Thursday, July 31, 2008

Ho, Ho, It's Magic, You Know

By Kelly

Around 6:00 every evening, something magical happens at my house.

Doesn’t matter if the children have been playing happily while I make dinner or if they are crabbier than Dr. Cox on a busy day.

When that garage door goes up, the very air around us electrifies. (In a good way. Not in a horror movie, we all scream and fall to the ground contorting kind of way.)

”Dad’s home! Dad’s home! Mom, Dad’s home!”

If the evening is typical, Natalie will rush to the door and throw herself on Corey as soon as he steps inside. “Daddy!” she squeals.

Connor, meanwhile, scurries to hide behind the red chair in the corner of the living room, and waits for Corey to walk by. As soon as he hears footsteps, we hear a little voice. “Dad, come sit in the red chair!”

”I wonder where Connor is,” Corey monotones amicably, playing along with the nightly ritual. “I sure wish I could find my buddy. I guess I’ll just sit in the red chair and wait.”

“Boo!” screams Connor, jumping out from behind the chair. “Did I get you, Dad?”

A wrestling match ensues.

These days, even the baby is getting into the act.

Last night, Corey walked into the kitchen. Our six-month-old was sitting in her exersaucer, banging on the warbling piano keys.

“Hi Teyla!” Corey said.

She looked into his face, with her huge blue eyes, and grinned as wide as she could. Her arms and legs pumped and she uttered the sweetest cooooo I’ve ever heard.

My goodness. We are so in love with her.

Corey pulled her out of the exersaucer, to indulge in a real hug. Then he lifted her overhead to say a proper good evening, when the most amazing thing happened.

(Choose your ending.)


a. the baby started to speak Spanish due to an excessive amount of "Dora" in utero
b. Connor tackled him from behind with a maniacal laugh
c. he flicked a wolf spider off his stomach
d. the baby spit up right into his opened and upturned mouth.

The correct answer would be d.

And for the record, this wasn't a little spit-up. It was a hunk of spit-up. Corey had to put his head under the faucet to wash out his mouth.

Magic, I tell you.

I never said it wasn't dark.

Kelly, who would give anything to go back in time and have a video of her husband at that very magic moment, also blogs at Love Well .

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Trade-Off of Being a Stay-At-Home Mom

By Kelly

So I heard another Batman movie just hit the theaters.

Anyone know anything about it?

I’m kidding, of course. “Dark Knight” set a new record its opening weekend, raking in an astounding $158.3 million. To compare: The number two movie for last weekend, the chick-flick “Mama Mia,” only managed to pull in $27.6 million. And according to one poll, more than 60% of the people who saw “Dark Knight” last weekend plan to see it at again in the theaters.

This astounds me for several reasons.

First, I can’t remember the last movie I saw in the theater. Truly. Can’t remember. Maybe "Ratatouille"?

Second, if my sources are correct, it costs approximately half my monthly mortgage payment to see a movie in the theaters these days. And that doesn’t include popcorn, which is more than half the fun. Yet people are spending that kind of money to see a movie, not once, but twice? Wow.

Third ... "Dark Knight" is out already?!? How did I miss this? I consider myself to be a bit of a sci-fi geek. But my first clue that the next Batman had hit the big screen came when I read this fascinating blog critique on Monday.

I am officially out of touch.

A few years ago, before kids, I worked in the news business. I knew something about everything – and I thrived on it. I knew the basic facts of every regional and national news story to hit the wires. (In fact, I discontinued my "Newsweek" subscription because it felt like old news.) I knew gossip about the Presidential candidates. I knew the latest foibles of the movie stars. (Living close to Los Angeles made that easy.) I knew what foods you should avoid if you have breast cancer, which police union charity call was a scam, how to keep your child safe in the bathtub with six easy steps and which salmonella-tainted food had been recalled that week.

But now? I’m a stay-at-home Mom. And while I’m still a bit of a news junkie, I no longer follow every story the way I used to. I’ve fallen off the radar.

My pre-child self would be aghast. "Have you no brain cells, woman?" she would berate. "How do you expect to participate in intelligent and witty repartee if you don't know something about everything? How will you impress the crowd with your keen insight into What's Happening In The World? Have you become the very thing you despise? Have you no self-respect? Have you no pride?"

Well, no. I have self-respect and pride. I just have no time.

Besides, my crowd -- all three of them, ages 6, 4 and 6 months -- probably wouldn't care if I espoused my opinion on "Dark Knight" being a symbol of the emptiness of our culture. (Or a shining example of the depravity of man. Take your pick. I haven't seen it, so I have no basis to enter the fray.)

But really -- and here's where it gets even more freaky -- I don't even care anymore that I'm not in the know about everything.

These days, my life is filled with everyday holiness. I do a puzzle with Connor. I play restaurant with Natalie. I change the baby’s diaper and kiss her belly and make her smile. I make dinner and savor the smell of garlic and onion in olive oil. I bake cookies and eat them fresh out of the oven with a huge glass of milk.

I feel like my eyes are opening to wonder, to simplicity, to the beauty in the small.

And if I do my job right, I have little time or energy left over to keep up with the 24/7 pace of the rest of the world.

It's a trade-off. But it's one I'm willing to make.

So, world, you can have your “Dark Knight.” I have my bright morning -- and it's usually spent eating Cheerios with an crowd of three who cares more about whether I'm actually listening to their silly knock-knock jokes than whether I think Heath Ledger will win a posthumous Oscar.

And I'm more content with that than I ever thought I'd be.

Kelly also blogs at Love Well, which means she probably stayed up too late last night writing. But oh well.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

How to make a birthday special - without hiring Hannah Montana

By Kelly

When Natalie turned one, we threw a huge party.

We didn’t have flame throwers or a Ferris wheel or limo rides. No one got a gift bag, and I made her cake myself.

But we did host a BBQ for our family and friends in our backyard. We invited all the young families in our Sunday school class, and we hired a balloon artist to entertain the masses of children ages three and under. (His rates were impressively reasonable.) Since we lived in San Diego at the time, we busted open a piƱata.And because Natalie was the first grandchild on both sides of the family, the grandparents and out-of-town aunts and uncles flew in for the festivities.

We weren’t trying to jump on the over-the-top birthday treadmill.

We were just deliriously in love with our daughter and so very proud. We wanted to share our joy with everyone we knew.

It was a magical evening, brimming with laughter and delight.

Fast-forward almost six years to today. (An apt description of the parental time warp where my children age eight times faster than me.) Natalie is again approaching a birthday – this time, her seventh. I still love throwing parties for her, but now that we have three kids, we’re trying to keep parties in perspective.

(Of course, at times, you have no choice. Take, for example, Connor’s first birthday. He was just two years behind Natalie, and he was the second grandchild on both sides. But because we had just moved to a small town in the middle of nowhere, very few family members could make it, and we didn’t really have any friends at that point. Thus, his first birthday party consisted of a few balloons and cake at the dining room table. I’m already saving for his therapy.)

Natalie’s party this year will be at a indoor water park. Her guests will be the other girls from her first grade class; no more mixed birthday parties for a while. It will be a pretty simple affair -- just sugar, singing and swimming.

I feel good about that. Hopefully, it will be a fun afternoon for everyone – without having to morph into an occasion that rivals the Presidential Inaugural Ball.

But because this party will be a couple of days before her actual birthday, I’m left wondering how I can make the date of her birth special. I don’t want to skip over that day on the calendar. It’s important to me. It changed my life.

We still don’t have much family in the area, so it will probably be just our immediate family celebrating that day. Traditionally, the birthday person gets to request their favorite meal for dinner that night – and of course, we have more cake.

But that doesn’t seem fun enough. (I’m a bit of a fun addict.) I want more – without having to go all out for a second party. Maybe a silly wake-up song? A special card at breakfast? What traditions do you have in your family to make birthdays special? I'm looking for ideas.

Find Kelly also blogging at Love Well.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Busy Brain, Excitement and the Tightrope Walk of Motherhood

By Kelly

I couldn’t fall asleep last night.

I should have started twitching as soon as my head hit my faux goose down pillow. Two weeks ago, I helped out at our church’s Vacation Bible School. (Read: Fun but crazy schedule.) Last week, my husband and I took our three kids – Natalie (6), Connor (4) and Teyla (5 months) – to six days of family camp in the Minnesota north woods. (Read: Fun but crazy schedule.) And the days since we got home from camp have been a vortex of laundry and fireworks and grocery shopping and the lake and more laundry.

What I’m saying is – I’m physically exhausted.

But when my mind is spinning, I’m not sleepy. Busy brain, my husband and I call it. And nothing gives me busy brain like eager anticipation.

It’s just hard to relax when you’re sitting on a secret as good as this one.

Ever since Stephanie invited me to be on the 5 Minutes for Parenting team, I’ve been flying high. Giddy, even.

Do you remember how you felt the day you first took a pregnancy test – and it was positive? Such a happy little secret. It’s like sneaking a square of Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate with Caramel right before dinner - without the kids noticing.

I’m excited by everything the 5 Minutes of Parenting site has to offer. Great writing. Unique voices. A solid brand. The fellowship of moms. The empathy. The support. The laughter.

But as I lay in bed last night, staring at the night stand, I was jolted by the thought, “Wow, you’re more excited about this than you are about being a mom, most days.”

That’s not true, of course. At least, not all of the time.

But almost immediately, I saw a mental mash-up of the kids’ bedtime routine just a few hours earlier. I impatiently thumbed through a magazine while Teyla nursed herself to sleep. (Do cows get reading material when they’re hooked up to those milking machines? I'm just sayin'.) I rushed through bedtime stories with Connor and Natalie, gave them a peck on the head even as my body turned toward the door, and whispered “Goodnightloveyou!” over my shoulder.

And the whole time, I was inwardly glowing over the 5 Minutes for Parenting debut.

To top it all off, my personal blog is named Love Well. It’s suppose to be a reminder for me to slow down and focus on what really matters – my husband, my children, my faith. To love well, each day. To make that my priority.

Oh the irony. It’s as rich as maple syrup.

Yet, if you’re reading this blog, I suspect you understand this tension. I don’t know a mom alive who doesn’t fall madly in love with her children every night when she tucks them into bed. Sleeping children - hair smelling like Johnson’s, skin kissed by the sun - are the closest thing to angels this side of heaven. (Don’t even get me started on sleeping babies, with their little bums in the air like tiny stink bugs, cheeks rosy and damp. It’s too much to take.)

But that loving maternal glow has a way of vanishing at 3:30 AM when one of the angels screams, “Mommy! Come in here quick!”

It’s like walking a tightrope. We aim to walk steady and sure, one foot in front of the other, head held high in unwavering poise.

But more often than not, we pitch and weave and stumble and adjust.

I’m so glad we’re in this together.

Kelly is also known to blog at Love Well if the kids ever go to bed early.