Tag Archives: mommy blog

ONLY Three Kids–One Author’s Story

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A couple weeks ago, I sat in a hard chair at a book signing event, trying to get people to come talk to me. Finally a man came over and asked what my book, How to Have Peace When You’re Falling to Pieces, was about. I told him it was about motherhood and overcoming the feelings of guilt, stress, and inadequacy that many moms face every day. 

“How many kids do you have?” he asked.

“Three,” I said proudly.

He gave me a funny look. “Only three?”

I knew exactly what he was thinking. There are books out there by mothers of eight, ten, and even twelve children. Now those are the books you want to read. Those moms must have it all together, right? They know all the tricks and secrets to motherhood, after raising so many kids. So why would you buy a book by a mother of three? 

And that, my friends, is my point. 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked to other women who have said, “I know we ONLY have four, but I just can’t handle more than four. Do you think that’s selfish?”  Or, “My mom had eight kids. I’m going out of my mind with five! I don’t know how she did that. I want to be a good mom, but I just don’t think I can handle another one.”

I live in Utah, where sometimes it feels like the number of kids you have is the familial equivalent to the brand of car (or minivan) you drive. In some peoples’ eyes, children are like pets, cute little collections that you play with during the day and then lock up at night–adorable little faces that you dress up on Sundays and parade around the neighborhood on family walks. Then we go home and struggle with back-talk and natural consequences and messiness and chore lists, and wonder where we went wrong.

We live in a very different culture here. In many ways, it’s not “how many kids do you and your husband want?” It’s more like, “What’s the maximum amount of kids you can juggle and keep alive?” And frequently, you add one or two more on top of that.

I’m being a little tongue-in-cheek here, but seriously. In other states, ONLY three kids would be above the national average. It would mean that each one was wanted, raised, loved, and cared for. Each is a person with a personality and dreams. I may ONLY have three kids, but you’d better believe they’re my world, not just numbers. When did adding to a family become an Olympic event, or a status symbol?

Does a mom of ONLY three kids know any less about her children than a mother of eight? Does a mom of ONLY three kids not experience pain, guilt, stress, and overwhelming love? At what point is a woman eligible to share what she’s learned on her journey–when her kids are in college, or when she’s still on the rocky road of parenthood, taking notes as she goes and trying to lift others?

At what point does the ONLY go away? 

My children are still young, and yes, there are ONLY three of them. I’m sure we’ll have more someday (and no, it’s not really everyone’s business). But I believe that every mom, whether she has one child or ten, whether she works or not, and whether she’s single or married, experiences the same bleary-eyed, sleepless shock of a new baby. Every mom knows how it feels to wake up, force a smile, and begin the arduous mountain climb of motherhood all over again. It would sure be nice if moms felt comfortable expressing their feelings about motherhood with each other, instead of comparing number of kids and ages and deciding who’s a “good” mom and who’s not. It would sure be nice if we could help and pull each other along, able to rely on other people instead of feeling so alone.

I hope it happens someday. I hope that women who read my book feel that way. I really do hope that moms understand how important and rewarding their job is, regardless of the hard stuff–because each child is a person, not a number, and ONLY three is a pretty dang good job.

So the next time someone looks at me and says, “Only three?” I’ll smile and say “Yep!” And then I’ll ask about their own children, because that’s probably what they really want to talk about anyway.

Do you have any thoughts? Please comment below. 

10 Symptoms: You Know You’re a Mom When…

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I love Jeff Foxworthy’s “Redneck”clips so much that I wanted to give them a little twist. So here you go, for your reading enjoyment:

You know you’re a mom when…

1) You have a secret candy stash–and not even your husband knows about it.

2) You run to the bathroom, lock the door, and cover your ears to avoid the sudden wailing and catastrophes that indefinitely occur while you do your business.

3) You have a stack of parenting books you intend to read, bills you intend to pay, diet recipes you intend to follow, and Pinterest projects you intend to try someday–like, ten years from now. Hey, it’s the thought that counts, right?

4) You adore your kids the most when they’re gone or asleep.

5) You wake up tired and go to bed awake.

6) When the house suddenly gets quiet, you leap up in panic mode.

7) You can sleep through the snoring, earthquakes, and the zombie apocalypse, but jerk awake at the tiniest whimper of a child.

8) A homemade dinner consisting of a vegetable and protein is Hollywood-Walk-of-Fame worthy. (Wait, are you saying it’s not?)

9) If a child walks out the door in matching shoes and clean clothing (never mind the wrinkles), you are Mother of the Year. Seriously.

10) You use Clorox wipes nearly everywhere–not because you’re a clean freak, but because the smell gives the illusion that you’ve spent the day cleaning. 

Can you think of another one? Write a comment below. Check out my mom quiz or my book, How to Have Peace When You’re Falling to Pieces, for fun parenting and writing content. Thanks for reading.

3 Powerful Rules for Raising a Grateful Child

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“Mommy, I want one, too,” my five year-old said as he watched me give a piece of toast to his big sister. I resisted the urge to correct his manners and whipped it up. When I set it front of him, his mouth turned into a pout and he said, “No! I wanted a bigger one.”

Does this sound familiar? This happened just this morning, and when he said it, I knew I had to write a blog post about it.

The thing is, I’ve taught them manners since infancy. I’ve read them the manners books. I’ve enforced the “magic word” and insisted on gratitude. I even model good manners, hoping they’ll pay attention. But after that scenario this morning, I did some good, hard thinking and realized that I needed something bigger–the “big guns” of anti-spoiling parenthood. So I did a little research and found three powerful rules to curb that sense of entitlement and ingratitude. I hope they help you as much as (I hope!) they’ll help me:

Rule #1: Set expectations.

In one of the articles I read, the parents called each errand day a “look” day or a “buy” day. If it was a “look” day, they were just window shopping, and the kids knew in advance not to ask for anything. If it was a “buy” day, they knew to bring their money because they’d be allowed to make purchases. That way, they weren’t constantly setting their hearts on objects and expecting treats. Setting expectations in advance can be a great teaching tool.

Expectations should also be clear at home. In our house, respect is the number one rule. My kids (usually–but not today, apparently!) know to begin their requests with “Please may I have…” or “Thank you for…”

Each member of my family must follow the respect rule, even the parents. I’ve sent myself to my room before. It wasn’t the punishment my kids thought it was–I think I pulled out a book–but it did show my kid that respect is something that everyone should give. Even Mommy.

Rule #2: Serve others–and make it fun.

I know. This one sounds like a sermon, but really, kids are pretty eager to serve other people when they’re young (unless it involves chores and Mom). One year at Christmastime, we passed a tree in the mall called “The Giving Tree,” decorated with ornaments of children who needed gifts that year. My daughter asked what it was, and I told her (a complicated task, considering that I had to explain why Santa brought some kids gifts, and not others). She was quiet for a long time. Finally she said, “Can we give them the money from my piggy bank? I don’t really need it.” We didn’t follow through with it–we made if a family project instead–but for that moment, she stepped out of herself and her wants, in exchange for someone else’s needs and wants. Hurray!

It doesn’t have to involve a huge sacrifice, though. It can be fun. My six year-old niece decided to draw pictures and set up an art stand outside her house. She sold her pictures to neighbors for 3 cents each and gave the money to Primary Children’s Hospital. It was a great way to combine something she loved with helping others (and frankly, her mom didn’t have to find a place for all her art. Definitely a win-win).

Oh, yeah. One more thing. My kids love making thank-you notes. It’s a good way to help them recognize the efforts of others, but still have fun creating something. And what grandparent can’t resist a thank-you note with greasy fingerprints and baby slobber all over it? I mean, come on. Priceless.

Rule #3: Teach them about the less privileged.

I talk about this a little in my book, How to Have Peace When You’re Falling to Pieces, but I worked in a Romanian orphanage for a few months in college. The children I served were the ones with physical and mental disabilities, the ones no one would ever consider adoptable. They were ignored all day until meal time, during which they had food shoved down their throats in record time. They were never potty trained, and since the orphanage couldn’t afford diapers, the orphans did their business in wadded-up pieces of clothing stuffed into their pants. I look at my own children and think, “Wow, kid. You’ve got it so good.”

I remember groaning at my dad’s “When I was a boy” stories. (How can the way to school be uphill, both ways? And how did you have snow? You lived in southern California…) But now that I have my own family, I understand why Dad was so insistent. My sisters and I grew up in better circumstances than my parents did, and my kids are living better than I ever did.

With such a limited perspective, it’s nearly impossible for kids to understand why they need to be grateful when they can’t see past their own circumstances. Maybe it’s time to carry on the “When I was a girl” stories–except they’ll start with “When I was a student, I lived in Romania…”

Well, there you go–three powerful rules for raising a grateful child. I promise to follow up on this subject and let you know how it goes. Do you have a good anti-spoiling idea? Please post it! Thanks for following.

 

15 Simple Summer Ideas Your Kids Will Love–At HOME

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My kids are counting down the HOURS until school is over. They’ve already given me their wish lists (demand lists?) of activities and places to visit. That, in addition to Pinterest boards full of fun activities and crafts and science projects and summer reading and weekly schedules, just makes me feel overwhelmed. Is it September yet?

I’m trying to be a good mom here. Really. But I can’t help thinking about my childhood. Summers seemed to last forever then. If we did anything fancy it was a special treat–but mostly, I was just happy to be out of school and free to run wild with my friends. It was the simple life, and I loved it.

It’s sooo not that way anymore. When did this change? When did we start scheduling weekly itineraries with fancy and expensive activities for every single freaking day of the summer? I may be the only one, but I think a simple summer is best: slow-paced, fun, and low-cost. 

Here’s a list of fifteen simple summer activities that your kids will LOVE–and they can be done at home, basically for free, and barely take any effort. You’re welcome. 

1) Movie night–outside, complete with popcorn and sleeping bags.

2) Have a bubble fight.

3) Challenge the neighbors to a water fight.

4) Play tag, hopscotch, or your favorite childhood game.

5) Camp out in the backyard.

6) Watch the sun set and the stars appear.

7) Run a lemonade stand.

8) Grill corn on the cob–BBQ style.

9) Have a picnic on the grass.

10) Make your own popsicles. Yummy.

11) Toss a Frisbee or a baseball.

12) Have a reading marathon under a tree.

13) Running in the sprinklers/slip-n-slide/playing in the hose.

14) Invite friends for a BBQ.

15) Ride bicycles. Like, all day.

Have a fun simple summer idea to share? Please comment below. Thanks for reading, and good luck with the kids this summer!

I Wrote a Book, and I Did It For Me

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I had a breakthrough last week. I realized that much of what I do is for other people. I’m not talking about service, exactly, but more like the old adage of the fallen tree in the forest. If no one was around to hear it, did it really happen?

Think about it. If you clean the house and no one notices, was it worth it? Why play a beautiful song on the piano if no one is around to hear it? Why put in volunteer hours at the school if they don’t count for something? Weed a backyard that no one else sees? Vacuum a car no one else drives? Get an A in a class that won’t count toward a degree anyway? It all comes down to one question.

Did you do it for yourself, or for them?

My epiphany began when I started collecting all the book reviews of my newly published book, How to Have Peace When You’re Falling to Pieces. I’d pore over those precious words, memorize them, post the best words on Facebook, and retweet them. It was like an emotional massage for a first-time author who had waited a lifetime to hear her writerly praises sung.

But then a realization hit: what happens after the blog tour is done? What happens when my friends have finished the book and set it on the shelf? What happens when my publicist moves on to other, newer authors, and my Amazon rankings start to slide? Am I still glad that I wrote the book?

Did I write it for them, or for me? 

I was one of those geeky school-focused teenagers who had to ask a guy out on my first date (a girl’s choice dance), and only then because that’s what teenage girls do. They go on dates. So I made it happen.

Then college came, and I got a degree. Because that’s what girls do. I got married, had kids, and decorated my house–because that’s what women do. I quickly found that I wasn’t the crafty type, and I didn’t run marathons or throw elaborate parties. But there was one thing I loved, and it was writing. So I wrote a book. It was my answer to those Pinterest-worthy cooks and housecleaners and crafters, those moms who spent hours building PVC-tents and IKEA bookshelves for their kids. They were good at that stuff, and I wasn’t. So I stopped trying and switched to what I knew. 

Now that the experience is over and tapering off, it’s taken a little soul-searching to realize that I really did write “How to Have Peace” for me. If no one read it, or if the publisher hadn’t accepted it, I’d still have done it. A small part of me probably wanted to experience being an author, and another piece wanted to influence the lives of others in a cosmic and literary way. Maybe a deep, innermost piece wanted to feel like I was worth something as a person. But at the end of the day, I wrote a book, and I did it for me.

That realization is starting to change a few things in my life. I’ve struggled with weight issues since childhood. I have three sisters who can eat anything and never gain weight, and most of my friends are thin. I’ve finally admitted to myself that my half-hearted diet and exercising attempts were for them, not for me. I wanted their approval, and I wanted that body that magazines and TV shows say we should have, or we’re not worth much. With that mentality, of course I wasn’t going to lose weight! I had to decide to do it for me.

Whether I lost weight or not, whether the inches fell off or I worked myself into the ground for no reason, I had to make that decision. So last week, I made it. I signed up for a month-long strict diet program–and I did it for me. 

My next book is in the works, and even if it doesn’t see the light of day, I’ll always know that I did it for myself. That’s really the only reason to do something anyway.

How about you? Please comment below and click on “subscribe” if you like what you’re reading. Thanks!