I Am A Broken Record

Parenting sometimes feels the same as a broken record--always repeating ourselves.  But who's learning more: our kids or us?

As parents, it’s our responsibility to teach our children right from wrong, up from down, left from right, true from false and the right way to put the toilet paper on the roll.  Our children come to us as these perfect little humans, completely dependent on us for their care.  We wash them, clothe them, feed them, change their diapers, wipe their face and hands, rescue them from sticking foreign objects in their mouth and the list goes on.  We are rewarded with crying, fussing, being spit up on and peed on.  Maybe even at the same time.  It’s a tireless job and a thankless one.  Our days seem to be on repeat.

One day, something changes and your little person does something new–cutting a tooth, smiling at you, reaching for a toy, giving you baby kisses (aka slobbering on you with their mouth open).  Each new milestone is exciting and we tell everyone we meet about it.  And then life resumes and we adjust our schedule or move the plant that used to be safe on the floor but isn’t now because your munchkin figured out how to crawl.  But more than anything, your days seems to be on repeat.
Fast forward and your sweet baby is learning to talk.  The first time we hear “mama” or “dada” we swear it is the most beautiful sound in the world and we’ll do anything it takes to get our kiddos to repeat it over and over again.  Really embarrassing things.  But it’s totally worth it to hear them say the word.  Somehow, it’s validation for all the long nights and early mornings we’ve endured because it feels like they are recognizing us by calling us “mama” or “dada”.  Every day is new, but many things remain the same, as if on repeat.

Soon enough, our children learn that words mean something and they can have an effect on the world around them by using those words.  Words like “please” and “thank you” are part of their vocabulary due to constantly saying them each time you give them something or receive something in return, be it a flower, a rock or a half chewed grape.  But the same cute voice that we used to beg to say “mama” also says “no!” and “mine!” much more often than we’d like.  And we’re back to repeating ourselves that we need to be nice and not yell.  Always repeating.

Another child enters the picture, be it a sibling, a cousin, a friend, a classmate or some random kid on the playground.  We listen with our keen parenting ears for signs of discord.  We ask ourselves if we’ve taught them right.  To play nicely.  To not push or yell or bite.  To take turns.  When they aren’t in our immediate care, the same questions roll through our minds.  We do our best to be nearby to adjust the situation, to remind them of the rules, to please, please “find a way to play together”.  (Thank you Daniel Tiger.)  We feel as though we are talking all day long, but there’s not much variation on the words that come out of our mouths, as though we are on constant repeat.

Our days are long.  Our nights are short.  No one told us that raising a human being would require so much energy.  So much self-control to not scream when your child has asked the same. blasted. question. for the fifth time in as many minutes.  No one told us how sick and tired we would get of hearing the ABCs, no matter how many variations there are of it on Sesame Street.  And no one told us that life as a stay-at-home mom would be so repetitive.

We are not perfect, you and I.  We mess up sometimes.  Okay, a lot of the time.  We yell at our kids more than we mean to or get frustrated when they don’t remember the answer to a question.  But do you know what?  We need the repetition as much as they do.  We learn to become more patient, more kind, more grateful.  Just like we are doing our best to teach our children, they are teaching us too.  Our kids keep letting us try again to do better–to be better–day after day, week after week, month after month and yes, year after year.  As hard and as frustrating as it is, repetition is how we learn.  How we all learn.  Through repetition.

So, yes.  I am a broken record.  And I’m grateful for it.

10 Things Motherhood Has Taught Me

10 Things Motherhood Has Taught Me

Mother’s Day is coming up this weekend and like many women out there, it’s given me some time to reflect and think about my own mother as well as my experiences with being a mother myself.  Today, I’m sharing some things I’ve learned in the four years and four months since I became a mother.

You are a walking dictionary/thesaurus
One of the goals I had when I became a parent was to help my children have a good vocabulary.  What I didn’t know when I made this goal was that by doing so I was also going to become and walking-talking dictionary and thesaurus.  All day long I hear, “Mom, what does (fill-in-the-blank) mean?”  I can’t even count how many times a day I hear these words.  It’s almost become second nature for me to listen to what I say and anticipate when my kids will ask what a words means.  I always giggle to myself when my kids, mostly my daughter (age 4), asks my husband what something means and he has a hard time explaining it in a way she’ll understand.  He doesn’t get quite the same amount of practice that I do. *wink*  As frustrating as it can be at times, I’m grateful that my kids are curious and want to know what words mean and about the world around them.

No matter how hard you try, you will still yell at your kids sometimes
I never though of myself as a yeller.  I still don’t.  But there are days when being a parent is HARD and instead of patience and understanding, I yell.  And then I feel horrible as I watch my children’s faces crumple up and tears well up in their eyes.  *sigh*  I wish someone had told me that there would be days where I would yell at my kids.  The worst is when you yell at them and then find out they were trying to be nice or thoughtful.  I’ve learned that kids are so quick to forgive and I’m grateful to them for that.

10 Things Motherhood Has Taught Me

Your food is not your own
See that plate in front of you?  The food on it isn’t actually yours.  It’s your kids.  At least that’s what they think.  Maybe we’ve conditioned them to think that, since from the time they are young we give them little bites of food from our plate.  Regardless, it seems rare to go through a meal without at least one child asking for some of the food or drink in front of us when we clearly have the same thing in front of us that they do in front of them.  And that chocolate you’ve been hiding?  Forget about it.  Kids have superior hearing and smell when it comes to all things sugar so you better lock it up tight and don’t even think about eating it until you’re sure you’re alone.

Kids are gross
There will be a point (read: many points) where you have to clean up really gross stuff.  If your child has ever exploded out of their diaper, spit up down your shirt, or thrown up right into your outstretched hands, you know what I’m talking about.  There is nothing that could have prepared me for this part of parenting.  Sure, I knew it was there.  People talk about it.  I wasn’t totally naive.  But if I stop and think about some of the gross things I’ve had to clean up…*shudder*

You are your kids hero
As a mother, I make mistakes every. single. day.  I think it goes without saying that no one is perfect.  I’ve had many days when my kids will come up to me and give me a big hug for no reason and say “I love you” or “Mommy, you’re my best friend.”  That.  That right there gives me a little boost to do better and be better because these little people are counting on me.

10 Things Motherhood Has Taught Me

Your love will grow every single day
There are some things in life that you just won’t fully understand until you experience them yourself (and maybe not even then).  I think being a mother is one of those things.  I remember growing up and hearing my parents say, “You’ll understand when you become a parent.”  And I do.  It’s incredible to me that if I think back to the day each of my kids were born, I know that I love them more today than I did then.

Some days you won’t like your kid(s)
On the other hand, there will be days that you just plain don’t like your kid(s).  I’ve had a few of these.  They are usually the days where one or both of my kids are being naughty or talking back or doing any other number of things that frustrate me.  I sometimes think of the movie How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days when Andie and Ben have just broken up and Andie is leaving his apartment and Ben comes running after and suggests couple therapy.  And then Andie says, “I love you, but right now I don’t like you.”  That’s how I feel about my kids some days.

Hearing your children laugh is magic
I really believe that there are few sounds as magical as hearing my children laugh.  Whether it’s because they are being tickled or chased around the house or they are just playing together, I love hearing their laughter.  I wish I could bottle it up and save it for rainy days.

10 Things Motherhood Has Taught Me

A completely clean house is a myth
Keeping my house clean when I have little kids is basically impossible.  I’ve learned I have to settle for certain parts of my house to be clean at different times.  Right now, the kids bathroom and bedroom are clean, but the kitchen and living room are a mess.  Other days, the basement is spotless but my bedroom looks like a tornado just came through.  Just as I get something cleaned up, the kids will pull it out.  It’s like the definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.  However, the house does stay a bit cleaner now that I have a chore chart for my daughter.  Even my son likes to help with putting dishes away or vacuuming under the kitchen table after a meal.

They are observant
I am amazed again and again at how observant my kids are.  Not to mention, my daughter has the memory of an elephant.  Kids truly learn by example and they copy my husband and I in everything we do and say.  They keep us accountable.  It’s always a little funny when my daughter reminds my husband that we “don’t say that word (i.e. stupid, dumb, butt)” or my son points to a chair and asks us to “sit, sit” as we eat our food.

When all is said and done, I wouldn’t trade being a mother for anything in the world.  My kids are wonderful, kind, smart, sweet, thoughtful and curious.  They bring out the best (and worst) in me and remind me that I can always try again to be better.

I hope you all have a wonderful Mother’s Day!

Gift Guide: Parents and Grandparents

Gift Guide: Parents and Grandparents--great list of all types of gifts for parents and grandparents that they will love!

Trying to find meaningful gifts for parents and grandparents is tough, mainly because in many cases, they could purchase the things they want or need.  So what do you give them?  Most gifts fall into two categories: tangible/physical gifts and consumable gifts.  I’ve compiled lists from both categories that will hopefully help you find the perfect gift for your parents/grandparents.

Tangible/Physical Gifts

  • Heartfelt Letter or Poem : Taking some time to write a letter or poem is probably one of my favorite gifts to give.  It is also one of my favorite gifts to receive.  I have a stash of letters and poems from family and friends that I like to pull out on rough days to read and remind me of the love others have for me.
    Gift Guide: Parents and Grandparents--great list of all types of gifts for parents and grandparents that they will love!
    Image from O Jolie Designs
  • Custom Jewelry/Keepsakes : Last year for Christmas, I participated in a sibling group gift to my step-mom for a custom necklace with all of the grandkids names and birthstones on it.  My step-mom loves it and wears it regularly.  There are so many awesome Etsy shops out there that offer all types of custom jewelry, keychains, engraved wallet cards, etc.  One of my favorite Etsy shops for hand stamped jewelry and keepsakes is O Jolie Designs.
  • Supplies/Accessories for Hobbies : Sometimes the easiest way to figure out a gift is by using a theme.  And what better theme than a hobby?  One year my husband and I got my dad some nice microfiber clothes and cleaning supplies for his restored Chevy.  It wasn’t anything unique or expensive but he liked it and it was something we knew he’d use.
  • Combine with Siblings : If you don’t have the resources to give a nicer/more expensive gift, consider going in on it with your siblings.  Adults are going to be happier with a gift that means something to them as opposed to having multiple gifts. I’ve done this many times and I’ve never been disappointed in the receiver’s reaction.
  • Handmade Items : As someone who crafts, I really enjoy making things to give as gifts.  I’ve given crocheted hot pads and blankets, embroidered pillows, wood signs, scrapbooks and various other items.  I feel like even though the gift itself isn’t necessarily unique, the time that I spend making it, makes it unique and meaningful.  If you don’t feel that you have the crafting skills necessary to make something, you could always ask someone you know for help, look at tutorials or order it through a small business site, such as Etsy.
  • Pictures/Photo Gifts : I feel like one of the most requested gifts from me are pictures.  My parents, in-laws and grandparents are always asking for updated family pictures and pictures of the kids.  One of my grandmas that I don’t see very often has a grandchild photo wall, so every year for Christmas I give her an updated picture to put in her frame.  When giving a photo gift, I always make sure to buy a frame that fits the receiver’s individual style, even if it’s not my own.

Consumable Gifts

  • Gift Cards/Certificates : Gift cards and gift certificates are awesome because in many cases, they allow you to give a better gift at a savings to you.  I like using sites like Groupon, Living Social and Amazon Local.  I’ve found great deals on massages, restaurants, air vent cleaning services, etc.  I’ve signed up on their email list and there have been times where I’ve looked at them for ideas when I haven’t known what to give.
    Gift Guide: Parents and Grandparents--great list of all types of gifts for parents and grandparents that they will love!
    My kids at the aquarium with my mom
  • Experiences :  Making memories through shared experiences is one of my favorite gifts to give.  We’ve gone to concerts, seen Christmas lights, visited the zoo and the aquarium, just to name a few.  The time spent together is precious and the memories are carried around for a long time.
  • Acts of Service : As a kid, I remember giving my parents “coupon books” with coupons for cleaning the windows, vacuuming the floor, doing the dishes, free hugs and kisses, etc.  I think you could put this same type of gift into practice for parents and grandparents by helping them clean out their garage or basement, trimming back trees/bushes in their yard or sorting through old pictures and organizing them.  The list of ways you could give service to a parent or grandparent are endless.
  • Donations to a Charity or Organization :  A few years ago, my husband’s family decided that for Christmas each year we would donate resources, such as money and/or food, to someone in need rather than exchanging presents with each other.  This has turned out to be a great way to honor his parents and show our appreciation for all they do for us throughout the year.  Another option would be to donate to a charity or organization that is special to your parent(s) or grandparent(s) on their behalf.

I hope this list of ideas will help get the wheels turning in your head for some great gifts!

What other gifts do you like to give to parents and grandparents?