Posts Tagged ‘Family’

When Being Cold Became Cool

Wednesday, March 4, 2015
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My car dashboard indicated that the outside temperature was only two degrees, but the students streaming into the middle and high schools seemed almost oblivious,

Most were dressed in jeans and hoodies with no coats. A few of the boys  wore shorts, and a few girls wore skirts with no tights or leggings. Even in my warm car with heated seats, seeing those bare legs made me shiver.

Not one student wore a hat or gloves, although some had their hands shoved into pockets as they walked to school from a nearby neighborhood.

My own two children were only wearing light jackets, but at least they were wearing some type of outerwear, which was more than most of their peers. I felt a swell of parental pride as I dropped each of them off at their respective schools. They might not be wearing hats, but at least they both had enough sense to wear long sleeves and long pants.

Based on what most students were wearing that frigid morning, I’m guessing parents and common sense have an equal amount of influence over teenagers’ clothing choices. Gone are the times when we had could protect our children from harsh weather elements.

The day after my son was born in early April, I was preparing him to leave the hospital and head home for the first time.

The nurse charged with monitoring our departure was obviously displeased. Before I nestled Shepherd into his car seat, she intervened.

“Your not letting him go outside like that?” she asked with a distinct note of disapproval.

I looked at my son and simply nodded.

“There’s a chill in the air,” she declared as she picked up a blanket and tucked it around Shepherd with an expertise I was sure I’d never have.

I felt as thought I’d already flunked Motherhood 101. I hadn’t known that exposing my son’s bare face and hands to 60 degree weather was cause for alarm. If only I could have flashed forward almost 17 years, I would have been laughing at both the nurse and myself.

Babies are tough. Kids are tougher. And parents have to be the toughest of all, no matter what the weather.

We may have to be tough, but we don’t have to be cool since being cool apparently requires enduring frigid temperatures while pretending to be unaffected. I’m perfectly content to be the weird mom who covers herself in coats, scarfs, hats and gloves.

I have no need to be cold and no desire to be cool.

I do, however, have a burning desire to ensure my kids make decisions based on their own well-being rather than on the prevailing styles.

The light jackets they wore on that incredibly frigid morning indicate that I just may be making slight progress toward that goal.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

It takes a village

Monday, March 2, 2015
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Last Friday, a wild idea popped into my head and I decided to venture out of the house for dinner and some shopping. That meant packing what seemed like enough supplies for an entire weekend and wrangling a screaming baby into her car seat (which she’s recently decided to hate). An hour later we were on our way.

I must have been quite a site as I walked in to the restaurant. I was the first one of my group there, and was balancing purse, diaper bag, and baby. Since AJ can sit on her own now, I decided to try to put her in a high chair for the first time. With one hand securing AJ on my lap, I tried to correctly place our high chair cover on the chair with the other. It was at this point a nice gentleman walked over to me and asked, “Ma’am, do you need some help?”

“NoI’mfinethankyou,” I quickly muttered, surprised by him and a little embarrassed that it was so obvious that I DID need help. But as my husband knows all too well, I hate asking for help.

Even in school, I rarely asked questions, because I didn’t want help from the teachers; I wanted to figure it out on my own.

So, when AJ was born, I thought I could do it all on my own. That notion was quickly squashed, but even now I’m still having trouble asking for, or accepting, help. Which is one of the reasons I’m so grateful for all the help I do receive from my friends, family, our daycare, and even strangers.

When it comes to raising (or rearing, if you want to go the grammatically correct route) children, it truly does take a village. Chris and I are fortunate to have so many people who not only care about AJ but who are willing to drop whatever they are doing and rush to our aide.

From grandparents who go above and beyond their call of duty to the strangers who gave up their seat for us while we were waiting for a table at lunch, it’s inspiring how willing and ready others are to help us in our journey.

Some days I wake up and I’ve got it all together, but others I wonder how, and if, I’m going to make it. It’s those “survival days” when I start to think maybe I’m not cut out for this motherhood thing. Every mom has been there, and we all make it through, many times with a little help from those close to us.

Later that evening, I went up to the man who offered to help and I thanked him. I admitted I was flustered and he caught me by surprise. I wanted to make sure he knew his offer was appreciated, because if I’m lucky enough for someone to offer help, I should take it without embarrassment.

Even supermoms need help sometimes, because as the saying goes, “it takes a village.”

Kelly Weikle and her husband Chris are navigating the uncharted road of parenthood with their infant daughter, AJ. Kelly shares the ups, downs, laughs, and cries of new motherhood on The Mommyhood every Monday. When not discovering what everyone else who has a child already knows, Kelly works full time in corporate communications.

The Birthday Present

Wednesday, February 25, 2015
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As a kid, I loved my birthday.

I loved getting special attention, eating cake, opening presents and even having the occasional birthday party. In the birthdaydark ages when  I was growing up, we didn’t expect birthday parties every year, and we certainly didn’t expect elaborate parties. Our moms blew up a few balloons and invited the neighbor kids over to play games and eat homemade birthday cake.

After I hit the magical age of 21, I cared less and less about birthdays. By the time I was 30, everyone expected me to be in a bad mood on the day I was expected to celebrate.

To me, birthdays were simply  reminders that I was getting older and hadn’t achieved as much as someone my age should have.

I had come to adopt my father’s philosophy about birthdays. He always wondered why we made such a big deal about the day we were born when we didn’t do any of the actual work.

The year that he and my mother were married, he actually sent flowers to my grandmother on my mom’s birthday thanking her what had happened 25 years earlier, Apparently, my grandmother thought he was a little strange, so he never sent her flowers again.  But he did continue to raise the same questions from time to time.

I embraced my dad’s philosophy before and after I had my own children.

I considered throwing birthday parties for my kids to be the ultimate test of parenthood. Like most tests, they kept me up at night with worry,and I never enjoyed them. I just didn’t get why birthdays were such a big deal.

That changed a few days ago with one phone call

My friend Stefani, who had been battling cancer for years, had been given 48 hours to live during the week when I was turning 48 years old.

My friend, who threw amazing birthday parties for her daughters and who celebrated her life to the fullest, died the week when I was prepared to once again complain that I was yet another year older.

My friend, who  had grown to  appreciate the importance of holding our children close, celebrating every moment and creating memories that can live beyond our last breath, gave me one last birthday present.

She reminded me that birthdays aren’t intended to be a reminder of our march toward old age but are actually intended to be a celebration of survival, perseverance and the people who have loved and  supported us during those difficult times.

This year, I’m celebrating my birthday because I know Stef would have excepted nothing less.

Here’s to you Stef.

Cheers.

 

The Great Snow Shovel Showdown

Wednesday, February 18, 2015
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snowmageddonI am once again braced for the drama that winter’s harsh storms bring to my neighborhood.

My caution doesn’t stem from concern about breaking bones when I slip on ice – even though that is a likely outcome every time there’s a snow storm. I’ve broken bones in both of my hands and still have scars from a shattered wrist, a result of my general lack of grace on ice.

Nor is my concern about getting into a car accident – although I have had numerous close calls on snow-packed roads.

Instead, I am on high alert with the realization that I MUST be the first in my neighborhood to clear the driveway. Anything else is an indication of my failure to accept my neighbors’ challenge for a snow shovel showdown.

My husband claims that I’m imagining such a competition and insists I’m using it as an excuse to once again indulge my tendency to be a bit obsessive.

While I admit to being obsessive, I am also very observant. Since I walk my German Shepherd every day before dawn and again after work, I know the rhythm of the neighborhood. I know who goes to work early, who works a strange schedule and who doesn’t work at all. I know who takes meticulous care of their yard and who takes shortcuts. I know who is friendly, who likes dogs and who pretends they have no neighbors at all. I also know which  neighbors are avid competitors in the snow shovel showdown.

They are the individuals who keep close tabs on the latest weather report to determine the precise time they should tackle their driveway. Their mission? To ensure their driveway is black asphalt bordered with piles of snow by the time the first car drives by.

A few years ago, some neighbors tried to gain an unfair advantage by purchasing snow blowers that created perfectly straight lines along their driveways rather than the uneven mounds of snow. Since no one in my neighborhood has a particularly long or unwieldy driveway, the straight edges of snow never gained any respect.

What does gain respect is the sound of a snow shovel scraping pavement.

I woke to that sound the other morning after a recent snow fall and immediately recognized it as a call to arms.

I should have known my next-door neighbor would be out before me.

The night before, I had heard a strange noise and asked my husband to verify my suspicions. I called him to the bedroom window to peer into the quickly fading light and watch my neighbor walking up and down his driveway.

He was getting a jump start on clearing his driveway by using a leaf blower to remove the snow as soon as it fell. A leaf blower wouldn’t leave the evidence of cheating hat a snow blower does.

I lay awake most of the night listening for any additional sounds of someone getting a head start on their driveway until I finally fell asleep to the sounds of the city snow plow. I actually dreamed about shoveling snow, so I shouldn’t have been surprised to wake up to the sound of scrape, scrape sound of metal on asphalt.

While I would have preferred to wrap myself tighter in my blankets and stay in bed, I am just too competitive.

I jumped out of bed and pulled on tights, leggings, wool socks, two shirts, a coat, gloves and a hat. I was prepared to tackle the driveway in five degree weather.

Rodney, the German Shepherd, had other ideas. He was prepared to go for his normal, morning walk. Since the kids didn’t have to go to school and my husband didn’t have to leave for work until much later in the day, I didn’t want Rodney whining and barking, And so, I took him for a short spin around the neighborhood. Unfortunately, that drastically set me back on my driveway clearing schedule.

By the time we returned, my neighbor’s driveway was already cleared.

I didn’t see him gloat, but neither did I see any cars drive by.

If I hurried to clear our driveway, no one would know what had transpired.  Neither would they know that I already have my eye on this weekend’s forecast for more snow. I’ve always been a really early riser on weekends.

Game on.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

Motherhood Test Anxiety

Wednesday, February 11, 2015
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Being a mom is like constantly suffering test anxiety.test_-_multiple_choice1

I should know.

Back in my student days, I hated taking tests. I always considered myself horrible at exams. That belief stemmed not from the scores I received but from the emotional turmoil I experienced before, during and even after tests.

Generally, I paid attention to lectures and completed most of the required reading. I usually studied and would actually feel fairly confident before a test. At least, I was confident until I took the risk of talking to other students. Their concerns about failure would immediately become mine. Then, the day of a test, I would listen to my classmates as they reviewed potential questions. If there was something I didn’t know, I could feel a sense of panic come over me. Even worse, if another class had already taken the same test and reported that the questions were unfair and impossible, I immediately became a nervous wreck.  Even after the test was over and I had done my best, I would second guess at least one or two answers.

My anxiety was never relieved until I actually had the results in hand.

Being a mom isn’t much different except that I’m never actually provided with the results. Instead, I feel as though I’m constantly preparing for a final exam that is always a day away.

No matter how much I think I know, it’s never enough. I often find myself listening to other moms talk about  how they handled a specific situation, and I feel like I’m that student who realized she studied for all the wrong questions. Even worse, the questions keep getting more difficult with time.

I remember years ago, when my son was just out of diapers and my daughter was still in them, the mother of two teenagers had an office next to mine. Instead of decorating with recent photos of her children, she had numerous photos of her son and daughter when they were very young.

Since I was at the stage when I was constantly bringing in updated photos of my children, I didn’t understand. So I asked.

“Those photos remind me when being a mom was so much easier,” she said. “They remind me of a time when I probably worried more about making mistakes but, in retrospect, the decisions I had to make were so much simpler.”

Now, more than a decade later, I completely understand.

Even if I had read every book and magazine article about parenting, I’m doubtful I would feel any more comfortable with some of the parenting tests I face on a regular basis.

As a mom, many of these tests are the same ones other parents face. But let’s face facts: cookie cutter approaches don’t work when it comes to our children. They have different personalities and different temperaments. Decisions I’ve made for my son are often the completely wrong decisions for my daughter. To make matters even more difficult, my children are reaching that age when their decisions, not mine, will define the direction of the rest of their lives.

All I can do is set parameters, try to help steer and hope for the best.

Those feelings will probably never go away entirely. My mom, who has been a mother fifty years this April, still expresses doubts about some of the parenting tests she faced.

When she does, I usually tell her that my brother and I turned out fine. We aren’t perfect, but we are well-educated, productive members of society. We may not live our lives exactly as she had hoped, but neither did we land in jail or become cruel, unkind people. The people that we did become are partly a result of genetics, partly a result of the parenting we received and partly a result of life circumstances. Mom only had significant influence over one of those factors.

While I think nothing of reminding my mother of that, I have to remember to be as kind to myself.

Being a mom isn’t a science, and each child is born with his or her own challenges. Most moms are just trying to help our children become the best people they can be.

If and when that happens, we shouldn’t consider ourselves deserving of an A plus grade. Instead, We should simply consider ourselves fortunate.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

Three’s a Crowd

Wednesday, January 28, 2015
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Here’s a secret about being a parent: sometimes we say the most when we say nothing at all.

The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve recognized that what I value most wasn’t inspired by words but rather by unstated expectations.

For example, I don’t remember my parents ever telling me I should go to college. I just knew that’s what I should do after I graduated from high school. I also just knew that I shouldn’t get married until I was capable of supporting myself. I never believed I should define myself by a relationship or that money mattered more than kindness.

And I never, ever believed I should have more than two children.

My husband, Giles, thought otherwise.

Perhaps our difference stemmed from the fact that I grew up in a family of two children and he grew up in a family of three.

Whatever the reason, he thought we should have three children. Since I’m the one who got pregnant and gave birth, my opinion ruled.

Maybe that’s why he decided that, since I had put my foot down about the number of human children, he should have the final word about the number of furry children in our home.

He knows how much I love animals and about my desire to adopt any stray that shows up at our door…or in the neighborhood… or in the park… or on the side of the road.

And so, he made a rule that, unless we moved to a farm, we could never have more than two pets at one time.

Having grown up in a family that never had more than one furry child at a time, I thought his decree was more than fair  (even though I did attempt to circumvent it a time or two).

Ironically, Giles is the one who broke his own rule.

Initially, he was irritated when I called him before six in the morning. I was attempting to walk our German Shepherd Rodney when a black and white kitten approached. Unlike most cats, especially our fat, grey tortoiseshell cat Skitty, the little kitten actually seemed to like Rodney. And that was the problem.

It wouldn’t leave us alone, so I called Giles.

“Just walk away from it,” he said.

“I can’t,” I replied. It won’t let us. No matter where we go, it follows us.”

“Where are you now?” he asked.

“In our driveway,” I said.

When he said “O.K.,” I assumed that meant he was coming out to help.

I was wrong.

I called him again.

“Where are you now?” he asked.

“Still in the driveway,” I answered. I heard him sigh, but eventually the garage door opened.

If our lives were movies, romantic music would have swelled in the background when he first saw the kitten. It was love at first sight. He scooped her up in his arms and told me to walk Rodney.

By the time we got back from our walk, Giles was asking me to call the vet to make an appointment.

Several months have passed since Artemis joined our family. She’s still cute, she still loves Rodney and Rodney still loves her. He’s especially delighted that tiny Artemis not only acknowledges his presence (unlike her feline older sister Skitty), she is also willing to  roughhouse with him (completely unlike Skitty).

And therein lies the problem.threes a crowd

Before we adopted Artemis, Rodney and Skitty had come to understanding.

Skitty couldn’t stand Rodney, and Rodney knew it. Because of that, he didn’t bother her.

But now that one cat will play with him, our German Shepherd thinks the other one should too. He has become that annoying younger brother who constantly teases and provokes his older sister.

Giles and I are now breaking up fights between the fat grey cat and the large, overly enthusiastic dog several times a day. He pokes at her, she hisses back and chaos ensues.

At these times, I am reminded of my insistence to only have two human children. Maybe I was reacting to more than just an unstated expectation from my parents. Maybe, just maybe, I realized that life would be much more difficult if Giles and I were out-numbered.

In my family, sometimes three really can be a crowd.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering or writing, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

Alone On the Curb

Wednesday, January 21, 2015
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I have no doubt that every child who went to elementary school during the 1970’s experienced the same trauma I did. Fortunately, I only experienced it once – or at least I only remember one incident. There may have been more, but none has stuck with me like the one that occurred that day in second grade.

I remember feeling completely lost and alone as I sat on the curb waiting for a mom who hadn’t arrived.

I don’t remember why I had stayed after school. I just remember that I did and was quite excited to do so. Bon the curback in those days, afterschool activities weren’t the norm for the under ten crowd. We had music lessons and 4-H and Scouts, but none of those activities were associated with school and there was no such thing as afterchool care.

Whatever the reason my friends and I had stayed late, it must have been  a special occasion. I still remember chatting with my friends as we stood on the sidewalk by the playground fence waiting for our moms to pick us up. (In those days, the moms were always the ones who picked up the kids.)

As other moms began to drive up to the curb and my friends climbed into their cars (usually into the front seat, generally without seat belts and always with absolutely no concept of contraptions called car seats), our group got smaller and smaller and smaller.

Eventually, I was the only one still standing on the sidewalk until I tired of that and sat on the curb.

I know anyone born after 1980 is wondering where the adult supervision and teachers were. My answer is “I don’t know.”

Back in those days, vigilance didn’t exist like it does today, and teachers usually went home when the students did. There was a sense of trust in the parents and a sense of safety in daylight – especially in small towns. There was also a belief that situations usually worked themselves out.

Except when they didn’t.

As the sun started making its journey behind the Juniper-covered hills that surrounded the town in which I lived, I sat on the curb and waited. And waited. And waited.

Eventually, a teacher who had stayed late happened upon me as she walked to her car. She didn’t, however, see the same gravity in the situation that I did.

“What’s the matter?” she asked. “You look as though you lost your best friend.”

I remember contemplating her words. My good friends had all left me, but I didn’t think I’d actually lost them. But I didn’t share those thoughts. Instead, I told her I was waiting for my mom.

“Oh, I know your mom,” the teacher said. “I know she’ll be here soon.”

And she was right. My mom did arrive…eventually,

In those days before Google calendars and other electronic reminders, she had simply forgotten that she was supposed to pick me up at school. And, in those days before cell phones, answering machines and vigilant school personnel, I was powerless to remind her. Those things just happened to those of us who grew up in the 1970’s.

Mom may have told me why she didn’t worry when the bus arrived without me. Or she may have told me that she had a meeting and she thought she had babysitting duties covered. I don’t remember because her words never registered. I was too relieved and grateful that I wasn’t going to have to spend the night on the curb and wear the same clothes to school the next day.

I was reminded of this incident a few weeks ago as a read a post that has been recycled through social media a few times. It is a reminder of what would now be considered parenting fails but  were acceptable when I was young. And my generation survived anyway.

We didn’t wear bike helmets (although I do remember the humiliation of swimming caps). We played outside with no supervision (unless you count our dogs which all ran free without any type of fence – even electric.) And we weren’t electronically connected to everyone we knew.

If we were out of our parents sight, they never knew where we were, if we were safe or when we would actually arrive home.

I can’t imagine being a parent during that time period, and I give my parents kudos for being so strong.

Apparently, I am much weaker.

Both of my children have cell phones with which they use to constantly communicate with me.

I know if their plans have changed and they are going home with a friend after school. And when they text me such information, I can immediately text the friend’s parents to confirm.

I know when the band bus is running late or early, so I can arrive at the school in a timely manner. I don’t have to sit in a parking lot for hours waiting for a bus to arrive and imagining all that could possibly have gone wrong.

And I know that the school has my cell phone number so I don’t have to be sitting at my office desk to get a notice that my child is sick or is in detention (yes I have experienced that parental fail.)

Those of us who had the true 1970’s childhood experience may laugh at how much we protect our children these days, but deep in our hearts, we are also extremely grateful. Changes in technology and society ensure that our children will never be sitting alone on a curb waiting for a ride home.

And if that isn’t progress, I don’t know what is.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering or writing, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

Life with a 5-month-old baby

Monday, January 19, 2015
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The great unknown – that’s what I considered my future when I was pregnant. I had no idea what life would be like with a baby. So, instead of consulting a psychic and a crystal ball, I read mommy blogs. My favorite? “Day in the life” posts. I read them all: stay-at-home moms, working moms, work-from-home moms and everything in between. For me, it’s reassuring to see that I’m not alone in having weeks of clean laundry living in a pile in my laundry room, or that in that “cooking dinner” is sometimes throwing in a frozen pizza. So here it is, your stereotypical “day in the life” post. If hearing about how long it takes me to get out of the house in the morning isn’t your cup of tea, then I suggest you stop reading now. I don’t pretend that my days are especially difficult or original; I would say they are pretty average (or below average!). Enjoy…

  • 3:00 a.m. Wake up to baby crying on the monitor. Change diaper, nurse baby. She luckily goes right back to sleep. Crawl back in bed.
  • 5:30 a.m. Wake up to baby crying on the monitor. Chris gets up, changes her diaper, and brings her to me to nurse. Then he takes her downstairs to eat breakfast and I get in the shower. The day has begun!
  • 6:05 a.m. Realize I am not in the shower but still in bed. Actually get up and get into the shower.
  • 6:30 a.m. Chris passes AJ on to me. Take her downstairs with me to eat breakfast (cereal) and make coffee.
  • 6:45 a.m. Back upstairs to finish getting ready. Put AJ in her bouncer chair and she watches me put on makeup and do my hair. Talk nonsense to keep AJ entertained, topics range from how to put on mascara to why I love Taylor Swift. Then Chris picks her up and changes her into her clothes for the day.
  • 7:15 a.m. Finished getting ready. Wonder how early I am going to have to get up once AJ is mobile and I have to chase her around all morning. Go downstairs and pack my pumping gear; Chris gets AJ’s bottles ready. Say goodbye to Chris and AJ (he takes her to daycare) and leave for work.
  • 7:34 a.m. Walk into work (thankful for a short commute).
  • 7:34 – 8:30 a.m. Emails, read news, to-do list, coffee.
  • 8:30 a.m. Pumping time. Bring computer into the motherhood room with me so I can continue working.
  • 9:00 a.m. – 10:45 a.m. Work. Return phone calls, write emails, tackle to-do list.
  • 10:45 a.m. Pump again, earlier than normal because I have an off-site meeting during lunch.
  • 11:15 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. Off-site lunch meeting.
  • 2:30 p.m. Pump.
  • 3:00 p.m. Work.
  • 4:30 p.m. Leave work to pick up AJ at daycare. Wonder if she will still be in the clothes she arrived in (it’s about a 50/50 chance). She is!
  • 5:15 p.m. Arrive home after a car ride of AJ crying. I think she prefers 102.7 to NPR. Lament that it takes me 10 minutes to get to work and 45 to get home. Throw on black yoga pants and a T-shirt and immediately change AJ and get her in the bath, something we’ve been doing to combat cold and flu season.
  • 5:45 p.m. AJ is out of the bath, toweled, diapered, lotioned and PJ’ed. Nurse her. Chris gets home around this time.
  • 6:15 p.m. Chris plays with AJ while I tackle dinner. Despite not having been to the grocery store in ages, decide that we absolutely cannot eat out and scrounge the fridge for something edible. Surprisingly come up with an egg, cheese and Quinoa combination with a side of green beans and a slice (or three) of bacon.
  • 7:15 p.m. Eat dinner, then play with AJ. Make lots of funny faces, help her sit up, and listen to the chirps and squeals of her toys. Chris cleans up and washes the dirty bottles and pumping accessories.
  • 7:40 p.m. AJ gets fussy and I know the reason. So it’s upstairs for bedtime, which involves nursing, lullabies and rocking.
  • 8:30 p.m. AJ decided to rally and is wide-awake. Give up on the rocking and take her into our bedroom, where she falls asleep to the sounds of the previous night’s episode of Modern Family.
  • 9:00 p.m. Put AJ in her crib and creep out as quietly as possible. Choose bill paying over laundry folding for my end-of-the-evening activity. Wish that a wiggle of my nose would transfer the two baskets of clean, unfolded clothes neatly into drawers.
  • 10:00 p.m. Wash face, brush teeth, and call it a night.

Sprinkle in a few meltdowns and a diaper run here and there, and this is my typical day with my 5-month-old. The weekdays go by incredibly fast, and the weekends even faster.

#Horriblemom

Wednesday, January 14, 2015
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Of my many flaws, believing that I only have a few isn’t one of them.

On the flip side, I’m very, very good finding fault in almost everything I do.

It’s a trait that I come by honestly – it was passed down by the maternal side of my family, but I’m not sure whether its longevity is linked more to nature or nurture. While my mother and grandmother excelled at identifying their own weaknesses, they were less successful at keeping those discoveries to themselves.

I am cursed by these same behaviors.

As a little girl, I  grew up hearing my mother talk about her mistakes, missteps and misfortunes. When I became a teenager, she no longer had to point them out because I did an outstanding job of doing that for her.  Now, I just point out my own.

And even though I’m well aware of the warnings from psychologists and child development experts that we can damage our children when we speak poorly of ourselves, I do it anyway.

And yes, my children picked up on my behavior. What they haven’t done is repeat it. Perhaps their father’s side of the family is more dominant than mine, because they haven’t even taken my concerns about my inadequacies very seriously.

Instead, they’ve turned them into a running joke

When I started saying “I’m a horrible mom,” to note that I had experienced a parenting fail, they quickly picked up on the phrase.

When I expressed dismay or worry about a decision, one of them would say “Hash Tag Horrible Mom.” They found it so amusing that they began using it as the punctuation mark to most of my sentences – almost as a sign of affection.

And while I may suffer from an intense need to openly identify all my faults, I don’t lack a sense of humor.

That means I can not only appreciate how ridiculous I can be, I can also have fun.

And so it was last Sunday night when my daughter and her BFF were trying to complete a display for their social studies fair project. I tried to assist as needed, but I was actually contributing to the silliness as much, if not more, than they were.

I was attempting to restore some order to the overly loud and raucous high -jinks, when my daughter  played the Celine Dion song “My Heart Will Go On.” Kendall knows none of us can be serious when that song plays – especially since her brother shared Matt Mulholland’s  You Tube video “My Heart Will Go On – By Candlelight.”  (My Heart Will Go On – By Candlelight)

As soon as the first sorrowful notes began to play, I stopped in mid reprimand to launch into song – complete with overly dramatic arm gestures and facial expressions. The girls joined in, and the social studies project was forgotten.

At least, it was forgotten until my husband marched into the family room to complain about the noise level, of which I was a primary contributor.

When he left the room, I muttered “what a grumpy dad” under my breath.

The girls picked up on my words immediately. “Hash Tag Horrible Mom Hash Tag Grumpy Dad,” they said. The line has stuck.

Ironically, I no longer consider their words to be a reminder of our faults.

Instead, they are a reminder that, even though we may do many things wrong, my husband and I have obviously done just as many things right.

We encourage our children to pursue their passions. We help with school projects.  And, perhaps most important, we have a home that promotes creativity and freedom of expression (within reason of course).

If the worst my children can say about us is “Hash Tag Horrible Mom and Hash Tag Grumpy Dad,” then I maybe I should start ending my sentences with “#notsohorribleofamomafterall.”

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering or writing, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

The Pink Lady and the Microfilm Machine

Wednesday, January 7, 2015
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I am a more than three decades older than my daughter, and she reminds me of that on a daily basis.

She doesn’t actually say anything to me. She’s simply 13 and in the eighth grade while I am quickly closing in on a half century.

She can watch her favorite television series on Netflix. When I was her age, only very lucky kids, of which I was not one, had VCRs. If I missed an episode of my favorite show, I had to wait for a re-run and hope that my brother didn’t want to watch something that same night.

She has her own cell phone that tracks everyone who calls her (although she gets many more text messages than actual phone calls). When I was her age, my family had one land-line phone and no one had answering machines.  If we missed a call, we just missed a call.

She literally has a world of information at her fingertips, whether on her phone, a tablet or computer. When I was her age, I had no options but to go to the public library when I wanted to do research.

But sometimes, even in these high-tech days, 13-year-old girls still need to go to the public library to do research.

Such was the case this past weekend when I took Kendall and Bri, her BFF (best friend forever) to the local public library. They are doing their social studies fair project on the history of a local theater where they love to perform. During their interview with a long-time volunteer and default historian (an interview Bri recorded on her iphone instead of on a pad of paper or on a tape recorder), he gave them a list of resources in old newspapers dating back to 1912 that they could probably research at the local library.

That’s the reason I found myself giggling with two 13-year-old girls on a rainy Saturday afternoon as we browsed reels of microfilm from newspapers published more than a century before.

The content was both microfilmamusing and educational.

There was an three-column story about a “well-respected colored man” who had died after eating a large meal. The article described his last few minutes right down to the moment when he raised his hands above his head and proclaimed “Lord have mercy” before he collapsed.

There was a story about a “musical mule” that ate the keys off a piano.

And there were many, many articles about the day-to-day happenings of local residents who had gone on vacation, visited relatives or held parties. There was even an article about my daughter’s great-grandfather.

As we used the rather antiquated technology of microfilm to take a trip back in time, Kendall and Bri snapped photo after photo on their iphones as they giggled and sent text messages. I couldn’t help but note the paradox.

Then, a brief note about a lady dressed in pink who made male hearts flutter sent all of us into peals of laughter.the pink lady

When I finally caught my breath, I asked “Why would this be in the newspaper?”

Bri didn’t miss a beat.

“How is our news today any better? One-hundred years from now, people are going to laugh at us because we had headlines about Miley Cyrus twerking.”

She had a point – a really good point actually. And her words helped make our time together at the microfilm machine even more meaningful.

We left the library that afternoon with much more than a few pieces of copy paper for a social studies project. We left with a mutual understanding about life.

Times change. Attitudes change. Styles change. Even people change.

But the distance between generation shrinks when we realize our shared experiences, which we may document with different technology and with different language,  greatly outweigh our differences.

The pink lady – and the local public library – taught me that.