Pick Your Battles. Laugh A Lot.

People ask me how I do it with all these kids, dogs, and chickens running around.  And I think the answer is that I pick my battles and usually choose laughing over yelling or crying (unless I have PMS, in which case, I will ALWAYS choose crying).  I probably tell my husband at least a few times a week to “pick your battles”.  Our two-year-old daughter is just full of personality and I don’t want to squash that by not allowing her to express herself.  And she’s not supposed to be perfect and clean and happy all the time!  Oh, and my son, who is typically always happy, is teething and feverish and crabby most of the time now, so that’s fun.  Ya just gotta lighten up or you’ll end up in the looney bin!  So here are a few fun examples of how I deal with my life…

Getting the kids to bed is an exercise in patience.  We throw them in the tub together, but if we don’t gauge their moods, when they last ate, when they last napped, and how the stars are aligned, the timing of this can be a real problem.  Either they scream while having their hair washed, demand bottles, ask for a second dinner, or some unholy combination.  It was on just such a night when my daughter uttered her first curse word.  We had just gotten them out of the tub, toweled off and in diapers.  My daughter (and husband) we’re both annoyed that she had not received her bottle in a timely fashion so my husband made a growl of frustration.  My daughter copied him, with her little fists in the air, and exclaimed, “Damn it!  Damn it!”  I looked at my husband, ran across the hall to my son’s room, put myself in the corner and laughed hysterically while my husband asked her not to say those words (which she probably learned from him).  Now, I don’t want her to be “that kid” at daycare who teaches all the other kids to swear but, she did use it in the proper context, and it was adorable.  I’ve also found, if you don’t make a big deal of it, neither will they, and after a short while they’ll stop, thankfully.  Pick your battles and laugh a lot.

Feeding a toddler is a pain in the ass.  My daughter used to eat everything, from broccoli, to salmon, to wedges of lemon.  Now she wants waffles.  Day in, day out, all day long, just waffles.  We do manage to get her to eat eggs, fruit pouches, cheese, yogurt, etc, but my girl loves carbs (she is surely my daughter).  My husband has been a little too concerned about her eating habits from day one, in my opinion, wanting her to finish her whole plate at every meal, worried she’ll want to snack all day otherwise.  I did not have a healthy relationship with food as a kid (few females do, apparently), and I’m trying to avoid that with my daughter.  I want her to eat what she wants, when she wants, and how much she wants, within reason.  She’s a peanut, so I’m just glad she’s getting the essentials to grow and that she still likes most fruits and veggies.  Most of the time, she’ll eat at least some of the meal I’ve prepared first, so that’s a win in my book!  And besides, these aren’t frozen Eggo waffles.  Oh no!  I cook batches of the waffles a few times a week, adding blueberries, cinnamon, bananas, etc.  Listen, I just want her belly to be full and happy, even if that means I’ll need to replace my waffle iron soon.  Pick your battles and laugh a lot.

And finally, I mentioned before, my son is normally a happy little dude and his older sister is full of personality.  As you can imagine, that means she’s already bossing him around.  But don’t worry, the universe had a plan – even though she’s 15 months older than him, he’s already almost as big as her!  So a lot of the time, I let them work out their little squabbles.  My son will actually talk (or yell) back to her when she’s “giving him the business”.  My mom sometimes worries about him, but as long as there’s no hitting involved, I love to sit back and laugh while they have their little arguments.  Pretty soon I’ll be telling them to pick their battles and laugh a lot too!

My daughter, enjoying her dinner (waffles) while reviewing this week’s sales ads.

Kids Connected to the Earth

I was in the supermarket a while back, and a girl in her late teens was ringing me up.  She got to some of my produce, and couldn’t identify a turnip.  I made light of the situation and we laughed, but inside my head, I was thinking about how sad that is.  It seems that every year, America grows to be more urban (as of the 2010 census, 80.7% of the U.S. population lived in urban areas).  And even though I consider my town more rural (we have chickens and veggie gardens, there are farms nearby, and some neighbors have pigs and sheep that get loose and walk around the streets in my immediate area), there is convenient shopping available 10-15 minutes in most directions and some suburban neighborhoods scattered around.  And perhaps I should not have been shocked, but I feel sadness for those who do not get to experience our natural world in a way that allows them to identify a simple turnip.

I am more fortunate than most in this regard.  My grandparents had a lovely vegetable garden on their 1 acre lot in Acushnet, MA.  My husband tells stories of the gardens his parents tended during his formative years as well.  My mother loves horses, so she had one boarded in a neighboring town for most of my childhood and adult life.  My father would take my brother and I on “nature walks”, where we hiked through the woods, spent hours exploring tidal pools at local beaches, and made games of identifying the trees, flowers, and critters we encountered.  When my husband and I first lived together, we rented an apartment on a dead-end street in one of the bigger towns in Rhode Island.  We were on the second floor and created a “fire escape garden”, putting potted tomatoes and peppers on the fire escape at our bedroom window – luckily, there were no fires that would have required us to toss our plants to the ground as we hurried from the building!

And then it was our dream to own a home with some land so we could grow our own veggies on a much bigger scale.  We found a great neighborhood of 1 acre lots where it was kid-friendly, dog-friendly, garden-friendly, and eventually, chicken-friendly.  We have a strawberry patch, raspberry and blackberry bushes, two raised garden beds full of veggies, five laying hens that give us deliciously fresh eggs every day, and two silly dogs to keep an eye on everything.  And although it’s a lot of work, I can’t begin to describe the feelings of joy when I see  my daughter run out to the chicken coop to look for eggs.  She eats all the berries, straight from the bushes, before they make it into the house.  She’s had a tomato on our kitchen floor, eating it like an apple, when she was about 15 months old.  Our son, who’s a bit younger, loves to crawl around in our yard and get messy.  He watches the chickens with awe.  I am fortunate enough to see every day how my hard work has provided my children with a connection to the earth.

If you don’t think this connection is important, just look at what is happening in America today.  At how little respect people have for this precious earth.  At how little knowledge we have of how out ancestors lived and thrived before Walmart, Peapod and Amazon.  Now, I don’t want anyone to take away my electricy and running water, but the earth is all about balance, and we should try to give our children some idea of how important the planet is.  That could be as simple as taking care of a goldfish, growing a small plant or flower indoors, taking a trip to some hiking trails or the beach, visiting a wildlife sanctuary or zoo, or finding a bit of land to plant a tomato, watch it grow, and be rewarded for our hard work with the fruit it bears.  Children are naturally curious and have so many questions about the world around them.  Indulge them!  Spoil them in knowledge of our planet, our ecosystem, our food system, and our connection to it all!  I know I thank my parents for it, and hopefully my kids will thank me some day too.  Or at least know what a turnip is.

My postpartum body is a mess.

A few nights ago, while snuggling with my husband in bed, he asked me something strange.  As his hand traveled from my outer thigh to my hip, he questioned if I was wearing “padded shorts”.  Huh??  When I asked what he meant, he said, “Or like, Spanx or something?”  WTH??  Now, I’ve claimed my husband is a “charmer” and it’s not like I expect poetry from him after 13 years of togetherness, but to insinuate I was so chubby I was wearing padded shorts or Spanx to bed, well, that was a new low.  Needless to say, he received the cold shoulder for the remainder of the night, regardless of the amount of time he said, “I’m sorry!”

I know my postpartum body is a mess.  Perhaps men do not understand, but girls are programmed (usually before puberty) to be hyper-aware of their bodies and how they are different from the images seen on TV, magazines and the internet.  I had two babies in two years.  And even though I’m roughly at my pre-baby weight, the way my body carries that weight is completely different.

After my first child, I jumped head first into fitness and dropped 30lbs of “baby weight”, plus 10 more, in 3 short months (I hadn’t been that trim in YEARS).  Then I was pregnant again, probably because I was so damn hot my husband just couldn’t leave me alone – am I right?!  After my second child, the baby and water weight came of fairly easy, but everything was so stretched out, lumpy and messy, it’s been hard to feel like I’ve accomplished as much as I did after my first pregnancy.  My second child will be a year old soon, and I still feel awful in my own skin.  What do I do about it?  I jump on and off the healthy eating bandwagon.  I go to the gym 4 days one week, then can’t make it at all the next week, then work out for two days in a row in my basement the following week (equipped with treadmill, weights, and a TV and DVD player to do my P90X videos).  Consistency is my problem, but with a two-year-old and a baby, some days I’m surprised I have the energy to keep upright at 6pm.

I am important.  My health is important.  Fitness is important.  I want to have no trouble chasing my kids (and maybe someday, grandkids) around outside.  And as shallow as it is, I want my husband to still want me – not just because I’m his wife, the mother of his kids, his best friend, and because he loves me.  But because he truly wants me.  I know I truly want him.  And if I’m being completely honest, I’ve never done well with power imbalances like this.  I want to be as special to him as he is to me, in every way.  The feminist in me screams, “You ARE good enough!  You ARE beautiful!  He SHOULD love and want you as you are!”  And I’m sure those things are true.  But that’s not how women are conditioned.  It’s a hard yolk to break.

When I asked my husband the following day for some sort of an explanation (first mistake), then asked if he was thinking of my bike riding shorts, that were padded, etc, he really couldn’t come up with a reason for his questions.  And he is smart enough not to say it, but I told him that his statements were the equivalent of calling me fat.  That as a woman, I have enough hate towards my own body and that I didn’t need his help.  That since he rarely expresses himself verbally to tell me I’m attractive, if the one time he does open his mouth, it’s to say something negative, I am not going to react well.  I’m happy to report he seemed to truly understand, was absolutely apologetic, and perhaps has a better grasp on how such words make me feel.  And he did confirm he loves me as I am, which was nice.  But more importantly, we have a daughter to think of.  We need to set the tone for her as she grows so that she can have a healthy relationship with her body.

So ladies, there’s nothing wrong with your bodies, before or after kids.  Health is absolutely important, but no two bodies are the same.  The reality is, you will most likely get stretch marks at some point in your life.  After having a baby, your labia are HORRIFYING (who the hell designed the bathrooms at the hospital where I gave birth to my kids?  And why did they think it was smart to put a full length mirror opposite the toilet?!)  And everyone’s boobs are weird, one way or another, after kids (after my first, my boobs were adorable floppy pillows, which I loved – now they are big again and starting to sag, which I don’t love).  And if you have multiples, “Irish twins”, or just big babies that stretched you out, your tummy may not ever be the same – I haven’t lost total hope yet, but it’s not looking good.  But our bodies are strong.  We built miniature humans.  Or if we didn’t, we use our bodies for all sorts of wonderful things – running, yoga, carrying as many bags of groceries in one trip as humanly possible.  Our bodies deserve a little love and patience.  As do our partners, even when ask if we’re wearing padded shorts (*eye roll*).

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