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What’s the point? November 9, 2012

Filed under: Chapter Books — Kristi @ 1:05 am
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I don’t think she has very much fun, and what’s the point in being that clean if it means you never get to have any fun? (from Ellray Jakes is NOT a chicken! by Sally Warner)

I have always said the best way to get my house clean is to invite people over. If I know someone is coming, historically, I clean in a frenzy and make it perfect because I want people to believe I am some sort of superior housekeeper and that it always looks like this. And, for a long time, I went around feeling somewhat inadequate in the housekeeping department because every house I went to was spotless and I believed these houses remained in a permanent state of cleanliness that I had been woefully unable to achieve in my own. Not so, reader. Not so.

About a year ago, a friend invited my son and me to her house for a play date and when we got there I was struck by how messy her house was. I don’t mean that to sound rude. When I say it was messy, I mean that there were scattered toys, junk mail was on the table in a careless heap, dishes were in and around the sink, and I could tell the counter top had not been freshly wiped. When I say it was messy, I mean that it was exactly like my  house most of the time. It was normal. It was just their home the way they actually live in it. I couldn’t fathom the kind of confidence she must have had, to be able to invite people over in such a relaxed way, with no fresh smell of Lemon Clorox greeting friends at the door. When I got home I just felt so blessedly normal.

So I don’t clean my house for play dates anymore either. And, as a result, I have people over a lot more. Which means I have more fun. I no longer see the state of my home as a barrier to hospitality. You know what? We have a messy desk. There is pureed pumpkin stuck to the kitchen floor. There are whisker hairs on the bathroom sink and I can see a sock peeking out from under a toy peeking out from under the couch. It is what it is and what it is, is normal. I bet you have a junk mail pile too. So why stuff it in a drawer or cabinet before I come over? So I will think you are the type of magical person who has no paper pile? I am not relaxed around those magical people. I am relaxed around people who make me feel normal.

I worked a charity tour of homes once when I was in high school and the house I was helping give tours in was one of those that you can very briefly describe and everyone in town knows which house it is. (Oh, the big stone house on Bennett that always has a limo out front? I know that house!) It literally had an elevator in it. And one of the bedrooms had leopard print carpet. One of the bathrooms had a mural of the home owner painted on the tile. One of the bedrooms had a ceiling raised several feet to accommodate a piece of furniture. Anyway. It was that kind of house. Just before the tour, the home owner (as gorgeous and strange as her house) showed me around and gave me the spiel. When we entered one of the bathrooms, she said, “Ooops! I forgot to move these!” and hid the toothbrushes in a cabinet. I thought that was so funny–to hide your toothbrushes–to make it look like a house in a magazine spread that no one really lives in. And the truth is, I have tried and tried to imagine someone relaxing there and I can’t. It’s just too perfect.

Do I want to create an environment that people want to tour and photograph or one where people want to live and breathe and have a good time? Well, I might put the gnarly, twisted toothpaste tube in the bathroom cabinet, but our toothbrushes are out for the world to see.

 

 

Out of a book June 28, 2012

This was something you couldn’t learn by heart out of a book–not that she hadn’t tried. (from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling)

First of all, my goodness, thank you so much for such a wonderful response to Tuesday’s post. I don’t think this blog has ever enjoyed so many facebook shares or so many views in a two-day period. Thank you. I so desperately want moms to know that they are doing motherhood right just by doing it at all, by following their instincts and loving their own children. It can flat out break your heart for the world to first tell you that motherhood is the most important job in the world, then suggest that you are doing it wrong. Most likely, you’re not doing it wrong.

You know, I remember the first time I ever dealt with mother-guilt. I was pregnant with my son and I was criticized for drinking a Dr. Pepper. (For those of you who don’t know, when you are suffering from pregnancy fatigue and your job is to listen to first-graders sound out words and it’s late afternoon, Dr. Pepper is like the nectar of the gods and the only thing that could remotely keep a woman awake.) An older woman scolded me for feeding my unborn baby caffeine and successfully made me feel awful. Even though my doctor had said it was okay to have caffeine in reasonable amounts. I have dealt with the guilt that is just constantly heaped on mothers many times since, but that was the first.

Anyway, I did not anticipate so much response to Tuesday’s post, but since it’s there I feel I should explain just a little bit more and maybe temper it a bit. First off, I am not criticizing any parenting methods. I think you should do whatever works for your own family whether it comes from a book, a friend, or your own intuition. But I have a huge problem with the labeling that goes on. I heard a friend say once, “I could never Ferberize my babies!” What she meant is that she wouldn’t use “the Ferber method” of letting her babies “cry it out” to train them to fall asleep on their own. A commenter here mentioned Dr. Sears and that his book made her realize it was okay to nurse her baby to sleep. Okay, so we have two very different methods out there. Which one is right? The answer is that neither one is universally right! One of them or a combination of both of them or neither of them may be what’s right for your own family. I rock my babies to sleep and nurse them to sleep. I did it with Benjamin and I do it with June Elizabeth. I love rocking and nursing them to sleep. But when Benjamin was between seven and eight months old he started waking up in the night and I would have to nurse him back to sleep. As time went on, he woke more and more frequently every night to the point that at twelve months he was waking about every two to three hours! So, just after his first birthday, we let him cry it out one night. Every twenty minutes I would go in and comfort him, then leave again. It took two and a half hours! It was awful. But it worked. The next night it only took 30 minutes. The following night, only 7. So, yeah, we used both methods. Maybe BabyWise works for your family from the getgo or maybe, like me, you want to rock your babies to sleep and nurse on demand.  It’s your baby. It’s your choice. You are a good mom. You are not a “Babywise” mom or a “Ferber mom” or an “Attachment mom.” You are just a good mom. That’s my point.

The other thing I want to say is that, while books are great, parenting isn’t something you can learn by heart out of a book. Every family is different. Every child in a family is different. No one book could possibly address every nuance of raising every child. You can read a post I wrote about my experience with that here. You can get a lot of good tips, but eventually your own intuition and experiences will define your parenting. And what I want you to know, what I need to know, is that that’s not only okay, it’s exactly right. You are doing it right.

 

Can’t it just be parenting? June 26, 2012

You have brains in you head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. (from Oh! The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss)


You want to know what I’m sick to death of? Parenting debates. Parenting books. Parenting “styles.” Every day there is some article or picture or facebook status or recommended book about “attachment” or some other form of parenting, some new fad or other. And every time I want to say, “Why does it have to be a style? Can’t it just be called parenting?” Before I get very high on my soap box, I should lay down my credentials: I do not have a PhD in neuroscience, have never  written a parenting book, and am not a certified parent educator, pediatrician, or any other kind of expert. My credentials are that I am a parent, I have two parents and two parents-in-law, am married to a parent, and know a lot of parents. Those are my only credentials.

I am the coordinator of a local MOPS (Mothers Of Preschoolers) group and we have a diverse bunch of mamas in our number. They are all wonderful. I mean, wonderful. There is one young woman, pretty new to our group, who has a lot of questions about attachment parenting, baby-led weaning, introducing solids, elimination communication, etc. She must be reading parenting books and websites all the time. She doesn’t have to do that. She’s already a good mom. She was practically born that way. That’s my problem with all of these parenting trends and styles. You don’t need a method to follow. You are already a good mom. If you fail at one system, if you never pick up a parenting book in life, you will still be fine. Your children will be fine. That’s what I honestly believe.

I breastfed my son until he was sixteen months old. It was important to me to get to breastfeed and I had a good support system with my mom and my husband so I was successful at getting through the hard part and getting into the really enjoyable part of it. My sister breastfed her son for two months. When she went back to work at six weeks, it was incredibly hard for her to keep it up. She had to pump in a bathroom stall at lunch, her one break during the work day. It was gross and it was hard. Her husband was a genuine abuser who dragged her postpartum emotional state through the mud. She lost way too much weight from stress. She loved her little boy like crazy, eventually left the abuser and became an incredible single mama. How high on the priority ladder do you think breastfeeding was? I would put my son next to hers and dare you to tell me which one was breastfed and which one was formula fed. There’s no way you could tell. Which of us is the better mom? If you answer that question at all I’ll slap you.

One time I saw someone with her baby strapped to her in a wrap. I thought, “That looks handy!” So when someone was getting rid of a similar wrap, I took the hand-me-down and have used it happily. It’s wonderfully convenient even though it’s sometimes really hot. I didn’t know when I accepted the wrap that what I was doing was called “baby wearing” and that it is part of a method called “attachment parenting.” I just thought it was handy. I have since seen articles and interviews with followers of this method that praise the virtues of baby wearing and look right down their noses at moms who instead of wearing their babies, put them in what they call “containers.” Since I’ve been accused of being a baby wearer, rightfully so, I should probably now tell you that if my baby falls asleep in the car seat and I have stuff to do, I have no problem carrying her inside the house in it and setting it down in a cool place until she wakes up. Today I wore her in the wrap for the entire time that I ran errands. But this afternoon she slept in the car seat carrier for an hour. Gosh, I hope she doesn’t grow up unable to trust me and feel safe. We also have a swing and a bouncy seat and a stroller. I’ve actually heard people criticize strollers as “containers” to hold a baby when the mom should be holding the baby. Give me and my back a break.

We have a bassinet in our bedroom for the baby and a crib in the kids’ room down the hall. She’s almost eight weeks old so she’s still sleeping in the bassinet at this stage. I’m not ready to tackle the concept of my three-year-old and my infant sleeping in the same room yet. I know there are a whole slew of sleep methods out there–how you schedule your kids’ sleep, recommended bedtimes, where is ideal for kids to sleep, co-sleeping, etc, etc, etc. Here’s what flies in our house. Our son’s bed time is technically 8:00pm. If he’s in bed by 8:10 we call it a win. If he’s asleep by 8:30 we call it a miracle. He’s almost always asleep by 9:00. I know you’re all shocked and horrified. He goes to bed in his toddler bed, with a lamp on, and after we read stories and pray, my husband has to sweep all the monsters out of the room (my son has a great imagination). The baby usually is asleep enough that I put her in the bassinet around 10:00. Last night she would fall asleep and I would put her down and then ten minutes later she would be awake again over and over and over again. So I finally put her down on her tummy (I know, I know! But we have a movement sensor monitor on the bassinet so get over it) at 11:45pm. She slept until 7:00 this morning. I call that a win. I rolled out of my deep sleep around 6:00am and discovered that my son was sleeping between me and my husband. I don’t know when he came to our bed. I didn’t care. I just rolled over and kept sleeping, too tired to carry him back to his own bed. Sometimes when the baby gets up to eat at 5:00am, I nurse her lying next to me in my bed so I don’t have to wake up too much. Then she stays there until after I get up in the morning because I’m too tired to stand up and take her back to the bassinet. So, it’s kind of like what some people call “co-sleeping.” But I wouldn’t say that we intentionally co-sleep. I would just say that we sleep. Any way we can. Which ever way makes everyone sleep the longest time at a stretch is the way I prefer.

I read an article the other day in which a woman said she would consider putting your kids in front of a television to be child abuse. That kind of made me mad because when I worked in a public school I saw kids who had actually been subjected to child abuse. Television is not child abuse. Call it lazy parenting if you want to, but it’s not abuse. My son is watching Kipper The Dog right now because the baby is asleep and I want him to be quiet. It’s literally 109 degrees in my town today so we’re not going outside to play.We’re staying in and watching a show until she wakes up. He also watches gentle cartoons like that pretty much every morning because I am not a morning person. I throw a bunch of grapes or strawberries on a plate with a slice of bread, shake up a sippy cup of chocolate milk, turn on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and go back to bed for another half hour at least. Then, if he’s still watching, I take a shower and am ready to be a pretty good mom. If you call that child abuse, we can’t be friends.

We used disposable diapers on my son until he was potty trained earlier this year. For my daughter, we are using cloth diapers. We really like the cloth diapers and we feel like we’re saving money by using them. But we still use disposables at night. I don’t feel like a better mom for using cloth diapers. I just feel like I’m saving some money. I couldn’t care less what anyone else puts on their babies’ butts. That’s a really crappy debate.

I pray for my kids. Not because someone gave me the book The Power Of A Praying Mom but because sometimes parenting is terrifying. I pray for them because I want so much more for them than I could ever, ever give them. I pray for them because I’m exhausted and scared sometimes and I just want to hand it all over to a higher power.

I read to my kids because I like books and I want them to like them too. I don’t have a set number of words I read to them in a day. I just read to them.

I take my son outside to play but not when it’s 109 degrees outside. When it’s 109 degrees outside we don’t even go out for snow cones because we would melt in the line. I’m a weeny about the hot days.

My three-year-old is a picky eater so I kind of rely on Flintstone vitamins to supplement his nutrients. I know the experts say that if you only offer them what you’re eating, they will eventually eat it. But the experts are dead wrong. He will flat out starve himself. Thankfully, he likes fruit and vegetables but he eats a lot of chicken nuggets for protein. At least, I hope there’s some protein in there. And he won’t drink milk without Nesquick powder in it. When I worked in an elementary school there was this one mom who always made these beautiful bento lunches for her kid. I kind of wanted to be like her but really I just get the food on the plate and try to get him to eat it. No fancy preparations.

If I were ever to write a parenting book (which I never ever would), I would call my style “winging it.” Because that’s what I think most everybody is doing anyway. And most of us are doing fine. I honestly think that if you are not an abuser, you are a good parent and the best parent for your own kids. So just relax. You don’t have to follow a method or a trend. You can do whatever you want, whatever makes things go smoothly in your house. It doesn’t have to be this kind of parenting or that. It can just be parenting. And, at least you’re doing it.

Wingin’ it

 

Darling April 24, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kristi @ 11:56 am
Tags: , , , , ,

I love it when she calls me that. Darling. I love it more than my own name. I felt like giving her one hundred and thirty-two kisses.


(from Alvin-Ho: Allergic To Dead Bodies, Funerals, And Other Fatal Circumstances by Lenore Look)

It’s wonderful to have a three-year-old because he’s old enough to talk and start to explain what is happening in his mind, but young enough to be unashamedly sweet and loving, young enough to tell me what he wants and what he loves without being embarrassed. This quote from Alvin-Ho reminded me of my boy.

We have many little nicknames for him, lots of terms of endearment that just float around our house. But I’m starting to see that he prefers different ones for different times. The other day he was hurt. I picked him up in my lap and stroked his hair. “Are you okay?” I said. “Yeah, I’m okay. Can you call me Baby Bear and  rock me?”  What a precious moment. How sweet to be able to meet his needs exactly because he tells me exactly what he needs.

Another day recently he said, “Mom! I goed in the potty like such a big boy now you say I’m SOOOOO proud, Benjamin!” Sometimes when he has, ahem, a big potty accomplishment he’ll ask for a few M&Ms or mini marshmallows because we used these rewards when we first trained him. But that day he just wanted some praise, some words of affirmation, just to hear me say that I was proud of him. It was the only reward he wanted.

I can’t help but think, what would it be like if we grown-ups weren’t too cool to be vulnerable like that? What would happen if we just asked for what we need or want instead of just hoping that our friends and spouses and moms will read our minds? Sometimes people even offer to help or to comfort and we say, “Oh, I’m fine! Don’t worry about me.” We forget that we might also be causing them to miss some joy in getting to help or to hug. I’m not suggesting that we all become just like three-year-olds or whine for what we want, expecting someone to cater to our every whim. But we could stand to be more vulnerable.

I’m learning this, nine-months pregnant with a broken toe and a lot to do. I’m learning to say, “Yes! I do need someone to pick up my son for me so I can rest for a few hours.” And, “Sure–I’d love to have some help with my laundry or my sewing project.”  “Oh, a drink from Sonic would be lovely if it’s on your way. Thank you!”  Even, “Honey, I’m having a rough day. Do you think you could play with my hair while we talk?”

 

You do or you don’t April 6, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kristi @ 8:59 am
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

“You either get hit by lightning, or you don’t,” whispered Hobson.

“If you can’t start a fire, you could freeze to death,” added Scooter. “If you do start a fire, you could burn to death.”

(from Alvin Ho: Allergic To Camping, Hiking, And Other Natural Disasters by Lenore Look)

I am exactly the kind of person to worry about every possibility. If my husband stays up too late working, I worry that he’ll be an unsafe driver the next morning on the way to work and I’ll be left alone to raise our babies. If he doesn’t stay up late to finish a proposal in time for a deadline, I worry that he’ll somehow lose his job and we’ll end up penniless on welfare. If my left foot swells more than my right, I worry that I could have some sort of life-threatening blood clot in my leg. But if I go to the hospital in the evening to check on this, I worry that I will pay an extreme amount of money just to find out that it’s nothing. I have always been this way. I’ve actually gotten so much better.

But it’s helpful at times to laugh out loud at someone like Alvin Ho, someone like me. Because, really, there isn’t any sense in worrying everything to death. I can’t believe how much research went into our selection of car seat when I was pregnant with Benjamin. It seemed like the world’s most important dilemma–to make sure he had the seat that would keep him safe. But what keeps him safe from a tornado, a fire, a freak fall, an illness? At some point you have to let go. I can’t protect myself, my husband, and my children from every scenario. Why waste the days we have on worry? You either get struck by lightning or you don’t.

 

The value of Doing Nothing February 3, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kristi @ 11:04 am
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Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering. (from Winnie The Pooh by A.A. Milne)

The value of doing nothing? In our world that is unheard of. Sometimes I feel like a hamster in a wheel–running to exhaustion all day long with nothing really to show for it at the end. I pick up toys and vacuum up the crumbs of snacks, work on the budget, read stories to my son while he sits on his little toddler toilet, change my nephew’s diapers, search for the toddler tunes cd that is always wandering off, fix lunch, work on sewing for my baby girl, pick up more toys and vacuum up more crumbs, run the dishwasher, do a load or two of laundry, stare forlornly at the to-do lists, answer e-mails, make the grocery list, clip coupons, try to get up the energy to drag the boys to the store with me so we can eat something more nutritious, clean up after accidents, etc. And at the end of the day, the house is still a wreck but I am exhausted.

Sometimes, it seems good to me just to take a page out of Winnie the Pooh’s book and realize the value of doing nothing. The other day, I just sat and did nothing while my son colored with abandon all over the wall of the dining room. I would have stopped him if it had been the couch, or if he had been using a marker. But, he was having fun and he didn’t need me to actively participate in this fun, and Mr. Clean (God bless the people who make Mr. Clean) makes a magic eraser that I believe is truly magical. So I didn’t stop my son even though I saw him coloring on the walls (and it’s not the first time I’ve made this decision either!), choosing instead to do nothing. To not bother. And it was a good moment. He was proud of his art work, pleased with his quiet coloring time and I felt much more rested.

I read in a mommy book the other night a woman’s account of her college roommate slamming a book closed after a long night of study and exclaiming,  “C+ works! Goodnight!” I am a first-born who has always believed I am supposed to make an A+ in everything. I can remember my dad’s disappointment when I made a 99 on an Indian long-house project in the seventh grade that he and I stayed up for two long nights finishing. It was beautiful. The teacher actually asked if she could keep it as an example to show future classes. But I forgot one tiny requirement on the instructions (a title for the project visible on the outside of it) and slapped on my project a hastily thought-out title scribbled on paper torn from my notebook and attached with scotch tape. So I lost one point out of a hundred. When my dad began to be angry with my teacher, it was terrible to have to tell him that the instructions were clear and I was the one who didn’t follow them. I felt like I let him down after he helped me so much with the project. He was pretty upset with me over that one point. (To be fair to my dad, though, he knew I could make a 100 on that project. When, in high school, I got in over my head in an honors physics class and brought home my only ever C grade, he didn’t say a word. He knew I had tried my best and just did not understand the math in that class.)

Anyway, I always expected to be an A+ homemaker. I thought I would be an overachiever as a mom. But the philosophy I’ve adopted over the last couple of years is this: A passing grade works. I will never get any awards for good housekeeping. But if my children are happy and I’m not losing my mind, who really cares if my house is barely passing? I don’t imagine anyone is actually grading me anyway. I don’t want to live in a trash heap and I do feel better if the house is clean. But for me, it’s enough if I can just go to bed with the toys off the floor and the dishes out of the sink. If I can get the laundry actually folded and put away, I feel like that takes me from a C to a B and I’m okay with that. I don’t imagine that Martha Stewart is going to show up to my house anytime soon with white gloves on to discover, in horror, that I haven’t dusted in an age. I’m sure our reputation will survive if someone drops by for an unexpected visit before I’ve erased my son’s artwork from the white walls.

Sometimes a passing grade is enough. Never underestimate the value of just Doing Nothing, of not bothering.

 

Thinking you can January 20, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kristi @ 5:31 pm
Tags: , , , ,

If the track is tough and the hill is rough,

THINKING you can just ain’t enough!

(from The Little Blue Engine by Shel Silverstein)

Today is my second day of potty training my son using a three-day method. Today has been okay. Yesterday was dreadful. Yesterday we went through ten pair of toddler underwear before the day was done. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt more tired than I did at the end of the day yesterday. Not even when he was a newborn.

So far the method seems to be going by the book (or rather, by the e-book  3DayPottyTraining.com) but I have a few minor complaints about the book. Number 1: The book says that though you will undeniably feel frustration, you are never to show this frustration, keeping at all times a positive attitude toward the process. Well, pregnancy hormones made this a nearly impossible charge. I found myself fighting back tears MANY times yesterday, from frustration, from fatigue, from my house smelling like urine… But I think it was worth it. He seems to be catching on here in day two, so maybe one day of hell is worth not giving up a year (or more!) to the roller coaster of potty training. Of course, this positive spin is completely dependent on the method working in the end, but my hopes are high.

Number 2: The book says don’t take your eyes off the child at all. All day long. Even if you have to go to the bathroom yourself. Well sure, I don’t want to miss the chance to catch him mid-accident and teach him to run to the bathroom, but the baby girl in my womb is kicking at my bladder constantly and my son gets so tired of trailing me to the bathroom every time I need to go. He’s very happy to play on his own and usually does so for lengthy bits of time. He was pretty tired of me being in his business all day long yesterday, and forcing him to be in mine. Also, he usually entertains himself while I take my daily shower. To make sure we weren’t separated for the length of a shower yesterday, I got up at 6:30am to take one and prepare myself for the day. 6:30 AM!!! My son usually gets up around 7:15, I give him a cup of yogurt and a granola bar or toaster waffle for breakfast and go back to bed until about 8:30. Like I said, he entertains himself. 6:30 is a dark and ungodly hour and it came back to bite me in the mid afternoon when I could barely hold my eyes open. It’s hard to keep your eyes focused on a toddler peeing time-bomb when your eyes want so badly to just close. Today I skipped the morning shower and just waited until a time when I was pretty sure he wouldn’t need to use the potty, planted him on a stool at the bathroom sink with some splash toys, and took a shower in the afternoon while he played. Much better.

I read a quote on Pinterest the other day that said, “The length of a minute depends on which side of the bathroom door you are.” When I called my husband yesterday before lunch and said, “This is terrible! It’s not working at all and I’m going crazy!” his response was, “Well, it’s only been four hours.” The length of four hours depends on if you are the one potty training a nearly three-year-old boy or not. I reminded him of this. He became much more sympathetic and showed up a little while later with a mocha frappaccino from Starbucks. God bless the man.

Last night, once the laundry was in the dryer (we had to have all those underwear ready for another day) and my baby was asleep (without a diaper), I  collapsed into a heap of utter exhaustion and prayed for the grace, patience, resolve, and strength for another day. I couldn’t honestly imagine doing it all again. But as I lay there, I thought of how lucky I am just to have him. I thought of all the things we go through as mamas: pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, diapers, sleep training, potty training, nightmare soothing, cleaning up messes.  It’s hard work, but some people would give anything they have to get to do these things. I know women who struggle with infertility, with miscarriage after miscarriage, with losing their children too soon.

It’s hard work. If today hadn’t been much better than yesterday (so far), I probably wouldn’t be writing this (because I couldn’t take my eyes off of him yesterday. Today he is actually napping!). Again, it’s hard work. It wasn’t enough just to decide to do it and pluck up my resolve, to say, “I think I can.” I needed more than that. I needed prayer. I needed that extra caffeine from Starbucks. I needed to be allowed to cry at some point. But at the end of a truly bad day as a mom, I’m still so grateful just to be one. I’m so glad I get to be his mama.