Just A Mom!

“Mommy, you’re just a kid mom!”

This is what I hear from the mouth of my sweet and introverted, Moo, who is strapped in his carseat in the rear of the van.

“You’re just a kid mom. Dads and Grandmas work, but you are just a mom.”

Just a mom.

just a mom

In his little four-year-old reality, that is the truth. Every morning his daddy is at work before he wakes up. His grandma leaves for work as he sucks down his Go-gurt and watches Paw Patrol in his jammies. And mommy… yep, she stays home.

As I am parking my Mom Rocket (AKA mini van) that morning in the Target parking lot, I gaze down at my yoga pants and T-shirt. I look out the window to see a sea of other moms parking mini vans and strolling into the store in their yoga pants and tees. Wow, I am full-blown MOMMY.

That’s when I realize, I am a little offended by those words, “JUST a mom.” Okay, A LOT offended.

I worked pretty freaking hard to be here, buddy! You know those tassels you like to play tug-of-war with? Yeah, I studied my tail off in college to earn those ‘honors.’ I’m not JUST a mom. I have a Masters Degree, which means I am, by academic standards, smarter than your father and grandmother. So there! And you see this T-shirt, mister? This is the T-shirt of the state champions I coached. I am not JUST a mom. I AM A BIG DEAL, SON!

Once I finished proving my point, imaginarily of course, I pushed the automatic door opener (a sweet Mom Rocket luxurey) and out hopped Moo. Clearly unfazed by this new found discovery of how incredibly awesome I am. Just a mom, seriously?!

That’s when he does it… he snaps me out of my ego-party and back to reality.

Moo grabs my hand and starts skipping. “Mom, can I get a new Batman car for my birthday?” His birthday is in ten months.

“Sure, Buddy!” I say as I laugh to myself. This curly-top, big brown-eyed boy, who is so naturally happy that he skips wherever he goes, calls me mom. ME!

Of all the things I ever wanted to be when I grew up, Mom was on the top of my list. A lot of people graduate with honors. A lot of people have framed papers that tell them how smart they are. A lot of people teach and coach. Only one person gets to be HIS mom. And I know I work pretty freaking hard to be a good mom to him.

I’m not JUST a mom. I’m HIS mom.

Cyclone fansI am very proud of that!

To all the other moms and dads out there, know you are the world to those littles that hold your hands!

XOXO- Erica

It’s Hard To Be A Dad.

Or should I say, It’s Hard To Be A GOOD Dad.

We as moms get a lot of credit. When at the grocery store with all three of my kids, an elderly man or woman will often stare, smile, and say, “Good job, Mom!” At the doctor’s office with all my kids in the room, the doctor will offer, “You’re doing a great job, Mom!” When I tell people that I am a stay-at-home mom, people will always encourage, “That’s the hardest job there is.”

I agree. Being a mom is hard. It’s exhausting. It can be lonely and depleting. Sometimes I find myself having a pity party because I have nothing other than ‘Mom’ to define me. Even as a working mom, I struggled. The pressure of parenting always seems to fall on the shoulders of MOM.

But what about dads?

hard to be a dadEarlier this year, at a wedding, I watched this darling little girl, about ten-years-old, walk over to see her dad and ask him to dance. The whole evening she’d spent in her mom’s lap. Cousins and uncles went up and tried to swoon her onto the dance floor. She was shy and with each suitor she’d just smile and cling a little tighter to her mom. Finally, around 10 o’clock, this sweet little girl walked across the ballroom to her dad, who had been sitting at his table, alone, the whole night. I watched her as she tip-toed and took a round-about way to get there, somehow working up the courage to talk to the man she calls dad. This sweet, beautiful girl asked her dad to dance. I imagine she was wanting to do that all night. So did they dance? Nope. That dad sat in his chair. No hug. No kiss. I pray he told her she looked pretty. That sweet young girl ended up back on the lap of her mom. No dance. No dad.

Is there some judgement laced in that story, probably. But my heart still broke for that little girl. Her definition of ‘Dad’ really sucks. I wonder how hard that man has worked at being a dad? (And that mom, by the way, deserves a “Good job, Mom!”).

At that wedding, as I have done on other occasions, I realize the best thing I ever did as a Mom to my kids was marry their father.

My husband, Tony, was always afraid to have a girl. He grew up with brothers. Girls were foreign to him. I, being the ultimate Daddy’s Girl, knew that he needed to have a girl. Almost more for the benefit of the little girl because there is truly nothing like a little girl and her daddy. As soon as Tony saw his baby girl, he was wrapped. I can’t imagine him EVER turning down an opportunity to dance.B and daddy

Being a GOOD Dad takes courage. Where we as moms tend to feel the burden of nurturing our kids, dads more often have that burden of providing. Well, providing for comes with sacrifices. In order to make money so we can eat, have a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, and do all the extra-curriculars we love, someone has to make money. When Tony and I started our family, we both worked. 50-50, a real modern family. Change is the evidence of life, however, and two years ago we changed to 100-0. Talk about pressure!

I take him for granted. A lot. He works two full-time jobs and when he comes home I EXPECT him to help ME. Let’s be honest, I need A LOT of help! I don’t give him a pass on dishes, or on household chores. Weekly, he will walk in the door, I will pass off the baby and say, “Tag, you’re it.” Good Dads don’t take breaks.

This weekend our boys are running in a track meet. Today, due to a work conflict, my husband found out he will have to miss their meet. Our boys are six and four, it’s not like we’re expecting Olympic performances here. But it’s fun. Track is something our family loves. Will the boys notice daddy isn’t there? Yes. Will they remember five or ten years from now? No. There will be other track meets. Other competitions. Other important things where daddy will be present.

The sting, is that Daddy misses his kids. It’s a sacrifice, and truthfully he’s the one sacrificing as he has to miss something he really wants to see. He has to miss a moment of being Daddy because he’s being provider.

This world is filled with amazing parents. Good Mom’s and Good Dad’s. My purpose of this post is not to say that dads are better than moms, or that kids somehow suffer if they don’t have the “normal” nuclear family. Please believe me that I am not insinuating any of that. What I am saying is that BEING A PARENT IS HARD WORK. My dad described a parent as both a noun and a verb. We really need to start honoring those in our life who really work hard at doing this parenting thing.

As for me, today I am taking a moment to honor my husband. He is a GREAT dad. He wrestles, he does push-ups with three kids on his back, and he teaches boys how to wipe their own butts and pee standing up. He tells stories of Paint Man and falls asleep in their beds. He scolds. He says, “I love you.” He’s pretty amazing. I am thankful HE is how my kids will define ‘Dad.’daddy in bed

Please take a moment and honor someone in your life who is doing a pretty good job at this parenting thing!

XOXO- Erica

The birds and the bees, and baginas.

Have you had “The Talk” yet? You know, the one about where babies come from? My boys are six and four. I didn’t think I’d have to have it so soon.birds and bees

Since the birth of their sister a year ago, my boys are continually amazed that there is something other than wee-wee’s in the world. My youngest son, at three, thought he had it figured out. After helping his daddy change his baby sister’s diaper at just a week old, he came running downstairs exclaiming at the top of his lungs, “Girls don’t have wee-wee’s. They just have butts!” Perfect. He had it all figured out.

So boys have wee-wee’s. Girls have butts. Oh, and boobies… but so do boys, kind of…

Just the other week, however, this year-long theory was found to be flawed. My six-year-old, burst open the bathroom door as I was changing. Obviously shocked by me standing there in my underwear I yelled, “stop standing there you turkey and get out!” Realizing that six was probably the age he needs to learn privacy, I prepared for that conversation while I finished getting properly dressed. Things like, “Knock before you enter a door.” Or “It’s rude to stare,” were key lessons I’d quickly prepared. However, neither of those were the lessons I taught that day.

As a mother of three does, I had managed to shuffle all three of my children into the minivan as we were, naturally, late to where we were getting. Where we were getting was to the auto glass repair shop. Just earlier that morning, my four-year-old threw a rock and shattered the rear window of the van. $350 of AWESOME!

broken car window

boys + rocks = $350!

While we are driving, on the interstate, I have my six-year-old in the back seat (opposite of the broken window), the rock-throwing culprit, in the pilot seat behind me and the baby girl in the other pilot seat. On top of the loud rush of wind and cars that we are succumbed to because of the open window, my daughter, who hates the car, is of course screaming at random just so she can make sure I know she is NOT happy to be strapped in the car, yet again! Just another day in the life, right?!

That’s when a small voice from the back of the van piped up, “Mom, did you grow a wee-wee?” Even over the wind and screams, I could tell that a lot of thought went into this question. Clearly, he had been stewing over this for the last twenty minutes since walking in on me changing. I had no idea whether to laugh or cry of embarrassment, so buying some more time, I simply said, “What, honey?”

And here is where the noise barrier became a problem.

“What?”

“I said, what did you ask?”

“What?”

Remember the culprit, who is sitting in the middle of this conversation? Well, he is also impatient and easily irritated. “She said, what did you say?” He yells at his brother.

This, friends, is where the conversation turns embarrassingly magical as a four-year-old is now the relay messenger between mother and his big brother.

“Did you grow a wee-wee?”

“No, girls don’t have wee-wees.” “No, girls don’t have wee-wees!”

“Then why were you wearing underwear?”

“Because girls and boys have private parts they need to cover up.” “Because girls and boys are private parts!”

“What are private parts?”

“They are the things you cover up with your underwear.” Repeat

“What are the private parts?”

I am trying my best to make this as developmentally appropriate as I can, without causing any real sense of misconception. I explain that private parts are what you use to go to the bathroom. That it’s important to keep them covered because they are just for you. That girls have three private parts and boys have two. Well, this just simply didn’t satisfy the curiosity of my six-year-old. So when he finally asked the difference between girls and boys’ private parts, I finally said, (Que Kindergarten Cop)

“Boys have a penis and girls have a vagina.”

“What?”

“Boys have a penis and girls have a vagina.”

“What did you say?”

Again, the impatience and irritation of this conversation are weighing in on the four-year-old stuck in the middle. “She said, girls have a bagina (ba-ji-na).”

“What did you say?”

“A bagina!”

“A what?”

“I said, A BAGINA!”

“Oh.”

Silence! Phew, conversation over. All is well. My son will no longer go around telling people his mother has a wee-wee. We spend the rest of the trip trying to get the baby girl to laugh, or sing, or do something other than scream. Just like normal.

Finally, we get to where we need to be. All four of us in a tiny lobby of an auto glass repair shop. Just as the guy hangs up the phone and asks to help us. I hear, “Mom, so you have a bagina?”

Awesome!

XOXO- Erica

Keep Climbing: Happy 4th Birthday!

He started at the bottom.

tree climb '11

Moo, age 1. October 2011

My stubborn, fearless boy turned 4 today. In fact, today was his GOLDEN birthday. He didn’t really understand the symbolism, but he was one happy boy playing with his new toys, running around in his new Batman shirt, and eating his third piece of chocolate cake.

When my son was a baby, he was snuggly, sweet and quiet. We love to tell the story of his first birthday when his cousin stole his birthday present (a broom). As soon as his cousin took that broom out of his hand, our sweet and quiet boy screamed, loudly! We were all taken aback, and I remember my grandpa saying, “I didn’t know he made a noise!”

My Moo feels everything with great intensity. He loves his brother. He loves Paw Patrol. He loves to beat the bad guys and ride his bike. He loves to climb trees and play tackle. His favorite color changes each week, as does his favorite super hero. Some days he loves mac and cheese. Other days he hates it. Some times he loves his sister, like today when he insisted she wear a pretty bow in her hair. Other days he has no patience for her because she steals his food, spills his drink, or changes the channel while he’s watching a show.

Have you seen those Sour Patch Kids commercials? Where the ‘kid’ is really naughty and then thirty seconds later he turns really sweet- that’s our Moo. When he was one, he would bite when someone didn’t do what he wanted. At two, he would scream, “I do it myself!” Then, when he couldn’t do it himself, he’d scream louder. Just three, he loved to play. To him, playing was so much fun that taking a break for the bathroom was simply a ridiculous suggestion. Stubborn.

When he was a baby, we’d come home from church, rock in the rocking chair and take a nap. At two, he would crawl in my lap just to drink a glass of milk. This year, he willingly gave me smooches and squeezes for being “The best mommy ever!” Sweet!

Seeing my four-year-old, and thinking of all the days I’ve been blessed as his mommy, I realize how much God loves me. Because in four years, my Moo has bit, scratched, hit and punched. In his four years of life he has screamed, screamed loudly, and screamed loudly, in a store, while swinging his arms and legs. In just four years, he has tried things he shouldn’t have, taken things he wasn’t supposed to, and climbed things that weren’t created for climbing. Yet, this is what I love most about him. He’s not perfect-he is perfectly him. Perfectly Moo.

Isn’t that how God sees me? How He sees us? Perfect, despite our imperfections. Or maybe it’s that we are perfect because of our imperfections.

It is certainly why I love my Moo. His stubbornness, while exhausting, it is endearing. His fearlessness is terrifying. Yet his courage consumes me with pride. His sweetness is contagious and makes anyone who crosses his path smile. He is my son, and for that reason alone I will forever love him.

“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Mark 1:11

Keep climbing Moo. The sky is the limit.

tree climb '14

Moo, almost 4. April 2014

Thanks for showing me just how big and unyielding God’s love can be!

XO- Mommy

Teammates

*In honor of Black History month, I am going to highlight some of my favorite books.  As my pastor says, “Black history is all our history!”

Earlier this winter, I finally saw the movie 42 that chronicles Jackie Robinson and his journey to play Major League Baseball.  I am a sports person, a ‘jock’ if you will.  Some people argue that the world puts too much emphasis on sport, and to an extent, I understand their argument. However, sports have the ability to transcend so much more than just a winner and a loser. Sports can empower and inspire, they can teach us about ourselves, and they can put into perspective what really matters in life.

The story of Jackie Robinson  is one of those stories where, if it weren’t for sport, would such an impact have been made in this country? It makes me sick to see that he was spit at, excluded, threatened and more, just because of the color of his skin. I think about the deception it takes for a grown adult to yell at a person they’ve never met, to their face, and think it’s okay. Just sickening!

The Civil Rights Movement is an amazing part of our nation’s history. Sad, so very sad, but remarkable to think of the courage it took for those to stand against it. These moments in history are so important to teach to our kids. Even though things are ‘better’ today, we are all familiar with that famous quote; “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (George Santayana).  

Teammates by Peter Golenbock is the nonfiction account of the friendship between Jackie Robinson and teammate Pee Wee Reese. teammates

As a teacher, it is a great book for upper elementary kids to not only introduce the content of Civil Rights or highlight biographies, but to teach Cause and Effect.

  • Because Jackie was black, people didn’t want him to play baseball.
  • Because Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Dodgers, thought segregation was unfair, he wanted to give everyone a fair chance to play baseball.
  • Because Pee Wee put his arm around Jackie, the world saw that they were teammates.

I love this story for so many reasons. One, the character of Jackie Robinson is truly heroic. Two,it’s proof that athletes have the power to impact more than just a scoreboard. Three, it takes courage to be a friend! 

I am a fan of Teammates. I’m sure you will be too!  If you’ve read it, let me know what you think!

XO-Erica

I’m Married to a Pretty Cool Guy!

It’s true. I married a good one.

us then

Then

Here are 31 reasons why I know he’s pretty cool:

  1. My husband plays the guitar (I know, ladies, I could stop there couldn’t I?!).
  2. His ears wiggle when he eats.
  3. He can find any movie or TV show online.
  4. Speaking of movies and shows… he watches weird ones.  Zombies? Yes! Spaceships? Yes! People locked in jail? Yes! Will Smith? Yes!
  5. He never misses a wrestling match or a tickle fight with two little monkeys.
  6. Yup, still a hunk- six pack and all!

    At the pool

    He may kill me for this…

  7. He’s a risk taker.
  8. He is frugal (which I’ve grown to appreciate!).
  9. I picked out a light purple dress shirt, and he wears it.
  10. Daddy’s pancakes are a fan favorite!
  11. He wakes up early
  12. and falls asleep on the couch before 9 pm.asleep on the couch
  13. He has a stand-up comedy routine dating back to 2006.
  14. I know when he says, “yeah,” that he’s not really listening.
  15. He packs his lunch and eats the same thing just about every day.
  16. I’m not a cook… he eats the food I make anyway.
  17. He tells bedtime stories.reading to daddy
  18. He has high expectations for himself.
  19. He sets goals.
  20. He talks to God, and keeps me accountable.
  21. He ignores ALL my messes.
  22. If he can’t hang out with you, it’s because he is with his family.  I never have to remind him of his priorities.

    daddy and boys at the track meet

    The boys’ first track meet

  23. Lebron James is the best basketball player of all-time! (Just ask him!).
  24. He’s a really good dancer… it’s been awhile.
  25. Buying gifts for him is extremely challenging!
  26. There are several things on my “Honey-Do List.”  He’ll get to them…
  27. He and coffee have a love/hate relationship.  (Currently, they’re in love).
  28. He encourages me
  29. and supports me.

    80s party!

    Willingly dressed in skinny jeans for my 80′s themed party!

  30. He laughs a lot and has the best smile- hands down!
  31. He never wavers. When my family needed a steady hand, he made the hard phone calls, he picked up extra responsibilities, he said, “I’ll take care of it.”

I’m so grateful he has chosen to be everything he is. I’m blessed to call him mine!

us now

Now

Happy 31st Babe. Love you!

XOXO- Erica

Henry’s Freedom Box

*In honor of Black History month, I am going to highlight some of my favorite books.  As my pastor says, “Black history is all our history!”

As kids, we all learned the story of Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad. An amazing and fascinating story. But there are a lot of heroic tales of brave souls who risked it all for freedom.

Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine is one such story.

Henry's Freedom Box

I love how the story expresses the ugliness of slavery so simply to children: no birthday, no last name, no family. Themes of Freedom and Courage jump off the pages. Why would you risk your life for something you believe in? That question is easy to understand when reading this story.

This story was a favorite of my fourth graders. After reading, several students would research more on Henry Brown, slavery, and/or the underground railroad. I love when books can make history real, even for young kids. Henry’s Freedom Box does that.

I hope you’ll pick up a copy. It is a must have!

I’d love to hear your favorite Black History book! Please comment below or on my Facebook page.

Enter to win this book on my Facebook Page.

Timeout

No, Mom!  Why would you do that?

Why would you make him do something by himself?

You know he’ll protest.

You know he’ll scream and cry.

First he will stomp his feet, and holler,

“I DON’T WANT TO!”

And you, Mom, will ignore him.

(Even though that has never worked!).

He will get even more mad because you, Mom, are not helping.

So he will scream louder.

He will bang his feet.

He will find something hard.

Maybe a broom.

Maybe a shoe.

Maybe that really breakable thing in the corner.

And he will start swinging.

Bang! The door.

Bang! The oven.

Bang! The floor.

And you, Mom will walk in and take away

the broom.

The shoe.

That really breakable thing that used to be in the corner.

Then he will scream LOUDER!

He will stand up and run in place while SCREAMING!

That’s when he will start throwing.

Could be a dish rag.

Could be a shoe.

But most likely, it’s that really breakable thing you put up on the counter.

And that Mom, is when you’ve had enough.

You walk in.

Pick him up,

(Or try because he has gone wet noodle by this point)

and you drag him, unwillingly,

to the corner,

to ‘sit’ in TIMEOUT.

And then, Mom, you leave him alone, again.

He grunts.

He growls.

He gets crazy ideas.

And while you, Mom, are not looking,

while he all of a sudden gets quiet, and stops

grunting and growling,

is when I end up here…

timeout rug

 

All rolled up.

At the top of the stairs.

Sure, now he’s quiet.

Now he’s sorry.

Now he’s ready to do what you asked twenty minutes ago.

But I’m stuck up here,

for the fourth time this week.

And I don’t think I did anything wrong.

Please tell me, Mom,

When does he turn four?!

Sincerely,

The Disgruntled Timeout Rug

“Get back in the fight and keep moving forward.”

“Love u man. We will get through this. I will be calling and have some laughs along with the rough times.”

golf tees remembering dad

A tee is our reminder of my dad.

No one writes a manual on how to live without your father.  The person who, regardless of how rough the time was, would know just what to say.  Someone described living in the absence of a loved one like living without a limb.  You adjust and adapt, but it is never the same.  I have never lost a limb, but my life hasn’t been the same since before this date in 2013.

The above message was a text my dad sent to his friend (also named Steve) upon learning of his friend’s cancer.  Positive and to the point.  Just like dad.  I am copying the email sent to my mom from my dad’s friend.  It is a reminder to all of us that loved my dad, and to all of us in a position of adjusting and adapting to a new way of life, to keep moving forward.  This week it has been so easy to focus on the emptiness of loss.  His email was just what I needed.  Maybe his reminder will speak to you too. XO- Erica

Notice in the note above that Steve sent me, it doesn’t say you’ll get through this, he said WE”LL get through this.  That is what I passing on to you K’Lynn;  love you and we’ll get through this.  I cant’ be there to offer personal support, but you have Sandy and my support from afar.  
 
I received notes from Steve, from time to time during my treatment that were encouraging and telling me he was proud of my efforts and to keep strong in the battle.  That is what I want you to hear now, keep strong, be positive and keep moving forward.  Steve would never want to be the reason for your sadness.  I’d like you to imagine what Steve would be telling you or anyone else in your situation at this time.   He’d say, ” life is about living, helping friends & family, and moving forward”.  When he was let go at ISU, I remember him saying he’ll never say anything bad about the university.  As pissed off as he was about the lack of leadership, he moved on.  He knew that his life would not be defined by the loss of his title. He moved forward, slowly, but he kept moving.
 
I want to keep the flame alive for Steve’s life and how he lived it.  Please smile when you read this and remember that your husband would have a thing or two to say about anyone in your current position.  He’d be supportive, he’d always offer guidance, but he’d also say to get back into the fight and keep moving forward. – Steve 

Baby Play Bins

My daughter is 10 months now, and no offense, but she is probably way cuter than your baby.  I know, I have just a little bias, but I am also a very honest person.

santa brooklynn

See what I mean? She’s darling!

Well, this 10 month old darling is walking and very curious.  Lately, she loves to reach her hand in my bowl of popcorn and grab, crunch and shake it EVERYWHERE.  She also does this with the water in the bathtub, and toilet when she is too quick for me!  If there is a drawer, basket, or cupboard, she will open it, and proceed to empty it.  It is, indeed, a very FUN game.

So, this got me thinking about her toys.  She obviously wants to play with things that feel cool, and are fun to grab, shake, and throw.  My sons in preschool and Kindergarten have sensory stations, where they play with things such as sand, water, rice, play dough, ribbon, etc.  Kids are very sensory.  They learn through touching and, as babies, tasting.  Therefore, I decided to make her some sensory play bins.

My baby is too young to play with a lot of those preschool items, as she would most likely eat them!  I had to find toys that were safe for her.  I tried to mix a combination of hard/soft, large/small, smooth/textured.  Here are some of the things I used:

  • Easter Eggs
  • Long string of beads (Christmas decor)
  • Baby stacking toys
  • Milk caps
  • Wood beads
  • Tassels (they are actually mine from graduation!)

sensory play bins

To store the toys, I put them in 4 gallon size baggies.  I empty one in the bin and she plays, chews, and dumps.  It keeps her happy and entertained… for at least ten minutes!  Just enough time to brush my teeth!

What are some things your baby enjoyed playing with?

Join the discussion on Facebook.

XO- Erica