What Kind of Mom Are You Today?

Sometimes my kids accuse me of having a favorite. They spot differences in parenting and are quick to point them out. Who has it the easiest in the family, the oldest or the youngest? How about the middle child? I'm the oldest, so I can only imagine how 4 out of 5 of my kids feel about their place in the family. What I do know is that every one of them has had a different mom.

My oldest had the scheduled, do it by the book, make no mistakes mom. The last four each had a little more relaxed mom than the child in front of them. And by the time I got to the twins, it was basically anything goes!

Some of them had a mom that read multiple books each night and sang songs before bed. Some got a hasty kiss before I collapsed. Some ate only healthy foods with no unnecessary sugar. Others started ice cream for dessert at 6 months. A few had a mom that helped study for tests. I've been surprised when others came home and said they took a test that day. A couple of them had a field trip and room mom. Other years, making it to parent-teacher conferences felt like a victory.

One child rarely went to summer camps. The rest have gone to camp whenever and wherever I could find one that fit the budget! Some got way too much help on homework and others were encouraged to be independent and do their best. Some went to all their well-child visits, and some missed a few, or several.

Two of them only watched PBS until they were 5. Another had Pirates of the Caribbean as his favorite movie at age 2. A few have had early bedtimes. One has had no bedtime as long as he was quiet. Some got their own room and others shared. And according to certain teenagers, some always had to have water in restaurants when they were little and others have gotten to order a drink. ( I don't know why, but this is a sticking point in their minds!).

Some were born during lean times and others have enjoyed more financial prosperity. Some have gotten to sit in the front seat and others have had to sit in the back. Four of them had the pleasure of a year of homeschooling. Believe me, the one who missed out considers himself lucky! A couple have fought tooth and nail for privileges that others got easily. Some have had to wash their hands before dinner and others have been in charge of their own hygiene, or lack thereof. Some had to eat what was on their plate and others got to be a little more picky.

Dear kids, I want you to know I've loved you all the same no matter what advantages or disadvantages you had by your place in the family. It's impossible to be the same mom for 18 years. You learn and you grow and you change. You let go of some ideas and embrace others. This doesn't mean there are favorites. It just means your mom is human. I hope it all evens out in the end though and you can look back and smile at some of the crazy moms that have shaped who you are today!

How about you? Have you been a different mom with each of your kids? Have they noticed and pointed it out to you yet?

Spring Cleaning

Sometimes I get a little discouraged by pictures in home magazines with their beautifully photographed rooms and perfectly styled surfaces. Do real people live there? Do their boys come and sit on the couch with sweaty skin and stinky, bare feet? Do their kids wipe peanut butter on the upholstery instead of using a napkin? Do they find markers, crayons, earrings, blueberries, and popcorn between the seat cushions?

Do they put their feet up on the coffee table? In my house, that delicate vase of flowers and pretty tray would be pushed to the floor by textbooks and homework. Little containers for the many remotes? Shoved under a chair within seconds.

Magazines show dining rooms with place settings and cloth napkins all laid out in preparation for the next dinner party. Really? I find sneakers, belts, jeans, gym shorts, and backpacks on my table.

I'd been having a hard time getting back in gear after spring break and those perfect pictures weren't helping. Articles entitled, Same Closet, More Space, Less Mess, and Clear the Clutter: 46 Ways to Get Organized mocked me. It seemed like vacation had scattered stuff everywhere. But after my last post, where I waxed nostalgic about how I enjoyed taking care of my family, I felt too guilty to put off the big clean any longer.

So, I switched out those flannel sheets for cotton, put away those extra blankets, and opened up the blinds. I was going to get spring in the house any way I could. I finally tackled the corner piles. You know the ones filled with things piled neatly that you leave for so long you stop seeing them? Shhh...I think there were still a couple Christmas returns in there. I vacuumed up a ladybug graveyard around the windowsill and did three loads of laundry. That big pile of ironing is gone. I purged. Nothing was safe.

Spring cleaning definitely got rid of cobwebs and clutter, but it also did something unexpected. It changed my attitude. The living room sofa may not be pristine, but it's great for cuddling while we watch TV. The dining room table might not stay clear for long, but it can hold dinner tonight. It chased away my discouragement and reminded me that kids bring their messes, but they also bring their smiles, and hugs, and kisses. They bring their laughter and chatter. They bring real life to my rooms. And, most of the time, I wouldn't trade it for the cover of any magazine!

The Million Dollar Question

What do you do all day? This is a question my kids have asked me quite a few times over the past year. They ask it sometimes with exasperation, in a way that indicates I should having nothing better to do than whatever they happen to need at that moment. Other times there is puzzlement in their voice, like they want to believe there's something substantial going on, but can't really imagine it. Once in awhile there is resentment, why do I get to be home all day while they have to go to school. When I do try to tell them what I've done, I'm met with looks of incredulity, as if how in the world could anyone ever enjoy that?

It's hard to make my day seem "worth it" to them at this stage of their life. How do you make cleaning, cooking and care taking sound exciting? I've haven't been able to give them an answer that doesn't make me sound weird. But this weekend, I read a post by Sharon Greenthal that made sense. She was a stay at home mother for 20 years and in Why Housework Matters, she says, 

I found great reward in being the conductor of the little orchestra that was my family – and the “intimate drudgery” of the day-to-day tasks I performed connected me to my children and my husband in a profound and, yes, emotional way...For me, the intimacy of organizing my children’s closets, folding their socks, making their meals – it was as integral to my life as their mother  as watching them play sports or helping them with their homework. 

Greenthal so poignantly put into words the way I feel about taking care of my home and family and why I find it fulfilling. As I change the sheets and fold the laundry, as I prepare food and clean the kitchen, as I rotate out the seasonal clothing and replace what they've outgrown, I feel a connection. I am tangibly loving them, providing and building a home for them, nurturing them. I like knowing how they want their lunch and which kind of snacks they prefer. I enjoy putting away their things and seeing how they've been spending their time. Like Greenthal, I like finding discarded papers and little treasures that show me who they are and how they think. It's in all these little things that I get to know them better.

I've felt vaguely guilty about being home lately. Maybe I should be "working" now that my children are older and becoming more independent. But I still enjoy what I'm doing. Maybe someday I'll change my mind and being at home won't feel like a labor of love, but right now I can't give it up. I only have a few years left to be the "conductor" and I want to savor them.

Can you relate? I'd love for you to read Sharon Greenthal's post in its entirety and let me know what you think. Does what she says speak to you, too?

<a href="http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/10798959/?claim=2pxfwuv887k">Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

Fear the Beach Picture

Family beach pictures...three words that strike fear and dread into the heart of every mother. If you've done them once, then you know to be afraid. You know the sun will be blinding, the wind will be blowing, the kids will be complaining, and your husband will be resigned with a hint of unspoken "I told you so". You will have to find coordinating outfits that no one over the age of three would be willing to wear. You will have to bribe, cajole, and even threaten, all the while being careful not to bring tears to anyone's eyes or leave marks on their bodies. Kidding, kidding...sort of...you know I speak the truth.

If you're trying to take a picture of more than one person, it will take herculean effort to get everyone to smile AT THE SAME TIME. You'll be saying things like Smile pretty, I'm sorry the sun is bright, smile anyway, Close your eyes and I'll tell you when to open them, Stop hitting your brother, and Now come on, that one would have been perfect, if you hadn't moved, grimaced, closed your eyes, or been goofing around. And why are they goofing around? Can they not hear the urgency and pleading in mom's voice? This is serious business people and not for the faint of heart.

Because of all of the above, I had not taken anything but casual beach pictures for a few years. Maybe a shot or two before we would go out to dinner, but no outfits, no pressure, no multiple poses, certainly no fantasy of capturing the dream. However, next year my oldest will be in college, so there's that THIS MAY BE OUR LAST CHANCE kind of pressure. 

I did not however, even attempt a parents plus kids event. There is just no way I was ever going to succeed in that without major professional help. Trust me on this.

So we did it...we got some decent shots of the group and some even better shots of individuals. We had fun making fun of the whole picture taking scene. This was the first time I think I'll ever look back at our pictures without recalling threats or bribes. The begging was still there though!  

First a couple outtakes. We keep it honest here folks!

And now two group shots that made the final cut.

While we were taking these pictures, a woman stopped me to tell me our family is beautiful. I was honored and thankful and aware that these five are precious blessings and no picture can adequately capture how I see them.

I know you feel the same way about your blessings. Maybe not during family pictures, but definitely afterward!

Have you captured that elusive perfect shot at the beach? Have you found that beach vacation in general has its ups and downs? If so, you might relate to Family Vacation Reality Check!

Keeping It Real

Normal everyday life. Not always pretty and not always ready for Instagram and Facebook. That's what I thought of when I read Rachel Marie Martin's post, For the Days When You Feel Like the Worst Mom Ever.

Confession: Sometimes I totally blow it as a mom, too. Anyone else out there? I say the wrong words and leave hurt in their wake. I act in anger and live to regret it later. I ignore things I should deal with and harp on things that don't really matter. I worry about the inconsequential and give little thought to the things that last. 

When I fail, it's easy to think I'm the only mom who loses her temper, who says the wrong thing, who sets a bad example.

Thankfully my kids are always forgiving. They don't hold a grudge or write me off as a failure. They move past the moment much faster than I do.

This week we're on family vacation. It's great and it's messy. It's lots of fun and it's tedious. There's laughing and fighting and loving and hurting and learning and growing. There are lots of opportunities to get it right and lots of opportunities to practice humility...again.

Maybe you're on a mothering high or maybe you've hit a low point today. Maybe you're in neutral, coasting along. Wherever you are, you can be certain it will be changing. That's normal everyday life.

Lighter, Brighter Kitchen

I've blogged a couple times now, here and here, about getting rid of the wallpaper in our kitchen and painting the walls a new color. Well, it's done and I finished in time for spring break! I may have spent every spare minute painting and strained muscles I didn't know I had, but that yellow gold color is out of here!

Let's do really bad before pictures, just like in the weight loss ads, so that when I show you the final result, you'll be more in awe. Here's one that really showcases the color and my housekeeping skills in a great way.

How about a couple from when the kitchen looked even more like a war zone?!?

Okay, now let me show you what a lighter color and some deep cleaning can do in your average, run of the mill kitchen. Disclaimer: I am not a designer with beautiful photography and a plethora of styling products, so you too can do this at home. 

Pretty different, huh? I ended up going with Benjamin Moore Classic Gray on the walls. It's a little lighter than I had hoped for, but I can always paint again in six months after I forget what a pain it was this time.

How about you? Are you trying to finish up any projects before spring break? Are you like me, full of energy before the project starts and then crawling across the finish line at the end?!?

Take Me to the Game

This spring marks ten years we've been watching our kids play sports. When they first started, my uncle told me some of his fondest family memories were watching his boys play Little League baseball. I've thought of that comment often over the last decade and it's really turned out to be true for me, too. I treasure the memories of sitting in the stands, making small talk with the other parents, and watching my kids do their thing. It hasn't mattered if they've been skilled or not, it's just been fun to see them out there doing it.

Last week, I was sitting in very cold weather watching my oldest son play lacrosse. I had on a heavy coat, ear protection, a scarf, two pairs of mittens and a blanket, yet I was thrilled to be there. To see him on the field doing something he loves, just made me happy! Sure my toes lost all feeling, but the warmth in my heart made up for it! And when he scored three goals, my heart soared!!


Over the years, we've cheered our kids on at football, basketball, baseball, volleyball, soccer, lacrosse, wrestling, cross-country and swimming. It's been crazy trying to get them to all their practices and games. I didn't always feel it was worth it in the moment, but I do now.

Youth sports have fostered great friendships, allowed my kids to experience the thrill of victory, and rewarded them for perseverance and hard work. They've had to get out there in all kinds of weather, whether they felt like it or not. They've had to listen to coaches they liked and respected, as well as those they didn't. They've had to meet new teammates and get along with all types of personalities. They've had to stick with it until the season is over. Sometimes that's easy and sometimes it isn't! But the best part of playing has been the smiles. When I look out and see them smiling as they dribble or throw a ball, smiling as they make that shot or get that hit, smiling as they laugh with their teammates on the sidelines and between plays, then I smile.

We still smile about games we went to years ago. We laugh about funny things that happened and reminisce about great wins and losses. My uncle was right, sports have made up some of my best family memories and I think my kids would agree!

How about you? Are you logging in a lot of time cheering from the stands? Do you hate to miss a game, too?

Operation Wallpaper Be Gone

The removing the wallpaper saga continues with more mess, drywall dust, and general chaos.


The guys doing the work though have been great, even helping to clear the kitchen table so they can get to work EARLY in the morning! Obviously everything from the kitchen has migrated and multiplied in the dining room, but that's what makes home improvement fun and enjoyable. And I'm lying. Of course home improvement is horrible, until it's done, and you get a new idea for another project because really was that one so bad?!?

This is the last week before spring break, so it's do or die time to pick a paint color and get it on the walls. Will I meet this ambitious goal? Stay tuned...and may there not be any more snow days to slow me down!

Snow Day

Snow days...my nemesis. In the South, a snow day rarely means actual snow. So there's no sledding or outdoor fun to break up the day. Today we have ice.

Ice means you don't know if you should leave or not, you can't let your teenagers drive anywhere, and everything that would maybe make a snow day tolerable, i.e. trips to mall, movies, etc. are out. No one wants to be in an accident because they had to get to Target. So we're home and I've heard "mom" at least 300 times already. Only a handful of those were for pleasant reasons. Mostly it's "Mom! Tell him/her to stop!", or, "Mom, why can't I/we drive here, there, and everywhere because I'm so, so, so bored, even though I hoped for and was so excited that today I wouldn't have any school and could stay home all day!"

This morning, after hearing the twins tell each other to STOP at least 100 times, my husband said, "I don't know how you do it. If I had to stay home and listen to that all day, I'd go insane. I'd rather have my hair plucked out by birds than listen to them argue and say stop all day."

My oldest son goes to the window every few minutes, looks out and says, "Yes, I definitely think they'll cancel school again tomorrow. We will for sure be home." Please, please, please don't keep reminding me. I think he wants me to run screaming from the house.

Everywhere I go, I hear my happy snow day children saying, get out, turn off that music, stop singing, you're so annoying, give it back, make them stop, can I go here, why can't I drive there, I'm so bored, can I have lunch, can I have a snack, can I, can I, and I'm telling mom.

Random scenes from our day-

Received an urgent text from my daughter this morning that we must finish this Annie Oakley costume for school. Mission accomplished!

Proof that all of my kids didn't spend EVERY minute on their iPod, computer, TV, and anything else that entertains and keeps them quiet. Although, one of the twins did come sadly down the stairs this afternoon saying, "Mooooommm, I don't have ANY fun addictive apps." Sad, sad, bad, bad snow day mother!

I can't make any such promises about the boys though. When it's too cold and icy to be outside, PlayStation is a legitimate form of entertainment. And they are interacting. I hear such things as Nooooo, you stink, take that, and, of course, STOP!

Let's see, should I check Facebook and see what other moms are doing? No...that is a recipe for depression. I always wonder if they are really telling the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, when they say things like, We had the best day, my kids let me sleep until 10 and the older children made snow day crafts and hot chocolate with the younger ones, and then we sat in a circle and sang songs and cried tears of joy that we could be trapped together in a small space for a zillion hours. It's a good thing my kids never argue and I never crave a moment to myself. I hope we're out again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day!

Lest you think I never have a Facebook moment, my girls did make some extremely small and expensive Easy Bake Oven chocolate chip cookies.

And as said cookies were baking, we got THE CALL. Yes, indeed we will be doing it all over again tomorrow!