Saturday, January 24, 2015

The job no one prepared you for...

Usually when I write a blog post, I do so over a matter of days or even weeks. (Truthfully, I have at least five posts that I started last summer and intend to finish someday.) I write a beginning or a basic outline, then fill in details and complete sentences over time. Or I write the first half, get distracted, and don't write the second half for a month. After I've finished a rough draft, I wait a few days, then proofread, change a few things, and then post. That's probably why I post so infrequently.

But occasionally, usually after a night of very little sleep, the whole post just comes out at once. This is one of those times. If you find typos or if this post makes no sense... I'm not surprised. Also, maybe don't read this if you're not a mom yet but hope to be someday. You've been warned.

My two children and I have a particularly nasty cold. (My husband Dan is still healthy, and I'm more than a little jealous.) Lucas (almost three years old) has been sick for over two weeks. He's definitely improving, but he has a lingering cough that still wakes him up at night. I got sick a few days ago, and then four-month-old Calista really came down with it yesterday. By last night, she was miserable. I tried for over four hours to get her to sleep. She would doze off in my arms, but as soon as I would put her down, she would wake up coughing and then cry. I tried her crib, her rock and play (which props her up at an angle,) running a humidifier... nothing helped. The only place she could sleep was in my arms. So I finally gave up and let her sleep in my arms. All night long. I'd love to be able to tell you some pretty lie like, "and I cherished every second" or "These fleeting moments of holding my little darling will be gone all too soon, and I know I will miss them with all my soul, so I just gazed at her sweet face, overwhelmed with love and emotion, while a single tear rolled down my cheek." But the truth is that in the middle of the night, I sent Dan (who was working overnight) a text that said:



Dan and I had dinner at a restaurant with some friends the other day. They have two young children under two years old, so combined we had a total of four kids under age three. The other mom and I were talking, and she confessed that she was finding motherhood to be much harder than she'd expected. "You have a nephew who's older, right?" she asked, "So did you kind of know what to expect?"

It's an interesting question, because before I had Lucas, I totally thought that being an aunt to my sister's son gave me the inside scoop on what it was like to have a baby. My nephew was born when I was 15 years old, and I babysat him a fair amount. I have vivid memories of my tiny nephew crying. I would cradle him gently in my arms, nestle his little head under my chin, and pace the floor while crooning in a sing-song voice, "I'm never going to have kids. No, I'm not. No, I'm not. I love you, I love you, but I'm never going to have kids."

Clearly I needed to work on my lullaby skills.
I waited a full 14 years after his birth to start having children of my own, and when I was pregnant with Lucas, I honestly thought I was Prepared with a capital P. Of course it would be hard. Sure, I'd be tired, But I had experience. I wasn't going in blind like some moms. I knew what to expect.

Poor, naive Bethany.

Not the same thing. At all.
It turns out that there's really no way to be truly, fully prepared for what it's like to have little lives literally dependent on you for survival while you're sleep-deprived and overwhelmed and sure you're screwing everything up. I'm sure there are levels of preparedness. Someone who's worked as a nanny for ten years is likely more prepared for motherhood than someone who has never held a real baby, for example, but it's still hard. And I think it's important to know is that it's hard for everyone. That all the other moms aren't just sailing along, doing the easiest job they've ever done, while you're hiding under your covers crying and eating chocolate.

I tell you this because I know moms who genuinely fear that they are the only one with these struggles. The only mom who has no idea what she's doing. The only mom whose toddler throws twenty-minute-long tantrums. The only mom who is really, really cranky after she's been up all night. The only mom who periodically sends her husband or best friend text messages that say "I'm going to run away and join the circus." So I want to be sure that you know that it's a tough job. For all of us.

Don't get me wrong - there are moments that are so wonderful that I cry. (Although, to be fair, I cry a lot in general.) Lately, Lucas has taken to telling me, "you're the sweetest girl in the whole world," and "you're the best mommy in the whole world," and, "I pick you, Bethany." (I'm not entirely sure what that last one means, but it sounds sweet when he says it.) But it's tough. And when you see other moms (me, for example) post pictures like this on Facebook:



you might be tempted to think, "She has it all together. This is a totally accurate portrayal of her life: two smiling, cooperative children posing sweetly on a floor that is not covered in Cheerios in front of toys that are actually put away." But the only reason you would think that is because I didn't take the time to caption the photo as follows: "This picture was taken on day two of the plague. It was sandwiched in between Lucas screaming for a tissue and spilling cough medicine all over the floor. The Cheerios are on the living room carpet."

So if you're having a rough day or week or... decade, please know that you're not alone and that it definitely doesn't mean that you're failing as a mom. You can do this. But if you find yourself Googling "circus job openings" at 2am, I promise I won't judge you.


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Friday, January 9, 2015

The Beautiful Daughters


Towards the beginning of December, Nicole Baart, an author whose page I follow on Facebook, posted a request for applications for her "street team" to read advance copies of her not-yet-released book The Beautiful Daughters and then write a review of the book. Naturally, my reaction was "Free book?? Before anybody ELSE gets to read the book??? DREAMS DO COME TRUE!!" Also, she said she'd mail some gourmet chocolate and homemade organic soap along with the advance copy of the book, so, um... obviously I applied.

Then I got selected, and I suddenly got kind of nervous. Because, minor detail, I had never actually read any of the other books she's written, so I wasn't entirely sure that I even liked this author's books. If you didn't like her book, she wasn't expecting you to lie and say you did or anything, but still, you know, I didn't want to be like, "thanks for the free book. It stunk." Then I read her book. And it was good. Really good. As in, despite the fact that I have woken up to nurse Calista at least once a night (but usually two or three times) every night for four months and am chronically sleep-deprived, I still willingly stayed up past midnight to finish reading it. Two nights in a row. (I'll give you all a moment to pick yourselves up off the floor, as I assume you've fallen out of your chairs at this shocking revelation.)

So here's the scoop: The Beautiful Daughters is the story of Adri (short for Adrienne) and Harper. (Side note - how cute is the name Adri? If I'd read it before I had Calista, I probably would've suggested the name Adri to Dan as a possible name for our own beautiful daughter. And he would've said no. Moving on...) Adri and Harper are two former best friends who have been separated by time, a whole heck of a lot of miles, and one tragic event. It's equal parts suspense, mystery (from pretty early on you're told who committed a crime, but not how or when or why,) best friend story, romantic fiction, and a bunch of other goodies. Parts of the book are told from Adri's perspective and other parts from Harper's, so you see some of the same events and people through two different sets of eyes. Both main characters are well-developed and likable, and very early on you'll find yourself rooting for them to reconnect (all while trying to figure out why on earth they've been separated in the first place.)

The novel deals with some pretty intense themes, but without being too graphic, and the love stories are romantic but not sappy. Nicole Baart has absolutely mastered the art of writing vivid descriptions that allow you to visualize a person or place without being so overly detailed that you're thinking, "could you please stop describing a table and just move on with the story?" Overall, I loved the book, and now I'm planning to buy Nicole Baart's other books because I really like her writing style.

If you'd like to read this novel before you can buy it, you can win my Advance Reader Copy (autographed by the author) for your very own!! Not only will you get to read it before everybody else does (it's due to be released April 28,) it's also entirely possibly that if you take it with you to a doctor's appointment and have it sitting next to you in the examination room, the doctor might happen to notice that it's an advance copy and be impressed and then recommend some other good books you'll like. I'm not promising this will happen, but it has happened to 100% of the people who have read this particular copy of the book (although, to be fair, I'm the only one who has read this copy before, so...)

Wanna win it? (Of course you do.) Visit my Facebook page or check out the Facebook post below to enter (and check out the complete rules under the picture of my beautiful daughter with The Beautiful Daughters.)



This book comes with my 100% personal guarantee that Calista did not spit up on it.

Complete contest rules and details:
Open to residents of the United States age 18 and over. Contest ends 1/21/2015 at 11:59pm. Up to two entries allowed per person. Please do not comment more than two times on the Facebook contest post!

Requirements for the first entry: 
1. "Like" Nicole Baart's Facebook page.  
2. "Like" I was promised more naps' Facebook page. 
3. Leave a comment on the contest post on Facebook letting me know that you've liked both pages.

Requirements for the second entry:
In a SEPARATE comment on the Facebook contest post, tag at least two friends (or as many more as you wish) who you think might be interested in entering the contest to win a free book.

One person will be randomly selected to win an autographed Advance Uncorrected Proof copy of The Beautiful Daughters by Nicole Baart and will be notified of their win via Facebook. The winner is responsible for providing me with a mailing address within 72 hours of being notified. If the winner does not contact me within that time frame, the prize will be forfeited, and an alternate winner will be chosen.

This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by or associated with Facebook. By entering, you agree to release Facebook of all liability pertaining to said contest. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. This prize has no assigned value as advanced reader book copies are not available for retail sale.

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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Super Easy Indoor Obstacle Course for Toddlers and Preschoolers

I'm not sure how it is where you live, but it's ridiculously cold outside of my house right now. (I just looked at my phone to see what the temperature is, and it said it was 32 degrees. And I was like, "oh, that's not terrible." Then I realized it said it was last updated on November 25, 2014. The actual temperature is 4. Apparently my phone is so appalled by the single digit temperature that it refuses to acknowledge it. So there you go. It's cold.)

Two days ago, I woke up feeling really lousy. I spent most of the day in bed (luckily Dan was off) thinking I was going to vomit, but I didn't... which was nice. But then at around 2pm, Lucas threw up. And again a few hours later. And a few hours after that. Then Dan got sick. I thought I had escaped the worst of it, and then yesterday I woke up, and... threw up. A whole lot of times. It's been an unfortunate few days in the More Naps household.

Anyway, the point of me sharing my family's gastrointestinal struggles with you is to say that between sickness and the cold weather, Lucas has watched a LOT of television in the past few days. Like, an embarrassing amount. He felt fine yesterday, but Dan and I both felt like death, so Curious George, Daniel Tiger and Bob and Larry (of Veggie Tales) were babysitting while we hovered over the toilet. Good times. (Thankfully, Calista has remained healthy.)

Today, we all feel pretty confident that we will survive, but Lucas was majorly in "I want to watch TV all day" mode this morning. I figured he should probably actually do something more than sit around like a lump, so I had this idea:



Ok, I'm aware that that just looks like random things strewn about my living room, but it's actually:



See?



Don't mind my messy house.

All you need is a few things they can step or climb over (stools, ottomans, large pillows, small chairs); crawl under (baby activity arch, dining room chair, coffee table); climb or step in (cardboard box, laundry basket); and jump over (swimming pool noodle, rolled up towel, line of masking tape on the floor.) You can literally assemble it in under five minutes.  Show them how to do it (when I showed Lucas, I somehow managed to get my hair tangled in the baby activity mat and was stuck for a full minute, for real,) and let the fun begin.



You can always switch the items up or add a new obstacle if they start to get bored. After nap time, we added the scarf "tight rope" for him to balance on (it's just stretched out on the floor and he walks on it), some pillows to crawl over, and a blanket to do a somersault on. As an added bonus, crawling under the activity arch makes his hair do this:




And if you need more ideas to keep your toddlers or preschoolers entertained while it's ridiculously cold, check out these posts I wrote last winter:

Ways to entertain your toddler inside when it's ridiculously cold outside

Five things that might make your toddler forget about TV (at least temporarily)


And here's another video of the obstacle course from this morning that features a mildly fussy Calista:


He kept referring to it as a magical trick ("mag-i-jul trick,") and as evidence of the fact that he's been watching too much TV, he was doing it while pretending to be Curious George's friend Marco ("Marble,") but it killed quite a lot of time this morning.


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