To My Stay At Home Mom Friends: You’re My Heroes

To the moms that refer to themselves as “just a mom”:

You are everything that I hope to become.

This can further be summarized by saying, “You’re the (little poo emoji)!”

Instead, I’ve chosen to use more eloquent (mature?) words, because this has become a personal, deeply moving topic for me. You stay at home moms have been on my mind often the past several months.

Let me back up before I continue.

I was raised by a father who grew up farming. I legitimately don’t know if you’ve ever seen a man with bigger calves or more muscular, callused hands. The ability to earn a living was often discussed, with emphasis on “earn.” His fatherly preaching? Don’t stumble over feelings of entitlement, work hard, don’t expect to always be taken care of, education is crucial, and women developing a skillset that will give them the ability to financially support their families know what’s up with Survival 101.

(I’m sure that went over my head for a good while, but when I spread my wings, I was grateful for the realistic perspective.)

My dad wasn’t necessarily a feminist, but he very much applauded and encouraged women’s self-reliance, married or not. (A woman empathetic to the effort required to make ends meet makes a great partner, right?)

Because of that, I have MAJOR admiration for women in the workforce. Whether they’re employed out of necessity or by choice, their representation in every sort of job fills me with pride.I could go on and on about women with successful careers. For a long time, I was one of the “work by necessity and don’t stop at Marshall’s on your way home because you can’t even afford cereal” type. I worked six days a week, and now, with kids, I’m relieved to be down to part time (which somehow still exhausts me with two little guys at home).

Working as a mom is tough, emotionally as well as physically.

But, even as I work part time, do you know who I am REALLY in awe of?

Stay at home moms. The “just a mom” moms.

Motherhood shouldn’t overshadow their capabilities. They are just as strong, determined, educated, and powerful, yet honorably decline the workforce. All those student loans? Unrealized dreams? A promising potential career path? Affording a different lifestyle?

Do you know how much faith that takes to watch these things fade in the rearview, even if they’ll be revisited in later years?

I’m so amazed by these women (and very specific women who I hugely admire) and their steadfast decisions to just to stay home with their children.

And by “just to stay at home,” I mean join their kids hand in hand on the front lines, battling a scary world. These moms are wise, and know that, if they can afford it, their time is most valuable teaching their children before sending them off to the world.

“Just a mom” is a woman, who, by choice:

braves the isolation that comes with young motherhood.
makes do with just a little less than she might if she worked.
is completely, utterly, painfully selfless.
stretches herself to be everyone’s everything, constantly.
never stops.
never gets a break.
is always, always on the clock.

Before I had kids, I asked of stay at home moms, “What do they do all day, every day?”
Now, I wonder, “How do they do it all day, every day?”

Although I’m not ready to throw in the towel with my job, I wonder if I am brave enough to become “just a mom.” For years, I’ve found enjoyment working outside the home. Am I brave enough to let go of years of schooling and hard work? Am I that selfless? Will I lose myself? Maybe that’s the point. Maybe that’s the refining process that creates the unsung heroes of every family.

You “just a mom”s are everything I aspire to be.

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My Most Sunny Days Always Leave Me Teary

There is a wonder I experience as a new mom, crossing new bridges as my oldest child does the same.

My kids are approaching the real pearl of childhood. At almost two and three, the sleepless nights are behind us. My boys are both talking and expressing their own, hilarious thoughts, and I feel that new-mom isolation no more.

I’ve been caught off guard by this new stage of life and its unexpected sprinkling of pixie dust, because my kids think EVERYTHING is magical.

From seeing a street sweeper, to a stranger’s raspy voice, to blossoming trees…it’s all entrancing. Holding a ladybug for the first time, and watching with sheer astonishment when it flies away! Listening for helicopters! Watching a puppy lap water from a bowl! Garbage day! Witnessing sprinklers turn on! Putting detergent in the washing machine! It’s new. It’s fresh. My mundane routine is suddenly dazzling and vivid. The days have more zest. I’m still tired, but my kids give me a shot of laughter hourly, and their thrill of pioneering a new world is contagious.

My children are young enough to not understand real sorrow. Heartbreak is unknown. They don’t know about the world…they only know the world I put in front of them. At ages one and three, naivety is normal. Innocence is beautiful. Heaven still feels close.

They’re also young enough to not have any real school schedule or pressing commitments. I savor the peacefulness of midmorning strolls on quiet roads, and appreciate being rich enough in time to admire every dandelion along the way. I love the slow pace, and have to remind myself often not to complicate it. The world hasn’t sped up yet. I know, I know, it will, and the sand will slip through the glass quickly and cruelly; let me just enjoy holding onto those little hands a bit longer.

And those little hands. Those teeny, sticky fingers always find me, because I am wanted. A heart soars to feel wanted! The elation of feeling truly wanted as a parent is unparalleled. I know they’ll need a mother for years, but to WANT a mother–that’s different. Even on the days I go crazy almost tripping over two extra shadows, I know my heart will break just a little the day my kids insist they can spread their wings alone.

These are the days.

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Nursery Rhyme Meanings That Keep You Guessing

 I’ve heard convincing arguments that Mother Goose is the key to Ivy Leagues. I’m all for brain stimulation and early developmental progress, but I don’t remember many nursery rhymes. I’ve had to go off of memory, and it has proven to be a little fuzzy.

By “a little fuzzy,” I mean that I can’t remember even half the words. “Ring around the Rosies” is the only thing that’s clear in my mind. Sadly, that’s only due to years of elementary school repetition, because of the fascinating rumors of its morbid meaning that were shared in the shadows of the tether ball poles.

I looked up a couple nursery rhymes to keep in my back pocket.

Have you read them recently? There are some real creepers in there. How many young children go to sleep smiling serenely after hearing about some egg-dude Humpty that fatally fell off a wall, anyway?

Why do none of these have conclusions? Are there sequels?

What do these even mean, anyway?!

Here are a handful of my loose interpretations.

“Little Miss Muffet
Sat on her tuffet
Eating her curds and whey.
Along came a spider and sat down beside her
And frightened Miss Muffet away.”
Translation: Little Miss Muffet sat on her stool, or possibly Kim K booty (haven’t checked “tuffet” on Urban Dictionary), and ate 2% cottage cheese. She regretted not keeping the pest control guy’s magnet on the fridge.

“Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold, pease porridge in the pot, nine days old.”
Translation: Someone spilled frozen peas in the steel cut oatmeal. Before finally throwing it out, Mom kept it for nine days, because there are starving children in Africa.

“It’s raining, it’s pouring;
The old man is snoring.
Bumped his head
And he went to bed
And he couldn’t get up in the morning.”’
Translation: He got the Advil mixed up with Ambien. Or else…

“The bear went over the mountain, the bear went over the mountain, the bear went over the mountain, to see what he could see. To see what he could see, to see what he could see. The bear went over the mountain to see what he could see.”
Translation: This was a “she” bear, probably a mom, just trying to get out of the house. Sometimes I do that. I go to Target, to buy what I can buy, to buy what I can buy.

“Old Mother Hubbard, went to her cupboard, to fetch her poor dog a bone. When she was there, the cupboard was bare, and so the poor dog had none.”
Translation: This is an ASPCA commercial. Cue Sarah McLachlan.

“There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do.
She gave them some broth,
Without any bread,
Whipped them all soundly, and sent them to bed.”
Translation: This lady came home from Saks with new Louboutins, and her husband said, “You better be living in those shoes, because that was as much as a mortgage payment!” She was like, “Fine, I will.” The new leather smell made her go crazy, and I really don’t know what happened after that. I’m sure the husband has full custody, and a pending restraining order.

I don’t think I’ll read that one to my little guy.

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Finding Light in the Dark

Over the weekend, a past salon owner lost his child. Even though we weren’t close friends, the sadness was felt throughout the whole weekend at my salon. Like any parent, I feel deeply for this family. I can’t even handle the news in my mom-with-a-lot-of-feelings state! It’s safe to say I was a little shaken and very eager to love on my little guys a little extra. As I drove home from work both days, I thought about this tragedy in silence, because music almost seemed inappropriate.

For me, the stillness lingered today.

…but in that stillness, I noticed a lot more than I might have.

The vibrant green of new, spring leaves is stunning.

Teeny legs of a ladybug are ticklish. My boys held out both arms in awe as we caught our first ladybug. They marveled at the red. How many spots did it have? Was it friends with bees and butterflies? What about crocodiles? My youngest son screamed the shrieks of joy only a thrilled one year old and a baby velociraptor can.

My grandpa’s eyes have a never-aging twinkle in them every time he smiles.

My three year old’s face as he looked at himself incredulously in the mirror the first time he tried on new Batman jammies will make a grown man cry…and it did. Gus was stunned speechless with nothing but a huge grin and a few gasps, couldn’t stop touching the Batman logo until he needed both hands to fly. His sweet daddy’s smile was almost as big as he quietly wiped a few tears.

In these still moments, I am reminded what a beautiful life we live. Even though I have a limited understanding of the big picture, I know the Lord intends for us to be happy. Tender, perfect moments are sprinkled all along our lives’ paths, no matter where they may lead.

Right on cue from LDS General Conference today: “Even in the most difficult and darkest of times, there is goodness and light all around us.” -Elder Bragg

I can’t imagine how this cute family must feel, so I write this only as a “note to self” for future reference, and hope they can feel how many people send their love.

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Our Beginning of the Week +1.

For some reason, I’d assumed leaving my kids to go to work would get progressively easier as they got older. For me, it’s proven to be quite the opposite. Watching my little guys fade out of view in my rear view mirror makes me teary almost every single time.

Coming off my long work weekends, I’m so eager to play with my buddies. I like to ditch my phone and enjoy being in the moment. I want to tickle my 22 month old and hear his deep belly laugh. I want to have zero distractions building carwashes with blocks. I want to lay with my boys while they fall asleep and admire the thick eyelashes they will never fully appreciate.

My whole world revolves around them. As exhausting as it is, I am completely soaking in this season of life.

I think it’s because of my work guilt that I let my kids completely take the reins on Mondays.

Thaaaaaat’s why we’ve ended up taking this little turtle with us on several beginning of the week outings. His name is Turtle…my boys are quite literal in the naming process.

Turtle wanted to swing recently, so he got his own swing and I spent a while pushing both my guys and a turtle.

After my boys were done swinging, my 22 month old stood next to me to help push Turtle. I snapped a few pictures, then went back to pushing Turtle and narrating the ride with lots of “WEEEEE! SO HIGH!” until I realized the little blonde in my peripheral wasn’t my child, but a little girl and her grandma. They were patiently waiting behind me to stop taking pictures of my swinging plastic turtle so she could have a turn.

My kids were in a playground tunnel, so I, alone, moved Turtle, and he sat down next to me on a bench.

I’m sure I’m on some neighborhood watch Facebook page, but I’m really into Turtle right now. He’s become a real beacon getting me through my work days.

I am lucky to love my job, but if Turtle joins the crew and makes an appearance in my rearview this weekend, I’ll probably need waterproof mascara.

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They Will Slash Your Tires: Story Time Moms Unveiled

Our library has a fun story time program for young kids.

…and judging by the squealing Honda Odyssey tires in the parking lot, it’s not as rainbow-y as it sounds.

Story Time at our library is a short program for parents and toddlers that involves a little dancing, singing, reading, poems, and a take home craft. It is also limits it’s attendees on a first come, first serve basis, due to “fire code”/instructor’s sanity. Story Time hits capacity quickly, and moms are universally a few minutes behind.

Let me tell you the result of this equation from personal experience.

I am one of the rushed moms, throwing my kids in the stroller and running to the library entrance. Half a dozen grown women all run through the parking lot, driving their strollers around and sometimes over parking hurdles (or just plain off-roading their City Selects through the plants if it’s a quarter after).

Gus face planted last week, but brushed off and continued running next to me without a peep. Even he knew from our pre-Story Time huddle—one man down is another man’s spot on the rug.

The running slows to a brisk walk at the library entrance, where women smile politely at…nothing. They don’t even make eye contact. They just have a thin smile plastered onto their faces, because they’re terrifying like that. (You know this feeling from when your mom would thin-smile at you, and something inside of you would squeak, “What does this mean?!”)

In this instance, the women are thin-smiling because they’re about to turn the corner and dart to the elevator, all while keeping their Story Time competitors in their peripheral vision.

I missed the elevator by just a few feet, and as the door closed, I heard an “Oh, sorry!” and a laugh that was VERY MUCH A WITCH CACKLE. Gus almost said, “Trick or Treat, b—-,” under his breath.

I’m just kidding. Inappropriate. (Gus wouldn’t dream of that kind of language.)

By the time the second elevator of tangled strollers arrives to the second floor Story Time entrance, it’s too late. The limited story time tickets are gone.

I’m not sure if there is an after market price being offered, but I’m pretty sure I could scalp Story Time passes in the parking lot, or at least over by the Gardening Self-help section. Money ain’t a thing to a woman who has woken a sleeping child or rearranged nap schedules for story time.

Should we happen to not make it in time to get tickets, which is fairly regularly, my kids are offered a consolation prize of playing with the Pink Eye Puzzles. Agree with me that we are looking directly at bacteria without a microscope. Streptococcus? Flesh eating.

All I’m saying is that it’s possible Ronda Rousey began her career in the Story Time parking lot.

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A New Mom’s Letter to Her Babysitter

We don’t get date nights often enough, and I semi-blame the whole “finding a babysitter” fiasco.

Now that we are on our second child, our instructions to babysitters have become much more lax. Ultimately, we just want our kids safe and happy. A few years ago, however, my new mom hormones were TURNT UP. WAY UP. Had I written an actual note (a la my mom in 1992), it would have looked exactly like this:

Dear babysitter,

Thanks for coming over! Help yourself to any food (notice we bought the name brand graham crackers this week), and make yourself at home. My kids should be sleeping, so just hang out! Watch TV!

Except, try to avoid turning the TV volume higher than 12, because that will wake up my kids, but it’s okay if you have to because you don’t lip read as well as I’ve been forced to learn. If you would like to actually hear your show, you can just put them back to sleep after they wake up. They’ll lay down for you super easily.

All you have to do is this!

You’ll need to heat up a little milk (roughly between 4-6 oz) for my little one, for 45 seconds. He is particular. Shake the bottle. Test the temperature. He also likes his grey blankie to snuggle with, but make sure it’s not on his face. My other son can just get up and watch TV, but only one show and not for too long, and if you don’t understand what he is saying, try the Dinosaur movie, but fast forward the part where the dad dies. Along those lines, if he says something that sounds like “daddy,” it could mean daddy, Mickey, or blankie (full phonetically spelled translation guide on the side of the fridge).

But whatever! Just have fun! 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 !!!!!

Consult the attached pamphlet for numbers of my–

Pediatrician
Poison Control
My number
Restaurant’s number
Next door neighbor’s number
911’s number
Insurance agent information
Homeland Security
CPR instructions
Animal control
Living trust
Speediest SWAT responders (Don’t hesitate to call!)
Current shot records
Life insurance documentation
Last will and testament

We will be back in forty five minutes! Thanks!

–Ashton

PS Fire extinguisher is under the kitchen sink.

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Justice for All: Creative (Dare I Say Democratic?) Punishment Alternatives for Your Children

Is anyone else TIRED of the political talk?

The last time words like “freedom,” “justice,” and “equality” were this exhaustively used in my vocabulary were during my teenage years, when, like, I was, like, really upset with my parents.

Although my two boys are still just babies, my fear of parenting teens (or fear of bad karma from my own years) is already in effect. Because of this, my husband and I have instead compiled a list of “grounding” alternatives. Our future teenagers’ undesirable behavior will be at a standstill due to Mom’s variation of tactics.

To reinforce the democratic familial governing our teenagers will insist upon, the following list is to be used as a CHOICE in place of a run of the mill, predictable consequence. Instill some fear into their souls, correct behavior, and teach them the meaning of justice, all in one! “You can choose to lose your phone privileges for a week, OR______.” Then, pat yourself on the back for bringing democracy back to the family, and let the good times roll.

Discipline Alternatives for Taming a Teen

1. The Sign and Date: The rule breaker will not be grounded if he or she returns a completed petition with a header statement. “I, _____, have come home 20 minutes past my curfew multiple times this month. I am so disrespectful of my parents’ rules. SHAME. Since I was so inconsiderate of my parents, who are super cool and know Jay Z songs, I need your signature to agree that yes, I am in the wrong. Yes, there are repercussions. No, I will not be late again. This way, you can still see me on weekends. Include your number, because my mom will be calling you to verify your signature’s authenticity.” After 25 signatures and phone numbers from high school friends, call to confirm their signatures and a consequence will be waived. Heart emoji.

(And then, you’ll have a secret stash of their friends’ phone numbers. Well played, me.)

2. Not Stacy’s Mom: Upon continuation of the country’s doughnut and cupcake fanaticism, odds are good you will pack on a few pounds. Hold off on Weight Watchers–this will come in handy. “Happen” to run into your teen and his/her friends, rain or shine, in a bikini. This will have to be more of an ambush rather than an agreed upon punishment, but you can work out the kinks when the scale increases another fifty pounds.

3. Wheely Embarrassing: Should your finances allow, invest in a perfectly safe, yet severely cosmetically damaged, vehicle for offenders to drive for a determined time period. This total piece of crap car will have duct tape, stale fries squished between the seats, and possibly and “I love my mom!” license plate holder. “Time out car!” spray painted on the side is also a consideration. Driving solidarity will be achieved by removing passenger seats.

4. Au Natural: A negotiated time period of no makeup for daughters. High school social pressures alongside a bare face will definitely instill a fear of talking back.

5. PDA, PDA, PDA is Not Okay:
If you need to bring out the big guns, pull out the ol’ love card. The teen culprit will have to accompany his or her googly-eyed parents on a date to a pre-determined, popular location. Don’t skimp on lots and lots of public displays of affection with your significant other. Make sure to talk unmistakably to your child, loudly, between kissing. #notmyparents #PDA #eyesburning

Even though my guys are just little, any additional suggestions to our raise-good-kids-sans-grounding arsenal would be appreciated!

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Things I Wish I’d Known Before Becoming a Mother

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I. Had. No. Idea.

An opportunity to share my infinite mothering wisdom from my three years of experience presented itself, and I shared five things I wish I’d known before becoming a mom with Jess Toolson. Check her out for inspiration, or just to look at her because she’s pretty.

A HANDFUL OF THINGS I WISH I’D KNOWN BEFORE I HAD BABIES

1. You cannot die from no sleep. Don’t worry, I checked, and there are no records of a coroner citing sleeplessess as a cause of death. Well, okay, there was this ONE guy that went eleven days, but I tried to forget about that as I dragged myself out of bed with my second baby. Rest (or not?) assured that although your brain may feel dysfunctional, you will live to see the sun rise again. Then, a few years later, your heart will hurt realizing how quickly the sun set and rose during that time, and you’ll wish you could hold that newborn all over again (or at least remember it more clearly).

2. You don’t need so much STUFF. Why didn’t anyone tell me to calm down with the purchases? And, was it necessary to research laundry detergent for two hours? All the baby “needs” and colossal registry recommendations are going to be stacked in your garage Jenga-style after a few months. After you’ve survived all those sleepless nights, do you really want to risk your life every time you wander into your garage to pull out Christmas decorations? Worse, I’m not even sure if a fatal avalanche of Mama-Roos and double strollers will qualify you for a Darwin Award…

3. Your husband will probably slip from your radar a bit. Before I had kids, my whole universe revolved around my husband. Now, after a weekend of working, tell me: am I going to put pants back on to go to a movie I don’t care about, or stay home to bathe my teeny baby with the best thigh rolls (and go to bed at 9:30)? Get real. It has taken me a couple of years to realize it’s beneficial to everyone in the family to reinstate your husband’s title as your main guy. My husband now knows that he is the only guy I’ll put my pants ON for, which is a much greater compliment to him than the opposite.

4. Kids are FUN.
I wish someone had said, “Hey, you’re going to LIKE this!” instead of telling me horror stories. Kids come with their own unique personalities, and provide constant laughs. Until I became a mother, I didn’t know what true, pure happiness was. I have the most fun friends and great family, an exciting college life, and a wonderful marriage, but I hadn’t experienced true bliss until I saw my first baby smile at me for the first time. There is no elation that can compare. Sure, I’m exhausted and have a weird ponytail every day, but every SINGLE day, I am surprised, I am laughing, and I am in awe of these little humans that light up my whole life.

5. Motherhood isn’t pretty, but that is what makes it incomprehensibly beautiful. According to social media, motherhood means lounging around in a pristine bed with a sleeping baby and a bouquet of flowers, and maybe running to lunch with friends in an #OOTD (outfit of the day).

I just, I don’t…alrighty, bloggers.

Motherhood is Costco on a Saturday; motherhood is defying the laws of physics and being able to juggle any wiggly child/pacifier/bottle/blanket; motherhood is looking in the mirror and not recognizing yourself after two or three days of cleaning up throw up from a sick family; motherhood is innate resourcefulness when you forget to pack wipes; motherhood is never taking a photo when you ARE in bed with a sleeping baby, because you can’t look away from the impossibly perfect face you are studying; motherhood is a million whispered, “I love you”s; motherhood is the most joyous chaos. Motherhood is imperfect and heavenly and messy and teary and hilarious, and just the best.

In my opinion, if motherhood is pretty, it’s wasted.

Besides, pretty is too dainty of a word for a title so strong.

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Several Reasons I don’t Love Halloween: A Therapy Session

Halloween has never been my favorite holiday.

Could it be because my childhood was scarred after a clown showed up at my preschool Halloween party? Clowns were a concerning species of human when I was 5, and judging by current news, they still are. They disturbed me even more than ET. My mom dropped my terrified self off, and encouraged me to stay. She kept telling me it was just a man, which was even more chilling, because why would a grown man dress like that? Does anyone know him? Doesn’t he have a job to be at?

Could it be that I associate Halloween with accidentally locking myself in a single user bathroom at a church Halloween party when I was fifteen? No one could hear my shouts because the industrial sized church vacuum was being used. I oathed to never hog the handicap individual bathroom again, even if it did have the best mirror to admire my Bath and Body Works eye glitter. At that moment, all I saw in the mirror was tear stained Cleopatra makeup. Bless the seven year old that finally wandered in to throw away the Werther’s from her trick or treat bucket.

OR, could it be that Halloween meant getting asked on scary dates to haunted houses, suspenseful movies, and freaky corn mazes? The scary part was less the activity, and more running from the guy you were with. Hoping he wouldn’t grab my hand or try to cuddle always got my adrenaline flowing. (I’m crinkling my nose because TRUE DAT every year.)

Thank goodness for my kids making Halloween a million times more enjoyable.

Can kids borrow Trump’s slogan? “Make holidays great again.”

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Thank you to my neighbors who dropped full size candy bars into the bag of my seven toothed child! I appreciate this contribution to my depleted mom-emergency chocolate stash. It’s a real upgrade from stale chocolate chips.

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