I have to admit, I didn’t want to write this post. I didn’t want it so badly I made a whole separate anonymous blog to talk about these issues. However, as I have become more set in my position, I find it dishonest not to give an explanation to people who have known me for years.
A little under a year ago, I read an interesting blog post. It discussed how a man changed from a Christian into an atheist. I don’t remember what exactly struck me about the post. What I do know is the next day I woke up and started wondering, “What proof have I ever seen, in my ten years of being a Christian, that God really exists? Is it possible this is all inside my head?”
Here I would like to explain that I have been a Christian for ten years, and I’m not talking “go to church on Sunday and party the rest of the week, have Jesus for fire insurance” Christian. I took Christianity very seriously since my late teens, starting with mission/volunteer work, reading through my Bible, studying, praying, going to church and Bible studies, Christian Bible college, marrying a Christian man, raising my children Christian, and trying to live out my life to understand and please God. I had no doubts in my faith. I was going to be a Christian forever, no question of it. I didn’t even understand people who doubted. If you have read my blog over the years you know I have taken Christianity very seriously. This wouldn’t just happen if I just wanted to live my life MY WAY and didn’t want God bossing me around. This started because I had some seriously deep questions, and it continued because I never found satisfactory answers for them. I know others have questioned and decided being a Christian based on no proof, just the faith in their heart, was enough. I kept questioning because I wanted so badly for Christianity to be different than the other religions in the world, to justify the belief I had that Christianity was the one true way.
I made this a project. I researched many things. First I really wondered if I had been a Christian, if I had missed something. I researched what the Bible said about being a Christian and the Holy Spirit. I started questioning my faith in God. I asked him for help, to give me faith, to guide me in my quest to figure out if I was a Christian and that he existed as the God of the Bible. I decided I wasn’t going to follow this religion anymore unless I knew for certain it was true, God existed, and the Bible was the only truth about God.
From there I looked into apologetics and tried to figure out what proof was there that God existed. I wound up in various places and websites. Months went by. Sometimes I went a while without thinking about it, but I never prayed anymore. I felt very strange going to church. I would doubt everything the pastor said. I started seeing how much of preaching and Bible interpretation is based on how people emote and think God thinks. My suspicions grew bigger, and my hope in Christianity faded.
I guess what it comes down to it, I know all those years, I was praying, I was praising, I was reading, and I was making my minor and major life decisions based on my Christian faith. I had many thoughts and emotions. But it was all me. There was no response from the Almighty, whose silence persisted no matter what I did or said.
My faith never returned. The more I researched the more disappointed I became. I had based all of my spiritual life on what other people said was true, I had believed it, and I had lived it. But that’s all it ever was. Instead of finding more to support following Christianity, I found less and less. Christianity was a mind game I was playing. When I stepped outside of it to question it, it just looked like a mind game. It didn’t look like something that really existed and nonbelievers were just in denial over.
Upon the serious research I have conducted, I have come to the conclusion that there is no proof that God exists. There is no real proof that Jesus really did rise from the dead or he was the Messiah. There was simply no real, scientific proof for the existence of God or the miracles of the Bible. I don’t believe it. I am no longer a Christian.
At first I was very uncertain about living life as an atheist. After all, as a Christian I had been told that atheists lived life devoid of hope, morals, truth, or conscious. But the truth is, I’ve known many atheists over the years, and I’ve met many more in the past year. They are not wanton selfish drunkards who go home and wallow in hopelessness over the pointlessness of life (Well, there probably are some, but the reason behind it is not atheism). They have morals, they help out humanity in various ways, they find much joy in much of life. The biggest difference is that they don’t believe in God, and instead of praying for answers, they try to find them in other ways. Just like Christians, they don’t have the answers to everything and they have to make peace with that.
So, I have to say, I’m sorry if this post greatly upsets you. I know, because I was a Christian, how upset I would be if I found out my friend was going to burn in hell too. I’m really sorry. I also have to say, I don’t want to debate this with you. I have found that debating with people is very messy, very stressful, hurts relationships, and I really don’t think you are going to present any information I haven’t come across in my years of Bible study, Christian college, and my months of internet research on internet sites by the world’s top apologetics. I understand if you want to unfriend me on Facebook, or stop associating with me in the same way you did. I know that Christians intrinsically trust other Christians more than other people. I have lost that trust and I know relationships will change because of it. Please respect my decision to not believe in God as I respect your decision to believe in him. I am not going to try to argue anyone out of their belief. I don’t want you to argue me out of mine. I am already experiencing that with people in my life. This transition has made many difficulties in relationships already that I am working on. I still haven’t said anything to my children, and may not for a long time.
I have made a big step to be honest by coming out and saying I am atheist. Part of me wanted to not say anything due to the anxiety of people lashing out in judgment and arguments. Or people withdrawing from me because they see me as a changed outsider, or pitying me and seeing me as a poor lost soul, or the black sheep. I post this very nervously, honestly afraid that I will regret posting it.
I’m not bitter about Christianity, I know many others leave the faith due to having rotten experiences with Christians. I have to say for the most part, you have been so kind and giving. So many of you have given so much to me over the years. You are incredible friends and parents. Thank you for using your religion to motivate you to do kindness. Or using the wonderful kindness you had inside of you to do your religion. Please understand that I value kindness and love a great deal, and I do not leave it behind with leaving Christianity. I am taking this time to find a philosophy/worldview/moral/ethical standpoint. But that may take years, and I don’t know if there is an exact destination. Atheist does not mean one particular worldview. It just means that I don’t have the worldview of believing in God. I have a much higher standard for information to meet in order for me to embrace it wholeheartedly. So while I know what I do not believe, I don’t exactly have a label for what I I do believe. I am ok with that. I am on a journey right now. But that’s not to say I don’t know who I am. I know many things about myself and what I do believe, what I love and what I want. I am secure in who I am.
If this is something you have gone through, are going through now, or have nagging doubts, and want some support, I am here. If you would like to read my blog because of that, I will message you and send you the link. I admit I am not posting the link in here because it is incredibly personal, and I fear instead of people reading it to understand my reasons, they would read it to find ways to argue with me. I know most people who read this blog are not that way.
I believe that’s about all I needed to say. However, part of me really debates posting it, saying it to people who don’t ever really ‘ask’ about my spiritual state. I have talked about this already to many people. I hope you will take this as me simply being honest about myself to you. I hope you have peace in your life journey.
It’s been a very long time since I posted photos of knitting. Christmas happened and knit I did, and crochet, and photograph, and gift. Here’s what went down:
The fish hat was such a hit I’ve had four custom orders for them since posting them on Facebook. This was a gift for Pingu, who loves it. Yarn: Cascade 220 mixed with some Vanna’s Choice.
Two cabled beanies, in warm superwash wool, for a couple of men. The first is in Plymouth Encore, the second in Malabrigo Rios (mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!!!)
Foxx wanted a red hat like Link from Zelda, another in Plymouth Encore:
I am proud to say I have finally come up with a wonderful cabled newsboy pattern. I knit this in Malabrigo Worsted, buttery soft.
A cabled headband which proved to be another hot item. I made this for my sister and got three requests for customs. This one is done in Knit Picks Comfy, a cotton blend that is shiny and soft.
Fingerless cabled gloves, in Cascade 220:
Wee happy fairy, in wool of various kinds:
Garter Earflap hat in licorice twist wool, knit for Sweet Pea:
My first colorwork, a train hat for Scooby. It was love at first sight and he really wears it all the time, even sleeps in it sometimes.
A fabulous scarf in Cestari Fine:
A shawlette for my aunt in Caron Simply Soft:
For myself, a pair of spats to warm my ankles in that terrible cold spell we had, in Cascade 220 Superwash
For my husband, a cowl in some nice soft Liquorice Twist:
There was another headband and a hooded scarf I didn’t take pictures of. It was the most knitted objects I had ever pumped out in two months. This knitting was brought to you by Parenthood and Merlin.
I haven’t written this until this point, very purposefully.
What do you do when you look back on last year’s New Year posts (here and here) and find yourself in a completely different place than when you wrote it? When you find yourself looking back and knowing where you were, but unable to see where you are going?
I’m sorry I am so vague about my journey. One day I will share more. It simply suffices for now to say I don’t know where I am going. I am at peace with it, but I am a wanderer in many ways.
So, I find myself unable to reflect upon most of my goals last year and how I progressed. In some ways, I can say:
1. I certainly didn’t learn much about shooting my camera in manual beyond figuring out what I most needed to do requiring dropping a chunk of money on a different lens.
2. I did have a beer and I liked it but not enough to explore the beer world. I had a total of three beers this year. I did have more wine than that, and I’m a wine fan. But beer just ain’t for me, and I’m ok with that.
3. I’m not homeschooling anymore. Well, a bit of preschool stuff with Sweet Pea, but the boys are doing fantastic in school and life is good there.
4. We did go exploring. Many, many places. Here’s to more of the same in 2013!
5. Foxx has not learned to knit. He did crochet a chain once.
6. Marriage-did well this year overall!
As to the rest….who knows. That doesn’t mean I don’t look upon the coming year with some very specific journeys in mind.
1. I continue in my passion to help out other human beings.
a) This year I hope to learn more about various systems in the United States. The election came in 2012 and I found myself very uneducated about the political system and scrambling to make educated choices. This year I want to learn more about the United States and the issues Americans face. If I don’t know about how the systems work and where the failures are.
b) I also want to learn more about human psychology, our culture, and how the two things influence each other. I don’t think we can understand how to help people without understanding where they are and the challenges they face.
c) I want to specifically look at what parents are facing in truly rough places and how to help them where they are. I know there is no mighty force like a parent passionate to do right by their children. I know many people in my circles that are incredible people raising incredible children. But I am, for the most part, in circles of people who are grew up in stable homes, have had good access to education, health care, and a generally stable environment. What I want to specifically look into is children growing up without stability and how we can help them and their parents, break the cycle of rough situations begetting more rough situations. I think crime statistics, violence, abuse, rape, abortion statistics, and other things that have disturbed me in the past need to do more than just disturb me. We need to specifically help people who are in rough situations to make a difference. Just wanting a law changed is not enough. To make a different type of people, it’s more than legislation. It’s life help, because some problems are just so much bigger than one choice made. Until we look at the people behind the statistics and try to help the people, it’s not helpful to simply be enraged people are doing so much harm to themselves and others. Choices can be influenced in many ways. You holding an opinion to what is right and wrong doesn’t change somebody else’s life so they make better choices. What does? I hope to find out.
2. Whew, heavy stuff up there. Secondly, I have taken a strong interest in the creation of my favorite crafts. Before yarn can be knit or crocheted, it must first be made from fiber. For Christmas, Kronk gave me a spinning class. I now know how to wield a spinning wheel to make yarn, and it’s so incredibly marvelous. Creating yarn with my own hands was soothing, beautiful, and fun. Due to the high costs of spinning wheels, I’ll be saving up for a while. In the meantime I hope to do more yarn using a drop spindle.
3. Figure out how to move. I don’t think it could happen anytime soon, but as time has gone on it’s become very apparent our lives would be much easier and affordable conducted in another town. The house also has issues for our family as well. So my goal is to come up with a plan so we can move eventually. Even if it takes a couple years, it’s worth planning for.
4. Research philosophy, worldviews, morality, psychology, and history a bit more.
5. Parent better. I’ve made great strides with patience, but it honestly still needs a lot of work. Figure out how to help my kids grow as people in ways that are helpful to them.
When children gain upright mobility, their world and your world changes drastically. Toddlerhood is often dreaded by parents. Why? It’s a huge transitional phase lasting two to three years, where the child wants to do everything and touch everything but can’t, lacks accurate communication skills, and is in the process of gaining independence in some areas while still desperately needing the parental attachment in others. Every parent bangs their head against a wall in frustration many times during toddlerhood. Sometimes it’s a few times a day.
However, toddlerhood is a joyful time of watching your child go from doing not much more than eating to walking, talking, and taking care of business in the toilet rather than the diaper. Every aspect of their selves changes dramatically. You are literally watching their personality burst out in every way. It’s awesome and adorable. There is new fun to be had everyday.
So how do we embrace the joys of toddlerhood without going nuts from the stress? Yes, it is possible. It took me a few tries to figure it out but I’m jotting down some notes if you are or are about to be frustrated by parenting a toddler.
Get behind the eyes of your child and see the situation from where they are. For my first and second child I saw myself as the Guardian of Righteousness and the toddler as the battering ram against the boundaries of life. I saw every conflict as them challenging authority and my need to assert it as the main aspect as discipline. This made my life a living hell. I was frustrated out of my mind and I hated parenting in those moments. The reality is, to a toddler, challenging authority is so out of the range of their psychology it’s ridiculous. They can’t even understand it on those terms, much less see it and try to do it. In reality, here’s what actually is going on in a toddler’s mind:
Check it out! I can touch things! TOUCH ALL THE THINGS!!!! YAY!
What does this do? Ohhhh, wow, that was awesome! Will it do it again? Again? Will it continue to do it if I do it for a long time?
My voice sounds so awesome. HEY I CAN MAKE IT SOUND REALLY LOUD. EVEN LOUDER!!!! Wow! Hey, look at Mommy’s face. She knows I’m really loud. Oh, she can be loud too. LETS ALL BE SOOOOO LOUD!
I have so much energy. I can move in all these ways! Yay, exciting!
What does this taste like?
Owwww! I hurt! What on earth is going on! That thing hurt me! I need Mommy! But I don’t want to stop doing this fun thing, it’s so fun! Mommy don’t touch me! Wait, Mommy I hurt, hold me. I DON’T KNOW WHAT I WANT!
I bet I could climb that.
I want to play with my trucks forever. What on earth are you holding your keys and looking at me upset for? I’m having so much fun.
That’s a fun toy and I want to play with it. Somebody is holding it, so I’ll just grab it. Why are they upset?
I can see so much fun stuff from the top of the table! Wow! I’m as tall as Mommy and things are so much fun!
It’s hilarious to empty out the toybox. It makes such a fun noise and then the toys look so interesting falling all over the floor. I can do it with this toy box, and this toy box, and this one. I can change things, isn’t that awesome? Hey, that reminds me, it was really fun to empty out the canned food cupboard too…
Why can’t I touch the outlet? I really want to touch it! I’m so upset because it looks so interesting!!!! CRY!
I’m so tired. I’m so tired. But I don’t want to stop and sleep because everything is so interesting and you guys are still up.
I’m hungry but I can’t say I’m hungry, so instead I will throw a fit about something random and be really upset when you do anything.
It’s so noisy and there’s so many bright colors and movements in here, I don’t know how to handle it, so I just want you to hold me. What do you mean we need to buy groceries? I’m too upset. Hold me!
There’s a new person. I don’t know them at all or maybe it’s been a while since I’ve seen them. I don’t know what to think so I want you to hold me.
So, in a nutshell, toddlers are pretty simple folk. But they are at a crucial stage where they have a TON to learn. We are teaching them how to interact with their environment and people in healthy ways, but in order to do that, we must also direct them away from unhealthy ways of interaction. Thus, the road through toddlerhood is fraught with frustrations on behalf of the child and the adults around them.
For Part One, I simply want to address making a toddler-friendly environment for reduced frustrations. Toddlers want to touch, climb, pick up, and taste everything in sight. So, in order to make it less frustrating for everybody, we try to make a “Yes” environment. The bottom line is, what can we do to take the natural strengths and inclinations of the toddler and use them in positive ways?
Climbing-friendly world: Just take it for granted that toddlers need to climb. Look at your house and pretend you are going to be watching a rabid monkey and think, “How can I protect this environment from the monkey?” Have stuff they can climb on, couches, climbing cubes, slides, a dedicated toddler laundry basket. Encourage them to climb these things, make games out of it, cheer them on and make out like they won a medal for climbing the things you want them to climb. Make a toy a goal and tell them to get it and hide it places or put it out of reach so they have to work to get to it. Try to block access to things they can’t climb on. Toddler lock drawers so they can’t climb them and access counters. When they are able to climb the kitchen chairs, step one is to push them into the table all the way. When they learn to scoot the chairs, then lay them down on their sides so they can’t make it to the tabletop.
In general, if you don’t want them to have access to it, block access to it. Put it out of sight. You can’t do it to everything, but it’s well worth your while to try.
Give them lots of opportunity to burn up that incredible energy. Scooty-cars for them to ride inside, chase them around playing tickle monster, and give them trucks big enough for them to push around. Toddlers often have difficulty finding ways to play with siblings and others rather than just alongside them, but this is a perfect opportunity for them to play together-following each other all around the house and making vrooming noises. If they don’t have a sibling this is your chance to teach them how to play with others.
Talk about the environment and give everything words and descriptions. Everything you eat, touch, play with, look at during outings, everything. Talk a lot. Talk about what they are feeling and use specific words and phrases. “You are upset because you hurt your head.” “You like to ride your red truck!” “I am going to drink some water because I am thirsty.” Toddlers are absorbing constantly and when they do start talking, they will be able to use their words to ask for what they want. They will know what to call the things they want and the things they notice because you have told them exactly what it is. You will suddenly gain huge access to what is going on in their minds, and this is both fun and useful!
Keep a variety of simple, healthy foods on hand. Feed a small variety at snack and lunchtime. Toddlers are notorious for loving something one week and refusing to touch it the next. That’s why you only offer a small amount at a time, less food wasted. Keep easy to prepare foods on hand like string cheese, grapes, crackers, peanut butter, veggies and dip, bread, hummus, juice, bananas, apples, etc. They are more likely to try something if they see it on a plate next to a known and enjoyed food. They will also be more likely to eat it if they see other people eating it and enjoying it. Don’t make a huge deal out of them not eating everything or even sitting down for mealtimes. Food is not a battle. Save it for later or eat it yourself.
Toddlers need routines and order of operation when it comes to transition times, like waking up to breakfast, before naptime, getting ready to leave the house, getting ready to go to bed. After you do the routine for a while, they find a security in it and it helps them change from one environment to the next. When you change a routine or take it away, it can take a child weeks to adjust.
Structure your lifestyle so you can keep your kid within eyesight as much as possible. No childproofing can replace a parent who is there and paying attention. Many toddler predicaments have been well under way for a while before they reach crisis mode. For example, before the toddler dumped the toilet paper into the toilet, he first walked down the hallway, opened the bathroom door, touched the roll of paper, probably unrolled it some, took off the roll, opened the toilet lid, and dropped it in. When toddlers are involved in something fascinating like that, they are quiet. You will learn like many mothers before you that a quiet, out of sight child needs investigation. Also, simply being around your toddler is giving them further time to let them enjoy being with you and learning from you. Toddlers love their parents more than anyone else. When you teach them how to do something, you have their adoring, undivided attention. When you are having fun, they are having fun. They love learning to do simple tasks like put clothes from the dryer into the basket. They can be entertained in doctor offices by you ripping up a kleenex into itty bitty pieces and having them take each individual piece and go throw it into the garbage. They love seeing you draw things and guess the picture. Toddlers are delightfully easily entertained but unless you give them something to be entertained by, they will find the easiest way to make interesting change in their environment, and in so many places, that’s undesired behaviour.
Maintain behaviour at home that you want them to use in front of and with other people. If you don’t have siblings for the toddler to practice behaviours with, you are the practice. Don’t allow your toddler to treat you or their siblings ways that wouldn’t be ok with play groups. Take turns, use hands gently, say sorry when you hurt, etc. You need to purposely teach good behavior like sharing crayons, using manners with Mommy like please and thank you. If you suddenly spring new expectations on them in new environments and social situations, it will be confusing and frustrating. We make a game out of turns. “Please, my turn! Thank you” Hand it back, “Your turn!”
Don’t take toddlers to places where they have to be quiet and still for long periods of time. They just can’t do it. They have what I call the ya-yas. It’s just youthful exuberance and joy of movement and noise. So if you take a toddler out to eat, expect that at some point you will have to get up and walk around the restaurant with them. Don’t pick restaurants where this won’t be appreciated by other people. Don’t take them to movies. ballets, plays, graduations, weddings, etc. (It simply floored me that somebody brought a 15 month old to the Nutcracker.) If there is a place where you can leave the activity and walk your toddler around somewhere without you being missed or you being upset you are missing the show, then it’s worth a shot. Coloring books and cell phone apps can postpone the onset of the ya-yas, but it’s best to just assume that environments where respectful still silence is expected are not toddler compatible.
Expect the mess. If she can touch it, it will be on the floor. If you don’t want it touched, lock it away or put it way up high. The less toys at a time, the happier everybody is.
Music. Toddlers, like everybody else, love music.Music inspires dance parties. With music, everybody wins.
Upstage the problem: If there is a problem with the environment, (usually having to do with a toddler being fixated on something that they shouldn’t have) your best tactic is to upstage it-find something else YOU ARE SO EXCITED ABOUT that you want to show to them. The natural curiosity of the toddler can totally be used to your advantage here. If it’s something super interesting the toddler is dying to just check out closely but you don’t want to give them free reign on, you can teach them to just touch it with one finger and then upstage it.
If you have to do an activity the toddler does not want to do, you bundle it with something they are interested in. Example: first we are going to change your diaper and then we are going to play with your trucks! Or, first we are going to read a story and then we are going to take a nap. The toddler gets into “Yes” mode because they do want to play with the truck or read a story. Then as you read the story, you remind them that after this they are going to nap with their favorite stuffie. This helps them through the transition.
This also helps with interactions with people. Toddlers often want things that other people are playing with. You can distract them and totally engage them in something absorbing like doing a puzzle with you. If it is something they need to wait a turn with, you can teach them taking turns, by setting a timer for a short amount of time and then trading off after the timer goes off.
Answering frustrations with a simple “No” and no positive aspect to the denial is a great cause of toddler rage. So try to avoid that type of answer completely. State what you are going to do instead: We are going to clean up first and then play with that toy. We are going to pack up and go to the store now instead. That hurts your sister, we use our hands gently. Hands are not for hitting and we’re going to say sorry now (children who do not speak yet can give hugs for sorry). You are upset and you need a moment in your room. That belongs to Aunt Sally and we just look, not touch, let’s go climb the stairs instead. Let’s use our quiet voices and ask that again.
Upstaging in this matter avoids so much frustration, and most importantly, teaches the toddler what do do instead. Teaching a toddler what not to do is pointless because the problem will just keep happening. Team up with him and teach him what to do. Not only does that help him, because you are doing it with him and he’s learning better that way, but it helps you avoid the Mommy vs. toddler aspect.
That’s it for today. Turn in later for part two of Toddler Tactics!
I haven’t bought a 2013 calender yet, so I’m a bit stuck in the past. While I’m here, I thought I’d pass out some awards.
FAVORITE AUTHOR: Brandon Sanderson. He writes fantasy and he’s ridiculously good at it. Read the Mistborn series if you like fantasy. You won’t regret it. And if you like funny stuff, you must read the Alcatraz series. They are hilarious and you will cackle out loud and make people look at you.
NOTEWORTHY MENTION: Suzanne Collins, but if you are a reader you already know that. The woman knows what she’s doing when she writes and I had to be very strict not to go without sleep for a few days to read the Hunger Games trilogy straight through. Also, Wool is just excellent. If you liked Hunger Games, you’ll love Wool just as much!
FAVORITE MOVIE: I am having a hard time remembering if I saw anything besides Brave in theatres. I haven’t seen the Hobbit yet. I was actually pretty excited about it until I found out they stretched it into three movies, and the first one consists of Bilbo packing, lots and lots of dwarven screen time, and a few orc and troll battles. I know they did it well, with spectacular grandeur, but I’m just not feeling it yet. I actually have been trying to work up motivation to rewatch Lord of the Rings for the past five years and failing. So Hobbit is not on my priority list. Brave was pretty good and by far my favorite princess movie ever, but it lacked a certain depth so I can’t say it’s my top favorite. The one movie I feel I am going to love is the Life of Pi, because I loved the book and it got spectacular reviews. However, I haven’t actually seen it yet. So no absolute favorite movie.
FAVORITE SHOWS: Eureka was fun, nothing super amazing as far as characters go, but I liked it enough to watch it all the way through. Merlin was rather OKish but good enough to keep me watching until season four, when things got really interesting. I haven’t seen season five yet. Sherlock rocked my socks and I can’t wait until they make more! I love both Watson and Holmes. My favorite is Parenthood, with superb characterization and drama. It emotionally draws me and I honestly feel like these are people you could meet in real life. It addresses very grown up things so it’s not something you could ever watch around the kids, but that’s ok. It’s a show for parents. Once Upon a Time is pretty fun, but watching it one show at a time is really making it drag out and sometimes I forget it exists. We’ve also been looking forward to the return of Doctor Who. I was very unimpressed with this season in general, but the introduction of Clara Oswald has sparked my interest.
FAVORITE MUSIC: Florence and the Machine and Mumford and Sons have both rocked my world. I’m discovering new bands all the time, and loving it.
FAVORITE YARN: Malabrigo Arroyo’s colors and softness have charmed me into splurging for enough to make a sweater. It will be stunning!
FAVORITE THING TO KNIT: This year I’ve done a lot with headbands, cabled hats, necklaces, and stuffed animals. I haven’t had one favorite pattern, except for maybe the fish hat. I will write about the fish hat later. It’s pretty epic.
FAVORITE COLOR: Teal was my color of the year. I am becoming a huge fan of russet orange as well. That may be my 2013 color.
FAVORITE FOOD: Coffee!!!
FAVORITE WINE: Sangria.
FAVORITE PICTURE: Hard to pick, but it may be this one:
FAVORITE PLACE TO VISIT: We actually did a lot this year and visited many places and people. But overall the place we packed the most into and left me feeling exciting and refreshed was when we vacationed in Bend over spring break. Read all about it here, here, here, and here. The jetted tub probably helped bump it up to the favorite. But wow, other things we did this year include just about every playground we knew about, lakes, rivers, OMSI, Astoria, Newport, three times to the AC Gilbert house, parks, forests, farms, and many houses of people we loved, a bouncy house, a waterfall, a swim park, and a few yarn shops. Even if the children don’t remember us doing all this stuff, I remember it and you saw the pictures here in Pookaville, where adventure is here!
Thanks for sticking with the blog. You bold and wonderful few who follow me, thanks for supporting one of my dreams. I always dreamed of being a writer and even if it’s random notes and rants and unsolicited advice, it’s all bits of my life and my brain. If I didn’t write it out somewhere, my head would probably explode. So thanks for reading!
1. Legos, crayons, and other irritating toys. The more creative, the more messy. But you really do need to let them develop efficiently by making a royal mess of your kitchen and living room. Walls can be repainted, but a child who doesn’t get to explore with their bodies, color, texture, expression, sound, and other such elements will be missing out on one of the most fun parts of being a child. It helps them learn everything from fine motor skills to confidence in doing something beautiful all by themselves. So parents, you just gotta suck it up on this one.
2. Children often do not sleep well. Babies never sleep well. There is this odd expectation of parents of my generation that good babies sleep through the night and if your baby doesn’t, there is something wrong with your baby or wrong with you. Nope. The reality is, waking frequently as a youngster is a part of normal healthy human development. There is no trick to getting your baby to sleep more or longer. You just wait it out. Cosleeping just makes it so you have less waking on your part, less tromping back and forth from your room down the hall, and babies sleep better next to mommy. While putting them down to sleep in a variety of places and having them fall asleep on the paci rather than the boob does help them transition to getting to sleep on their own better, the baby is still gonna wake you up all the time. Parenthood is a thing of sleep deprivation.
3. Labor does not start by a woman having a single contraction, looking at her husband, and saying, “Oh, honey, it’s time” or “The baby is coming”. This is part of a broader lesson in general: movies and TV shows show about 5% accurate parenthood and 95% what they would like to be true to get you to watch the show. If you want to know what pregnancy, labor, breastfeeding, infancy, childhood, etc is like, ask somebody in person who has been through it. Because it’s different for everybody, you should actually ask as many people as possible. In reality, labor starting is not always definite and it can take a lot of waiting it out to figure out if this is actually it or if you are just having some evil Braxton Hicks contractions. Me and many women I know have checked into hospitals and been monitored and sent home after a few hours due to it not actually being labor. It’s embarrassing, but it’s just part of life that you just don’t always know what’s going on exactly in labor.
4. Jammies make pretty good all day clothes. If you stay home all day, and jammies are the comfy way to go, you will go that way. I know you were hoping to avoid some stereotypes and have a clean floor and tidy clothes. However, sometimes your day is just full of priorities and the effort to shower and put on clothes fit to be seen in drop to the bottom of the list.
5. Parenting changes everything about you. This is especially true for women, who get those extra hormonal cocktails all throughout pregnancy, labor, and breastfeeding. It will bring out the best and the absolute worst in you. There will be things that you will still totally relate to in similar ways, but how you participate in them will change. I happened to be the first in the groups of people we knew to have a baby. I think moving to Japan would have been less socially challenging. The deal is, nothing in your life is quite like having a wee, demanding creature who would die without you. Everything else in your life you could walk away from and while they may be sad, they’d be ok. In most jobs, you could be replaced. Your child’s universe has you as the core. There is no escape. Nobody else can do your job but you. Everything you think and do is now questioned with: How does this effect my child? It’s overwhelming. Suddenly you realize how easy you had it before you had a baby. You miss things like spontaneously leaving the house at a moment’s notice, spontaneous special times with your spouse, being able to sleep in, and not having to deal with another person’s bodily fluids on your person around the clock.
Whew!!! That’s exhausting. If you aren’t a parent, perhaps you may now understand why parents can be a bit distracted, crazy, absentminded, focused on their children, or over-stressed over things that seem silly like what sort of swaddling blanket to use. If you are a parent, I bet you are wondering how you avoid losing it and listing your children on craigslist for a reasonable rehome fee. Well, it’s not exactly cut and dry (as you have realized nothing in parenting is) but some things help:
1. Have a hobby that has nothing to do with children that you can actually do while you have children. You know your situation and what you are capable of. Maybe an exciting reading habit is the best you can muster up now, because you can do it from home for cheap. Please do not just read parenting books. You can learn a lot from them for your parenting job, but for your hobby, read something exciting and adventurous and completely different from your every day life. I love fantasy and sci-fi. So far removed from reality is much more fun sometimes. But besides reading, the world is your oyster, almost. There’s crafts, entertainment, athletics, doing your hair, singing in the shower, etc. Just do something that makes you happy.
2. Music. Everybody loves music. It’s pretty and takes us places emotionally. My favorite places to listen online for free are Grooveshark (where you can search for songs/albums/artists and make playlists, and Pandora, which plays radio stations based on your favorite albums and artists. A fun program to download is Spotify, which kinda is a mix of those two. I have found so many interesting artists I never would have heard of otherwise using those programs.
3. Legal substance dependence. Coffee, mostly. There is just something psychologically comforting about holding a hot cup of coffee. Since I have finally got through my years of pregnancy and nursing, I have also begun enjoying a glass of wine after the kids are in bed.
4. The phrase, “This too, shall pass.” There’s an awful lot of phases that kids go through. Some stuff is just miserable, no way around it. Examples: babies never sleeping when you want them to, teething, potty training, and teenager years. Even if you do everything right, there will be frustrations and you just gotta tell yourself this too, shall pass.
5. Discover who you are. Like I said, parenthood changes you. This is a good thing overall, be it ever so laden with inconveniences. It also comes during the twenties, and thirties, when people are still figuring out who they are anyway. Don’t be so focused on running the house that you don’t ask yourself some tough questions to. Be reflective, be creative, try things. Keep in mind a large part of parenthood is conducted by your children behaving according to how you behave. Give them a hero in yourself, try to believe in yourself the way you want them to believe in them. Be moral, responsible, and honest. Talk about lessons you learn from good and bad experiences. Everything is an opportunity for us to grow and if you believe that, they will too, and everyone will be stronger for it. As much as family is teamwork, it’s also a lot of individual building. You will not all live under the same roof forever, so when they leave, what are you without them? Don’t let the answer be “nothing” or “I don’t know”. Take those hobbies, expand them. Learn something, then learn something else. This world is a fascinating place and as important as parenthood is, it can also be rather dull.
5. Funny stuff. Be it on Pinterest, YouTube, Netflix, movies, the Hallmark aisle, or wherever you can find it, find things that make you laugh. It’s great stress relief, and the worst you’ll come away with is some embarrassing mental pictures.
7. There’s a few more things to be said, but I already said them here.
So in some ways, there are some painful things in life with children that you just can’t avoid. Luckily, what doesn’t kill you makes your life more interesting, and you are a lot more patient and brave than you think you are.
It’s now been a week since the Connecticut shooting. I’ve been wanting to write about it but even writing now, my words seem hollow and pointless. They can’t stop anything, they can’t awake those poor dead children, they can’t stop terrible people from doing violent things. It’s been an awful week for me. It started actually with the aftertaste of the shopping center shooting a few days before that. I have a sister in Portland and it was just too close for comfort.
The Sandy Hook shooting hit close and hard. When you have a child the same age as the victims, you think, “This could have been my child.” You know how innocent and helpless they are. You picture the same thing happening to your child’s classroom. I spent a few days crying, and angry. I asked myself why this happened. Then I started researching.
The complexities of violence are not easily understood. In the past week I have had my eyes opened about how much violence happens in the United States, especially with guns. I have started looking into the complexities of mental health issues and how people lack support there.
Something has happened that has never happened before. I am actually motivated to get involved politically. The election in November was a bit of a wake up call. I wanted to vote informed and realized I didn’t know much about politics to even have an opinion on most things. I made a goal then to know more about how politics work, and to be an informed voter and citizen. So, with the shootings, I am seeking to be be more informed.
What it comes down to is that a sense of security I had was proven to be false. I can no longer trust that shootings happen to other people. Every day we risk our lives by walking out in public, going to school, shopping, etc. The sensationalist news coverage of the shootings has already spurned others to try for violence themselves. With everyone going crazy, I must try to learn more about this, and advocate for peaceful measures.
I am so thankful that in the midst of the craziness, my children are able to be children. They can play and talk and eat and not have knowledge of the terrible things that happening. They can simply enjoy life, while I sit and look out the window or read articles and know that we belong to a people who are sick and twisted. However, there is a school full of children who have had a terrible exposure to the horror. They will live with that fear for the rest of their lives, the memories of the sounds and sights that no child should ever have to see and hear. There are twenty children who not only saw and heard those things, but had their lives ended in the midst of the terror.
Their parents had to experience the terror of that phone call, the dread of the terrible hours not knowing, and the shock of the news. How could you really believe somebody telling you your child had been shot in their classroom? You did everything right as a parent, loved and cared for them, had them go to an excellent school with a wonderful teacher, and despite you doing everything right, your child was slain. The child that lived in your body, that you spent thousands of hours loving and teaching and giving to, is now gone. You would have thrown yourself in front of your child to protect them, but nobody even gave you the chance. You must now go home and stare at an empty bed, at a Christmas tree that can bring you no joy. If there are other children you have to somehow explain to them that their sibling is gone forever (because a psycho with a gun did the most hateful thing imaginable. But how could you even explain that part to a child, so you probably don’t tell them that exactly). Those parents are living a nightmare right now, and nobody on this earth would want to be in their shoes.
This week I actually had to have a conversation with my oldest two about what happened, simplified, and I had to tell them what to do in case they were ever in a situation like that. It was awful. But as much as I’d like to believe that sort of thing would never happen, it just did.
Another completely awful thing was watching how people reacted to the shootings. I saw people blaming the tragedy on the fact that public schools don’t lead prayer. I saw people blaming the tragedy on the fact that homosexuality and abortions are present in America. I saw people ripping each other up over gun control debates. I saw fear and anger and people being foolish and hurtful to others. One thing I have learned from this tragedy is that some people store hurt, anger, pride, and deceit in their hearts, and let it out on other people. Not just twisted sickos who shoot children, but people who appear decent and even go to church.
Here we are, America. We are so obsessed with violence. I read an article about how on TV and in movies, people were delaying and canceling shows left and right, because they all had violence in them that would be insensitive due to the tragedy. How many movies have been in theaters this year that feature people using guns to deal with their problems? How many movies in the past few years? What about games? With as much entertainment as Americans are exposed to, all in which gun violence serves as a necessary means, is it any wonder we have so many people shooting each other?
Then I found out how easy it is for any person to get a gun. I have never looked into this, I’ve always had zero interest in guns for any reason. But it became blatantly obvious to me that lots of people have guns, lots of people have semi-automatic assault weapons that are, essentially, designed to kill people very efficiently. I was creeped out. I didn’t even know what a semi-automatic gun was (versus any other kind of gun). But having easy access to this kind of gun and high-capacity ammunition clips made it very easy for the killer to mow down a classroom of children in a matter of minutes. Most Americans can very easily purchase these weapons, and there just aren’t very many restrictions with weapons altogether.
I understand that there are many “good” people who have guns as a hobby. By good I mean, they’d never do anything to try to kill anybody. They like hunting, or target shooting, etc. I understand that people want to be able to defend themselves. But for something that is so incredibly dangerous and deadly, why aren’t there more laws regarding how people acquire, store, and use guns? Background check loopholes exist and are exploited. It seems to me, if you have to be trained and licensed to use something like a car, or electrically wire people’s houses, or operate heavy equipment, or other dangerous things that are benign in nature when used correctly, why not for guns, which when used correctly kill things?
I took a hunter training class with a friend when I was a young teen. I did it to give moral support to her, I never actually wound up hunting. The class did not really discus the hows, it really was focused on the safety aspect, and took hunting very seriously, talking about various risks and how to avoid them. Most of it was about gun use, because guns are the riskiest aspect of hunting and need to be regarded with great care. While reading up on gun violence this week, it was very, very obvious, that there is a lot of stupidity and irresponsible behavior by gun owners, and the results are deadly. I know lots of people are trained and responsible. But why can’t we make it a requirement that before somebody brings guns and ammo home, that they know how to store and use them properly? That they are aware of how to avoid accidents by improper gun storage and handling? Many Americans lack common sense.
I also don’t see why the general public need to own highly deadly assault weapons in general.
Will adding more laws prevent gun violence completely? Of course not. But will it prevent some of it? Yes, I believe it will. That’s why we pass laws. As long as they are enforced at the various levels of gun purchasing options, we can make sure that more people who own guns know more about them. We can help keep guns out of the hands of criminals. We pass laws about all sorts of things, from speeding to drug use. I don’t understand why guns should be any different. By making violence harder to accomplish, less violence will happen. By educating people more, we raise awareness and help them avoid stupidity, like letting your mentally ill children have access to weapons. I know many people who own and use guns responsibly. I don’t think more laws will hurt people who have good motivations. It may slow down the gun acquiring process, but there’s little significantly detrimentally about that, especially if the tradeoff is making it harder for risky people to acquire deadly weapons, or helping somebody wise up about how they store their weapons. Perhaps training for people who already have weapons wouldn’t be a bad idea either.
And of course, guns are not the only issue here. Like I said before, mental health services and access needs a hard look at, and I’ve been trying to look into it. It’s tricky because it’s not something cut and dry. For the acts of mass gun violence committed over the past years, there hasn’t been a lot of obvious signals ahead of time for other people to recognize and treat.This is something that needs a lot more research. Mental health access is something I am studying as well.
Parents need to look at what sort of mindsets they are presenting to their children, or exposing them to through entertainment, when it comes to things about problem solving, and working through life. I really think this sort of violence is really out of grasp to most people, and that’s a good thing. However, hurting others in general is not. I really think as humans we need to work hard to promote peace. It seems to be many people’s default to hurt other people to get what they want. To change that, we need to start with love and peace with the youngest of us, and keep it up through their lives. Managing conflict, compromise, and prioritizing are very hard skills to acquire, so we need to stay strong in teaching and learning as people.
It’s very alarming how the the media sensationalized the killing. I understand people need information, but hours-long, and days-long coverage of every single detail? I believe this serves to glorify this in everyone’s mind. There has been rumors of more school shootings flying about like crazy.
So, in regards to my many thoughts regarding certain issue, I did things this week I have never done before. I sent emails to my governor, my Congress Representative Peter Defazio, and President Obama. I also signed some petitions on the White House website. Yesterday I received an email back from Rep. Defazio, and today I received one from the White House. It really encouraged me that even though I am one small voice, there are people listening. There is a meeting of Congress in January, and issues will come up.
I am continuing to research this issue. Why? My children are walking around out in the world. I cannot put a force field around them to protect them from whackos. But I can fight to make this country a safer place for them to be. I can encourage them to be peaceful people, and hopefully encourage others as well. There are many ways of solving problems.
Unfortunately, none of them can bring back those precious lives lost a week ago. We mourn the 20 children, the six adults, and the shooter himself. Yes, he did an awful thing. We cannot imagine the sickness of the inside of his head. It’s something to mourn that he could not live a life of peace. We don’t mourn it in the same way we mourn the people he killed, but it’s sobering nonetheless, and we all wished he had chosen a different path.
So if I can take anything good out of this week, it’s more awareness. It’s a determination to change things for the better. It’s an appreciation for every moment with my children, and how precious and beautiful life is.
DISCLAIMER: I understand you may disagree with some of my stances. I am not going to debate about it. You are welcome to your own opinions, as I am. I have purposely not been posting things about it on facebook due to the fact that I believe heated arguments about things I feel strongly about are a very bad idea right now and could lead to personal conflict. It’s not worth it. It won’t really change anybody’s mind. The best way to learn is not a heated argument with somebody. If you disagree, that’s fine. But keep in mind that people are taking things very personally and freaking out a lot on every side of every debate right now, so if you disagree with them, go tell somebody who can do something about it rather than just trashing a relationship. I talk about it here, because this is my blog, my thoughts, my experience.
It only comes once or twice a year
Starring Pingu (the brave)
Foxx (the fort worker)
Scooby (the boy who found out scooty toys don’t work in snow)
Sweet Pea (the constant snow eater)
Mommy (fort design, who shamefully found out her legs were not in shape enough to be happy with all the squats necessary for fort building)
We got it about a foot and a half taller than in the following picture, and plan on doing more work tomorrow. See the rainbow ball in the foreground?
Now you really see the rainbow ball. This is my favorite soccer ball I’ve ever seen.
I came across this beautiful little list. It said so many funny and absolutely things about living with a pack of little people.
One thing that’s happened as I’ve moved towards thirty-I found my groove with parenting. I am not in control of it all, any more than I was four years ago with a preschooler, a toddler, and a newborn, but what has changed is I have found a peace with my lack of control. It’s a happy place to be. When I am not in control, I don’t have to feel guilty when things go wrong. I deal with it and move on. But I thought I’d ad a few things that helped me realize that even though I was in ‘survival mode’ we were doing much more than surviving. We have thrived.
Somehow this year I keep coming across examples where parents really, really failed their children. Where adults who have dealt with abuse and neglect during their childhood have had awful effects in their daily lives. So for a while I have used as a great leveler to my priorities: Is it big stuff or small stuff? What sort of things do I want my children to have as an adult? What experiences? What securities? Nobody is going to do this job for us. We are the parents. We have a lot on our shoulders. So here’s how we’ve coped with the last few years:
1. You may have to re-write your priority list every day with some of the small stuff. Sometimes the focus is put on different areas of the home depending on the events coming up or how long you’ve neglected something. But, one thing to keep in mind, is that your house is always going to be messy and that’s normal. Keep the gross stuff cleaned up, prioritize, and move on. The messy house will still be there waiting for you after you are done taking care of your baby. Even if it takes 18 months or so for you to get around to certain tasks. Simplify meals. Try to find a balance between easy to serve and hitting all the food groups. Find a few meals you can make easily and always keep the kitchen stocked with them. When you are prioritizing and everything with the kids takes up a lot of time, having a variety of meals is something that can be sacrificed for a while. We have had taco night and spaghetti night a million times over the past seven years. Nobody has every complained that we’ve had spaghetti sometimes multiple times in the same week. Always overcook, and use the leftovers for lunch or a second meal. Start children with itty bitty bits of food on their plate so you don’t waste a lot when they actually aren’t hungry or just don’t feel like eating that. Don’t fall into the trap of making sure you are in control of your kid’s eating. What they eat, how much they eat, how often, etc. It’s not worth fighting over. We sometimes say, ‘no more x until you finish the food you already have’ but we don’t freak out if Pingu doesn’t touch his tomatoes or Sweet Pea freaks out about the new green thing on her plate or Scooby doesn’t bother to sit down for dinner at all. If waste bothers you, you can eat their leftovers. For snacks and lunch I keep a variety of stuff on hand I can toss out of a bag and onto plates. Kids are more likely to try something if it’s on a plate with something they already know and like. They are also more likely to eat something if they see other people eating it. There is a bit of a herd mentality with larger families and smaller kids will sometimes just simply adopt habits of older siblings without a word from mom or dad. All my children adore broccoli because it’s always been a favorite of my Foxx, my oldest. Also because of a phobia of my oldest, Pingu has developed a refusal to eat something that somebody else has touched. We also don’t really care what the kids wear around the house or even out as long as they are dressed appropriately for the weather. We get picky about school because of dress codes, but letting them pick their own clothes at a young age gives them a bit more responsibility and choice.
2. Learn to reorganize. And reorganize. With a growing family, your daily needs are constantly changing. What worked a year ago probably doesn’t work now. Shuffle the closets, store things a different way. Keep trying. It will never be perfect but managing the stuff flow of the house is something you just have to figure out what works best for you guys. We depend heavily on plastic totes. We use see-though ones for kid stuff that we use in the house, on shelves, for toys, homeschool and craft stuff. (Out of reach of little people for sanity purposes!) We use big 18-gallon totes for shed storage of off-season clothes, Christmas decor, and camping stuff. I go through and purge on a regular basis, at least every month or two I go through a closet for outgrown and unused. I don’t save it in my garage for a yard sale, I just donate it. It’s going to a good cause and it’s freeing up space.
3. Just like with organizing stuff, be very flexible in how you spend time with your kids. Each kid needs different attention at different times. Babies need to be held all the time. Right now my preschooler really benefits from me doing little workbooks or having her help me with chores. With the two in school we tend to do homework together, and DH plays video games with them as chill time. I also recently organized the older boys to help me get the kitchen sparkly after dinner. It’s all time with them, where you are involved in each other’s lives. Each one of you is an individual person and you are all getting to know each other and help each other. That’s family. Personalize as needed.
4. Make the effort to do big fun stuff. But it doesn’t have to be family-vacation big. Even taking an afternoon to the park lifts everybody’s spirits. Biting the bullet and trashing the kitchen for a bake-along or craft-along pays off once in a while. But it’s ok if you keep it really simple like boxed jello or crayons and coloring books, because if it’s too much work to be fun, it ain’t getting done! Kronk introduced the boys to Monopoly, which has never been my thing, but they all love it. Sweet Pea and Pingu LOVE going shopping with me. Scooby loves being chased around the house and tickled.
5. Keep outings short and simple with little people. We tend to do lots of exploring and family visiting in summer, when Kronk has lots of time off of work. Now that the kids are older we can expand our activities a bit, but when you have babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, keep in mind their ‘outing happiness’ runs out after an hour or two. So don’t get everybody all excited and packed up to spend an entire day in the snow. It will likely be an hour before they get tired/cold/wet/whiny, so plan for a brief trip ahead of time so you don’t get too frustrated. Lots of stuff that ‘kids’ find enjoyable, preschoolers and toddlers get overstimulated by. So keeping it simple and staying at home more when they are little is not only easier, it’s more enjoyable for them.
6. Movies are awesome. Before I was a mother I looked down my nose at parking kids in front of a screen. “Brain-rotting filth!” The stark reality is that you spend ALL your time with your kids anyway, and most of that time they are very demanding, making plenty of mess but not actually helping any. Children’s shows are interesting, some are educational, but an hour isn’t going to actually hurt them. It will give you a break. You could clean something. You could check facebook without worrying about somebody dunking the TP in the toilet. You could even nap within earshot. If you park them in front of the TV many hours a day the magic will wear off and they will demand it a lot, so there is moderation to be used. But when you are sick, or when you need to pack to move without children being around breakable and dangerous stuff, or you are PMSing and feel like biting everybody’s head off, then it’s ok to do a TV day. I strongly recommend Netflix. It has tons of PBS shows and no commercials. Amazon Prime has quite a few as well. Some people will look down their nose at you. See #7.
7. You have to ignore a lot of other people in order to find peace with your parenting. There are a million opinions about parenting, and there are so many haters out there. You just gotta say, “Forget them, they don’t own me.” Because they don’t. It’s your family. You are the ones raising them to adulthood. Your children need to live with you. No matter what you do, you will make somebody upset. If somebody gives you advice that makes you uncomfortable, you can either ignore them completely if you want, change the subject, or if they really matter to you, simply say, “I’ll take that into consideration”. In fact, you may strongly benefit from not discussing many of your parenting practices in front of other people if their disagreement is going to bother you. Just change the subject or find a reason to leave.
8. Research parenting style stuff. One of the ways you can do this is talking to people. My favorite are large family people. They have lived with the crazy and they don’t even bother with social standards, they just go with what works. I have found much help online with various parenting forums. There are many different parenting styles from everything with newborn care, how to diaper your baby, what kind of parent structure you have in your home (mother and father, mother alone, mother and grandmother, mother, father, and grandpa), who works and who doesn’t, homeschool, private school, public school, crunchy, mainstream, religious, nonreligious. You have something to learn from all sorts of people-never be done learning, always be ready to adapt. Your family is always changing and you need to be too.
9. Approach discipline positively. When you think of your parents as adults, what do you want them to have? How do you want them to treat other people? That’s how you need to treat your kids. Don’t ever approach discipline as a one-method-works-for-everything approach. Gather a huge toolbox of information. Find out about child development. Take a parenting class on positive parenting if you have a toddler that is driving you bonkers. Get behind the eyes of your child and find out where they are coming from and how they are seeing the situation. Find a way to work through a situation with your child in a way they feel understood, respected, and guided to acting rightly. Help them have compassion on other people. Raise their awareness of morality and the benefits of acting kind. Teach them about friendship and cooperation. Teach them by showing them in your words and actions that they are valuable, their voice is heard, that they make a great difference in your family. Teach them to take pride in being responsible and being a leader, in sharing and being creative. Let them do things all by themselves as they are ready, and cheer them on. Give them opportunities to use their talents and try new things. Encourage them in taking initiate and figuring out clever solutions.Keep an open ear to them even when they screw up.
10. When you fail, when you lose it and yell, when you do something selfish and hurtful, when you hate the job of parenting and are so sick of the endless mess and work you want to run away, remember that every other parent feels that way. Network with real people. Real people who understand that parenting is more a trialblazing mountain hike than a solid easy freeway, everybody has to find their own way up, and everybody hates it once in a while. Find ways to laugh at how ridiculous it all is. We parent even though we have no idea what we are doing most of the time. We continue to clean even though it’s messy. We get completely sleep deprived for creatures that poop on us and scream in our faces. There are no vacations or even pay. What other job makes you work this hard for free? That’s right, none whatsover. So find somebody who cuts loose from the crazy the same style as you. Take up hobbies for stress relief. Reading is great because it lets you escape into a much more exciting and interesting world than yourself, and then your kids see you reading and it makes them want to read too!
11. Take pride in your children. You have worked hard on them. You aren’t in complete control, but you know what? You made them. Even if their existence wasn’t completely planned, if you’re a mother you grew them inside your own body and you are responsible for their existence. Every triumph your child makes is also yours. Celebrate it. There will be haters who think that you are too into your kids. Haters gonna hate, but you gotta overcome the crazy with love. Nobody will ever love your kids the way you do. They are your shining stars. Don’t stop taking pictures, or marveling at their creations, or just gazing at their little faces. It goes by so fast (which seems cliche until your newborn is seven and up to your chest and by your calculations he ought to be about three.) The days are slow, the years are fast. All that time wiping butts and stepping on cheerios and having your walls crayoned are blossoming into a person before your very eyes. They can talk, they are clever, they show you their incredible personalities and you are just amazed at the person that was in there all that time but couldn’t express themselves in the English language enough to be understood. They care about you because you have cared about them, you have been there, you have taught them compassion and love. Be proud, parent. You have earned it.
12. Be so grateful for all the help you get. Aunts, Uncles, Grandmas and Grandpas, preschool teachers, PBS, authors of good books, grocery store cashiers, nice old ladies who give smiles at the store, they are all part of your village that’s helping you raise your child. I am so thankful I’ve never had to do it alone or just with Kronk. They too, are all a part of my child. They’ve helped in my dark hours, they’ve thrown baby showers and birthday parties, they’ve taking the kids for adventures or given them fun toys, and they love my children too. They have understood that sometimes a break for Mommy doesn’t have to be a necessity to be needed. They’ve rejoiced with my rejoicing, wept with my weeping, and been a very essential part of parenthood. I know I can’t even start to repay all the hours and dollars I’ve had in help. I am humbled and blessed.
13. Become a cheerleader for other people. Every other parent out there is struggling somehow. Leave the judging for the haters and see how you can help people right where they are. Even telling a mama her kid is adorable in the grocery store can make her day a teeny bit better. Especially gush over first-time pregnant women, for they are teetering on the bit of the roller coaster that is right before that first time take-your-breath-away drop. Never tell her anything about how big she looks or doesn’t look, just say she looks beautiful and she’ll be a great mom. You can conspire with other parents about how crazy it all is, or listen to them vent about how they can’t figure something out or rage against some system or another. We are all stronger together.
Anyway, during all those years when I thought I was in survival mode, but it was much more than that. Even though my home looks rather worse for wear and I have the muffin top from the dark side, my children are happy, healthy, confident, loving little people. The little years is when their personalities are forming. They really don’t care about a tidy floor or a TV-ready mommy. They just want their parents with them, caring for them, and teaching them how to be human. Now that Scooby is two we have a mere two years left of the little years. I am wiped out, but I know my babies have been cared for. We have taken this little band and made a team and this is our family.
These were all taken at Thanksgiving.Well, one of the Thanksgivings. We had three.
My husband and his brother. Sorry, Josh, I warned you. You make a cheese face, you go down with cheese face forever and all eternity.
Kronk’s aunt and mother:
Scooby with DH’s brother Joshua (that’s how J’s face looks without contortion, just slight awkwardness at a camera being pointed at his face. Scooby, on the other hand, was hamming it up! )
Kronk’s mom and me (I call her Mama because she’s like a bonus mom to me, very near and dear to my heart!)
Pingu looking compliant but awkward:
Sweet Pea and Pingu:
And finally, the entire Pooka clan: