encourage my kids to get busy in the kitchen. We rounded up a few easy, healthy recipes and I taught my littles how to make more than mac and cheese.

All four of my kids have proven to be incredibly talented at meal-making … something I’d never known until I stopped expecting cold cereal to be their culinary arrival point. Even my sixth graders have started making their own breakfasts and after-school snacks. We keep a simple list of ideas posted on the fridge and I ensure the pantry is well-stocked with familiar favorites.

Right now our favorite dish to make is microwave egg bakes, because they’re a great way to get filling protein PLUS veggies. If the kids want to make these bakes, I encourage them to peek in the fridge and find a few different ingredients to add to theirs. It’s so easy to create flavor variations. The kids love getting to choose their own ingredients and I love watching them create. This recipe is perfect for breakfast, lunch, after-school snacks, and dinner. A fun, healthy, simple way to teach your kids how to cook.

egg dish 2

Here are a few of our favorite flavor combos, followed by the recipe:

  • 1 egg + chopped mushrooms + Parmesan
  • 1 egg + tomatoes + basil
  • 1 egg + diced ham + cheddar + green onions + tomatoes
  • 1 egg + Parmesan + chopped spinach + garlic
  • 1 egg + cilantro + salsa + precooked sausage crumbles

egg-bake-11

2-Minute Microwave Egg Bake

Makes: 1 serving

Ingredients:
Nonstick cooking spray
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk or cream (can be substituted for unsweetened and unflavored almond or soy milk)
1/2 cup total of favorite toppings, diced (we used ham, basil, tomatoes, bacon bits, and onions)
Pinch salt and pepper

Directions:
1. Spray a 4-ounce ramekin with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together egg, milk (or cream), toppings, and salt and pepper. Pour into ramekin.
3. Microwave ramekin in 30 to 60-second bursts, just until the center of the egg bake sets and is no longer jiggly (about 2 minutes). Allow to cool slightly before removing from the microwave with a hot pad. Once warm, eat and enjoy!

Here’s How You Celebrate Valentine’s Day When You Have Kids — February 13, 2015

Here’s How You Celebrate Valentine’s Day When You Have Kids

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Valentine’s Day can be a struggle for new moms. Your husband actually wants to celebrate for once, but you’re not sure you want to leave the 21-month-old baby with a sitter just yet. I get it. So I’ve come up with the perfect solution: a “stay-date.” Put on your little black dress (by which I mean your college T-shirt and yoga pants), follow this stay-date itinerary, and get ready to fall in love all over again.

1. Have some wine and cheese.

Boxed wine and Polly-O string cheese, of course. Nothing says romance like looking into each other’s eyes and peeling some cheese. It’s like when you used to serve exotic wines and fancy cheese platters to guests before you had kids … except not at all.

2. Dance to music.

Turn down the lights and put on Pandora. I’m aware that your only stations likely have the words “Elmo” or “Kids” in them, but your husband won’t notice. He’ll be too busy wondering what that lovely smell is (spoiler: it’s boxed wine, and some perfume he got you back when you were dating).

3. Reread your marriage vows to each other.

Re-declare your love by adding vows that actually make sense now that you’re parents. For example, “I promise to love you even when your mother tells me that Gogurt isn’t real food.”

4. Cuddle on the couch and watch a romantic movie.

Just kidding. Obviously if you do that, you’ll fall asleep, and your romantic evening will be over at the premature hour of 8:00.

5. Share the chocolate your husband got you.

Nothing puts you in the mood for romance like an internal monologue about how skinny you used to be, and berating yourself for not sticking to your New Years Resolution to actually eat green things this year.

6. Read each other poetry.

By which I mean, The Cat in the Hat. Hey, it rhymes!

7. Look through old pictures.

Oh, look! There you guys are on the beach! Look how hot you were! Look at your waist. Look at your naturally blonde hair. Well, maybe this wasn’t the best idea.

8. Tell each other you love each other.

And then just when things are really getting romantic … What’s that? He’s not asleep? Well, you go put him back to sleep and I’ll just sit here on the couch and not … fall … asleep …

Thus ends your magical Valentine’s Day at 8:45 PM. Maybe next year you’ll actually get a sitter and go out. Or, more likely, you’ll just buy another couple boxes of wine

I Love Being a Mom, But I’m Not a Baby Person — February 5, 2015

I Love Being a Mom, But I’m Not a Baby Person

My youngest child turns two years old next month and I have a confession to make to the world:

I’m not into babies.

And what’s more, I’m so excited to be free of babies. Wheeee!

I’ve actually never been a baby person. I know it’s a little silly since everyone I know (and everyone I don’t) passed through infancy, myself included. It’s just, I’m not into babies.

And … even though I’m not into babies, in my 30s I found myself wishing to become a parent. My images of motherhood, however, revolved around working on science fair projects, traveling the world and sending care packages to college. In contrast, most people I knew were enchanted with dreams of cradling and swaddling a warm bundle of joy, teeny tiny shoes, and tuning into the importance of diet and nutrition in the first few years of a child’s life. As my personal path to motherhood pointed toward foster-to-adoption, I thought I’d be a great match for an older child. However, that’s not what happened. Given my small apartment, I was only approved to foster a child 0-3 years old.

You know where this is going, right?

Yep, I ended up fostering five, yes FIVE, newborns, one at a time, up until the last two: one whose adoption is final, and the other whose adoption is on its way to becoming final. These are now my daughters, and I couldn’t be happier. But still, I’ve been kind of lost in Babyland for the past two years: Bottles, diapers, baths, barf — and I’d given up on getting around anywhere in New York City with a double stroller.

People have always told me that I’d feel differently about babies when they were my own. True that. However, I still wasn’t converted to the congregation of worshiping babies.

Babies turn parents’ lives upside-down and just as we begin to adjust, it’s on to the next stage of life — toddlerhood. All of those baby skills we’ve mastered? Out the window. I can change a diaper with one hand now. But that’s going to be useless (hopefully) very shortly. And that’s okay, because when I signed on to become a parent, I knew I’d be in for the long haul. And it’s the long haul I’m most excited about. From age 2-62, the best parenting years are yet to come!