The Doggone Truth

Oh boy. I’ve had this one on the back burner for quite some time now.  Quite some time, as in nearly a year.  I didn’t know if I was the only one.  I didn’t know how to put it without sounding heartless and cruel.  I don’t really have a solution or end game for this one other than, “this is how I feel about it”. And I really wasn’t sure if anyone else would be able to relate.  After all, scroll your Facebook feed and if its not people obsessed with babies, food, or Crossfit – its dogs.

I’m nervous.  I can just hear the scoffs and the, “I would NEVER feel that way about our dog”, and the, “This lady should not be procreating if she feels this way about her dogs”.  I can hear it because I’ve seen it.  Not long ago I was scrolling my own Facebook feed and a friend had commented on this post that popped up.  The title immediately peaked my interest. If you want me to save you a minute, its written by mom voicing with brave honesty how her relationship with her dog changed once she had kids.  Brave. Honesty. I read the article and felt a weight lifted off my shoulders.  I wasn’t the sole mother out there who was struggling with the relationship she had with her fur babes.  That light feeling was immediately replaced by a punch to the gut, however, when this woman I felt connected to was incessantly bashed in the comments.  People crucified her. She must be a horrible mother! She doesn’t have a heart! This woman should never have kids! She obviously can’t handle being a mother! And on and on and on.  It was terrible. If these anonymous commenters hiding behind their screens felt these things about her, then they must surely feel the same about me. Ugh.

When I started this blog I told myself I had two rules. 1. I only write when I feel inspired, and never force it.  2. I tell my honest truth.  If anyone takes the time to read it, they deserve that.

Well, despite my fears, here is my truth.  A truth that I think more than just this woman and I experience.

Before I dive in, I’m feeling the need to put out a little disclaimer: I am not seeking advice for how to better deal with my dogs. And I am not seeking your input on how to better manage my home.  I am not seeking any sympathy or anything resembling a pity party; I am fully aware that my situation is a culmination of conscious decisions my husband and I made. I just want to put myself out there in hopes that another mom may breathe that sigh of relief knowing she isn’t the only one.  That’s all 🙂

My husband got our first fur baby, Stokley, as a graduation gift from college from his parents. A beautiful, lovely golden retriever that was part of our dear friend’s new litter of pups.  He was friendly, lively, and had a coat of fur to die for.  He moved around with us as it took us a few years to get settled into adulthood, and once we were married we got the itch to give him a sibling. Enter Skyler.  Another golden retriever with a gorgeous light coat, adorable little size, and playful as can be.  They immediately grew to love each other, and they were our babies.  Weekends spent walking them through scenic trails.  Hours playing out in the backyard. The subject of most of our pictures. You know the drill.

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We talked about how we would prepare them for kids, which would be here in nine short months.  The blanket that smells like the baby.  Let them be curious and get close.  Continue to shower them with attention and affection.  You know that drill, too.

And we did.  We did all the right things, and our fur babies adjusted well.  They are both sweet to our kids and for that I am so thankful. Going from our number ones to our number threes couldn’t have been easy for them, but it is the reality. They are the last ones that get dinner at night and they are the last ones to be put to bed at night. Its just how it is now.

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I stay home with our two year old and three month old.  One of those conscious decisions Matt and I made.  If you’re a mom of multiples or you’ve been in the same vicinity as a pair of littles, you know how busy it can be.  You know that some days it takes every last ounce of energy to make it to bed time.  And you know there are times you nearly shutdown in nervous laughter because shit. is. bananas.  There are too many times when the kids have used up every last ounce of your patience, and the dogs become your tipping point.  Between the kids and your spouse, sometimes it feels like all your attention and time is used up and your reserves are empty.

It’s…challenging.

Its challenging when I’ve worked really hard all morning to get their schedules just right so I might get a few minutes of nap time alone… for Stokley to hear someone clink a spoon on the Food Network and start barking like crazy and wake them up.

It’s challenging when I tell Stokley to sit and stay at the back door so I can get a rag to clean his feet, and he doesn’t listen. Only to spread poop throughout the entire main floor that my toddler daughter has now taken an interest in.

It’s challenging  when I’m in the middle of a dirty diaper change, and Skyler starts puking on the carpet because she insists on eating anything and everything she finds.

It’s challenging when after multiple vacuum jobs each day, their hair still shows up in diapers, food, little fists, and on every blanket we own. I can’t keep up.

It’s challenging when I’m in Harrison’s room and finally lay him down for a nap, when Skyler makes her way up to the bedroom and shakes her collar with vigor. Waking the tiny, exhausted human I just got to sleep.

Its challenging when I try to take the dogs for a walk with the stroller, but can’t because Stokley has a new sense of protectiveness and will quite literally take off to attack any other dog that crosses our path.

It’s challenging when after a sleepless night I finally get the baby back to sleep, and have one more glorious hour to lay in bed. Until both dogs won’t stop crying to be fed downstairs.

It’s challenging when all I want to do is be spontaneous and do fun things with the kids in the backyard. But I can’t until any and all dog poop gets picked up.

It’s challenging when I have a sleeping baby strapped to my chest and a toddler eating lunch, when I look out to see Stokley has wrapped himself around a tree.  Because going outside in 10 degree weather is exactly what I am wanting to do at the moment.

It’s challenging when I know all they need is my affection that they so deserve, and I struggle to muster it up.

And if I’m being really, truthfully, honest… some days its challenging to find my love for them.  I’d be lying if I said there’s never been days where I’ve wished a family member could take them.  And I’d be lying if I said the “if only the dogs weren’t here!” thoughts never crossed my mind.

I have no advice to give, and no “ah ha” moment to leave you with at the end of this one.  I’ve got nothing, because I myself am still trying to sort it out. I’m still wrestling with guilt over how I feel about my dogs, and I’m still trying to make this one big happy home for everyone – including the pups.

What I do know, however, is that while my relationship with them is strained, my daughter’s relationship with them is not.  She laughs with them, lays on them, helps feed them, and knows their rules to reinforce.  She loves them. And they (kind of) love her.  As the kids grow older they will take on more responsibilities with them, and these dogs are going to be the ones they remember as their first pups.  They will forever be a part of my children’s childhood memories.  And when my reserves are depleted, that is reason enough to keep trying.

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To the author of the article that gave me the push to write my own – you are not an awful person or mother.  I know this because I understand and I’m not an awful person or mother.  It’s our experience.  Our truth. And there’s no shame in that.

Because having little kids and dogs, its…challenging.

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Dear Mainstream News: We’re Breaking Up

Dear Mainstream Media Outlets,

We have to break up.  You and I, we had a great go, didn’t we? I had a genuine interest in you, and most of the time that interest felt reciprocated.  But at the risk of sounding like every bad rom com break up cliche, we have to break up – it’s not you, its me.  I’ve grown, found myself, and the new me just doesn’t see her future with you in it.  At least not right now.  Maybe one day in the future we’ll meet up again and rekindle our magic, finding that we can once again meet each other’s needs. But until then, I’m going to have to walk away.  I’ll try my best to explain myself.

I’m a mom.  I have been for nearly two years now, and every day since becoming one, I’ve felt myself slipping farther and farther away from you.  It’s not you. You’ve held up your end of the deal.  Well, most of you. You continue to keep on keepin’ on, presenting the latest news from around the globe every single day without fail.  The good, the bad, and the ugly. You always show up.  Sometimes with integrity.  Sometimes not. But no one is perfect, right? I just can no longer pull my weight in our relationship.  I have nothing left to give.  I’ve got nothing left in the tank.  You see, I’m a mom now.

Back when I was young, wild, and yet to start a family I could consume you without missing a beat.  I had you on all of my devices, checked in with you religiously, and had a strong desire to stay current on all happenings in this world that surrounded me.  I can no longer be that girl. I tried, believe me. For two years I’ve been trying to be that girl. But there’s no going back. I’m a mom now.

One of the little secrets no one told me before becoming a mom is that the depths of my heart would reach levels I never knew possible.  So deep, and so wide, I’m not sure how to accommodate it anymore.  It’s too heavy.  Too much to bare. I feel too much.  And I just can’t carry it all. Everything you show me affects me in ways I have no longer have control over.  Every story. Every heartbreak.  Every life gone too soon. And god forbid, every single injustice, mistreatment, or tragedy that involves a child.

I’m a mom now.  It’s all too close to home.  I can no longer separate myself and my family from what I read.  And there’s just too many of those stories.  Far too many. Every time I read one of your articles about a young child abused in unspeakable ways by those she was supposed to be able to trust.  Every time a newborn is quite literally thrown away like they are part of the garbage. Every time children are forced to flee their homes and become refugees in fear of rebels terrorizing their community. Every single time there is a story about a child that is hurt, lost, mistreated, trafficked, used, beaten, kidnapped, neglected, or any of the other thousand verbs that that should never happen comes into my awareness – it consumes me.  I see those children as if they were my own.  And I see my own in those children.  The lump immediately travels up my throat as the rip simultaneously makes its way across my heart.  My legs feel unstable, and my stomach tightens into a ball.  And if I’m somehow able to make it to the end of the article, I can guarantee you there will be tears.

It doesn’t consume me for the ten minutes following.  I carry it for far too long. I still can’t get past the kid at the library who stiff armed my daughter in the head over ten months ago, let alone all the stories from this summer about young children left to die alone in their overheated vehicles.  I see them in my own children, and they show up in my dreams.  I can’t even talk about the things I feel for the parents of these children. It hurts too much and I keep trying to make sense of things that I know will never make sense.  They can’t make sense.  In no world I want to live in should these things ever make sense.

I imagine their fear. Their loneliness.  I imagine their scared uncertainty. Their hopelessness.  Their pain.  Their fear. Oh, the fear.  I want to swoop in and pick every single one of them up, showering them with the love, attention, and the safe environment they so deserve to live in.  I want to reassure them all that every tomorrow will be okay because I’ll be here. I want them to know their worth and potential, and that they will always have someone cheering them on.  I want to read to them while rubbing their back before gently tucking them in at night so they can peacefully dream about snowmen, cookies, their friends, and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. But I can’t. It’s not possible.  They aren’t mine.  I don’t even know them.

Don’t worry, I haven’t allowed these stories to completely dampen my faith in humanity or turn my heart black.  For every tragedy I read, I know there are a million more people out there bringing comfort and joy to the lives of our littles.  I know this because I try every day in my own ways to be one, and I see all the good every single day in the hundreds of moms and teachers I am connected with.  But for now, at this moment in my life when my heart is working overtime trying to make room for this ever-growing and burning love I have for my own children, we just need to take a break.

Don’t worry, I won’t be negligent to shut myself off from you completely. People need to know the truths from around the world so brave men and women can act on it, and do their part to spread a little more love in this world that desperately needs it. We need to be exposed to the dark so we know where to spread our light.  I just can’t give you what I used to, and I hope you understand.

I told you – its not you, its me.  You see, I’m a mom now.

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The Faces of Modern Day Fatherhood

There’s a running joke in our family with the punch line, “I’m just the dad” [accompanied by the small smiled head shake].  Kids only want to snuggle with mom before bed? “I’m just the dad”.  Dad works insane hours to pay for college, but mom gets the thanks for the support? “I’m just the dad”.  Kids call to check in, and they just want to talk to mom? “I’m just the dad”.

When circumstances and timing are just right, it’s produced quite a few chuckles.   As parents we all have those moments when our kids unintentionally under-appreciate us, but my problem with the joke is that today’s dads are anything but “just the dad”. 

Listen to any of your grandmothers tell stories about their children’s births or what their responsibilities were when their children were young.  You know what I’m talking about.  Times were different.  Many dads weren’t allowed to be in the delivery room when their children were born.  Many didn’t change a single diaper. Dad’s focus was on providing for the family, and mom’s was raising the children.  Not to say dads weren’t rock stars back then too, but with different expectations, culture, and opportunities, things were just… different.

Today’s dads, however, keep adding to their polished fatherhood resume.  There’s nothing they are scared to do, nothing they can’t figure out, and nothing they aren’t a part of.  They are involved in every facet of their children’s lives, and bring such a powerful presence to their parenting team.  These modern day dads are severely underrated, and need to be celebrated and supported just like moms are.  They deserve it, and they’ve earned it.  

If you aren’t sure who I’m talking about, they are easy to spot.  They are the dads that walk in the door after work, take off their shoes, and run straight to the playroom to help build a block tower.  Its the dad that stayed up late on a Wednesday putting together a crib or dresser for the nursery without being asked.  The dad that takes his baby out for errands by himself because “he’s got this”.  They are the dads the kill it in the bedtime routine game, and then head downstairs to help pick up the kitchen before bed.  The dads that are active participants in discipline and teaching life’s hard lessons.  They are the dads that take the time to teach: mowing a lawn, how to read, tying shoes, or how to be a good friend. They are the dads that have the burning ache in their heart when they’re away from their children, because to them, there is no greater joy than watching their children grow and being in their presence.

Being a dad today is no easy task, and thanks to my growing Momtourage I was able to put together a collection of pictures that finish illustrating what my words can’t. To all those rock star dads out there – you’ve got a huge fan base over here. Keep up the good work!

This is what modern day fatherhood looks like.  Enjoy!

To the dads whose immense pride is worn on their face from the very beginning

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To the dads who make baby wearing look like it’s the coolest thing you can do with your child

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To the dads who take bedtime, middle of the night, feeding, and diapering duties seriously 

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To the dads whose kisses and cuddles are tender enough to heal all  

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To the dads with a sense of humor, who don’t mind getting silly, and love having FUN

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To the dads who understand the value of reading with their children 

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To the dads who ROCK the joint nap  

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To the dads who have passed the fatherhood rite of passage by carrying their children on their shoulders 

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To the dads who are present, in the moment, and on their level

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To the dads who teach, lead, mentor, and understand that the little moments are actually the big moments 

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And as if today’s dads weren’t doing enough, the real beauty comes as a product of their example – raising boys who learn from early on what it means to take care of others and be incredible fathers themselves one day.  

Giving baby some tummy time, while keeping him warm with a bandana and multi-taksing. :)
Giving baby some tummy time, while keeping him warm with a bandana and multi-taksing. 🙂

 

Turkey Dogs for Life

I need to send out a hug.  A giant, heartfelt, bear hug to all of you parents that have ever dealt with a toddler that’s a picky eater.  Why? Because OH MY GOD.

Dealing with a picky eater wasn’t even in my peripheral vision.  Not even on my radar. I guess that was one potential challenge of parenthood I overlooked.  Maybe I just assumed because I’m such a good eater that my kids would be too.  After all, I read that moms who eat a variety of foods while pregnant pass those flavors to their baby, therefore creating a pleasant, adventurous eater.  So that must be true, right? Gahhh.

I even remember before I had kids and would see other parents of picky eaters.  The naive, young, head in her butt Erica would tell herself, “Come on! Its not that hard! Its either what you make or they don’t eat! Simple.  Problem solved”.  I love giving that Erica the, “Haha, ok, because you know it all” eye roll.

This one isn’t about advice, or a “what works well for us”. It’s simply a hug.  Because dealing with a picky eater can be so overwhelmingly frustrating and trying.  Even knowing that its a phase, and knowing I’ve never seen an adult only eat turkey dogs and cheese… when all you want is to be able to nourish your child with plenty of vitamins and wholesome goodness for the energy and growth they so deserve… its all too easy to feel defeated.

This one’s for you.

This is for the parents who have brought out the Brezza or food processor time after time after time, determined to make your own baby food, only to have a messy kitchen and a stocked freezer that will never get touched to show for it.  

This is for the parents who have tried steaming, broiling, baking, boiling, and grilling.  There’s bound to be a preparation method they’ll like, right? 

This one is for the parents who have gone out of their way to eat good foods with enthusiasm and passion in front of your children repeatedly to show that if they would just try it ONE MORE TIME, they’ll like it! We promise! 

This one is for the parents who after a long day, consciously prepare dinner with a lean protein, vegetable, and whole grain that you know are sure hits with your tot.  You just can’t deal with defeat.  Not today.  Until you sit down to eat, and this fab trio you prepared is met with an adamant, “NO! NO! NO!”.  

This one is for the parents who purposely take their kids to Sam’s Club for free samples. So they can try new foods without you having to buy or make them.  They love and eat up the cherries for the first time, so you happily buy a carton.  You get home feeling victorious, clean and cut some up, and then she acts like you’re trying to feed her feces.  

This one is for the parents who have resorted to acting like flipping magicians in the kitchen, hiding and covering up veggies in ways no child can detect.  Until they do, and that whole portion of their meal is now deemed inedible.  

This one is for the parents who have tried to wait it out. Leaving little ones in their booster or high chair for awhile.  Surely, she’ll cave.  She HAS to be hungry.  I WILL win this one.  Until you don’t.  

This one is for the parents who have made so many smoothies they should moonlight at their local Jamba Juice.  If they aren’t going to eat their fruits and veggies, you’ll be damned if they don’t drink them.  

This one is for the parents who know the anxiety that comes from knowing they only have one shot at introducing a new food at meal time.  And the WHEN during meal time is critical.  Too early – the entire meal could be shot.  Too late – the entire meal could be shot.  It’s an art form, people.  

This one is for the parents who have felt the repeated devastation of wasting food.  Oh, the wasting of food.  You consider eating it yourself, until you realize its not healthy for your mental well-being or waistline.  Breaks my heart one tiny piece at a time.  

This one is for the parents who have sat there at night, rocking their little one to sleep, replaying the day through their head and cataloging every thing their child ate.  Most days, it never feels like enough.  

This one is for the parents who rarely get to eat warm food.  You want to share meals together, and you want to set an example every day of what eating well looks like, but when you’re up and down repeatedly – the chicken is never warm by the time you get back to it.  

You know how important nourishment is for healthy minds and healthy bodies.  Your child deserves the best, and you so want to be able to give it to them if they just let you.  You envision the day when a family meal time will go smoothly, without disappointment, interruption, or requiring a short order cook.  You’ve read the books and articles.  You get the unsolicited advice.   And you know, like all phases, this too shall pass.   But in the moment, when you’ve pulled out all the stops, sometimes throwing up the white flag feels like your only course of action.

Some of my wonderful dietitian moms have recommended this Ellyn Satter site as a guide for setting healthy eating boundaries and sharing the responsibility of eating well between you and your children.  Hopefully some of you find it beneficial – I know I have.  A lot of great resources.

Until then, I feel for you.  We’ll get through this, one GD chicken nugget at a time.

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