My Unexpected Joys of Motherhood

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When I was younger and I would daydream about having children one day, I somehow imagined having three kids. Three girls.

Having girls just seemed like the natural fit; the comfortable fit for me. I grew up with only a sister, no brothers. My sister and I always thought it would be cool to have one more girl in our sorority of two. Maybe we watched too much Charmed on WB. Who knows? Nevertheless, being around mostly girls is what I was use to, so the idea of having three daughters sounded like a fun time.

Fast forward to present time and I am a proud and dotting mother of three boys. Yes, that’s right. BOYS.

I clearly remember the first time I was pregnant and wondering if I was growing a little boy or girl inside of me. I found myself dreaming about a son.

I realized then that dreams change as we grow. My mere idea of motherhood as an adolescent was severely different than my real aspirations as an adult. I would have been happy with a healthy baby regardless of gender, but somehow my curiosity of what it would be like to raise a son made it exciting.

Out popped my little man, and over the next several months, I learned what an indescribable love it is to share with a child. I also learned that motherhood was natural for me. I surprised myself by how much I truly enjoyed it.

I experienced a deep revelation. I finally grew into myself.

Up until I became a Mom, I was a self-assured, happy-go-lucky sort of person. Motherhood gave me an entire new level of confidence and purpose that I never before experienced.

I liked the way I felt about myself as a Mom. My biggest challenge became more about not losing my identity of Self in the label of being a Mom. Most of the time, I felt Self and Mom were one in the same.

To make a long story short, a few more years went on and out popped two more little dudes that call me “Mommy”. The next thing I knew, the outside world labeled me as “Boy Mom.”

I no longer would be able to leave an airport, shopping mall or Costco without at least one person alerting me that I am heavily outnumbered. And sometimes I get puzzled looks and deeply concerned questions and comments like, “How do you do it?” or my favorite, “God bless, you.” Why thank you I think to myself as I smile politely and continue looking for the peanut butter in aisle 9.

Boys are loud. They are messy. They have a bottomless energy pit. Therefore, I totally understand the cause for concern about my well-being and I thank each stranger and acquaintance for checking in with me.

Here’s the thing—Although I always knew of the possibility, I not once actually expected Mother Nature would tip the scale on the same side three different times and stick a “Boy Mom” label on me, but here I am…

Loving my life exactly the way it is. Exactly the way it was meant to be.

Feeling the joys of motherhood, a privilege that I know many struggle to receive.

Enjoying my sons and each of their unique personalities.

Witnessing the growing friendships that my boys are forming with one another.

Obsessing over matching clothes and playing mommy paparazzi.

Stretching myself to explore and surprisingly enjoy activities I never would have otherwise.

Feeling proud to have the responsibility to shape some good men. We need more of them.

Daydreaming about the mother-son dance that I’ll get to do three different times.

Promising not to be the dreaded mother-in-law and feeling confident that I’ll be an awesome one.

Receiving love and the greatest joy from three amazing little kids that are all mine.

 

Life is unexpected. Life is full of surprises. Life is amazing.

I never in a million years thought that I’d someday marry the one and only boyfriend I had, who I met before I got a driver’s license. Never did I dream that I would change careers three different times before age 35. And no, never did I think I would be living in a house filled with 4 dudes, three that own a piece of my DNA.

But here’s the thing…

“As much as you want to plan your life, it has a way of surprising you with unexpected things that will make you happier than you originally planned. That’s what you call God’s Will.” – Unknown

Today, I thank God, the universe, the energy around me that has given me these beautiful little souls to be a part of my journey. They are the absolute loves of my life and I couldn’t imagine my life any other way. I love my boys dearly and I know deep in my heart, that I was meant to be their mom. “I chose you,” is what my eldest says to me all the time. And I am glad his brothers followed!

Life is full of unexpected surprises and being a “Boy Mom” has been messy, loud and the greatest joy of my life.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there and cheers to happy surprises on this crazy ride! XO

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Just a Thursday Morning

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I could feel that today was going to be “one of those days” before it even officially started.

The kids all decided to play musical beds last night and the fractured sleep is taking a toll on my eyelids.

This morning, I clenched onto a few more minutes of sleep before I had to peel myself away. Saying goodbye to my bed felt like the worst breakup ever.

I could hear my husband and two older kids getting ready to start the day, and I just couldn’t get myself to pop up and join the whirlwind. Instead I laid there for five extra minutes while the baby, who was fully propped up and awake, pounded on me and laughed. I really should have just gotten up.

Luckily, I packed lunches last night so it was one less thing to have to do. I have an amazing partner who frankly, would have packed lunches had I not gotten to it. But today, I didn’t have to feel guilty about throwing that responsibility over the fence.

That feeling of being ahead of the curve felt like a win so a few drops got added to my empty tank.

As I waved goodbye to my husband and toddler, who just started preschool a few weeks ago, I felt happy seeing their grinning faces.

A few more drops got added to my empty tank.

I went back inside to finish getting my Kindergartner ready and then loaded up the baby in the stroller so we could walk to school. We were on-time for a change, so I didn’t have to lovingly bark at my son to move faster. He loves to walk to school and today we would enjoy our morning together outdoors.

A few more drops got added to my empty tank.

We started on our short trek to school when I nonchalantly admitted to my son that I was tired. “Man, I’m just pooped today”.

Then the most amazing response I could have ever heard came out of this wiser than words child of mine:

“You’re doing really good for pooped.”

I could have bawled my eyes out but somehow he made me laugh the biggest belly laugh.

I was shocked at his perception. I was amazed by his thoughts. I was floored by his compliment.

I didn’t realize how badly I needed to hear that sentence. And the fact that it came from my son, made it that much more meaningful.

My son changed the entire trajectory of my morning with one simple sentence. Small drops were being added to my tank, and then this guy just tsunami style drenched me.

I am tired. I want to climb into bed. But that sweet reunion with my fluffy comforter and cold pillow won’t be happening until much later today. So I will conquer the day and I will replay that sentence in my head in my son’s sweet voice, “You’re doing really good for pooped”.

Thank you my baby boy. You just made my day.

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7 Secrets for New Moms to Survive & Enjoy Newborn Life

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The reality is, there is absolutely no solution to avoiding an emotional meltdown at some point after you’ve popped out your warm, cuddly little angel baby.

Whether it happens moments after you’ve squeezed out this giant watermelon from your body or a few months later when you’re covered in turd the color of mustard (or what they are now calling Gen Z Yellow), that meltdown is coming.

And you will inevitably then feel “mom guilt”.

You will question your mental stability. You will question how this tiny 8 pound creature who doesn’t do anything but eat, sleep, and poop could possibly be the cause for you to be one straw away from going bat crap crazy.  As if you’re watching a movie on Netflix (remember those?), you see yourself beginning to unhinge, but somehow you just can’t grab the remote control quick enough to turn it off.

The good news?

You are still human despite feeling like a drunk sloth. A human that loves her child dearly and is adapting to this new role of putting somebody else first. Every. Single. Second. Of. Every. Single. Day.

More good news?

There are ways to minimize these meltdowns and work through your emotions to build a positive experience for you and your family the way you, once upon a time, pictured it in your head before you actually became a parent.

Here are 7 secrets to surviving and enjoying your baby’s first 3 months of life at home. It’s possible, I promise. I am living, breathing proof. I have played the star role in this tear-jerking movie many of times, which brings me to this conclusion with great conviction:

1. Accept that it’s hard and that it will get harder before it gets easier. Once you fully accept that you’re not doing everything wrong, but that this season of life is actually that difficult, you will be more mentally relaxed to face the challenges. Accept that you will be at times emotionally and physically exhausted. Accept that things will go wrong at times. Accept that you will make mistakes. Accept that you will learn from those mistakes. Accept that you will succeed at being the best darn parent to that sweet, little cherub. Everything takes time.

 Nobody said it will be easy, but it will be worth it. And if they did. They lied.

The forecast is “scattered showers” for the next few months. You might get drenched at times, so just do a little dance and splash around. The reward is little rainbows along the way that will guaranteed, melt your heart.

2. Enlist help. Nobody is expecting you to be a martyr. Eat well. Replenish. You are the Mommy and there is no doubt you will be leading the show. You will be tempted to be the Super Mom that you are in all her glory without giving your body the rest it needs. Your body has housed this absolute miracle and then has undergone intense measures to debut this beauty to the world. Give gratitude to your body by allowing it to heal. Nourish yourself so you can nourish your child. And sometimes that means you need to enlist help.

Find a Mother’s Assistant if you can afford it. Enlist family and friends for some babysitting and meals. Lean on those around you to support you and your family.

 Then take it one step further.

Try to remember who you were just a few weeks before you became a mom. What were your interests and hobbies? What did you do to relax and unwind? What made you happy before you experienced this new form of happiness with your baby?

Find a way to bring that back into your day, even if it’s just for 15-20 minutes. Do some yoga stretches if that is what takes you to your happy place. Do you love to sing? Are you an avid reader? Does doing your hair put a bounce in your step?

Allowing yourself to pull from your “old Self” into this new experience of motherhood will be comforting and rejuvenating.

3. Set daily goals and keep them small and achievable. When baby takes over your life, it’s easy to feel like a hot-mess. You know in a past life you were a fully, functioning adult that was able to accomplish more than taking a shower but it’s almost hard to remember her.

Write down goals for the day that are achievable. They can be as simplistic as “Eat a balanced meal”. “Do one load of laundry”. “Make a phonecall to a friend/family member.”

Cross off these goals as you accomplish them. Since you are mommin’ so hard day and night, it will feel satisfying to know that you were able to be productive outside of this new role.

As time goes on, your daily goals can become more detailed or ambitious. The key is to feel accomplished.

As much as you know keeping a tiny human-being alive all day is the most important job in the world, knowing you were able to that and more will feel satisfying.

4. Keep the social outlets open because it’s easy to become isolated. You were probably going to some type of workplace before you had your baby and now you’re on maternity leave or maybe you’ve decided to become a stay-at-home mom. Not only have you just acquired a brand new job with responsibilities far greater than any other job description (i.e. Keep Human Alive…yeah, that’s a big one), but now it’s just you and your baby. As much as that sweet pea’s coos are precious, you are really going to need to hear another human’s voice that sounds more than a little gargle.

Find a mom’s group. Invite a friend over for a playdate. Try to keep a decent spread on the social calendar, despite the temptation to throw in the towel. Your friends and family will lift you and pull you forward.

Does this mean start hosting potlucks every weekend? Oh, heck no.

But keep the communication lines open with family and friends, because this will energize you when the going gets tough. I unexpectedly made a group of SAHM friends once I had my baby and it was the biggest blessing because we were on similar schedules and I had people to talk to throughout the day, even if it was just through text messages.

Also, know that some of your current friends simply may not understand the changes you are going through, and that’s okay. But you do need to find a tribe that can relate and help you recharge. They are out there, you just need to be open to receiving.

5. Take a deep breath. Say I love you. Put your child in a safe place. Walk away for 1 minute. Give yourself a time-out. When you have tried everything- changing a diaper, giving milk, rocking, swaying, playing music, pulling out different toys, running the sound machine, taking a walk outside, singing a song, and whatever else you can think of that would look completely absurd to an onlooker (and you secretly thank God nobody is watching)—it’s time to walk away. Changing sceneries and being in silence may inspire a new solution, so give yourself a time-out. Don’t feel guilty about it. You are doing it to be the best version of yourself for your baby.

When your laptop freezes and you’ve tried every darn key on that keyboard, you finally hold down that power button for a few seconds, and voila—back in business.

Hold down your power button for a minute. It’s okay.

6. Openly communicate with your spouse/partner. At the end of the day, this is your person. When the tensions are high, and the sleep quality is low, the first person to end up in the line of fire is the beloved spouse/partner. When hormones are flailing and your milk jugs are leaking and your husband can’t remember where he put the burp cloths, you can’t help but unleash the dragon. But remember, this man right here is trying to help you and he’s also going through some major changes himself. Let him know how you’re feeling and be direct about how he can support you.

Dads, cut your lady a little slack…she has performed no less than a miracle to deliver this child and now her body is adjusting. It’s called 4th trimester. She needs you in the same way she’s needed you in the last 9 months. Remember those foot rubs you were doling out just a few weeks ago? Keep them coming. You think you’re being helpful by taking the baby for a feeding and doing diaper changes, but remember, your wife needs you too. Ask her how she is doing. Give her some extra hugs. Tell her she’s doing a good job. Communicating and being there for her is just as important as pitching in with your new responsibilities as parents. Trust me, this will go a long, long way.

7. Remind yourself that this is just a phase and it will get better. And no, you don’t have to love every second. Being a new mom is hard. People will tell you to cherish every moment.

 Let’s be real.

Who is thinking to themselves when the baby is incessantly crying when you’ve tried everything under the sun, “Oh man, I’m really going to cherish this right here. Because I’m going to really miss this.

Yeah, nobody.

It’s okay to not cherish every single second of the day. Don’t feel guilty for it. You are human and this doesn’t mean you love your child any less than those “other moms”.

It is however important to have gratitude for the peaceful moments with your baby. To cherish the cuddles, the new little movements and quirks you will discover each new day. To surrender to the deep love you are now experiencing which you didn’t even know existed in the world. And to be open to learn about yourself because you are growing just as quickly as your little baby.

Having gratitude is what will allow you to get through the hard times.

 

There you have it. A laundry list of ways to successfully survive those first few months after you’ve welcomed your newest and cutest family member.

Be kind to yourself. Allow help. Take breaks. Have gratitude. You have got this, my dear. You’re strong like a Mother.

Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression should always be addressed with a trusted healthcare professional. The thoughts and ideas in this article are not meant to be used as medical advice.

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Mommy 3.0 is the Coolest Version

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Mommy has been upgraded.

She is on her third and last iteration and it’s clear that this version is made to last.

Mommy 3.0 may have chipped nail-polish and lets the laundry pile up a little longer but she is so much cooler and here’s why:

  1. She doesn’t worry as much. She knows that rash will go away. She knows that the cluster-feeding doesn’t mean she is running out of milk. She knows when it’s something that will pass and when it really warrants a call to the doctor and the pediatrician loves her for that.
  2. She bends the rules. Sure, the kids can eat on the couch. Sure, we can have dessert before dinner. She knows that bending the rules sometimes isn’t really that big of a deal. And if bending the rules gives her a chance to fill up on an extra cup of caffeine, then the answer is “Heck yeah!”
  3. She takes risks. She wings it. Forgot the diaper changing pad? No problem, she’ll improvise. No diapers? Her scarf suddenly has a new purpose in life. This woman is innovative and for that reason, she’s a risk taker. If there’s a problem, it WILL be handled.
  4. She’s smarter. There’s been a lot of learning that has happened with each child. She has seen just about everything by now. Google, you have some serious competition.
  5. She says what’s on her mind. Want to know how that dress really looks on you? Ask Mommy 3.0. She lost her filter once she pushed out that last baby.
  6. She’s a great friend. She might not pick up the phone as often but she knows the true value of friendship. She’s that woman who will find a way to help a friend, even if it means adding one more thing to her toppling over plate.
  7. She’s always down for some wine. Somebody get this woman a glass, quick. She deserves… Every. Last. Drop.
  8. She’s such a mother hen. Her grays might be sticking up and she might smell like spit-up, but this woman has so much love to give. Drop your kids off at her house. Take the dog. Take that homeless looking fella. She’ll take care of them all.
  9. She’s easily pleased. She’s surviving on her kid’s leftovers, so she really won’t care what restaurant you choose. Anything you choose is an upgrade from eating over her kitchen sink.
  10. She’s so loved. She’s got one more little kiddo that gives her wet kisses. One more little dude that will bring home priceless scribbled artwork. She is their “home” and they make sure she knows it.

Mommy 3.0 is crushing it.

She’s faster, smarter and high in demand. She has quite the fan-base and she loves every bit of it.

She might have a few glitches here and there, but she’s definitely built to last. Just hand her a giant cup of coffee when she’s buffering and she’ll be back to new in no time.

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Picture Perfect with Imperfections

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We went out for frozen yogurt for the first time as a family of five this past Sunday.

Of course we took a family selfie in which everyone, including the newborn, actually faced the camera with a smile. I remember thinking how the shot was worthy of sharing with family and friends. I was so excited that we made it out of the house and even scored a snapshot.

“A picture is worth a thousand words” they say.

In this photo, I see a happy family. I see 3 kids enjoying a night out with their parents. I see a Mom and Dad that are making sweet memories with their peeps.

Picture perfect…or not?

Well, let me tell you.

Within 2 minutes of taking this photo, the newborn started crying. My husband took him out of the car-seat to discover that our cute, tiny little baby had managed to cause a serious explosion.

Oh, yes. Poop. Everywhere.

Of course, I had a diaper bag fully equipped with all necessary items for combat so off to the bathroom I went only to discover that there was no changing station. WHAT? A family establishment like this has nowhere to change a diaper.

Great.

Normally, this is when I’d take my little monkey out to the SUV where the trunk would work just fine for a diaper change. But it was over 100 degrees outside and the car would have been an oven. My baby did enough baking for 9 months prior to this. No, thank you.

We quickly decided to lock and load and make the 5 minute car ride back home.

The 5 year-old happily agreed to put a lid on his froyo and finish it at home and the 2 year-old was only stirring liquid now, so we were ready for him to part ways with his cup of goop anyway.

We started the car, blasted the A/C and loaded the kids faster than you can imagine.

Do you recall the Tasmanian Devil in Looney Toons? My husband and I put that mother-lover to shame with our speed. My husband’s head might have actually rotated 360 degrees or maybe it was just me. I guess we’ll never know.

Nevertheless, we were on a mission to get home in lightning speed.

V, my 5 year-old sang a song and patted the baby which saved us from having to pull over. The crying was getting louder and louder but V was a champ in remaining calm and trying to sooth him the best he could.

While the other two were occupied with singing and crying,  my 2 year-old just sat there with a blank look on his face.  Finally he broke the silence with, “Where my froyo?”

Oh. Sh*t.

Parents, you know what I’m talking about. When you know that the small tremors are about to break into a 8.7 magnitude earthquake if you tell your toddler that you threw their precious ANYTHING away.

So we told him a little white lie.  “It went to the moon.”

Anything that we need to take away from him magically “goes to the moon” and let’s face it, magic is cool. He is going to grow up to think the moon is one giant klepto, but for now, that excuse works and we use it shamelessly. Crisis averted.

We had survived the last 10 minutes like a boss and realized it could have been much worse.

And then it did get much worse.

 

The baby’s diaper started oozing poop and dripping all over.

His cries got louder and I nursed him while I was covered in baby poop myself.

We fell behind schedule in getting the kids washed up and into bed.

My husband and I got into a completely unnecessary argument.

 

It felt like the longest 90 minutes ever.

 

The evening felt like a complete fail at first.

All I wanted was for us to enjoy a little outing together. In my mind, it had all played out very differently.

We would laugh and talk and enjoy our froyo without any explosions. If the baby needed milk I could quietly breastfeed and if diapers needed to be changed, I would have everything we needed, including a changing station. We would make it back home early enough that we could just dive back into our routine. The kids would all be lovingly tucked into bed by 8:3opm and my husband and I would plant ourselves on the couch to watch a late-night movie.

But none of that happened. Instead, it was one crazy thing followed by the next and by the time the kids were asleep, I plopped on the couch and passed the eff out.

It was so easy to think, “Man, that was a complete fail and I’ll never do that again!” But the thing is, there were actually several successes in what seemed like an epic fail.

 

It was our first time out for dessert as a family of five. Not just Daddy and one kid. Not just Mommy and the older two. ALL of Us!

It was my 2 year-old’s first time getting his own bowl of froyo that he could fill himself. He squealed, “I having fun!” so many times.

My 5 year-old got a chance to redeem his reward for our in-home summer reading program. A trip to his favorite froyo shop.

We got to hear V sing to his baby brother as he lovingly tried to calm him on the car-ride. It was very precious.

 

Yes, in this photo, I see a happy family. I see 3 kids enjoying a night out with their parents. I see a Mom and Dad that are making sweet memories with their peeps. And it was totally worth sharing. Not because we’re all looking at the camera and smiling. But because we tried and we made it.

When the kids are young and not all places are designed for young families, things can go wrong. Things can go downhill very quickly.

And so they did.

But the point is we tried.

Fellow parents, let’s share these stories. Let’s remind each other that there is no such thing as just “picture perfect”.  The pictures are only perfect because we know what imperfections have gone into making them happen.

And the diaper explosions, the screaming, the missed schedules…they are just a small price to pay to build the special memories that our kids will remember for a lifetime.

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A Day in the Life of a Parent as Told by my Fitbit

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Fitbit

Today is Day 1 of sporting a new, black piece of expensive rubber on my left wrist. One that makes me appear quite athletic, when I’m probably just barely above average.

The painful memories of my classmates one by one sitting down in the outfield as I awkwardly made my way to bat, come rushing back like they were only yesterday. Well, take that you little monsters. At least I can dress the part these days thanks to my trendy, cool Fitbit.

Nevertheless, I feel like a rock star as I hit nearly 12,000 steps on my very first day. A very typical day.

It has been both reassuring and entertaining to have access to my activity level, heart rate, and calories burned throughout the day. This little band has also proved what I already knew about being a parent of young children by offering metrics to support my preconceived notions.

On behalf of anyone who has young kiddos, especially those who are stay-at-home parents, here is what a “day in the life” looks like as told by my Fitbit:

  1. We are constantly on our feet. When a SAHM protests that she “hardly had any time to sit down”, she means it. If you don’t believe me, my Fitbit will tell you it’s real. Very real. If my puffy feet, aching back and less than bubbly personality by 9pm wasn’t evidence enough, well then here you go. 12,000 steps, baby. BAM.
  2. Our caloric intake and burn-down is pretty much a wash. Those quick lunches over the kitchen sink fuel us for walks to the park, climbing up and down the stairs all day, picking up toys, loading and unloading the car multiple times a day (I think this should count as exercise) and having those family room dance parties with the kids (Oh, how I live for those). Food goes in, energy comes out, and calories are burned. I’m no math genius, but basically, everything cancels out. Hello, skinny jeans.
  3. We need more sleep. This goes for parents across the board, regardless of their employment status. No wonder the grays seem to mate and multiply. The circles only get darker and the wrinkles only deeper. And when we shampoo our hair and re-shampoo it because we can’t remember if we already shampooed it, well, it’s because our quality of sleep can really use some help. Interrupted sleep cycles and “restless” bouts keep us from feeling fully recharged. Hello, coffee.
  4. We love a little friendly competition. Having my friends and family “taunt” me is quite hysterical. Um, no way. I’m going to taunt you. Let’s do this. It’s on like Donkey Kong.
  5. We feel completely satisfied at the end of the day. As exhaustion sets in and all we can daydream about is that short window of “free time” at night once the kids are having sweet dreams of their own, we realize how important we really are to those boogers. We kept little humans alive and mostly smiling for twenty-four hours. If that’s not crazy cool, I don’t know what is. We loved, kissed, disciplined, chauffeured, fed, cleaned and cuddled our kids. We have the most important job on this planet. Mic. Dropped.

Every step that was recorded by that Fitbit had meaning and I’m ready to do it all over again tomorrow.

Now it’s time to begin my less than adequate night of sleep. Sweet dreams.

 

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A Message to My Boys in Years to Come

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CYMERA_20160206_195935

My two little boys are best friends already.

My big boy is full of affection and love and has been sensitive natured from the start. He amazes me every day and it is this thoughtful nature that makes him an incredible big brother.

On the other hand, my bubbly 1 year old thinks his brother is the coolest thing on the face of this planet. Every sound, hand movement, and completely silly thing that V decides to do, his less coordinated little brother must reproduce in his own cute, little way. It is quite the sight to see and as a parent, it provides for hours of entertainment.

There is nothing more that I want than for my boys to remain like this, forever: Silly, happy and together.

Most women are social beings. We find solace in talking to our sisters, mothers and girlfriends. We express our feelings. It is this need for connection that keeps us at the center of our families. However, this isn’t always true for men as I’ve witnessed in my own life.

Many men start off as hug producing and kiss dispensing little boys that overtime seem to forget their way in expressing themselves to loved ones. Often times, it’s the other men in their lives with whom they aren’t able to freely share their thoughts and feelings. When they go from saying “I love you” to everyone and the neighbor’s dog to suddenly finding no words of affection for their dads and brothers has stumped me. Is it shame in being too “emotional”? Is it over-competitiveness that gets in the way of their relationships? Is it allowing the women in their lives to dictate their relationships with others?

It is gut-wrenching to think that this could happen to my two little boys.

As days turn into years and my sweet boys grow into men, it is my hope and deepest wish for them to stay connected with each other. I hope that they can find a little bit of “home” in each other once high school turbulence has passed, college diplomas have been distributed, wedding celebrations, kids and grandkids have blessed their lives.

Here is what I want my two boys to remember forever and always:

1. Cheer on your brother. Be competitive, but don’t let the competition get in the way of your friendship. One day, your brother might have the bigger house, the smarter kids, the larger paychecks. Be happy for him. There will be other things that you have that your brother may not. You both are on different journeys. If he’s doing something right, learn from him. If you’re doing something well, share your knowledge with your brother. “Help your brother’s boat across and your own will reach the shore”. – Hindu Proverb
2. Spend time together. Take an annual trip together. Go play basketball. Have a weekly or monthly “guys’ night”. Carve out time from your busy schedules to stay connected with one another. The demanding jobs, the spouses, the kids, the responsibilities- it’s a lot. Having that time with each other will be reenergizing and you’ll get to be goofballs like you were as kids.
3. Pick up the phone. You may not live close enough that you get to spend time together all that often. But guess what? Way before your time and even mine, there was the development of the telephone. Use it. It’ll be too convenient to email, text and only God knows what other forms of communication will be available by the time you are grown. But please, pick up the phone. Listen to your brother’s voice. Catch up. Ask him how he is really doing. Be there for each other. Texts and emails are fine, but please, find time to talk.
4. Hug each other. This sounds silly, but just do it. Give each other a big hearty hug without any inhibitions. No, not the hand-in-the-way chest bump. No, not a pat on the back. An actual hug like you would hug me. If the words don’t come out, this will at the very least remind your brother that you love him. But please, try to make the words come out too. It’s not very hard to say, “I love you”.
5. Bring your families together. One day, you both may have families of your own. Get your spouses and kids together. Your spouses may not love each other and your kids all might fight. But it is your responsibility to keep your families together. Find a way to make it work. If it’s important enough to you, then your spouses and kids will try their best. And remember, you both have a relationship outside of your families. Nurture it. Revert to #2.
6. Forgive. There is no doubt that you will have your differences. Even at age 4 and 1, you both are so unique in your own ways. You will fight. You will at times hate each other. Please, just forgive each other. Stuff happens. But your brother is a part of your childhood. He will have seen you at your best and will have been there by you through your worst. Nothing is bad enough to let go of a huge piece of your life. Talk it through, meet each other half-way and forgive. Don’t give up on your brother.
7. Be silly. Who says you have to be all serious and uptight as adults? You see me doing the Urkel dance in the kitchen and me cuddle with your Aunt don’t you? It’s okay to be silly. And the best person to be silly with is your brother. Just laugh. Be weird together. There is one person who won’t judge, and that will be your equally, crazy brother (you’re welcome for those genes). Have fun and don’t let life get too serious. And when one of you forgets, bust out into an outrageous dance move and remind him to loosen up. We all need someone to keep us in check.

(284)

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Today, She Spoke Up.

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4yearoldme

Today the universe was trying to tell me something.

I didn’t realize what it was until the sun had set and the day came to a quick close. Darkness took over the magnificent sky but light protested inside my mind.

I recalled an insecure little girl on the playground that was disguised as unbreakable. Two other little girls tormented her about something as petty as the nail polish that sparkled on her toes. She stood there unable to speak up and swallowed her pride.

She didn’t cry. She didn’t even wince.

Her tough exterior would have never indicated that she was actually whimpering inside. She felt completely misunderstood, but frozen. She had so much to say but somehow stayed silent.

She went on dealing with conflict like this for many years to come. Nobody would ever know. She appeared strong and her silence often times gave the impression of over-confidence and maybe even apathy.

Today, that little girl finally figured it out. She spoke up.

She finally realized that feeling the feelings wasn’t enough. Speaking out on those feelings is what would turn things around for her.

She finally understood that internalizing conflict created a negative ripple within herself. It solved zero problems. There was a better solution. One that required her to stretch out of her comfort zone but one that would make her heart feel so much lighter. One that meant she would have to stand up for herself.

Today she realized the true power of speaking from the heart when feeling misunderstood.

Today she realized there is a graceful way of breaking the silence and spearheading the wrong. Today she wouldn’t be a pressure cooker, just adding one more whistle before she exploded of frustration. Today she was able to take an awkward situation, deal with it unapologetically and allow for it to quickly blow away into the cool desert night.

Today she was able to deal with it, face-forward, and walk away with actual confidence.

Today her mind, heart and her words were completely in harmony. Today, she went out to bat for herself. Today she made a home-run.

Today she finally figured it out. She spoke up.

(73)

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Dear Stranger: Babies Come In Different ‘Normal’ Sizes

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rosebaby

My son and I go to a weekly play and learn class.

We do tummy time, blow bubbles, park ourselves under a parachute, sing some catchy songs and rendezvous with other babies and their parentals.

Watching my little guy light up during class is utterly precious and having “Itsy Bitsy Spider” stuck in my head for days on after is only a small price to pay.

A part of the formatted class includes a parent discussion.

The instructor chooses a topic each week, ranging from first foods to traveling with tots. Sometimes if the group is large, there are sidebar conversations happening amongst parents.

One particular day, as I was waiting for my turn to dole out the deets to my little guy’s favorite toys, I overheard a conversation between two dads. Let’s call them Balki and Larry.

Those of you who watched Perfect Strangers back in the late 80s got a kick out of that one, right? I digress.

The conversation went like this:

Balki: “How old is your daughter?”

Larry: “8 months”.

Balki: “Oh, she’s so small”.

Larry: “Yup, she’s petite.”

I don’t exactly know why I was listening, but somehow I was now invested in eavesdropping.

Balki goes on, “How much did she weigh at birth?” Larry rattled off seven pounds and change. And then it happened. The conversation took a dive into the deep end.

Balki’s response:

“Oh… well that’s normal. Hmm.”

It’s as if he was trying to piece the puzzle together and couldn’t quite figure out why she was “small”.

Larry politely smiled, responded with a “yup” and kissed his gorgeous little daughter’s head.

No further words were exchanged.

It was painful to listen to this conversation that appeared completely casual at first. But you see, I’m a mom of two boys and I’ve been on both sides of the pendulum. Today, I was feeling for Larry.

My older one was at the top of the infant growth charts. He was a big boy and still is. I remember hearing comments like, “Great job, Momma!” and “You’re feeding him well!” all the time.

As a first-time mom, it was reassuring. Let’s face it, being a first time parent is filled with uncertainty. I did as much research as I could and followed my maternal instincts that I hoped were fully functioning. Any compliment felt like verification that I was on the right track. It felt good.

Then came my younger one. My big-eyed, handsome hunk is my sweet pea. This little guy is nowhere near the top of the growth charts.

His pediatrician has assured me that he’s growing at a healthy pace- his pace.

Do I make the same amount of effort preparing meals and feeding him as I did with my older one? Of course.  Is he a happy baby? Absolutely. So yes, he’s not a chunky monkey, but he’s just perfect exactly the way he is- normal.

The fact is, some babies are big and some are small. Some roll, crawl, scoot, walk, and run. Some don’t at all. Some giggle at everything, and some make you work for their smiles.

They are all “normal”.

I’m sure Balki meant no harm. He was just a curious dad, striking up a conversation with a fellow comrade. But it is questions and comments like these that create insecurities. It’s these conversations that send Larry home, feeling like he’s doing something wrong. And over time, it’s comments like these that create issues like body shaming and low self-esteem in our children.

Something isn’t “wrong” or “abnormal” because it’s different. Different is good. Different is what makes the world interesting.

So, we have all heard it, but it doesn’t hurt to hear it again: babies come in different sizes.

Some have chubby thighs and cheeks that are almost impossible not to gobble. Some are little peanuts that induce an involuntary high pitched “aww” at merely a glance.

They are all someone’s darling, someone’s worry, someone’s world. And no parent or child should ever feel they need to defend that.

(75)

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