Monday Mom Confession

Doing a Monday Mom Confession a couple of weeks ago was so fun and freeing that I think I’m going start doing it weekly, at least until I’m out of ideas to share.  I’d love for you to join me – I’ll start doing a link-up so feel free to jump on board, or just share your own confession in the comments!  Let’s throw off the weight of perfection and get real around here.

I play the worst game ever with my kids.

You know how sometimes you get silly and say “I love you.”  “I love you more.”  “I love you most!”?

Basically, I do the opposite.

When one or both of my kids was driving me bananas, I’d look at my son and say “I’m giving one of you back!  Who should it be?”

These days it’s morphed into a silly game with Conlan – when his sister is being particularly ridiculous, I say to him, “Conlan, should we give her back?”

He rolls his eyes at me and emphatically says “NO!”

To me, it’s fun, it’s silly, and it always reaffirms how much my son loves his sister – no matter how much she’s driving us both crazy at the moment, he wants her here in our family.

I’m just not sure what I’ll do if he ever says, “Yes!”

Do you have a confession to make and want to link up?  Or do you want to read other mamas’ confessions? Click the linky below!  {Confession #2 – this is my first time doing a link-up so it’s not displaying here like I’d prefer. Hopefully I’ll get it right next week.}

What If They Can’t?

Every year, it happens.  Shortly before the start of the new school year, posts start flying around the blogosphere about encouraging your kid to be kind to others.  To befriend the friendless.  To be the shining beacon of light in their classroom.

To teach them that their character matters far more than their achievement.

This year was no different.

I’ve read those articles for years, well before my son ever set foot in his first classroom.  And I truly believe that we are raising a kind, empathetic, sweet little boy.  But I’m also coming to accept that, despite our best efforts, he will not be the one that saunters confidently across the room to invite the sad, lonely child to sit next to him at lunch.

At least not today.

So have I failed?  Isn’t it every mother’s dream that their child be the friendly hero and savior touted in those articles?  But now, I’m wondering.  What if they can’t?

Though happy-go-lucky and enthusiastic, Conlan has always been slow to warm to new situations.  Then last year, I got my first real chance to help him practice what I’ve been preaching about being friendly to other kids.  Mid-year, a new little girl joined his preschool class.  To say she was upset about this was an understatement.  From what Conlan told me, she cried all day long.

“Did you talk to her?

No.”

“Tomorrow you should tell her how fun preschool is.  Ask her to play with you so she doesn’t feel scared and lonely.  Be her friend.”

The next day we reviewed his assignment on the way to school.  I saw her weeping as I walked into the classroom.  I saw Conlan move in her direction, and then shy away.

“Did you talk to the new girl?”

“No.”

I was disappointed.  Wasn’t raising the friend to the friendless the hallmark of successful parenting?  I can get on board with the whole character over achievement movement, and I’d been doing my best, but my boy wasn’t cooperating.  What was I doing wrong?  He was letting those poor, sad, friendless children just suffer in their loneliness.

The next day, we tried again.

“Did you talk to the new girl?”

“I tried mom, but she just cried.”

I knew it had taken every ounce of courage to overcome his shyness and reach out, but I still felt like a failure as a parent.  Why wasn’t my little boy running around helping all the unhappy and marginalized children feel safe and loved and happy just like all the other mommies in all the other blogs were teaching their children to do?

Worse yet, I started to realize that my son was feeling stressed and ashamed that he couldn’t do what I was expecting.  He knew what I expected of him, but he physically couldn’t do it.

Fast forward to kindergarten.  We continued to talk about kindness, sticking up for other kids, and making friends with children who may be lonely.  Just like the blogs said.  Off he went.

And you know whose child was lonely and had no friends?

Mine.

Where did we go wrong?  We started to coach him every evening on how to ask kids to play, and with every day’s report learned that he just sat on the bench during recess, played basketball by himself, or wandered around aimlessly.

I started to understand.  Big groups aren’t his thing.

Now, a month into the school year, he’s finally started connecting.  We continue to praise his kindness and encourage his character.  And I’ve started to realize that his quiet, one-on-one …

The Two-Child Tipping Point

Years ago I read Mommy Wars.  And in one of the articles (I can’t remember which one) there was a brief mention of a working mom phenomenon.  Apparently moms can figure out how to manage as the parent of one child, but once they have a second, it sends them over the edge.  This wasn’t a major message within the book – just a passing comment – but as happens sometimes, that little nugget of information wiggled its way deep into my brain and set up long-term residence.

Not that I would have ever used such a passing comment (or even other peoples’ experiences) as a factor in my decision to have a second child, but the information was there, and I’ll admit that it whispered in my ear on occasion.

Fast forward to my daughter’s arrival.  The adjustment of adding her to our family was infinitely easier than the first time around.  I took an extended, part-time maternity leave and it was fantastic.  And when I returned to work full-time, it was manageable.  Life was busy, and the laundry pile was a little larger, but most of the tasks were the same.  Pick-up, drop-off, meal planning, laundry.  If I needed to be organized with one kid, I definitely needed to be organized with two.

And so I was, and so it went.  We were doing quite well, thank you very much, and I was quite pleased with having defied the two-child tipping point for working moms.

And then, she became a toddler.

No longer the little lump of an infant, my little girl has turned into a person.  She has thoughts and needs and can make her wants known.  Though I’ve always given both of my kids good attention in the evenings, she increasingly wants more and more and more.  And in turn, she also wants to encroach on her brother’s one-on-one time.  {Which makes him super happy, by the way.}  Life is just busy.

Let’s shift gears for an illustration, shall we?  I’ve always loved grocery shopping.  For one, I love food.  For two, I feel like it’s a very tangible way that I can care for my family’s health and steward our finances.  For three, I feel like I’m good at it and appreciated for what I do.  When Conlan joined our family, I loved taking him with me to share the experience.  As a working mom it became an opportunity for uninterrupted one-on-one time and he loved helping, picking out items, and counting produce as we put it into the bag.  We’d talk as we wandered the aisles and he’d name the fruits and vegetables as we passed.  And sometimes, if we’d turn down an empty row, I’d give Conlan a “look,” ask him “should we go fast?”, pick up speed, and we’d fly down the aisle together.

It was fun.

And then this past Saturday came.  Right after we had Brynna, I took both of my kids grocery shopping alone before she was a week old.  Life marched on.  But sometime over the last 21 months it’s become less fun and more chore to take both of them.

I tried to get the little one dressed and she actually said “yuck” when I opened her closet to choose her clothes for the day.  She picked out a tutu and church shoes, while I wrangled her into leggings and a shirt to complete the ensemble because nudity in public is frowned upon.  Topping off the outfit were two flowers in her hair, one on each side, which, I’m not …

Surviving Dinner – Sausage, Shells, and Peas in Alfredo Sauce

Lots of recipes claim they can be cooked in 20 minutes or less.  Some nights are so busy, even that’s too long.  “Surviving Dinner” is a series that is not about good wifeing, mothering, or cooking.  It’s about surviving.  It’s for those nights when you’re tempted to write “fast food” on the menu, but cooking at home will save you a few dollars, a few hundred calories, and loads of mommy-guilt.  Recipes found here can be cooked quickly and have minimal prep and clean-up.  Some may require a little pre-planning, but many won’t.

I threw this together on a whim trying to use up stuff in the fridge and freezer.  Both kids had seconds, and I think my husband had thirds.  It went over so well and was so crazy easy that’s I’m resurrecting Surviving Dinner to share it with you!

alfredo sausage peas pasta

Survival Menu:

  • Sausage, Shells and Peas in Alfredo Sauce (serves 3-4)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 box whole grain shell pasta
  • 1/2 jar alfredo sauce (maybe you have a half jar left over from making this)
  • 1/2 bag frozen peas
  • 1 pkg italian chicken sausage (or any pre-cooked sausage of your choosing)

1.  Salt the water and cook pasta according to package directions.  Toss the frozen peas in for the final three minutes of cooking.  If the boil is seriously disrupted by the addition of the frozen peas, add a minute to the cooking time so that the pasta is cooked to al dente.

2.  While the pasta is cooking, slice the chicken sausage and saute it in a pan.

pasta3

3.  Drain the pasta and peas when they are done boiling.

pasta2

4.  Add them to the pan with the sausage and mix in the alfredo sauce.  Heat through and serve.

{Random note:  The second time I made this I used some homemade alfredo sauce I had cooked up and thrown in my freezer in order to use some cream from my fridge before it went bad.  And oh my goodness…if you have cream you’re struggling to use up, make yourself some alfredo.)

Wondering what I’m doing here?  Learn more about the idea behind Surviving Dinner.

Yes, Things Will Change

place setting

For the longest time, I resisted the idea that having children meant things would change in our family.  Everything would be the same, but with a baby.

And after my firstborn arrived, it was true.  We still did stuff.  We went places.  We ate in restaurants.  We drove long distances.  We took airplanes.  We camped.  And, sure enough, there was a little more work involved (and I was definitely more tired!) but our lifestyle didn’t change much.

We attributed our son’s easygoing personality and flexibility to the fact that we toted him around everywhere (hahahahaha) and didn’t allow our world to become child-centric.  He was simply this little person who joined our family and came along for the ride.

And then he grew and things got busier.  And then his sister arrived and I got tired.  Instead of just jumping in and doing stuff we started thinking, Is this worth all the effort to pack up the kids in the car and leave the house?  And most of the time, the answer was still “yes.”

But as time has gone on, activity has snowballed.  Jobs, projects, housekeeping activities, friends, sports, kids’ friends, hobbies, school stuff, family activities, scheduling…the list goes on.

Actually, the list keeps getting longer.

So much of the working motherhood discussion refers to “having it all” and “doing it all.”  Thankfully, by this time many have rejected that ridiculous notion, but I know that there are still some women out there trying to figure out how to make it all work.

So today I’ll tell you why you can’t.

It’s because after children, life has to change, and there’s no getting around it.  It might not happen right away, but it sneaks up on you over time and eventually there are things that must be given up.

And sometimes that sucks, and sometimes it doesn’t.

Think about it.  You know the proverbial plate that gets full?  Envision that for a second.  Your plate, it is full.

And then you add a baby and your laundry duties get a little bit bigger.  A teeny bit gets added to your plate. 

And then they start eating solids and your cooking duties get a little more complicated.  Another small addition.

And then you get to stop washing bottles, but that activity is replaced by reorganizing the cabinet your toddler loves to tear apart every night.  Another addition.

And you still have your hobbies, and your workouts, and your projects, and your marriage, and all those other truly good things.

And you still have your job.

Things keep getting added to your plate, but nothing comes off.  Envision your plate again.  It was full to begin with, but now it’s fuller.  {Is that a word?  I don’t care.  You get the idea.}

Mama, you can’t keep this up.  Your plate needs more room.

So, it’s with regret that I finally admit to you that life must change after children.  But here’s the good news:

You get to choose how!

It’s time to take control over your plate and your portions.  You get to choose what to take off and what to keep on.  Some things might be no-brainers or non-negotiable.  But other things might be harder to hold on to or relinquish.  It might not be easy, but it’s something you have to do in order to keep from getting burned out and overwhelmed with life.

Whatever you do, make it intentional.  Check your plate every now and then.  Otherwise you’ll look up in a …

Last-Minute Christmas Gifts for Co-Workers: DIY Spice Blends

Last Minute Christmas Gifts for Co-WorkersThis is totally not a guilt trip.  If you don’t give holiday gifts to your co-workers, that’s totally fine with me.  I never did, either, until this year when I got a little breathing room in my schedule.

See, my love language isn’t gifts.  And I think Dr. Chapman said that you expend a lot of your own energy naturally focusing on trying to speak your own love language to others because that’s just the way you were made.  So since my love language isn’t receiving gifts, gift-giving isn’t necessarily my strong suit, and when cute little packages or envelopes or chocolates show up on my desk on that final working day before the holiday reprieve, I usually think, “Oh, crap.  I’m so thoughtless.  I can’t believe I didn’t do anything this year, either.” but you can always give your wife gift of new painted kitchen as gift.

So just in case you want to pull a little something off for your co-workers, here’s a simple, inexpensive, and practical idea that you can throw together this weekend – just in time to give them out next week.

Give the gift of time!  Surprise your co-workers with pre-mixed spice blends to give them an easy night of cooking.  I’m even sending one of these off to my son’s teacher.

spice blend

Christmas Gift Spice Blends

I scaled up the spices to two of my fave easy weeknight recipes, bought small storage containers, packaged them in inexpensive holiday gift bags, and included recipe instructions.  Each little container contains enough spices for two meals for a total of four no-fuss dinners for my colleagues.  Some are working moms, some aren’t, but everybody appreciates a little cooking shortcut!

Fajita Spice Blend (makes 16 servings/8 gifts)

  • 24 tsp. cumin
  • 8 tsp. oregano
  • 4 tsp. each salt, cayenne pepper, and black pepper
  • 2 tsp. each garlic powder and onion powder

Crock Pot Chicken Spice Blend (makes blend for 16 chickens/8 gifts)

  • 32 tsp. paprika
  • 16 tsp. each salt, onion powder, and thyme
  • 8 tsp. garlic powder
  • 4 tsp. each cayenne pepper and black pepper

Combine spices for each recipe in a large bowl.  Portion them out among 8 small storage containers.  Include cooking instructions (click photo for a PDF printable which includes 5 recipe cards on one sheet).

spice blend giftsDo you exchange gifts with your co-workers?  If so, what are you planning to give them this year?