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Entries from blogs tagged with “mommy”

How do you spread holiday cheer?

Our family is still trucking along with our whole “less is more” Christmas makeover. The girls are loving the holiday activities we’ve planned and don’t seem to care that their Elf on the Shelf does little more than move locations. She’s kind of lazy. However, as we get closer to the big day, I have been feeling like we should be doing something more. As in, outside of our family. I want to do something that makes this time of year more magical for someone else. I also want to teach my girls that it’s something we should always do. Why not make the holidays happier for as many people as we can?

When I spoke with HJ about this idea, it became very clear that this was a much needed lesson in our home:

Me: “Do you want to do something nice for someone for Christmas this year?” HJ: “Yeah!” Me: “What should we do?” HJ: “Push them.”

Nope. I haven’t conquered this vocabulary lesson yet. We got our wires crossed somewhere. So this is now, FOR SURE, being added to our Christmas traditions. In brainstorming ideas on what we could do, these were my top five:

Tree Classics (in partnership with the Easter Seals Capper Foundation) - We could upgrade our Christmas tree and a portion of our payment would go to ESCF in Topeka. Win-win.

Lawrence Blue Santa - We could donate toys and/or money to help the Lawrence Police Department give local families wrapped presents and holiday meals. I have a special place in my heart for our gals and boys in blue. It also doesn’t hurt that my brother is one of them.

Just Food - For only $14 our family could fund a holiday meal for another family here in Lawrence. Food is such an important part of the holidays for my family, it would make me deliriously happy to know that a family has warm, yummy food that day.

DCCCA - Our church was collecting new board games for foster children and would be delivering them to DCCCA for distribution. This one would make the most sense to my still very young children as they could be a part of nearly the whole process of shopping and giving.

Bert Nash - Because mental wellness is something that I, myself, have struggled with, the idea of giving a gift to this wonderful center seemed important as well. They do wonders for so many in Douglas County.

Like I said, these are just the top ideas that came to me this year. I’m sure there are so many other great ideas and wonderful ways to teach my children this new lesson. Care to share the causes closest to your heart? I’d love to find out more ways to keep our new tradition going.

Share them with us below, on the Larryville Mom Facebook page, or tweet them to me @larryvillemom!

(And a very merry, happy holidays to you and yours.)

HJ's first Christmas 2011

HJ's first Christmas 2011 by Megan Spreer

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I Broke Christmas

Please don’t be angry with me, but I have a confession: You know those crazies who go out shopping the day after Thanksgiving? The ones who wait in ridiculously long lines to score loot for deeply discounted prices? The ones who now go out before they’ve even finished chewing their turkey?

I’m one of them and I’m sorry.

It’s not that I have no respect for Thanksgiving. I don’t try to score a big screen TV either. It’s honestly that I love Christmas so much that I absolutely can’t wait a second longer for it to begin. For me, Black Friday (err--Thursday) shopping with my sister and friends jumpstarts my holiday in the happiest way. (But to be real, I really wish it didn’t begin until Friday like it’s supposed to.)

There is a major problem with my extreme love of Christmas though (aside from the fact that I now shop while others should be enjoying Thanksgiving). I get so excited that I overspend. Every single time. Every potential gift I see makes me imagine the recipient's face when they open it and I lose my head. I spend and spend and forget to pay attention to the totals. I broke our Christmas.

Last year, I racked up so much on my credit card that we’re STILL paying it off. Yikes. It still hurts.

I’m all about teaching my kids that Christmas isn’t about gifts and that you should be financially responsible, always. Yet, I seemed to have missed the lesson myself. So I had to get myself in check this year. I had to reel in the spending, hide the credit card, and remember what really makes Christmas magical. I needed to get back to the spirit of the holidays and teach my children the same thing. I WILL fix it.

So, this year, I’m only getting the girls four gifts each. It’s based on this idea I got from my sister-in-law who got it from Pinterest. The whole premise is this: You only get each child something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read. One gift for each category. It’s genius. You can have them guess which gift is which. You can label each gift with printable tags (also on Pinterest). You can personalize it however you want. I loved it because it makes Christmas morning like a fun game in itself. But the biggest plus is that it has helped keep me in check while shopping this year. I have literally left a line to check out so I could put a toy back on the shelf when I realized that I’d already fulfilled my girl’s “Something I want” item. It’s not been easy, but our bank account is so much happier (i.e. My husband is happier). And when I think of future Christmases when our kids ask for even more expensive items, I know I’ll love the me who implemented this game plan now.

For the sake of realness though, I’ll be honest, I still felt a huge void at the thought of only buying my kids four things when I decided to take this new tradition on. In order to help curb my crazy, we’re doing a lot of fun holiday themed activities this month:

  1. Ice skating day with family
  2. Homemade advent calendar
  3. Felt christmas tree
  4. Holiday light tour
  5. Visit to see Santa
  6. Cookie making day
  7. Elf on the Shelf
  8. Christmas movies with popcorn
  9. Dance parties to Christmas music
  10. Magical trips to the Christmas section of Target (just to look)

So far, the plan is going marvelously. The girls are loving everything to do with Christmas. It’s made me realize that when I was putting most of the emphasis on Christmas morning gifts, the rest of the season lost its sparkle. Now that we’re doing things for the holidays all month long, the girls are excited everyday to see what fun thing we have planned. And I promise you, I’m not even going all out Pinterest mom on this either. Somedays we do nothing but stay in our pajamas and listen to Christmas music. Thankfully, because my littles are still easily entertained, this is enough.

Why didn’t I think of all this on my own?! And sooner?

Thank you, dear sister-in-law and the people of Pinterest. Our Christmases will now have magic before we even have to spike the egg nog.

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Keepin’ it real: My kids have dirty mouths

It’s that time of year again. Rest assured, I’m not talking about the holidays right now. You don’t need me to tell you that they’re here. Hobby Lobby did that back in August when they put out their Christmas decorations. No, I’m talking about the biannual reminder that I fail miserably at some aspects of parenting. We visited the dentist office this week.

Hooray.

I’m not a big fan of the dentist. I take my children more often than I even make myself go in. I blame my childhood. As a kid, I was such a fan of candy, sugary snacks, pop and juice that even though my poor mother took me to regular cleanings, I almost always had at least one cavity. This has continued into my adulthood. So to me, one trip to the dentist means at least two visits that week and there will be pain, followed by a numb face that will prevent me from eating for eight or so hours. Therefore, I’m not fond of sitting in that banana shaped chair.

So I have made taking my kids regularly, a priority. I want them to see it as a routine that is somewhat enjoyable and not scary. I even made sure to take them to a fun, pediatric dentist in town that has TVs, sugar-free treats, butterflies and toys throughout the office. My girls love it. The fact that they think the dentist is an outing on the same level as a visit to the library is huge to me.

However, it’s still not fun for me even when I’m not the one being drilled on. While the ladies in the office are fantastic, I end up leaving feeling like I’ve already failed my children’s dental hygiene. (To be fair, I’m not doing a spectacular job.) They start every appointment asking how often we brush their teeth.

“They brush them mostly alone, once a day-ish.”

Time of day? “In the morning.”

Strike one and strike two right off the bat. This hygienist reminds me that I should be assisting them every time and that they should brush morning and night. Even if I can’t get two sessions in, night time brushing is crucial. Well, super.

Then she asked what they drink at home. “Milk, juice and sometimes water.”

She says I’m supposed to be limiting non-water drinks to meal times and brushing teeth after drinking anything sugary. Super duper. We’ve not been doing that. At all.

Strike three. I’m out, right? She continued on by asking what they snack on. Oooo! Oooo! I’m gonna win this question, I know it! They told me at HJ’s first appointment to skip fruit snacks, fruit rolls, and dried fruit. DONE. “They eat grapes, cheese sticks and crackers, mostly.” EHHHHH. Wrong answer. Apparently, crackers have a tendency to collect in teeth crevices and will need to be brushed out when they’re finished eating.

Good God. I can’t win. I CANNOT follow these crazy children around with a toothbrush all day. Do you know how many snacks they consume in a day?!

Next up to discuss was flossing. I just laughed. I’m lucky to remember to floss my own teeth. I could count the number of times I’ve flossed my three-year-old’s on one finger. It’s a battle to get my kids to let me help them brush their teeth and to keep them from swallowing their toothpaste. Flossing?! Yeah, right.

I’m sorry if you’re a teeth person. And I’m sorry if this whole post grosses you out. I’m a terrible maintainer of my children’s mouths. Unless I’m feeding them, catching their vomit or checking for a tooth to determine if they’re teething, I just have no more energy to care about what’s going on in there. My days are spent making sure they’re eating right(ish), learning shapes and numbers and keeping them from killing themselves by diving off their toy box. Their baby teeth that will fall out in a few years, aren’t at the top of my priority list.

But like I say after EVERY visit, I’m going to be better. We’re going to brush every night. We’re going to attempt to remember to floss. And I will continue to eat their fruit snacks for them.

(It’s totally to protect their teeth, I swear.)

B's first dentist visit

B's first dentist visit by Megan Spreer

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Fine, Be a Witch

My 3-year-old is killing me. There’s a daily battle of wills going on at our house, and I feel like I’m losing. HJ now has her own opinion. Oh, does she have opinions.I’ve been anxiously waiting for the day I would learn her favorite color, hear her sing her favorite song, and be told the name of her best friend. I couldn’t wait to be able to talk to her about her own ideas and see how she sees her world. And now, that that day’s here, I’m getting schooled. To be honest, I thought this was gonna go way differently. I thought it was going to be easier. You hear that sound? That’s karma laughing at me.

This girl has her own preferences, favorites and answers to everything. She’s no longer my little copycat. She’s ALL HJ. She loves the color pink, Peppa Pig, mac & cheese, and looking up horse videos on YouTube. She refuses to dance with me in the car and she tells me to stop when I sing along to the radio. As much as I love watching the person she is becoming take shape….holy crap. This is getting hard. She doesn’t like the clothes I pick out for her every morning. She screams bloody murder every time I touch her hair with a brush. She even told me that she prefers her dad to me. Thanks, kid.

But the first of her big decisions came a few weeks ago while we were discussing Halloween costumes. There was a rule in my house growing up that we could dress up as whatever we wanted as long as it wasn’t gory, nasty or just plain scary. It was a rule I hated at the time as I wanted to have the bleeding wounds and axes sticking out of my head. I thought it was so cool. I loved being scared and scaring others. My mom, of course, vetoed every awful costume I dreamt up. Therefore, my costumes consisted of a bride, Snow White, a (tasteful) saloon girl, a baby, and a clown (which, to me, is pretty dang scary).

Now that I’m the mom, I tooootally get it. I can’t stand the idea of my sweet, adorable babies dressing up as something awful. I can’t see them as zombies, monsters or vampires. I want them to be cute little animals, princesses or even a hilarious orange Oompa Loompa.

So, naturally, HJ wanted no part of my Halloween vision. Her choice: a spooky witch.

Because OF COURSE that’s what she’d pick. Generic, lame and scary. Out of everything out there, that’s the only thing she wanted. I tried everything to sway her. I brought home catalogs, we looked through Pinterest, and we scoured Amazon. I even suggested Glenda, the beautiful, nice, and pink(!) witch from The Wizard of Oz. Nope. She turned down everything remotely pretty and kept requesting the ugly, black and scary witch costumes. I was dying a little inside.

One night when I was still searching to the ends of the Internet for something other than the costume she wanted, my husband pulled me out of my stubborn control freak mindset. He reminded me that when HJ was born, I made a promise that I would always be supportive of what she wanted to be and the person she would chose to become. I would do my job as a parent to teach her right from wrong, but for the trivial stuff, it was going to be all her.

Ugh. He was right. This is her life, and she is the one behind the wheel. I’m just Miss Daisy in the backseat until I get kicked out. I’m firmly planted in that backseat for a while, but it’s still the BACKSEAT. I did not realize that this promise would kick in so soon. And that it makes sense to include conceding Halloween costume decisions too.

But what kind of message would I be sending to her if I said no to her choice of costume? That because it wasn’t my favorite choice that it was bad? Or that she wasn’t capable of exercising her own creativity? I just couldn’t stand to set a negative tone this early on. I want her to be comfortable and excited about her choices, especially when they’re good or even harmless. I want to teach her to trust herself when she makes a choice that makes her happy. If I fight her on things like this now, where will we be when the decisions get really hard?

I’m probably overthinking this, but I feel good about one of my first parenting milestones. I’m choosing my battles and sitting out this round. She’s going to make a lovely, generic, spooky witch this year. And I think I should get extra candy for being a good sport.

(Plus, at least I still have B to dress however I want.)

HJ, the witch

HJ, the witch by Megan Spreer

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5 Things I Want to Tell New Parents

There are so many things that I wish someone had told me when I first became a mom, and I’m not talking about which diapers to use or which baby carrier is the best. I read enough reviews to figure that stuff out. The things I needed to know were the things that nobody says. These are the things that parents are afraid to admit because they think people will judge them or call them lousy parents.

But you know what? I’m going to be the one to say it. I know that I’m a good (enough) mom. I love my kids with every inch of my being and I try my hardest to do my best. That’s really all I can be. I’m not Beyonce. I’m not June Cleaver. I’m me. That’s all I can be to my kids. I will also be sure to pay their therapy bills later. See? We’re covered.

Without any further delay, here are the things I wish someone would have just come out and said to me:

  • Some days you won’t like your kids. Yep. I know to you new moms and dads out there, this sounds awful, but trust me, the day will come. You’ll still love them to the depths of your soul, but there will be days when you’ll entertain the idea of shipping them off far, far away even for just a couple hours.

  • You will question whether or not you’re screwing this whole thing up. Join the club. We all have moments when we are positive that we are doing the whole parenting thing wrong. ALL OF US. Don’t stress. Tomorrow is a new day and a new chance to try again. And even if you screw up again, recite this in your head. It helps: http://wellcommons.com/users/photos/2...

  • You’ll miss your child-free days. This won’t be every day. It probably won’t even be very often, but there will come a time (or several) when your friends without kids will tell you about an amazing show they saw or a concert followed by a late dinner and night of exploring the city. And you’ll have a serious case of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out, for the Google-impaired). You may not want to trade your days of Peppa Pig and Dora the Explorer, but you’ll still miss those carefree days when you were sleep deprived because of fun, not crying, tiny humans.

  • There will be days when you don’t recognize yourself. Becoming a parent is one of the biggest changes you’ll experience. Duh, right? You go from being just you to being someone’s mom or dad. Every step and misstep you take is being watched and evaluated by very impressionable people. Things that used to be incredibly important to you will become trivial or even forgotten. You will shift. You will adapt. You will still be you...even if you can’t see yourself just yet. Just hold up. You’re still there.

  • You will be scared of EVERYTHING. Ebola outbreaks, gunmen in schools, rises in Autism diagnoses, severe weather alerts and salmonella in peanut butter used to just be concerning headlines in the news. Now that you’re a parent, they are things that could potentially happen to your family. Every story of a child with cancer makes you picture your child in that scenario. Every headline you read will feel like it’s happening to you, specifically. Protecting and caring for your children is hard. This world sure doesn’t cut us any slack either. As much as you want to put your kids in a bubble, don’t. That will only make them weird.

When you’re chest deep in this new parenting gig of yours, I promise, the good will completely outweigh all of this crazy. Hearing your baby giggle for the first time will make you wonder how you were ever happy before this tiny creature was created. It’s a giddy, stressful, exhausting, beautiful, and educational time. Don’t worry, we all got your back. (Unless we need you to have ours right now because our kid just broke something expensive.)

Our first day as parents

Our first day as parents by Megan Spreer

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Mama needs to put down the phone

My husband and I have been discussing our (particularly MY) phone use lately. The conversation has been mostly focusing on the amount of time I spend behind my phone screen, not necessarily how I’m using it. Let’s just say these conversations get quite tense at times.

That’s sugarcoating it, by the way.

As a social media consultant, blogger and work-from-home mom, I’m on my phone A LOT. I’m never without it. It’s become another extension of me, kinda like a third arm. It’s impossible for me to ever do one of those Facebook Fasts people talk about or go on vacation and turn off my phone. It’s never gonna be possible for me. It’s too much ingrained in my job, my life and me as a professional.

It’s not just about work though. I’ve had several other mom friends admit their own phone addictions to me. Our phones, tablets and computers are very important to us. It’s like the old school definition of “it takes a village” has evolved into the Internet. No longer do we call up our mom or girlfriend when we have a question about our kid’s rash. We Google it. I recently made the best pie crust of my life and it didn’t come from an old family recipe, it came from Pinterest. HJ’s favorite shoes came from a Facebook swap shop group. At the touch of a button, I can connect with groups of moms from all over the world via social media and ask questions, support each other AND enjoy adult conversation. Best part? I can do it all silently during nap time. It’s a huge blessing.

But if we’re being really honest here, even I started to recognize my problem. My phone is also a crutch. It’s an addiction. And it’s a hindrance. When I’m bored, I pick up my phone. When the kids are playing, I pick up my phone. When I’m waiting to meet up with a friend, I pick up my phone. Even when I’m not working, I am. I’m still checking blogs, news feeds and viral stories. I’m watching my kids do hilarious things through my phone screen rather than in real life. I’m surfing Pinterest rather than having a conversation with my husband. My kids have even started calling me out by saying, “Mommy put the phone down!”

THAT is a problem. However, it’s a problem I don’t know how to fix. I’m at home many days with no one else but my small children. My phone is my desperate lifeline to the outside world: a world with things other than Peppa Pig, the Fresh Beat Band, ABCs, and constant whining for snacks. I have anxiety just thinking of the possibility of being home an entire day without an Internet connection. I need the distraction. I need the ability to escape, even if it’s only for five-minute increments.

Isn’t that sad? You can say yes.

While it’s not all bad, the fact that I don’t know when to put the phone down is not something I’m proud to say. I’m working through it and making a conscious effort to try other things when conversations lull or a spare moment pops up. I’m trying the whole “ask a question to drum up a new conversation” when people get quiet and reading a book to wind down at night. So far I’m failing horribly, but I’m not giving up. Squashing this habit is way more difficult than I’d anticipated. I’ll get there though. I will find that happy middle ground.

Other moms and dads, do you find you have a small addiction to your phone or tablet? What has helped you detach?

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Teach them about sex, the right kind

This is a hard time to raise girls. It’s not because of all of the reasons I’d thought would make it difficult either. The newest dolls, dresses, Barbies, dance classes and the like aren’t the things that scare me as they grow older. Worries about missed curfews and too many after-school activities aren’t so much on the radar either.

The thing that has me worried right now is that someday, someone out there won’t see one of my daughters for the brilliant, incredible person she is and instead will see an object for sexual gratification.

I don’t like the term “rape culture,” but we do live in a world where sex is considered the goal. In college, I remember the bar scene and the conversations happening around me. I remember so many bad decisions being made, some even by myself. Sex is on someone’s brain and it’s someone’s goal for many evenings. Guys (and girls) high five each other for “getting some,” and an intimate act becomes somewhat of a game. It trivializes it to a point that makes it seemingly no big deal to so many.

That’s what scares me. What if, some day, my daughter has too many drinks? What if a “nice” guy tells her he’ll drive her home? What if he takes advantage of her state and takes her to his house? What if some innocent kisses go too far? And then, what if everyone blows it off as a “boys will be boys” incident or worse, blame her for getting drunk in the first place?

I grew up surrounded by the mindset that you didn’t dress in a certain way, you didn’t go to certain places, and you didn’t drink to excess if you didn’t want bad things to happen to you. Now that I’m a parent, I realize the error in my previous thinking. Why should the VICTIM ever be to blame? Why should my daughters not get to make the same mistakes and learn from them as your sons without the risk of being sexually assaulted? Why is the responsibility on their shoulders to not be attacked against their will?

No. No. No. This HAS to stop. Someday I’d love to have a son. I’d love to watch his dad teach him to play basketball (because let’s be real, I’m still afraid of the ball). I’d love to see him grow up to be the kind of guy that everyone laughs with and wants to have around. I’d also love to help break away from today’s current mindset of how boys can act. I will teach him that it’s not okay to publicly ogle someone’s body. I will teach him that catcalling and whistling has no place on a city sidewalk. I’ll also be sure he knows that sex is something that’s important, intimate, and very, very private. It’s not something to high five your boys about.

That being said, these are also lessons I will be teaching my girls. Just as we ask boys to not behave this way, we must follow suit as women. It’s not empowering to sleep around. It’s not being a feminist to disregard the connection you’re supposed to feel to the person with whom you’re sleeping. It’s not cool to forget the name of the guy who spent the night last night. I say this because I want to help spare them from hurt. From heartache. From antibiotics.

I will be honest with them about my past and the mistakes I made getting to where I am now. I will answer questions as best as I can. I will not sugarcoat things, but I also won’t teach them to be prudes. Sex is a wonderful (and awesome) thing. But we’re in this mess because our society views it as trivial.

So I ask, if it’s so trivial, then why are so many getting hurt?

Be safe. Be respectful. And please, let’s teach THAT to our children.

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Saying Goodbye to My Baby

One of the things I struggle with as a parent is saying goodbye to each stage and welcoming new stages without sadness. No matter how proud and excited I am for my girls to reach a new milestone, there is always a tinge of sadness that another part of their babyness is gone forever.

HJ went to her first day of preschool this week. I was genuinely excited for the day to be here. My eldest child is a textbook extrovert. She thrives in social settings and loves having activity after activity to participate in. As a work-from-home mom, I’m pretty awful at providing these things for her myself. So, I knew preschool was going to be a home run for her. As soon as we chose the right place for us, I was counting down the days until she could start.

I was actually surprised with myself at how okay I was with the whole thing. I didn’t even have a hint of anxiety as the day drew near. We’d picked out her outfit, got her backpack ready, painted a canvas bag for spare clothes, and talked all summer about her new school. She needed it. Just like I need my nights with my girls, she needs to get out there with her own thing. It’s scary how alike we are sometimes.

So I don’t know why I was surprised when the sadness hit me like a ton of bricks the morning before I dropped her off. She was dressed in her new outfit with her long hair in pretty little curls down her back. She looked so giant. I kept staring at her and I realized, that’s the baby who used to belly laugh when I pretended to eat her toes. That’s the tiny tot who used to say “Too too” in place of thank you when I gave her cheese. My tiny baby is a big girl and I’ll never get to snuggle her chubby baby cheeks again. In fact, those memories of a cheerful, smiley baby were only going to get fuzzier and fuzzier as time went on.

My baby was gone.

The tears rolled down my face as I looked at her. As much as I was excited for her, I was so very sad that chubby rolls were being replaced with macaroni pictures and paste. Just like the sadness that rolls over me with every box of baby clothes I pack up, it felt like I was packing up another box of memories. We’ve reached the time in her life where she doesn’t only need me. She needs shapes, colors, friends, routine, dancing and running. She’s finally to the point where she’s going to start figuring out things on her own. She’s her own person, not just merely my baby.

She’s going to preschool. She’s going to make her own friends. She’s going to learn to love, to be hurt, to be a friend, to say sorry and to forgive. She’ll form her own opinions and interests. She’s going to think I’m embarrassing and deny kisses goodbye in front of people. She’s going to learn that soccer is a thing and probably ask us to enroll her in a league. She’s going to learn things from people that aren’t her father and me. I was going to have to learn to step over to the sideline.

All of these thoughts were racing through my head as silent tears were free falling. My very intuitive child looked up at me. She got up, grabbed my face in her hands and climbed into my lap.

“I rocky you, Mommy?” she said.

That’s what I needed, right then. As we rocked back and forth, I realized that she’ll always need me. Whether it’s to take care of me or for me to take care of her, it is silly to be sad. We have so many adventures ahead of us.

(And soooo many fish-themed coloring pages to hang up from her first day.)

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Parenting: You’re doing it wrong

If you’re a parent of small children, just how many foam, plastic or rubber contraptions do you have around your home? You know, the ones that serve no other purpose but to protect your children from harm?

I have thirty-three. Thirty-three apparatuses that keep my children out of cabinets, keep their fingers out of electric sockets and keep them out of rooms full of “no-nos”. It sounds like a lot, but I promise, it’s really not. I have far fewer than most parents I know. I even have less than my own parents who used to use a 15-year-old car seat for the grandkids (Sorry for throwing you under the bus, Mom and Dad).

Even after the insistence of family members, we refused to get the foam bumpers for our brick fireplace, the drawer catch levers, the whale that covers the bathtub faucet and so many others. We even opted out of the sun shade for the car.

Why? Because we felt like our kids should get accustomed to the world rather than bending the world to accommodate them.

The world is full of helicopter parents. They’re the ones I talked about on the playground who follow their kids around and show them how to navigate every single piece of equipment. They’re also the ones who leave in the middle of a lunch date because “Holy God, it’s almost nap time and we have to get home NOW!” They change every element of their world to fit their children rather than raising their children to fit into the world.

It’s not a good look and it has some awful consequences.

I saw this on my Facebook news feed last week. A friend of mine is an academic advisor at a large college. She deals with all kinds of these types of situations, but she shared this particularly funny email from a student last week:

Student: I have a question about my enrollment. I’m about to enroll in (Class A) and (Class B), but the first one starts at 11:00 AM and ends at 11:50 AM, and the second one starts at 12:00 PM and ends at 12:50 PM. That means I`ll have no time to lunch every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Isn’t there anything we can do about that? Please, answer me as soon as possible. I’m sorry to bother you.

I read this and went “WHA?” Who in their right mind would send this email? Why in the world would this be my friend’s problem to solve? And then I realized this email was probably from a kid of a parent who bent over backward to ensure their child never experienced a single inconvenience.

Life has pains. It has inconveniences, hurts, unfortunate circumstances, and heartache. If we, as parents shelter our kids from these things while they’re young, how in the world are they going to function when we aren’t around later? How are they going to know how to pick themselves up, brush themselves off and move on? How in God’s name are they going to know when to eat lunch?!

It is our job to teach them. It is our job to give them the tools they need to live their life. Not to do it for them. Not to put up bumpers everywhere they turn so they don’t bump their head. Sometimes a bump on the head is what will keep them from running into another disaster. Sometimes they need to learn to accommodate others’ needs before their own just so they don’t suck as people later.

Yes, it hurts a lot to see your child hurting. It kills me when one of my girls cries. But sometimes the best lesson they learn is to fall down. They’ll get back up and they’ll thank you for it later (at least that's the rainbow and sunshine picture I have in my head).

B and one of her many (very necessary) safety devices

B and one of her many (very necessary) safety devices by Megan Spreer

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Organic, Schmorganic

Corn syrup. Red dye 40. Pesticides. These are just a few of the things that I’m not supposed to be feeding my kids. Add to that shredded cheese, non-organic milk and Froot Loops. If you’re paying attention to what the nutrition experts are saying, you probably have plenty more to add to the list of no-no foods. The list is long. Very, very long.

These days it seems that almost everything I hand my kids is guilt inducing for one reason or another. The food experts say almost everything is full of cancer-causing GMOs or some other crazy chemical that’s banned in Europe. It’s so frustrating.

No trail mix. No Kraft mac & cheese. No Cheerios. No Starbucks. These were all things I needed to avoid to get away from GMOs, pesticides and harmful dyes according to the few experts I was following.

For a couple of weeks, I read these things and tried my best to follow their recommendations. I did a great job at first. We bought the organic stuff at Aldi, I replaced our chicken nuggets with veggie bites (which I ended up eating because they’re delicious), and I replaced the Cheerios in our pantry with some organic O’s that tasted like cardboard. I did everything I could afford. It was still expensive. I spent our entire month’s grocery budget in one trip. And some of it was really hard to sell my kids.

“Here HJ! Check out this yummy homemade mac & cheese that Mommy spent two hours making! Isn’t it delicious?”

“It’s yucky. Where’s the box?”

It was maddening to spend three times the amount of time cooking, five times the money, and ultimately throw it away.

I get that our food system has evolved to become atrocious. I get that food corporations are trying to maximize profits at the sake of our health. I even get that I’ve already broken my children for nutritious eating….and that’s my fault.

But why does almost all of the good food have to cost so much? Why does eating healthy seem to be something that only the wealthy get to comfortably enjoy?

On one hand we have corporate America trying to sell us bright packages of processed corn for pennies. Then, on the other hand, we have the experts telling us to buy only natural, organic food...that costs five times as much.

Either way, someone is profiting. And it’s not me. I’m going broke trying to feed my family food they don’t like.

Then the day came when I decided enough was enough. One of the experts on my Facebook News Feed came out with a list of beer you should avoid. Beer. As if we’re drinking beer to benefit our health. Lady, I couldn’t care less if the hops in my Newcastle are pesticide free. The alcohol is taking care of my liver on it’s own. I mean, really? We’re really going there? Please! “Drink this poison. Not that one. That one is using the wrong kind of ingredients.” Get outta here.

I was done. I felt like I was totally a sheep. She had an agenda or maybe a “sponsor,” I’m almost sure of it.

So now we have a new food plan: our own. We eat fruits and vegetables. We eat chicken, fish and even red meat. There are even times we still eat Froot Loops. But, we do it all in moderation. If we have waffles for breakfast today, tomorrow, we’ll have oatmeal mixed with applesauce. If an organic item at the store fits our budget that week, we’ll buy it. If it doesn’t, I’m not going to stress about it.

After all, until I can grow, harvest, prepare, and cook everything we eat myself (Ha! Like that will EVER happen), I’m just going to have to do my best.

But to all you experts, stay away from my beer. That poison is delicious, GMOs or not.

B prefers to wear her non-organic yogurt.

B prefers to wear her non-organic yogurt. by Megan Spreer

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Hand, Foot and Shut your Mouth

My kids got it. That weird disease I was sure a lady made up when she told me about it just six short years ago ransacked my house this weekend. Sores, whining, fever and extreme contagion made me a ball of stress, immediately. My husband broke his leg last month. I needed nothing else added to my list.

But really, the stress was all me. The girls actually were just fine. That’s the thing about this illness. The kids are FINE. It just looks and sounds awful.

Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease? It sounds like something cattle would have. (There actually is a disease they get with a similar name.) We really need to discuss disease names with these doctors. I think “Tiny Red Dot Disease” would be more fitting. Seriously, who chooses “Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease”? Real creative there, buddy. Also, it proved to be incorrect. At our house, it was more like Arms, Face, Legs, Ears, Mouth and Rear Disease. But like I said, they were fine. HJ only wanted chocolate milk for a couple days, both girls ran a very low fever, B got tiny red spots everywhere, and that was it.

So uneventful.

What is the real beast of this disease is just how contagious it is. Symptoms don’t typically show up until three to six days after the kiddo is exposed to the virus. So that means that we could’ve gotten it anywhere. Really. It could’ve been the library, the grocery store cart, the swimming pool or a random piece of candy from the sidewalk. (B doesn’t mind gravel in her candy, obviously.) This also means that we probably also shared with with the entire city. (I’m so sorry.) Dr. Google says it’s passed by an infected person’s saliva, open blisters and fecal matter. Basically, if you have a toddler, you’re toast. Our doctor’s office said it’s making the rounds in the local daycares.

The best part? Just because your house has already had it doesn’t mean you won’t get it again. There are multiple strains of this fun stuff. (Because OF COURSE there is.)

I’m thanking my lucky stars that we had such a mild case of it here. I hear it can get ugly. Has it visited your house? What did that look like?

*You can read more about it in Karrey Britt's article from a couple years ago.

Poor B.

Poor B. by Megan Spreer

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Parents: Stop Throwing Parties for Everything

I’m a member of what they call the “Entitled Generation.” We got participation trophies, played games where no one kept score, and were showered with praise for the smallest of milestones. Even as a kid, I thought it was a bit much. Why couldn’t there be a winner at my T-ball games?! Why should the kid who never practiced get the same trophy as the one who worked his butt off every summer?

It should come as no surprise that my entitled generation is going on to raise yet another generation of entitled brats. I see it on the playground, at restaurants and at the store. These parents (I’m not completely innocent either) are negotiating with toddler terrorists. They’re gathering up their things to leave the second the kid is done eating regardless if their own plates are still full. They’re also buying up every single toy their kid shows an interest in because well, it’s Tuesday. I dunno. Yet, my jaw hit the floor when I saw the latest doozy on Facebook a couple weeks ago.

A woman was asking some friends where in town she could hold her daughter’s “Potty Party.” What’s a “Potty Party”? It’s exactly what you’re scared to think it is. It’s a party to celebrate the fact that little Sally is finally potty trained.

WHA?! I cringed. People are doing this now. We’re throwing parties because our kids are doing things they’re SUPPOSED to do. What’s next? A “Tied My Own Shoes” Party? A “First Period” Party? A “Learned How to Share” Party? Where do we draw the line?

Don’t get me wrong. I get it. Potty training sucks. I’m still in the trenches. We’re almost through it with HJ, but never in a million years would I think anyone else in the world would care enough to take time out of their own busy schedules to attend a party celebrating the fact that my kid figured out where to urinate.

No. Just no.

It’s totally not this mom’s fault though. Our culture created this. We throw a party for damn near everything. There’s preschool graduation, kindergarten graduation, elementary school graduation, and middle school graduation all before they ACTUALLY graduate from something real. Those aren’t graduations! Then there’s engagement parties, divorce parties, and I’m pretty sure someone out there is having a party for I dunno, their garden. Why are we celebrating everything?! We’re diluting life’s real moments of celebration!

Yes, having a kid who’s potty trained is exciting. It’s fan-freaking-tastic, but it’s more of a bake cupcakes as a family at home kind of celebration. Save that party for something that’s really important….like when she graduates college (still out of diapers).

However, if all of these parties are simply an excuse to have more cake, I take it all back. The world should always have more cake. Party on.

Our kids have parties for everything. And we mean everything.

Our kids have parties for everything. And we mean everything. by Megan Spreer

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5 Things a New Mom REALLY Wants

Going to visit a new mom soon?

Put down that gift bag filled with onesies and receiving blankets. For real. The new mom you’re visiting already has 50 of each. She’s probably already had at least one baby shower to get her ready for the tiny new person who’s moved in and kept her up all night.

It’s time to treat that poor shell-shocked new mom. She had no idea just how little sleep she’d get, how much “ew” she’d witness, and just how leaky EVERYTHING is after you expel a person. We need to pamper her in rainbows and puppy kisses (just don’t actually bring a puppy, that thing will make a mess).

Even though my youngest is now 16 months old (Yes, I just had to stop and count to remember), I still vividly remember those first few days home from the hospital. You’re in a haze. You’re exhausted. And you’re terrified when your husband leaves you alone with the baby for the first time. So I decided to come up with a list of gifts the first time mom REALLY wants when she brings home that sweet new baby. You’re welcome, new moms.

  1. Food. In all forms. Bring the family dinner, lunch, snacks, dessert, whatever. Mom (and Dad!) are so focused on keeping a tiny human alive that they often don’t remember to cook or even grocery shop. Keep them from starving. And bring it in disposable containers. They don’t have time to mess with dishes.

  2. Arms. Yours specifically. To hold her baby. There still are days when I can’t find the time to shower. When I was a brand new mom, I don’t even want to admit the amount of time that passed between bathing. I was terrified to leave my baby unattended. So here’s what you do: Call up the new mom and ask her what day and time she’d like to bathe. Then, come over and hold her baby while she does it. Let her take as long as she needs to feel like a real person again. She’ll love you forever.

  3. Gift cards. Once my husband went back to work, I felt like I was left in the trenches. The idea of leaving the house with the new baby was utterly terrifying. Therefore, I shopped online. I called for delivery. I also had friends bring over stuff. Of course, I got over this, but in the first few days/weeks, I felt very uneasy in my new role. I was afraid of leaving something behind, having germy strangers touch my baby, or God forbid, my baby crying in public (Remember when that was a fear?! Ha ha!) Help the newbie out with some gift cards she can use online to get what they need.

  4. Wine with breast milk testing strips. She just survived the most uncomfortable 9-ish months of her life without booze. Help a sister out. If she’s nursing, bring those handy testing strips so she has some peace of mind before she feeds her baby. One of my girlfriends brought me a basket full of Boulevard beer when I had HJ. To this day, she’s still one of my favorite people in the world.

  5. Time alone. Nothing makes people flock like a new baby. Everyone is so excited that they forget common courtesy sometimes and just show up unannounced at the new parents’ home. Don’t be that guy. If the new mom is anything like me, she’s so tired of changing the puke/breastmilk stained shirt that she’s just walking around without one and the house is a total disaster. In fact, if she’s sleep deprived enough, she may cry to find unexpected visitors on her doorstep. So give her some space or better yet, text her before you drop by.

Moms and Dads, could you weigh in? What things did I miss?

Brand new HJ (photo by Anna Luckey)

Brand new HJ (photo by Anna Luckey) by Megan Spreer

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I Understand How Parents Leave Babies in Hot Cars

Last week, a father was distracted. It happens to every parent. We get consumed with one of the fifty things going on in our heads and we accidentally put everything else on the back burner.

Unfortunately, this time, it cost him his child.

For whatever reason, he accidentally left his child in the car instead of taking him to daycare that day he went to work. His son died. He's also being charged with murder.

This happens numerous times every summer. It seems every week a new article or news report pops up talking about a child behind left behind in the car while the parent goes to work. And my heart breaks into a million pieces each time.

I may be in the minority, but I get it. I have worked in environments that consume more of my brain than I can handle some days. On those days, if our regular schedule shifts even slightly, I’d leave my right arm behind because I’m so preoccupied.

And yet the vile remarks from online commenters and people in conversation flow.

“How could you forget your child?!”

“If you can’t remember your kid, maybe you shouldn’t be a parent!”

To that, I say: How dare you. How dare you judge someone who made a mistake while trying to provide for the family he or she loves. How dare you snarl hateful comments when someone is experiencing the most horrifying hell on earth.

Could you imagine living with yourself after making that kind of mistake? These people are victims of a world that has failed working parents. The demands on working parents are unreal: Work 40 hours a week to provide for your family. Pay a huge chunk of that to childcare. Be present in your child’s life. Put dinner on the table. Maintain your home. Keep up with doctors’ appointments. Do the grocery shopping. Schedule play dates. Visit family. Do the laundry. And the list continues. If any one of those things requires more of your attention than usual, there’s just no room to fit in all in your brain.

That being said, yes, a child is different. Forgetting a child is huge. But imagine for a moment that the child was up all night teething. That parent got less than an hour of sleep. He has a huge project going on at work. His family is coming in town the next weekend and the house is a disaster. He also has to take the baby to daycare...something he doesn’t usually do. The wife loads the baby up in the car without telling him. He completely forgets about his turn to drop off.

Can’t you see it happening?

When I was working in a particularly stressful and chaotic work environment, I was terrified of leaving baby HJ in the car and going on to work. I made a plan with our child care provider that if I were ever more than 15 minutes late, she was to call me. I also would leave either my laptop, purse, wallet or phone in the back of the car so that I had one more thing to get from back there.

If you’re a parent, make a plan with your daycare or leave something in the back seat. Set up a safeguard. Because even if you think it could never happen to you, make sure that it REALLY couldn’t.

I don’t know this particular dad’s story or any other parent’s story who’s made this kind of terrible mistake. What I do know is that these parents’ minds were somewhere else that day. And now they will have to carry one of the largest burdens imaginable for the rest of their life.

I think a little grace and understanding is in order.

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Sorry Experts, We Watch TV and Play on Tablets

Stop it, “experts.” If I see one more study or article that discusses the “dangers” and “risks” of allowing children to watch television or play on tablets, I’m going to lose it.

Should we allow our kids to only sit in front of an electronic screen all day? No. Is it going to stunt their development to allow them to watch an episode of Dora the Explorer while I cook dinner? Puh-lease. These so-called experts need to stop. Stop making parents feel guilty for taking a moment to themselves. Dinners need to be cooked, laundry needs to restarted for the fifth time, and parents need a minute of peace and quiet every now and then (or EVERY DAY).

I just get so frustrated by all of these articles and studies that serve no other purpose than to shame parents. You let your child play an educational game about the alphabet?! How dare you put her precious eyes in front of a screen that exists in 90 percent of American homes! She learned something while playing it?! It doesn’t matter because her brain doesn’t properly process screen time!

Okay, so that may not be exactly what they say, but it’s pretty dang close. I’m so over it.

My childhood was awesome. We played outside, went to the pool, built forts, made pottery out of red mud, and rode bikes until it got dark. You know what else made it awesome? Muppet Babies, Hey Dude!, Reading Rainbow, Tiny Toons, Double Dare, Legends of the Hidden Temple, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Then there was Duck Hunt, Super Mario Brothers, Sonic the Hedgehog, Yoshi’s Cookie, and Homerun Derby on whatever game console we had at the time. I loved TV. I loved movies, games, computers, and anything else electronic. I also learned a heck of a lot. Some of the first words I learned to spell were on a Speak n’ Spell.

All of my screen time produced a woman who is a fully functioning member of society, a college graduate, a mother of two, a wife of one, and I’ve never seen the inside of a jail cell. All good things, right? No, I’m not president. I’m not an astronaut. And I suck at math. BUT, are we really going to blame my screen time as a child on the fact that I can’t remember how to solve quadratic equations?

Yes, we all want our kids to become the best versions of themselves that they can possibly be. I’m just not convinced that following a perfect blueprint set out by “experts” is going to help me craft the next Nobel Prize winner. In fact, only 43 people have become President of the United States since George Washington took office in 1789. Seriously, what are the chances that your little Johnny is going to be the next one? And if he could, I have a difficult time believing that his Netflix subscription will cancel out that future.

To properly (according to the expert thinking) teach HJ her ABCs, I bought a tub of magnetic letters from a consignment sale. Every time we’d sit down to work on them, she’d dump them all over the floor, get frustrated with me interrupting her playtime by teaching her, and then she’d run off. She finally engaged when we gave her an old iPhone loaded with an ABC app. She watched it almost everyday and in two weeks could recognize nearly all 26 letters.

So tell me again, how is this detrimental to her development?

Granted, I do understand that there are parents out there who let their kids do nothing but sit in front of a screen ALL day. I’m not advocating that. That can lead to physical and emotional problems. There is a line between moderation and overkill. BUT, do you think the parents letting their kids sit in front of the TV or tablet all day read articles by child development experts?

Exactly.

There are a variety of factors that contribute to developmental and physical issues. The kids who sit in front of screens all the time are probably not eating a balanced diet. They’re obviously not also getting a lot of physical play time. Duh. So is it really the screens’ fault? Sitting and playing with any one toy all day will do the same thing.

So maybe what the experts should be saying is “Hey! Remind your kid to do other stuff too!”

I will continue to allow my girls to watch TV. They will play on the tablet. I will monitor their activity and watch things with them. We’ll even play the games together. Then we’ll go outside and play.

But I’m not going to set a timer.

Reading a book on *gasp* an iPad!

Reading a book on *gasp* an iPad! by Megan Spreer

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5 Things Moms Need to Stop Saying to Other Moms

Fellow moms can be some of your greatest allies when you’re raising your kids. As I mentioned last week, they can be invaluable when S hits the fan. However, there are times when other moms just plain suck.

Yeah, I know. I’m totally backtracking here. I’m not talking about a majority though. I’m referring to the times when some of them ask questions that make you anxious or say a comment that makes you question your abilities as a mother. They may do it out of sleep deprivation, pure ignorance, or like me, just because they’re super nosey. Regardless, we all need to agree to stop saying these things.

  1. You look so skinny! So basically what you’ve just admitted is that you assess your friend’s body every time you see her. Since when is our ultimate goal after having a baby to be skinny?! Our bodies just created a human! It’s still repairing itself in places we can’t even see. Not only is this a double-edged sword of a compliment, it makes her wonder what you honestly thought of her before you thought she “looked so skinny.” This is especially nerve-wracking to a woman who’s just had her baby. Tell her she looks great...if she’s dressed and out of the house, she deserves a prize anyway.

  2. Are you breastfeeding? Essentially, this question says “Can I judge you?” Why else does it matter if you know the answer to this? Unless the child has a nutritional deficiency and you are the breastfeeding messiah or if the mother has explicitly asked for help, don’t ask this question. You wouldn’t ask the mom what she had for lunch that day. Therefore, why don’t we think it’s weird to ask what the baby ate?

  3. Was (insert child’s name) planned? This is just like asking, “Did you use a condom last night?” Gross, right? It’s none of your business whether someone is reproductively responsible or not. It’s also rude to label a child a “mistake” or “accident.” Just how awesome do you think Suzie’s going to feel when she overhears that her parents accidentally had her, but tried for months for her brother Johnny? Exactly.

  4. You’re so lucky your husband will babysit so you can get out! Excuse me? Last time I checked he was their father. Therefore, this thing that he’s doing is called PARENTING. It’s not called “babysitting” when I have them alone. Why does he get recognized as a saint for fulfilling his end of our mutual commitment to these tiny people?

  5. When are you going to stop breastfeeding? This is one I get ALL THE TIME. It’s a lot like #2 on the scale of judginess. It’s usually asked because the asker either thinks you’ve already done it for too long or they’re checking to see if you’ll do it for what they think is too long. Answer I give: When she’s done or when I’m done. That’s all they need to know. If I’m nursing a 3-year-old, that’s my business. It’s my child. It’s my choice.

Basically, we all need to start asking ourselves a simple question before we open our mouths: “Will my statement/question make her truly feel uplifted?” If the answer is no, it’s time to go back to sneaking our kids' fruit snacks when they’re not looking. (Admit it, you totally do it too.)

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My Village in a Strawberry Patch

We went strawberry picking this week. Cute, right? Yes. Yes, it was. I also got a little ahead of myself. Because Kansas had such a harsh winter, strawberry picking at Wohletz Farm Fresh (the local farm it seems EVERYONE goes to) has been drastically scaled down. They’ve only been opening one day a week and they are picked out within 20 minutes of opening.

After missing the small window last week, we decided to get there super early this week and be one of the first to arrive. Small detail: I had three kids under the age of 4 in tow. I was watching a friend’s 2-month-old along with my usual tag team of HJ and B.

Ha! Small detail, my foot. Sometimes I’m too brave for my own good. More than 100 people showed up to pick the scant selection. There was a line down the road to enter the farm when we pulled up ten minutes before picking time. It was madness.

No biggie, I thought. I put Small Fry in my baby carrier, grabbed B’s hand, instructed HJ to trot close by and met my girlfriend Steph and her two boys. We got this, I naïvely thought.

And what happened? The apocalypse.

Upon seeing the juicy, red strawberries lining both sides of her, B dove right in to what she perceived as the free strawberry buffet. I could not stop her. She just kept grabbing and eating, leaves and all. HJ started freaking out because the strawberries were “sooo stuck” and “I can’t do it!”. (I have no idea where she gets her dramatic tendencies from, by the way.) And in the midst of my own crazy, Small Fry decides she wants to eat since she’s sitting with her face against my own unattainable free buffet.

B in her strawberry buffet

B in her strawberry buffet by Megan Spreer

To add to the fun, Kansas decided to launch full-blown summer right as we got there and become as blazingly hot as the sun with an extra side of humidity. B was sweating bullets. HJ was yelling for a drink. And I had to loosen the baby carrier and walk hunched over to allow Small Fry some air while also squeezing a bottle in there to feed her.

My head was about to explode. And that was the precise moment when my village stepped in. My friend Steph grabbed our box and started picking strawberries for the both of us while wrangling my two mobile kiddos along with her own. She then snagged me a spot in the long, hot line of people to pay for our fruit. She even picked up my tab as I didn’t have two hands to grab cash or write a check. As if that wasn’t awesome enough, one of the owners of the farm, Jane, saw a sad, sweaty B desperate for me to pick her up. She came over, gave her some water, and carried her over to hang out under a tent. As I stood there swaying like a human hammock to keep Small Fry from overheating, I was so thankful for these women.

If they hadn’t rescued me in those moments, my tribe would have disbanded and revolted against me. I would have definitely lost my mind and we would have had a miserable day. I would have also missed the delight in their eyes when we had strawberry shortcake for dessert last night.

Yes, they were small things that these women did for me. But to me, they were huge. It reminded me just how important it is for us moms (and dads) to have a support system. To just have someone hold your child for you while you get yourself together can turn around an entire day. Even if it’s only for five minutes.

Next time I see that mom or dad in a restaurant trying to soothe a screaming child, I’m buying him or her a drink. If it’s a friend, I will hold her baby so she can eat a hot meal with two hands. It’s the little things that keep parents from stepping out on the ledge sometimes. Thank you, Steph and Jane, for throwing me a rope this week.

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Finding My ‘Me’ Thing

It’s funny. They tell you that you’ll change when you have a kid. I was always like, “Duh. Of course you’ll change. You’re a parent. How could you not?”

But really, I had no idea just how much changes. As in, parts of you become unrecognizable (and I’m not even talking about the stretch marks and loose skin).

The me I was before I was a mom completely shifted. The spontaneous, laid-back, adventure seeker I used to be was bound, gagged and stowed away. I am now a planner, a worrier and an example-maker. I am someone’s mom.

I'm kind of lame. And to be honest, I’m really not OK with being lame, even if that means I’m a good mom.

I’m mournful for the person I once was. No longer am I the girl who climbs slippery trees and leaps into the river while on canoe trips. I don’t spend hours wandering Target alone just because I have nothing to do that day. I no longer have the biggest potty mouth of my friends and freely throw out every opinion that pops into my head. Gone are the days when I get lost in a book for hours on end.

There are no more impromptu craft projects that turn our house into a wreck. I even cut off a toxic friendship in the name of setting an example for my daughter.

My preferences and wishes are now second to two tiny people who need me. Who are watching me. Who are learning so much about how to live in this world … from me.

It’s a terrifying role to be in. Especially so because these are the two people I love most in the world and want to turn out the most unscrewed-up.

And as much as I love these girls and love being their mother, there are days when I mourn the old me. I miss my carefree days and the adventurous person I was. The longer I’m in this new role, I realize that there’s no way I can ever go back to being that person.

Yes, I’ll be able to read more books and go to Target alone when the girls are older, but I’ll never feel completely OK climbing that slippery tree over a Missouri river. What if I fell and broke my neck?

I won’t ever feel pure excitement at the idea of an impromptu road trip. What activities do the girls have going on? I don’t even think of myself as me most of the time. To me, I’m HJ and B’s mom. That’s who I am. And to me, it’s one of the hardest parts of being a mom.

To live mostly for the benefit of someone else is a hard transition to make even if it’s done out of love.

I love being a mom, but I hated losing “me.”

Things turned around for me when I signed up for a weekly ladies’ night group a few months ago. With each outing, I saw that old me creep back in, even if it was just for an hour or so. I wasn’t there to be someone’s mom and it was an activity that was just mine.

No one needed snot sucked out of their nostril. No one needed a drink refill. It was just a group of other gals who wanted nothing from me, but for me to just be me. It was insanely therapeutic.

That’s when I finally understood why so many of my mom friends now run marathons, start selling Mary Kay, post picture after picture of every friggin’ meal they cook and dabble in photography. That’s their temporary escape and time to just get to be themselves. It’s where they are able to shed the “just a mom” persona and be nothing more than themselves. It’s their “me” thing. Everyone else just figured it out before me. (I’m usually the last to know most things.)

So while I may not still get to be the wild and adventurous girl I was when I didn’t have my own spawn, I’m enjoying this new period of self-discovery. On the docket this summer is a sewing workshop, a pie-making group, and a painting night.

Watch out, Lawrence. Things are gettin’ serious.

Me (before stretch marks)

Me (before stretch marks) by Megan Spreer

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5 Things They Don’t Tell You About Pregnancy

When it comes to pregnancy, people lie. That is, until you’re pregnant yourself. Then the truth magically comes out of people. My cousin, who is 15 weeks pregnant, messaged me this week to say that her morning sickness not only hasn’t gone away like people said it would, but it has now escalated to the point where she’s vomiting. I chuckled to myself at the fact that yet another pregnancy lie was being exposed to her. It’s cruel, yes, but you just can’t know all of the horrible, terrifying, and scary things that happen to your body when you’re pregnant — until you are. Part of the reason is because: 1. You don’t care to listen to pregnancy talk until you’re pregnant yourself and 2. Veteran moms don’t tell you out of fear that the world’s population will plummet in the future.

I’m going to break a rule here. A large number of my very good friends are currently pregnant or trying to get pregnant and I’d feel like a huge jerk if I didn’t give them the tiniest heads up. You’re welcome, friends. Here are five pregnancy truths that no one bothered to tell me before I jumped on the crazy train.

  1. You won't have the “glow”. Nope. That’s sweat. Even in January. You will be hot all the time. I was pregnant with both of my girls through very cold Kansas winters and I rarely wore a coat. I wore a tank top and shorts to bed in mid-winter and still woke up sweating. You will sweat, sweat, and sweat some more. As someone who is normally cold all the time, I thought this one wouldn’t apply to me. Ha! Not so.

  2. Your hair will be thick and shiny. This one is true. Between prenatal vitamins and the hormones coursing through your body that make your head shed less hair during pregnancy, your hair will look fantastic. What they don’t tell you is that just a few weeks after you have your baby, that awesome hair is going to look not awesome glogging your shower drain. For some women, it even falls out in clumps postpartum. Then, you get to have the fun tiny crazy hairs all over your head when it all grows back in.

Friggin' baby hairs

Friggin' baby hairs by Megan Spreer

  1. You won’t be able to enjoy these last months alone. It’s the last time you’ll truly be able to be fully productive and enjoy things that you love like reading, watching your favorite shows, and shopping alone. You know how you’ll spend this time? Sleeping or complaining that you can’t sleep. You’ll be so exhausted from the moment you pee on that stick until forever that you won’t have the energy to do anything you should be doing.

  2. Don’t get sick. For real, don’t. When you’re pregnant, there is a very long list of medications you can’t take and a very tiny list of the ones you can. And even if the thing you take is on the “Okay” list, you’ll still worry that it will cause your baby to grow a third arm. So basically, you’ll just be extra miserable on top of the fact that you’re swollen, uncomfortable and spending most of your time in the bathroom already.

  3. You don’t get to eat for two. Yeah, you’re feeding two humans, but don’t eat soft cheese, cookie dough, cake batter, fish, sushi, cider, unpasteurized juice, chicken salad from the store, sprouts, lunch meat, hot dogs, sunny side up eggs, eggnog, homemade ice cream, rare steak, and smoked seafood. Then, when you find something you CAN eat, you’re only supposed to gain between 25 and 35 pounds. Um, I gained 60 pounds with each child and someone was going to die if they took away cookie dough covered beaters. Just sayin’.

It’s not all bad though. You get to come home from the nine (actually closer to 10) months of crazy with a tiny, perfect person who you’ll love more than you knew was possible. Also? Maternity pants. You wear those babies with pride. They are the most comfortable things EVER. They are my new Thanksgiving pants. Extra points if you know where I got that idea.

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Don’t Be Like Mommy, Love Your Body

I can still vividly recall a conversation with my husband last June. I was sitting with him at a restaurant, barely able to breathe through my Spanx, still carrying 20+ pounds of baby weight and feeling frumpy and gross.

He scolded me for my insecurity. “You’re beautiful.” he told me. And he went on to say that I could weigh 100 pounds more and still be beautiful. “It’s all about how you carry yourself. If you walk around like, ‘This is me and I don’t care what you think’, it’s sexier than a girl who’s skinny and gorgeous, but insecure.”

He then dropped a whammy on me: The way that I carry myself, talk about myself, and think about myself is going to be passed on to our girls. The way that I carry myself should be the way I want them to view themselves.

Whoa, man. I didn't even think about that. He was so right. HJ was already mimicking my every action as I got ready in the morning. From brushing my teeth to putting on make-up, she’s right there watching. She copies it all. I've even caught her checking out her own butt in the mirror.

As a mom of now two girls, I think a lot about how I can help them form a healthy self-esteem and a positive self image in this world. On one hand, there are the Miley Cyruses who take it too far and then there are the girls who develop unhealthy relationships with food and themselves to reach a standard of beauty that is unattainable.

It’s hard. I want them to be confident, yet humble. I want them to love themselves, but not be vain. I want them to have the balls to walk away from someone who puts them down and hold their heads high while saying, “Whatever. I’m awesome.”

The truth is though, it’s hard to teach that when you yourself aren’t built that way. As a ginger (I’m a natural redhead), I got teased a lot growing up. I was pale, freckled, and had a last name that didn’t help that teasing subside (Heffley sounds too much like a Heifer cow to small town kids in Kansas, apparently).

I always wanted to change my appearance. I wanted brown or blonde hair (the societal norm) and tan skin. In fact, I lived in a tanning bed the last two years of high school and now I’m paying the price with annual skin screenings and mole removals. I don’t want my girls to go through that. I don’t want them to want so desperately to change they way they look that they ruin their body.

So since that conversation with my husband, I’ve been working hard to love my body just as it is. Yes, I’m pale. Yes, I have no butt. And yes, my body is even more flawed than it was before I had these amazing girls. But, I’m going to rock it. Because how else are my girls going to learn that true beauty comes from your own confidence?

Plus, someone needs to make pasty paleness the new trend. I’m a trendsetter right here, folks.

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