Category Archives: Moms

Thank You For Your Service

My sister visits every summer. But this summer was different.

She needed a distraction.

Over the years, the number of kids she brought with her has dwindled. First, it was all three. Her two oldest hover in age on either side of my oldest daughter. Her youngest, 4 years younger, was left out of the fun much of the time. But she didn’t mind. It meant that she got to play a “grown up” with my two younger sons who hung the sun and moon on her.

This summer, however, was my sister’s first solo trip. Her oldest, is a working girl now, having finished art school and struggling with her career – in a good way. Her son is in his last year at university. And her youngest, her baby, is in basic training.

My niece didn’t need to join the Army. I mean, not the way many think. She’s an excellent student. She’s highly self motivated and disciplined. Just the kind of person the Army wants. No, Dear Niece, wants to be just like her father. She’ll go to her father’s Alma Mater, a Big Ten University. But her father was also in the Army. And now he’s in Federal Law Enforcement – which is what she wants, too. So, she’s following his path. Step by step.

My sister knew this summer would be hard so she wanted to make it special.

“Let’s take the boys to Disney!” she said. No twisting my arm. I’ll take any excuse to go to my most magical place.


A selfie with one of the army “toys” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

So we did. And we had a blast. But she wasn’t fully present.

“What if she calls when we’re on a ride?”and “Here, I just need to check my messages again.” and “What’s the area code for Missouri? What if I don’t recognize the number?” and “What if she wants to leave and I can’t get to her?” and much more seriously….”What if she gets deployed somewhere awful?”

My sister is well aware of how awful this can be for the family left behind. Her husband volunteered to go to Iraq. They fought. She felt the kids were too young for him to leave. He felt the need to honor his duty to his county. She lost. He won.


The picture my boys sent to their Uncle while he was in Iraq. #1son is wearing his favorite camo bike helmet and #2son is wearing his ” ‘Merican fwag” shirt.

I sympathized this summer with my sister. I tried to feel her pain. And I told her I got it. And I thought I did.

As soon as we received a mailing address we all started mailing letters. My sister warned me that they keep them so busy during the day, they’re exhausted at night. She may not be able to write back very often. No worries, I told her. We understand.

We received our first letter from my niece a few days ago. Or should I say, my sons received a letter. Addressed to the both of them. It was a busy day and and we were rushing to get ready for Boy Scouts.

“Read it to us at dinner, ” they said. “It’ll save time and then we won’t fight over who gets to read it first!” (My oldest son. Always thinking!)

“Thank you both for writing me! Getting letters is the best part of my day! I hope you don’t mind that I am writing this to both of you but I don’t have a whole lot of free time…”

My sister was right.

“I am having a great time! Every day I accomplish new, cool tasks. For example, so far I have done land navigation courses, repelled off a 40 foot tower, team building obstacle courses, gone into a gas chamber, learned all about the M4 rifle, (which I’m shooting for the first time tomorrow!) learned combat first aid and a bunch of other stuff that I can’t remember right now.”

What? My eyes scan back to gas chamber and shooting rifles and combat first aid. Yes, I know what being in the military entails. But this is my baby niece we’re talking about.

“My favorite part has been the navigation courses and repelling off the tower. The gas chamber? Not so much.”

And then it really hits me about the commitment she is making to our country. And the weight my sister has been feeling all summer. And my eyes well up with tears.

This shouldn’t be new to me. My grandfathers, uncles and cousins have all served. My brother-in-law was in the middle east just yesterday, it seems. I know what it’s like to miss someone, worry about someone, and care for someone when they come home wounded.

But my niece feels like my baby, too. And I’m getting a tiny taste, a tiny glimpse into what my sister, her mother, is struggling with every single day until she comes home.

To all of you  mothers out there, mothers with sons and daughters in the military:

Thank you for YOUR sacrifice. And please thank your children for me for their sacrifice. They are awesome. You are awesome. And my heart aches and swells with pride, all at the same time, for all of you. 


Filed under Adult Children, family, Moms

Hi. I’m Jane. And I Nursed My Son Longer Than 2 Years.

(Jane clears throat and steps gingerly onto her soapbox.)


My name is Jane.

And I nursed my son longer than 2 years.

Go ahead. Start slinging the arrows. Label me crunchy granola. Slap the handcuffs on my wrists and haul me away to crazy-mommy-jail. (Do they have Starbucks? If so, I’ll go willingly.)

I didn’t plan on nursing for so long. I knew I wanted to breastfeed. (Because, after all, that IS what my breasts were designed for, contrary to popular belief.) So when my pediatrician asked me if I’d given any thought to weaning I answered, “Yes. I read it’s best to nurse until a year old. And that’s when I’m planning on stopping.” She smiled a knowing smile and handed me a pamphlet on the latest statistics (7 years ago) and said, “Well, the World Health Organization now recommends breastfeeding until age 2 or longer, whichever is best for both mother and child.”

This was new thinking for me. But after exhaustive research (because I’m really a research nerd-junkie at heart) I decided to practice “child led weaning” or natural weaning. Yes. I said natural weaning. Because if it’s forced, it is un-natural. (I’m on my soapbox so I can say this.)

Now, I wasn’t the perfect crunchy-granola mom. I tried to practice a “don’t offer, don’t refuse” approach to the “natural” weaning process. But I succumbed to societal pressures. If we were in public, if guests were visiting who wouldn’t understand, I’d gently redirect and say, “Not now.” Sometimes I’d offer an explanation. But he didn’t really care. A redirect was fine.

But the fact that I was still nursing at (OK. I’ll admit it.) 3+ years of age? It was my dirty, little secret. (And not THAT kind of dirty, little secret. If that’s what you were thinking? Please. Just leave now. There isn’t enough room in the blogosphere to convince you otherwise and I’m not about to try.)

Frankly, I find it pathetic that only 57% of women in the U.S. even try to breastfeed their baby, compared to the 98% in Sweden, Norway and 94% in Rwanda. I understand that for some women, breastfeeding isn’t an option due to health issues. I get it. I truly do. But when a 6 month pregnant woman in my bookclub says, “Oh, no. We’re not going to breastfeed. My husband  and I just aren’t comfortable with that.” And she shakes her head with disgust, with a grimace on her face? I’m the one who is disgusted. (And I tried to hide MY grimace but as you all know, I do not have a poker face.)

And I tried. I really tried not to make a comment about the fairly recent Time magazine cover “Are You Mom Enough?” with the 3-year-old nursing. But hold onto your hats, because here I go.

First of all, I never, ever, ever nursed my 3 year old standing up with him on  a step stool.

Second. If you can’t nurse for whatever physical reason? You get a big, fat automatic pass at breastfeeding. No questions asked. But if you “can’t” nurse because it grosses you (and your husband) out? Maybe you aren’t mom enough.

Third. I understand that Time was trying to elicit a response with their shocking cover. But really. Natural weaning and attachment parenting practices should be a non-issue. They are practiced all over the world. ALL the heck over. We’re the ones with the issues that we need to just get over. Plus, different strokes for different folks. Stop the judging and start supporting each other. Maybe more moms would see the light.

And D (now you really know I’m angry because I’m mixing up my argument structure), that blog that wants to punch people in a place that would really hurt because they tick them off? You can be on your soapbox but please back up your argument with facts. Attachment parenting does not mean that you nurse until your child can spell “delicious and refreshing breast milk” and they co-sleep with you until middle school. I know you’re trying out the Time magazine shock technique, but honestly? You come across sounding mean, angry, hostilely judgmental and insecure in your own parenting skills.  But since that’s the point of your blog, I’ll just stop there.

Yes. I’m a crunchy, granola mom. By accident. Because that’s what felt right for me and my child. At that time in our lives. In that moment. I didn’t ask for anyone’s permission. I didn’t ask for anyone’s opinion. I just did it because that’s what felt right. And sadly, for me anyway, I honestly can’t remember the last time my son nursed. It had tapered off to a point that one day, a day I will never remember because it felt like any other day, he decided it would be his last. He didn’t need it anymore.

As it should be.

(Stepping off my soapbox, and ducking from the arrows, I just want to say whatever is was that YOU did about feeding your infant/toddler/child? It’s your business and your business alone. I don’t care what you did. I know what I think is best but that’s just it. It’s MY opinion. Not yours. You go off and have your opinion. Just don’t want to punch me in the throat because of mine.) 


Filed under children, Moms, Motherhood, Soapbox

Before I Was A Mom…

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…crying children were like nails on a chalkboard. Now? I frantically search until I find the source to make sure a parent is there taking care of the distraught little one.

…I slept as late as I wanted to on the weekends, which wasn’t very late, but still. I slept until I wanted to get up. Now? Wake up call in our house is 6am. Every day. Every. Single. Day.

…my husband and I could have a little romp in the hay, mid-afternoon, take a little nap afterwards and do it all over again. Now? We have to schedule time. And then keep/remember/have the energy for “the date.” Afterwards we say, “Mmmmm. That was nice. Let’s not wait 3 months for the next time, k?”

…having the money to go out was no big deal. We did what we felt like. When we felt like it. Now? We have to tack on $40-50 more to the budget for the babysitter. Ouch!

…I always remembered to shave my legs. Now? Please don’t look!

…I had seen every single Best Picture nominee for the Academy Awards. Printed out my ballots and threw a big bash so we could eat popcorn and Twizzlers and comment on the tuxes, dresses, and  speeches. Now? Do they still have those awards shows? After our nightly Curious George episode our tv is off.

…I loved my husband. Now? I adore, cherish, am continually amazed by, LOVE my husband. He is such a wonderful father.

…hugs were nice. Now? Hugs are sticky, slimy, sweet smelling, cozy little wonders all day long.

…my skin was fresh with not a wrinkle in sight. Now? I’ve earned every single “laugh line” quite honestly. My children set me into a fit of giggles at least once a day.

…I wondered how I was going to make a difference in the world. Now? I’m shaping the future with my bare hands.

(Sorry for the re-run. My sister is in town (for 10 days!) and she doesn’t even know I blog. And I’m not telling her now. So, I’m going to be a bit scarce. I’ll try to sneak online but in the meantime, here are a few of my favorite posts. Enjoy your week!)


Filed under children, Moms, Motherhood

Underweight. Overweight. I Still See Fat When I Look In The Mirror.

I’m not thrilled with my post-baby body. Who is? Well, maybe the models and actresses with trainers and vegan diets, but not most of us. My issues about my body are nothing new.

Nothing new.

And that’s what’s pathetic.

Growing up, I remember my parents watching us carefully. Portion sizes. Types of food we chose. Commenting on the other “chunky” teenagers out there. They meant well. And it was all ironic coming from my mother – a nurse who struggled with her own weight. But I suppose she was worried we’d turn out like her.

When I was in my teens I was so thin my parents took me to the doctor. They thought I was secretly bulimic. They knew I ate. What they didn’t take into consideration is that I swam 2-4 hours a day on a competitive swim team. The doctor assured them that I was healthy with an enviable metabolism. Sure, I could stand to gain a few pounds but that will come. (And oh boy, did it come.) But even with that experience, my sister and I would compare our thighs.

“Look how mine jiggles,” she would say. “I’m fat.”

“No,” I would counter, “Mine jiggles more. Look.” And I would prove that I was fatter.

In my twenties, my now ex husband (and I’m embarrassed that I’m admitting this) would actually wrap his arm around my waist, making sure he could get his fingers all the way around. I knew what he was doing. He was making sure that I was staying thin. I dreaded wearing a bathing suit, certain that everyone could see my (non-existent) pooch or my thunder thighs. I was actually told by a doctor that my body fat percentage was too low to get pregnant (we were struggling to start a family) and I still looked in the mirror and saw fat.

And then menopause hit. Early. Age 35. And I started gaining weight. At 40, because I was peri-menopausal and my body fat percentage was now optimal for pregnancy, I got my surprise miracle baby. I gained almost 50 pounds during the pregnancy and only lost about 30 after he was born. Now, when I look in the mirror, I pinch way more than an inch in way more than one place. And I think, I’m still fat.


I see pictures of myself when I was younger and wonder how in the world? How in the freaking world did I ever think I was fat?

But I did.

Maybe I wouldn’t have felt so fat if I’d had an amazing mother like this one with this amazing response to her 7-year-old’s statement that she thought she was fat. I actually teared up with joy and longing and love.

(Please take the time to read this post. Simply amazing. And may you never, ever, ever look into the mirror and think “fat.”)


Filed under Lessons Learned, Moms, Motherhood

Elf On The Shelf, Or Lamp Shade, Or Wherever Else You Put Your Stupid Elf

(This post is inspired by a post found on People I Want To Punch In The Throat. And while the title of the blog suggests violence that I don’t condone, the writing there is clever and funny. I have only recently discovered this blog but plan on returning for further research. Feel free to visit and come to your own conclusions.)

I have a friend. A dear friend who has an Elf On The Shelf. And an addiction to Facebook. During this time of year, I find that combination to be deadly.

To my ego.

Every other day she has a post of the clever places they find their Elf every morning. Along with clever little tag lines.

Example #1 – Hiding in a lamp, with just his little hat peeking out. “Should we tell him his hat is giving him away? Or just leave him in the dark?”

Example #2 – In a large empty jar with lid tightly closed. “Oops. Looks like Elf has found himself in a pickle.”

Example #3 – Hiding deep inside the Christmas tree. “Can’t see the Elf for the tree.”

I could go on. But I won’t. It depresses me too much.

Quite honestly, I had never heard of Elf On The Shelf until we moved to this subdivision. My rudimentary research discovers that his concept is old. But his commercial phenomenon is recent. Apparently, the Elf is a spy for Santa Claus. He sneaks away every night once the family is tucked in for the night, files his report with Santa and then returns by daylight, always in a new spot and typically up to some mischief of his own.

Oh. Yeah. Like I need one more Christmas chore to add to my list.

So, like any sane mother, I reject this holiday hobgoblin. My days are chock full of cookie baking, present wrapping, mantel dressing and shopping, cooking and a little more shopping. Who has time for 25 days of elfin mischief to create?

A lot of moms, apparently.

So many, that now, my children have been exposed to the little guy. And they want to know how Santa knows if they’re naughty or nice.

Santa peeks in on you himself. You boys are two of his favorites.

Cue eye rolls and exasperated sighs.

“Mom. Really? Because Nick’s Elf left him candy canes. Santa doesn’t leave us candy canes after he checks up on us.”

He saves that for Christmas Day. He knows about your last dentist appointment.

“If the leprechauns can visit us how come we don’t have an elf visit?”

I repeat the “Santa’s favorite” response. To no avail.

“Well, Sydney’s Elf bakes her cupcakes and cleans up her room.”

Hey! I bake you cupcakes and clean up your room.

“It’s not the same, Mom!”


It’s not.

Stupid Elf.


Filed under children, Holiday, Moms

The #1 Little Piece Of Information NOT To Share With Your Child

It was a feminist literature class. On the contemporary reading list was The Joy Luck Club. A book chock full of mother/daughter relationships.

The assignment?

An interview with your mother.

The questions we were required to ask were predictable. How did you meet my father? Why did you choose marriage at that time in your life? What was your life like before kids? How far did you take your education? What did you learn from your mother about parenting?

What was your reaction when you heard you were pregnant with me?


Huh? Did I hear her right? Did she really say defeat?

Uh. Yes.

She did.

I knew I didn’t really want to hear any more. A glutton for punishment, I asked her to explain.

“Well. When I married your father I knew I wanted to go to college. He wanted to start a family right away. So I made a deal with him. We would have sex one night in the month of March. He could pick the night. If I got pregnant, fine. We’d start having kids. If not, I could start school.”


“I was looking through college catalogs and I felt a little sick to my stomach. Then I realized I was a few days late for my period. I knew your father had won. So I threw the catalogs in the trash and here you are.”

A consolation prize?

“You know. I never wanted to be a mother. But that’s what was expected of me. So I did it.”

Four times. What were you thinking?

“You kids kept me from getting my degree for 10 years. But, I eventually got it. So I guess it all worked out, right?”

Uh. No.

It didn’t.

Your response explains a lot. It explains the heavy sighs. The crabby days. How we always seemed in your way. Why we all scurried every time you came home. Your nightly vodka tonics. How some days you could barely look at us.

But it didn’t work out.

Not for me, anyway.

And when you completely forgot my birthday this year? No card. No phone call.

At least now.

I know why.


Filed under Moms, Motherhood

Mom’s First Day Of School Jitters

We had to switch schools this year.

#1daughter is attending college in a short 10 days. And in case you weren’t aware….college is expensive. Damn expensive. I sure don’t remember having a college book bill totaling over $500.

And my husband is self-employed. Oh, yeah. And the economy sucks.

So, the boys had to leave the perfectly lovely, wonderful, can’t-say-enough-good-things-about Montessori School they’ve been attending for the past 4 years. We adored that school. But in March, we (and by we I mean “I” because my husband hates to be the bad guy) had to start looking at our “free” options. As in, those evil public schools. (And by evil, I don’t really mean evil but it seems whenever you tell someone you’re paying for your child’s education – on top of the taxes you already pay – it must mean that you think public schools are bad. Which I don’t. But that’s for another post.)

And when you tell your friends that you’re considering other options, everyone wants you to choose their option. The charter school, homeschool, the school down the street. We (and by we, remember we’re talking “I” here) weighed our options. And the school down the street (not really down the street but closer than the last school but far enough for the boys to ride the coveted school bus) was the fit that I (oops, I mean we) thought was the best fit for our children.

Let me tell you. I agonized over this decision. It kept me up nights. I listed the pros and the cons. I consulted friends and professionals. I visited and visited, again and again. I read articles online and compared test scores.

It was brutal.

But I finally came to a decision I prayed was the right one.

And even though I was pretty sure it was the right one, I still worried. It’s so different from Montessori. And so much bigger. 800 students in all! What if #1son gets lost in the crowd? What if #2son gets bored and starts acting out?

The first day arrived. #1son – who thinks he is too big for hugs and kisses goodbye, who marched around like a drill sargent that morning making sure everyone had their shoes on, teeth brushed and lunch boxes in hand – when it came time to hug me goodbye, clutched me around my middle and wouldn’t let go. I practically had to peel him off me. I could feel his apprehension. He didn’t have to say a word. (And he didn’t.)

I worried all day long. Every half hour passed and I wondered: “Did they make any new friends?”, “Were the kids mean on the playground?”, “What if they can’t sit still that long?” and “Will they get lost in the lunchroom?”

This is what greeted me after ambling off the bus:

Nope. No worries, mom!

What a relief.


Filed under children, Moms, Motherhood