Keeping it short and sweet on the chatter this week…
A’s appointment at Yale went well. We go back in a year, but everything is looking great. Can’t ask for more!
We had C’s triennial meeting at the school this morning– that’s the big three year meeting where they do HUGE amounts of testing and we get all the results. A. had HIS triennial back when he was six and that was the meeting where they discharged him from special ed and I wept at the table. This one didn’t reveal anything quite as dramatic– all the results were pretty much what we expected, and, honestly, that’s good. I’ll tell you more about all that soon.
The reason I’m so darn late getting this posted? Well, because we went out for a lunch date and walked through the crunchy leaves together. Then we snuggled on the couch and watched a suspenseful crime drama. After that, we maybe even napped a bit. DELICIOUS, I tell you! Daytime dates are some of my faves.
In the meantime, here’s the meal plan for the week!
For some bizarre reason, the following article has been making its way around my Facebook feed: 8 Things Never to Say to a Mom of an Only Child. Even if you haven’t seen it in the last week or so, the odds are decent that you did at some point. This is NOT a new piece, by any stretch of the imagination, and, to be honest, the sentiments conveyed aren’t exactly new or earth-shattering either. Nonetheless, it seems to be making its rounds again.
And it’s got people on the defensive.
(Back when I was a mom of one– of course, that didn’t last long for me. )
First of all, let me just state that I don’t typically find this sort of list particularly helpful. That might strike you as odd, since I’ve written two of them myself– one about preemies and one about gifted kids. The difference, I hope, is that I also offer suggestions of good things to say because, really, that’s what’s helpful. The point of the article shouldn’t be to make others feel like insensitive jackheads. It should be to proactively educate and help reframe reactions and responses. At least, that’s what I wast trying to do.
The piece linked above, however, doesn’t do that. It basically calls people out for saying rude, insensitive things and leaves off with a smug, “See? Don’t you feel like a jerk?” attitude. For that reason, I’m not a fan.
What has been even more interesting to me, though, is reading others’ responses to the post. I fully expected to see both “right ons!” and “this is absurds!”– and I did. I figured there’d be some eye-rolling– and there was. But I can’t lie to you. I hadn’t predicted what seems to be the biggest backlash I’ve seen. And it’s against this line–
“It’s so hard with three kids.” The inverse of #3, but still, worth repeating. Are you implying that my job as mom isn’t as hard as yours?
“OMG– is she CRAZY? My life IS harder!”
“Ha! Of COURSE it’s easier to only have one kid than three! She’s nuts.”
“I’ve had only one kid and I can tell you that it is WAY harder now that I have more than that.”
“How stupid. One kid is as hard as three? Ha. Stupid.”
… and on and on.
Let me tell you– people with more than one kid were on the ATTACK! Nevermind that the author is actually very careful to frame that paragraph and doesn’t even try to really “compete.” I’m not sure how anyone read it as commentary that parents of multiple children have it easy, but whatever.
The point is– the crowd went wild. In a very bad way. Soooooo defensive and so quick to point out why, of course, life is much, much, MUCH more difficult for those with, say (since it was the writer’s example), three kids.
But here’s the thing–
Not only do I think that people really need to calm the heck down and just mosy on if they don’t like a piece, but I also don’t even agree with them.
I, the mother of three children, do not believe that it is harder than having one child.
And here’s why–
I likely, though not definitely, have more activities to orchestrate into a schedule.
I likely, though not definitely, have more homework assignements to oversee.
I likely, though not definitely, have more gear to pack into the minivan.
I likely, though not definitely, have more laundry to do in any given week.
Yet, despite that, you know what?
Having just my youngest home during the school year was far harder than having all three home in the summer.
Having my parents take two out of three for a sleepover always leaves me more worn out than refreshed.
Having my oldest gone for the afternoon doesn’t make my life any simpler.
In short, having one kid is not easier than having three.
When I have only one kid with me?
I am IT.
I am the entertainment. I am the reader. I am the one pretending. I am the one helping. I am the one fetching, reaching, finding. I am the one dressing up. I am the puzzle-builder. I am the listener. I am the one carrying on the conversation. I AM EVERYTHING.
All of this was working through my brain when, over the weekend, I was catching up on reading one of my favorite sites. And you know what? I laughed out loud. Amy and I have a bit of a history of thinking about and writing about similar things at the same time. Fun fact: we even started our blogs on the exact same day of the exact same year. So, when I read this post, I wanted to reach through the screen and high-five her.
While she has twice (!) as many children as I do, she’s pretty much making the same points I am– sometimes, having more children in the home doesn’t make it tougher. It actually makes it easier. This is particularly true for those with large familes, or, more accurately, widely-spaced children, but even with my narrower gaps, it holds true.
And so, I have to admit I’m not sure what was going on with all those commenters. Were they having bad days? Do their kids really not entertain one another worth a hoot? Or do we just live in a “woe is me” society that likes to point out why yours truly has it just SO much tougher than everyone else?
I don’t really know.
But, while I stand by my words that it’s not a helpful article, I will also go on record as saying I wasn’t offended by her remark about one versus three kids.
In fact, that might be the one thing we can agree upon.
Cook up a hearty, satisfying meal to feed a crowd that only leaves you one pan to wash. This Skillet Spaghetti with Meat Sauce is a family pleaser and frees you up to spend your time having fun instead of scrubbing pots!
Using the biggest skillet you have-- preferably one with a lid-- brown the ground beef, onions, garlic, salt, and pepper over med-high heat. Drain grease, if necessary, but, if you use very lean ground beef, you can skip this. (That's what I do.)
Leave all that in the pan and add ALL remaining ingredients.
Bring up to a bubble, then reduce heat to med-low, cover, and cook for 15-20 minutes until most liquid is absorbed and the spaghetti is tender.
And that’s it! This recipe is wildly easy, but the sauce is rich and flavorful. I love quick, easy dishes that the whole family enjoys. Even more, I love dinners that free me up from dish-washing to go enjoy time with my people!
I’ve tried to really pay attention to the comments and remarks I get about my children for the past few days.
Instead of just nodding, smiling, thanking, or acknowledging, I’ve tried to really ponder and process the words that I’m hearing. And, I have to say… the words have been abundantly kind.
“He is SO smart. Just off-the-hook smart.”
“How’s C. doing? I’m just crazy about that girl. She’s a delight.”
“How early do you get them up to be here at 7:30AM? Well, you do amazing. Because they’re just fantastic kids.”
“They glow within your shining example.”
“G. is so sweet, I can hardly stand it. That girl makes my day.”
“He’s deep and profoundly caring.”
… and on and on.
It is humbling.
Really and truly.
It is humbling to hear all those words.
Because, and this is the entire point of this whole post–
I question what I am doing every single day of my life.
I lose my temper and yell or, perhaps worse, fire off remarks just dripping in sarcasm and then, later, I cry as I realize what a horrible way I’ve behaved toward these tender souls.
I set the bar high-high-high and then sometimes wonder if I even achieve my own standards.
My husband and I exchange worried glances, wondering if we’re totally messing this up. Do they have enough friends? Do they do the right activities? Do they do too MANY activities? Is this the right way to handle A’s math? Is C’s sudden reluctance to join the family games a warning sign or just an indication that she’s swept up in the book she’s reading? Do we expect too much of our youngest? Or do we let her get away with too much?
We don’t know. I don’t know.
I don’t really know what I’m doing.
And the compliments, as wonderful as they are, can make me even more nervous.
Am I screwing up these amazing kids? Have I been blessed with a trio of fantastic little people and I’m going to totally drop the ball? Is this just the calm before the storm blows up in my face?
I just don’t know.
And I think that’s something more of us need to step up and admit–
We don’t really know what we’re doing. And it’s scary.
That mom with the popular star athlete for a kid?
She worries that she’s messing up.
The lady whose daughters look impeccable and whose manners never falter?
She frets that she’s not fully preparing them.
The mother who seems to seamlessly run a household of eight?
She has moments she wonders how she’s going to make it through without permanently damaging someone.
Because, here’s the thing– not only does motherhood not come with an instruction manual, but, even if it did, it couldn’t possibly cover all the different models of children out there!
And so we wake up each day. Maybe we say a prayer. We put one foot in front of the other and resolve to do our best.
And, if we’re lucky, we’ll find out that we did a decent job before we climb in bed that night.
Not because of the compliments rained upon us. No.
Because of the little arms that hold us tight and remind us why, no matter how hard a day was…
I am such a broken record around here lately, with all my, “Gosh, it sure is a busy week!” reports.
I’m not lying– it IS busy. But it’s also very, very good, and I don’t ever want you all to think that I would trade it for anything.
This week, we have the usual suspects for activities, but our Thursday is looking all wonkadoodle, thanks to a follow-up appointment at Yale. We’ll be taking A. in that morning and we’ll, once again, consult with the pediatric cardiologists. Honestly, we anticipate everything looking good. I suspect that the monitor reports won’t reveal anything we don’t already know (i.e. A. has very low blood pressure and his heart rate sometimes drops crazy low, but typically only when he sleeps.) This may or may not be the appointment when they discuss removing the monitor, which will involve another surgery. We appreciate good thoughts if we happen to cross your minds!
In the meantime, here’s the meal plan for the week!
I almost didn’t bother with this post today, figuring everyone on earth probably figured this out before me. But then I learned that my mom didn’t know this trick yet and, since my mom is inarguably clever, I figured there must be a few more people out there who could benefit from it.
So, without further ado, I give you–
Here are the problems with packaging things for bake sales–
Paper plates are flimsy.
Plastic plates are expensive and wasteful.
You probably don’t want to give away your “real” dishes.
Plastic wrap doesn’t stick worth beans to paper and most plastic.
“Cling”-type wraps work better, but are expensive and not as transparent.
Foil is great, but, obviously, totally opaque.
So… what’s a girl to do?
1. Set one paper plate on the counter.
2. Pull off a long sheet of plastic wrap– approximately 2 1/2 times as long as you might think you’d want to cover the size of the plate.
3. Lay the sheet of wrap over the plate on the counter, with most of the wrap falling on one side or the other.
4. Place ANOTHER paper plate on top of the plastic wrap.
5. Arrange baked goods on plate.
6. Use long remaining tail of plastic wrap to cover and secure baked goods.
This method works for a number of reasons:
Two plates are sturdier than one, obviously.
The wrap is secured BETWEEN the plates, so it doesn’t just have to stick to itself.
The cookies/bars stay mucher fresher with that tighter seal.
So there you go! Go forth and wrap with confidence.
(If I know nothing else, I know my children eat a ton. As a result? It’s rare I turn down opportunities involving food. The following post is sponsored by Hillshire Farm, but all opinions are our own!)
Remember how we talked about convenience not all that long ago? I told you all that, while I truly do enjoy doing any number of things by hand and from scratch, I’m also not above accepting a little help in the convenience department.
One area where this is abundantly evident is in my sandwich making. I may bake my bread and make my jam, but I buy my peanut butter and my lunchmeat. Yes, yes, I’ve tried that whole “buy a turkey breast, roast it, and slice it yourself” routine, and you know what? I wound up frustrated and the sandwich didn’t taste as good to me, anyway. My family wasn’t exactly jumping up and down either. So, guess what? That method went by the wayside. I went back to purchasing lunchmeat.
The thing about buying lunchmeat, though, is that I always had this nagging voice in the back of my head. (I don’t know whose voice it was– it wasn’t my mother or my husband, so I’m not sure why I cared so much, but there it was.) Anyway, I would fret over ingredient lists, worrying about artificial ingredients, preservatives, added nitrates/nitrates, and artificial colors. What is up with dyeing all the food, anyway? I digress…
I was driving to the store the other day and I happened to look down at my hand.
I was appalled.
So appalled, in fact, that I took a picture.
When did I get so old? When did I get those ugly brownish spots on m/y previously pretty hands? Why didn’t anyone tell me that 38 was going to be the year when, all of a sudden, age would creep up on me and make me look like an old lady?
I was crushed.
Honestly, while I’m not opposed to aging, I’ve been told I have lovely hands for my whole entire life and the thought that they were now covered with age spots made me sad.
I lifted one closer to my face to examine the blasted marks.
And smelled peanut butter.
I sniffed again. Licked. And looked down.
Apparently, my friends, my hands are not the age-related problem I should be worried about.
It seems it’s my memory that’s failing me as I had somehow forgotten that about the peanut butter bars I had baked not an hour beforehand hand.
I dug through the cabinet for the biggest skillet I could find as you loped into the room, stretching one arm high, while the other adjusted glasses over tired eyes. I didn’t blame you one bit for heading straight to make coffee– little sounds better, other than more sleep, when little people wake you so early.
As I set the grease to sizzling and you passed a bowl of dry Cheerios to the baby, the toddler showed up, wanting his milk. You turned from the Keurig and poured it into a sippy cup– the green one!!!, as he demanded– and then reached for a second mug.
We chit-chatted as I poured eggs and tortilla strips in the pan, comfortable with you and comfortable working in your kitchen.
The preschooler arrived. She wanted milk, too, but she’d only drink it with chocolate. You mixed it, passed the purplicious princess cup, and rolled a crick out of your neck.
The toddler was back.
Once content with his white milk, he now wanted chocolate, too. So you remedied that.
Finally, with everyone seemingly content, you turned back to your coffee mug only to realize you’d forgotten to push the button on the machine.
With a laugh-sigh combo, you jammed the button with a skinny index finger and closed your eyes as the burbling bubbling brewing kicked in.
And then the baby was at your feet.
She held a bag of lollipops she had gotten from the pantry. She looked triumphant. At one, she is utterly fearless and capable and she is ready to take on the world. This time, she had taken on the shelves and She.Had.Won.
“No, no,” you murmured gently, “it’s too early for lollipops. We haven’t even had breakfast yet.”
Undeterred, she thrusted the bag up. “POP!” she exclaimed, and the joy was almost palpable in her voice.
“Not yet,” you repeated. “Maybe after our breakfast.”
Mutiny broke across those tender features and she gave the bag a solid yank.
Lollipops were everywhere.
Her mouth formed a surprised O as she waited to see what you’d do. Taking advantage of your temporary shock, she nabbed a tiny green lollipop and took off like a flash.
Not surprisingly, her siblings showed up soon thereafter and helped themselves, too.
* * * * * * * * * * *
I want you to know that I saw the look on your face.
I saw your eyes dart to the side as you (finally!) grasped your mug of steaming coffee and poured in a heavy glug of flavored creamer.
And I know you were wondering what I was thinking.
So here you go. Here’s what I was honestly thinking, mama who gave her babies lollipops before 7 AM…
I was thinking that this is one morning of one day and one decision that doesn’t define who you are one bit.
Would I make a regular habit of serving candy before breakfast? Of course not.
But, then again, neither would you.
You know I know that, right?
Sweet mama, you do not deserve to have your mothering measured by a single, overwhelming moment. What a frightening thought that is! Just imagine if people were basing the quality of my parenting on isolated events…
… on the times I turn a blind eye while my husband lets them steal sips of his Crystal Light.
… on the morning when, after having a bit too much birthday wine, I let them all watch, what, six, seven, maybe eight? episodes of My Little Pony, just so I could nurse my aching head.
… on all the times when, out of anger and sadness and mostly fear, I yelled as my means of communication. YELLED. At those tender little faces.
… on the day I remembered my travel mug, but forgot the wipes and had to use damp, brown paper towels to clean a messy bottom.
… on the nights I’ve woken to an accident in a child’s bed and thrown a towel on it rather than change the sheets.
… on all the bribes, the giving in, the checking out, the copping out, the less-than-stellar choices.
Precious lady, mothering these three beautiful souls…
Let’s chat just a bit about things we can do ourselves to save a little cash.
Because our food budget is in no way unlimited, I have taken to doing a lot of things myself in order to save some money. I’ve opted to put in some effort and sacrifice some convenience in order to keep our finances in better shape. Here are some things I’ve done:
I’ve sliced and packaged my own cheese, rather than buy individual snack packs or string cheese.