A Chat With My Former Self

You’d think by the time the third kid rolled around, JDubbs and I would be prepared for everything three-year-olds have to offer.  Temper tantrums? Piece of cake. Potty training? No sweat. Transition to big girl bed? Nailed it.  Taking away her Binkie? Um…  I said, Taking away her Binkie?  Well, you see…it’s like this…

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Oh boy.

Like most new parents, we came into this parenting thing with some preconceived notions of how our kids were going to be raised and how they would behave.  We would never raise our voices and we would never say things we would regret.  We would only empower and uplift them at all times, and we would never lose our patience or be one of “those” parents who give in to the iron will of a toddler.  We would parent them as we saw fit, and they would oblige.  Because when it comes to parenting, it’s all a matter of consistency.  Am I right, Former Self?

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Reality: parenting is consistently inconsistent.  Consistently confusing.  Consistently hair-raising, exhausting, rewarding but still confusing, inconsistent and evolving.  Just because you raised one child does not mean that you have any idea what to do with the next.  Or the one after that.  Because these little people do not come with instruction manuals, and they come with a whole lot of independence, opinions, and the beats of their very own (and very loud) drummers.

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Yes, Little H was a great sleeper as a baby.  Yes, she was super easy-going and was down to just follow along on the coattails of Brother and Sister’s lives, spending way more time in her carseat than doing Tummy Time, eating way more take out that organic homemade baby food.  Yes, she transitioned to a big girl bed like a champ and has been peeing in the potty for months.  The perfect third kid.  Flexible, adorable, and fun.

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But then the beat of her own drummer kicks in and girlfriend has a lot of opinions that don’t necessarily jive with what we were expecting.  Won’t even consider pooping in the potty.  Has become standoffish and grumpy to friends she has known her entire life.  Has opinions about whether or not she’ll take a nap today or ever and she definitely insists she still needs her Binkie.

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As with our other two, the Binkie Fairy made her appearance shortly after Little H turned three, leaving a gift behind and the promise that naps would never again happen in this house.  For a while, JDubbs and I were strong.  Two weeks in fact.  But in those two weeks Little H stopped napping, incapable of soothing herself to sleep, spent half her days with her entire hand in her mouth and became an overtired, exhausted wreck.  I wasn’t looking so great myself. Something had to give, and apparently it was her immune system.  Soon after we took her Binkie away she came down with both a sinus and an ear infection, probably from being so run down.  And this three-time Mommy said, Enough.

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So what if she is three? She didn’t start taking a Binkie until she found a rogue one under the changing table when she was one.  So what if we took a stand and said we’d stick to it?  Little girls have to sleep, they need to not stick their hands in their mouths after walking through their siblings’ elementary school (probably reason #2 she got sick, actually).  Mommies need their babies to nap while they do things like run the book fair and apply for new jobs.  Everyone needs to sleep and be happy and wake up rested.  There is a time and place to take a stand, but now is not that time.  So back off, Former Self–I know a little more than you do.

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The presumptuous childless person I used to be would shake her head with judgment and say, She’s going to regret that and JDubbs’s pre-fatherhood self would reply, We’ll never give in like that. It’s all about being consistent.  And then we’d go spend a carefree afternoon at the beach drinking margaritas because, oh yeah, our pre-children selves lived in San Diego and had money and time and energy to burn.  Those two had no idea what they were in for.

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No excuses, pre-baby Self.  I thought I knew it all.  I thought being a mom would be the most gratifying, fulfilling experience of my life, and to an extent, that is true.  But what makes it so gratifying is that I am so much more accepting of my flaws.  I now know that I do not need to be perfect.  I will lose my temper, choose the easier road, pick my battles, feed them fast food, let them watch too much TV while I catch an extra half an hour of sleep on the weekend because I am only as good a mother as my body allows.

I have a feeling that once summer comes, with adventures galore and siblings at home, Little H will catnap in the car and her nap will become a fond memory.  Maybe her Binkie will hang around in the evening for a while, but one thing I know for sure is that I am not going to beat myself up about it or punish her for it.  Every one of my children have been different, uniquely blessed and presenting unique challenges.  For every dollar I saved on diapers when she potty-trained early, I will spend five more on braces when she’s thirteen.  But you know what won’t be on my radar then?  Her Binkie.  You know how I will remember these last two months together at home?  Nostalgicially, blissfully, practically perfect.  And my Former Self can judge all she wants, but this mama really does know what her babies need.

Enjoy that Binkie, Little H.

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Batting Practice

The minute the sun decided to come out of its slumber, and the grass turned the slightest bit greener, the kids, JDubbs and I were ready to stop hibernating and start living again.  With t-ball right around the corner, Jax started growing antsy to start practicing his skills.  So we took the kids to the local baseball diamond and savored every second of it.

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At first the girls were more interested in being cheerleaders than participants, but we eventually won them over.  Life isn’t about being a bystander, after all.

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This particular boy is so no bystander; he is always eager to get out there.  Always eager to get better at everything he does.

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And he’s getting pretty darn good!  Come on, girls, your turn!  Batter up!

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Em might be a pretty good hitter, but she frolics along the base path like the ballerina she is.  It’s a joyful sort of way to move, and I hope she never loses it, no matter how many outs she makes.

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Little H doesn’t dance around the bases; she has and always will hustle.  She hustles through life and knows what she wants.  Two different girls, one crazy boy, and a life that is full of practice for all of us.

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 We just have to keep on hustling, keep on dancing, and stay eager for every season.  Play ball!

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5 Empowering Pictures Books For Girls

5 empowering picture books every girl should read! @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Em’s birthday is three days away, and as with all holidays in this house, I made sure to buy her at least one fabulous book that resonates with her age, her sensibilities, and her awesomeness.  I saw Bloom by Doreen Cronin and David Small in a book store months ago, and knew then and there that this was the book for my girl.  It arrived yesterday, and when I read it cover to cover, I discovered something magical, something worth sharing.  Which got me to thinking…I have more than one magical book worth sharing, and there are so many girls who need books like these in their hands.  These are five empowering pictures books to buy your daughter, niece, loved one, even yourself.  These books teach girls more than plot, character, setting.  There are deep, significant messages within them, and those messages are powerful and important for girls of all ages to hear.

5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Bloom is the story of a powerful magical fairy who protects her kingdom, but she isn’t frilly or girly or what the king and queen conceive as “magical,” so she leaves the kingdom to live on her own, which is fine by her.  After the kingdom is left to its own devices, the king and queen realize they need Bloom, but she will not return.  Only a young girl named Genevieve, considered to be so ordinary, can persuade Bloom to share her powers, and save the kingdom.

5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? is the true story of Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman doctor in the United States, who defeated the odds and all the naysayers to do what no one thought could be done.  In the face of adversity, she never backed down.  It’s a remarkable story for any young woman, especially one who is interested in nonfiction.

5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It 5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It 5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Every little girl will want to be Elizabeth Blackwell when they grow up!

5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

We gave Little H The Gardener for her third birthday–not because it was necessarily appropriate for her reading level, but because it’s a story that both my girls should grow up reading.  The main character, Lydia Grace, grows up in the years after the Great Depression and has to leave her farm to live with her uncle in the city. She has to be brave, braver than any young reader could probably imagine.

5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It 5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

The epistolary format makes the difficult subject matter easier for younger readers.  I love this book because of Lydia Grace’s strength in the face of so much hardship, and her continued love of beauty, no matter how dark her surroundings.  It’s a subtle, but critical, reminder to everyone that every cloud has its silver lining.  Lydia Grace’s character is one worth sharing.

5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Oh, Extra Yarn.  This is one of my favorite books that we own.  If you like books illustrated by Jon Klassen (I Want My Hat Back, for example), this book is possibly my favorite yet. Annabelle discovers a magic box of yarn that never runs out, no matter how much she knits.  She lives in a dark and dismal little town, but even in the face of total incredulity and disdain, with a little persistence, a bit of kindness, and some extra yarn, Annabelle makes some big changes.

5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Even when the evil Archduke arrives to buy her magical yarn, Annabelle cannot be swayed.  She is a simple, yet badass, character worth emulating and sharing with all the little readers in your life.

5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Annabelle is probably one of my favorite characters yet for young readers.  You don’t think she’s going to be as awesome as she is, but just wait for it.  Extra Yarn is a book I cannot recommend enough for readers of all ages.

5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Last but not least is The Whisper by Pamela Zagarenski.  Did you notice that I didn’t even comment on the awards these books have won for illustrations or merit, but am focusing solely on my opinion?  Well, there is more than just awesome language in these books.  The illustrations are just remarkable.  We gave this book to the big kids for Christmas this past year, because I just can’t imagine an early reader’s library without it.

5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

After all the words fall out of the book her beloved teachers loans her on the walk home, the little girl has to imagine all the stories behind the amazing illustrations.  Every page has a line or two to begin the story, then the readers have to finish it, resulting in a different tale every time you read! The clever teacher is a very minor character, but I can only hope my kids have teachers as intuitive as this.

5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Without any kind of compensation or affiliate link, I give you my five favorite books for young girls because, along with The Princess In Black, these are stories that every young girl should hear.  I own all these books and truly love them.  These photos are just simple cell phone shots of well-loved pages, not propaganda or what’s hot right now.  For every book like these worth recommending, there are a dozen passive princesses asleep in their towers or awaiting true love’s kiss.  Heroines in picture books are even more important than heroes, if for nothing more than their singularity.  The girls in your life deserve better.  Show them the world is theirs for the taking, the appreciating, and the commanding.  They deserve to see themselves empowered in every story told.

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Sunshine On My Shoulders Makes Me Happy

Spring appears to have finally arrived in our corner of Vermont, just in time for a lovely, low-key vacation wrap up.  Sunshine has two possible effects on me: complete and utter laziness or a compulsion to get out and explore.  This weekend we had a little bit of both.

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I finally found the motivation to get out for a run (see the good effects the warm weather has on me?), and when I came back, all I wanted to do was bask in the sun’s rays.  The kids thought that was the perfect way to spend some quiet time, so first we pulled out a blanket and a basket of books for some independent reading time, and then moved on to “cooler” activities.
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A bowl full of water that they get to refill with the hose, some paint brushes and a dry deck as their canvas.  Instant art with no clean up!  Plus I was still able to supervise in the sunshine.  Ah, glorious spring!

The next morning we had a bit more motivation.  I had run the day before past Dewey’s Pond and by the scene of one of my kids’ muddiest adventure and thought it was a good excuse for the kids and I to get out and explore.  I loved listening to their words and observations, and it was clear that they have learned so much in school about the world around them.  Jax was comparing the ripples the rocks thrown in the pond to “sonic waves” and they both were looking for signs of springs and animals.  It was a slow walk, stopping to look and consider and explore, but it wasn’t about cardio that day.  We were all about being out in the world in the sun.

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One thing I couldn’t help but notice about my little Em was her constant climbing! She climbed every rock and tree, even in her new dress! I think it has a lot to do with her forest classroom where she spends one day per week.  She is definitely not timid about being outside and testing her limits!  I was really proud to see my almost six-year-old blooming.

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Don’t let this guy fool you, either, though.  He had plenty to say and share–he loved looking for birds, and even insisted on calling Papa to figure out what species of bird was all around us.  Of course, Papa knew–red-winged black birds!  They followed us along on our walk.

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That afternoon was spent grilling dinner at Lake Pinneo, spending our first day of the year at the beach.  Even though we knew the water was going to be freezing with snow runoff, I brought bathing suits, just in case.  Good thing I did because the kids couldn’t resist the call of the water, and we made it home just in time for baths and bed to recuperate from a busy week!

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What a weekend!  What a week!  What a summer we will have!

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Easter Blessings

These little bunnies and I have had a very busy week.  School vacation is a blessed mix of laziness and adventures, sleeping in and staying up late.  What with all the long drives, visitors, evenings with friends and daytime excursions, the blog and its obligations kind of slipped my mind.  But I wouldn’t want to forget to commemorate this Easter and all the fun we had, so here we are again!

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The day before Easter, we drove down to Massachusetts to spend the night with family.  Then we woke up Auntie Amanda and Uncle Chris bright and early to play, open Easter baskets, and have some fun before heading over to Grammy’s for dinner.

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My aunts and uncles, my kids’ aunts and uncles, lots of food, handmade name tags, and plastic eggs made for one very festive afternoon!  I love watching my kids connect with extended family, especially mine since we’re so far away.  I grew up with them in my own house, and having my kids love and appreciate them means everything to me.  It’s an extra blessing in my book.

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And in the spirit of Williams family Easters past, there was an epic egg hunt, for all the bunnies, even the big ones!

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After the egg hunt, there was room for one last cupcake and some more cousin fun before we hit the road to get our pup from the kennel.  We all (especially Little H!) made the most of it.

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One, two, three, four, five times blessed…more than that.  We had so many wonderful reasons to smile that day, and I’m glad I took a minute to reminisce and appreciate it all!

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The Princess In Black

The kids’ school had a literacy spirit week this week, and on the last day they were supposed to dress up as their favorite book character.  As expected, Jax dressed up as Harry Potter, just like he did last Halloween, but Em totally surprised me! I thought for sure she’d love a chance to dress up as Fancy Nancy, but instead, she chose another favorite female character–and one I love!–The Princess in Black!

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The Princess In Black is girly, frilly, and covered in pink from head-to-toe when she is Princess Magnolia, but when the monster alarm rings, she becomes The Princess In Black!  Em owns all three of the books in the series, and let me just say that when she chose to be a badass princess who doesn’t need protecting rather than some lame Disney princess, I couldn’t have been happier!

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Plus, the costume is way cooler.

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So proud of you, Em, for doing something different and for wanting to be like somebody that doesn’t need rescuing.  The world is yours, little girl!  Nobody’s going to stop in your way!

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Love my brave and strong (and silly!) Princess In Black!

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A Southern Comfort Photo Shoot

When one of your best friends since pretty much forever, who lives in some sort of suburban paradise in South Carolina, calls you to say that for the amount she would pay for a photo shoot down there, she might as well buy you a plane ticket, you just say, “Tell me when,” and you go.  Because friendships are important and her babies will only be this little for so long, and you’ve only met one of her three!  Time for some southern comfort and a photo shoot among the peach blossoms!

I got to meet her three wonderful children, who are so sweet and endearing, I really miss them!  Tom and Dawn, you are good parents, my friends!

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We knocked out a few family and sibling photos right off the bat while the baby was being cooperative, and while we were just warming up, I had a little model who was going full tilt.  In fact, I was changing my lens, looked up, and there she was, posing on her own, practically begging me to hurry up.  My pleasure!
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Not only was I able to hang out with my friend and her family, her parents live there as well, whom I have known for the past twenty-five years.  The whole experience was about as warm, loving, and nostalgic a shoot as I have ever done!

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And we had a bit of fun as well!

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Especially when Dawn and Tom decided to keep it real: candy for the big kids, beer for the grown-ups, and…what is the baby doing?  Ah, well, third kid.  That’s real life.

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After eleven years of marriage, it was great to see that these two are still as happy and make each other laugh as much as ever!

In the end, the shoot was magical, and worth ever minute of the journey.

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Thank you for hosting me, dear friends, and for trusting me with your memories!  It was a glorious weekend all around.

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I hope to see you all soon!

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