Wednesday, September 24, 2014

What Has Surprised you about Motherhood?

Just after I had my son (my first child), and he was two weeks old, a friend came by to visit us.  She did not have children yet, and she cheerfully asked me, "what has surprised you the most about Motherhood?"  I couldn't think straight, immersed in that sleep-deprived newborn trance, and I certainly couldn't tell her the full truth anyway.  All I could sputter out was how 'I sure was more tired than I expected!', followed by a good-natured chuckle, chuckle.

The question is so huge.  It cannot be answered in the one glib little sentence I felt was expected of me, the proud new mommy.  However, who was I to be a Debbie Downer?  I wasn't going to rattle off about the impossibly huge weight of responsibility that having a child creates.  I also wasn't going to tell her that I couldn't believe how long the days and nights felt with a newborn, and how isolating it could be.  I also didn't go into detail about what it feels like to nurse a baby around the clock when you have never done it before, and what it was like to do all of this while struggling to recover from childbirth (surgery in my case, but either way, recovery is hard).

We rarely tell anyone the surprising challenges of new Motherhood before they have children, especially pregnant women.  Who wants to be the killyjoy who bursts the expecting mom's dreamy bubble?  Or the ungrateful mommy complaining to the woman next to her struggling with infertility?
So, for better or worse, we don't talk about the hard stuff.

Countless things are surprising when you have children.  I'm pretty sure the surprises will ever end. My son is now 4, and my daughter just turned 2.  Every single day is filled with surprises-- both welcome and not so much.  It is of course the welcome ones that we hope to remember, but in trying to spare the feelings of others, are we actually doing a disservice to women everywhere-- should we really not [openly] discuss the mixed bag of Motherhood?

So, now I'll ask you:  What has surprised you about Motherhood [so far]?

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

Let's Connect:  FacebookTwitterPinterestGoogle+, & Instagram.
You can find me on:  Mamalode and Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka?
Clash of the Couples, an anthology I'm in, comes out November 3rd.  Like the Facebook page!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Hiney Haiku

(This is an ode to my children's perfect little baby butts.  Weird or not, I can't get enough of them.)

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

Let's Connect On:  FacebookTwitterPinterestGoogle+, & Instagram.
You can find more of my work on:  Mamalode and Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka?
Clash of the Couples, an anthology I'm in, comes out November 3rd.  You can like the Facebook page here for updates and funny previews!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Clash of the Couples Cover Reveal

Dear Frantic Mama Readers,

I'm thrilled to share with you the cover of the funny, brutally honest relationship anthology, Clash of the Couples, which includes one of my essays (watch out FranticMamaHubby!), available November 3rd.

Here's the gist of the book, written by our editor, Crystal Ponti of Blue Lobster Book Co. and MommiFried:  

Coupledom. Fact or fable, Adam and Eve birthed the perpetual relationship drama as seen on TV today. Despite the serpents, this couple HAD IT MADE. Luxury real estate, lush gardens, and privacy out the yin-yang. Life was glorious until the bare-bottomed babe could no longer resist temptation. Despite her better half’s warnings and threats to sleep in a tree, she tasted the forbidden fruit. One bite of that seductive, juicy contraband and the stage was set for eternity— a nibble that has blossomed into an endless supply of tiny tidbits that divide lovers to this day!
Taking a cue from the naked explorers of authentic sin, Clash of the Couples is a new anthology featuring a collection of completely absurd lovers’ squabbles and relationship spats. Think couples fight over kids, sex, and money? Think again! Furniture, the last beer, and where to store the placenta are what genuinely ignite our feuds. And no argument is off limits. 

Inside you’ll find a compilation of stories such as: “I Can’t Believe You Ate My Sandwich," "Never Assume Anything," "Only I Can Talk About Me," and "You Want Some College Boobs?" from forty-three fearless writers. Prepare to laugh, roll your eyes, and shiver in suspense. While Eve may have had the first bite, we ate the whole tree. And made pies. 

If you are a regular blog reader, you will surely recognize some of your favorites as contributors to the anthology.  In no particular order, they are:
Whew!  That's a lot of blogging action.

To support the book and its writers, please check out and like the Facebook page here, and follow the Pinterest board here.  The book will be available November 3rd, 2014 just about wherever books are sold.

Thank you for your support!  This is going to be fun :).

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Scariest Thing

There is a saying that goes something like, 'you never appreciate your health until you don't have it.' Or, here's another way to look at it:  when you are healthy, you rarely think of your health, but when you're not, you can hardly think of anything else.

This is so true.  And my 4 year-old son's recent accident reminded me of that.  

We were visiting family out of state, and in the hustle and bustle that is getting a 4 year old and a toddler to and from the airport, sleeping in new situations, adjusting to time zone changes, etc., I took for granted the most basic luxury we had-- that our kids were healthy.  

One afternoon we were in a hurry getting ready to meet my sister and her kids to spend the afternoon at the pool.  The biggest worry on my mind was getting both kids fed, dressed, and in the car in a somewhat orderly, non-tantrumy fashion.  

I was in a bedroom for 2 minutes packing my own bag when I heard a scream.  I inhaled.  I hoped it was an overreaction.  My mom yelled my name.  I looked down at the bottom of the steep wood staircase to see her holding my 4 year old son, who was crying and looked beyond scared, while a gigantic lump was already forming and protruding from his smooth forehead.  My mom looked terrified.

(Not a bad rendition of my son's temporary new look.)

I had never seen what I now know is called a "goose egg" like that on a forehead before.  I took one look and thought it was a completely broken nose or cracked skull.  Within seconds, my mind pictured every catastrophe I could think of, and I almost passed out.  

My husband came back inside from packing up the car to find us all screaming and crying.  He held our son, and I asked if we should drive to the hospital or call an ambulance.  

My husband had seen this type of head injury before, so he didn't freak out as much as I did.  We hurried to a bedroom and iced my son's little forehead, despite having to pin his arms down so he wouldn't push away the cold ice.  I put on a Cars DVD so he would have something else to think about (it worked a little bit) and my husband and I hugged him close so he would feel safe.

I felt sick.  How could we have let this happen?  Would he ever be the same?  Did he have a concussion?  Was his nose broken?  What would we do, out of state, thousands of miles from home with an injured 4 year old?  

After a long time with the 3 of us resting on the bed, we all started to calm down.  I begin to feel incredibly grateful that a bad bump and a possible broken nose or loose tooth/teeth were likely the worst of his injury.  

For several nights, my husband and I had trouble sleeping.  We became very emotional about our son, who is far from easy, but far from replaceable.  We treasure him as much as parents possibly can.  

All this, and I know that some families have it so much harder-- children with chronic or terminal illnesses or debilitating injuries.  

My son had two black eyes and significant swelling for a long time after the accident; when we took him to the doctor she assured us there was nothing else we could be doing for his fall, that nothing looked broken.  There is nothing else we could have done...I guess...

Has anything shaken you to the core recently?  I'm not sure I will ever be quite the same after this one.

~Julia @ Frantic Mama
Let's Connect On:  FacebookTwitterPinterestGoogle+, & Instagram.
You can find more of my work on:  Mamalode and Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka?
Clash of the Couples, an anthology I'm in, comes out November 3rd.  You can like the Facebook page here for updates and funny previews!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Best Toys to Grow with Your Toddler

Many toys seem to come and go in our house, but it is so nice when I see my kids (now 4 and almost 2) continue to play with certain toys months-- or even years-- after they first receive them.  I love it even more if both of my kids will play with a toy at the same time.

Here are a few favorites that fit the above criteria.  You might consider adding them to your stash (and please share your own favorites in the Comments or on my Facebook page!):

Mega Blocks Play N' Go Table:

My sister gave my son this Mega Blocks table for his 1st birthday, and he played with it a lot.  Now my daughter, almost 2, loves it.  They even throw me a bone and occasionally play with it together.

Fisher Price Amusement Park Wheelies Car Ramp:

This is a fun toy for all little kids.  My son received it at age 3, and he and my daughter immediately started sending Wheelies down it.  They still play with it daily (and it remains front and center in our very un-fancy family room).  Hot Wheels and the ever-popular Disney Pixar cars usually work on it too.  The music is cute and gets my kids excited, but you can turn it off if it doesn't excite you so much.  Every kid who comes over makes a beeline for this toy.

Step 2 Chalkboard Easel and Magnetic Whiteboard:

This easel gets a lot of mileage at our house.  One side has a magnetic chalkboard, and the other (see above) is a magnetic whiteboard.  I consider it a major bonus if each kid "works" on his or her own side so that they are sharing without really sharing.

Micro Mini Scooter:

My mom gave this to my son when he turned two.  Before he could actually scoot on it, I let him run around pushing it in our basement.  Now, at 4, he can actually scoot on it.  My daughter, almost 2, likes to push it frantically around the yard like a little stroller or push toy.

One final tip:  Rotate your toys.  Even though I rarely actually do this, I still think it is good advice.  My Shortcut:  Even if I just move toys to different rooms, the kids notice them all over again and play with them more.

What are some of your long lasting toy favorites?

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

Let's Connect On:  FacebookTwitterPinterestGoogle+, & Instagram.
You can find more of my work on:  Mamalode and Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka?
Clash of the Couples, an anthology I'm in, comes out in November.  You can like the Facebook page here for updates and funny previews!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Stop Saying "Good Job!"

For the love of all that is good and holy, will people just STOP saying "Good Job!" to my kids every two minutes?!

When I was a high school teacher, I often used praise as a way to encourage my students-- students who frequently came into my class barely reading even though they were at least 15 years old.  Some of these kids could barely write a complete sentence.  So when they did make progress, you can bet I was proud of them for realizing their potential.  Consequently, I didn't think too much about praise when I had my own kids.  Praise = good, right?

My now 4 year-old son has taught me to feel differently.  It has not been an easy lesson to learn.

When my son was a baby and toddler, he had a charming way of deflecting praise: he would cover his eyes, look away, or even sniffle a little if someone too enthusiastically shouted "yay!  hooray!  good job!"  It surprised us, but it was endearing.  My husband and I are modest people (I think?  I hope?) and that is a trait we of course want our children to possess.

When my son turned 3, things got more complicated.  His reactions became stronger, and other people didn't always think it was cute.  We didn't always think it was cute either.  It put us in some embarrassing, awkward situations.  First, trying to laugh it off...then trying to change the conversation...then explaining it to the other adult...  argh.  I tried everything to get through those moments.  It wasn't easy.

Preschool further complicated things.  Everyone wants their child to make a good impression.  For the teachers to see the best of their child.  It is hard to ask people if they can simply "tone down" the praise and hoorays that, honestly, are hurled at children left and right these days.  Who am I to ask other people to hold their tongue?  Wouldn't it seem odd to mention this quirk to others?  But, then again, isn't it my job to set my son up for success?  I was torn.  I'm still torn.

Here's the twist: it can still drive me insane when my son barks at a stranger to "not say that" if they tell him "good job!" (and Trust Me when I tell you that I may stay calm in the moment, but I am of course talking about the incident with him later in private), but recently, I see it more from my son's side:  the constant stream of good jobs can get really, really annoying sometimes.

Because here's the thing:  nice, well-intentioned people have told my son that he is doing a "good job" for the stupidest things.  I'm wondering if he is onto something.  Because, while no, it is not okay for him to yell at someone who is trying to be nice, maybe it is okay not to praise someone's every move.  I am starting to see how freaking annoying it is when a kid scribbles some blue crayon and someone booms GOOD JOB!  like he just won the basketball tournament.  Why?  I picture my son wondering.  Why are you so excited about me right now?  What did I do?  It makes me so uncomfortable.

I have no answers here.  No big revelation other than that seeing things from my son's eyes helps me retain some shreds of patience and sanity when he seems about to crack.  Recently, he is trying harder to control his initial outbursts; he is slowly learning that such reactions aren't going to make new friends.  I am slowly learning to save my praise for the times when we both know he has earned it.

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

P.S.  Guess what?  A piece I wrote will be included in the hilarious relationship anthology Clash of the Couples, available in November!  I'm so excited.  Details to come...

Let's Connect:  FacebookTwitterPinterestGoogle+, & Instagram.
You can read more of my work on:  Mamalode and What the Flicka? 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Extracurricular Activities: Striking a Balance

Now that my son is now 4, I'm ripe with ideas of fun extracurriculars I want to sign up for-- both for his sake, but also because I have always loved learning new things.  It is really easy to say before having kids, "I won't sign up for every little thing.  Protect their free time!  Just spend time alone together!"  However, once I had kids, a primal instinct emerged-- at least in me-- to provide them with as many rewarding experiences and advantages that I can.

While I won't be able to whisk them off on a private jet to the Great Barrier Reef anytime soon (though Australia-- flying commercial-- is definitely on our family bucket list!), and we won't be enrolling in the fanciest private school in town, I do want to give my children as many opportunities as we can.

But how much is too much?  My son falls squarely into the Highly Sensitive category, which in this arena translates to him becoming easily overwhelmed when faced with too much stimulation or when too many new things or people are introduced at once.  I am the same way, though as an adult, I know how to protect myself from too much of anything (saying "no" to extra committees, too many social outings, etc.).  A 4-year-old has little experience being protective of his own needs; such protection still requires much parental involvement.

As a result, I am trying to find a balance between introducing my son to various pursuits that he has expressed strong interest in-- learning another language, taking up a musical instrument, trying a couple of sports-- and his need to have plenty of downtime.  All this on top of another year of preschool starting soon.
Of course, I must also consider this:  how much money can and should we throw at every opportunity that comes our way?  Surely, my husband and I can impart at least some wisdom free of charge.  (And there's always Dora.  Just kidding (kind of)).

My current strategy is to sign up for what matters and seems appropriate to him and to us, and then to drop things as necessary in order to respect his personality and our family time.

What about you?  At what age did the extracurriculars ramp up in your house?  Did you or will you sign up your kids for lessons or sports at a young age?  Why or why not?

~ Julia @ Frantic Mama
Let's Connect On:  FacebookTwitterPinterestGoogle+, & Instagram.
I am honored to contribute to:  Mamalode and What the Flicka?  and two 2015 anthologies focused on parenting and relationships [details to come]!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Thrifty DIY Side Table

I'm at it again:  Another little DIY project in the Frantic Mama household.

We converted a small room in our basement into a guest room, and like most guest rooms, all of our least favorite furniture ended up there.  While it looked fine, I wanted to spruce it up.  I am always happier with a project on my hands [even if it takes forever to complete because I can only work on it for 5 minutes a day with two little monkeys children on my hands].

My husband bought an inexpensive 3 piece wood veneer dresser and side table set at Target about 10 years ago (how is that possible?) before we were married.  They were passable but a little rough around the edges at this point.

(The Before shot)

We recently repainted the playroom, and FranticMamaHubby had gone a little overboard on gray paint samples-- he was determined to find the perfect one.  As a result, we had LOTS of samples of lovely gray paint sitting around.  I hate wasting anything...but then I had a light-bulb moment:  I could use the samples to refresh the old Target furniture!  

(The After shot)

The two small side tables needed just one container of the Benjamin Moore sample paint (2 coats each).  I used the shade Cobblestone Path, a soft gray with slight blue/green undertones.   Once the two coats of paint dried, I sprayed on a coat of Rustoleum Clear Gloss to give them a shiny, finished look [Major Important Tip: You should spray paint outside or your entire house smell for at least a day].


It took a little elbow grease, but as always around this house, the hardest part was finding time to paint without my kids hanging on me.  Mission Accomplished!

(Stay Tuned:  The coordinating dresser is getting a fresh coat of paint as well.)

P.S.  I'm honored that Mamalode is sharing my piece about the postpartum anxiety that many mothers face but few discuss.  Read Angel in a White Coat here, and please share with anyone you think might benefit.

What DIY project have you tackled or hope to tackle?  Do you have a favorite DIY website or Pinterest board you follow?

~Frantic Mama
Let's Connect On:  FacebookTwitterPinterestGoogle+, & Instagram.
You can find more of my work on:  Mamalode and Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka?