Senior Year Last Times

Last night was a final band concert for kid #2.

Somehow in the hubub of mothering, two of my baby chicks managed to make it to adulthood (mostly) unscathed.

Graduating a second kid is much easier than the first time around. Three years ago I was totally emotionally unprepared for the feelings that would wash over me. And mostly, I feared that I would lose my son. I feared that somehow, he would graduate, move away and never need me again. Thre years later, I KNOW that this is not true. I’ve also really enjoyed our changing and growing relationship.

So, part of this round of the senior year, I’ve spent looking forward to that child to adult transition.

Perhaps things are eased with knowing that graduation does not equal moving out for this young man. He will be living at home and attending college locally. Perhaps, I just really (mostly) like the young man he has become. I’m really super proud of what he has accomplished. Elementary school and middle school were a real struggle for him, but he has excelled in high school and has become organized and responsible.

And yet, as happy as I am for his future, I still choked up a bit at that concert last night. Not during the music itself. During the music, I just soaked it in. (and I secretly enjoyed that it was 12th-grade level music versus the 5th-grade level that he started with!) I choked up at the final applause. Because, really, it is his final applause. I don’t see him playing horn in college, or in the community symphony. He’s pretty much done. And finality is a funny thing.

He has a lot of great things ahead of him…plenty of first things…and plenty of lasts.

The challenge will be to find the joy in both the firsts and the lasts.

7 Ways we Make Mothering Harder Than it Has to Be

I’ve spent the better part of the last 15 years on parenting message boards, email groups and Facebook groups. When I started off on this mom gig, I was determined to be a pro.

Whether or not I’ve succeeded at professional motherhood is best left un-judged, but suffice it to say, I’ve talked and typed this mothering thing to death.

My mothering questions these days are much different than they used to be. I no longer worry about helping my kids to sleep through the night, or worry about damaging them if they sleep in my bed (answer: it did not damage them). Now my questions surround how best to support a college freshman, how to juggle the schedule for the kid in three choirs, or whether it is my job or Dad’s to sew on Boy Scout patches (answer: it is Dad’s job!).

But, as I continue to browse mothering pages in order to lend a supportive ear, I see the same things happening over and over again.

In the past week alone, I’ve seen questions on the *perfect* way to have a gender reveal party, how to freeze a year’s worth of baby food, moms needing advice on how to make the first day of school super special, and then a boatload of moms showing varying signs of burnout.

To temper all of that, I found this article on my newsfeed the other day. And I’ve found, that the longer I’ve been a mom, the more I DO feed into some of these global trends–trends that, in my opinion, help to make motherhood a lot easier . . . . And just as effective. We live in North Dakota, not unlike Norway in climate, and yes, my kids play outside, in the cold, nearly every day. And, when the twins were little, they napped outside, in their stroller, while I took a walk to clear my head. For the record, they survived, and so did I! Like Spanish families, my kids stay up late. It may not be ideal, but we grab family time when we can . . . which means bedtime is more elastic than the grandparents would prefer. And I feed my kids like the French do, with a chorus of “you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.”

I feel rather bossy and curmudgeonly on these mothering pages lately, and I was wondering if I was alone in thinking that perhaps, just perhaps, we were all just making this way harder on ourselves than we have to! So, of course, I took it to my trusted Facebook friends on the Dakotapam.com page. (and I have the best group on ladies who hang out there, really, I do!) And I found that I’m not alone. . . other people think we are doing this the hard way. Motherhood truths

So, without further ado, here are 7 ways we make this mom gig harder than we have to:

  1. Essie said,We don’t ask for help! We think we can do everything better by ourselves. If we get help, we have to be thankful for it, and not worry if it’s not done “right.” Boy did she hit the nail on the head. I can be a bit of a control freak. . . . A little more than “a bit”. So I have these visions of how things “should” be. But then I get bogged down. I can’t work 40 hours a week, taxi kids around town, have delicious and nutritious meals on the table, and have a spotless home . . . There are simply not enough hours in the day. So I learned to delegate. And let go. . . because my husband does not cook the same as me, and the kids don’t quite wipe the counter well after dinner. The folded towels don’t stack neatly and they used too much cleaner on the mirrors. But, I say to myself
  2. Traci said, Also, [we] stress about the things that don’t matter as much rather than enjoying the things that do!  Moms, this is HUGE! It is what my grandma called “majoring in the minors.” We get hung up on all of the mommy wars hot topics (and you know what they are), leaving us no energy to simply relish our children’s childhoods!
  3. Beth said, Worry and failure to delegate. Amen, sister. How many times have you worried yourself literally sick? The what-ifs can consume you. What if he never sleeps, what if she never potty trains, what if she catches chicken pox, what if she doesn’t? How will he do in school, will she make good friends? What if the other moms don’t like me or approve of my decisions? This worry is consuming, moms. And it is eating us alive. This worry is robbing us of our joy. I remember telling my grandma of my worries when our oldest was tiny. She looked me right in the eye and said, “Worry is a sin”. I gasped. Here I was, trying so very hard to do everything RIGHT, and instead, I was doing just the opposite.

    “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

    (Matthew 6:25-34 ESV)

  4. Another Beth said, Volunteering for too much outside the home.Moms, let me teach you a handy phrase:”That is not going to work for us right now.” It is a long way of saying “no”, but it acknowledges that your reasons for saying “no” is for the good of your family. In other words, you are not just being lazy. At the advice of a friend, after starting my new job, I read Lean In. In Sandberg’s plea to end the mommy wars, she made a very eye-opening point: we need working moms and stay at home moms. Stay at home moms power the PTA and help coach itty bitty soccer. Mom’s, do what you can, and do what you like. Other moms will pick up the slack if you give them the chance!
  5. Kirsten said, I see a lot of moms that take things personally. Stop letting your feelings get hurt by your kids. YOU are the parent, not them! Agreed. Sometimes we allow our offspring to become tiny tyrants and control everything–including our feelings. Moms, high school is over. We don’t have to worry whether or not the people that we live with and feed and care for every day LIKE us. Actually, if we are doing our job right, sometimes they won’t.
  6. And then Brianna made the comment that I thought would be the first one mentioned,
    Brianna Pinterest makes me feel like I’m not a good enough mom. Soo to answer your question, looking at Pinterest and comparing myself to those moms. I’m looking at you “magical first day of school” moms. Pinterest can be a lot of fun. I use it as a search engine for figuring out what the heck I can throw together for dinner in fifteen minutes using a can of corn, a block of cheese, an egg and a thimble full of milk (oops, forgot to grocery shop–again). Essie uses it to dream of her closet being magically filled. . Pinterest can be a lot of fun. But it can be a joy killer. This past week my Facebook friends were all passing around the blog post, Give me Gratitude or Give me Debt. It matters not that the ugly kitchen in question is still far nicer than mine, the point remains that our disease of comparing and coveting and holding ourselves up to some unattainable ideal has GOT TO STOP!
  7. Debbie said, Guilt. There is so much guilt, for not spending time with the kids, the house isn’t clean enough, our work is never finished, every little thing that we THINK we NEED to do to make the family happy and better. the key words here are “think we need”. The fact is, our families need US. They need a mom, a soft place to land. Our kids need security and unconditional love. They do not need a designer nursery, a colorcoordinated closet, or even cute little Bento box lunches. They need YOU!Moms, you can do this! Don’t make it harder than you have to!

My Life With Twins: Advice to New Mothers of Multiples

Yesterday the twins turned 10 months old. They sleep mostly through the night, they finally nap at the same time, they eat more solids and depend less on breastfeeding to meet all of their needs. In other words, they are getting to be a lot easier. I’m going to be a lot busier soon, as both girls appear to be on the verge of walking, but at the same time, I’m pretty used to keeping mobile babies entertained. This isn’t my first rodeo, you know!

A friend gave birth to her set of beautiful twin girls last Tuesday. When I went to visit her at the hospital and I saw those two tiny perfect little peanuts I gasped. They were both 6 pounds 5 ounces, a bit smaller than my Ellie was, and a bit larger than my Emmy. And yet. . . I could hardly remember my girls being quite so tiny, and quite so helpless.

So this post goes out to my friend, as she navigates these first tenuous weeks of adjusting to not one baby, but two!

  • Be gentle on yourself. A multiple pregnancy takes a lot out of you as a mom, especially near the end. Multiple deliveries are no picnic either, whether you deliver naturally, via c-section, or a combination of the two. It is likely that you lost a lot of blood, are anemic, and also very, very tired. So rest as much as you can, accept help when offered, and take things slowly.
  • Remember that babies are more important than schedules. As much as you really want to get those babies into a routine, part of that routine has to come from the babies as well. Spend the first few weeks paying attention to their hunger cues and establishing a healthy nursing relationship. It may be harder to breastfeed two, but it is not impossible, and it very well be your most time saving decision in the long run (even though it does NOT seem like it now!)
  • In these first few weeks, don’t try to keep the babies on the same schedule. If they fall into it naturally, fine (many MZ twins will naturally keep very similar schedules, DZ twins probably will not). However stressing about keeping two individuals on the same routine may end up being more work for mom in these early weeks. Personally, I relished time alone with each of the girls. I also think that they appreciate some one on one time with mom.
  • Get to know the signs of postpartum depression. Tell your family members about the signs. Tell them to tell you if you are exhibiting them. Seek help if you need it! The hormone shift after a multiple birth is extreme to say the least. Find a way to relax, be alone, and hash out your feelings. Blogging in my early days really helped. I know people thought I was crazy for writing instead of napping in those first months, but for me the writing was even more therapeutic than sleep!
  • Drink a ton of water. You need it. Your babies need it.
  • Take a bajillion photos. Write everything down. You THINK you will remember all of these crazy days. Trust me. You won’t. (oh and in those pictures, keep the babies in the same order all of the time! I still mostly have Ellie on the left and Emmy on the right!)
  • Chocolate.

So, it is time for you to chime in! What is your best piece of advice for a brand new mother of multiples? (MoM). Are you expecting twins, or more? Do you want more of my tips, or experiences? Ask away! I love to hear from you all!

Good friends are better than magazines!

Dakotapam and friends
Here I am with two of my BFFs, separated by miles, connected by the interwebs!

I’ve come pretty far as a mom.

I’ve gone from the one needing constant advice to being the one asked for advice.

I’ve been able to let go of some of the temptations that come with motherhood. The temptation to compare children is less than it used to be, though the addition of twins to our dynamic makes comparisons almost impossible to avoid. I am letting go of the temptation to feel guilty about every little thing.

I trust myself more.

Yet, I do not doubt myself less.

As a matter of fact, not a day goes by in which I wonder if I’m not failing my children in some way.

  • Are they suffering because there are so many of them and only one of me?
  • Do they feel unconditionally loved?
  • Do I expect too much from them?
  • Am I expecting too little of them?
  • Have I done enough to ensure that they will be productive members of society, good husbands, wives, fathers or mothers?

I knew that motherhood was not going to be easy. What I was not prepared for was how all consuming it would be. I was not prepared to see all of my bad habits in walking, talking form. I was not prepared for all for all of  the work I would have to do with reining in my temper.

I somehow thought that motherhood would look like it does in the magazines. Slightly fuzzy and out of focus, serene and blissful. I’d wear coordinating outfits and we would finger paint in my sparkling clean kitchen.

What we get instead is a motley (yet lovable) crew watching Spongebob in my dusty living room while I hide out in my yoga pants in another room eating my secret stash of chocolate and hoping that the babies don’t find me.

If I only believed what I saw in the magazines, I could do nothing but despair! But I have some really good friends. They let me in on their lives at the messiest times.

  • Good mommy friends make your sticky kitchen seem just a bit cleaner.
  • Good mommy friends let you know that white socks CAN go well with little boy dress pants.
  • Good mommy friends gently remind you that ketchup can double as a vegetable some days.
  • Good mommy friends always seem to know when you need a cup of coffee.

I need, and appreciate my mommy friends, more than I can even express here. I live far from extended family, so my fellow mothers become my family. We turn to each other for advice, comfort, an encouraging word, or just a shoulder to cry on.

So, if you haven’t done it lately, thank a friend who makes your road easier!

So, what about you? What has friendship meant to you? Are your friends newer, older or in between? Do you let YOUR friends see your sticky kitchen? Chime in!

How to be a better mother.

It's Good to be Queen
even the Queen makes mistakes...right?

I bet that you wish becoming better at motherhood was as easy as reading a blog post.

I do too.

Sadly, our sinful nature does not allow us to to be the moms we envision. You know what I’m talking about. I envision myself as a sort of June Cleaver in 2010. (If June Cleaver would wear Birkenstocks, and ditch the pearls.)

I an ideal world my house would be clean and I would not yell. Not only would I serve well balanced, nutritious meals; they would taste good and the kids would like them. My children would not fight. My dog would put himself in the kennel every night. My babies would sleep through the night.

Instead, I yell. My house is never 100% clean. I serve healthy food but it does not always go over well. My children fight like it is their job. Not even my dog listens to me. And lastly, those babies do not and will not sleep through the night.

Does this make me a bad mom?

Well, to see it in black and white, the answer is a  resounding yes. I am unable to achieve even a portion of what the “good wife” in Proverbs 31 seems to get done in a day. When I examine myself I am lazy and flawed.

Do you want to know the good news?

I don’t have to be a perfect mother. (yep…that’s right…)

In spite of (all of my many) imperfections, I have a Heavenly Father who loves me (and you!) so much that he gave up His (very perfect) Son so that all of our imperfections (we call them sin around here) can be forgiven!

Each day is new.

Each morning I can wake up and try (and fail) again.

I had a dear friend (and much better mother than me) post a simple prayer on my Facebook page this morning. She said “Lord, please help me to be a better mom today.” I know that God answers prayer. I see answers to my prayers all around me every day.

So, thanks Lisa, for reminding me of the very best way to become a better mother…start with prayer and ask for help!