My Heart Skipped a Beat – 3.5.13

I was just uploading Megan’s 11-month pictures. 11-month pictures. Oye. And I stopped at these. The boys always want to get in her pictures, so I (excitedly!) let them. It seems so weird to see my baby standing up. This picture literally made my heart skip a beat.
 
Megan and her boys.
 
My spunky 11-month old. Now sleeping through the night. Keeping her brothers in line. Love it.
 
Gosh, are these kids really mine?

How it All Went Down – 2.28.13

If someone would have told me four days ago that my baby would have slept through the night last night and taking naps in her crib today, I would have… well, I don’t know. I guess I would have… just started crying or something. Because I would have thought you had confused me with someone else. And I would have been mad with jealously, desperately wishing that was me.
 
Except it IS me! And my baby IS currently taking her afternoon nap in her crib!!!!
 
I had a plan to sleep train Megan months ago. We trained our boys to soothe themselves when they were 10 weeks old out of necessity – and we were happier parents because of it! But I just couldn’t justify it this time around. Why, oh why, would I let my little girl cry? I couldn’t do it! She’s only one baby. It felt so much easier to let her nurse to sleep and then I would gently lay her in her crib. Sure, she’d wake up at least four times a night. But I’d feed her again and lay her back down once she fell asleep. That whole process took about 25-40 minutes each time – not a huge deal. But add those minutes to the time I had to hold her during her two daytime naps (because she’d inevitedbly wake up if she heard her brothers while transitioning to her crib) as well as the hours I’d feed her in the evening before she’d fall into a deep milk coma… and I was exhausted.
 
This hit an all-time low about a month ago when I started sleeping on the couch with her all through the night so she’d be able to sleep sitting up – to help with the cough, the stuffy nose, the pink eye, the earache, the runny nose, etc. Transitioning her to the crib at night was no longer an option and I felt like I’d get better sleep this way if we just nursed all through the night.
 
WRONG.
 
We both kept getting sick. And more exhausted. I wish there was a word worse than exhausted to describe just HOW exhausted I really was. I was leagues beyond exhausted, beyond sleep deprived. I was restlessly dehydrated.
 
Last Friday, I was mumbling nonsense to myself.
 
Last Saturday, I was putting the remote in the fridge and the car keys in the cupboard.
 
Last Sunday, my eyes wouldn’t stop twitching and I was a hair away from rocking myself back and forth in a locked closet while my kids screamed for their mommy.
 
So I’m sure you can just imagine what poor shape I was on Monday.
 
I’m being a little silly, but in all seriousness, Monday was the lowest I have been in a long time. I was drained. Completely empty. I couldn’t think straight. I was having lustful thoughts about sleep. Thinking, ‘I don’t necessarily want to kill myself, but if I were dead, at least I would be sleeping.’ Andy and my mom were willing to help, but I didn’t know where to accept their aid. I was the only one Megan wanted. I was the only one who could nurse her. It was the only way she could go to sleep. The only clear thought in my head that made any real sense was: I. Can’t. Do. This. Anymore.
 
I wasn’t ready to receive EVERYONE and their brother’s advice about what I should do (or what I should have done differently.) So I knew I was way too raw for an open Facebook status message. Instead, I wrote a private message to a few of my closest mommy friends.
 
You know, the ones who know you’re crazy, but still think you’re a good mom? Yeah. Those friends.
 
I asked for prayer. Real prayer. I knew I was at a low point and couldn’t bear to sleep on the couch with Megan one more night. I needed to make drastic changes THAT NIGHT, even though the circumstances weren’t ideal. Megan was still sick. She was still on amoxicillin for her earache and had acquired a new cold and cough. Ideally, I would have waited for her to be healthy before expecting her to cry through a completely new routine. She might throw up. She might drown in her own snot. Perhaps I should wait. But I couldn’t bear the thought of doing it one more day.
 
Side story: my boys were (obviously) giving me a hard time about taking a nap. Largely because I was too emotionally gone to foster the loving pre-nap ritual we usually follow. I was giving empty threats. Just wanted them to be quiet and do what I wanted. I just wanted to nap and sleep my sorrows away for a few minutes. Give myself some time to soak in the prayers of my friends. Ben wasn’t going with my plan and so I threatened, “Benjamin, if you don’t be quiet, I will spank you so hard you won’t even know what hit you.” Let me be clear. I don’t usually talk to my kids like that. I’m going to blame a phrase like that on my severe lack of sleep. But my three-year-old, in all of his innocence and goofiness, said, “Yes! I will know what hit me! It was your hand!”
 
Oh, Lord, forgive me.
 
Thankfully, my boys did take a nap that day. And Megan – completely exhausted from our bad night on the couch – fell asleep next to me on my bed. My friends prayed. And encouraged. And wouldn’t you know, I heard the perfect words I needed to hear when I woke up. One friend, who also struggled more with her second born than her first said, “It can’t get much worse.” She was right. That was it. I was going to start that night.
 
Andy came home early from work and we talked over dinner while the boys watched a movie. In all honesty, I was so sick about all of this I couldn’t even eat. We came up with the final plan and talked through every step. We would start that night.
 
If you don’t want to read the specifics of how we tackled this, skip this next part and continue at the **********
 
First, we had to change her schedule so she wouldn’t be eating directly before bedtime. I fed her before bathtime with the boys and then lotioned her up, put her pajamas on, brushed teeth, etc. After we said goodnight to the boys, Andy proceeded with their bedtime story ritual and I went in Megan’s room. We turned on the new noise machine and sat in the rocking chair. Since I had already mounted our new video monitor on the wall with Command Strips, I knew I’d be able to monitor her progress from my bedroom. That gave me a lot of much-needed peace.
 
We rocked for a few minutes and I told her what to expect. I’m not sure she understood exactly what I was saying, but I know she understood that things were going to be different (but alright) by my tone. We read a few books together and then I sang some lullabies. Then I stook up, turned off the light and sang “Jesus loves me” next to her crib. I prayed, said, “It’s time for sleepy time,” a phrase that I’ve tried to work into her sleeping schedule now, and then put her down in her crib. That is our new ritual.
 
Then I rushed out and closed the door behind me.
 
You wouldn’t be surprised to know that she started crying even before my feet left the room. It was horrible.
 
But don’t forget what kind of day I had. I never like to hear my baby crying (especially when I knew it was because of a process I’ve encouraged and enforced since Day One!) but my resolve was strong. There was no way I could sleep with her on the couch again. I just couldn’t. Physcially. Emotionally. Spiritually. I was done.
 
So she cried. And cried. But I knew she wasn’t dirty. I knew she wasn’t really hungry. She wasn’t cold. There was plenty of light in there. And so we let her cry.
 
Our plan was for Andy (not me) to go in after 5 minutes and soothe her before putting her down again without saying anything. And then he’d go in again after an additional 10 minutes. Then 20, then 40, etc. Each time, the crying got more intense as she realized she wasn’t getting what she wanted but then all of a sudden, it rapidly decreased. Her cries weren’t intense, just whiny and constant. She was getting it. She cried for a total of 65 minutes that night and she didn’t wake up until after 4am.
 
For those of you that might have just skipped passed that information, let me say it again. She didn’t wake up until 4am. She slept from almost 10pm to 4am. That is phenomenal! Andy had been ready to go in and pat her back through the night if she was fussy, but he didn’t even have to do that. At 4am, I figured she was probably hungry (or just wanted to nurse) and so I fed her for 10 minutes before putting her down awake again. She cried for an additional 45 minutes and then slept until 7:45am. And this was just the first night!
 
I continued with this same schedule on Tuesday and Wednesday, although her progress isn’t as impressive during the daytime naps. But the nighttime sleep has just been amazing. Since that first time, we start the routine earlier so she’s in bed by 7:30/7:45am, which seems to be better for her. (Our first instinct is to put them down later so they wake up later, but that has NEVER been true for my kids! Good sleep begets good sleep!) Last night – the third night in our training – she slept from 8pm to 5:35am. I fed her (actually, she threw up this morning because of the mucus in her system,) but after outfit changes for the both of us, I held her another minute before putting her down awake. Then she slept until 7:30am.
 
These are miracles, I tell you. Modern-day miracles.
 
**********
 
As I said before, her progress hasn’t been as evident with the daytime naps, largely because she longs to be awake with her brothers. That’s difficult when she tends to need two naps a day and her brothers nap once (and honestly, only about 3/4x a week.) But the fact that right now, at 2:24pm on Thursday, all three of my kids are napping at the same time… in their own sleeping arrangement… after soothing themselves to sleep… is just miraculous.
 
I reviewed a lot of books while trying to discover which process would work best for Megan right now. The best one I found was Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Marc Weissbluth. It addresses sleep issues that you might have from birth through adolescents. I am, in no way, a model parent for the methods he recommends in his book. But I can tell you, I have found a way to feel human again. To take control of my home again. To think clearly and enjoy my side of my bed at night. And I’ve gotta say: it feels absolutely wonderful.
 
I had told my friends that I would join Pinterest when Megan started sleeping through the night. My mom remembered my pact and so when I woke up after a restful sleep this morning, I saw an invite from my mom on Facebook. Hmmm, Pinterest, huh? Yeah, I guess it is time.
 
So I joined.
 
Oh, Lordy. What have I DONE?!?!?

Chomping at the Bit – 2.22.13

I feel like the newbie on the team. I’m jumping up and down excitedly, saying, “Put me in, coach! I’m ready! I’m really ready!”
 
Because it’s been more than ten months of nursing my baby to sleep. For every single nap and all through the night. And I am ready for it to END! I’m chomping at the bit to start. I’ve read a ton of books, talked to a ton of moms, and read a ton of stuff online. A ton. It’s taken me a while to feel 100% ready, but now that I’ve got a plan, I can’t start. Because I have to wait until Megan is 100% healthy.
 
Two weeks ago, it was pink eye. For all three of my kids. Last week, it was a nasty cold. For all of us. And this week it’s been an earache for Megan. Oye. I am so anxious for this child to not be sick anymore! Poor baby has had four teeth come through on top, most likely a big part of her recent shenanigans. I spend most nights on the couch with her so she can be upright, counting down the hours until the sun rises and the rest of the house wakes up. My back aches and the bags under my eyes are so not attractive. I long to sleep in my bed again and wake up to the soft coos of my loves after more than four hours of sleep at a time.
 
I’m ready. And as soon as Megan is healthy, it is GAME ON!

The Value of the Truth – 2.12.13

You know when you have those A-HA! moments? Those moments when you stop and think, Wait a minute. I did just something good right there. I’ve gotta remember that!
 
Well, they don’t happen a ton, but when they do, I tend to take notice.
 
I’ve learned that I can get my boys to do just about anything if I’m completely upfront and honest with them.
 
I’ve always tried to be honest with my kids, when I can. If they’re going to get a shot at their 3-year-old well visit, I tell them. It makes it a lot easier in the long run. So maybe it’s just what they’re used to. But when all three woke up with pink eye on Sunday morning, I knew it would involve a ‘dreaded’ visit to the doctor. Well, I wasn’t positive it was pink eye, but when I consulted my reliable sources on WebMD, I knew that had to be the case! I didn’t think the pediatrician would be open, so we planned on going to Immediate Care. We changed our outfits from Sunday Formal to Saturday Comfortable and piled the kids in the van. On the way, I explained what I knew about our current situation.
 
“We have to go to a new doctor’s office today to get some medicine for our eyes.”
 
“But I’m not sick,” Ben said. Yeah, right. His eyes were the reddest of the bunch.
 
“Well, the doctor wants to look at your eyes anyway. We may need some medicine to help us all get healthy again.”
 
We exchanged a few more questions and answers before having to say, “I know you don’t want to go, but sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do.” I’m finding many occasions where that’s appropriate lately. They don’t like it, but they have to learn that’s part of life. I’d rather them have a fit in the car than in the doctor’s office.
 
A few minutes into our carride and I took my sister’s advice to call the pediatrician – I hadn’t realized they were open! Plans changed. She was calling in a prescription for us, over the phone! Oh, how lovely. We were all grateful not to have to drag all three kids into the pediatrician if we didn’t have to. We changed our course to pick up the antibiotics at our grocery store. Eye drops. For all three kids. Which would need to be administered three times a day.
 
Oh, Lordy. Eye drops. How am I going to explain this one?
 
I explained that we would no longer be going to see the doctor, but that I’d be picking up some medicine instead. “Our medicine is eye drops,” I told them. “It will help our eyes feel better. It will be like I’m splashing your eyes with water and I’ll have to do it a lot of times.”
 
They were, obviously, a little unsure of this new method and immediately threw a fit. I kept calm and emphasized our goal: being healthy. They asked a lot more questions until they were a little more comfortable. Then they were fine. We were barely out of the car and the boys were BEGGING to have their first eye drops ‘splashed’ into their eyes! Oh, the tumultuous life of a three year old little boy. Or two.
 
Now, I’ve never done this before. I knew I wouldn’t like it. I’ve never had glasses (much less contacts,) but the thought of me – or other people – poking around my eyes makes me sick to my stomach. So I had to suck it up and just do it. Another part of life where it kinda stinks being the adult.
 
Knowing my boys, I let them gain some kind of control. I let them choose whether they wanted to stand or sit on my lap. Which eye was first. If they wanted to cover the other eye or not. And they were the ones to tell me “GO!”
 
I’ve gotta be honest. It was not the devastating situation I had imagined. They flinched, but they took their medicine so much better than I would have. Not even twenty four hours later, we were able to be excited together to see how much their condition had improved. “The medicine is working! The medicine is working!” we all jumped around the kitchen this morning. It was so rewarding to actually SEE their virus improving. Their ‘hard work’ had begun to pay off.
 
I know I sorta came the long way in explaining my point, so I’ll say it again. My boys like knowing what to expect. They don’t like surprises. I tell them what they need to know before it’s staring them back in the face. Because I’d rather have a little time to answer questions and relieve their nerves than get to the doctor’s office when that huge needle is aimed at their bloodstream and it takes a fleet of nurses to hold them down. There’s no time to explain then.
 
I believe this helps nurture trust.
 
I want my boys to know that I can be relied on. Trusted. Counted on. That if they ask me a question, I will do my best to answer it. That I won’t spring something on them the last minute in an effort to catch them off guard. Because I want them to be as emotionally and physically prepared as possible. It’s for this reason that I try not to tell them if someone is coming over for a playdate until a few minutes before when I know they’re on their way. As much as disappointment is a part of life, I try and limit the number of disappointments I have to explain. That’s just me.
 
As always, you know your child best. Some of your kids are better off not knowing they’re going to get a pint of blood drawn a half-hour ahead of time because their nerves kick into high gear and make them nervous beyond functionality. This is just something I’ve learned about my kids.
 
Now, if we can get everyone healthy again, then perhaps I can start reading about how to get my sweet baby to sleep through the night. Because sleep would just be a DREAM now. Literally. Or figuratively. Or… whatever. You know what I mean.
 
I want sleep.

When Sleeping Is My Best Option – 2.8.13

Oooh, I have so much I want to do.
 
Why is it, that I think of so many things I want to do when I have the least amount of energy to do them?
 
I finished a big craft project for my Mothers of Preschoolers group this week. Like, huge. As in “use every free minute during the day and stay up until 1am for two solid weeks” kinda project. For the last few days there, I wasn’t even cleaning my house. And let me tell you, dishes pile up pretty quickly over here. So when it was done, I was exhausted. Relieved, but exhausted. That’s when I started making my wish list of projects.
 
You know what that means, Super Moms. The list of projects you want to do after you’ve made dinner, thrown a few loads of laundry in and fed your starving children. I like to think of it as extra credit.
 
First up, was my bedroom. I desperately want our bedroom to be a calming place. No paperwork on the dressers, no clothes on the floor, blankets on our bed, just a place to relax. But our room has never been that way since we moved in eight months ago. It’s pretty embarrassing, actually. And after I finished that, I wanted to work on the dining room table. You know, the one that has been housing the craft supplies from my big project! Then it was the basement. Oooh, the basement. If the rest of my house is clean, it’s only because I’ve stashed everything down there.
 
I was ONE day away from feeling like my room was almost clean and Megan got sick. Just a cold, but sick, nonetheless. So not only was I recovering from MY lack of sleep, but now I was caring for an adorable, snotty baby who just wanted to be held. All night. So that turned Mommy into a warm pillow with a backache. The couch was our makeshift bed for a few nights while she benefitted from the sleeping-in-the-upright-position sleep. And I just… well… you don’t really sleep very well with an infant on your chest. Especially one that cried whenever she tried to nurse because she couldn’t breathe.
 
I’m getting a book delivered tomorrow called “No Cry Sleep Solution.” I’ll give you one guess as to what I’m struggling with to need a book like that.
 
Normally, nighttime is my work time. I get so much done in the evening after all of the kids are asleep. But tonight, I can barely keep my eyes open. My throat is sore, my voice is barely there and my whole body aches. Andy worked late tonight and I did the bedtime routine on my own. And it was a really rough afternoon. I love my kids like crazy, but I am so over this whole screaming/tantrum/whining stage. It’s good to see their angelic faces fast asleep in order to reaffirm my love for them. This. Mommy. Is. Exhausted.
 
My dining room can wait. My bedroom can wait. The basement can definitely wait. I’m not going to think about the fact that there are eight puzzles thrown all around my family room, puzzles that I was too lazy to make the boys put away. I’m not going to think about the possibility that I’ll be up with my ten-month old again tonight. I’m not going to stress about how I will EVER get her to sleep through the night until after I’ve had a few minutes to peruse the book that hasn’t even been delivered yet.
 
For now, I’m going to lay down in bed. Close my eyes. And hope sleep finds me soon.
 
I have so much I want to do. But for now, sleeping is my best option.

Being a Friend – 1.31.13

This post was written by my co-author, my dad:
 
A husband works and plays to an audience of one: his wife. An older friend recently told me about a secret she had discovered about men. After her elderly husband had finished working on the outside of the house all day, she wisely asked if he would be willing to show her what he had done.
 
Admittedly, she had to pretend to be interested at first, but her interest grew as she saw her husband begin to blossom with enthusiasm and appreciation for the attention he was receiving from his wife. You can’t imagine how encouraging something like this is to a husband. Really.
 
Just for a moment, imagine a husband writing this letter to his wife:
I need you to be my friend and companion, even my buddy. During courtship you could hardly wait to be with me because you liked me. Please be more friendly toward me in the home. I feel that you scold me. I need a lover not a mother. I want you to see me as your ally, not your enemy. I like it when you want to be by my side. I like it when you want to be with me just because. I like it when you want to watch me do something without critique.
 
I want you to be with me at times without talking. I want you to like me not just love me. I want to be close to you; shoulder to shoulder. I like being alone in solitude but knowing that you are in the next room. Please don’t view me as the tin man who has no heart. Don’t pass judgment on the quality of my friendships because I don’t relate to my guy friends in the same way you relate to your girl friends. I would (be willing to) die for some of my buddies. Would you die for your girl friends? When we greet one another in the evening, could you do so positively? Can you hold off the complaints of the day? And when I leave in the mornings, would you express something positive to me? I married you because I needed your positive companionship. I want you to be my friend.
 
All this creates such deep feelings in my heart for you.*
Be a friend.

 
*Excerpt from Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerich

Nine Years Later – 1.30.13

I took my kids to eat dinner at Subway tonight since my husband was working late. They were being so charming, so thoughtful, so delightful. I picked up my cell phone to write a cute exchange they just had as a Facebook status update when I saw someone approach our table.
 
“Miss Albrecht?”
 
I looked up. It was a boy. A teenager. A somewhat familiar face, but I couldn’t place him. The fact that he called me by my maiden name gave away the fact that he was a former student who I had within my first three years as a teacher. (I met Andy during my third year and we were married at the end of my fourth; all of those kids would have known my married name and called me “Mrs. Sauer.”) That would put this young man as about 19-20 years old.
 
And yes, every bit of that information crossed my mind within the millisecond before I responded.
 
He had to tell me his name, but as soon as he said it, I looked at him as if he were eleven years old again. Ryan.
 
Ryan had been quiet. Short. An average student. Never really talked much. A nice kid. I can’t say that I made a huge difference in his life as a student, but I suppose with 125 sixth-graders every year, you can’t make a perfect connection with each one, right?
 
I asked what he was up to, if he was in school, etc. No. He was working at a pizza place up the street. “Are these your kids?” he asked. Realizing I hadn’t introduced them, I exchanged names and then he surprised me with his next sentence. Seemingly out of nowhere. “My girlfriend is two months pregnant.”
 
Oh.
 
Wow.
 
I see.
 
I had a million different thoughts, but I didn’t want to come across as too judgemental. “Wow, that’s a lot of responsibility.”
 
Honestly, I don’t remember what other small talk was said after that little exchange because I was completely lost in my thoughts. He left after picking up my napkin that had fallen on the floor.
 
I finished writing my status update and put my phone down to see Jack offering some of his bread to Meg. I felt so incredibly proud of my kids. MY kids. These are not my students that I invest myself in during the workday and then send home to their families. These are MY kids. Gosh, how did I get so lucky?
 
I have my Master’s degree. I am permanently certified to teach pre-kindergarten through sixth-grade in New York state. I have five and a half years experience as a classroom teacher in the district rated second in the state. While these are great things to be proud of, they are not my greatest accomplishments.
 
Still, it makes you think.
 
When you give up a career in order to invest yourself in your family, it’s easy to question whether or not you did the right thing. Gosh, I could have offered so much to those kids. I could have made a difference in their lives. I could have done so much.
 
But at the end of the day, you know that there was nothing I could have done differently to see that Ryan stayed in school or didn’t get his girlfriend pregnant at such a young age. I taught him about ancient civilizations. Read his essays. Helped him organize his homework schedule. 
 
I choose to invest everything I’ve got into these three beings I helped bring into the world. Three. Some may see it as a waste of talent, of resources and of time. But here’s how I see it: I’ve got ONE shot. One. And I don’t want to mess that up. I know that by staying home, it will not mean my kids won’t find trouble outside the house someday. They’re kids. With free will. I’m counting on them having their own life experiences. But I am praying that my influence, my dedication, my love for God and their daddy will make them more willing to stay open to the Lord’s leading.
 
That’s my prayer.

This is – in no way – belittling the hard-working moms who work outside the home out of enjoyment or necessity. We are all doing the best we can with what we have. Simply put, this is just the best fit for my family right now.

 
Some may think I’m doing those 125 kids a disservice by not being their social studies teacher. Perhaps they’re right. But I’ve got three pretty special kids sleeping upstairs right now that would beg to differ.
 
Best of luck to you, Ryan. May God give you all the wisdom, grace and stick-to-it-iveness to be a great daddy to that precious little one.

My Son, Jon – 1.28.13

Well, the day has come.
 
I honestly can’t believe it did.
 
I thought I had more time.
 
My son, Jonathan, who we’ve affectionately nicknamed “Jack,” now wants to be called “Jon.” And he’s breaking his mama’s heart!
 
Jonathan is my firstborn. Except I’ve never had to tell him that. He proclaims himself to be the leader and Ben gladly follows. The other day, he told me that he was the boss. Surprised, I asked him to repeat himself. Then seeing my smile and raised eyebrows, he added, “I am the boss when I am a daddy.”
 
He’s three, folks.
 
We knew that he was serious about his name-change when his Sunday school materials came back today with his new desired name written on the back. I almost cried.
 
My little brother was fifteen when he decided to make the switch from Daniel to Dan. I remember being sad, hoping he’d change his mind and not sure if it would ever feel right. Eight years later, though, and it feels just fine.
 
My smart, inquisitive, determined and “I want to do it the right way, Mom” firstborn is making his own way. In a very three-year-old sense, he is asserting his independence. He wants to be called Jon and so I will try my hardest to accomodate (even though I will secretly be praying that he does change his mind!)
 
In the meantime, this is my son, Jon:
 
No matter what I call him, he will always be mine.

Venturing Out Into the World – 1.23.13

As I’ve said before, I love getting out with my kids. As much as I would classify myself as a “stay at home mom,” I’m definitely more of a “get out and venture into the world with my kids while also maintaining some kind of order at home” kinda mom.
 
Oh, I get looks. Lots of looks. When you see identical twins walk into a store, of course you give them a second glance. You wonder how similar they look, if they are indeed twins and how they’re different. I get that. But you wouldn’t believe some of the facial expressions that come my way when I enter a store. Disgust, curiosity, amazement and perhaps a little bit of insanity. I’m trying not to be so sensitive about it. Can you tell? 😉 It’s just a side effect of having twins. I know my kids are super cute. Go ahead, give ’em a look. Point and stare at their long eyelashes. They’re adorable, I know. At least that’s what I tell myself they’re saying.
 
When I had Megan, the looks got even more frequent. And expressive. You’d think I had four heads and three arms with how obvious people are with their double-takes. Yes, I have three children. Yes, two of them are twins. Yes, they are identical. Yes, I am proud to have ‘finally’ gotten a daughter. No, I am not some kind of breeding experiment gone wrong. Geesh. An older gentleman in McDonald’s saw me enter the restaurant a few weeks ago with the boys holding onto my jeans pockets (a rule we have for crossing a parking lot) and the baby on my hip. As I tried manuevering my crew to the restroom, he gruffed, “Ya got enough kids there?” I was so appalled by the abrasive nature of his comment – especially when my kids were behaving so well – that I responded with a straight face, “Oh, this is nothing. I’ve got five more in the car.” That shut him up.
 
One of the best comments I’ve received came from a middle-aged woman in the grocery store last winter when I was pregnant with Megan. She pointed to my boys and then pregnant belly and joked, “Girlie, if I were you, I’d sleep with one eye open.” It still makes me laugh out loud!
 
But I digress.
 
I like taking my kids out with me, so I have to be intentional about how I want them to act. I thought I’d share some of the things that seem to work with my kids, making them pleasant to be around when we’re out in public… most of the time anyway. 😉
 
First thing: we talk about it. As we’re getting our shoes on, getting into the car and driving to our destination, I tell them what will happen and how they’re supposed to act. “Okay, we’re going to the library today. We’re going to borrow some new books and DVDs! What do we do when we’re in the library?” We talk about how we have to be quiet, walk and not yell or they will ask us to leave.
 
Second thing: we joke about what we’re NOT going to do. I sorta started this on accident because I felt like all I was doing was lecturing my kids about what they should do. I started being silly about the behavior I would NOT expect from them. “When we go into the library, are we going to run around the bookshelves and throw the books into the air?” NOOOO! “Are we going to hit the computer with our boots and do somersaults on the floor?” NOOOO! “Are we going to yell at our brother and hit him in the head with a video?” NOOOO! All of this is received with uncontrollable laughter. They get it. And they always ask for more. “Mom, tell more jokes!”
 
They know what to do, they know what not to do. So now, comes praise.
 
This is the last thing. I praise them like crazy. The moment I see them do something I asked, I jump on it. “Uhh! Benjamin! You’re whispering in the library! What a good listener you are. Everyone will be so happy you’re being quiet so they can read their books.” “Jack, you held the door open for me without me even asking. What a gentleman you are! That is so helpful to me when I’m holding Megan!”
 
It sounds silly, but it totally works. Sometimes, they’ll ask me to call Daddy to tell them that they were being a gentleman, a concept he started encouraging a few months ago. So I do as soon as we get into the car. If he’s not available to talk, we call my mom, my dad, my sister, anyone that will answer their phone so I can brag on my proud toddlers. And. They. Love. It.
 
I suppose I forgot to mention this one. It’s a biggie. When I’m in the store, the library, the museum, wherever, my total attention is on them. I don’t talk on the phone, I try to shop quickly and move fast. I keep them stimulated in conversation (or with a game of “I Spy”) so they don’t get bored and start making trouble. Trust me, that can happen quickly. Just give me one minute of looking up a recipe on my phone and I’ve got two boys spitting on eachother and pulling their brother’s hair.
 
Alright, I forgot another one. Perhaps I should have organized my thoughts a little better before I started this post, huh? Always keep an ace in your pocket. Not literally, but figuratively. Give them something to look forward to when they do well. And be prepared NOT to give it to them if they don’t. It doesn’t have to be food and it doesn’t have to be expensive. “Boys, if you are good listeners today, when we get home, I will make each of you your own paper airplane.” or “If you act like a gentleman this morning when we’re at the store, we can fingerpaint before your nap.” or “If you keep your socks on in McDonald’s Playplace today, I will give you your Happy Meal toy when I buckle you into your carseat.” And believe it or not, they go for it. It seems to work well when I give them something to look forward to. Something I know they like.
 
I should have also prefaced this with the fact that we DO have meltdowns in public. Gosh, I really should have written an outline before I started this post. Hope I haven’t lost you completely. We have bad days. We have crying fits. We have impromptu wrestling matches in the middle of Target. It happens. In those cases, I just try to keep my eyes down and get out as quickly as possible. When I have a moment to recollect my thoughts (usually, when they’re sleeping,) I try and reevaluate what I could have done differently and make a plan for next time. Well, that and usually a good venting session with my husband 🙂
 
I like getting out of the house. I like being with my kids. These ideas help make both scenarios possible. 
 
Because as we all know, “If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”

“Boy Wanted” – 1.21.13

This entry was written by my co-author. My dad.

 
Donna and I were very happy with three little girls. Actually, I was afraid to have a boy. Then one day, one showed up. We used to read, “Boy Wanted” to him occasionally from William Bennett’s, Book of Virtues (below) as soon as he was able to understand it.
 
Girls naturally become civilized as they grow up but boys need to be taught to be civilized. With all the confusion about what manhood should look like in our society, boys need direction. For example, we used to ask him how many children he would like to have when he grew up. This encouraged him to look into the future and to see himself as a grown up. Gratefully, he is all grown up now and has his mother’s gentle temperament. He remains a “boy wanted”.

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Boy Wanted
This “want ad” appeared in the early part of [the 20th] century.

WANTED – A boy that stands straight, sits straight, acts straight, and talks straight;
A boy whose fingernails are not in mourning, whose ears are clean, whose shoes are polished, whose clothes are brushed, whose hair is combed, and whose teeth are well cared for;
A boy who listens carefully when he is spoken to, who asks questions when he does not understand, and does not ask questions about things that are none of his business;
A boy that moves quickly and makes as little noise about it as possible;
A boy who whistles in the street, but does not whistle where he ought keep still;
A boy who looks cheerful, has a ready smile for everybody, and never sulks;
A boy who is polite to every man and respectful to every woman and girl;
A boy who does not smoke cigarettes and has no desire to learn how;
A boy who is more eager to know how to speak good English than to talk slang;
A boy that never bullies other boys nor allows other boys to bully him;
A boy who, when he does not know a thing says, “I don’t know,” and when has made a mistake says “I’m sorry,” and when he is asked to do a thing says “I’ll try”;
A boy who looks you right in the eye and tells the truth every time;
A boy who is eager to read good books;
A boy who would rather put in his spare time at the YMCA gymnasium than to gamble for pennies in a back room;

A boy who does not want to be “smart” nor in any wise attract attention;
A boy who would rather lose his job or be expelled from school than to tell a lie or be a cad;
A boy whom other boys like;
A boy who is at ease in the company of girls;
A boy who is not sorry for himself, and not forever thinking and talking about himself;
A boy who is friendly with his mother, and more intimate with her than anyone else;
A boy who makes you feel good when he is around;
A boy who is not a goody-goody, a prig, or a little pharisee, but just healthy, happy, and full of life;
This boy is wanted everywhere. The family wants him, the school wants him, the office wants him, the boys want him, the girls want him, all creation wants him.
Source unknown
Quoted in The Children’s Book of Virtues
by William J. Bennet
 
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This is our son, Dan and his wife Lydia dancing their first dance as husband and wife last July: