Friday, September 29, 2006

Why Moms of Toddlers Need a Good (Padded) Bra

Moms are usually advised to get a good bra when they're nursing to protect against leakage, provide support and prevent sagging, but many women don't realize how important it is to get a decent bra when their kids enter the toddler years! The reason has nothing to do with nursing, but everything to do with PROTECTION! Think "padding," moms, and the more the better! I can't begin to count the number of times my toddler twins' pointy little elbows and knees have sent me into spasms of agony when they've stabbed my very tender pre-menstrual breasts. And I'm sure my toddlers aren't the first to play the game, "Bruise the Mommy." In fact, if it wouldn't make me a social outcast outside the soccer field, I'd invest in a good set of leg, arm, chin and mouth guards, too. (As I write this, I am recovering from the fat lip I received when Caleb's hard head connected with my mouth.) These days, my shorts and dresses are reserved for in-house use only after bony toddler limbs have made a network of bruises up and down my legs. Of course, I love it when they want to crawl on my lap for a big hug, but at what age will they learn the art of climbing gently? So, mommies of toddlers, invest in the best padded bra you can find! The bonus is, you'll have the best "silhouette" of your life!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

They're Never Too Young for Books

I was shocked the other day when a friend told me that whenever she went over to the house of a certain mother of two young children that she had NEVER seen a children's book in the house! Books are so much a part of our lives that I just couldn't imagine a house without books. Some parents may argue that babies or toddlers are too young for books, but that's just not true! Sure, they don't have the attention span to sit down and listen to the book being read cover to cover, but even young children love to explore the pictures and listen to the cadence of your voice. A couple of weeks ago, the children in my twins' preschool class were learning about Noah's Ark. The teachers told me they were amazed that my boys knew every single animal in the ark! Yesterday, they found a snail on the playground, and my twins were the only ones who could identify it as a snail. How do they know so much about animals? From books! They love to discover new animals in the books we read, and they want to look at them over and over again. They're only two-and-a-half, and they already know all their colors, can count past ten, and can match pictures with ease. They've learned all of this just by looking at books. When their teacher was telling me about how "smart" my boys are, she said, "You can tell they really spend a lot of time with their mommy." That really warmed my heart! Indeed, parents are children's first and primary teacher. Even if they attend school, it is our responsibility to help them discover the world and broaden their minds through books. If you're out and about today, buy your children some books! It's always a good investment.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The End of Childbearing

For today's blog, I'd like to reprint an article of mine that just appeared in the Mom Writer's Literary Magazine (www.momwriterslitmag.com). I think it reflects the feelings of a lot of women when they come to the end of their childbearing days...

I just read an e-mail from a new friend. She's adopting a baby girl from China! Seconds later, I opened a note from another friend. A picture of her co-worker's adopted daughter from China was attached. I couldn't take my eyes off that little girl's face.

A woman at church just adopted a girl from Guatemala. A business associate adopted a daughter from India. Enough already! I feel like I'm being haunted.

I always wanted to be a mother. In my youthful dreams, I saw myself holding the hand of a little girl. Imagine my surprise when I was blessed with four sons whom I love dearly.

But I'm over forty now, and for various reasons, I've decided I'm done with childbearing. I know this decision is for the best, but my heart grieves. I loved being pregnant, and the thought that I'll never bear a child again saddens me. But I also love being a parent -- and perhaps I'm not ready to relinquish that dream quite yet. Yes, I am a mother -- but not to a daughter.

So, I have to ask myself, are these adoption announcements some sort of sign? Or are they just a reflection of the pining I feel to hold a baby girl in my arms? Am I subconsciously seeking news of my heart's desire?

I haven't convinced my husband to adopt yet. Where would we put her? He's right. We don't have room in our house, but there's ample room in our hearts. We'd manage somehow.

Thus, I continue to ponder -- and to grow older. Soon, the decision will be taken out of my hands. I'll be forty-two soon. My husband is forty-four. Do we really want to be raising children into our seventies? Parenting youngsters while running around grandkids? Forfeiting years of freedom for ourselves? Maybe not.

And would my teenage boys think their mom is crazy? Or, worse, that I wasn't pleased with them -- that I wanted a girl instead?

Who really wants five kids, anyway?

I do. I think. So, as if all the adoption announcements weren't enough to convince me, I'll continue to look for a sign -- a stronger sign. A voice to tell me that the time is right. That I'm not crazy. That a beautiful little girl is just waiting for her new mommy to make up her mind.

And I long to tell my daughter, "Hey, Mommy's coming!" I'm just taking the long way. And praying I don't get lost.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Leaving the Kids Behind

I'm writing this at the airport as I head out of town on a short business trip. It's not easy to have a career and be a mother. It's always a heart-tugger to leave the kids. And as my career advances, I imagine there will be more days like this. I was hoping to be able to sneak away while the twins were at preschool, but Caleb came down with a cold and couldn't attend, so the kids had to accompany us to the airport. I can still hear Caleb's wailing as I stepped out of the car. I'm sure he drove my husband crazy in the car with his cries! Perhaps Austen joined in and the car was filled with their noise! Unfortunately, I got to the airport too early, so I have two hours to sit and worry about them. Will they be okay without me for almost two days? Will my husband have enough patience with them? Will they be safe? Hopefully, the older boys will help out. It's strange how mothers have the power to really hold a family together. When dads leave, it's no big deal. But when Mom goes, everyone's unhappy. Nobody knows what's going on. It's wonderful to be so important to someone, but heartbreaking, too. I feel as if I'm in the middle of a tug-of-war, being called home by my children, while being pulled out into the big world by my ambitions. Each only gets a part of me. I just hope it's enough for everyone.

Monday, September 18, 2006

When Little Ones Are Sick

One of the twins just came down with his first preschool-related illness. The twins are almost three now and have been so healthy just being home with me, but now that they've started school, aka the germ factory, I knew they'd start coming home with lots of "bugs"! Austen had this scary "barking" cough on Friday, and it escalated into a full-blown cold with fever this weekend. (I'm sure that his twin brother will be next!) The question that's been mystifying parents for ages is: Why do kids always get sick on the weekends? Not only does it ruin any fun plans, but it often requires us to pay a visit to the urgent care center because the doctor's office is closed. When your child is screaming from the pain of an ear infection on a Friday night, he needs relief NOW, not on Monday morning. It's hard to watch them suffer. It's most frustrating because they can't describe their pain, so you're contantly trying to guess whether it's the ears, the throat, a headache, etc. And they look so pitiful when they just lay around on the couch and moan, definitely not their normal pace of life. With four kids, I've had many nights of rocking a sick child to sleep, scrubbing puke out of the carpet, and averaging about 2 hours of sleep. But it's heart-warming that they want only us when they're feeling bad. The trust they place in us to make them "all better" is really a gift. Just by sponging a sweaty brow and bringing a cool drink, we become heroes to our children...at least until they're back to their old selves again!

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Special Bond of Twins

I always wondered if my twins would have that special bond that some twins seem to have--that emotional connection that goes beyond most sibling relationships. Because my twins are fraternal (not identical), I had my doubts that they would share this bond. After all, they're just like any other siblings except they happened to share a womb and be born on the same day. They don't share the same genes as identical twins do. And, indeed, they are very different. Both have blond hair and blue eyes, but the physical resemblance ends there. Their features are entirely different. And their personalities are very unique, as well. For the first few years, I didn't see any evidence of a twin bond. But now that they're almost three, I'm seeing signs of its development! Suddenly, Caleb doesn't seem to sleep well with his brother across the room. For the past five nights, we have found him sleeping with his brother in his little toddler bed, the two of them entwined together. So last night we moved their beds side-by-side. Amazingly, they went right to sleep and slept beautifully. Apparently, they just needed to be closer together. I don't have any doubts that they will still be their own individuals, and will continue to have their differences, as well. But I'm also thrilled to see signs of this special bond developing. Wouldn't it be great if all siblings could share this special relationship? What a wonderful gift to grow up with your best friend by your side!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

My Inferiority Gene

Being a parent allows us a much greater understanding into our relationship with our own parents. For instance, I've always had a problem with lack of confidence and low self-esteem. For years, I blamed my parents. They weren't supportive enough when I was younger. They favored my sister over me. They didn't approve of me. Anything I did wasn't good enough. This is what I told myself. But even though there are always things that could have been done differently, I'm starting to see my parents in a new light now that I'm raising my own teenagers. Because I've always felt that my feelings of inferiority held me back in life, I vowed when I became a parent that I'd be perfectly supportive and never make my children feel less than confident. But I found out, number one, that it's impossible to do. There will always be times when we don't approve of our children's actions, and it's our responsibility to speak up! We just can't support everything--and we shouldn't! And second, I've found that even when I lay the "love" on thick, my sons insist I don't know what I'm talking about. "Mom," they say, "I'm not as smart as you think I am." They just don't see in themselves what I see in them. Perhaps it's a genetic flaw--some sort of inferiority gene that we're born with. Perhaps it's the influence of their peers. Who knows? But it's caused me to revisit some of my attitudes toward my parents. Could it be that I just refused to see when they supported and encouraged me? Might I possibly have closed my ears because I just didn't respect their opinion at the time? As a teenager, I almost certainly gave more weight to the opinions of my schoolmates, which were discouraging to me. I was the class valedictorian at a very small, cliquey Catholic high school. I yearned to be accepted, but causing test-score curves to disappear didn't exactly make me popular. And I was too shy to make any impact with my personality. The more I think about it, the more I realize that my poor self-esteem was of my own making. I let other people's opinions (or my perception of their opinions) make me feel inferior. So, to Mom and Dad, I'm sorry. I know you did your best. Now I realize that you were proud of me. And to my sons, I'm not going to stop being your biggest cheerleaders. But at the same time, I know you have to find your own way to feeling good about yourself. I just hope you figure it out sooner than I did.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Husbands, This One's for You!

Men, if you want to know why you're not "getting it" from your wives, read on! (I know this blog is supposed to be about parenting, but it's all related. A satisfying marriage makes for a happy family.) First, if she tells you she's tired, it's the truth! It's not an excuse. She's taking care of the kids all day, perhaps working another job, too. As soon as her head hits that pillow at night, the thought of sleep is just too enticing. Aaaah! But, the other big reason you're not getting sex is because she has to LIKE you first! She has to have some "warm fuzzies" for you. Sex is not just a physical release for her. She has to feeeel the love! The good news for you is that this is SO easy to accomplish. This isn't anything new, and yet so few men seem to "get it" (pun intended). Guys, hold her hand when you're watching TV. Put your hand on her back when you're following her through the door. Give her a kiss for no reason. Touch her on the arm. Don't just grope her when you want some action. Show an interest in her. Quit nagging and criticizing. Listen to the words that come out of your mouth. Do you ever compliment her or tell her you appreciate her? Have you told her that you like her new haircut? Have you shown an interest in what she did that day? When was the last time you called her just to say "I love you"? Pick up a little gift for her just to show that you know what she likes. It might be as simple as her favorite fast-food French fries! Now, some of you might be saying this is asking too much. Or this is putting too much of the burden on men. But I bet you used to do all of these things before you were married! Why stop now? If you're going to argue that she never does these things, either, I can tell you how to get her to do them: Take the initiative! Touching leads to more touching. Thoughtfulness leads to more thoughtfulness. Just try it. Make it your mission to pay her a compliment every day. Think of something nice to say to her. Show an interest in her beyond "What'd you make for dinner?" Do this for a week and see how her mood has changed. I guarantee you she will respond. She'll feel romantic toward you, and that's going to show up in the bedroom. Trust me.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Bad Moods All Around

At one point this afternoon, I looked at my 13-year-old son and asked, "Are you in a bad mood, too?" When he said no, I replied, "Okay, you can stay." I've got two teenagers and two toddlers. The bad moods are a daily occurrence! Or should I say "hourly"?? At the time I asked that question of my son, I had just returned from picking up my 16-year-old, who apparently had a very unsatisfying weekend with his youth group at Disney, because he proceeded to complain about his horrible life all the way home. Then, my two-year-old twins woke up from their naps acting extremely grouchy, so the sight of my 13-year-old entering the room was cause to put up my guard. "Will you become moody when you turn 16?" I asked him. "I hope not!" he said. Hopefully, I'll get lucky with one good-natured kid through the teen years, but based on the moodiness level I know I exhibited in my own teen years, I doubt I'll be that fortunate. In the meantime, I'm really looking forward to when the twins turn about 5, my oldest teenager exits the teen years, and hopefully harmony will reign for a while! But then it will be time for my husband's midlife crisis and my menopause . . . yikes!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Letting Go Without Worry

I've come to the conclusion that all the reading I do is driving me crazy. Have you ever read those articles where two people get into an argument, then one of them dies in a horrific accident, and the survivor feels tremendous guilt over it? Or a husband dies and the wife struggles to remember if she told him she loved him in their last phone call? It's the 5-year anniversary of 9/11, so there are lots of articles like that in various magazines and newspapers. Those kinds of stories just haunt me. And make me incredibly paranoid. My 16-year-old son left for a trip to Orlando this evening. Even though he's going with his church youth group to a Christian concert at Disney, I still worry about him. He was unusually sweet to me in the car tonight. Was that to give me a nice "last memory"? What if they're hit by a drunk driver, or there's an accident on one of the rides? Do all parents worry as much as I do? Even though I know these tragedies are remote and I can't clip my son's wings forever, I can't help being paranoid. With love, comes pain. With parenting, comes worry. And when he comes home, there's relief...until the next time.

My First Post

I never thought I'd enter the world of "blogging," but here I am! I finally got tired of losing all of these thoughts swirling around in my head, with no one to share them with, so I've decided to let them "out" into the world (whether it's ready or not!). Since parenting -- and writing books about parenting -- are such huge parts of my life, I'm going to try to focus my thoughts on that subject, but you never know when I'll slip in another "issue" just to get it off my chest! This first post will be short as I make sure I've got this blogging thing all figured out -- and I think one of my twins is trying to knock down his bedroom door to get up from his nap -- but look for future posts from me. I've already got some great topics in mind!