Hi, I’m The Mom of the Bad Kid

sad schoolboy waiting in the schoolyard,selective focus

As featured in Huffington Post Parents

 

We all know the kid. They were in every class we had in school growing up.

They’re in our kids’ classes now.

Pushing kids on the playground. Refusing to listen to the teacher.

Getting sent to the principal’s office.

The bad kid. We always wonder, whose kid is that, and why do they act like that? My kid would never act like that, we think. Until they do.

I have an embarrassing confession to make: that “bad kid” is mine.

Children who act out can be easy to put in a box and to develop stereotypes about. We as a society are often quick to assume the child must be emotionally disturbed or have parents at home who don’t care or don’t try hard enough to teach their kids right from wrong.

Before my almost 5-year-old developed behavior issues in daycare at 3, I was a parent who judged parents of difficult children. “They’re probably the type of parents who let their kids walk around the house with a giant bag of flaming hot cheese puffs,” I’d think. Worse, I’d assume they screamed at their kids at home or ignored them entirely. Maybe even that the parents were physically abusive to their kids.

These were parents who shouldn’t have been, I thought, who fell pregnant and stumbled through dealing with the small humans who resulted from their carelessness.

This wasn’t me. I’d grown up in a loving home with parents who just celebrated 35 years of marriage. Most of my family are teachers. Getting my name on the board for talking once a year was as much trouble as I found myself in. I knew that when I’d have kids, they’d be good students, too. Why wouldn’t they?

My son was the baby everyone hopes they’ll have and few do. He was calm and mellow, sleeping through the night by six weeks old. He hardly fussed.

He blossomed into a bright, loving and active toddler.

When he turned 3, however, and moved into a new class at preschool as he struggled with potty training, his anxieties resulting from the transition surfaced. He became rough with other children and teachers while he struggled to make new friends and feel some control over his life. He began throwing temper tantrums.

My husband and I started to receive phone calls from the teachers when they found themselves unable to calm his tantrums. The preschool didn’t believe in timeouts. Instead, they’d just talk to him about his behavior, which proved ineffective.

As my son made friends and became used to the changing preschool structure, his behavior improved and the sweet, loving boy we knew him to be returned.

Recently, my son started transitional kindergarten, which is a sort of “kindergarten before kindergarten” for kids whose fall birthdays make them just barely too young for kindergarten in my state.

Here at last was the strict structure and behavior consequences I’d been seeking. There were behavior charts and clips that moved up and down them. There were stickers and small toys for good behavior, and timeouts and even principal office visits for bad behavior.

My husband and I walked my smiling son up to his first day of school, baby sister in tow. He was so excited. So were we.

Just days later, the first phone call came from the school.

Your son dropped an “F” bomb and wouldn’t listen to the teacher, they said. He was sent to the principal’s office. Already? We were devastated.

We talked to our son about his behavior. We took away his privileges after school. No TV. No treats after dinner. Still, he acted out. Coming close to bullying other children as he tried to make new friends again. Throwing temper tantrums and chairs as he tried to regain control of something, anything, in his new environment.

Then came the scheduling of a parent-teacher-principal conference. All in the first two weeks of school.

My husband and I showed up for the conference in our work clothes. Ready to listen. Desperate to help our child. Not at all the delinquent parents I’d thought “bad kids” have. The principal told us she found our son’s behavior “very concerning for a 4-year-old.” He was using curse words correctly, she said. He didn’t show any fear of her or the teachers.

Really, he’s a good boy, I told them. He’s just going through a tough time of transition. They looked at me blankly. Disbelieving. He was the bad kid, and they knew it.

At home he generally continued to be the sweet boy we loved. Sure, he could be moody and defiant, but mostly he loved to present his dad and me with his artwork gifts, and snuggle in bed at night as we read stories. He clearly wore his emotions, good or bad, on his sleeve. It was just who he was.

It broke my heart to know the school teachers and administrators thought of my child as the “bad kid,” a label that I knew from having so many teacher relatives could stick with him indefinitely. My precocious, smart, funny, affectionate boy, with his bewitching green eyes, could be forced to wear the “bad kid” label throughout his school years. All because of a rough patch as a young child.

Determined to help our son every way we can, my husband and I set up a system with his transitional kindergarten teacher in which she sends home daily letters on his behavior and we respond accordingly with rewards or punishment. So far, the daily follow up seems to be helping. As does piling on extra hugs and kisses and attention.

My experience with my son’s behavior has taught me that kids can act out for a number of reasons, even with devoted parents who are mortified by their child’s behavior. Even when the child is not seriously emotionally disturbed.

Most importantly, I’ve learned that “bad kids” generally aren’t at all.

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My Friends Gave Me The Best Advice On Taking An Extended Maternity Leave

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Can you blame me for wanting extra time with this cutie?

As published in Romper

My job has always been an important part of my identity. OK, maybe not my first job as a teen working the concession stand at a movie theater, but everything that came after. Even while shoveling popcorn, I was committed to offering great customer service and a smile. When I got pregnant with my first child, quitting my job to be a stay-at-home mom wasn’t an option on the table. We needed the money, and I wanted the satisfaction of using my skills outside the home and to contribute to society through working. I literally worked until the baby popped out and took the minimum maternity leave. For my second baby, however, I received some important advice from friends to take an extended maternity leave and enjoy some extra time with my baby. And honestly, it was the best advice I got from my friends.

With my first pregnancy, I took the 12 weeks for which I could receive pay under California state law, and not a day more. I didn’t realize that I could receive additional paid leave for time needed to rest and prepare before the baby was born. Under state law, I was entitled to up to four weeks of disability leave before the birth of my baby as needed, according to the State of California Employment Development Department.

Before I fully understood state law during my first pregnancy, I was working as a newspaper reporter. I planned to work until the day my son was due. However, my son was due on a Friday and I typically worked Tuesday through Saturday, so I decided to continue working until the day after my due date. I wanted to save every day of my 12-week leave for after my baby was born.

 Pregnancy and parenting a newborn are hard enough without having to try to navigate complicated state and federal maternity leave laws, but that’s exactly what I was doing, and badly. By the last few weeks of my pregnancy, even walking was uncomfortable, with the baby weighing heavy on my bladder and my muscles aching. Still, I trudged out out to crime scenes to report on them, and up and down the courthouse stairs to cover trials for the newspaper. I received a lot of questions and comments.

“Still working, huh?”

“You must be due any day now.”

It was just too soon to be away from my baby.

Somehow, I made it through my last day of work without going into labor. As if my body knew it needed to hold on just long enough, I went into labor in the early morning Sunday, just hours after I finished my last work shift.

The 12 weeks of maternity leave after my son’s birth came and went quickly, but I was grateful that I had that much time home with my son. I knew of many new moms who worked and only received six weeks of disability pay as they didn’t qualify for Paid Family Leave or another paid leave program. Therefore, some of these parents could only afford to take a six-week leave. Others couldn’t even afford the partial pay, and returned to work a week after birth.

I was able to take 12 weeks of leave because of disability leave after the birth, followed by the six weeks of Paid Family Leave, which I qualified for as someone with a job who was contributing to State Disability Insurance. When I returned to work, I did little more at first then stare at the album of baby photos I brought as my eyes welled with tears. It was just too soon to be away from my baby.

 Pregnant for a second time, I initially planned to take 12 weeks again. However, a few conversations with friends and coworkers changed my mind. One coworker at my same company who’d recently given birth took a full four months, including some time before her baby was born. I was intrigued. I’d heard of similar experiences from other friends inside and outside the office. You’ll never get this time with your baby back again, they’d say.

I did some research and found that in addition to my 12 weeks of paid leave, I was entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. Although six weeks of that 12-week leave would be used consecutively with my state Paid Family Leave, that left me an additional six weeks of unpaid leave I was able to take. I decided to take four of those six weeks of unpaid leave, for a total of 16 weeks. But I elected to not take the full 18 weeks allowable under the law as I didn’t feel our family could afford to be without my income for that extra time.

When my work supervisor asked when I wanted to begin my maternity leave and how long I’d be taking, I was anxious to say I wanted to start two weeks before my due date and four months after the baby’s birth. She seemed surprised, but OK with it. She had no choice but to accept my decisions, legally anyway. That’s because she was required to hold my job for me, or something comparable, during my leave due to the Family and Medical Leave Act.

The extra maternity leave time was especially important since I was splitting my time off between my two kids.

At eight-and-half months of pregnancy, I was more than ready to take some time off work and enjoy some rare alone time. At the advice of my friends, I didn’t feel guilty about keeping my son in preschool for those couple of weeks and sitting home catching up on crappy daytime TV while I washed and folded baby laundry. I was resting and relaxing, and my body and mind needed the break.

 My daughter was born a couple of days before her due date, and during labor I was able to pay attention to my early contractions that lasted several days, timing them and monitoring them closely. After my daughter was born, I didn’t feel as rushed as I had with my son when the days and weeks flew by and were jam-packed with visitors. Instead, I took my daughter to the park and the store in the front carrier. I let my eyes linger over her sweet little baby features and made time for snuggles whenever possible. The extra maternity leave time was especially important since I was splitting my time off between my two kids.

 

The last month of my leave was unpaid, but my husband and I saved money beforehand in preparation. In the end, I felt the few weeks of unpaid leave were well worth the money lost because of the extra baby-bonding time and moments to myself before birth. Once again, we were fortunate that we had the means to support ourselves without my income for a short time. And after I’d gone back to work after both babies were born, my husband took several weeks of paternity leave so that he had time alone with the babies as well.

 My friends had been right. I wouldn’t be able to get back this fleeting time with the babies once it was gone. They’re little once, and for such a short time. My job could wait, and thankfully, it did. My boss didn’t give me any grief about my leave, and I was able to pick up where I left off after a short catch-up period. Fortunately, my boss has young children of her own, so she was fairly understanding as I got back in the swing of work.

Returning to work, I was refreshed and fully healed. I had a solid breastfeeding routine down, and was ready for adult interaction and the challenges of the workplace. Thanks to some great advice from friends, I was able to find a work/life balance that worked. Without their advice, I would have probably taken another less-than-adequate maternity leave, not fully understanding state and federal leave law and stressing out about my job.

All said, I wouldn’t trade a day of the chubby baby snuggles that came with my extended maternity leave.

I Thought Sharing Ultrasound Pictures Was Silly, Until I Had One I Had To Share

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Apparently, belly pics were alright with me, just not ultrasound pics…..

As featured in Romper

It seems like all of my friends’ pregnancy announcements often include a shrimp. Not the kind that’s tasty with garlic butter, mind you. I’m talking about shrimpy little fetuses in the early stages of gestation. Yes, countless pregnancy announcements often include ultrasound pictures posted to social media. I think babies are the cutest things ever, don’t get me wrong But that’s where I draw a distinction: Babies are cute, not little shrimp-like fetuses smaller than a fingertip. And I have to admit that I thought sharing ultrasound pictures was silly. That is, until I had one I wanted to share.

Eventually, I’d come across an ultrasound picture that I felt was so adorable, I had no choice but to break all of my self-imposed rules and put that blurry little black and white face out for the world (or at least all my Facebook friends) to see. But it took me a looooooong time to get to that point. While pregnant with my first child, I felt that ultrasound pictures were nice to enjoy in the comfort of your own home Just you and your significant other, oohing and ahhhing at the majestic little creature brewing in your uterus. Maybe you even text a photo or two to your parents. But I felt that should be the extent of it.

There is just something so intimate about an ultrasound picture, especially one in early pregnancy. That baby is not yet recognizable as a baby, and most of the image is taken up by your actual uterus. Even later in pregnancy, baby features look warped in ultrasound pictures.

 Ultrasound pictures are a fun souvenir from a procedure that serves an important purpose: to determine your pregnancy is progressing normally. And I was admittedly super excited for this souvenir when I was pregnant with my first baby. My husband and I squinted at the image on the screen at our seven-week ultrasound, beyond ecstatic to see the little shrimp with the flickering heartbeat. We headed home with our glossy ultrasound photos clutched in hand, and texted our moms pictures of the images.

My husband’s mom responded with some appropriately nice sentiment. “Oh, how beautiful. I’m so excited to meet her or him.” My mom, however, was less politically correct.

“What am I looking at exactly? Can you call when you have a chance and explain these pictures to me?” But even after my explanation, she remained unimpressed. “I guess I see it,” she said. “I wouldn’t exactly call it cute just yet. But I’m sure when she or she is born, the baby will be adorable.”

Then, something incredible happened. She smiled.

Miniature baby sex organs, unidentifiable as they may be, are also frequently displayed all over social media in ultrasound pictures. “Look, you can see the hamburger! It’s a girl.” Baby genital pictures aren’t normally socially acceptable, but somehow, in an ultrasound image, they are totally Kosher.

At the time, it felt like my mom and I were alone in our opinion that ultrasound pictures were better kept private. Ultrasound pictures not only graced countless birth announcements, but many parents-to-be even framed ultrasound photos to hang in their nurseries. I attended a baby shower where, I kid you not, there were framed ultrasound photos on display. My vow was to never post an ultrasound picture on social media. My husband, not bound by the same vow, did post one 3D ultrasound picture of our son on Facebook when we found out he was a boy, genitalia not included.

 When I was pregnant with my daughter, I continued my vow to not post ultrasound pictures on social media. I did pay for a special 3D ultrasound session towards the end of my pregnancy because I wanted to to double check she was a girl and take one last peak at her before she was born. And as the ultrasound tech slid the wand over my the goo on my belly, we could make out chubby baby cheeks and even hair on her head. She was sleepy, and I rolled around to try to wake her. She moved her little hands and wiggled her pudgy toes. I had to admit, she was adorable. Even though I couldn’t make out the details of her features. Even in an ultrasound.

I broke my promise to never post ultrasound pictures to social media that day. I had to.

Then, something incredible happened. She smiled. We knew she was in the dark and didn’t know we were looking at her. But still, she smiled and the ultrasound tech caught it on camera. Even in utero, she was more than a blurry black and white image. She was a baby with emotions. Or gas. But she was a baby. Our baby.

 I broke my promise to never post ultrasound pictures to social media that day. I had to. I had to post the ultrasound photo of my baby smiling. And you know what? I don’t regret it. Not one bit.

 

I now have a new understanding of those parents who post ultrasound pictures to social media. Even those who frame the ultrasound pictures to display in the nursery. They are proudly sharing a glimpse of a person they would soon love beyond measure. The best shrimps we’ll ever have.

I Cared What My Baby’s Sex Was

Jos
Ain’t she cute, though?

 

As published in Romper

“All that matters is that my baby is healthy.” These were the words I said when I was pregnant for a second time because they felt like the right thing to say and because it seemed like the things everyone who was expecting a baby said. Except, for me, those words were a complete and total lie. In fact, I found out just how much of a lie my “all that matter is that my baby is healthy” comment was when I cried during my own gender reveal ultrasound with joy and disbelief after finding out I was expecting a girl. Having a healthy baby was by far my number one priority, but my baby’s sex mattered to me. Truthfully, I cared whether I had a boy or a girl. And since I’d already had my boy, now I wanted a girl.

Admitting this feels un-politically correct for a number of reasons. Chief among them is the fact that so many people try for years to get pregnant and sometimes never succeed. So the fact that I’d gotten pregnant relatively easily both times, and that I was fortunate to have normal pregnancies, made admitting that my baby’s sex mattered to me that much more difficult.

Another reason admitting I cared about my baby’s sex felt wrong is that a baby’s sex doesn’t necessarily determine his or her gender. Sex, of course, refers to the biological differences between males and females, while gender is often defined as a person’s role in society or by the way they self-identify. I could end up with a boy who identified as a girl, or vice versa. And in my internet baby and pregnancy communities, hardly anyone dared to show a preference for a boy or girl baby. I watched with morbid fascination, like observing a snake swallow a house whole, when the occasional woman dared to confess that she really hoped she was having a boy or girl.

The angry replies would pour in:

“You’re lucky to have a baby at all. It took me three years to get pregnant.”

“You get what you’re meant to get.”

“What matters is that you have a healthy baby.”

I’ve always been close to my mom. We’d gossip and share confessions. So I wanted a little girl to share that special bond with.The responses were even more volatile if someone with multiple children or who already had children of both sexes expressed a sex preference. Someone said, “You’re so blessed to have children already. You have one of each. Why would you care whether your next baby is a boy or a girl?” But even so, I wanted to have a girl. I couldn’t help myself. My truth was hard to admit even to myself, especially given the response such feelings were met with by many other mothers to be. I felt guilty having a preference, and ashamed of these feelings.

When I was pregnant with my son the first time around, I really didn’t have much of a preference for whether I was having a boy or a girl. I knew I wanted to have two children, so I figured I’d think about the baby’s sex the second time around. I was elated to learn I was expecting a boy. I happily folded all of the adorable baseball and animal onesies I received at my showers. I hand-painted jungle decor for my son’s bedroom. I was stoked.

And I love being mom to a little boy. Although I didn’t expect or raise my son to have stereotypically “boy” interests or act like a stereotypical boy, he loved superheroes and cars. He liked to talk and read and play more than he liked to cuddle. My son was, and is, super fun, funny, thoughtful, and ridiculously smart.

My son was my everything, but he wasn’t my mini me. I got pregnant with my second and last child when my son was 3. And before I found out I was pregnant, my husband and I tried to have a girl. I used ovulation detector strips to try to time our sex for just before my ovulation. Admittedly, my desire to have a girl was entirely selfish. I’ve always been close to my mom. We’d gossip and share confessions. So I wanted a little girl to share that special bond with. I wanted long hair to play with, and someone to dress in gaudy accessories. I wanted someone my experiences would resonate with. Someone I could offer comfort and encouragement to, because I’d “been there, done that.”

My son was my everything, but he wasn’t my mini me. Even as a little boy, his life experience was already very different than mine. He and my husband share a special bond, and just seem to “get” each other. I wanted the chance at that kind of connection. And even though I wanted a girl, I doubted I’d ever have one. In fact, the first few months of my pregnancy, I was absolutely convinced I was having another boy. I just felt like a boy mom. And maybe I was protecting myself from disappointment by not getting my hopes up for a girl.

Truly, the most important thing was having a healthy baby and I’d have been happy with two boys completing our family, because no matter what our baby’s sex, we decided we were stopping at two kids. It felt like forever, but finally we were at the doctor’s office for our ultrasound that would likely determine the baby’s sex. I watched with bated breath as the ultrasound technician moved the wand over my slippery belly.

“It looks like you’re having a… girl,” she said.

I was a woman who’d once been a girl, and being a girl felt like such a unique and special experience to me. I asked her to say it again to be certain I’d heard her right. She was. I couldn’t believe it. I broke out in an ugly cry. I was getting my girl.

Until the dam holding back my tears broke loose, I don’t think I fully realized just how much I’d wanted a girl. Sure, she could be an athlete who likes to roughhouse and loves the color blue. Or she could love pink. She could be the president of the United States one day. Being a girl doesn’t define who she is. But still, her sex mattered to me. It mattered because I was a woman who’d once been a girl, and being a girl felt like such a unique and special experience to me. From having girl friends, to eagerly awaiting my first period, to getting dressed up with makeup for nights out in high school, I loved being a girl and I wanted a girl to relive that journey with. A girl to bond with and swap confessions.
As a 1 year old, my daughter loves to snuggle and gravitates to dolls instead of dinosaurs. But she loves to wrestle with her brother and can hold her own. She has blond hair like my husband did when he was a baby, and she’s not my mini me. But she’s my little girl, and we do have a special bond. In the future, who knows how she’ll chose to identify — or even if she’ll like being referred to by feminine pronouns. But right now, she’s my little girl. And that really, really matters to me. Being honest with myself that I cared what my baby’s sex was was difficult, but important because it’s a truth of parenting for me.

If I’d had two boys, I would’ve considered myself happy and fortunate. But I also would have felt disappointment and would have mourned the loss of the daughter I’d never have. And that’s OK. I have my daughter, and though she’s young, the experience is already every bit as fulfilling as I’d hoped. She’s my girl, and that makes me so happy.

My Confession: Parenthood is Terrifying

baby jos
She’s a cute little scary beast….

 

As published in Romper.

Parenthood is one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. It’s also knee-knockingly, heart-poundingly, sweating-until-my-shirt-is-soaked-throughterrifying. Expecting my first baby, my head was in a cloud of all the possible names we could choose and the cute little onesies we had to look forward to. I didn’t know then what I know now. I didn’t know the thing no one tells you at your baby shower, the thing no one warns you about as they’re wheeling you to the delivery room. The thing no one says until you say it out loud, alone, in your first real minute to breathe: that parenthood is scary.

It’s scary for so many reasons. Because kids are so vulnerable. Because the world is full of bad people doing bad things, and you can’t stop them. Because, why is your kid making that weird nose when he breathes? Because you love them so, so much. Like so many expectant moms, I was admonished by well-meaning more experienced moms to enjoy my sleep while I could because the baby would keep me awake due to constant nighttime feedings and fussing. I imagined some sort of cute little colicky doll, like those crying dolls you took home in home economics class in middle school to “experience” parenthood. Instead of returning this doll at the end of the class, I reasoned, I’d trade in my fussy newborn after a few months for a sweet infant who slept like a dream. My worries would be behind me. It would be all over-sized hair bows and charmingly posed family photos from then on.

Wrong. Sure, I was fortunate that both of my kids were relatively good sleepers, even as newborns. But my days of restful sleep were behind me, because I’d be constantly listening for my kids’ little voices yelling “Mommy!” down the hall in the middle of the night. Somehow, my husband could sleep through their midnight noises but I could probably hear them sigh if they were spending the night at the North Pole.

I didn’t know then what I know now: that your babies are always your babies, and parenthood is scary.

Even now, all these years later, before heading to bed, no matter how tired I am, I check on my kids to make sure they’re covered with their blankets and sleeping soundly. But not so soundly that they’re dead or something. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ll have to drive to my kids’ houses at night when they’re grown and living on their own to make sure they’re still breathing.

As a parent, I have new appreciation for what my siblings and I put my mom through. How we stayed out until 2 a.m. as teenagers, not knowing or caring that she always stayed awake until she saw our car headlights reflect on her bedroom window as we pulled into the driveway. I didn’t know then what I know now: that your babies are always your babies, and parenthood is scary.

My husband and I are solely responsible for our children’s well-being. Every choice we make about where to live, about where they’ll go to school, about whether to feed them cereal or waffles for breakfast, is crafting the blueprint for their lives. There’s no one telling us how to parent or enforcing our good parenting. It’s terrifying that there’s really no one to fall back on but ourselves when it comes to parenting.

As a former newspaper reporter assigned to the crime and courts beat, I considered myself pretty thick-skinned and unflappable. But that was before I had kids.When I lose my temper and curse at my husband in front of my kids, that’s no longer just damaging my relationship with my husband. That’s setting a bad example for my kids. I have to choose each day to be a good example. Sure, I have the freedom to be a terrible parent, but the responsibility to be a good one. that responsibility is daunting and terrifying.
 

We parents generally don’t receive much training for parenthood. With the exception of child development, teaching majors, or veteran babysitters, there’s little in the way of formal parenthood education. We have to learn parenting as we go, with maybe a little help from parenting books and articles we don’t have time to read. But no matter the knowledge we glean from the articles we scarf down through stolen moments in the bathroom or because we stayed up too late and will definitely regret doing so the next morning, one thing remains: Parenthood is scary.

And of course, this is a big world and there’s bound to be bad news coming in from somewhere at any given time. As a former newspaper reporter assigned to the crime and courts beat, I considered myself pretty thick-skinned and unflappable. But that was before I had kids. Once I did have kids, someone could practically mention the word “kid” and I’d dissolve into a bucket of tears. As a parent, every kid is your kid. Every tragic news story involving a child makes you think about your own child, and how the thought of anything awful happening to them would shatter your life beyond repair.

I feel a responsibility as a parent to not only take good care of my kids, but of myself as well. My two children are depending on me to stay in good health so I can look out for them. Just as our kids are at the center of mine and my husband’s world, we’re at the center of theirs. It’s scary to think about something happening to one or both of us. Who would take care of our kids? Who would make sure they’re tucked in at night and breathing? It’s scary that we have to give our kids the freedom to experience heartbreak from a not-so-nice “friend” at school. It’s scary that life is full of lessons they’ll have to learn by themselves, on their own, firsthand.

I feel that parenthood is totally overwhelming and we’re ill-prepared for it. There’s no denying it. Still, we trudge through as we have for centuries. And yet the human race continues and even thrives. We’re obviously doing something right. Maybe our anxiety about parenting is what keeps us on our toes and ensures we give our best effort to raising the next generation.

As a parent in my own right, I’ve learned to embrace the unknown. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but I can do my best to take care of myself and my family today. I can love my kids so much that watching the news hurts, but still trust that they’ll turn out all right. Because for me, parenthood is worth every nail-biting, knee-knocking, armpit-sweating moment.

A Microwave Mom’s Pumpkin Spice Cookie Tutorial

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These are what’s left of my cookies. Don’t worry. With some practice, you too can rise to my level of Pinterest expertise glory.

What would fall be without pumpkins?

And pumpkin spice, and pumpkin spice lattes, and pumpkin spice latte cookies and pumpkin spice latte cookie cheesecake?

Of course, someone has to tell you about the latest recipes for these seasonal delights, and who better than a mom blogger? We’re moms, after all. We’re domestic. Our kitchens are always sparking clean and smell of pumpkin bread. We have pumpkin spice running through our veins.

In the spirit of the season, I’d like to share with you some steps I recently took to craft some delectable pumpkin spice cookies for my family. From my home to yours.

  1. Swing by the grocery store because we’re out of sandwich bags and fruit. Happen by pre-sliced ready-to-bake cookie dough section. See the pumpkin spice cookies and think “How festive. My husband will love these. Maybe I can barter these in exchange for him Swiffering the floors. Or putting away his piles of laundry. It’s sad I have to bribe him to put away his own laundry, but anyway. These are festive.”
  2. After dinner that night, decide to plop the cookies in the oven out of the goodness of my heart while my husband watches Avengers: Age of Ultron. No bartering required. Because that’s the kind of loving, domestic wife I am.
  3. Use promise of cookie to bribe preschool son to put down his makeshift Tinkertoy weapon and take a bath.
  4. Carefully pull apart the cookies with my bare hands along the pre-sliced lines, and place them on the baking sheet.
  5. After 20 minutes, the cookies are ready. They smell fantastic. My husband decides that for the first time ever, he is too full for a cookie and not in the mood.
  6. My husband pauses his movie to put our son in bed, who has brushed his teeth and forgotten about the cookie.
  7. Sigh. Eat two cookies myself despite already having snacked on candy after dinner.
  8. Think oh, well. There’s always tomorrow to promise I’m going to walk it off and then lose track of time until it’s too late and I have to go get my son from preschool.

So, there you have it. A slice of my pumpkin spice life. From this mom blogger to your table.

Happy Halloween, everyone.

The Ugly Truth In Gender Stereotypes

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I was determined to be one of those parents who buys my boy dolls and my girl tools. Who lets my son wear pink if he wants. Who is not bound by gender stereotypes.

Then I had kids.

And my boy wanted Ninja Turtles, not baby dolls. He wanted nothing to do with pink. My baby girl, too young for toys, likes to cuddle and coo sweetly while my son was most content as a baby sitting in his baby seat and screeching his presence to the world.

It’s been interesting to find out, that at least in my case, many of the gender stereotypes ring true.

Sure, our babies’ gender is colored almost from the beginning, and literally at times, in pink or blue. At baby showers we are given “boy” or “girl” clothes and likewise for toys.

But my 4-year-old boy has always liked to help clean, and I bought him a toy broom as a toddler. Pink and purple, of course, because apparently only girls sweep. Ha! True if you ask my husband.

My boy swept, but mostly used the broom as a makeshift sword to whack us.

Most interesting to watch is the boy and girl dynamics at daycare and preschool. My son has been surrounded by boys since he was just months old at daycare, and loved to watch the boys roughhouse around him until he could toddle around and join the fun.

Bumps and bruises have always been commonplace for him.

After my daughter was born and I started bringing her to pick up my son at preschool, the little girls at preschool had baby fever to the max. They swooped in, trying to inject their germs into her not-yet-vaccinated little immune system through their nose-picking fingers. They’d walk up to me, feeding their dolls bottles and full of questions about my real life baby.

The boys generally didn’t give two hoots about my baby. They were too busy pretending to be superheros and pushing eachother down and crying.

Other times when I pick my son up from preschool, most of the girls are sitting quietly doing art or having snacks. The boys are off playing on the play equipment or running in the yard.

It’s like despite our best efforts to make boys and girls the same, the genders are often just plain different. Maybe that’s OK. Each gender (whichever that is, regardless of your physical sex) brings its own strengths. What’s important is ensuring all children have equal opportunities and are accepted as they are, not that we roll them together into one big ball of gender nuetral playdough.

Of course there’s a good deal of socialization involved in shaping gender, but is it more than that? Are boys acting on some primal hunter-gatherer instinct and girls are being the nurturers we have evolved to be out of necessity to ensure our children that we alone are naturally equipped to feed are cared for?

Lord knows, at least in my house, the baby just might get left in her seat out in the family room while her dad sleep walks to bed. Someone has to hold down the fort. And someone else will probably whack that fort with a pink and purple broom.