The 5 Worst Pieces of Parenting Advice I’ve Received

I have read a couple different blog posts recently about good and bad parenting advice.  Coupled with knowing a handful of lovely ladies with newborns or expecting, I decided to share some of the gems I have received over the past couple years.  It is hard to call it well-meaning advice when it sounds mean… or just plain stupid.

#1.

“You shouldn’t cloth diaper because you’ll never know when the diaper is wet.”

cloth-diaper-clare

The Angel, 2 weeks old, rocking a cloth nappy and matching socks

When I asked for an explanation, she said that only disposable diapers have that blue line to let me know when the baby has peed.  She insisted I would be harming my child with cloth diapers because of the higher likelihood of diaper rash.

Don’t worry; I hear the argument that just ran through your head.  Almost every time I use a disposable diaper that doesn’t have a blue line, I shake my head as I replay her words in my mind.

See, not everything said to a new parent is good or bad or misleading.  Sometimes, it is downright ridiculous.  This gem is my go-to bit of “advice” when I’m illustrating to other new parents how they’ll be inundated with well-meaning people and ought to come up with a canned response to their so-called wisdom.

#2.

“You carry your baby so much that she won’t learn how to walk.  She is too big for that baby carrier anyway.”

The baby carrier in question was designed for babies weighing between 8 and 25 pounds, and the baby being discussed weighed about 10 pounds at the time.

I love baby carriers.  I have a couple of them.  There are different designs for different activities, for all sizes and shapes, and you can easily find support groups or meet-and-swap groups on Facebook.

Also, I love holding my kids.  I wish I could always carry them always.  I like having them on me, I like hugging them, I like smelling them, I like feeling their weight in my arms, and I wish I could have them with me always.  Ok, not always:  the Angel recently grasped the concept of “privacy” and now revels in the chance to stand outside the bathroom door while I’m using the toilet and tell her little brother to leave me alone.

Our struggles to conceive, the joy I had about these new lives while they were in my womb, and the drastically different ways my children came into the world are all the more reasons why I want to hold them.  After everything, I don’t need someone telling me to put my babies down.

Believe me, they will learn to walk.  The Handsome Boy was walking independently and extensively before 10 months, and the Angel took her first steps the day before her first birthday party.

#3.

“You should hold your infant over the toilet right after she eats, starting around 6 months.  This will potty-train her by 12 months.”

20160412_165332.jpg

She figured it out and he will someday, too.

I cannot imagine how on earth a child who cannot walk could be potty-trained that early.  Not to mention Science Says the brain and body aren’t wired that early for that sort of knowledge.  Suspending an infant over that “swirling vortex of terror” just sounds like a terrible idea.

Kids do as they want, really, when it comes to potty training.  My experience says that while you can guide your child, she will figure it out before it actually becomes a priority for her.  Then it will be no big deal.

No matter how early or how quickly your tot learns to use the toilet, you’ll still be wiping butts for some time afterwards.

And just because the Angel proudly uses her potty Every Single Time today, including wiping herself and washing her hands, does not mean that tomorrow she won’t leak a bit in her panties or throw a fit when you outrageously demand she wipe herself.

#4.

“You should take a switch to her.  She’ll mind you then.”

Wow.  Seriously?  You want me to not just physically reprimand my daughter, not give her a quick spank on her bum, but actually whip her….

I think I’m going to be ill.

Granted, the individual who suggested this was a much older man who had never raised children.  Sadly, his generation was whipped (not using a colloquialism here, folks, but was actually whipped with a thin reed of a stick that could leave vicious welts or even split skin).  He was just spouting what he knew, from 7 or 8 decades earlier.

People, don’t ever suggest someone lay a hand on their child.  If a parent so believes that physical punishment is part of disciplining a child, let’s all hope they keep that to themselves.  It has become taboo to discuss spanking.  We talk about it behind closed doors with close friends and family.  Even then, we know we are subject to criticism no matter which way we say is best or worst.

I am not perfect, I do not always adhere to the guidelines of Positive Discipline, and I have lost my shit a time or two.  No matter how you feel about reprimanding, punishing, disciplining, or the like, I think we can all agree that a switch is just out of the question.

#5.

“Because he’s so big,” she says while holding my 9-month-sized 4 month old, “you should tell people he’s a developmentally disabled 9 month old instead of an overweight 6 month old.”

Wait.

What.

You mean to tell me it is better to lie that he is older but behind in cognitive and motor skills development than it is to have a complete stranger possibly judge me for him being fat?

Challenged is better than fat?!? 

That’s what you’re saying?

Dear me, that is what you’re saying.

He isn’t challenged any more than he is fat.  He is a big baby who actually is ahead of all the mile-markers. But that isn’t what upsets me about this.

It is that you would dare not only to THINK this about a child BUT TO SAY IT TO HIS MOTHER!!

chubby-baby

Like, I said, folks:  there are some people who cannot grasp the fact that what they believe is well-meant advice is actually just mean.  Wrong.  Unacceptable.  Or stupid.

If you can’t say something nice (or constructive), don’t say anything at all.  Do not assume you can parent other parents.  I may be new at this, but I really don’t need random advice.  I will come to you if I need some guidance.  Otherwise, everyone, butt out.

Believe me, even after more than 3 years as a stay-at-home mom, I feel there are days where I am still a newbie, still learning the ropes, still bungling through.  I also have the days where I feel like I should have a cape and tights because I’m such a bad-ass mother.

What’s the worst that has been said to you?

Saturday Morning Cartoon Faces

Really, the most important thing to a toddler’s well-being is the attention of her parents.

Television

We have a television, the appliance.  We do not have tv, the medium.  We don’t watch tv.  We don’t really have time for it.

The Angel was around 2 years old the first time we turned the television on FOR HER.  Sure, we had parked ourselves on the couch to watch a movie (we have a DVD/VCR combo) while she was in the room.  But she didn’t have time to sit and watch it with us.  You know how BUSY a 2 year old is!

Now, we pick up different movies from the library (FREE!) or watch the handful of kids’ movies that we own.  There’s at least an hour of television time each day in our house.  Part of me cringes but part of me challenges you to judge me.  Like, seriously, I need a break, too!

We don’t have access to the crap that is on tv these days.  We also don’t HAVE to watch commercials.  We have much more control over what is shown on our television.

Not complete control, mind you, because the Angel really likes Signing Time (the BHE can’t stand it but even I have learned some ASL) and Strawberry Shortcake (I can sing the theme song, and I do… All. Day. Long.)

Having Fun

But, really, the Angel wants me to be present.  It isn’t enough to turn on a cartoon for her.  She wants me to sit with her.  Or dance, if Strawberry gets her guitar out.

She likes to share the experience with me.  Most of the time, I do fold laundry on the couch or leave to wash dishes.  Saturday mornings, though, should be sacred for cartoon watching.

Without further ado, I will share with you how I make it through Max and Ruby, the four-thousandth screening of Shrek 2 (“The Kitty Movie”), and Baby Signing Time.

 

Really, I don’t mind watching Finding Nemo or The Little Mermaid again and again.  And I would prefer if she would always request a Harry Potter or Narnia. The selfie setting is a lot of help, though, when I have to suffer through “The Bear Movie” (Open Season 2) or “The Fox Movie” (The Fox and the Hound).

Excellent Breakfast Cookies (with Chocolate)

This is a twist to my recipe for the Best. Cookies. Ever.

Most Important Meal of the Day

Every morning, I ask the Angel what she wants for breakfast.  I couldn’t tell you the number of times I’ve silently prayed for her to say that she wants cereal.  Some mornings, it is yogurt with fruit and eggs; most Sundays, when the BHE is available to eat breakfast with us, it is pancakes with strawberries.

Then there are the mornings where she wants popsicles, marshmallows, or cookies.

That’s where these come in!

20160822_113944

Ready for the day with coffee, cookie, and egg!

Excellent Breakfast Cookies

Time:
Prepare: under 10 minutes
Bake:  8 minutes at 350F

Ingredients:

1c flour (organic whole wheat or all-purpose white)
1/2c oats (actual organic oats, not those quick-cook things that look like oats)
1/4c butter (organic margarine, vegan substitute, non-GMO Smart Balance spread, etc)
1/4c organic unrefined coconut oil
1 egg
1/2t vanilla extract
1/4t baking soda
1/4c organic cane sugar (or dark brown sugar)
1/4c raisins or nuts, optional
1/4c chocolate chips or candies, optional

20160822_114551.jpg

Prepped and ready for the Angel to assist in baking.  Note the minimal amount of bowls and utensils (spatula not pictured) because Mama doesn’t like doing dishes.

 

Instructions:

  1. Melt 1/4 c butter (Smart Balance) in microwave; add coconut oil to measuring cup for 1/2 c total.  Pour into medium mixing bowl.
  2. Stir in 1/4 c sugar until almost dissolved. Add 1/2 t vanilla and 1 egg.  Mix well.
  3. Slowly add 1 c flour, 1/2 c oats, and 1/4 t baking soda while stirring. When almost fully blended, add your mix-in, about a 1/2 c total (I used organic raisins and a mini bag of M&Ms for the photographed version).
  4. Preheat the oven to 350. Depending on your cookie sheet, prepare it for the dough.  The sheets I use are plain metal and I don’t spray them or add foil; the oils of the “butter” keep my cookies from sticking.
  5. Shape your cookies. For this version, I make them about pancake sized.  If you make them “cookie” sized, you may eat more!
  6. Place cookie sheet on top rack of oven and set timer for 8 minutes. Depending on your oven, this may take a little longer to avoid soft middles.  Unless you want soft middles.  It depends on how “cookie” you want these!
  7. Serve while warm with a nice glass of almond or soy milk. Or coffee with chocolate almond milk!  (There are some lovely fried eggs in the photos of this particular morning’s breakfast.)

 

Let me know what you think!  What substitutions did you make?  Would you add a 1/4c of brown sugar IN ADDITION TO?  Do you like nuts or other dried fruits?

 

Aside:  I love a good runny egg for breakfast.  But I always break the yolks!  I learned this neato trick from some random Pinterest stalking.  Use canning lids coated in cooking spray as “training wheels”.  Now when I flip an egg, I don’t break the yolk.  I recommend going a little overboard with the cooking spray.  If you like a runny yolk too, good luck; I seem to always overcook them just a bit.

Internal Balloons

Sometimes, I get carried away explaining things to my daughter.  Maybe it is because I’m such a nerd, or maybe it is because she is so intelligent and mature for her age.  Either way, sometimes trying to clarify the way the world or our bodies work turns to smite me.

Mealtime Conversations

Finishing lunch the other day, I was clearing the table and reminded the Angel she needed to wash her hands in the bathroom.  Her argument, per usual, was that she didn’t need to pee.  I explained that the bathroom serves many purposes, like peeing when your bladder is full or washing your hands when they are dirty.

Maybe I shouldn’t have said “bladder” because that set off a conversation I’ll never forget.

I explained that a bladder is like a balloon that fills with pee.  When it gets full of pee, like a balloon, it could burst, which is why we get the feeling that we need to go to the bathroom to use the potty.

This explanation was met with disbelief.

Carried Away

I then proceeded to describe all internal organs as some sort of balloon filling with different things:  lungs pull in and push out air, the stomach collects food and expels it towards the bladder and bowels, and the bowels are like a balloon for poop.

She had to stop me there.  I had, so far, gotten looks that became increasingly unimpressed and disbelieving.  She thought I was making it up!

I said I could show her pictures of “internal organs” to prove that our “anatomy” is really a bunch of balloons.

Not So Much

Using the Google search bar app on my smartphone, I requested images of our anatomy that were presented as coloring pages.  I showed the results to the Angel, getting excited about explaining things to her.

Her face, if anything, went from disbelieving to complete disgust.

I thought she was grossed out to learn about all these “balloons” inside of our bodies.  Instead, she was disgusted with me for not producing what I promised.

“Mommy, where the poop?  I want pictures of poop balloons.”

Since I couldn’t produce such a thing, she rolled her eyes and left the room.

She’s only 3.

100 Blog Post Ideas!

This is my 100th blog post!

Thank you for following along on my Thoughtfully Sought path through life.  Sometimes the way is clear, other times the road is bumpy, and there are days where the path is washed out.  Thanks for sticking by me, reading and learning and maybe even growing with me.

 

So, for your pleasure, particularly if you are also a blogger, here are 100 ideas for blog posts (mainly based on what I’ve already done or have planned to do):

  1. RECIPES! Start snapping photos of what you’re up to in the kitchen.  Even the easiest stuff helps someone out there.  (Seriously, I once forgot to drain the water off the noodles when making macaroni and cheese.)  Here are some of  my top-visited recipes:  PancakesHoosier Caprese Salad, Beer Bread, and Chicken Pot Pie.
  2. Photo posts. Took a series of pictures while walking in the woods, playing with your kids, trying on clothes at the mall?  Share ‘em!
  3. Top 5 lists. Best Instagram accounts, worst parenting advice, favorite kids’ movies, date night ideas, and anything else you get excited about.
  4. Blogging tips. LOOK!  RIGHT HERE! THIS POST!  Hahahaha!
  5. Other bloggers. When in doubt, see what your friends are doing.  Most bloggers follow other blogs so make a list of your five favorite blogs then see what their last five posts were about.  You’ll get inspired AND you’ll have a Top 5 List for a blog post.
  6. Personal blurb. The “About Me” and “About Us” sections on a lot of blogs are very short and to the point.  Round out another point for your readers.
  7. FREE STUFF! Everyone loves a deal so explore something free in your area and blog away.  Make sure you take pictures.
  8. Cheap stuff! Again, everyone loves a deal.  Tell us about your coupon experiences or that deals website you found.
  9. Review products. What do you use in the bathroom?  The laundry room?  Why?
  10. Review services. Convince me why I should or shouldn’t pay for Amazon Prime or Grove Collaborative or that automatic diaper delivery.  I wrote one here about Kroger’s ClickList.
  11. Book review. Or movie or restaurant or whatever it is you really like to do.  I love to read so have linked my Goodreads account to my blog, so I can share what I’ve been spending my “free time” on as well as how I liked the books.
  12. Social Media. Tell your readers about your other accounts.
  13. Review social media you use. Write a whole post about what you do and do not like about Facebook or Instagram.
  14. Review social media you don’t use. Why is that LinkedIn account so hard to remember?  Does that networking really help people land jobs?
  15. Try a new one! My foray into SnapChat was a disaster.  I should’ve told my readers about it.
  16. Share your goals. You’ll not only motivate your readers but also feel like there’s someone holding you accountable.
  17. Technology.  We’re surrounded by it, we’re using it every day, and we are all looking for the “perfect” computer or phone or ereader.  If you are blogging, you obviously are using some THING to get your words out there.  Tell us about your laptop, your Internet provider, your local library’s wifi…
  18. Life lesson. You did something recently that you may think is mundane but is really a life lesson for all of us.  Check out my cleaning challenge post or my approach to Minimalism to get inspired.
  19. Vacation!  You finally got some time off and away so tell us about where you went, what you did, who you saw, and what you spent.  Really, we want pictures and to know what hidden gems you found in that town no one has heard of.  Or we can live vicariously through your beach pictures.
  20. Location.  Where do you blog from?  What’s going on around you as you talk to us?  How comfy is your chair or how loud is your barista or what do you do to keep your 10 month old from slapping the keys as you type?  No, really, I need to know.  He keeps trying to make the clackity noise with me.
  21. Pose a question. If you do this on Twitter, you can blog about the feedback.  Or blog about how you’ll get feedback next time.
  22. Quotes.  Tell me some words you live by or are inspired by.  Let your readers know who inspires you or what Biblical message fills you or why you lean on the words of your grandmother.
  23. Embarrass yourself. Seriously, we have all been there and done that.  If you want to connect with someone, tell them how human you are.
  24. Memory lane. It may be cathartic for you but it will also show your readership you are human.
  25. Positive from negative. Take a negative comment you’ve received on social media and flip it around; give the haters a taste of their own medicine but also show how you can put a positive spin on anything.  Or at least explain how taking the higher ground is so hard but ultimately more satisfying.
  26. Gratitude.  Write a thank you note to your readers.
  27. Oldies.  Revisit an old post.  You can rewrite it, add your current perspective, take newer and better photos, or trash it completely and tell your readers why it had to go.
  28. Seasons.  Write a post celebrating whatever season it is in your hemisphere.
  29. Weather.  Tell us what is has been like where you live and how you’ve been coping, whether it is super-hot and sunny but you don’t have a pool or it is super rainy but at least the hurricane went around you.
  30. Why.  Tell your readers why you started blogging and why you keep blogging.
  31. Future.  Write a letter to your future self.
  32. Past.  Write a letter to your past self.
  33. OOTD.  We want to see the face behind the words, and we want to see what you’re wearing.  I’m a SAHM who wears roughly the same thing every day.  I should show you my skirts, my breastfeeding tops, my stains and fingerprints, my love of cardigans… that shows a lot about me!
  34. Debate.  Pick a controversial topic and explain why you think and feel as you do.  Or take the route I did and explain why you don’t debate.
  35. Best posts. Compile a list of your most popular posts.
  36. Unpopular posts. Compile a list of your least popular posts and see if you can up your numbers.  Or if you need to do some housekeeping and delete those posts.
  37. Anthem.  What song gets you going?  What music inspires you?  What do you listen to when you need to calm your mind?  What is on your Pandora station?
  38. Hobbies.  You do more than blog so tell us about your other hobbies.  Here’s a little something I did about reenacting.
  39. Network.  There are people out there like you that are making money doing what they love.  Are you making bank?  Could you use a little extra?  Maybe you could use the help of your readers to land the perfect job.
  40. Presents.  There was a gift-giving occasion recently in your life, I just know it, so tell us what you bought or made and who you gave it to.  People like me really need help on this.
  41. Survey.  Conduct a poll or survey to better guide you on what to write next.  My posts are all over the place, from recipes and reenacting to child rearing and crafting.  Ask your readers what they want to see more of.
  42. Apps.  What do you use every day?  What apps are on your first home screen?  What apps got deleted within days?
  43. Profile.  You told us about yourself; now tell us about someone you care about or someone who inspires you or who you are voting for next election.
  44. Rant.  Get it out there!
  45. Diet.  What do you eat?  Why?
  46. Shopping.  Where do you buy what you eat, wear, decorate with?  Why?
  47. Open letter. Write something personal from you to a personal hero or new mothers or late show producers.
  48. Blogiversary.  Look here!  A post commemorating 100 blog posts.  Or do a post commemorating the age of your blog.  Or the number of “Likes” or “Followers” you have when you hit a milestone.
  49. Crafts.  Everyone is looking for a DIY they can do for cheap or fun or a gift or for recognition.  What did you create?
  50. Honor.  Write a post in honor of a holiday or Pi Day or Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
  51. FAQ.  Pay attention to who asks you what and how often you get asked the same question.  I had so many people ask about how we handle our finances that I wrote a post about it and shared a spreadsheet.  But I bet I could come up with a post of FAQ regarding cloth diapers, rural life, and living so close to ALL of my in-laws.
  52. Printables.  Everyone loves free items they can download and use to make their lives easier.  Check out my grocery shopping helpers here and here.
  53. Interview.  You know someone influential, whether in your family, your community, your niche, or even more famous.  Write up your Q and A to spread their knowledge and influence.
  54. Pros and Cons. Pick a topic and do some research. Make a list of the pros and one of the cons, and you can generate interaction by asking your readers for their input.
  55. Before-and-After. This can be funny (your child before the first day of school and then after), a tutorial (your face before make-up and after), or inspiring (your pantry before you clean and organize then after).
  56. News.  Pay attention to multiple news sources and viewpoints, and research and write your own news article about something that matters to your blog’s readers.
  57. Case study. Switch internet providers, unplug everything when not in use, line dry your laundry, or go without television for a month, then share with your readers what differences you saw in your lifestyle, mental and physical health, monthly bills, etc.
  58. Stream-of-consciousness. This was a writing prompt idea that I did in various classes throughout junior high and high school.  Just write.  Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, points, plots, or any of that.  Just write whatever comes to you.  Set a timer or give yourself a word/length limit. For your blog, just click “post” when you’re done.  Or add a selfie from while you were writing.  It gives readers a view inside your mind at the same time it will help you generate new blog ideas!
  59. Comfort zone. Make yourself uncomfortable by doing something no one would ever think you’d do:  try a different church, eat at a Thai/Indian/Russian restaurant, shop exclusively at the mission store, or strike up conversation with a random stranger every single time you enter a coffee shop or use public transit.  This could make for some really good stuff.
  60. Call them out. If you’ve got something going on in your life that is dragging you down or driving you crazy, call out the people who are involved.  Maybe don’t name them or point the finger, but at least share what you’re going through and how anyone who may think they are part of the problem can now see you’ve tossed the ball into their court.  This post did that in my life…and I didn’t mean for it to!
  61. Coloring book. Draw something fun and then take a picture to post on your blog.  Invite adults to release some stress by printing and coloring the image you drew.  If that means a cross with the sun’s rays or a flowery swear word, have at it.
  62. Recap.  Write a post about the posts you did the month before or during this month last year. Revive your old posts for new followers.
  63. Experiment.  Try something new, like go vegan for a week or shop at a grocery you’ve never been to, and tell us about your experience. Heck, drink 10 glasses of water a day for 10 days and blog about it.
  64. Hometown.  Give a shout out to the village that raised you, the place you grew up, the neighborhood where you learned to ride a bike.  Country music stars make millions off of this idea.
  65. Video.  Break out from behind the keyboard and get behind the camera to record yourself.
  66. Collaborate.  Contact other bloggers in your niche to learn what you can do together to generate more readers. Then blog about it.
  67. Host a giveaway. Note that you’ve contacted other bloggers, determine what each of you can contribute to give to your readers, the ones who will follow each blog for a chance to win something.
  68. Repeat.  Grab any of these items and do it again.  And again!
  69. Advice.  There’s something you want your audience to hear and think on, something you think all of us are falling short of, so throw caution to the wind and tell us how we ought to live our lives. Controversy will spark conversation.
  70. Implore.  Tell us why we need to get out and vote. Convince me the Paleo Diet is necessary for my health and that of the planet. Get readers to donate to a worthy cause…or their local libraries.
  71. Guests.  Invite your readers to submit guest posts, or share about a blog where you’ve posted as a guest.
  72. Share.  Ask your readers to share your blog, whether your tweets, photos, FB posts, whatever. If they like you, chances are, they know others who would like you, too.
  73. Bucket list. Think about accountability here: the more people who know what you really want to do before you die means the more people that can not only remind you of your goals but maybe help you see them come true.
  74. Birthday.  Wish yourself a happy birthday, and tell your audience what your boyfriend/kids/parents did or got for you. Or what you did for you.  You could include your dream birthday experience, too.
  75. Compile answers. Think of a question often asked in your industry or niche, and look up memes or quotes by famous people who have answered that question.
  76. Bad habits. Sure, I post about eating organic and using Seventh Generation cleaning products, but I should be more honest and open about my vices. Your readership would like something juicy about how you sneak in watching trashy television, how you only go to story time for the snacks, how you binged on the kids’ Halloween candy…
  77. Opposition.  Research an opposing viewpoint, some stance that contradicts how you think or live, and let your readers know what the differences are and where you can agree.
  78. Reply.  Go through all the comments you’ve ever received on your blog.  Copy them and reply to them in one big post.  Show your readers that you care, you’re listening, your blog is interactive.
  79. Plug-Ins. Share what you think are the best plug-ins for your blog.  You’ll help other bloggers or inspire newbies.
  80. Meme.  Create a meme about your current situation at work or home and share it with a short blurb.
  81. In memorial. Write a short bio of someone you’ve lost and what about them was so special to you.
  82. Hypothetical travel. Use the fantastic online world to discover more about a place you’ve always wanted to visit.  Then share with your readers a mock itinerary and ask if anyone has actually been there and can add to your post.
  83. Celebrities.  Who do you like to follow?  Who makes you roll your eyes?  Who do you think should have won an Oscar?  Share your views, tabloid style!
  84. A day in the life. From when you wake to when you lay your head down, walk us through your typical day.  Tell us what you want to change and what you hope to do every day of your life.
  85. TV.  You’re busy; we all are.  With everything you’ve got going on, you still make that one show a priority.  Why do you watch it?  What makes it worth the time you give it?
  86. Lotto winner. Go beyond your bucket list or your date night ideas.  Write the post about where in the world you would travel.  Now write a post about how it your life would be, where you would go, what you’d do with your time if you won the lotto.
  87. Go-to piece. There’s something in your wardrobe you always have, no matter the season or the occasion, no matter the cost, that you just have to have and know you can grab it whenever.  Tell your readers about that flashy scarf that dresses up any outfit or those jeans from college or that pair of earrings you haven’t taken off since you put them in.
  88. Local festival.  Attend a festival or fair near you and tell us about it.
  89. Get free stuff. Sign up for one of the hundreds of websites that want to give you stuff, like BzzAgent, or a survey site, like Inbox Dollars.  Write about your experience.
  90. Finding time. Tell us how you find time to write and edit your blog.
  91. Other writings. Let your readers in on what else you plan to share with them.
  92. Job vs Passion. So many people identify with their jobs just to turn around and say they don’t like what they do for a paycheck.  Imagine you meet someone at a party who asks, not what you do for a living, but what are you passionate about.  This idea is shared by the Minimalists.
  93. More coverage. What do you think there should be more mainstream coverage of:  influential teachers, sporting events with your favorite animal, the layout changes at your local supermarket?
  94. Downtime.  Let us know what you do to recharge.  Everyone is so overworked and we’re all looking for a calming outlet, so share what you do when you’re not blogging, not at work, not functioning as your kids’ short-order cook.
  95. Cleaning hacks. Housework is a necessity (unless you’re ok with hoarding and filth); you know you cut corners somewhere so admit it to your readers.  Maybe it isn’t even a cleaning hack!  My kitchen floors always look clean and shiny because of the type of ceramic tile we chose.
  96. Buyers’ remorse. This goes beyond the common review of an item you purchased.  Really let us know why you keep kicking yourself over that one buy.
  97. Worth the cost. Again, go beyond a review and share what amazing thing you’ve found that is so worth the price.  Free isn’t always better!
  98. Finding blogging ideas. This post was a struggle after about 74 items.  I should tell you where I found these last items.
  99. Build upon your village. There is some part of your life that you geek about, like a show, a clothing line, a character, a scent.  There are others around the world that geek the same thing, trust me, no matter how strange or uncommon you think it is.  Tell us your closet passion and gather the together the other freaks like you.
  100. 100 blog post ideas. Share your triumphs and pains after wracking your brain for 100 different ideas on what to blog about.

Another Step of Sorrow

This begins the third part of my series on grief.  I’ve decided to “write it all out”, defining this feeling and expressing just how hard it is to mourn with small children.  Please take a moment to look here for the first part and here for the second part.

And Yet Again

My words took their time forming and reforming in my head.  My thoughts weren’t ready to be shared yet.  It didn’t come together until last night, when I was awake again as my family slept, sobbing quietly while my brain worked overtime.  I wasn’t really able to put into words my experiences until just now, as I pound away on my laptop as the babes nap.

It didn’t make sense to share what I was going through if I couldn’t make sense of it either.

But yesterday I suffered another profound loss. Yesterday, I watched as my sweet, tolerant, loving, fluffy 14-year-old cat died.  I watched it happen, literally at my feet, with both my children in the room and witnessing it as well.

All over again, the lid came off my vast cup of grief and the sadness that was poured into it overflowed and washed over me.

It is Never JUST a Pet

I rescued that cat from a stray colony in the swamps of Florida 14 years ago.  This fluffy kitten with needle claws climbed my pant leg and mewed at me.  I scooped it up and claimed it, this purring ball of fur.  It wasn’t until Princess went in to be spayed that we learned it was a he to be neutered.  He has lived with me in over a dozen places, been through a couple relationships before meeting and moving in with the BHE, tolerating our parties and our home renovations, enjoying sunshine wherever he could lay in it, being the best snuggle buddy and friend to my other cat, loving to sit on laps, and allowing the roughness and shock of two small children be a part of his life.

A few weeks before adopting Princess, I euthanized my sweet smooshy-face kitty who was only 9 years old but dying of leukemia.  Now, I have watched two blonde long-haired cats die.  My children were with me this time.  My tender-hearted Angel watched as Princess had a stroke and died.  She obeyed without question or argument as I rushed to get her and the boy changed and loaded into the car.  She didn’t fight or fuss when I carried our sweet kitty outside, wrapped in a towel, to drive us to the vet.  She quietly sat on a chair at the clinic as the vet calmly said he was gone before we got there.

The Angel even thought to grab her toy stethoscope so she, too, could listen for Princess’s heartbeat at the kitty doctor’s office.

How to Explain It to a Three-Year-Old

The BHE lovingly picked up my favorite take-out last night then went to dig a grave after dinner.  Twice, I had to lift the bundle of quilted fabric with its satin bow to fit him down into the earth.  I took the shovel and filled the dirt back in around him.  All the while, I had to keep my sobs in check because of the questions coming from my daughter.

“Where is Pin-sess?  Why is he still sleeping?  What Pin-sess doing, Mommy?  When will he come back inside?  Mommy, what that sound?”

That sound, little lady, is what we call keening and it is the best I can do to keep the grief in check, to not lose the bit of control I’ve got over myself right now.

Because grieving with small children just isn’t possible.  You can’t let it out.  You can’t fully express it.  You can’t spill that cup of darkness and let the sobs break out of you until exhaustion takes over and the grief becomes more of a silent companion than an ever-present darkness threatening to slap you down.

This morning, as the Angel and I descended the stairs to start our day, she asked like she does every morning if she could feed the kitties.  There was just one food bowl, though, just Nicky’s.  I had to explain all over again that Princess had died, that he wouldn’t be coming back in, that we wouldn’t need to feed him ever again because he was enjoying the eternally filled bowl of kitty crunchies.

My tender-hearted angel put her hands over her face and cried.  Through her fingers and sobs, I heard her say, “I wanna pet he.  I miss he.  I worried he all alone out there.”

Loss is real to her now. Loss is a thing, not just something witnessed as Mommy cried at Great-Grandma’s and then Great-Grandpa’s funerals.  Loss is tangible and greatly affects her daily life.  And I have been blessed to receive this healthy, intelligent, loving child and have been blessed to be called to teach her, not just to read and to be polite but to experience and express each emotion.  I get to guide her through her grief.

The Cup Overflowed

But, I tell you, I can’t do it again.  That is three great losses in less than 10 months.  I can’t do it.  Every time I close my eyes, there’s this image of a cup the size of a galaxy, filled with more darkness than stars, swirling as more darkness is added to it, three large helpings of loss in a cup barely big enough to contain it all.  This cup is tilted precariously and near it is a wide, thin piece of cork that should serve as a lid.  The lid is off, the contents are starting to spill over the sides.  I can’t take another blow.  I have wept so much yet it feels not enough.  I have hidden my tears and sobs, I have silenced my grief.  I can’t afford to completely meltdown under the pressure and let that dark galaxy spill across my daily life.

Mourning is a luxury I cannot afford with children.  Grief has become a heavy companion.

Steps of Deep Sorrow on This Path

This begins the second part of my series on grief.  I’ve decided to “write it all out”, defining this feeling and expressing just how hard it is to mourn with small children.

The Big Blows

Throughout my life, I was compared to my dad’s mother.  My laugh, my body type, my sense of humor, my love of reading all seem to have come from this spunky old woman.  In the last decade, after I not only became an adult but really became aware of who I am and where I’m meant to go with my life, I became really close to her.

I talked to my Grandma Lucy at least once a week for at least an hour each time for almost 10 years.  I shared everything with her, and she listened and talked and guided and laughed with me.  She was, truly, a mother to me.  Lucy talked to me not like I was a grandchild to be doted on or coddled but like another adult.  We talked like we were old friends who had much wisdom to impart to one another.  And that meant so much to me.

She became ill shortly after I became pregnant the second time.  She entered a nursing facility as I entered my third trimester.  My son was born shortly after her birthday, right at Thanksgiving last year.  Lucy returned home at the beginning of the year so she could die in peace.

I buried my grandmother on a bitter cold, snowy day while clutching my newborn son.

My husband was my rock.  He guided me, he cared for me, he helped with the children, he answered our daughter’s questions, he listened and provided.

Mourning Needs More

But what he couldn’t do was completely take over the care of both of our kids while I gave into the grief.  I’m a SAHM with a duty, and our son was exclusively breastfed at that time.  I couldn’t drop everything, curl up on the couch with tissues, and spend days sobbing in my pajamas instead of eating or taking care of myself.  I couldn’t stop caring for my children, either.

I didn’t have the luxury of giving into my grief.

I have a family I need to care for, and I have two littles that require me to function and provide for them.

When my father called to tell me his mother had died, I fell to the floor.  I literally dropped to my knees.  I took a deep breath, thanked him for calling, and asked if I could call him later.  I let myself have one big gulping sob and then I heard my daughter ask, “What wrong, Mommy?”

Immediately, I had to suck it up.  I had to pull it together and use my words and try to explain the situation.  Through the next few days of buying the kids funeral-appropriate attire and booking a hotel room and arranging for someone to feed the cats, I also had to make three meals a day and change diapers and stick to a routine.

Which left the dark of night the only chance I could really cry.  And even then, I had to do it quietly so as not to disturb my slumbering family.

You Try to “Move On”

Life carried on afterward, as it does.  Like my friend warned me, the grief does creep up on me sometimes.  There are days where I look at the framed photo of Lucy and me, and I smile; there are days where I get tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat when I am reminded of the loss.

There are also the days where something wonderful happens and I immediately think that I need to call Lucy and tell her about it.  And quickly the joy snaps to grief and the yawning cup of sadness becomes thick as it reveals how full it still is because I recall that I can’t call her, I can’t share this with her.

Yes, there is the part of me that knows she did see it, she did share it with me, but we all know that accepting your deceased loved ones are in Heaven isn’t the same as talking to them on the phone or visiting with them in your home.  Is it selfish, or even unfaithful, for me to say that I don’t think that is good enough?  That Heaven isn’t good enough?  I just want to call her.

And Again

We knew my grandfather would follow his wife within a year.  It had been half-joked about in the past, and Grandpa even said at her funeral that he was ready to go with her.  It took a few months, but he did join her.  Frank passed in July, just 5 months behind Lucy.

Since our wedding anniversary and the Angel’s birthday are close in date, we generally take a short family vacation in early July.  I made plans for us to spend a few days in the city where I was born and had visited so often because my grandparents lived there.  I wanted to show the BHE and the kids the places where I played and went to school, learned to swim, got bit by a peacock, and ate my favorite meals.  I also wanted to make sure we visited my grandfather.

That was one of the hardest things I’ve done since saying goodbye to my grandmother.

He didn’t know me.  I knew from a few brief phone calls and the reports from my father, uncle, and brother that Grandpa wasn’t really all Grandpa anymore.  But to walk into their home, that still smelled like her, and have him look at me and not know who I was… was just too much.  The BHE handled it well, guiding the conversation and intently listening as Grandpa’s mind moved around his history: he wasn’t here with us in the present but jumping about his own life’s chronology and remembering people and places we didn’t know.  I busied myself with the kids.

A few weeks later, when my dad called to say Grandpa had died, I again hit my knees.  I again thanked him and said I’d call him back when I got it together.  I again took that long, keening gasp.  And I again had my little girl get in my face and ask, “What wrong, Mommy?”  Once again, I had to pull it together, tamp down the grief, explain in terms a 3-year-old could understand, and proceed through life with a lid loosely fitted onto that cup of sadness.

Overflow

Now, though, the cup was fuller, the contents pushing against the bottom of the lid.  In some ways, that made the funeral and all that entails a bit easier to deal with.  We had just done this: we knew what was expected, how to act, who we’d see, what needed to be done, what wasn’t so important.

In other ways, the grieving was that much harder, as I was grieving the loss of both of my grandparents rather than just the one.  I had not yet lost myself in grief over losing the woman who meant the most to me in all my life and here I had to keep that tamped down as I poured more grief on top, more sadness that I couldn’t express, as we buried my grandfather.

Mourning with small children is a luxury.

Giving into the sadness, letting the cup overflow so that it can wash itself out and be, not empty, but calmer and easier to deal with, just isn’t an option when so much is expected of you.

I don’t want to scare them.  I don’t want to abandon them.  I need to feed them, clothe them, bathe them, et cetera… but I also need to guide them.  I need to show them what grief looks like but really show them how to handle it, how to experience an emotion without it overriding your senses or your life.

Really, though, I wanted to let that cup fill up and splash out.  I wanted to wallow in my own misery for a few days.  I wanted to not care for a bit and wear every ugly emotion on my sleeve just so I could get it out of my system.  But I couldn’t.  I can’t.  That isn’t responsible parenting.

Why I Have to Write

So I’ve written this post time and time again in my head.  I have sat down at the laptop to pound them out only to keep hitting the backspace because I wasn’t saying what I wanted to say.  I tried to write it all out but it just wasn’t flowing right.  I wasn’t saying with my writing what I meant to convey.  The point of my blog is to share my experiences to enlighten and guide others, to show where I’ve done it wrong as much as where I’ve done it right, to speak to that bit in all of us that doesn’t want to go it alone and needs to know that someone somewhere gets us.