This. That. Mom.

Some of this and some of that. Musings of an ordinary mom.

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This is me.

This is me, at 2 or 3: perfectly happy, perfectly upside-down. Blissfully not knowing that anything is wrong in the world.

This is me, at 8 or 9: loving Little House on the Prairie; learning to play tennis; afraid I will have to go to listening and math centers for the rest of my life. Not knowing that my kids will someday go to the same school.

This is me, in middle school: playing in the band; running cross country horribly; worried about fitting in; hanging out at high school football games. Not knowing that one of the football players would become my husband.

This is me, at 18: graduating from high school; heading to St Mary of the Woods; majoring in education. Not knowing I would hate it.

This is me, at 20: getting married; pregnant; going to IUPUI; feeling a bit lost. Not knowing that we’d be welcoming many more babies; that at 30, I’d be pregnant and going to IUPUI.

This is me, at 25: having the kids Baptized; expecting Luke; pulling weeds; dancing with babies in the kitchen. Not knowing that I’d be joining groups, driving carpools, helping with school projects, losing my battle with the laundry.

This is me, at 27: staying home with the kids and loving it; driving kids to and from practice and dance and watching them thrive; learning at the dinner table about the people they are becoming. Not knowing I’d be eulogizing my dad, and RG would be out of work.

This is me, at 30: still in love with that football player; still losing that battle with the laundry; still learning about my kids; still missing my dad; still trying to take a decent picture; still dancing with babies and taking deep sighs over the kitchen sink; still figuring out what I want to be when I grow up; still dreaming.

20140513-215449.jpgphoto credit Mike Washington photography

Not knowing what I’m not knowing.
And looking forward to finding out.

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what This That Mom wants for Mother’s Day

Besides, of course, a million dollars, five minutes of silence, and a chance to use the bathroom ALONE.

I don’t know what other moms want for Mother’s Day – but I am a mom, and I know what I want:

I want to be known. And I want to be loved.

I want assurances that I am doing more right things than wrong things – that I’m helping my children more than I’m hurting them. I want to hear that my mistakes are okay; that I don’t have to be perfect.

I want acknowledgement that I am trying my best at this whole mothering thing – even when I’m tired, and even when I’m mad, and even when I just don’t know if I can do it anymore. And I want to hear that it’s admirable to try my best, even on the days when my best isn’t very good. Especially on those days.

I want to believe that folded laundry and organized Tupperware cabinets aren’t measures of success – or lack of it.

I want to get credit for my thoughts, not just my actions. I want the time I spend looking out my kitchen window, thinking of and praying for my kids, to find itself a place in response to the question, “What did you do today?”

I want to have room in my heart for all the times of the past, all the things happening right now, and all those yet to come – I want to parent past-mindedly, present-mindfully, and future-mindfully. And that means I need a bigger heart, so I want that, too.

I want to zoom out and see where I fit in the big picture; to understand where we’re coming from and where we’re going. I want to see into the future and know that our children and their children will be in it, prospering.

All these things that I want for Mother’s Day are going to have to wait. Because while I’m still celebrating here on Earth, I won’t meet the One who can calm my fears, give me assurances, and really know my heart – at least not face-to-face.

And so I listen to the ones closest to Him: the ones who gift me jewelry from my own dresser, wipe their noses on my skirts, keep me company in the bathroom. The ones who cry about eating their dinner, don’t want to pick up their toys, stamp their feet about taking a bath.

They don’t judge me by my laundry or cluttered cabinets. They remind me of the memories that I have forgotten and make me promises about the future and the grandchildren in it. They think I’m beautiful, and that I can solve any problem. They missed me before they were born, when they were still in Heaven, they tell me. They forgive me when I let them down. They accept me for who I am, even when they don’t like it.

And that’s what I want for Mother’s Day. That, and also the five minutes of silence.

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Thank you isn’t good for teachers.

Thank you is important. So important that every time that I hand something to our 13-month-old, I say, “Thank you.” And every time he hands something to me, I say, “Thank you.” With an exaggerated smile. So that he learns that “thank you” = good.

Good when someone holds the door for you.
Good when someone passes you the salt.
Gives you a card.
Makes you dinner.
Puts the Legos into the box, not just on top.

But thank you isn’t so good for teachers.

For teachers who compliment Anne Marie on making her own ponytail or choosing to wear leg warmers over regular pants.
For teachers who listen to Bobby tell the same baseball stories over and over.
For teachers who coax the best work out of Mathew when he’s in a bad mood.
Who educate the kids about so much more than phonics.
Who patiently answer my questions even though the answers are probably in the newsletter that I can’t find.
Who sacrifice time with their own children to help mine.
Who would protect my children with their very lives if needed.

Thank you seems a bit um, paltry. So, instead of “thank you,” I say, “I pledge.”

I pledge to support legislation that helps you do your job.

I pledge to try my darnedest to send in that frappucino bottle, that purple yarn, that unicorn tail that you really need for a project.

I pledge to believe that what you are doing furthers the curriculum.

I pledge to not believe everything our kids say about you.

I pledge to look the other way when you make typos in your newsletters and emails.

I pledge to listen to you when you have a concern about our kids.

I pledge to only allow our kids to bring half of the posters/cards/jewelry/pencil holders they make you.

I pledge to appeal to the school board on your behalf.

I pledge to always give you the benefit of the doubt when talking to other parents.

And I pledge to show our kids that teachers are to be respected above all other professions, even when society tells us otherwise.

And also, thank you.

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Always, Sometimes, Never: Menu for the Week #5

One of our sanity-saving food observations over the last ten years has been the classification of foods into the categories of Always, Sometimes, and Never (and not the Sesame-Street-type categories):

“Always” – a food the children will eat even if they are full. Examples: fruit, chocolate, steak, yogurt, roast chicken, tacos, homemade chicken nuggets, baked potatoes, bacon, eggs, cheese, nuts, any kind of doughy carbohydrate.

“Sometimes” – a food the children will eat if they are hungry enough, trying to earn a dessert, or in a good mood. Examples: meatloaf, leafy green vegetables, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, casseroles, never-seen-before foods, fish.

“Never” – a food that the children would not choose over going to bed hungry. Examples: shrimp, tuna, mushrooms.

We use these unofficial classifications of food (designated by years of kid reactions) to help encourage the kids to eat the way that we think they should be eating. When the kids are waiting for dinner and are “starving,” we offer Sometimes Foods to snack on, and when we serve them their first plate of food (the kids eat one plate of food that we serve them, then may have seconds of whatever they would like), we fill it with Sometimes Foods. 

Healthy Always Foods are served after the kids eat their Sometimes Foods. Nuts, cheese, yogurt and fruit are usually reserved for school lunches, when we’re not available to supervise the kids’ eating. We also serve fruit as dessert after dinner. As I mentioned last week, breads, pastas and treats are saved for treats. 

As for the Never Foods. . . . we don’t prepare them often. If all six kids gag on a food, cry about a food or would prefer to go to bed without eating over trying it, we save that food for Date Night (or, as with mushrooms, save it for Sisters Night). Every once in a while, we encourage the kids to give it a try, but we don’t push it. We fight plenty of battles here, and we choose to let that one go. Luckily, that list of foods is short and getting shorter all the time. But you probably won’t be seeing shrimp on our weekly dinner menus anytime in the near future.

Dinner for the Week.

Monday: Cauliflower and Sausage Casserole and Brussels Sprouts

Tuesday: Spinach Quinoa “Mac and Cheese” and Salad

Wednesday: Lemon Chicken and Rice and Green Beans 

Thursday: Salmon Cakes and Lemonade Broccoli

Friday: Cashew Waffles and fruit salad

Saturday: Bacon-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin and Sweet and Crunchy Brussels Sprouts

Do your kids have Never Foods that you choose not to prepare?

What’s for dinner at your house this week?

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Don’t Tell Me.

Information is good. For knowing things. Except for when I just don’t want to know.

Like, if everyone else’s living room is totally clean right now, don’t tell me.

If other moms are ironing work pants and laying out school clothes,
don’t tell me.

If I should be reading books about potty-training and disciplining,
don’t tell me.

If my yard is a problem because of all the dandelions,
don’t tell me.

If our kids should be drinking whole milk instead of reduced-fat,
don’t tell me.

If the tooth fairy always visits some kids on the first night after they lose a tooth,
don’t tell me.

If you didn’t lose patience with your kids today,
don’t tell me.

If your kids never whine, never complain, never argue,
don’t tell me.

Because I don’t want to know.

I want to trust my gut, which tells me that the kids are doing fine, that we are doing fine. That we are happy and fulfilled and enough.

And sometimes that means putting my hands over my ears and scrunching my eyes closed and saying, “nah-nah-nah-nah-nahnahnah” to shut out all of the experts and the articles and the Pins and the information that tells me that we’re not.

And sitting on the couch, in our messy living room inside a yard full of dandelions, under a blanket with our messy, whiny, imperfect children. . . somehow perfectly content.


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Are We What We Eat? Meals for the Week #4

There is a fascination today with the way that people eat. It becomes more than the food that they put into their mouths – it’s a way of defining them. People don’t “eat paleo,” they “are paleo.” They don’t “eat vegetarian,” they “are vegetarian.” Food has a lot of power!

I’ve gotten a few questions about the way that we eat, so I wanted to sum up our food philosophy.


Okay, that’s not really a food philosophy. What I mean to say is that we try to keep it in perspective.

Generally speaking, we like to avoid the non-food-stuffs found in processed products and concentrate on the ‘pros’ – produce, protein, and probiotics. We generally don’t eat bread or pasta (once a month, maybe?), not because we’re gluten-free, but because we just think that stomach space is better occupied with vegetables and fruits. Same goes for breakfast cereal – we eat it sometimes, but we usually have eggs, oatmeal or green smoothies because we think they’re better fuel (not to mention that our kids never seem to get full from eating cereal).

We use a lot of Paleo recipes because we like that they use fresh ingredients and don’t rely on sugar or flour. We also try to eat meatless twice per week, which is a challenge for us but getting easier. The kids usually have one or two servings of dairy per day (one serving of yogurt for probiotics and either cheese or a glass of milk).

But sometimes the pizza delivery guy stops by our house, and sometimes we go out for burgers. When we are guests at someone’s home, we happily eat whatever they’re serving. The kids get to choose what we eat for dinner on their birthdays, and they almost exclusively choose pasta and NO VEGETABLES.

And it’s a good place for us. RG and I feel good about the fuel that the kids are putting into their bodies, and it’s a manageable system that lets us keep food in perspective. And the treats are so much well, TREATIER than they were before! For example, these Easter pancakes were like fluffy pillows of deliciousness straight from Heaven.



We’re having pasta this week (kids will be thrilled!). Also, “dad omelets” are exactly what they sound like – omelets made by dad. RG likes to cook, too, and getting him in the kitchen when his schedule allows has been great for the kids to see. It helps us present a united front about the food we’re serving, and it’s awesome for me to take a night off from handling dinner questions/comments/concerns. He usually makes dinner once a week, typically on the weekend. I don’t make the bacon-wrapped chicken bites often because they take a lot of prep (one of my recipe criteria), but they are the kids’ favorite food of all time – I’ll try to prep them the night before. Also, if you make the coconut milk chicken, be sure to save a little coconut milk for the fish sticks (no half-wasted ingredients – that’s another one of my criteria).

Dinners for the Week

Monday: orange chicken and vegetable stir fry

Tuesday: chicken-bacon bites and green beans

Wednesday: quinoa pasta with cauliflower alfredo sauce and salad

Thursday: coconut milk chicken and balsamic Brussels sprouts

Friday: dad omelets and cold veggies

Saturday: fish sticks and coleslaw



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A Letter to New Moms

I was thinking about you today, and I got a little worried. I worry about new moms because well, in case you haven’t noticed, being a new mom is hard.

There are all of these hormones and emotions and sleepless nights and questions and advice flying around, and it can be overwhelming. At least, it was for me when we brought our first son home from the hospital.

And then, sometimes a genuinely well-meaning older mom says something like, “Oh, just you wait, honey! You think you’re busy now. . . ” or maybe, “Enjoy it while it lasts – the time goes so fast!” And they mean it to be encouraging, but maybe you think, “Excuse me, but I feel pretty busy right now” or maybe, “I would enjoy it more if I wasn’t so tired.” At least, I did when I was a new mom. That’s a lot of pressure!

So, in case you’re sitting with your little baby in the quiet of the night, feeling a little detached from the person you were before, I want to tell you:

You are doing a good job. It’s not easy what you’re doing!

You will sleep again, someday. All night, even. It will be awesome.

You will mess up. It will be okay. God knew you weren’t perfect, and He trusted you with that tiny, defenseless baby anyway. He expects you to make mistakes.

It’s alright to call your pediatrician in the middle of the night. Some parents recommend interviewing potential pediatricians; I recommend calling them frantically in the middle of the night and asking them panicked questions. If you’re not comfortable doing that, it’s not the right pediatrician.

Other moms will never judge you as harshly as you judge yourself – even the perfectly-dressed mom at preschool drop-off. Give yourself a break – even if you’re in your slippers.

You will have hard days and hard nights. Those are not the same as bad days and bad nights – they can still be good, they’re just um, harder.

Your baby will probably make you mad or frustrate you at some point. Then you may feel guilty about feeling mad at something so tiny. Then you’ll get over it. It’s a cycle. And it’s understandable – they can be maddening.

No one in the history of the world will ever know as much about your baby as you do. You are the leading expert in this subject. Take comfort in that, no matter what kind of advice you get.

You are mothering. This is it – you’re doing it! Don’t give up now; just keep swimming. Keep pedaling. Keep feeding and patting and changing and worrying.

Also, even if your husband honestly believes that waking up from hearing the baby cry in the night makes him as tired as you are from actually getting up in the night to take care of the crying baby. . . all the moms in the world know he’s not.

Carry on, moms.