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Toddler for President

I know how to fix the political divide in America; the one that threatens to ruin lifelong friendships, split families apart, and ensure that life-changing actions will be forever stalled.




Here’s how:

Elect a toddler to be president.

Emma, July 4, 2013

The other day, my husband and I were snuggling in bed with our 19-month-old boy when he raised his arm into the air. He turned his head to look into each of our eyes, and clearly commanded through his pacifier: “Up.”

We both obeyed by raising our arms into the air, and following his lead, we pretended to reach for the ceiling, straining and grunting in mock frustration.

We lowered our arms shortly thereafter and began a conversation. It was only a brief moment before the toddler was again commanding us: “Up.”

We laughed and obliged once more.

“You rule the world, little Rexy,” I laughed while nuzzling my nose into his neck.

And that’s when it hit me:

Put a toddler into the presidency, and all the ills of our nation — nay, the world — will be solved.FullSizeRender (5)

Everyone wants to make a toddler happy

Because toddlers are just so darn cute. Their chubby faces can make even the stuffiest jerk-face crack a smile. And most people will oblige a toddler’s request just because it’s so cute to hear that request and see the grin that follows.

Just as we were willing to forego our interesting conversation and raise our arms into the air, members of congress will be willing to stand on their heads, play peek-a-boo, and make googly faces in hopes of a smile.

“Ahem, Madame President. This idea is just the worst idea in the history of all ideas, and I am going to detail at length the reasons why.”

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“Oh, you like my shoes? You want to wear them? OK, somebody help Madame President put on my heels. Now what was I talking about? Doesn’t matter. Peek-a-boo!”

Emma, Oct 2013

How can amazing, unifying decisions not result from a meeting like that? Both sides of the aisle will make compromises just to keep the toddler happy.

Nap time

A toddler in charge is going to wind down. It’s going to get tense. She’ll start rubbing her eyes and shouting nonsense at the members of her cabinet.

“But Madame President, we just need you to sign the veto right here after this X.”

She’ll scream a loud NO, throw the pen across the room and start walking in circles while she rubs the back of her head.




Her caretaker will march in. “Alright, ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for Madame President’s nap. And I suggest you all follow suit.”Emma, 2014 (5)

After a satisfying 2-hour nap, everyone will wake up refreshed and ready to tackle the matter of the veto again. Only now, they’ll have new perspective and will find a more harmonious way to handle the issue.

Snack time

When mid-morning rolls around during the meeting on the budget deficit, everyone will begin to get grumpy. But nobody will outmatch the grump of Toddler President.

Her caretaker, ever astute, will notice the signs of an impending meltdown and begin passing around bananas, peanut butter, and graham crackers to Toddler President and all meeting attendees.

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Toddler President will then require 30 minutes of Sesame Street before she can even consider discussing anything presidential. By the time everyone has finished filling their tummies and singing along with the Sesame Street gang, the mood will be lighter and happier.

Brains will be buzzing with new possibilities.

The budget deficit? Solved, in one mid-morning.

Hugs

There is nothing that can match the warmth and happiness of a toddler hug. Did you know toddler arms are not proportioned the same as adult arms?

It’s true. Raise your arms in the air, and your head will come up to your elbow or thereabouts. When a toddler raises his arms into the air, his head comes up to his wrists.

T-Rex arms, if you will.

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I believe this is one of the many reasons toddler hugs are the greatest thing in the world: the pint-sized arms reaching around an adult’s neck are nothing short (haha) of bliss.

Plus, toddlers often mimic the “Ahhhs” adults make when giving hugs to toddlers, as well as the pats on the back.

Imagine if every congressional meeting began with Toddler President walking around the room giving short-armed hugs to everyone while saying “Ahhh” and patting their backs! Each meeting is a guaranteed success.

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Short Attention Span

The attention span of a toddler is only slightly longer than that of a goldfish.

And that’s a great thing once a heated debate gets going in the Oval Office.

“Madame President, could I please direct your attention over here? No? Oh, OK. Let’s all go see what’s in the box. Probably more interesting than what I had to say anyway.”

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“Oh, and now we’re going to dance? Alright then.”

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Soon, everyone will be dancing and clapping. Grumpiness gone. Problems, prepare to get solved.

Stuffed animals = peace around the world

“Toddler President, our intelligence tells us Country A’s dictator is at it again, messing up the lives of his citizens. Meanwhile, Country B, sensing an opportunity in the civil unrest of Country A, is getting ready to attack. What should we do?”

“Teddy bears!” comes the reply of Toddler President.

“Send them all teddy bears?”

“Yep!” Clap clap clap.Emma's 2nd birthday -- Dino 15

When Country A and Country B receive their shipments of teddy bears, their hearts are softened. Crisis averted. Thanks, Toddler President.

Contagious Excitement

When Toddler President stands to give the State of the Union Address, all of America will clap and shout hooray at every single thing she has to say.

Because her excitement is contagious.

Emma's 2nd birthday party -- Emma singing happy birthday to herself

It will be impossible to disagree with anything she says. We’ll be a completely united country.

Time to call it quits

And when Toddler President starts giving everybody crusties, that’s when we all know it’s time to go home. No need to drag things on.

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How to Get More Stuff Done When You’re a Parent

I learned three years ago that when I stop and give my children the attention they need right in the moment they need it, my day somehow magically opens up for me to accomplish all the other things on my to-do list.




It’s magic, but it isn’t a guarantee. Still, most of the time, I can leave my article mid-sentence, leave the dishes on the counter, leave the vacuum in the middle of the floor, and somehow it will all end up getting done when it needs to.

But nothing gets done when I keep telling my children, “Just a minute.” My article doesn’t get written, the house is a mess from morn until night, and worst of all — we’re all grumpy and don’t like each other very much.

It’s Easy to Forget

I learned this lesson three years ago, but actually forgot all about it somewhere along the way until things boiled over a week or two ago.

Life has gotten busier than ever, and I’ve allowed myself to become resentful of the time my children take away from my career and passions. And they’ve been equally frustrated with me for the time I don’t give to them.

Then last week, I felt a little whisper remind me about that important lesson from three years ago. And so I put it back into practice.

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Seeing it Work

My toddler wandered over to me while I was vacuuming today and whined while he pointed to the other room. I was two minutes away from finishing the vacuuming, and just wanted to do it to completion. I was about to put him off like I normally would.

But then I remembered that whisper. So I turned the vacuum off, took his hand and followed him to where he wanted to go.

He babbled and pointed at the couch where I saw a row of dominoes in a neat, little line. How did he do that so well? If I hadn’t followed him, I wouldn’t have noticed.

He began handing dominoes to me, but his half-word/half-grunting instructions were less than clear, so I didn’t quite know what he wanted me to do. I took a guess and started stacking them on the table.

The unfinished vacuuming was really bothering me, and I planned to just stack a domino or two before walking away to leave him to the new activity.

But for some reason I stayed. I wasn’t sure why at the moment.




If I hadn’t, I would have missed his cute and silent grin as he watched me out of the corner of his eye each time he bent to pick up another domino. He was loving my attention. I would have missed the hug he freely gave when we finished stacking. I would have missed the exaggerated grunt he made when he pushed the tower over.

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I hate interrupting my work. It seems so inefficient. If I could just have that last minute or two, I could get everything ship-shape and then give my children all the attention they need.

Only it never works that way. There’s always another thing, and my children are always pushed back. And nobody likes to be put off again and again.

I’m a parent. I chose to be one. I wanted these moments with my children.

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How easy it is to forget that.

Letting my children interrupt me means messes in the house last longer. Articles take longer to write. I can’t get ready as quickly.

But still, somehow it all works out when I put my children first.

I don’t know how it happens, but it does.

Measurements and Judgments

This blog post was actually derailed no less than three times.

Yet here I sit writing it, feeling at peace with the day because I didn’t freak the freak on my daughter for crying about being hit in the face with a snowball. I didn’t try to cajole her back out into the yard to play when she really wanted to call it quits and come in. I looked at my computer, turned my back on it, and picked up my hurting daughter.

We live in a world of measurements and judgments. We compare ourselves according to the scales that we create in our head, which means that even in our own homes, we feel subject to the outside judgments of the world.

This makes us worry over things we really shouldn’t be batting an eye at.

Reversing the Order

Don’t get me wrong: It’s necessary to have a level of tidiness and cleanliness in a home. And I don’t really subscribe to the belief that we have to surrender our homes and personal care to the messy, demanding whims of our children.

But perhaps tidiness and cleanliness can be… adjusted. We can reverse orders.

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We’re going to be working on tidiness and organization for the rest of our lives. Even my mom, who is the cleanest woman in the world and who has no children at home, still has to figure out how to organize things.

So if we’re going to be figuring and rearranging and organizing our homes for the rest of our lives, it really isn’t so important to get it perfect now.

We don’t have to let our homes and personal care go to pot. But it’s OK to let things slide for a moment. It’s OK to leave the bathroom half cleaned and walk away to read the book our chubby-faced toddler is holding out to us. It’s OK to interrupt our work to listen to our children tell us about their day at school over hot cocoa.

The Rest of Our Lives — and Their Memories

Yes, we’re going to be organizing and working for the rest of our lives. But we’re also going to be parenting for the rest of our lives.

And which one of those means more?

It’s not easy, and it’s never going to work perfectly. And sometimes, the magic wears off and our children will absolutely have to take a back seat.

But not always. More often than not, they can be our priority.

And it can be magical.

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What do you do?

Do you know what a CCNA certification is?

I do — because I just wrote a blog post about it for a company that offers training courses for people in the IT world.

Thrilling, right?




Maybe not so much.

But I really love my jobs. I’m a copywriter for a marketing company, and I get assignments to write for companies all across the board and around the world — from printing companies to companies that sell pet food manufacturing equipment to tourism bureaus (that’s my favorite) and more.

When you’re a copywriter, you have to quickly become an expert on the company and industry you’re writing for. And that’s a fun challenge — most of the time.

Even though CCNA certification and pet food equipment hold zero personal interest for me, I enjoy writing in a way that will entice people to learn more, to use a service, or buy a product. And now I know a thing or two about CCNA certification and the technology behind coating pet food, so isn’t that grand?

I’m also a social media editor for ADDitude, an ADHD magazine, which means I get to read articles about ADHD and come up with clever things to say to promote them through social media. I now fancy myself quite the expert on ADHD — whether that’s true or not. (It’s not.) Some might call me delusional, but I’m ready to hang a sign for diagnosing services. Legalities schmegalities.

I actually went to school to become a museum curator, but have spent the last seven years in journalism, copywriting, copy editing, and blogging. Life kind of goes in funny directions sometimes. Although, when I think about it, museum exhibits are the result of curators taking stock of research and figuring out how to dispense that knowledge into interesting and attention-grabbing displays for visitors.

So even though I’m not working in a museum, organizing and producing exhibits, I’m still researching and figuring out how to share knowledge in interesting and attention-grabbing ways.

Sometimes I worry I missed the boat when I didn’t pursue museum work post graduation. Sometimes I want a re-do. Sometimes I start talking to universities, getting their recruiters excited because they’re thisclose to enrolling me in their master’s programs.

Maybe one day I’ll follow that path.

But today, I curate knowledge through blog posts and web pages. Today, I write. Today, I’m satisfied.

What about you? Are you still in the field where you began your studies or career?

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The girls in front of a Machu Picchu photo booth at The Museum of Peoples and Cultures, where I worked as a research assistant for a year of my undergraduate studies. For now, my museum past is enough to impress the socks off these girls.

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Tongue tie is real — and it’s serious

Last September, I passed baby Rex’s first pediatrician at the airport. I immediately felt sick to my stomach and like the wind had been knocked out of me. The doctor smiled and waved, but I was so suddenly sick I couldn’t meet his eyes. So he smiled and waved even bigger. I finally managed to glance at him, but judging by the confused look on his face, I didn’t match his smile. I wanted to scream at him, scratch at his stupid smile, tell him he could have killed my child. But I was frozen.




Baby Rex was given the label of “failure to thrive” by this doctor at his 2-month check-up. We spent the next 10 months in and out of medical offices and hospitals, trying to understand what was wrong with him. He would vomit huge volumes, had terrible eczema, never grew as he should, and most worrisome — he was often losing weight.

I took daily pictures of him for a while beginning at 2 months, and when I look back at them, I see a starved baby that would be the poster child for a charity in a third-world country.

Rex’s first pediatrician did not help me save Rex. Instead, he chastised me. He sent us to the hospital and never followed up to read the reports of the many, many tests they performed over our 3-day stay there. I asked about a lactation specialist, and he rolled his eyes.

He instructed me to wake him twice in the night, even though Rex couldn’t wake up enough to eat, and waking him only made it impossible to keep him awake during the day to get enough volume in his belly. When I explained this, he only instructed me more severely to wake him in the middle of the night. I feared he would call CPS if I didn’t obey his commands.

When I told him how much Rex vomited, he told me to simply keep him upright for a half-hour after each feeding. When I explained that didn’t work and there was much more at play here, he shrugged his shoulders.

I spent two months with this pediatrician, visiting weekly or more, sobbing on the way home from each visit because I had no more answers than when I walked through his doors. I honestly felt at times that Rex would die and there was nobody to help.

Around this time, a friend reached out to me and suggested the name of a lactation specialist. I know she was inspired to reach out.

I had known from Rex’s first week that he didn’t breastfeed correctly. I had been to the doctor twice in his first two months — once after a scary vomiting episode that left him pale, unresponsive, and lethargic and resulted in a 911 call — and had voiced my concerns about his skinniness. My concerns were brushed aside.

I had never had a child with any sort of medical problems, so when my fears were dismissed as nothing, I thought I was the crazy one.

When I went to see the lactation specialist, she took one look at Rex and told me he was tongue- and lip-tied. I had never heard of this issue before, but when I researched it, I found it could most definitely lead to failure to thrive. We had a surgery to correct the ties, and saw minor improvements.

Unfortunately, Rex was nearly 4 months old by this time, and severely behind. I now realize my milk supply was also affected, but nobody helped me understand that.

I sought out an occupational therapist to help me re-teach Rex how to breastfeed, and she focused instead on his eczema, declaring a milk (and possibly wheat, egg, oh who knows) allergy. When I questioned her, and insisted there was something more at play here, she brushed away my concerns. We weighed him, and he actually had gained incredible weight that week since the tongue-tie had been corrected, but still she instructed me to eliminate dairy from my diet and supplement with a special $40 can of formula.

He responded poorly to the special formula, and actually lost a half-pound that week because I followed her stupid advice. She never helped me figure out my milk supply. I never knew to ask.

I switched pediatricians and showed up with notes upon notes upon notes, terrified the new pediatrician would treat me the same, would dismiss my concerns, would send us back to the hospital. I took notes at every single feeding, I analyzed every weight loss and gain to understand its reasons, I monitored his bowel movements and sleeping patterns.

Instead of criticizing me, she looked at my notes, listened to my concerns, and told me I was doing a good job.




She was the first medical professional who treated me as the expert in my son’s health, and guess what — I was. She gave him a prescription for his eczema, which immediately helped him sleep better, which immediately helped him eat better, which immediately helped him gain weight.

She sent us for tests, and she actually followed up to review the results, explaining in detail to me what she had been searching for. (Leukemia, among other things. That’s how sick he appeared and how bad his symptoms were.)

She monitored my elimination diet with me, sent me to several different specialists, and analyzed their findings with me, often calling me at home to follow up.

Rex began to thrive — slowly. Unfortunately, every gain was met with some sort of setback because of his first four months of damage at the hands of a pediatrician and occupational therapist who wouldn’t listen.

By his first birthday, however, he had had consistent weight gain for about two months.

At one point in the process, Rex’s new pediatrician told me she hoped he would one day reach the 25th percentile for weight. He was sitting down in the single digits, and often falling backwards at the time. I thought the doctor was insane.

Yesterday, at his 18-month check-up, Rex measured in the 47th percentile.

FORTY-SEVENTH!

I was amazed, the nurse was amazed, the doctor was amazed. We can’t believe how far he’s come. Looking at him, nobody would ever know he was ever a starving, desperate, unhealthy baby. He is perfect, whole, and chunky — with fat to spare.

(We also found he apparently has a HUGE uvula, possibly the reason for his extreme vomiting? Sheesh.)

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It’s been months since I experienced the dread of the weight check; months since I felt despair every waking moment of the day. It’s been months since I saw the first pediatrician at the airport and wanted to vomit.

I thought I was fine.

I was beaming the whole way home from the pediatrician’s office yesterday, so happy at our wonderful news.

And then suddenly I was bawling, overcome by the horrible, horrible memories of last year. I wanted to simultaneously celebrate and crawl into bed to sleep the sadness away.

No mother should be so completely alone when her child is suffering — dying even. No mother should have her concerns brushed aside and ignored.

I realize this is a long and detailed post, but I wrote it to help someone. There’s someone out there going through what I went through. If you know her, share this.

Tongue-tie is real, and it does cause severe problems. Many doctors, including Rex’s first pediatrician, don’t take it seriously. Finding the right pediatrician who listens, no matter your child’s problem, is crucial. Don’t do what I did and spend two months with a pediatrician who makes you feel stupid. Fire him at the first sign he isn’t listening, and find someone who will.

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Three Kids Ain’t So Bad

Going from one to two kids seemed absolutely insane to me. Why take something that’s working and add another unpredictable variable to it? Our first child seemed to be a success — she was alive and smiled most of the time, anyway — so it made sense to stop there before we ruined everything.




Logic and emotions play a fierce battle sometimes. Even though having more than one child seemed ridiculous to us, we always knew we wanted multiple children — so we didn’t stop. Two kids was a tough transition for me. I’m sincere when I say we had a really good thing going with just one child. Adding another was a major adjustment.

Eventually, we settled in to our new life, and I couldn’t imagine how we had ever lived without our second.

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Transitioning to three kids was the easiest move for our family. I was older, and consequently possessed that confidence in oneself that only comes from experience as the years progress. I knew what I could handle and what I couldn’t, and I wasn’t afraid to let my limitations lead my decision making. The first month after our third was born was honestly bliss as our little family came together and made room for another little body and spirit.




It’s interesting to watch how each child fits into the family. I don’t understand how a new person can jump into a pack of people and alter the dynamics so that everyone has to move and adjust — yet everything still works out.

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Now that baby Rex is growing, he stakes his claim everywhere he goes. He’s sweet and kind, then wild and crazy — just like his sisters. He snatches toys one minute, and the next he offers up his precious stuffed animal for hugs to each person in the room. His sisters covet his hugs and attention, and he relishes in his role as little king.

His presence in the family immediately made his oldest sister, Lydia, the wisest and most experienced. She takes her role as wise teacher seriously and offers up her nuggets of knowledge to both listening and deaf ears.

He made Emma the middle child, and so far she handles that in-between role with grace — playing both the big sister and the little sister roles equally well.

Since they come in three now, their emotions are often shared, tripling in intensity. Consequently, depending on the moment, they’re either a little trio of happiness or frustration. But they go together… like rama lama lama ka dinga da dinga dong.

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I don’t know how a couple or a family can completely adjust, bend, twist, and make room for another human being. I don’t know how that human being can slide right in and make himself at home as if he was always there.

It just somehow works.

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ADHD Didn’t Exist 30 Years Ago… ???

“I have always considered that [ADHD] is largely a manufactured condition to excuse parents from their lack of good parenting, junk food, poor attention to good exercise, etc. and provide lots of new jobs for ‘health’ and social workers. This did not exist 30 years ago… That must give thought to the idea that something is going wrong. Do schools get extra funding for children with the diagnosis of ADHD, do parents get more support — and some parents quite like their children to have a label and a ‘condition’ which excuses their behavior.”

This was a comment on a post about ADHD on a major website’s Facebook page the other day. Unfortunately, it’s a good summation of the backlash people with ADHD in their lives receive on the regular.




I stopped talking about ADHD for years after my husband’s diagnosis because these were the responses I received. But when my child was diagnosed, I decided I need to do what I can to change the conversation — for her future. Children with ADHD should grow up unashamed of their beautiful brains. More often than not, I encounter support and camaraderie when I talk about ADHD. But, of course, I am also subject to these ignorant comments again.

I take issue with every point in that comment above, but we don’t have time to address them all today. Let’s just talk about this one that people say over and over and over:

ADHD didn’t exist 30, 50, 100, whatever years ago.

People use this statement to “prove” that ADHD is made up. But it’s so ignorant! And really so unkind. Why keep trivializing the real problems people with ADHD are experiencing by telling them it’s a fake condition?

You know what else wasn’t around years ago? Seat belts. And by and large — automobile passengers survived. In fact, when seat belts came out, they were offered as options. Options! Did people say, “I don’t know why we need these. We’re all doing just fine without them. Only paranoid people use seat belts.” Maybe! Do you see how ridiculous that sounds?

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But we’ve learned a lot since then. And we’re much better at protecting people in motorized vehicles. Even though the majority of people did not die in car accidents during the seat belt-less era, some people died unnecessarily during that time. Some people received injuries they never had to have. Today, you’ll still find some who don’t wear seat belts, and many of them make it through unscathed. But some don’t.

ADHD did exist 30, 50, 100, whatever years ago, but we didn’t always have a name for it because nobody was researching it. It was just called Lazy. Stupid. The Class Clown. The Shiftless Dreamer.

Some received irreparable injuries to their self-esteem because nobody knew what ADHD was, which meant a lot of people were slapped with pretty damaging labels. Of course, some adapted and made it through seemingly unscathed.

But to insist it didn’t exist, and that we should treat it as a made-up condition, is as ridiculous as insisting that seat belts aren’t saving lives left and right. “In my day, we put the baby in a basket on the floor of the car, and he made it through just fine!” Yes, you did. You had no other choice. Would you suggest I do the same now, with all the technology and knowledge we have today?

Emma, November 2013, 2

Knowledge changes. Science advances. There are actual brain scans that show the difference in an ADHD brain and a neurotypical brain. Incidentally, we also have actual evidence that shows the difference in damage when someone is wearing a seat belt and when someone is not. We accept that evidence. Why don’t we accept the ADHD evidence?

Every time someone says ADHD doesn’t exist or it’s over medicated, they make it that much harder for someone with ADHD to overcome the stigma, get treatment, and change their life.

“But nobody was medicated in my day, and we all made it through just fine. None of us needed to talk about our feelings on some therapist’s couch, and none of us needed medication.”

Right. Were you in everybody’s body and mind? You don’t know how that “stupid” kid who failed every class and wouldn’t stop tapping his pencil could have benefited greatly from an understanding therapist or from ADHD medication.




Saying ADHD used to not exist is like saying, “Nobody was walking around with insulin pumps 200 years ago. Therefore, diabetes is made up.”

It’s true. Nobody was walking around with insulin pumps 200 years ago. That’s because people with diabetes ended up in diabetic comas — or dead.

Science evolves. And thank goodness for that. ADHD isn’t going to put anyone in a coma — unless from an injury after an impulsive, reckless decision — but ADHD meds, therapy, and knowledge is life saving and life changing.

“Well, we all made it through just fine. We were just made of tougher stuff, I guess.”

Right. So the next time you’re in a car, ignore the scientific advances we’ve made and don’t use the seat belt. And if you get in an accident, just use that “tougher stuff” to hold on really tight.

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Grateful for… vomit?

If ever there was a child in danger of being spoiled, it’s this one:IMG_0359 (2)



I don’t know what it is about my 1-year-olds, but they can wrap me around their tiny little pinkies in 2 seconds flat. And Rex is no exception. Is it the snuggly jammies? The obsession with shoes and boots?

Is it the way he drags his stuffed T-Rex everywhere he goes? The way he strokes its tail as he drifts off to sleep? Is it his round belly? I mean, look at that belly poking out:

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He and I worked night and day for that belly for a whole year. Is that why he can blink and I gush over his cuteness; why I stare at his pictures before I go to bed… and then I grab the monitor and watch him for a few more minutes while he lies still and sleeps?

This boy is sweet beyond words. When a sister is crying, he raises his arms in the air, opens and closes his hands, and grunts his sister’s name impatiently until she comes over and gets a hug, fer cryin’ out loud. Then he lays his head on his sister, says, “Awww” and pats her back.

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He even comforted his crying sister who had been sent to time-out for taking a toy from him! (Uh… Buddy? I don’t think you understand what’s happening here.)

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The other night, he sat up in his crib and promptly began barking like a seal. We knew it was croup and what to expect because our Emma had croup a few times at his age. But like all things Rex, what we expected and what we actually received were two different things.

We expected to be awake for part of the night. We expected to have to hold him. We didn’t expect Exorcist-style projectile vomit — twice. (I’m not sure why we didn’t expect that — he spent the first year of his life ruining our good furniture, carpet, and clothing with his ill-timed and even iller-aimed vomiting episodes.)

If you’ve ever experienced a baby who vomits every time he coughs, eats, drinks, breathes, or blinks, you get really good at — well… catching vomit. We’re ridiculous experts at Rex’s vomiting signals; one throaty gurgle and we scurry to get a towel, a burp rag, the cat… anything at the ready to catch the impressive amount of contents about to hurl forth from the tiny boy’s mouth.

So we were prepared and able to mostly “catch” the first episode. Although, when you’re dealing in liquids, the word “catch” is a fluid term. Despite our best efforts, we still had some damage control to do. I changed Rex’s jammies and cleaned him up while Ryan changed the sheets on our bed and started a load of laundry.

We took Rex to a steamy bathroom to clear his airways, and then settled down in bed all together, expecting a fitful rest — but expecting the worst was behind us.




An hour later, I awoke to the middle of the throaty gurgles. Alas, my slumber had prevented me from noticing the onset, and I was too late. This one had an even more impressive reach.

Another jammie change, another sheet change, and another load of laundry later, Rex and I snuggled into bed again — this time, with layers of towels protecting the sheets.

And as I lay there with my sleeping baby boy, watching his breaths like a hawk to make sure the croup wasn’t getting dangerous, I was suddenly so overcome with gratitude.

Gratitude?

I seriously had to stop myself and wonder if I was understanding my own thoughts. But after a brief examination, I knew that yes — I was feeling gratitude.

I was so grateful to have a croupy baby in bed with me. I was so grateful to be exhausted. I was so grateful I got to clean up vomit two times that night. I was so grateful to be worried about my baby.

And I can’t tell you why, exactly. I’m not a glass-half-full kind of gal. I don’t see the blessings through the trials unless I force myself to look really gosh darn hard.

I was just grateful for that moment. I love my baby. And this was a moment of my baby.

Once you get gratitude going, it’s hard to stop — and soon I was overcome with love and gratitude for all my children and my husband. I was smelling vomit in my baby’s hair, yet I was more grateful for that baby, the sleeping girls down the hall, and my snoring husband than I had been in a long time.

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Life is funny sometimes, huh?

And the next day was glorious. The baby was still sick, but I was high on love and gratitude. I was patient; I was loving; I was quite possibly a rock star mother. I was a changed woman, friends.

Of course, when the baby was still clingy and whiny the following day, along with his sisters, this mama checked out.

Gratitude can’t carry me that long.

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Writing Tips — Let Your Personality Show

We all have stories upon stories in us that are just waiting to be pushed out and appreciated by an audience — even if that audience is only you in your personal journal. The writing tips in this series are designed to take what you already know how to do, and just add a little bit more pizzazz, depth, clarity, and/or beauty to your already-beautiful story. Every tip will improve writing, but if the particular tip in this post doesn’t stick with you, who the heck cares? Keep writing.

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Writing Tips Series

Let Your Personality Show

I really loved the writing tip Alicia, from Mother Stressor: Stressed but Still Smiling, shared here last month. She talked about having a conversation with a friend when you write, and honestly — I’ve never thought of writing in that way, even though I think that’s what I do. If you missed it, click the purple words up there ^^ and check it out!

I mention Alicia’s tip because I think it goes along with today’s writing tip to let your personality show. This tip is simple to understand, but sometimes difficult to implement. It takes time, but once you get it, writing becomes so much easier.

Let me explain.

A couple weeks ago, I heard a woman give a talk in church. Her voice was soft and soothing, like buttah. It drew me in, and even when she was sharing mundane details to set up her story, I couldn’t wait to hear what was going to happen next because the way she spoke invited me into her world. I felt privileged to hear what she had to say.

I could never in a million years speak the way she spoke, or draw people in the way she did, because I am not soft spoken. I don’t have a buttery voice. I don’t possess the type of speaking that makes people feel warm and privileged to be a part of my world.




Instead, when I give talks I’m excited — about everything! My hands speak as much as my mouth, and I can’t quiet my voice for the life of me. If I tried to speak like the buttery-voiced woman, it would be like an elephant trying to dance ballet. Just doesn’t work.

But that’s not a bad thing. I have my own personality, and when I let it show, I can reach the people I need to reach.

And you do too.

I once dated this guy for a minute who spoke almost lovingly about a mutual friend we had who he just found so very “nice.” Over and over, he said this word — “nice.” It really grated on my ears.

“I’m nice too!” I thought.

But I’m not. Well, it’s not like I’m mean or anything, but I’m just not one you would describe as “nice.”  I tried to be the kind of “nice” this friend was, but it just wasn’t me. And I just ultimately didn’t appeal to this guy because he really liked “nice.” And that’s fine. (Well, it wasn’t at the time. *grumble grumble*) Now that I’m more comfortable with myself, I’m happy there are people who are “nice” and people who are like me. There’s room for all of us, and we all have a lot to offer!

So, when you write, don’t try and be witty if you’re not. Don’t try and be nice if you’re not. (Well, I’m sure you’re nice. I’m not calling you rude or anything. You know what I mean… gosh!) Don’t try and be sentimental if you’re not. Don’t try and be preachy if you’re not. Just be yourself. If you do happen to be nice, write nice things. If you’re optimistic 99% of the time, write optimistically! If you like things straightforward and dry, write straightforward and dry. Seriously.

Both my mother and my mother in law let their personality show when they write little emails to us. They put their sense of humor into what they write, and it’s like they’re right there with us. They write like they talk, and I love it.

You can’t follow a formula to let your personality show when you write — it just happens as you practice. The more you write, the more comfortable you are in your own skin — and the better you’ll be at this. A lot of the time, we worry about following a certain structure in our writing. In high school and college research papers, we weren’t really allowed to let personality burst through (although, that would have been a lot more interesting, amirite?). So we think we have to follow that same detached structure when we write anything anywhere.

Don’t stress about it. Don’t think about the rules of writing. Just write. Write an email right now to someone, and throw in the kind of joke you say out loud, even if it falls flat on paper. Add exclamation marks if you’re happy! Insert parentheses to include a side joke or story. Share the sweet feelings in your heart, even if they come out a little differently than you meant. The more you do it, the better you’ll get.

Just let your personality show. It’s a good one.




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The Magic of Nursery in the Mormon Church

Mormon church is three hours. You read that right — THREE hours.

I know you won’t believe me, but it actually goes by pretty fast! Unless you’re hungry. Then it’s as slow as molasses.




But church is actually fun for the most part. Lessons are interactive, musical numbers are often really beautiful, and there’s an awful lot of socializing. One thing Mormons do exceptionally well is make people feel welcome.

And most Sundays, church is spiritually uplifting — unless some commenter in Sunday School decides to relate the gospel to current political issues… and then you’re like, “Whaaaaaat?” But if you go with the right attitude, you’ll get something out of church every time; you’ll feel God’s love, you’ll learn a new principle, you’ll make a resolve to improve something in your life.

But in the midst of the spiritual enlightenment and socializing, there’s this period of time in the lifespan of a Mormon parent when church is what I call The Void.

The Void takes place when a baby learns to walk, and lasts until that baby turns exactly 18 months old.

In a Mormon church, babies hang out with their parents (or in the arms of baby-obsessed friends) for the full three hours. At the age of 18 months, they get to attend Nursery, which is a magical place — if you aren’t in charge of it, that is.

In Nursery, 18-month-old to 3-year-old children play with toys, sing wiggle songs, pop bubbles, and hear an incredibly short and interactive lesson fit for their goldfish-brain attention spans. And they stay there for the last two hours of church! See? Magic!

But when a baby starts walking, and before he’s old enough to attend Nursery, it’s almost guaranteed that baby will spend church running away from his loving parents for 180 straight minutes. If the parents are hoping to get spiritual enlightenment, socializing, or even a little bit of rest during church, they’re delusional. Welcome to The Void.

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You might think it makes more sense to just stop attending church during The Void, but… well, actually I have no argument — it really does make a lot of sense. But I just know that we, and most parents, muscle through that time, occasionally catching snippets of spiritual enlightenment or friendly smiles and conversation during the moments when our walking toddler sits down to eat a snack or becomes obsessed with climbing on and off the same spot on a bench somewhere. We tell ourselves those short moments are worth the long months of The Void, and ultimately — they are.

Because if we stopped going to church during that time, we may not have the resolve to get dressed and head to church on a Sunday morning once our babies turn 18 months old.

And the moment we get to hand our cute babes off to the saints in Nursery and get back to spiritual enlightenment and socializing is made all that much sweeter since we now know what it’s like to miss out.

And our kids? They have the time of their life while learning little nuggets about Jesus. Little Rex came out of his first day of Nursery yesterday smiling, grinning, and full of hugs.

He’s still in a phase of answering “No” to every question, but his “nos” are distinguished by context. If he smiles while he says “no,” he’s really saying “yes.” I worried how that would go over with teachers in Nursery who don’t know Rex language, but judging by his good mood, everyone figured each other out.

In the car after church, I asked him, “Did you play with toys?”

“NO!” Big smiles.

“Did you play with bubbles?”

“NO!” Huge grin.

“Did you learn about Jesus?”

“NO!” Hands in the air with a wide smile on his face.

In conclusion, Nursery was a success for us all.

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I’ve been reading parenting articles and books ever since I became pregnant with my first child almost 9 years ago. So obviously, I’m an expert.




 

The thing I love about parenting advice is that absolutely none of it is unrealistic and/or ridiculous. *eye roll* Everything is so easily implemented into daily life and completely adaptable to my children and their unique personalities and problems. And it’s so great how it all is just such common sense — no foolish hoops to jump through… ever.

I’ve decided to combine the many suggestions, tips, exhortations, and commands I’ve gleaned from my years of research into one easy-to-follow parenting article. You’ll never need to read another bit of parenting advice.

How to Raise the Smartest, Kindest, Skinniest, Most Confident Child in 7 Easy Steps

Did you know you can manipulate your child into anything you want? Forget those pesky things like freedom of choice and influences beyond your control. Oh, and that whole thing about how kids have their own personalities regardless of what you do? Don’t worry about it.

If you just work hard enough and do every single parenting thing absolutely perfectly, your child will grow up to be the smartest, kindest, skinniest, emotionally strongest, and most confident child in the universe.

Your only problem will be figuring out how to adequately brag about your child’s impressiveness in your annual Christmas card.




Here’s how to raise the smartest, kindest, skinniest, most confident child EVER.

  1. Praise

    Praise is important. But make sure it’s the right amount of praise. If you praise too much, your child will become an egotistical maniac. Too little, and she’ll spend a minimum of 10 years in therapy wondering why her parents didn’t love her.

    And make sure you praise the right way. Wondering what that means? Praise effort, not characteristics. Don’t you dare tell your daughter she’s smart, or she’ll get an inflated ego while also feeling like she doesn’t have to work hard.

    Instead, reserve your praise for things like, “You sure worked hard on that science project that went on to win the Nobel Prize.” No need to mention the word “smart.” She’ll get the message that hard work is who she is. Hooray!

    You got this: Practice by slapping your cheek every time you feel like telling your child, “Good job!” or “You’re so smart!” Soon, you won’t feel the urge to praise the wrong way anymore. Great job, Mama!

  2. Health, health, health!

    Don’t mention the words diet, fat, starving, cookies, sugar, or brownies. In fact, don’t even mention the word food.

    Create a healthy home where your child recognizes hunger, and calmly takes care of it by choosing from your organized snack drawer full of delicious options like celery and carrot sticks.

    Pretend like fat doesn’t exist so your child never gets the idea that fat is a bad thing – or even an option, really. If you don’t mention the elephant in the room, he won’t notice it. Or if he does, he’ll offer it a handful of almonds (no sugar coating, of course!).

    You got this: Sneak to the pantry while your children are asleep, and stuff your face with Oreos. Right on!

  3. Pretty is the dirtiest word in the English language

    Just like the word fat (which is obviously verboten), if you tell your daughter she’s pretty, she’ll have no self-worth. None. She will immediately stop caring about grades, expecting her good looks to get her through life. No matter that every little girl is conditioned by this world to desire to be beautiful. You can protect her from that desire by praising her intellect and brains — Oh wait… no. Praise her hard work, remember? Not her brains. Oh gosh. Your girl is going to be so fantastically brilliant and confident without ever even knowing what that means! Great job!

    You got this: Stop tweezing your eyebrows or wearing makeup. In fact, just wear a paper bag over your beautiful face, already. Doesn’t it feel great to not worry about beauty?

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  4. Don’t rescue your child

    She needs to learn to be independent! After all, she’ll be out on her own in only 10 to 15 short years. If she’s being bullied by a group of bigger kids, sit back and see how she handles herself. She’ll find her way out. You’re teaching her so well!

    If she forgets her science project at home, let her get an F. The most important lesson is she learns what failure feels like so she learns to not repeat the mistake. The fear she might get from realizing she forgot her science project, and the relief she’ll surely feel as her parent shows mercy, isn’t enough to cement the lesson in her head.

    You got this: When your husband forgets his suit coat on the day he has that really important job interview, don’t bring it to him! When he doesn’t get the job and your family is scraping the bottom of the barrel, everyone will appreciate the lesson that children and adults should not be rescued.

  5. Educational television only

    And only for 22 minutes. It’s natural for kids to be drawn to a screen, so indulge a little, but don’t let TV viewing time exceed a half hour. And ONLY allow programs that encourage your child to plan and execute an organic garden, teach a second language, or turn her into a classical violinist.

    You got this: After your children are in bed, binge watch a whole season of “Real Housewives of Compton” until you pass out cold.

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  6. Volunteer

    Pound it into his little head that there are others less fortunate than him. He isn’t special, and make sure he knows that. Show him people who actually have real problems. He’ll get the right message – his problems are actually meaningless compared to anyone else’s problems in the world, especially if he’s white and male because what does he have to complain about? Duh.

    You got this: Obsess for hours about your Black Friday shopping route. Call your girlfriend, yo mama, and your sister for advice. In fact, could they just help you stand in the multiple lines please? It’s too hard to prioritize.

  7. Offer plenty of enriching activities

    Karate, piano, and soccer offer benefits like confidence and a boost to your little nugget’s IQ. You do want your 3-year-old to eventually go to college, right? Offer plenty of enriching opportunities to develop talents. But not too many opportunities, or little Junior will wear himself out. Kids need to be kids, after all.

    It’s good to let your child be bored. But not too bored! He needs stimulation, duh. So put him in a lot of activities. But not too many. And only choose the best of STEM and sports — but make sure you nurture his cute, little right brain too with creative art classes.

    You got this: Ensure your budget is endless. Obvs.

IN CONCLUSION:

Don’t slack on any of your kids, Mama. Their future is 100% in your hands. Whether you’re one of those selfish moms with only one child, or you gave up on your dreams and decided to have multiple children, make sure each child has precisely what she needs at all times to ensure all your Ivy League, CEO, entrepreneurial dreams come true. Because your life is completely about your children and nothing else.

But make sure you also take care of yourself. Because you’re worth it. And when Mama’s not happy, ain’t nobody happy — especially not your little precious, who is depending completely on you for his self-worth and lifetime happiness.

So make sure you take care of yourself.

Duh.

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