Sunday, July 27, 2014

What was your Hardest Parenting Transition?


My husband and I occasionally talk about what we think was the harder transition:  Going from 0 to 1 child, or going from 1 to 2 children.

We agree that 0 to 1 was the hardest.  Your entire life changes when you bring your first baby home, and it took us a while to truly wrap our heads around that idea.  When I was pregnant with my son, I had this vague notion that I would be tired and busy once baby arrived, and that I would go out at night a little less (Ha!), but it was impossible for me to see much beyond the new crib, the rocking chair, the tiny clothes, and the excitement of a new huggable, lovable baby.

I think in part that kind of rose-colored view of motherhood must be biological.  If we knew just how hard it was going to be, would the human race even really continue?  Just kidding [kind of].

When we had our daughter, our second baby, the hardest part emotionally for me was still trying to connect with my sensitive son (who was 27 months old) as much as I could, despite recovering from surgery and the typical new-mom exhaustion.  I had heard too many stories about the older child being sad when a new baby 'steals' the parents' attention.  I just couldn't bear it.  I missed my son while I was in the hospital having my daughter, in that weepy, overwhelmed, hormonal way many women feel postpartum.




It was also quite terrifying the first day (and many days after that) when my husband left for work after his puny one week off, and I had to face being home all day with TWO tiny, needy people in my care.

Now that my son is 4 and my daughter will be 2 soon, there are definitely moments-- a lot-- when I feel physically and emotionally pulled in both directions.  My anxiety can spike when I realize, again, at 6:30 a.m. that my day will revolve around their needs.

However, here's the rainbow: they are also getting old enough where I make a point of explaining that mommy has needs too-- eating, going to the bathroom, even making a phone call.  I'm not sure I did that when I had only my son.  But it is a good lesson for them to learn, isn't it?  That women have needs and we need to respect that?  Perhaps it is a necessary, hard-earned lesson we learn once we have more than one child.

I can't speak for going from 2 to 3 (or 3-4, etc.), of course; I have heard mixed feelings about the transition of adding more children to the family.  Some have said that adding a 3rd is the easiest transition, and for others, it is clearly the hardest.

What do you think?  What was your hardest transition as a parent?  Did you change your parenting with each child you welcomed into your family?

~Frantic Mama
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You can find more of my work on:  Mamalode and Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka?


Thursday, July 24, 2014

DIY Magnetic Chalkboard Wall

I'm always looking for ways to get my kids to play independently.  Meaning, play without me.  Not that I don't like playing with them on and off throughout the day, but I can only send cars back and forth for so long until I get up to make a snack, switch activities, find a Paw Patrol episode, take them on an errand, etc.  You know the drill.

Both of my kids (my son just turned 4 and my daughter is almost 2) like chalk and magnets... I decided to go for it and create a magnetic chalkboard wall to keep their little hands busy.



My dream objective:  to sit with a glass of wine juice for 
minutes and 
watch them color on the wall.


We have an empty, unused wall in the corner of our playroom (a converted space above our garage and one of the reasons we bought our house!).  I could also see painting with chalkboard paint on a closet door, a basement rec room, the side of a dresser, or even a portion of your kid's bedroom wall.




Here's what you'll need to cover several square feet of wall/door space (I found everything I needed at Target; Home Depot or Menards would probably have all that you need too).

1 can (30 fl. ounces) magnetic primer
1 can (30 fl. ounces) chalkboard paint
2-3 paint rollers (smooth nap)
1-2 paint pans for the paint and rollers
a screwdriver to open cans (a head's up for true painting newbies)
a paintbrush for details
four pieces of moulding if you want to frame your chalkboard for a more finished look
latex gloves
large drop cloth or old towels to cover the floor where you are painting
painter's tape

Want to try it?  Here are the steps I took:

1.  Tape up the area you plan to cover with painter's tape and put drop cloth or old towels on the floor.

2.  Stir (a lot) the magnetic primer.  Open the windows and turn on the fans, people, because it STINKS!  Hindsight is 20-20:  wear latex gloves.  The magnetic primer is black and is hard to get off.

3.  Paint 3 thin coats of the primer about 30 minutes apart using a roller.  *The only way I was able to actually accomplish this was on a weekend during my daughter's nap while my husband took my son out of the house.

4.  After the primer dries, get out the chalkboard paint.  It took me a few days to get around to this step.  Use two coats of the chalkboard paint (with a fresh roller).  After the 2nd coat, you must wait 3 days to use chalk on it (this was definitely the hardest part-- keeping my kids away from it!)





5.  Add the moulding for a frame if desired.  Full disclosure:  FranticMamaHubby did this for me with some inexpensive white moulding he bought at Fleet Farm.

The verdict:  Definitely a satisfying DIY project that will hopefully get a lot of use.

(Note:  The chalkboard does not wipe completely clean with a typical dry eraser.  I occasionally use a damp washcloth to get it cleaner).

Voila!

What DIY projects have you attempted?  Have they been worth the time and effort?  

~Frantic Mama

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



Sunday, July 20, 2014

"Luck" has Nothing to Do with It


"You are so lucky!"  We have all heard and said these words, right?  But when you stop to think about it, what does it imply?  That their life is easier than yours?  That their good fortune was brought on by magic, while you, poor unfortunate soul, have been cursed with bad luck?  That doesn't seem like a realistic, fair way to look at other people's lives.

I am making an effort stop saying it to others.  Especially to other mothers.  I have gotten to a point-- why did it take me so long?-- when faced with someone who seems to 'have it all' that I can take a step back and think:  We all have our struggles.  We all have our challenges.  And here's the big aha! for me-- someone will always have it easier than us, and-- more importantly-- someone will always have it harder.

I have given a lot of thought to why it makes me so uncomfortable and why it is such a turn-off when someone tells me I'm "lucky."  I think it is because attributing life to luck devalues our hard work and the challenges we have or are working to overcome in our lives.  It seems a disservice to our fellow mothers to avoid acknowledging their blessings and their struggles by immediately assuming someone is "just lucky."

These days, people have said it in the context of me being a stay-at-home-mom, or because of the fact that I-- gasp!-- use a babysitter from time to time.




Here is a recent example:

I was due for a dental check-up.  I do not have a lunch break where I can squeeze in a cleaning.  My husband and I had to plan and organize and discuss just when this dental visit would occur.  A few weeks went by.  I was finally able to coordinate a time when our busy college-age babysitter could watch the kids at the same time that there was an opening for me at the dentist office (no small feat).

So anyway, I'm there, lying on a vinyl reclining dental chair with my mouth wide open while the dental hygienist asks me about kids, work, etc.  I explain I'm a stay at home mom.  She immediately informs me how lucky I am.  She doesn't question how on earth I made it to a dentist appointment at 10 a.m. even though I had a 3 year old and a one year old at the time.  It clearly didn't occur to her.  Feeling defensive, I offered that I had to get a babysitter to come to my appointment.  And I had to go home immediately after the appointment so my babysitter could go to class.  My cell phone was on my lap the entire check-up because I worry about my kids every minute they are with a babysitter.  Yet again, the dental hygienist only went on to express how lucky I am that I have a babysitter.

Wait...what?  She had just finished telling me that she works part-time while her own mother watches her children.  Free childcare with your own mother?  That sounds like a dream to many of us.  Yet I'm "lucky" to find and pay a stranger to watch my kids so I can go to a freakin' dental appointment?  I was speechless.  Probably a good thing, considering there were various sharp metal instruments in my mouth.

I offer this not as a condemnation of the dental hygienist.  I am sure she is a nice, well-meaning person doing her best.  I am using this as an example of how close-minded we can be when comparing our situations to those of other moms.  It is so easy to think the grass is greener on the other side, that the SAHM's life is fun and luxurious, or that the working mom's life is full of alone time and freedom.  But in doing so, we are not acknowledging the fact that everything has good and bad sides to it.  For better or worse, we all want acknowledgment that we are working hard, don't we?  I don't think anyone wants to seem like things just fell in their lap.  

Did I lecture that dental hygienist?  Did I sit up and argue that Boo hoo, I have it so hard?!  No.  I just took a deep breath and let her think her thoughts.  It is extremely hard to change people's minds anyway.  I am sure there are some ways I do have it "easier" than she does.  I'm sure there are some ways she has it easier than I do.  Above all, I am trying to resist thinking she is the lucky one--- to live near her family-- which, yes, is my number one source of mom envy.

What are your thoughts on luck?  Do people say it to you?  Do you find yourself saying it to others?  Why is it so tempting to think life is determined by luck or fate?  

~Frantic Mama

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You can find more of my work on:  Mamalode and Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka?


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Having a Baby is Nothing Like I Thought it Would Be


Having a baby was nothing like what I thought it would be.  Perhaps the only thing I got right was that I would love my babies so much.  Other than that, well, I was wrong.




1.  I thought I would never be lonely.  Yet, I have been lonelier when home alone with a baby than I ever have been in my entire life.



2.  I thought it would be FUN to have a baby to take care of when my husband had to travel; the baby would 'keep me company.'  When my husband travels, it leads to some of my hardest times as a mother.  Overwhelming, stressful, and again, lonely.



3.  I would go about my usual business on the weekends-- strolling the mall, going out to dinner, meeting friends for lunch-- but with a baby in tow.  Maybe this is true for some.  But not me.  My life has completely changed in that it revolves around my children's needs and schedules.  Strolling the mall with a toddler in tow holds absolutely no appeal for me.  Ditto for dragging a baby out to a sushi dinner.


4.  It would fly by.  Everyone, everyone says this, right?  So it has to be true.  But no.  Some of the longest days of my life have been taking care of my young children, especially when they are newborns, sick, or teething.  Or there is a snowstorm, or it is a million degrees out, so we are stuck inside.  The verdict is still out as to whether the "days are long but the years are short" will ring true in this house.


(Honestly, this image from Baby Boom is shockingly realistic once you have a baby. 
The struggles that a once simple trip to the grocery store  now entail!)


5.  I would have at least 3 kids.  Right now, two-- which I have-- is plenty.  Three little people needing me all day might just push me over the edge.


All this said, Motherhood has been an overall positive experience for me.  Really.  The best moments of my whole life (first sonograms, belly laughs, gummy smiles, family vacations, the hilarious things they say) have happened since becoming a mother.  But it is much different-- more taxing, more demanding, more lonely-- than I could have ever expected.

~Frantic Mama

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

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Fun with Pinterest

Guess what?  I've escaped the house on this sunny Sunday afternoon with my laptop in tow.  I just ordered a double iced latte, and I'm gearing up to write a fun, image-filled post for all of you out there scrolling your feeds/e-mails/web!

I enjoy scanning Pinterest for home ideas, children's activities, and even simple DIY ideas.  These are often dream ideas, but sometimes I come across something I actually attempt to replicate.  Or, I find some great writing to read.  However, my favorite pins after a tough day are the funny ones.

Here are a few of my favorite pins and pinners of late:

I love a small painting project that I can do on my own that inexpensively brightens up our space.  I adore this idea of pretty-fying a plain, ol' filing cabinet:

(Pinned from the great DIY site, HappyHousie.com)


I'm posting this one for people with younger kids.  I wish I had seen this when my kids were just a little smaller!  An easy ball pit using a pack-n-play:

(Pinned from rookiemoms.com)


I love finding cool, gender-neutral ideas for our bonus room/playroom.  I am currently working on a smaller version of this chalkboard wall (a how-to post to come shortly!).

(Pinned from Jonesdesigncompany.com)



Who doesn't have a big cardboard box laying around and a bunch of markers?  My son had fun with this:

(Pinned from Berrysweetbaby.blogspot.com)



I am obsessed with people who post so-called "Pinterest Fails," such as this Rainbow Cake:

("Nailed it!"  Haha.  Pinned from Bluntmoms.com)


And this pin from Dumpaday.com made me laugh out loud:




I'll leave you with this inspirational pin featuring the fearless Tina Fey.  I think writers, artists, comedians, or anyone who puts themselves out there, need to remember this:


(Pinned from InspiredbyCharm.com)


Let's Pin together!  You can see more of Frantic Mama's favorite pins on my Pinterest page, right here.  

Thank you for stopping by.  Please comment with your own Pinterest pages or favorite pinners, and I will be sure to check them out.

~Frantic Mama

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

Monday, July 7, 2014

If I can do it...Homemade Playdough


The proverbial pigs have flown.  I made playdough.  In my kitchen.  From ingredients I miraculously had on hand.

As I've written before, once in a blue moon, I feel like getting crafty and Pinteresty.  My sister, who has 3 boys under age 6 [oy vey!], texted me that she had made playdough with her kids.  I was speechless.  Then I laughed.  Then, I figured, hmmmmm... if she can do it in her house of constant mass chaos, then perhaps I can or should.

I quickly scanned the short list of ingredients.  Lo and behold-- I had ALL of them-- even Cream of Friggin' Tartar (from the days, years ago, when I found time to bake cookies).

Interested in trying it out to kill some time this summer?  I promise this really only took about 10 minutes.  One nice bonus is that this playdough contains all food-grade ingredients, so if your kids are like my toddler and need to taste test everything from dirt to dandelions, then this is the playdough for you.


Here are the ingredients & measurements:


(Can't read my scribble?:  2 cups flour, 2 cups warm water, 1 cup salt, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, 1 Tablespoon Cream of Tartar.  Stir over low heat).



Dump it all in a big pot on your stove on low heat, and stir.  My 4 year old was a huge 'help' adding the measured ingredients to the big pot...



It thickens really quickly.



Don't take it out to cool until it gets drier (you don't want it too sticky).


Divide into a few clumps and add food coloring.  Note: you need quite a few drops of coloring to make bold, bright colors.  We didn't have much coloring left, so ours well, see below.




That's it!


*Note:  See below for my very pink hands after working the food coloring in.  If you care about the color of your palms-- I clearly don't-- perhaps wear gloves?



Store the playdough in a big air-tight container.  It is so much better and more malleable than store-bought, so I say it's worth the effort.

Extra credit:  Add a few drops of essential oil to the playdough balls.  I added lavender in hopes it would make my kids calm.

Enjoy feeling clever and oh-so-crafty!


~Frantic Mama

Let's Connect On:  FacebookTwitterPinterestGoogle+, & Instagram.

You can find more of my work on:  Mamalode and Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka?




Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Having More Than One Kid: What it's REALLY Like

Recently, I have been contemplating the differences between life as a mother of one child versus life as a mother with more than one child.  I have a just-turned-4 year old spirited, highly sensitive son, and an almost-2-year-old active, bold, persistent daughter.  I am amazed by the stark contrast of my daily life with two little ones compared to a SAHM who has just one child.

When I had only my son, I thought my life was challenging.  I was surprised (and thrown into quite a spiral of generalized anxiety) at how draining, lonely, and hard motherhood could be as I attempted to settle into life as a new stay-at-home-mom.  Add to that his spirited baby personality-- one that made him more complicated than the few other babies I knew-- and well, the days were long.  But we had many moments of fun, affection, and mini adventures together all the same.  I was and am very grateful for him.

Then, almost 2 years ago, I added my sweet little daughter to the mix.  [I couldn't believe I 'gave in' to my husband and decided to go forth with adding a new member to our family, but I did.  And I am very grateful that I did and that she is such a lovely little sprite.]




BUT.  (There always seems to be a 'but' in my blog, right?).

There are days when just having one child sounds luxurious, especially knowing what I know now.  I picture going on fun outings where I only need to focus on one child.  Because-- here it is-- if I could truly focus on just his or her needs, I am certain there would be fewer behavior issues at any given moment.  No clamoring for attention.  No sibling bickering.  Not one child wanting to stay at the playground while the other child begs to leave.

I feel guilty about this, but I even occasionally get nostalgic for the days I spent solo with my son, as a new mother of one treasured little boy, regardless of how challenging his behavior and temperament could be.

All of this reflection comes from having recently spent time with a couple of mothers who have just that one child.  We will meet at a park [GAH!] or our homes, and I feel down afterwards.  What should be a fun, carefree outing [I fear that many working mothers glorify these playdate attempts; perhaps I can reassure them that it truly is not easy, that you don't finish a single sentence, etc., but you will probably not believe me].  Anyway, the first 5-10 minutes of said playdates are fine, but then one of my kids falls down and needs me, and the other asks for a a very specific snack.  If I'm not watching one very closely, the other one is climbing up the stairs, and when I go off to chase her, my son has opened up their pantry and is saying 'no' to all of their offerings.  All this, while the solo child is happily playing like a little angel.

I fear I look like the crazed, flighty, lack-of-discipline mom, simply because I am trying to stay on top of both children's needs while attempting to be a polite and sociable guest.  It just does not work.  

I had a mother-of-one at such a playdate tell me authoritatively "don't be afraid to say no."  Um.  I was certainly not looking for parenting advice or judgement.  Of course I say no to my children, but truth be told, "no" is used primarily when their choices will harm them or someone else.  Because I have more than one child, there are certain battles I cannot realistically tackle right now.  My son eats on the couch?  Fine.  My daughter dumps her water all over the table?  Ok.  Yes, sure, it's not fun to clean all of that up, but I would be saying "no" ALL DAY if I truly wanted to control every aspect of their lives.  And that sounds awfully dull, ineffective, and exhausting.

*I should add that all of this does not mean I think in reality "the grass is always greener" with one child (as many of my readers know, I think the 'grass is greener' mentality is annoying), because in reality we all have our challenges, whether with one child, no children, or many children.  These reflections come from a more wistful 'if I had known then' mentality, if that makes sense...

Despite the challenges, I do love having two children.  There are many joys in watching my two interact and make each other laugh or smile.  Joys that trump the double dose of anxiety, exhaustion, and stress.  Of course, with each child one adds to their brood, surely it gets even harder.  A dear friend just had her fourth child, and I am in awe of her.

I would love to hear your thoughts.  Did you decide to just have one child?  Or, have you always planned on having a big family?  Did you change your mind?  Why or why not?

~Frantic Mama

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You can find more of my work on:  Mamalode and Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

No More Mom Guilt: My One Week Experiment


Nothing can prepare you for the amount of guilt you will likely feel once you become a mom.  Virtually every decision or choice you face will come with it a heavy dose of guilt.

Guilt is probably the major source of negativity in my life.  This is interesting, considering guilt is a self-imposed feeling.  No one is saying to me, "Feel guilty!  Feel really, really bad about x-y-z!"  It is all in my mind.

What would life-- even just for a day or a week-- be like if I mindfully attempted to "shut down" the guilt center of my brain?



Summer is a less structured season in our home, which is both positive and negative for a stay-at-home mother of a 4 year old and a 1.5 year old.  There aren't many places you need to get to "on time," which is nice, but, well, that means there aren't many places [i.e. preschool] one needs to be.  It seems like the right season for a little Guilt-Free Experiment.

Here are the 5 decisions I will try NOT to feel guilty about in the upcoming week.  Please join me or add your own in the Comments!:


1.  T.V. for the kids.  The AAP recommends no more than 2 hours of screen time for kids older than 2 (and NONE AT ALL for kids under two).  I tend to feel guilty just about any time I turn on a show for my kids.  Why?  Did I not watch Sesame Street growing up?  I was a good student.  I read constantly.  I liked school.  I also liked t.v.  I shall try NOT to feel guilty this week when I turn on Dora for the kids so I can take a breath.


(Little Einsteins.  Is it bad that I kind of like this show too?)


2.  One thing I try to do when my kids miraculously settle down for a 20 minute show is work on my computer.  I would love, love, love to write more every day, but because being a SAHM is my main job right now, I simply can't devote as much time to writing as I would like.  I am determined NOT to feel guilty this week if I use some time this week to write if my kids are occupied, whether it be with a show, a babysitter, my husband, etc.

3.  I'm starting to think everyone loves taking their kids to the park more than I do.  Almost every mom I know asks if we want to 'meet them at the park.'  Sure, in theory, that would be great.  Could we sit on a bench and sip iced tea while our kids gleefully play on the monkey bars?  No.  I would be in a sweat chasing mine around while they run in opposite directions; my son would surely throw a fit about something seemingly inconsequential to everyone else, and my daughter would fall down at least 5 times.  I would be ready to leave in about 10 minutes.  This week I will NOT feel guilty for not spending inordinate amounts of time at a park.



(Ah, wouldn't it be wonderful if this were reality?)


4.  My son is doing a 2 morning a week summer camp this summer, where he spends about 2 hours outside playing games with kids his own age led by energetic, young counselors.  Yes, he gets nervous separating from me.  Yes, I worry about him the entire 2 hours.  And, yes, I dutifully drop him off those two mornings a week, feeling the guilt physically as an ever-present nervous pit in my stomach.  However, a little voice in my head tells me that he NEEDS to be around other kids.  He NEEDS to separate from me and his baby sister from time to time to develop autonomy and self-confidence.  Therefore, I will try really hard NOT to feel guilty this week when I drop the little guy off at camp.

5.  Similarly, because SAHM's do not have lunch breaks or the ability to duck into Target or the doctor solo on a Wednesday afternoon, I occasionally have our beloved babysitter spend a couple of hours with my kids so I can write, check my e-mail, go to the grocery, or even go to the dentist  (what luxury, right?).  I will try NOT to feel guilty about this.  Because, again, perhaps it is good for the kids and me to get a little breather from each other now and then.

I could go on, trust me.  I am sure there are many other sources of guilt in my daily life.  But let's start with these 5, shall we?

~Frantic Mama

P.S.  I'm on Mamalode today with my piece on What to Expect When Visiting a House with Young Kids.  Check it out if you have a chance, and if you can, please like it, share it, pin it, etc.!  Thank you!

Let's Connect On:  FacebookTwitterPinterestGoogle+, & Instagram.

You can find more of my work on:  Mamalode and Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka?