Being Brave.

Has your child ever done something so spectacular you wanted to just hug every stranger that happened to be standing by and explain to them that your child is a hero? No? Huh. Only me, I guess. Well, this hug is getting awkward.

This basically happened to me last weekend. I didn’t actually hug every stranger standing nearby, but I did have an internal party when Grace, my super cautious, super sweet, rule follower to the extreme let her inner curiosity, spirit of adventure, and bravery shine through.

We went to Hocking Hills last weekend and hiked a trail that led us to Old Man’s Cave. The scenery was beautiful, the trail wasn’t easy, and we were a big group, my husband and I and our three children plus my husband’s parents. We were quite the crew, and we were loving every second, I even brought my real camera! (You know those machines that capture pictures, but can’t text?)

Near the end of our hike we reached a neat little body of water underneath a small waterfall. Grace mentioned wanting to walk in the water, it wasn’t very deep and she was apparently moved by the surrounding natural beauty. My mother-in-law was about to kick off her own shoes and help Grace do the same when I mentioned that there was a sign that said “No Wading.” My mother-in-law thought that was ridiculous and I said I agreed, but internally thanked the powers that be of old man’s cave for channeling their inner helicopter Mom so I didn’t have to admit to anyone, including myself, what a challenge it is for me NOT to be a helicopter mom.

I explained to Grace that there was a sign that said no wading in the water. She was disappointed but consoled herself by throwing rocks into the water with Henry. Then Grace noticed a fallen tree that was across this tiny body of water and wanted to cross it like a balance beam. She saw another little boy crossing it and she was inspired.

I don’t know if it was the magic of old man’s cave, the presence of grammie and pops, or the sheer, uninhibited joy that comes with exploring nature and pushing yourself to your physical limits. But, Grace became obsessed with crossing this fallen tree.

Suddenly, all bets were off. I didn’t care about the no wading sign, I didn’t care about my internal anxiety concerning all things safety related. I wanted to help my shy, cautious girl be brave. I explained that if that’s what she wanted she could do it. I showed her the unmarked path she would need to take that went around the body of water, I showed her I would be able to see her the entire time, and if anything happened, I could get to her in a matter of seconds.

She wanted me to go with her, but my gut said she would still go if I didn’t, so I told her part of being brave is being scared. She doesn’t need me, but I’ll be there in a second if she does. Of course that was confusing, but she seemed to understand that I was trying to say something meaningful so she nodded enthusiastically and headed on her way. Henry’s spidey-senses detected an adventure and he went galloping after Grace.

My husband was impressed by Grace, surprised by my enthusiasm and concerned about her safety, so he went on the path behind her, giving her enough space to feel on her own. When my husband is concerned about safety I know I haven’t been overthinking it as we are on very different ends of the safety concern spectrum, haha.

When Grace climbed her way up the unmarked path, and then around a tangle of tree roots, down the hill and along the edge of the water she finally got to the fallen tree. Suddenly, she wasn’t thrilled, and honestly, I realized I didn’t want her crossing the fallen tree on her own…or really, at all. But my fearfulness for her safety coincided with my fearfulness that I’m too anxious and it’s rubbing off on her….lots of fear in my brain…best not to delve too deep into the inner workings of my mind and heart.

Anyway, Patrick stepped up in a big way, well, stepped in rather. Without hesitation he stepped into the water so he could hold Grace’s hand and give her some encouraging words. Turns out the water by the tree was a lot deeper than we thought and I’m very glad Patrick was there because there’s no way she would have crossed the tree without him and there’s no way I would have let her. But she did it! Patrick held her hand as she walked across, and she did it! She got to the “big rock,” which was her goal.

I totally became that mom. You know, the one who celebrates the heck out of seemingly minor achievements. Listen, if my kiddo scales a personal mountain you better believe I’m gonna celebrate like it was Mount Everest, because for her, it was. Typically, if Grace is going to do something new, she needs at least 15 minutes to watch, another 15 minutes to ask a lot of questions about it and if you’re lucky, in about two years she’ll maybe try it.

So, as you can imagine, the look on her face as she ran up to me and gave me the biggest hug made me feel all the feels. She’s my kid, y’all, and she just faced a fear head on. I asked her if she was scared and she hesitated before saying “yes.” She said it like it was a bad thing, so I jumped in and explained that you can’t be brave without being scared. Being brave means doing something you’re afraid of even though you’re frightened. She locked her little hand in mine, looked up at me and whispered, “I was super brave.”

Just over here ruining Christmas, nbd.

In one fell swoop I knocked out the possibility of fantastical beasts, magic and Santa…and I hadn’t intended to do any of that. Before you dismiss me as that mom who is WAY too literal about being honest with her children about everything, know that I hadn’t set out to ruin Christmas.

My 4 year old is currently obsessed with unicorns. Obsessed. I don’t know how she has picked up on that trendy obsession because we don’t have tv/cable with commercials, but we do venture outside of the house and she has friends, so….here we are, unicorns are everything.

One day she asked me if she could ride a unicorn. I’m not one to rain on anyone’s imagination parade, but I also know how literal my little sensitive soul is, and if I tell her she can ride a unicorn and then we start to flesh out the logistics and it comes out she cannot in fact ride a unicorn….it’s just not worth it to me.

So, I explained that unicorns are really fun to think about, to pretend about, but that they don’t actually exist. She was shocked, and I wasn’t sure if I was navigating these new waters in the best way, but I went with my gut and I continued by encouraging her to pretend about unicorns, draw them, read books about them, but also know that she can’t ever see one in real life because they don’t exist outside of stories. She seemed totally good with this. Her imagination continues to blossom, she is going to be a unicorn for Halloween and I don’t think I have crushed her spirit. Felt like a win to me.

Then it happened. She asked me if I remembered telling her that it’s fun to think about unicorns, but they don’t exist. I said I did, but in my mind my thoughts were racing, did I ruin her childhood, why couldn’t I have just said yes unicorns are real when she asked me a couple weeks ago. Maybe they just hide from humans and that’s why she can’t ride one, or maybe they live really far away…so many options, why hadn’t I thought of this?? Before I could continue drowning in this pool of despair and panic she asked if the same logic applied to Santa. My four year old said, “Is it the same way about Santa Clause. Fun to think about but not real?”

Wait, what? Why is she asking me this? Did some little punk at school tell her Santa isn’t real? Is she just super smart and making connections…I’m so proud of her…wait, focus, this is bad…what do I say? Let me just dive back into my pool of panic.

It took too long to answer. I was sweating. Why couldn’t I just tell her Santa is real. Easy peasy. I could have said, “No, the same logic does not apply. Santa is real…in our hearts” or something vague like that.

I don’t know why I didn’t say that, but I didn’t. Instead, I said, “Correct. Same logic. Santa isn’t real, but he sure is fun to think about and read about.”

Whaaaat did I just say? Words were out of my mouth before I could stop them. I never intended to be that mom. You know, the one who sucks the joy out of childhood and now has a ticking truth bomb of a preschooler who could at any moment lay down some unwanted details to a friend about the truth behind Santa. Now she was going to be that punk at school who ruins Santa for some sweet, dear child.

I mentally start to back pedal and was trying to articulate a way to change my first answer without sounding totally bonkers, but before I could formulate a plan Grace jumps in with, “well, I like the idea of unicorns AND Santa, they’re so nice and fun, so I say they’re real! Ok, mommy?”

Oh thank you, thank you sweet 4 year old logic and soul. I enthusiastically told her, “YES!!! that’s a GREAT idea. That’s PERFECT. Let’s say they’re real!!!” Crisis averted. I think. Thank goodness Grace can parent herself.

Fingers crossed I didn’t ruin Christmas. Or unicorns. Or anything else fun.

Silent Reflux is not as silent as you think.

Silent reflux is something I had never heard of until one late night when I ventured onto Dr. Google after my child’s actual doctor mentioned it. Dr. Google had a lot to say about silent reflux, but didn’t quite hit on the emotional toll it would take on our entire family.

Let me back up. My third kiddo, Sophia, was a pretty easy baby in the beginning, well, days 1,2 and 3. She nursed really well, she ate a ton and always wanted to eat. I mean. Always. I’m a pretty modest person who gets self conscious about my body, but let me tell you, after about day four, I don’t think anyone in my family hadn’t seen me breastfeeding Sophia. In-Laws included. She was insatiable. So feeding was nowhere near on my radar for something she was having a problem with. She wasn’t spitting up the way my first baby had, and she wasn’t constipated like my first and second were. She was just an insatiable eater.

She didn’t love sleeping, though. I tried mentioning this to my husband, her doctor, my family, my friends…anyone who would listen to me. They all had the same response, we were outrageously lucky with our first two and Sophia was more “normal” Ok, cool, cool, you know what’s not normal, trying to function on no more than an hour of sleep at a time.

I tried everything, I tried co-sleeping, I tried putting her in the bassinet, I tried putting her in this rocking thing, I tried putting her in a less rocky-rocker thing. It was all fruitless.

One night I had fed her and she fell asleep next to me in the bed, suddenly I woke up because of mom-spidey-senses and looked at my one month old. She looked like she was possessed and having a seizure. Her back was arched, her eyes were bugging out of her head and she started screaming. Not crying, I mean screaming bloody murder. Unfortunately, my husband wasn’t home because he had drill that weekend.

I picked Sophia up and was trying to comfort her, but she was arching, screaming and eye bugging. I called the pediatrician on call and left some sort of crazy voicemail,  “my daughter looks like she’s having a seizure, but I’m pretty sure she’s breathing because she’s screaming, but her eyes are weird and she’s arching her back and she’s screaming… she is in pain. My baby is in pain. Call me back.”

Sophia’s pediatrician called me back and sounded super sleepy, but ready to help, she asked me a few questions and said “it sounds like acid reflux flaring up” I said “she doesn’t have acid reflux” she said “Well, it sounds like she does, make an appointment in the morning” I replied, “I’m not sure you understand what is happening. My baby doesn’t need a couple tums, she is flipping out, arching her back, screaming, eyes bugging. BUGGING out of her head” The Dr calmly replied, “sounds like textbook acid reflux, keep her upright….” the rest of what she said is a blur because I was fuming that my Dr didn’t realize how emotionally traumatic this was.

Fast forward about 6 weeks later after several Dr’s appointments and an appointment with a specialist at Children’s we discovered that miss Sophia does indeed have silent reflux and that soy and dairy trigger it. Soy and dairy. In case you haven’t tried to avoid those ingredients lately, let me fill you in. Your days of pre-packaged, pre-prepared, pre-anything are over.

I ate very little and I lost a lot of weight but Sophia finally started gaining weight. In some ways, it was a win-win. But, it was unpleasant. I even tried to find a formula that would work because once I started checking labels I realized I couldn’t eat anything already made and you can imagine that with two toddlers and a non-sleeping baby, I kind of needed pre-made food. Sadly, I couldn’t find a formula that didn’t trigger her reflux, not even the super special formula that costs a million dollars and has nothing in it but sunshine and magic.

Silent reflux is not life threatening in the least, and it’s more common than you might think, but it is tricky to diagnose. Part of the difficulty is that there is no excess amount of spit up. She would reflux her milk up enough for it to burn, but not get rid of it. So she wanted to eat ALL. THE. TIME. Eating made her feel better in the immediate, but also worse when she was lying down, or after 5 minutes… And since she was just a wee little thing, she couldn’t think long term. So she ate and ate and ate.

We eventually pushed past it, and were lucky that it wasn’t long lasting. But it was very difficult. I had friends, and even family, think I was being an over the top mom because no, I couldn’t have just one bite of ice cream. I had tried that, and guess what, even if I didn’t care about my baby’s comfort, the price tag of one bite was a gassy, angry baby who doesn’t sleep all night. Not worth it. I need my sleep.

So, I had a spring and summer of no ice cream, nothing pre-packaged, but a happy baby. I’m really glad we went to a specialist because she was able to give us much more in depth information and a better treatment plan. Now, at 20 months, miss Sophia can have soy and she can have some dairy, but seems to be lactose sensitive so far. But she has minimal reflux and is a happy, chubby little toddler! She’s also now my best sleeper of the three! Way to go, Sophia!

Little Ears, Big Words: Why we need to stop the hateful rhetoric but keep up the fight.

As parents we sometimes joke about little ears listening, or we are caught off guard when our young child repeats something we didn’t think they heard. And sometimes, children don’t let us know right away that they’re listening, but boy are they listening. And if you think the topic is too mature and they just don’t get it…think again.

I can remember a time when I was pretty young, maybe around 2nd grade, and my parents were worried about a presidential election.  I remember learning that “democrats were good” and “republicans were bad.”  I didn’t know what either of those words meant, but I knew I was glad we were democrats because I wanted to be good.

At 8 years old the world is pretty black and white. There’s good and there’s bad. I remember walking into school feeling proud that “we” had won. I kept waiting for a friend to bring it up so I could ask some questions because I wasn’t 100% clear on why democrats were good and republicans were bad, but politics didn’t really come up during second grade recess.

Now I realize, of course, that the world is quite complicated and not all democrats are good and not all republicans are bad. However, it has taken me some serious soul searching, reflecting, debating and listening to accept that.

I hate to admit this, because I want to think of myself as open-minded, but I definitely hold a bias against republicans. I know that isn’t fair, but it’s also not surprising given our current political climate.

However, knowing this about myself and recognizing my own bias, helps me engage in more thoughtful debate. I acknowledge my prejudices and try to open my mind to another point of view. I haven’t yet changed my mind on any issue, but I have definitely gained a better understanding of where others are coming from.

There’s no denying that I’m frustrated with the current administration and I’m baffled by the outrageous behavior of our president and, more incredibly, the numerous senators, congressmen, congresswomen and voters supporting his actions. However, I do not think that dignifies the destructive rhetoric that is plaguing our news, social media and entertainment arena.

We are so desensitized to inappropriate, hateful rhetoric that we are forgetting our children can hear us. And that goes for both sides. Whether you believe we are desensitized because of the hateful rhetoric coming from the top, or you think it’s the hateful response coming from those that didn’t vote for this president, engaging in hateful, non-productive name calling isn’t a solution.

Frankly, I’m embarrassed by what I see on facebook, the news and other outlets. I’m embarrassed for democrats because I want to think we are “better than that.” I’m embarrassed for republicans because hateful rhetoric is becoming their norm. Of course, not all democrats and not all republicans are using hateful rhetoric, but enough engage in this unproductive back and forth that it’s monopolizing our news feed.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to be the thought police. Of course everyone has the right to speak their mind and use strong language to emphasize their outrage. Not only do we have the right, we have the duty to acknowledge and fight inappropriate governing and racist, sexist, hateful language and actions. I just think we need to put some more thought into word choice.

Let’s teach our children that disagreement is ok, debate is good, different opinions make this country well rounded. Let’s also teach our children that when our government becomes disgraceful, harmful and divisive it’s time for action. Those are not mutually exclusive ideas.

Talk to your kids about ways to take action without compromising their integrity. Have age appropriate conversations with your kids about the current political climate, government and the implications of both. But even more importantly, exemplify those methods: Marches, peaceful protests, standing up to someone when they say something racist, sexist, or hateful.

When your son or daughter sees you standing up for what is right it will give them the confidence to do the same, and you better believe they are going to copy your methods.

We need to change the future narrative for our children, and that includes “fighting fair.” It isn’t always easy, especially with the current administration, but it’s crucial if we want to change this political climate, protect our freedoms, and pursue happiness.

Toddler years are really freaking hard…for toddlers.

Wait, what? Girl, “the struggle is real” is about us moms, not our toddlers. Well….I totally get that and I 100% agree and coffee is life. But…here’s what changed my mind.

My kids and I have been in the best music program in the country (universe? Too strong? Ok, North America) since Grace was 9 months old, she’s 4 years old now. My son has been in it since he was 6 weeks old and miss Sophia was tagging along at the ripe old age of 2 weeks old because ain’t no one got time to find a sitter for number 3.

This session Grace has a new favorite song, “Hiné Ma Tov.” A few nights ago Grace asked me to sing that song to her, and even though I’ve heard this song a million times, I could not produce it on my own. I couldn’t think of the tune and I certainly couldn’t think of the words. Grace told me that it was ok and she would teach me the words. She might not have had them perfectly, but definitely better than what I could do. And I still struggled to “repeat after her.” After about five minutes of this I was exhausted. My brain couldn’t take much more.

The next day we were in the car and the song came on again (because I don’t even know what popular music sounds like anymore) and I tried to listen super carefully to hear the words and the tune and the beat and I nearly had to pull over. It was taking almost all of my energy and focus. I do not know any Hebrew and I struggle with remembering tunes.

I stopped trying to learn the words to the song and I started thinking about my three kiddos, all at very “trying” ages. Even though I find their constant questions, messy exploring and meltdowns exhausting, I cannot even imagine all the energy it takes to master all they do every day. Every single thing is new or newish to them.

In music class, our instructor will occasionally tell us to use our less dominant hand for a hand movement in order to experience new movements and uncomfortable coordination in the same way our toddlers do everyday.

Good grief, of course my toddlers are having meltdowns. Henry is probably beside himself with all the processing. He’s a super sensitive kid, he hides behind the couch any time anything gets too emotional, happy or sad! So on top of learning all the typical daily tasks like language, manners, emotions, how to eat, how to regulate physical expression, he’s also picking up on EXTRA emotions, extra nuances in the mood and reacting to them, trying to control those reactions and process them and I need coffee.

Grace is sensitive in a different way, she’s like a silent sponge. Until she’s not silent, then she’s like a regurgitating memory robot explaining every single moment of her day and asking three to four hundred questions about each event. Like, how did she store that up all day? And why does she always wait until 7:58pm to tell me everything and try to process it all. I ask her about her day all the time, she has so many opportunities to share.

And then there’s crazy Sophia. She’s almost 20 months and the world is absolutely her oyster. She is soaking things up, trying things out, talking non-stop gibberish, trying to keep up with her siblings and has the most tantrums of all my kids. She has them about once an hour and they aren’t long lived, but they’re dramatic. My guess is that once she can talk these tantrums will decrease, or at least change in shape.

So, if I stop lamenting the challenges of motherhood for a moment and think about it from our children’s perspective it helps me deal with the exhaustion of mothering. How fitting that it took a Hebrew song about brothers and sisters sitting together in unity for me to realize that when our kids are being their most trying is when they need the most support and it is really freaking hard to be a toddler.

I forgot picture day.

Yesterday, September 25th, I remember thinking I had something to do on September 26th, but could not remember what. I eventually accepted that nothing extra was happening and I fell asleep.

I woke up at 7:30am this morning, Wednesday, September 26th, and all three children were still asleep because of course they were. We actually needed to be up by 7am to get Grace to pre-school at 8:15am, so naturally my children slept in. They only get up crazy early on Saturday mornings. Love them.

Anyway, you need some background info: on Wednesdays only Grace goes to pre-school because we love her more than Henry. Kidding. She goes 3x a week and Henry goes 2x a week because of their ages and our finances.

I tried to wake up Grace but she was grumpy and sleepy and didn’t want to go to school. Then we entered some kind of time warp and all of a sudden it’s 8:07am. Two things happened at 8:07am this morning.

1. I remembered it was picture day. In my mind I could suddenly see the tiny slip of paper saying Wednesday, September 26th, picture day. I vaguely remembered an email suggesting something similar.

2. I shoved Grace out of the bed and said TIME TO GET UP.

Good start, good start.

Grace wasn’t super thrilled about her rude awakening. Henry woke up super congested and grumpy. I told Grace I was going to have to brush her hair because it was picture day. She started sobbing (before I even started) and then continued to sob as I brushed, so I couldn’t face braiding her hair. We both agreed on a head band instead. She looked crazy. Super puffy hair, super puffy face from crying, and a crazed look in her eyes. Good times, good times.

I threw some clothes on Henry that were clean and didn’t look terrible just in case he was supposed to have his picture taken too, even though he doesn’t usually come to school on Wednesdays. Sophia had a tank top on her that was about 3 sizes too big, her arm and neck were in through the neck hole and the other arm was through an arm hole, and I put a clean diaper on her. Win.

I splash some coffee into a mug, shove children’s feet into shoes, and throw everyone into the van as quickly as I can. We fly into school only 10 minutes late. I go in with Grace to her classroom and mouth “sorry” to the teacher, then Henry’s teacher sees me and asks me if Henry is coming for picture day? “Well, he can, I mean, he’s in the car right now, no, not alone, with Sophia, haha, don’t arrest me, haha, never-mind, I’ll go get him”

I bring Henry in and he’s confused but happy.

I assume pictures were taken. I’m hopeful that enough time passed for Grace’s face to recover from the trauma of getting her hair brushed. Last year at picture day Henry sobbed and had to be held by a teacher so he wouldn’t run away. I didn’t hear anything about him ruining picture day for everyone, so I’m thinking today’s a win.

I let my son pretend sticks are guns and here’s why.

I have a 3 year old son who is funny, energetic, crazy, sensitive, sweet, playful and fills my heart with more joy than I could have imagined. He’s the middle kid of three, right smack-dab between two sisters. He swings wildly between wanting to be a pirate to a unicorn to a tiger. His favorite color is blue, he loves running, jumping, throwing balls, painting his nails blue, dancing, singing, and what he calls “shoot guns.” Herein lies the problem.

Let me begin by noting: I am one liberal mama and I cannot stand guns. I am going to be that mom who asks playdate moms if they keep a gun in the house, and if they do, it better be unloaded, locked, and I want to physically see where it is stored and how. If not, my kid won’t be playing there.

When we found out we were having a little boy I knew that helping my little guy grow into a kind, sensitive, thoughtful man was my top priority. When I was pregnant with him I made a mental list of things I would never let him do and a list of things I would encourage him to try. At the top of my list was “I will never let him pretend to shoot a gun. Ever”

Then he turned two-and-a-half and literally everything became a sword, a bow and arrow or a “shoot gun” as he calls them. Anything can be a shoot gun… hands, water-guns, pieces of paper, train set tracks and most often, sticks. My heart sank. Scary statistics went screaming through my mind:

– Gun violence is the second leading cause of death for American children.¹

– Over 2,700 children and teens (ages 0-19) are shot and killed every year.²

– More than 14,000 are shot and injured every year.²

Nope, I was putting a stop to this. No son of mine would be pretending to shoot anything. I explained to Henry, ad nauseam, about the danger of guns, the implications of even pretending to shoot one. I read him books about being adventurous with other, less realistic and less dangerous weapons. Pirates with swords, wizards with wands, writers with pens!!! He enjoyed the stories, listened to what I had to say, but his little toddler body just could not stop turning everything into “shoot guns.”

We were at my in-laws house and he found an old toy gun that looked like a hunting rifle. I lost my mind. I made them get rid of it. I could tell I seemed crazy, but there’s a big difference between a child playing pretend with a stick and a child, a toddler, becoming familiar with a realistic looking gun and thinking it’s a toy. Nope. Nope. Nope.

The pretend rifle at Grammie and Pops was removed, but I couldn’t remove every train track, toy train, piece of paper, stick or his little hands!! It’s extremely difficult to teach your toddler not to dabble in the abstract pretend play that is turning a stick into a gun.  This kid has an imagination and a desire for adventure that rivals my ability to control what he does every. waking. moment.

But, I was so fed up with the gun play. One day I had, had enough. He was in our front yard, had picked up a stick, and was pointing it at the tree making a funny noise and telling me he was “shooting a dragon.” I knelt down to him and explained that guns hurt people, they aren’t toys and he can never touch one. I was almost in tears, which may sound dramatic, but school shootings are so common now that they don’t even hold headline news and I’m devastated over our country’s lack of interest in gun control. And I’ll be damned if my son is going to think guns are toys.

After I explained, once again, about how guns hurt people and I know he doesn’t want to hurt anyone so could he please put the “shoot gun” down, he put his chubby little hand on my shoulder and said, “mommy, my shoot gun doesn’t hurt people, it has water come out to spray the dragon, not hurting.” Then he leaned in and whispered, “also it’s not really a shoot gun, it’s a stick.”

Well, damn. He has been listening! His “shoot gun” shoots water. It is a stick and he is 3.

I will certainly continue to educate him on the importance of safe-play, the danger of actual guns, the importance of never, ever touching anything that even looks like a gun. But, if he wants to pick up a stick and point it at an imaginary dragon and tell me he “got the dragon” I’m going to let him.

Stats are from Everytown for Gun Safety Research and following references.

  1. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. WISQARS Fatal Injury Reports, Leading Causes of Death, United States. Data from 2016. See also: Heron M. Deaths: Leading causes for 2015. National Vital Statistics Reports, Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2017; 66(5).)
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. WISQARS Injury Reports. Data used a 5 year average, 2012-2016.