It’s that time, again…

Once upon a time, there was a young girl who fell madly in love, and decided someday, she wanted four children.

Many years and tears later, that same girl fell insanely in love for REAL — this time with the right partner — was married, and had two beautiful daughters. Because by now she was much older and wiser, and because sometimes money matters, one day our heroine, in a moment of flaky, weary weakness, admitted to her dashingly handsome husband (who works very hard to feed his very happy albeit hungry family on a much-appreciated single-income) that perhaps their family was “supposed to” consist of two healthy and smiling daughters, that’s it. They were perfect, as a family of four.

About one year after their youngest daughter was born, however … after that beautiful baby grin revealed teeth, and that round baby belly held the same food everyone else at the table ate, and those chunky baby legs started taking Frankenstein steps, and that bald little head grew hair, and those amazing baby gurgles transformed into words with purpose … well then, the idea of having (just two!) more babies started floating around again.

Because, you see … not to give away the storyline or anything .. for me, it’s all about even numbers. I was one of three, and there was always an odd-girl-out. I love both of my sisters and I will do anything for them, but I think it might have been a little easier on all parties if my youngest sister had a twin. Or if we’d had more than one bathroom. So for me, the magic numbers have always have been: two, or four. And since I was over 30 when I was pregnant with my first, I knew the chances of four were slim.

You know the new car phenomenon? The one where you drive off the lot with a new car, and suddenly you’re seeing all of the other identical cars on the road, when you hadn’t noticed them before? Or, similar to your sixth-grade Friday vocab quiz — forgetting the definition of one word, but then suddenly seeing the word everywhere — in the newspaper, in the novel you were assigned, overhearing random conversations? Well, that’s the way I start feeling about babies once mine have reached the year-mark. Friends are having babies, other friends are pregnant again, and I’m suddenly wanting two more. Even the random 20-something with four (or was it five?) kiddos in tow at the library last week was saying, “‘They’ say when you’re done, you just know…” I don’t KNOW. I KNEW when I was ready to have kids, so by extension, then I will also KNOW when I am finished.

Unfortunately, the “everybody else is doing it” reasoning isn’t getting very far with my incredibly logical husband. (And I’m grateful for that. Really.) I am instead reminded of the landscaping/remodeling/vacations we have been putting off “until we can afford it.” We would have to buy a new car. The world is over-populated as it is. And while the romantic in me believes that the size of our family shouldn’t be decided by money, the responsible part of me acknowledges that unless I can home-school a bachelor’s degree, it must.

But … these arguments don’t seem to have any weight when I’m comforting my 1-year-old who has stumbled into my arms calling “Ma-ma” … or when I’m listening to my 3-year-old sound out words in her book. I acknowledge that we have been very blessed. But I love everything about this — the pregnancy, the delivery, the late-night feedings (OK, maybe not those so much), the amazing transformations that take place in just 12 months, helping these babes grow into incredible little people … and I’d like to think I’m good at it, and I would like an opportunity to be good at it for a couple more kids.


Or maybe I delve into other (exciting! but a little time-consuming…) opportunities for now and put baby-making on the shelf. I DON’T know.

What about you? If your family is complete, how did you know when to say “when?” Did you and your spouse disagree? How did you resolve it?

I would love your comments.
Until next time,


PS — A friend of mine also has a blog where she contemplates life and refuses to be pigeon-holed, and I love her for it (her stance, and her blog) but I’m so jealous because she has over 200 (check that, nearly 300!) more subscribers/followers than me. True, she is clever and can turn a phrase like … an Allen wrench? a carousel? a hand mixer? a spin master? (I got nothin’.) She’s a great writer. And she posts consistently. So I’ll make you a deal, all in the name of a little healthy competition: if I can get new email subscribers (that’s you!) with each post, I’ll keep writing. Consistently. If not, well then, I’ll probably still keep writing. I’ll just be bitter that my folks didn’t give me 199 more siblings.


What DO I do?

What DO I do?

I prepare. I plan. I cook. I pour. I grab utensils. I feed. I nurse. I explore and adapt new and healthy recipes. I clean up. I wash dishes.
I teach. I entertain. I play. I listen. I speak. I read. I sign. I observe. I read out loud. I repeat. I encourage. I explain. I question. I ask questions I already know the answers to.
I do laundry. I fold clothes. I put clothes away. I retain single socks hoping their missing mate will one day reappear.
I dress baby. I dress toddler. I watch toddler put the outfit on the floor and pick out her own clothes instead. I comb hair. I sometimes attempt to comb hair but then give up. (It is clean, and I am not perfect.)
Sometimes I shower.
I grab all the hats, mittens, coats and boots I can haul around in one diaper bag.
Or, I pack all the swimsuits, towels, goggles, noodles, flip-flops and pool toys I can attach anywhere on my body along with my two kids.
I grocery shop. I look for good deals. I clip coupons. I sigh every time the cashier rings us out.
I change diapers. I potty train. I wipe little butts. I wipe noses. I suck out boogies (with an aspirator, of course!) I clean up big messes.
I chauffeur. I bribe. I plead. I barter. I pack snacks. Lots of snacks. I drive a messy car.
I have become an amateur-expert guide at the Zoo, the museums, the YMCA, the libraries, and most of the local parks.
I schedule play-dates. I make doctors’ and dentists’ appointments. I take them to said appointments and then report back to all the powers-that-be (The Grandmas) within a reasonable amount of time.
I clean our home. I brush/feed/walk and clean up after our dog.
I pick up or clean up endless streams of 5-second toy/food/poop explosions.
I drink lots of coffee. And tea. And hot chocolate. And sometimes wine.
I allow frustration to get the better of me. I cry. I sometimes raise my voice. I regret. I worry. I fear. I wonder. I doubt. I speculate. I compare. (I admit it.)

But I also smile. A lot. I laugh out loud, many times a day. I dance. I act silly. I run around. I get dizzy. I sing. I get creative. I make strange noises or pretend to fall down simply to get a laugh. I carry. I hold. I hug. I kiss. I make memories.
I love my job.

And here’s what I don’t do:
I don’t sleep much anymore. And I don’t get much time to myself. And we don’t go on luxurious vacations, not right now.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

(An important sidebar: I should mention here how much respect I have for those parents who do all of what I mentioned above either a) on top of a 40-hour work week, or b) by yourself. My hat goes off to you. Seriously.)

I am a mother. I am a mama. I am a (middle of the night) “Mawww-aahhhhhhm??”
I am a woman. I am a wife. I am a daughter. I am a sister. I am also a grand-daughter, a niece, a cousin, a daughter-in-law, a sister-in-law.
I am a friend. I am a neighbor. I am a former roommate. I am a former classmate. I am a former co-worker.

In short: I am a full-time mom, and a part-time, well … a part-time “everything else.”

Grammar Gal, too

First, I must be upfront. In this post, I’m stepping away from my traditional Mommy Tales to indulge another passion: writing and editing.

Next, I must confess my love for Grammar Girl and her aptly-chosen name, which I obviously can’t get out of my head while attempting a suitable title for this post. My apologies, with utmost respect.

But there is more than one “grammar person” out there, of that I am certain (excluding/including my own mother, to whom I owe so much). Otherwise there wouldn’t be so many writing blogs I keep getting sucked into each time I try to write. I have no idea how, but I stumbled upon this article the other day about a fellow grammarian’s secret desire and I wanted to shout, “Yes! Someone else!”

You see, you have no idea that I copy edit every. thing. I. read. everything I read.

Menus. Novels. Signs. Instructions. Newspaper articles. Magazine advertisements.

When I speak, I make mistakes. (I’ve even developed a stutter when I’m nervous, where did that come from?) When I write, I split infinitives. I change my tenses. I even (gasp!) end my sentences with a preposition, on occasion. (Which is more accepted than I once believed, I’m learning. But I will ALWAYS physically cringe anytime I hear, “Where’s the car at?” Argh.) I use the first-person voice when I blog, way. too. much.

But I really pride myself on finding typos. I admit, I have submitted comments on websites so the author can correct spelling errors (OK just once did I have that much nerve, but it was a professional article misspelling Procter & Gamble — any true Cincinnatian would have done the same).

I corrected the handout I received at a training session the other day, when someone typed, “Sunday, December 10” followed immediately by, “Sunday, December 11” — only one of those dates can be Sunday, right? Literally, scratched out the first “Sunday” and scribbled next to it “Saturday” for no one’s benefit but my own.

Also recently, I rewrote one of those dastardly facebook trends, correcting all the typos I could find before re-posting to my profile (which I “never” do, except in regards to my esteemed, late father). Speaking of … is “re-post” the correct spelling? Or is “repost” the preferred/accepted spelling now? Anyone?

(Actually, don’t even get me started on spelling and facebook. I still don’t know how I stop myself — especially those first couple months — from correcting grammar and/or spelling errors. I guess I realize on some level it would be just plain rude. Still I disappoint myself by allowing our unique English language to be manipulated like that. Just as I cringe — a little bit — each time I witness my very own thumbs texting “r u ok” instead of spelling out the words and ending my sentence with the correct punctuation. I hate to think of all the variations of our language that will take place in the next 20, 50, 100 years, all in the name of speed.)

The fact is, in a former life (to which I will affectionately refer as “BC: Before Children” — my tribute to you, Dad) I was paid (very little) to have a red pen in hand. I was paid to tighten content, correct grammar and circle misspellings. And I loved it.

I also learned the hard way — from our adviser, who read our college paper AFTER it was published each week, and pointed out any errors in reporting or editing. “Buses are not kisses, Kara,” he once wrote in red scrawl, for the whole staff to see. I remember that sting each time I pass a billboard on I-74 for a restaurant that advertises parking for “busses”. (And my poor husband probably hears about it each time, too. But our children will know!)

Garner vs. garnish. Ouch, that was an embarrassing lesson, also.

There were more. There are more. It’s tough to catch them all. That’s why magazines and papers have editors. That’s why “they” say to write one day, and edit the next. I hope someday to again be in a position where the focus is on tightening my own content, and correcting my grammar or misspellings. I hope to one day be in a position to help others, too.

Red pen-wielder or no, if you enjoyed the linked article above, then you might also like another gem I found when I was googling the correct spelling of misspelling, just to be sure.

Because I’m not perfect. But I do try.

I promise: I won’t judge you for your grammar, if you won’t judge me for my instinctual red pen quick-draw.

How many stuffed animals does one family need?

In a mega-frenzy of cleaning last week, I attempted to straighten up the “Stuffed Animal Corner” in the baby’s room.

Yes, my in-laws were coming for the weekend.
No, they didn’t say anything about the Stuffed Animal Corner.
Yes, the pyramid of animals in the corner has survived intact for almost six days.
Yes, this is quite amazing!

Which leads me to the following conclusion: maybe I don’t need to put a toy hammock on our Christmas list. Instead, maybe I need to start sneaking the plush lions and tigers and teddy bears out of the house, one by one, until we have a more manageable number of stuffed animals. Say, 20.

In the past, we have tried to reduce our stuffing. But either through nostalgia tempered with guilt (Aawwwwwww, this was her first bison…) or poor tactics (toddler witnessing the event, Yikes!) I haven’t been able to pull it off just yet.

In fact, when I was dusting off the wagon for trick-or-treating last night, I found a bag in the garage I had completely forgotten. It contained about a half dozen random stuffed animals we had previously removed from the playroom and girls’ rooms. I smirked to myself as I remembered stealthily retrieving “just a few” of the animals from the nearly full bag, until only the ones that had no emotional significance to either me or my children remained.

Yes, my name is Mama, and when it comes to repeated failed efforts to de-clutter our stuffed animals, I am the problem.

But I HAVE been able to slow the influx of our plushy doll and animal kingdom.

When well-intentioned friends and family travel to exotic locales, and consequently would like to bring us knick-knacks and soft toys from these incredible destinations, I request children’s books instead.

(Sidebar: we appreciate any time anyone thinks of us when you are away from home. But books are better than “dust-collectors” (as my aunt would say) or stuffed toys, of which we have too many!)

In fact, books are the perfect souvenir. The child receives a book they would not otherwise be exposed to — for example, Don’t Call Me Pig! A Javelina Story (Arizona), or Maddy: the Alaskan Moose (Alaska) or Deep in the Swamp (Louisiana).

A book (or two, or three) is the perfect size to fit in your suitcase. A book brings joy and with it, a love of learning new information about an otherwise unknown locale, to its recipient. (Seriously, javelinas? I learned so much.) And a book belongs on a bookshelf — so mama knows precisely where to put it.

If you’re looking for gift ideas for little ones (my apologies, but it is almost that season) bring them a book from a region to which you’ve traveled (or lived, if you’re traveling to bring the gift).

And now, if you’ll excuse me … I must go rearrange my kids’ plush toys … in alphabetical order.

PS — this post is incomplete without the teeny-tiniest of disclaimers. A certain retailer has nailed the market by selling a stuffed animal to ACCOMPANY the book, and donating the money to kids’ education. In my opinion, this is nothing short of awesome, and I completely support it. Personally, I will never get rid of our Lorax, our Cat (whom we gave a Cupcake), etc. (the stuffed animals, or the books).

PPS — For the record, we already have the On the Night You Were Born Tillman book (two copies, actually — one upstairs, one downstairs) but no polar bears. The book is outstanding. We don’t have any of her other books. Now if only said retailer also could provide a storage system for both!

That’s a Good Idea!

One of the first difficulties I encountered as a Stay at Home Mama (SAHM) was the lack of feedback I received for a job well done (NOT to be confused with all the feedback I DO receive when I’m not meeting my kids’ immediate expectations). Of course, (you all know the routine) you see your babies’ smiles, hear those blissful giggles as well as the random, stop-you-in-your-tracks, “I love you, Mommy!”s … but I’m talking about the, “May I speak with you for a moment?” type of intentional positive feedback from my former supervisor that would send me skipping back to my cubicle `a la Fraulein Maria, with both feet kicking in the air. It just doesn’t happen enough anymore.

During this morning’s playdate at the park I offered a quick piece of unsolicited (or was it?) advice about how we introduced potty training, and my friend responded with a casual, “That’s a good idea.” Typical exchange between two mamas? Yes. But it wasn’t the way she said it that made me think, you know, you’re right, it really IS a good idea — it was the way I felt after she pointedly directed that comment my way, making EYE CONTACT even, in regards to one of MY suggestions. I could have skipped/pushed a stroller/held my toddler’s hand right to the parking lot singing, “I have confidence in…”

Now it’s possible my friend didn’t REALLY think it was a good idea. She may have been making small talk, or simply agreeing with me as we were already packed up and parting ways. But if I wanted to hold on to a compliment like that (like I did) I could. In fact, I think I will.

So much of my job as a SAHM is thankless. Yes, it’s a choice we’ve made, and No, I wouldn’t have it any other way … but every so often, I would love to hear a completely unsolicited, “You know, you handled that meltdown really well.” Or, “I’m proud of you for making such a sacrifice.” Or, “Hey, that’s a good idea!”

I promise I’ll do the same for you.

To celebrate…

To celebrate Maddy Kay being 4 months old, we are starting her sleep training tonight.

This time, I’m less concerned with how I will handle it (w/ Ava I had to be all but physically restrained from going upstairs to comfort her) and more concerned with Ava’s reaction to it.

We chose a weekend with little planned, but Ava’s runny nose is telling me she needs her sleep. Maybe we can distract Big Sister with a movie while Maddy inevitably makes her presence known.

Wish us all luck!


Double Milestone

Ava, great-Mom-mom Amy Connor, and Maddy Kay
(2/20/11 after Madalyn’s baptism)

Do you anticipate, celebrate and reminisce about milestones for your children? Or for yourself?

This week Ava is officially 2 1/2 years old. (Where did the time go?) and Maddy Kay is 4 months old (I know where that time went: most of it was frigidly cold, home-bound and sleep-deprived). Ava is over 3 feet tall now (unofficially: according to the measurement on our pantry door, a la Andy Davis, and all his toys, of course) and Ava and I watched Maddy roll over from her belly to her back just the other day. (Of course, their proud papa was out running — for a good cause! — when it happened. He’ll catch it soon.)

AND … their mama (that’s me) fit back into her pre-pregnancy jeans, which are worn thin and have holes in both knees and apparently are in dire need of replacement anyway. I haven’t seen them in several months. At least I fit back into them before I say goodbye wear them again tomorrow. I’ll admit it.

I wish I was one of those moms who kept detailed records of her child’s every new turn, tooth and time-out. I wish that someday my kids could ask me, “How old was I when…” and I would know the precise answer off the top of my head, or could at least disappear to the (organized) office and reappear with an (organized) baby book of all the important milestones. I wish I had kept a pregnancy journal (twice now) detailing all of the excitement, nervousness, puking and general amazement at what this body (my body?!) can take, only to find out what it really could take two weeks after my due date (twice) via two natural deliveries. (I’m so fortunate.)

By now you’ve surmised (correctly) that I am not one of those moms. Which is strange, because I love words. You’d think I’d at least journal about not only the milestones, but also the crazy, fun, laugh-out-loud scenarios that are constantly occurring with a toddler in your house.

I am a mom who celebrates milestones. I just have to think about what was going on at the time, in order to remember when it happened. That, and a little rounding to the nearest…

For example, Matt travels to Palm Springs, CA, every March for a week-long work conference. (Poor guy, I know…) Two years ago, Ava could sit up on her own, on the floor (with a “first-time mom” pillow securely behind her) to Skype with her Daddy. Do the quick math (even my English major brain can handle this one…): she was 6 months old when she could sit up. She was rolling over with ease about a month earlier, because when her grandparents were in town to visit Valentine’s weekend, she wouldn’t do it, even though she could … making a liar out of me at a very young age.

Same thing with crawling: she was on her hands and knees rocking back and forth Memorial Day weekend when our friends came down for the most sweltering Reds/Indians series in Cincinnati history. By extrapolation … she was crawling at 9 months.

Now teeth? That’s when I could use a book. I know she was “teething” for months before one finally popped through. (That was my reason for every bit of fussiness out of her … and it was true! Those teeth are moving and causing pain, long before they appear. I’m certain I’ve read that somewhere…) Ava has 20 teeth now, and I love watching her mimic my actions while we brush our teeth together in the morning, her eyes constantly on my mouth.

Walking (running) at 11 months, signing (not sure when it started, maybe 7, or 12 months? ha!) was very reliable at 15 months. I remember because she politely signed, and said, the word “please” to the waiter at the Greenbrier that Christmas, effectively smearing her delicious breakfast of black/blue/rasp/strawberries all over her beautiful white dress as her flat palm circled her chest. That was also when Ava finally was big enough weighed enough for us to turn her carseat around to face front, which apparently we shouldn’t have done. But it did make the 10-hour road trip much easier on us.

By her 18-month check-up, she was speaking in sentences and I reported to Dr. Joe I had lost count of the number of words she used. That was Opening Day last year, for which I had recently discovered I would be the DD. (Who takes a pregnancy test on St. Paddy’s Day?) I have every intention of making up for it next week, by the way…

There you go, Ava-girl … your very own “baby book”, blogger-style.

Reminiscing about the milestones is the next best thing to recording them, right?

What’s the Double Milestone, you say? Well, the girls are growing up, and I can wear pants without an elastic waistband again. Reminiscing, reliving … and reminding myself that we are so incredibly blessed.

If you have suggestions to help this scatter-brained mama keep track of her babies’ milestones, please, PLEASE enlighten me.