8 Things I’ve “Counted” Towards Earning the Mother of the Year Award

Count everything!

I recently shared how I became Mother of the Year, which basically consisted of me giving myself the award every day for any reason possible.  And it got such great response, I thought I’d expand on my first idea of how to get started – which is, COUNT EVERYTHING!

It all began one day when Josie ate more ketchup in one sitting than I thought humanly possible.  At first I thought, “I am the worst.”  Then, in my desperate brain, I made the connection that ketchup is made from tomatoes, tomatoes are technically a fruit, so Josie just ate lots and lots (and lots) of fruit.  And then I sarcastically called myself Mother of the Year!

But something happened in that moment where I decided that I needed to call myself that every day so I don’t get bogged down with the meltdowns and the poopy diapers and the sleepless nights.  So I started counting everything.  This is good practice, so take note.

What Counts on the Road to Winning Mother of the Year? 

Everything.  Like these 8 things.

  1. The Generous Food Pyramid: Anything that is derived from fruits or vegetables counts in this category. Pickles are cucumbers.  Ketchup is tomatoes.  French fries are potatoes.  Peanut butter and jelly is the perfect combination of whole grain, protein, and fruit.
  2. Peanut Butter and Jelly: Here’s where it gets fun. Anytime I give Josie a PBJ I give myself Mother of the Year because of what I mentioned above.  Anytime she gets something other than PBJ for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, I also award myself the honor.  Seriously, guys, are you getting this?  Being extremely, overly generous to yourself is what it is all about.
  3. The Donut Ninja: One time I promised Josie a donut on the road to see Grandpa and Grandma. The gas station we stopped at only had Donettes, so I bought the big bag (obviously), and passed her a couple.  Then, because I’m human and was pregnant at the time, I couldn’t stop at just 2, so I secretly reopened the bag without raising suspicion, and shoveled in one tiny piece of heaven at a time until my pregnant self was full of sugar and regret.  It was amazing.  I held conversation with her, and even reclosed the bag.  If you’ve ever tried to sneak ANYTHING (but usually food) past your toddler, you know what a victory this was for me.  It felt good.
  4. Reverse Psychology: Enough said, probably. But here’s what’s working for me now.  Josie’s potty-trained and very adamant that she is only going to use the bathroom when she absolutely has to.  But before bed, I really need her to go to avoid any nighttime wakings or catastrophes.  So most nights my line is, “You know what, Josie?  I bet if you sat on that toilet nothing would even come out.”  And like magic, she’s up there tinkling.  I act all surprised and impressed and she loves it.  The downside is, she will no longer just go to the bathroom without me making this big fuss.  But mission accomplished either way.
  5. Formula Win: Cal is on formula, which is another story for another time. But dang, that stuff is expensive.  And he has expensive taste which is even more expensive.  And as we were figuring out which formula to give him, lots of moms suggested this super ridiculously expensive can of formula that was $40.  $40!!!!  For less than a week’s supply.  And he hated it.  So I called the company and asked for a refund.  Turns out they can’t give me my money but they can send me 2 cans of what he uses now.    And just for fun I called the store to see if I could get a refund on opened formula.  Yes I can.  Boom.  Got $40 back in my pocket and 2 full cans of the good stuff for my little man.  Life lesson: It doesn’t hurt to ask.
  6. The Belle Dress: This one is actually legit.  Josie was going to her first theatre experience to see the musical Beauty and the Beast.  And I really wanted to get her a Belle dress.  $22 at Target, ugh!   I hardly spend that much money on any clothing items for myself.  But I just couldn’t pass it up.  I was like a kid on Christmas Morning, bursting with anticipation and excitement at the thought of giving this gift to her and then watching her wear it to the show.  (Spiritual side note: this must be a glimpse into how excited and delighted God gets when He gives us all the great gifts in our lives!) It was worth every stinking penny.
  7. Laughter is the Best Medicine: Punishing your kid is hard sometimes. But when I put soap in Josie’s mouth for talking back, I just can’t help it.  I grab the first towel/burp cloth/sweater I see, bury my face, and giggle.  And she doesn’t see me do this, so that’s why I earn the award.
  8. Leaving Cal with a Stranger: Josie really really wanted to ride the escalator at the mall. You can’t bring strollers on those things, so I had a dilemma and it must’ve shown on my face, because the Guest Relations lady left her nearby kiosk and offered to keep Cal company while I took Josie for a ride.  And I said SURE!  I left my child with a stranger to watch my other child hop on the escalator like Buddy the Elf.  It was awesome.

So there ya have it.  Mother of the Year.  You guys, we’re doing it.  We’re awesome.  And I’m pretty sure this list proves that.  What crazy ways are you earning Mother of the Year status?

How I Became “Mother of the Year”

As soon as Cal was born, and life got even more nuts than I thought possible, it was hard some days to think that I was doing a good job as a mother.  Self-doubt, you are relentless.

Then, I decided that that is nonsense and the way to fix it was to think about the good things.  This led to me giving myself an award every day.  This award is similar to Michael Scott giving me a Dundie in that it’s pretty easy to earn most days.  (If you don’t know what a Dundie is: A. We can’t be friends, and B. It’s a reference from one of my favorite TV shows on the planet, The Office).  My award is called Mother of the Year.  And like I said, I try to give it to myself every day because chances are, I’ve either done at least one thing that ACTUALLY earns me Mother of the Year, or I facetiously award it to myself on a day where we all barely survived by the skin of our teeth.

Mother of the Year

So how can you become Mother of the Year too?

  1. Count EVERYTHING: This is the first thing I started doing to get in the habit. Follow me on this one.  Ketchup is made from tomatoes.  Tomatoes are a fruit.  Josie ate 7 gallons of ketchup with a spoon for dinner.  Boom.  Mother of the Year.
  2. Kids to bed early: Two wins here. Your kid wins with lots of great sleep.  Josie is almost 3 and still goes to bed at 7pm, and sleeps until 7am.  Girl goes hard during the day and needs her rest.  (She also still naps, FYI).  Cal is on the same schedule.  Both kids are growing and restoring their bodies for 12 hours each night.  And guess what mom is doing?  Hopefully not growing, but definitely restoring my mind and body.  When the kids go to bed, magic and miracles abound.  Even if that means I’m folding laundry on the couch while watching Netflix.  I’m winning.  Kids are winning.  Boom.  Mother of the Year.
  3. Keep the schedule: I’m a BIG schedule person.  A planner.  A Babywise Mom if you’re in the mom circles.  That means I wake Cal up every morning at 7 for his first feeding so we can keep on schedule and know what to expect from our day…well, as much as you can know what to expect with a newborn and a toddler.  And I make plans around the schedule, for my sanity.  And keeping my sanity means…you guessed it!  Boom.  Mother of the Year.
  4. Break the schedule: Well now that’s just confusing. But seriously.  Breaking the schedule for GREAT reasons is the reason you have a schedule in the first place.  A few weeks ago Josie stayed up until midnight.    But it was so she could go to her first theatre experience, Beauty and the Beast.  It was worth EVERY MINUTE!  To see her enthralled in the music and story was a gift to me.  And a gift I had to keep reopening as the next day and for a few days after the sleeplessness got to her and she lost her ever-loving mind on several occasions.  Making memories.  Boom.  Mother of the Year.
  5. Self-Care: Guys, obviously I preach this, and try to practice this as well. But any time during the day that I do something for myself – even something as necessary and elusive as taking a shower – I call it self-care.  And I call it a win.  Boom.  Mother of the Year.
  6. Adios Mom Guilt: This is a topic I want to tread very lightly into, because it is such a real thing for most moms.  But not for me.  I decided a long time ago that I had too many other things that demand my emotional and intellectual capacity that I would not subscribe to Mom Guilt.  And I haven’t.  If a guilty thought comes my way, I dismiss it immediately.  I’m a great mom.  I’m doing my best.  Boom.  Mother of the Year.
  7. Invest in relationships: Although lately these have been few and far between, Ryan and I still do date nights.  Our goal is to sit in the same room, relatively undistracted, with each other one night a week.  Sometimes we talk and plan and dream.  Sometimes we watch Netflix and he falls asleep.  And then when we can, we go out on real dates.  And those are solid gold.  And marriage isn’t the only relationship I’m investing in.  Obviously we love spending time with our families, and I also still keep my standing Monday night with my Monday Night Girls to watch The Bachelor(ette).  And I schedule play dates and coffee dates and girls’ weekends with Mom friends.  I’ve got a wide circle of people who continue to know me and love me.  Boom.  Mother of the Year.
  8. Hone your Mom hands: Oh my gosh, this is my new favorite skill. I think the instant you become a mother, out of instinct or necessity you are able to see a glass fall a split second before it slips out of your kid’s hand and catch it.  I seriously can’t count the times that I’ve saved the day with my Mom hands.  Plus, I’ve also mastered several other skills while only using one hand – like making a PBJ sandwich while holding a baby.  One-handed people.  I dare you.   Boom.  Mother of the Year.
  9. Use the TV: For the first couple years of Josie’s life I was very adamant about NO TV. I’ve read lots of studies about limiting it for kids of all ages, but especially for kids under 2.  So I did.  But now, partly for my sanity and partly because it’s awesome, Daniel Tiger is teaching my kid things I wouldn’t have thought to teach….and teaching it in song.  Brilliant!  He’s got a song about everything from potty-training to sharing to saying goodbye to mom and dad at school.  My personal favorite, which DOES NOT work in the heat of the toddler meltdown, is singing, “Mad, mad, mad.  It helps to say I’m mad.”  Boom.  Mother of the Year.
  10. Stop over-thinking: Classic woman problem. Classic mom problem.  But we were given women’s intuition for this very reason.  Problem with your kid?  You probably already know the right answer.  Check your gut, and move forward.  And if that turns out not to be the fix, cool, try something else.  But to stand paralyzed (usually in front of the computer pouring over mommy forums) thinking through every single possible solution is exhausting and debilitating.  I’m trying to do this less.  Boom.  Mother of the Year.

So what about you?  I’m sure you would be Mother of the Year too if you even thought to give yourself this award!  And if I earn it 3 days a week for counting ketchup as a serving of fruits and vegetables, then I just know you deserve it too.  You’re doing great.  And keep telling yourself that.

Am I Going to Miss This Crazy Stage of Life?

youre-gonna-miss-this.png

You’re gonna miss this.  That’s what they say, and what Trace Adkins so beautifully sings about, and the exact lyrics that I sing out loud at home any time I think about the absurdity of missing whatever chaotic thing is happening at the moment.  And then I burst into tears.

Tears of exhaustion from sleep deprivation, not knowing what the heck I’m doing and usually not even knowing how to pretend like I do, and frustration.  Tears of deep love for my kids and my life.  And just the smallest amount of guilt that I might not be mom enough because I do not think that I will miss any of this, and I think that real moms do.

Of coimg_4127.jpgurse, we are in the thick of it now.  A super sassy almost-3-year-old and an impossible-to-figure-out 7-week old.  And I keep thinking that maybe this newborn thing will get a little easier and it never does.  I keep telling myself over and over that this is a phase.  And someday I will look back on it.  Probably with relief.

I put it out there to my Facebook friends who are past this time in their lives.  Most said almost the exact same thing, coupled with some great advice – I’ll miss some parts and not others!

Lynne – “I miss the cuddles and sweetness of toddlers. I do not miss diapers, bottles and not sleeping! Each stage is wonderful and awful at the same time. I have enjoyed the stages my boys have gone through and going through now (for the most part!) I think of it more as savor the special moments. Don’t get too busy that you can’t enjoy your children. It’s hard when they’re so little. They demand so much more. Savor those special moments. And try not to let the nitty-grittiness of life get in the way.

Kelli – “There are things I miss and things I don’t–true of every stage. Despite being so demanding and exhausting, enjoy the moments. It really goes fast and contrary to what I thought it did not get easier! The older they get the bigger the issues, more impactful are the choices, hard to let them learn on their own when you have the experience. Keep praying and communicating…and remember you are not alone! Other parents face the same things, even if it doesn’t appear that they do! Talking with a mom who has kids a few years older than yours is a great benefit!”

Elizabeth – “This very particular stage you are in….helpless newborn baby, needy toddler, sleepless nights…NOPE, don’t miss that.  A few months out and the years after…yes I will miss those dearly. Pull my hair out craziness most days, but the toddler to preschool stage is the best in my opinion.”

One said, YES you will miss this! 

Sherree – “Yes, you will miss it terribly. This stage of life is where you still have control and the worries are far smaller than what comes later. It is replaced by attitudes, pimples, a driver’s license and dating.”

And her sentiments were echoed by our Radio Theology listeners when I asked for calls on the topic.   They all agreed that time goes too fast and I will miss this baby/toddler stage.  (You can listen to that below.  Spoiler Alert: at one point in this segment I may or may not get sassy with one of the listeners.  Oops!)

Then there was some talk and agreement that even if I will miss it, that’s the worst possible thing you can say to someone who feels like she is drowning, or maybe on good days doggy paddling in the endless ocean of toddler tears and baby poop.  (Wow, there’s an image for ya.)

lean-in.pngAfter processing and digesting all of this, the point, I’ve decided, is not whether I like or dislike this stage, or whether or not I will miss this stage.  But that I lean into my own life.  Actively participate.  In the good and the bad.  One of my favorite quotes from Ann Voskamp is this very idea.  “Joy and pain.  They are put two arteries of the one heart that pumps through all those who don’t numb themselves to really living.”  So when it is tempting to disengage and retreat from my own circumstances, I’ll always try to remember to do the hard work of leaning back in.

I might miss Josie jumping up and down, excited to see me after a day at daycare, but I’ll block out the meltdowns over leaving her at the top of the stairs even though she is fully capable of walking down them herself, not letting her sleep with a toy nut and bolt, or telling her yes for something she asked for and then somehow heard no or decided in a split second that having the very thing she wanted would ruin her life forever.

I will look fondly back at when she took her first steps, but will erase from my memory the months of her spitting up all over the entire world (and somehow always on me and usually down my shirt, her spit up pooling in my bra).

I will try to look back at both Josie and Cal’s newborn phase with joy and gratitude, remembering that they were healthy babies, and will disregard how crazy I felt after the hours of sleep I missed feeding or comforting them in the middle of the night.

I realize in reading back through this that it sounds like I’m absolutely miserable, and that’s just not the case.  We really are doing fine, and much better than the last time I posted.  It’s the moments where I am miserable that all of these emotions come into play.  But I feel like it is so important to say out loud to myself and anyone else who’s in the thick of it, that it is ok to feel however you feel in the moment.  But keep leaning in. 

“How’s It Going?” You Ask? – A 4-Week Postpartum Check In

So everyone is asking me the same question…… “So, how it’s going?!”

I look at them and half smile, take a long pause with an extended sigh, and say, “Good!”

Here’s what I don’t tell most people (some people, of course, get the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth).  It all runs through my head in an instant during the sigh.

How’s it going?

Well, let’s see…I’ve got a new tiny baby who, although perfect and adorable and amazing in every way, lives in my house now.  He’s fully dependent on his parents for every little thing.  He doesn’t acknowledge my existence, but demands every ounce of everything I Calhave, making me feel like most days I’ve given all I can give by 10 a.m.  He is sleeping at night, but still up every 3 hours to eat.  And then of course because he has gas and spit up issues and is already rocking a gnarly cold with congestion galore, we have to keep him upright for at least 20 minutes after he eats so he doesn’t die or something — making a simple middle of the night bottle feed feel like an eternity, even though it lasts for only 45 minutes (if I don’t fall asleep holding him in that last 20 minutes – then it’s anyone’s guess when I wake up hoping I haven’t dropped him and get myself back to bed).  And during the day he sleeps best when attached to me in some way, making it impossible to get anything done.  I know I need to just lay him down and let him cry but then there goes my relaxing nap time!  Seriously, my victory at the end of the day is knowing that we are all alive and that I maybe unloaded the dishwasher…or at least had the presence of mind to write it down on the to-do list I never look at anymore. And that’s just Cal.

Then there’s Josie, who has always been amazing and stubborn and goofy and empathetic with a large dose of sass.  Now that she’s almost 3 and simultaneously going Josie and Calthrough a major life change where she has to realize she isn’t the center of the universe, she’s really amped up the stubborn and the sass.  Oh my.  Screaming, disobeying, hitting – you name it – she’s doing it.  Now, in between those meltdowns are amazing memories that I will try to use to block out the other low points she’s bringing me to these days.  Sweet moments where she begs to hold Cal, where he makes a tiny whimper and she sprints from any room in the house to force-feed him his paci.  Every time she talks to him, her voices goes up an extra octave and her smile is ear to ear.  Those are the things I will remember instead of us yelling at each other to stop crying and yelling at each other (Parenting Tip:  This method does not work.  If you find yourself in this situation, immediately question all of your life decisions, and then abort mission.  You’re welcome).

And then there’s Ryan, whom I love but don’t really know right now.  Who walks in from a long day at work and an even longer commute home to me telling him to choose which Ryan josie Calscreaming child he’d like to take a run at comforting.  Josie, locked in her high chair but throwing a world-ending fit because I “started” her string cheese for her.  Or Cal, who was quietly napping in the other room until the string cheese incident occurred.  Ryan, who loses his wife to either tears or sleep between 8 and 9 every night now (thankfully at 4 weeks postpartum, most nights it is sleep, not tears).  And Ryan, who has a million projects to do around the house, but forfeits those most of the time to engage with his family instead.  I mean, watching the relationship between Josie and her Daddy take off these last few weeks has been awesome.  Life-changing and life-saving (because prior to this she was all Mommy, all the time, and right now Mommy ain’t got time for that).

And then there’s me, who just to carve out an hour to write this blog, had to first drop Me and CalJosie off at daycare, let my baby scream while I showered, heat up coffee for the third time this morning, and get a spoonful of leftover chocolate buttercream icing from the fridge.  (*Real life update: Just finishing this 30 hours later.)  Me, who had to make some tough choices in the last few weeks (like going from nursing to pumping to formula, but more on that in another post).  And sometimes the choices were only tough because in the few weeks after having a baby, my mental capacity for decision-making is basically zero.

Week 1 example: Ryan’s sisters wants to order us dinner for delivery all the way from Arizona?  Awesome!  I cry, and then Ryan hands me the menu and I cry harder because I can’t decide what to order.  All the while knowing I won’t enjoy the meal anyway because I have anxiety that hits between 5-7 p.m. the first week or two postpartum for fear of what the night may bring.

Week 2 example: I have Cal sleeping quietly in my arms, but I need to pee, so I decide to put him down.  The time between when the decision was made and the actual putting him down was at least 15 minutes, because I was just paralyzed (until the bathroom thing became a real motivator).

Week 3 example: I get text messages from my Radio Theology peeps and I want to go back sooooooo bad, but I can’t even muster enough courage to text them back to say that I’m not ready yet and feel like I have nothing to offer anyone.  (*Healthy update: by Week 4 I was back in action)

Week 4 example: Shave my legs.  Ok, fine, I didn’t shave all the way up, I stopped at the knee because it was just too big of a commitment.

And me, who admits out loud when I can, to the best moms I know, including my own, that I don’t know how people do this.  They each give the same answer, by the way, and it is this: They just do.  You figure it out.  And keep figuring it out.  You talk to other moms about it so you don’t feel at all alone.  And you let yourself laugh and cry and succeed and fail again and again.

So, to answer your question – how’s it going?  It’s good!  Reeeeaaaalllly good…with all the other tough stuff in between.  And that’s ok.

And a big fat P.S. A HUGE thank you to our amazing family and friends for all of the help they’ve given us – with meals, toddler-watching and baby-holding, cleaning, cooking, and doses and doses of encouragement.  You guys rock.  And are the reason that people can do this.