Tag Archives: parenting

Too Much of a Good Thing

I love Halloween. Kids in costumes, glowing pumpkins, roasting seeds, raiding the kids’ candy stash. What’s more fun than that?

Last year, I loved it way more than Leo did. I forced / bribed him into his monkey costume. (Pro Tip: Saying, “Do you want candy? Yes? Then get in this costume!” is not bribery; it’s an incentive system.)

This year, I’m not sure how Leo feels about Halloween. But I know how he feels about his giraffe costume: Continue reading

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The Gift of Getting Stuck

train-rain

When was the last time you got stuck?

For me, it was last Thursday morning: Leo and I dropped Zoe off at school on the north side of town and made our way south on Armstrong Boulevard to drop him off on the south side. We were running late (even later than usual), and so we ended up on the north side of the train tracks when the crossing gate came down.

Usually, when something like this happens, I can feel my blood pressure rise. My heart beats faster and I stare down the clock, calculating what the delay will mean for the rest of my day. But this morning, even though we were late, we didn’t really need to be on time. Leo didn’t have preschool and I didn’t have an early meeting. We still needed to get where we were going, but not urgently.

So, I listened to the sound of the rain beating down on the car and the train thundering down the track. I watched the glow of the signal lights and the beading of the raindrops on my windshield. I chatted with Leo (who, as we knowloves trains) and soaked up his joy and wonder. In short, I enjoyed being stuck.  Continue reading

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Parenting in Public

 

Corn Valentine

It’s a vegetable Valentine. It is punny. The corn is crushing it, fashion-wise. This Valentine made my day.

 

I vividly remember Zoe’s first day care Valentine’s Day. When I picked her up, there were three or four Valentines in her cubby, with notes from her day care friends. As I looked at each one, I thought, “Holy cow. There are so many ways to fail as a parent.”

It had not occurred to me to make or buy Valentines for Zoe’s friends. This is probably because, on that first day care Valentine’s Day, Zoe was seven and a half months old. I’m sure that the other parents did not think I had failed (and probably had older kids who actually understood the concept and had a Valentine exchange in their own classroom). I know Zoe and the other babies were not at all concerned.

Last year, Sister Claire wanted to be prepared. She got some very cute Valentines for her daughter’s two-year-old class. And then, before she delivered them, she got a note from the school with the news that they don’t do Valentines for that age group. Wait till your kids are older, they said.

These are the hazards of parenting in public. Continue reading

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Known and Unknown

Seed packet for Paradise Evergreens

“I can’t do this again,” I said to Mike as I lay on the exam table. “It’s too much responsibility.”

I was 25 weeks pregnant with Leo. We had traveled halfway across the country for a friend’s wedding, and I had a little spotting. I couldn’t remember when I’d last felt the baby move, or at least I thought the baby ought to be moving more. I called the clinic back in Minnesota and they said, as they would say to any pregnant woman halfway across the country, “You should go in.”

So the day after we danced at our friend’s wedding, we took a cab to an unfamiliar hospital. They admitted me, asked me lots of alarming questions about what to do in case we delivered the baby then and there, and did an exam. I was fine and the baby was fine. We were released. We took the bus back to our rental apartment, thankful and relieved.

I loved being pregnant. It was such a blessing and such a gift. But it was also a huge and terrifying responsibility. If something felt weird or seemed off, I was the one who had to decide if it merited a visit to the doctor. I was the one who knew best, and much of the time, I simply didn’t know.

'Mother and Child'

Tuesday night, three-year-old Leo woke up screaming. We noticed he was clutching his stomach. Of course, we thought appendicitis. We called the nurse line, who sent us to the emergency room in Saint James, who sent us to the emergency room in Rochester. It was a long, anxious, exhausting night. Continue reading

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Satisfaction Guaranteed

 

IBM Electronic Data Processing Machine

I’m pretty sure this is a behind the scenes photo from Amazon headquarters.

 

What did we do before Amazon?

Seriously, what? How did we find the every day things that aren’t for sale in our town, or the obscure things we forgot we needed until we needed them immediately, or the things we didn’t know we needed until Amazon suggested them to us?

Amazon is a magical  place. When you live in a small town, it is a lifesaver: you can get the stuff they don’t sell in your town delivered to your door (and you can still shop in your town for all the stuff they do sell). Party favors, Halloween costumes, expensive but effective eczema shampoo and body wash, Thomas the Train everything. (Pro Tip: They still sell books, too.)

But it is dangerous, of course, for the same reason: they have everything, and they deliver it to your door. It’s easy to fall down the Amazon rabbit hole, especially if you read the reviews. One product review leads to another, and another, and another, until your virtual shopping cart is filled with things that have suddenly become essential.

We recently converted Leo’s crib into a toddler bed. (Or, in Leo’s words, “Daddy broke it!”) The transition was not as smooth as we had hoped–he was on the floor multiple times a night. So, I turned to my friend Amazon for the answer.

Piano voor aan bed gebonden zieken / Piano for the bedridden

I didn’t find this on Amazon, but maybe I didn’t look hard enough.

What would it be? A traditional bed rail? An inflatable bed rail? A foam bed rail? “Magic bumpers”?  There were so many options, each more expensive and complicated than the last. I was overwhelmed.

But then. Then, I was saved by the very tool that had brought me down this rabbit hole: the Amazon product review. I can’t find the actual review now, but the gist of it was: “This product is basically a pool noodle. Don’t waste your money on this. Buy a pool noodle instead.”

And it’s true! Cut a pool noodle to size (we went with the thicker kind), stick it under the fitted sheet, and voila! No more sad thuds in the middle of the night.

Thanks, Amazon, for once again helping me find exactly what I needed. Even if I found it on clearance somewhere else.

Visit of the Chancellor of the University of London, HRH Princess Anne to the School, 8 May 1986


What is the best or worst Amazon purchase you’ve made?

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How to Wash Dishes with a Three-Year-Old

Image from page 75 of "The boy's camp book; a guidebook based upon the annual encampment of a boy scout troop; the second of a series of handy volumes of information and inspiration" (1914)

1. Set your three-year-old up with a snack at the kitchen table.

2. Fill the sink with hot, soapy water and dirty dishes.

3. Put on your dish washing gloves.

4. Admit, “Yes, I’m doing dishes!” when the three-year-old asks. Continue reading

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Fluffy on the Side: a Love Story

chickie baby

Zoe and Chickie (and Mama), Mother’s Day 2009.

When Zoe was about six months old, I met my friend E for dinner in Saint Paul. We had a lovely meal (we got to eat our food when it was hot and finish whole sentences and everything). Then we went to Half Price books to do some browsing. It was a lovely, grown up evening out.

I don’t remember whether I bought myself anything at Half Price Books. (Pro Tip: I had a six month old baby, so probably not.) But I do remember shopping for Zoe. I came home with a few board books and a few cloth books. One of them was shaped like a chick. I thought it was cute, and Zoe did, too.

Six and a half years later, Chickie is still around. She’s been through the wash; she’s fallen in the toilet; she’s traveled internationally; she’s transitioned from male to female; she’s been lost (and found) in our house and at church and at Grandma’s and out in the world; she’s been with Zoe through good times and bad; she’s soothed Zoe’s physical bumps and bruises and her emotional ones, too.

And after all that, our Chickie is just a bit worse for wear:

Continue reading

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Rock and a Hard Place

My wise mother once told me that parenting was like being between a rock and a hard place. “You look forward to a little time away from the kids, but when the time comes, you miss them.”

This, my friends, is the truth. The rest of the Cumings family is in Duluth this weekend, and while I am incredibly bummed to miss the family fun, I will admit: the thought of sleeping until I wake up on Saturday morning (and, if I’m still tired, going back to sleep) had me a little giddy. Peace and quiet. A chance to be lazy or a chance to clean the house. Sweet solitude.*

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Parenting Unvarnished

Check out my cute little bunnies, Easter 2016:

file--storage-emulated-0-DCIM-Camera-0326161541e.jpg

Adorable, right? Perfectly captures the idyllic family egg dying activity we had just completed.

Except, of course, that it wasn’t. It was crazy, chaotic, and shouty. It was cracked egg shells, and spilled cups of dye, and probably one of the more stressful egg dyeing experiences of my life. (Not to be dramatic or anything.) But I posted the adorable picture on Facebook, because the one idyllic and adorable moment is the one I want to share with the world.

This, though. This is the photo that really nails it. Easter Monday:

file--storage-emulated-0-DCIM-Camera-0328160738a

Everything that can be upside down is upside down. Both children are weeping and wailing. It is chaos. It is exhaustion. It is Easter Monday for a pastor and her children. Unvarnished. No filter. Just the real parenting deal. Did I post this gem on Facebook? I did not.

Here’s the thing: parenting is a both / and experience. It’s both wonderful and terrible; boring and exciting; hilarious and heartbreaking; sweet and sour. Our children fill us with pride and joy one moment, embarrassment and guilt the next. Continue reading

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Sticktoitiveness

Ski Emblems Decorate Door of Donovans, an Apres Ski Spot 02/1974

“We have to be at the doctor’s office at 7:45,” I said to Mike Tuesday night.

“7:45 in the morning?” he asked. If he were a cartoon character his jaw would have been on the floor.

Even though the Cumings kids are early risers (and, Pro Tip, no respecters of Saturday mornings, either), actually leaving the house early in the morning is not exactly one of their spiritual gifts. So, when we pulled up to the clinic at 7:47 AM on Wednesday, I was pretty proud of all three of us.

The appointments went pretty well, too. No one was injured despite robust use of the exam table as a play space; no fingers were crushed in the frequent opening and closing of the exam room door; we spilled some Trix on the floor but didn’t crush any of it underfoot.

So I’m pretty sure I earned my reward:

super sticker

Yep: a sticker. We each got one, and each wore them proudly all day long. (Or until we led a prayer service at the funeral home, because, Pro Tip: stickers are not actually professional wear.)

In my first call, I sometimes awarded imaginary stickers to my confirmation students when they had a really great answer. For a really, really great answer you might even get a sparkly one. This was a surprisingly effective motivational tool.

"Turn Off the Damn Lights" Stickers Mirrored the Seriousness of the Energy Situation in Oregon During the Fall of 1973. This Sticker, in a Portland Business Office, Was Used in Newspaper Ads as Well as on Television, Billboards and Car Bumpers 10/1973

So, what can we learn from this?

1. Recognition matters. When we acknowledge the small victories and the everyday successes, it makes a difference. It makes us happy and proud and motivates us to keep on keeping on.

2. We need more stickers. While I was writing this post, I remembered that today is recycling day. I filled the bin and rolled it around to the front of the house exactly in time for the recycling truck to collect it. Sure, an empty recycling bin is its own reward. But you know what would be the perfect thing to commemorate this mundane achievement? A sticker.

Make it a sparkly one, please.


What motivates or inspires you?

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