1, 2, 3 – Ups and Downs with Meeee!

In addition to all the End of Year shenanigans and shindigs that we’ve experienced in the last week, it’s also been a helluva week on the Foot Front, too.

On Wednesday, I graduated from PT. We thought this might happen a couple weeks ago but then three really rough days of too-much activity over a weekend set me back to where I not only could I not say “See ya!” I actually had to up my game and go back to twice-weekly appointments and laser treatments for pain management. But this week was finally the week to go over everything one last time, shake hands, and say, “Peace out!” which I happily did and documented because it felt so good to be back to feeling like myself.

On Thursday, I had my final follow-up with my surgeon and, similar to when I first went in to see him, it did not take long for him to assess the situation. Thankfully, this time it was “Oh, yeah – this feels great!” and I got the green light to return to normal activity and the option to ditch the brace for good. Of course, normal didn’t mean go for a two mile power walk – just start slow and small with the walks and the yoga and build up those activities over time.

On Saturday, I broke* my toe at a baseball game. Was I playing baseball? Of course not! That’s not a normal activity for me! But you know my boys are playing games, games, and more games all the time these days, and right as LT’s second game of a double hitter (as TJ calls it; sooooo cute) got going, I freaking took myself out while trying to navigate our mess of chairs, wagons, kids, and crap to get aforementioned cutie some water and bruised the heck out of my middle and second toe on, you guessed it, my left foot.

So much for those wishes I had to hop on the elliptical and my yoga mat anytime soon.

Thankfully I had some ice to put on it during the rest of that game and that game went quickly, so before too terribly long, I was home for some ibuprofen and an epsom bath. All of that helped but I can totally feel it when I walk/push off those toes and it’s already started to bruise so the next few days/coming week is probably going to suckity suck as far as all that feels.

No one ever said a road to healing was a straight or short path, but crap on a stick, this is frustrating. Also, no one warns parents enough that raising children is a job that should require steel-toed boots at all times, because good gravy, your toes are vulnerable as all get out (especially when you’re a dang hippie who loves to walk around barefoot/ground yourself via the grass).

*who knows. Toes are weird.


Mother’s Day/Schmother’s Day

All week long my besties and I have been sending each other reels about Mother’s Day and all the Dos and Don’ts for partners that surround this holiday*. I sent a few to B as well – some that made us laugh and others that made us go, “OK, but how??” and it’s that question right there that has me wondering how anyone can ever live up to the hype and expectation of this day (*commercialized circus/reason for every business and their dog to email me with a sale link) that rarely takes into consideration how hard this day is for so many for so many reasons.

There’s way too much emphasis loaded on this one rotating day each May, as if May itself isn’t a freaking tornado already without all this Make Everything Perfect for Mom pressure slapped in the middle of it. But guess what – nothing is ever perfect and even when you have the best laid intentions of making the day “magical,” those plans are as likely as not to go off the rails.

To be fair, maybe the reason for this derailment is because I’m still in The Tunnel/in the (very) Active Mothering Years. While we’ve crossed the fabulous milestones of everyone being able to buckle themselves in the car (what a game changer!) and almost everyone always being able to use the bathroom solo (TMI but also a real achievement), there is still SO much energy and effort required on a daily basis in my life as a mom, including on Mother’s Day.

To be fair again, Ben tried. He planned to give me some time and space today to just be (and hopefully not have to feed anyone or tend to anyone’s bathroom needs) but then Littlest Girl woke up with ear pain this morning and several of our plans went right out the door. She did still go to Sunday School (because, bless it, she wanted to make me the Mother’s Day craft she knew they’d be working on) but we didn’t go to church all together like I had wanted because we needed to get her to Convenient Care ASAP. Good thing we did because it turns out she has a double ear infection, but in the midst of finding that out, I managed to ruin my own lunch (because apparently reading directions is hard) and then had to abandon it anyway to go pick up the pizza that was ordered for the kids before all this went down. So, no church, a cold lunch, and a bunch of swears later, I finally got to sit down with an iced coffee and a book (and blankets in the back yard) while the kids did screens this afternoon.

From there the day picked up mood wise (thanks, oat milk caramel latte – lol), but let’s face it, a lot of normal happened today. I did several loads of laundry, including leading the kids through our new-ish ritual of helping them sort all of their clothes into their own self-folded piles. I swept the kitchen and did the dishes (although that was mostly because I wanted to listen to my Pride and Prejudice podcast “Live from Pemberly”). I (tried to) put out a half dozen arguments between kids. And I helped feed kids and wipes butts because, again, life. It just happens and if I didn’t attend to these things, then they’d just be here tomorrow; avoiding them today doesn’t get me too far.

I realize I sound cranky and ungrateful (I’m really just kind of one of those), but I don’t actually want the day to go away entirely; my kids are sweet and they like to show me in their own ways how they love me, so today is a good excuse for that. And Ben was good about continuing the tradition of plants, both for in the house and outside, which we took time to plant this afternoon. But this dang day needs to be taken off the pedestal of expectation, if nowhere else, in my own brain that it is actually going to contain A Break. Short of kicking everyone out of the house for the day (trust me, I’ve considered saying, “I love you. Thanks for making me a mom. Now leave!” on this day for a few years now), that’s just not going to happen.

The irony of this wanting space/not getting enough space is that now I suddenly have TOO MUCH SPACE, at least from one of them. The one last thing I want from this day is a picture with all five of my kids, but HD ended up riding his bike to a friend’s house this afternoon to hang out and managed to invite himself to their Mother’s Day dinner out and he may not make it home before Little Miss Ear Infection needs to go to bed. Thankfully Math Man came to the rescue and suggested we take individual pics with each kid, so I’ll just fix this when he gets home:

I guess if nothing else, this Mother’s Day was a Schmother’s Day to remember!

The Best Advice I Can Give: Move

Of course I don’t mean move to a new house or a new city/state/country every time you have a problem. Although, to be fair, I really do believe people should move every 5-10 years so as to force our hands at sorting through and not keeping so many possessions, but I digress (and it is so not a rule we have followed).  

What I mean is, when you don’t know what to do or your feelings are too big, or you feel overwhelmed, Move. Move your body. Move your breath. Move.

Moving your body might look like running or kickboxing (lately I really want to punch things, so boxing sounds like fun). It might look like a long walk or going for a swim. Or, you might not be able to do any of those activities for a variety of reasons, but you can still move your body, even if you’re sitting on the couch. Put on some really loud music if it helps, and start shaking your limbs. Flail your arms and legs, move without any other guide than where your body takes you. Let all of that energy move through and away from you. And, if you need to, punch a pillow; that usually helps, too. Rinse and repeat every day to release the pressure value, so to speak (nothing like a good mixed metaphor to drive home an important point). 

Moving your breath might be an additional practice to the body movement or it might be its own entity. You can take deep breaths into your belly (diaphragmatic breathing), letting your inhales inflate your stomach like a big balloon; let your exhales be twice as long as you release those deep in-breaths. You can also do my personal favorite – Horsey Lips. This means taking a deep breath and then forcing your exhale out with so much oomph that your lips vibrate and shake, much like a horse does when they snort/snuff with their mouths. Will you look and sound weird? Yep. Will it help and be worth it? Also yep. And, when you’re ready, trying Ecstatic Breathwork; it is transformative and a powerful tool. 

This isn’t my wisdom alone; these are lessons learned from years of yoga training and practice as well as tried and true techniques from books I’ve read about the body, stress, and how we store emotions in our physical bodies until we learn how to process them properly. Movement, in the body and in the breath, is the way. These practices won’t always be an instant fix and they aren’t going to solve all of your problems, but they are going to help you feel better, bit by bit, and they will definitely keep you feeling more grounded. This will help you with another important fix to when life feels like too much: rest, the exact opposite of moving and something I will also be practicing the remainder of my days. 

*Post 50/52.

Coffee Connection

There is little I love more in this world than the smell of coffee. Do I love the *taste* of coffee that much? Goodness, no; not at all. But the smell? Oh my gosh, yes; sign me up every day for a big old whiff of fresh coffee grounds or coffee brewing. I freaking adore it. 

Is this because I grew up smelling the coffee pot brewing at all times of the day as a kid? That’s probably part of it. Coffee was a constant ritual for my parents, but especially for my dad. The man has been known to drink coffee at all hours of the day. Seriously; he will wake up in the middle of the night, brew a pot, drink some coffee, and then go back to bed. What?! Also, how?!?! But the real ritual I remember is him sharing coffee breaks with his farming partners, his dad and uncle (my Grandpa Tim and his twin, my Great Uncle Bill, who was my bonus fifth grandparent growing up). These would also happen at any given time of the work day when two or all three of them would park it on the high stools that surrounded our kitchen island and drink coffee out of small, white with brown stripe-detail Correlle mugs. Topics of conversation? Shooting the breeze on farming, the weather, and politics, or just sitting in silence, sipping coffee. I can see these coffee chats vividly in my mind, still, and the smell of Foldgers or Maxwell House or whatever brand of coffee was being bought at the time stays strong in my memory, too.

My own journey with coffee drinking didn’t really start until college when friends and I would travel from Crete, NE the 25-30 minutes it took us to get to Lincoln to set up camp and study at The Coffee House, located downtown in the capitol city. Except even then I didn’t really drink coffee-coffee. I loved the smell of it, sure, but the taste? Gross. So instead I ordered every fluffy drink possible on their menu, settling on an Irish Mocha as my favorite because it was mostly chocolate, flavored syrup, and whipped cream, not coffee. And maybe it was green? We would stay at the CoHo for hours, often until closing, nursing those drinks and taking in all the funky art, interesting people, and classic coffee house sounds and smells while working on essays and other homework. I loved The Coffee House dearly and was very happy to continue visiting it during grad school when I spent two years living in Lincoln. To this day, whenever I’m back in the Star City, I try to make a stop there; however, I can’t say I’ve had an Irish Mocha in close to decades at this point. 

What upped my coffee game from fluff to the real stuff? Parenthood and Keurigs. I couldn’t drink enough coffee to justify having an actual coffee maker with a full pot attached to it (I’d totally get the shakes), but a single serve coffee that I could have once or twice a day, depending on how crappy my sleep had been the previous night?! Sign! Me! Up! A K-cup or two a day became my not-so-guilty pleasure for years until the excess of waste in those dumb little cups got to me and I had to say no more. Full disclosure: I wasn’t often drinking just straight coffee during those times. I was definitely still doctoring it with some sort of creamer or another. Fuller disclosure? During those days I also loved a hot McCafe Mocha from McDonalds; so much so that toddler Harrison associated Micky D’s with coffee (for me!) more than with nuggets like most toddlers would do. In those early months of parenting two little Littles, I spent many an afternoon driving HD and RL around the countryside (it was the ONLY way to get them both to nap) only after first grabbing myself a nice hot mocha on the way out of town. 

Five kids in, though, and Ben and I both needed some caffeine to make it through the long days. We finally bit the bullet and bought our first real coffee maker. It wasn’t anything fancy but it also felt a little bit like a space ship; Ben was the one who knew how to load it and run it, not me. However, that sucker pumped out some strong stuff and as much as I wanted to keep drinking it, we eventually had to say no more to this, too. Even though I loved sticking my face in the open bag of grounds when Ben was prepping the space machine, my body was loud and clear that I couldn’t handle access to that much coffee. 

Thus began my years-long dance with no coffee, coffee, tea, and fake coffees. Add in the fact that my dietary needs shifted and I couldn’t do milk/dairy-based creamers, and it’s safe to say the process to finding what works has been, um, unique. These days I do Dirty Rasa which does contain some real coffee but is mostly mushrooms and other adaptogens that I make with a French Press. I use almond or oat-based creamers, and it satisfies my coffee needs without the shakes. And, bonus, the smell of the opened bag is just as phenomenal as regular coffee grounds! That said, I do still love a good drive-thru coffee (but not from McDonald’s) where I order, every time, an Oatmilk Caramel Latte. Because, yum.

Will I ever drink it in the middle of the night? Well, I don’t think so, but I do love a good coffee chat with friends, be at a local coffee shop or in my home, so maybe I’m channeling some of those Moore Brothers Vibes after all. Gotta get me some Correlle, though, to add to my mug collection: 

*Post 49/52.

The Thick of It

My brain must be in an interesting place these days because once again I am stuck with an old kids’ song playing on a loop as I navigate this surgery recovery. Today marks One Week (another song reference) since surgery and in some ways, I am most grateful to be here at this point in the healing. Some of you may know this, but Ben likes to say, “Aren’t you glad we aren’t leaving right now?” on all of our road trips (as a way of reminding me and the kids that at least we’ve come this far/are this close to our destination and not just pulling out of the driveway), and yes, I am thrilled that today is not surgery day as was originally scheduled. Thank goodness I am a week in, but at the same time, I can’t stop singing “Into the Thick of It” from The Backyardigans because oh my gosh, It is quite thick right now.

As far as pain goes, I am doing OK. I’m still tingly but have been assured by multiple sources (medical and friends) that that is quite normal and is most likely a result of inflammation and nerve endings firing/repairing, so I guess I can be patient-ish with that. My mouth is still sore, and I learned from another friend who is surgery-familiar that it could be from the instrumentation put in my mouth for surgery; whatever the cause, good gravy, it is taking a long time to heal. Beyond the obvious physical impacts, though, there’s just a lot about this two-weeks of the Rhino Horn that makes life tricky.

Perhaps I should explain that yesterday was a Tuesday on many levels. I mean, it was also Valentine’s Day, so that’s fun I guess, but it also means my children got extra sugared up which is a challenge when I can’t sneak downstairs to get a moment of quiet which is what I tend to do with the laundry; as much as keeping up with laundry for seven is hard, I don’t mind that I can (normally) get a few moments of peace as I put in or change over a load of wash when I need a second to collect myself. But right now I can’t even leave the main floor of my house because I still don’t want to try to navigate stairs on crutches and my bandage is SO dang heavy. My left hip and leg are so tired of trying to hover it when I get around and for some reason, my ribs and side body still haven’t acclimated to the crutches, meaning I feel sore every time I do get up and go somewhere. Then, in weird balancing moments yesterday, I managed to crash my bandage into a side table and later put my foot down to keep myself from falling over which is a big no-no, all of which left me feeling so defeated and Tuesday-ish.

Pause Moment: I realize this is a whiney post and part of me thinks I should apologize for that, but it is also just real and that’s always been the goal of this space. I think it is fair to say that mobility surgery has humbled me and challenged me, and even while I think recovery is going fine, it still doesn’t mean this is a walk/hobble in the park.

While I remain grateful that we “aren’t leaving right now,” the kids’ school scheduled has been an extra element in my recovery schedule because for some reason (parent teacher conference payback time, which is totally justified and good), they had last Friday and Monday off from school, so instead of having quiet days to nap and ice and just be, we had to figure out what the heck to do with five busy kids for two extra days. Thankfully family came through on Friday and over the weekend, and then on Monday, friends were gracious enough to let me invite ALL of my children to their various homes while Ben was at work that afternoon. But now, because this is February in Nebraska, we’re facing a Winter Storm Whatever (for the life of me, I can never remember the difference between watches and warnings, nor which one was issued) that means we could have enough snow to keep the kids home from school AGAIN tomorrow. You know I love them more than life, but you must also know how that many extra days when I am confined to the living room and kitchen mean my introvert is suffering. Since all of them are occupied at the moment with school or Grandma, I am soaking up every second of quiet I can get before the literal and metaphorical storms come.

Rest assured, not all is lost and bright sides of this weird two weeks very much exist. In addition to the aforementioned help, we’ve been graced with beautiful meals for the family and for me. I’ve had friends stop by and visit while I elevate/ice my leg and I’ve had S.O.S. laundry helpers swing by, too. I binged season three of one of my favorite shows (Emily in Paris) and started the second book (Four Aunties and a Wedding) in a series I greatly enjoy. And I have even graduated from eating on the couch to getting to the island for some meals (and yes, the children still fight over who gets to sit by me even when I take up all this room with the horn and an extra stool).

I know this too shall pass and really, it’s not that bad. But it is strange and hard and messy, and that needs sharing, too. Thanks, as per usual, for being here for it all.

The Project of Pregnancy

Shortly after Thanksgiving, 2008, I found out I was pregnant with the baby that would turn out to be, on July 22, 2009, Harrison David. And just two days before Thanksgiving, 2017, I went into labor with the baby that would turn out to be, on November 22, 2017, Wilson Ann. So, you know, for roughly nine years straight, I was pregnant. 

OK, that’s an exaggeration, but when you add in nursing, which I did for at least a year for each baby, I really was growing, feeding, or both-ing babies for over 10 years. When I was trying to get pregnant for the second time, I thought I was one of those rare birds that couldn’t get pregnant while nursing a baby, even though they warn you it can happen. We tried for months and months but didn’t actually have success with Baby No. 2, who would turn out to be, on November 4, 2011, Raegan Leigh, until after I quit breastfeeding her big brother. 

Imagine my surprise, then, on November 4, 2012, RL’s first birthday – a day I was very much still nursing her – when I took a pregnancy test just because I was feeling “funny” and it said “PREGNANT!” Shocked really doesn’t begin to cover it. I legit thought that couldn’t happen for me, but guess I was wrong. I kept up the dual growing/feeding gig until going in for my first OB appointment when my doctor explained that part of why I felt so miserable (beyond the fact that my first three pregnancies all just made me quite, quite sick) was that my body was taking care of the fetus first, the baby on the boob second, and last of all, me, the actual human of said body. So, I weened Raegan and focused on “just” growing the baby that would turn out to be, on July 4, 2013, Lincoln Thomas.

Did you catch that date overlap? Two babies born on the 4 of the month. One girl, one boy. One in July, one in November. Total accident, total alignment, and exactly 20 months apart in age. 

As with Harrison, the trend once again became “can’t get pregnant while nursing” and it wasn’t until after I kicked LT off the boob that I learned Baby No. 4, who would turn out to be, on September 6, 2015, Truman John, was on his way. Ironically he was due on September 4, but like his big sis, he was a stinker and made me wait a couple extra days to meet him. I mean, totally worth it, but going past a due date can be tough. Somehow, though, my pregnancy with Truman was the easiest and the one in which I felt, by far, the most human, so if I had to do it a little bit longer, so be it. I was far less sick than with any of the previous babies (thank goodness since I was chasing those three while growing him); since that helped me see the “other side” that some women experienced, and because we still wanted everyone to have a brother and a sister, we decided to go for one more. 

This time, though, I wasn’t willing to give up nursing because Truman didn’t seem ready yet and we took a “if it’s meant to be, it will be” mentality with the trying for No.5. Luckily for us, my body cooperated and eventually I was, once again, with child. However, it wasn’t until I, once again, confirmed the at-home test at the OB office that I was willing to ween TJ off nursing so I could “just” grow one more babe while trying to take care of the other four and my own self. 

Unlike the two who came early (HD by 12 days and LT by 6) and the two who came late, Wilson came right on time – on her actual due date. My OB joked in the delivery room that if you have enough babies, you eventually will get one right on the dot, and there’s something to that. Of course you also have to take into consideration that I’m one stubborn mother who labored extra long at home just so she could go in after midnight (putting us there on the due date) to give birth and save an extra day in the hospital. Another irony given that WA had to be flown to Omaha for surgery on Day 2 of life and we spent 22 days in the NICU at Children’s Hospital before we could bring her home to her anxiously awaiting siblings. 

So if you can’t tell by their faces, each one unique but clearly connected and related, too, you can look at the numbers and the patterns and see that growing my not-so-little crew was the longest and the bestest project I’ve ever worked on in this life. Of course the project of parenting them will last the rest of my days but those 9 years (or 10+ when you count nursing) were unlike any others.

*Post 42/52 – just 10 to go!

That Baseball Life

Starting in early elementary and all the way through middle school, I played summer softball. I never tried out for a travel team (that also wasn’t really a thing back then like it is now), but instead just played the city rec league with fellow classmates and other girls my age for a couple months each summer. I liked it but it wasn’t never my end all/be all and I eventually gave it up for other sports (cross country) and activities (band) by high school. However, as my group of friends solidified in high school, I found myself hanging out with my best girlfriends and a whole bunch of guy friends who all happened to be baseball players as well. And so began a trend that would continue, well, the rest of my life. 

We spent so much time watching the guys at their Legion ball games and even traveled to watch them play some tournaments. I have never been a fan of watching baseball on TV but there is something great about being there live to see the exciting moments (and getting good snacks and having talk-time in the sometimes long stretches between said exciting parts). We were good fans and Post 12 was a fun team to root for during those years. 

Oddly enough, in college, I ended up once again being really good friends with a group of girls that was equally matched with guy friends who played baseball for Doane. So once again, I found myself parking my butt in the bleachers and on blankets in the grass to watch the Tigers take on their various division opponents. I don’t know that we traveled much/if ever to watch them play, but the baseball guys were our guys. The irony of this is that Ben was supposed to play ball in college but tore both hamstrings the summer before his freshman year, playing baseball, and didn’t get to become part of that team. Maybe if he had, we could have met earlier (or maybe not since we were in choir together for a year and had no clue – lol)! 

As it was, I didn’t have to know Ben for very long to know that he loves baseball and that the Kansas City Royals have long been his favorite team. This was an easy fandom to share with him and over the years I even, sometimes, acquiesced on my rule of not watching baseball on TV. This became especially true in 2015, also known as the year Truman was born, the October the Royals took the World Series crown, AND the one time we had a sports-themed Christmas card photo! I was up nursing a baby every few hours anyway, so staying up to watch nail-biter games with Ben was a fun way to pass the time; plus, by that point, I was a pretty committed Royals fan myself. 

Our family stayed #ForeverRoyal until shortly after Wilson was born when LT went rogue on us and became an Aaron Judge/NY Yankees super fan. While I attended my first ever MLB game while pregnant with Wilson, the kids all got to attend their first one two summers later when the Royals played at home versus the Yankees. Ben’s parents joined us in Kansas City for the game which was full of excitement (including a lost tooth for Raegan) and extra innings for the Royals to eek out the win (poor LT!). 
Though we are still a house divided when it comes to MLB teams, we are Welschies all the way when it come to our own kids. That means that these days, I’m still in the bleachers (okay, more like a bag chair) but now watching as a committed Baseball Mom with three boys who have played city league and two of those three also doing/starting travel ball. It makes for long evenings and wonky meal times, not to mention an absolute ton of scrubbing/laundry, but I love it (not the laundry; that’s for the birds). It is so fun to watch them out on the field, playing a game our whole family loves (the sisters do a good job of tolerating these long nights and get in on plenty of backyard ball sessions with Dad and the boys, too). I don’t always do the best job breathing when one of them is pitching, but I clap and cheer and jump for joy whenever something exciting happens, which is really what makes the baseball life so great – you just never know when one of those moments will occur! 

*Post 37/52

The Bowls and Books of Christmas

Until high school, I don’t remember set holiday traditions in our family. That doesn’t mean we didn’t have them, but they just weren’t on my radar like the routines we adopted in my teens. I was probably too distracted by Santa, snow, and visiting our family at both sets of grandparents to be too wrapped up in the actual details that went into making those holidays magical. 

As I matured, though, two particular Christmas Eve traditions took hold in our world and in my heart: soups and opening one present of our own choosing from under the tree. The latter probably sticks in my brain because of the year my brother got an egg pan (that he asked for!) and all he could do was look at it in disbelief, saying, “I got a pan.” I don’t remember any of my CE gifts in particular because none were quite that funny; the soups, however, are still one of my favorite parts of the holiday, in part because we weren’t afraid to take it over the top with soup production.

Growing up I mostly remember two soups in rotation at our house – potato and chili. As a kid I didn’t care for chili (too spicy for me then) but loved potato soup so much (cheesy, creamy, and so delicious!). When we started the Christmas Eve Soups, it was probably just those two. But then, with time and advancing taste buds, we expanded our soup world and started making not just two soups for our family of four but FOUR soups on one night, because, why not? Ham & Bean, Chicken and Wild Rice, and the Christmas Soup (our name for it based on the colors of tomatoes, spinach, and cannellini beans) all got brought into the mix. I mean, why not, right? Leftovers are great and then each one of us got to pick our favorite. To this day we still make soup on Christmas Eve and it’s the perfect dish to warm you up before our other holiday routines of attending a candlelight church service, opening one gift, or setting out a plate of cookies for Santa. 

Seeing as we still soup it up each Christmas, that tradition is one my own kids will know and hopefully remember for years to come (we make just plain tomato for most of them still). The other holiday tradition that we’ve started in our own house that I know will stand out for them is our Christmas Book Countdown. Also over the top, this is another idea I found on Pinterest in 2013 (thank goodness for the blog to tell me that). That year, for advanced Christmas gifts from relatives, we asked for a collection of Christmas-themed books that totaled 25 in number so the kids could take turns (minus Lincoln who was still an itty bitty baby that winter) unwrapping a book from under the tree on each day of December  with the final one being opened Christmas Day. It was an instant hit and we’ve continued it ever since. The kids will tell you that the strangest thing that ever happened was the two years in a row that they opened Merry Christmas, Curious George! as the final book. Even funnier is when they engineered it being opened for a third year in a row by guessing and trying not to pick it until the very end to keep the streak going!

Now that we have five kids and our Christmas book collection has expanded over the years to a few beyond 25, we have each one of them select five titles, taking turns in doing so. Then I wrap them so they can again take turns each day picking and opening from youngest to oldest. The math on that works out great and keeps things nice and even, and the kids do a good job of remembering whose day it is. 2022 was the first time any of them asked to help with the wrapping, so while they were at school, I did the initial covering (so they couldn’t see what book it was) and then the kids helped fold and tape the edges which was great wrapping practice for them. 

Even though these are simple traditions, they’ve meant a lot to us over the years and we hope to continue them for years and years to come. 

*Post 35/52.

Not There Yet

Next week Wilson turns five, and to be honest, sometimes I forget that we are still in The Tunnel. Long-time readers will remember that this is a phrase, not my own, that refers to the challenge that is parenting children under the age of six. Wilson has grown so much in the last year, physically (seriously, she’s already in the size 6 clothes and on track to be as tall as HD was when he was five) and verbally (thanks to the awesome speech services she’s received from RiteCare here in town), plus she has four big role models to that she copies (for better and for worse), that I can forget how little she still is. And then a morning like this morning comes along and reminds me like a door slammed in my face that we are NOT at the end of this tunnel yet, even though we’ve technically been in it for almost 13.5 years and it seems like we should be through this already, please and thank you.

Admittedly, it’s a rough and weird week. Ben’s been gone for five days which is super out the norm for us even though it did technically happen earlier this year in August as well. But in August we didn’t have school schedules and activity schedules to navigate while he was away, nor did we have the cold germs flirting with half our household which adds a whole extra layer of yuck along with everyone missing him.

This morning wasn’t Wilson’s first meltdown of the week but it was by far the worst (*knocks over a whole forest of trees to keep that statement from biting me in the butt*) and I am sure all of the above listed factors played a role in the struggle. My own stress and sleep deprivation probably didn’t help, but I will mention that I kept my cool for 15-straight minutes of being wailed at (in the form of crying, not fists) and then another 30 minutes of trying to get her to get dressed so she could actually go to school this afternoon, for which she was late for the very first time all year. Her sweet principal met us at the door and helped her off to her classroom and I barely made it back to my car before I lost it.

I cried the whole way back across town because, my goodness, this can be so hard. Even with help (i.e. grandparents on call while Dad is away), the weight of this falls on me and reminds me that we aren’t there yet. The Tunnel still exists, and yes, I know we’re essentially entering a new tunnel of Teenagers once we make it through the Toddler one, but that doesn’t diminish the fact that this shi!t is real and this shi!t is challenging.

And that’s it – that’s all I’ve got. Well, that a reminder that if you know someone parenting an Under Six, send them some love and encouragement because chances are they’ve had a rough moment, if not today than sometime recently, and it never hurts to remind someone that their struggle is real, and so is their love and their effort to keep moving toward the end of that long, dark tunnel.

A PBS Childhood

Growing up when and where I did (rural SoDak in the 80s and 90s) meant we didn’t have many options for television stations. Eventually, in high school, we got a satellite dish which changed things for us, but up until then we literally had 3-5 stations, including the local NBC/CBS/ABC and, my most beloved, PBS.
Although we watched network stations on Saturday mornings for cartoons (because that was really the only time those stations ran such things back in the day), our go-to after school was the children’s programming on PBS, also known to me as South Dakota Public Broadcasting. And it was the best. 

Over the years I remember watching Letter PeopleGhost WriterBill Nye the Science Guy3-2-1 ContactLambchop’s Playhouse, Once Upon a Time, and Sesame Street (obviously not in that order because who knows exactly at what age I viewed each of those).  My absolute, long-standing favorites, though, were Square One TV and Reading Rainbow. I adored both of those shows and couldn’t wait to fly off the school bus each afternoon so I could run into the house in time to catch both 30-minute programs before doing homework and having supper. 

Square One TV was made up of little sketches (think SNL), songs, and a regular mini-series at the end of each episode called “Math Net” that I suppose was a spoof of Drag Net but I have no idea what that even means, beyond it being a crime solving duo which in this case, used the power of math to restore order (pun intended) to the world. Thirty+ years later and I can still remember songs about Archimedes and “The Mathematics of Love” that taught kids to read Roman numerals, and a “Math Net” case that involved the Fibonacci Sequence, so yeah, I’d say it was highly effective programming. 

Reading Rainbow took the cake, though, for making a lasting impression on this reading-obsessed kid. LeVar Burton is the epitome of childhood + TV associations for me because it’s possible I saw every single episode of the show in which he would meet people, share lessons, inspire imaginations, and, of course, introduce us to fantastic children’s books.  I can still sing the entire theme song and I get a swell of nostalgia whenever I see a title I remember from the show like A Chair for My Mother or Angel Child, Dragon Child, and Abiyoyo. A few years ago they did a KickStarter campaign to reboot the show on Netflix and of course I contributed, earning me a shirt that I’ve worn so many times since, my own children will probably associate with their childhoods someday. 

As a mom, I’ve tried to steer my kids on a similar PBS path but their world is quite different than mine and they have what often feels like overwhelming, limitless choices for what they might watch. Of course, most of it isn’t nearly the quality that PBS (still) provides, so I’m always thankful when one of them latches on to any show from NET (Nebraska Educational Telecommunications, now called NPM, Nebraska Public Media). Over the years, those loves have included HD and Dinosaur Train (which is how my blog, The Modern Maiasaura, got it’s name) and WA with Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood (ironic because I also love DTN but was never a huge Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood fan when I was kid), and allll of them with Curious George which got me through many a cat-nap on the couch during my various pregnancies when I also had toddlers who needed to be entertained while I snoozed. I even called them PBS Naps! 

So even though my own kids will remember quite different and more varied shows when they look back on this same question of favorite Saturday cartoons someday, I’m confident that there will be an intergenerational love for PBS that holds for them just as it does for me. 

*Post 21/52.