I Made Plans and Then I Laughed and Laughed…

Posted by Carly Morgan

Those of you who follow me on my private Instagram account are wondering if this is the blog post where I talk about Felix having surgery. It’s not. I mean, I’m going to talk about that briefly but the bulk of that is being saved for another day. I’m just not there yet.

This, instead, is one of those rambling lost-in-the-woods post that pretty much sums up motherhood for me, the gist of which is that I planned on spending the next 5-10 years homeschooling our three kids in our new house in the suburbs and blogging about that to help other homeschool families. Yeah, I don’t think that’s going to happen.

Eva and Calvin are both going into new programs next year because they need things I can’t give them. Nope. Didn’t see that coming.

After struggling to find the right academic pace for Eva, we had her tested to see where she is compared to her peer group. That resulted in a placement in a program for “gifted” kids – quotation marks there because that is the most loaded of labels and I still feel awkward using it. There’s a chance that Eva scored so high because we do so much educational work at home and I’ve pushed her too fast (a BIG chance) but the test included other things that were supposed to test her general cognitive abilities and the results indicated that she’s going to need extra support one way or another.

I’m disappointed and uncertain and proud and excited for her all at the same time. The disappointment comes in because I don’t feel like I can homeschool her adequately if she needs to be challenged in different ways and I was really looking forward to homeschooling. The uncertainty comes in because I’m not sure that an accelerated program in an outside school will support her as much as I could if I try to create a different curriculum here at home. The pride comes because she has the opportunity now to join a program that not everyone can get into. I’m excited because this program has rave reviews from parents who have children who are currently there.

As for Calvin, I’ve backed off from any kind of schooling with him because his natural competitive nature has him trying to keep up with Eva. He’s not there, of course, but he’s reading at higher than a Kindergarten level and he has addition/subtraction down with no problems. So now I’m worried that he’s getting too far from his peer group and we’ve enrolled him in an intentionally non-academic preschool to focus on social skills (since he’s 100% three years old when it comes to sharing and hitting other kids on the playground) and being more creative (he wants to do things the “right” way and doesn’t seem to think outside the box much). Calvin also has problems with authority and, frankly, it would be nice if he spent some time working that out with an adult that isn’t me.

I’m a little lost here. I’ve spent the last two years getting ready to hunker down and go all prairie schoolhouse in the dining room with these kids and now they’ve outrun me in two different and totally unexpected directions. Add to this the fact that I now have Felix, who is the world’s greatest baby and who has to have a pretty major operation on his head next week for reasons I can’t write about yet. His recovery is going to be long and full of extra doctor appointments and specialists and therapies and hopefully only sporadic bouts of me weeping while shoving donut holes into my mouth. So I suppose outsourcing the kids education isn’t the worst thing.

What does this mean for the blog? I don’t know, y’all. I have 80% of an e-book done about how to homeschool for free and a backlog of great science experiments to share with you so that’s coming some day when fewer of my children are having their heads operated on. I also still believe strongly in spending time learning as a family so I bet we’ll shift gently in that direction. And maybe I’ll tell you all about the four houses we’ve put offers on and the three rejections and the one offer that they accepted because they were hoping we wouldn’t notice upon inspection that the whole structure was held together by glossy paint and prayer. But not today…

 

 

What We Did While I was Offline (Plus 6 Reasons Why Social Media Breaks are Stupid)

Posted by Carly Morgan

I’m back!

Honestly, it’s so anti-climactic. I thought for sure that taking a month-long break from social media would lead to some sort of refreshed world perspective or at least a few stories of how I found myself being really “in the moment” with my kids because I had freed myself from the shackles of my cell phone. Nope. No revelations. I just went offline and missed my friends and then got lazy and stopped taking pictures of my kids because, as it turns out, if I can’t Instagram it I’m probably not going to bother with getting my phone out to capture it. So what did we do in March? Oh, about a thousand little things that I would have liked to have saved but have now forgotten. Plus, a few big moments where I actually remembered to pull out my camera:

Yep, we went to Hawaii and Eva turned six and we had a few random outings. Not pictured: Eva lost her first tooth, Calvin started reading his first chapter book, Felix got his four month shots, and we started aggressively house hunting. We even put in an offer on two homes with no luck (what is up with this housing market??) but I don’t have photos to show you because no Instagram = no motivation.

Don’t get me wrong – I completely agree that I don’t need to sit around with my face in my phone all day. However, I think taking a month long break was an attempt at solving a problem that wasn’t there. I’ve got my phone out to record things most of the time, not to watch, surf, or play. In fact, when I was looking at what people did during their social media breaks a lot of people suggested getting rid of all games and media apps but I didn’t have any except for Candy Crush and I hadn’t opened that one since before Felix was born. The only apps I use daily that aren’t photo storage or photo editing apps are Facebook and Instagram because that’s where my friends are. So at the end of the day, my break from social media was actually a break from my social circle. Like, my real social circle.

I’d love to tell you that I used my free time to call my friends instead of stalking them online but my time wasn’t any more free just because I wasn’t taking/sharing photos and also calling people is a crap ton of work when you aren’t a teenager. Nope, didn’t call more people than usual. Didn’t write letters. Didn’t walk around my neighborhood to introduce myself to the neighbors. I went all hermit crab and didn’t see anyone. Totally healthy like that.

Now, being fair, I did cheat a little because I had two events that required Instagram posts and I did blog about going to see Disney on Ice. So maybe I didn’t have the cleansing “all in” social media break that would have made all the difference. But I can easily name 6 reasons why social media breaks are stupid when you do them like I did them:

1 – A month is a completely arbitrary amount of time to decide to not communicate with people unless you have some specific project that requires all of your attention during your timeline. I didn’t and ultimately only stuck to my original plan out of sheer stubbornness even though I knew a week into it that it probably wasn’t going to be worth it.

2 – Unless you are likely to step up and communicate in some other form beyond social media, be aware that you are actually walking in to a break from your friends, family, support network, and general news source.

3 – Although you will see fewer ads away from social media, you will not be in an ad vacuum and you’ll probably still find ways to spend your money. I fell into an HGTV spiral while we were traveling because we don’t have TV at home and all the shows were new and shiny and now I’m going to need a million glass tiles and a lot of reclaimed wood flooring.

4 – If you think you’ll remember stuff if you don’t Instagram it, you won’t. Especially if you have multiple children. You know that whole “Instagram or it didn’t happen” joke? It’s funny because it’s true.

5 – If you’re spending too much time on social media doing mindless things like scrolling, taking quizzes, watching Buzzfeed videos, etc., you won’t necessarily fill that time up with meaningful conversations and ivy league college lectures. When my brain needs a break, it takes a break. That means I read more trashy novels this month, I wandered a little more slowly through the aisles at Target, and I rediscovered Lady Gaga. Oh, and did I mention HGTV?

6 – I’m not more “authentic” offline. I didn’t change what I did with my kids or what I wore everyday or what we ate for dinner, etc. For some reason, I thought not sharing anything online would be relaxing but it turns out that I’m not as fake as I thought I was. The only thing that changed was the fact that I took one-tenth of the photos this month I normally would have – not because I was hiding something but because it didn’t occur to me to capture it.

I will say that I didn’t miss the political scuffles that have taken over Facebook and I might have gone to sleep earlier because I wasn’t doing my nightly Instagram scroll. So the exercise wasn’t completely devoid of benefit BUT it’s just not for me since things didn’t get artificial and anti-social until I took social media OUT. I guess I’ll have to find some other way to get enlightened!

Finding Mom Grace When You’ve Run Out

Posted by Carly Morgan

I could have mothered better yesterday.

It’s been a long weird week of small stressful events, none of which have been overwhelming, but all of which contributed to a headache that started yesterday afternoon. We made it through school pickup and then took a trip to the bookstore where my head got just worse enough to result in the kids being banished to their bedroom while I made dinner. They tried to be quiet while we ate but it’s pretty exciting to see Dad when he’s been gone all day and it wasn’t really their fault that my head was trying to explode itself so I excused myself to sneak off with the baby for some quiet time.

A half hour later, a bath exchange had happened where Eva had hopped out of the bath and Calvin had hopped in. He had been told to hang out quietly but he needed something and yelled for Kyle and when the yelling did nothing (Kyle was helping Eva), he yelled louder and Louder and LOUDER and then he just screamed at the top of his lungs over and over. Honestly, I think he was enchanted with the sound of his screaming bouncing off the tile because when I stormed into the bathroom he had his ears underwater and a smile on his face mid-scream. That is, until I unceremoniously dragged him out and plunked him naked, dripping, and still screaming in the middle of his bedroom for his father to deal with and went back to bed.

There are about 400 other ways I could have handled that, the most obvious being that I could have reminded him that he needed to be quiet and also my throbbing brain was about to push out my eyeballs so shhhhhhh. I could have gone in and yelled but let him stay in the tub since it’s one of his favorite parts of the day. I could have pulled him out but at least dried him off and wrapped him up in a towel. I could have asked Kyle to handle it since he’s nicer than I am and also his brain and eyeballs weren’t doing anything unusual at all. But I didn’t. And yes, I felt bad, but not until about five hours later when I woke up in the middle of the night to feed the baby and my head had finally stopped exploding and I actually thought about it. And then I felt really bad.

I was talking to a friend of mine earlier in the week about the fact that she’s leaning toward not ever having kids and I agreed that it’s a bad idea if you aren’t 100% both-feet-in. Even though I believe she’d be a great mom and she’d love the hell out of any child she produced, this grinding day-to-day is not for everyone. I wouldn’t make different choices but I will also never be someone who says they didn’t know happy until they had kids. I remember pre-kids happy. It slept more and went to brunch.

Kids do not care if they are well fed, clean, rested, and loved until they are not one of those things which means you can absolutely break your back getting them well fed, clean, rested, and loved and they will then look at you and ask you what you’re going to do for them that day. That is base zero. That’s the bare minimum. That’s the point you have to reach before you can even think about cutting their fruit into amusing animal shapes or getting on Pinterest to plan their custom mermaid birthday party with handmade pearl invites.

So, sure, burn out. Frustration. Yelling. Loss of grace. We all get there.

Now though, before the sun has come up and it’s just me and my coffee and the baby and a world full of winter fog, I’m trying to gather all that scattered grace back before another day starts. I was on Instagram reading Lindsay Ostrom’s latest posts and crying for her sweet boy who left at the beginning of the month. She and I have the same story where we went in pregnant with baby boys at 23 weeks for a routine check and suddenly we were 4cm dilated and everything turned into lay down and hold still. The difference is that I was flat and terrified for four months before bringing a beautiful son home and she was flat and terrified for six days before delivering a beautiful son who didn’t make it through the night.

It’s terrible, but if you want to find grace there is no surer place to look than a grieving mother. Talk about appreciating what you have. I don’t know how we got lucky enough to have one child, let alone three, and even though screaming at the top of one’s lungs is never ever ever allowed in the bathtub I can tell you that if it was happening right now it would be a whole different story. I would remind him of the rules and then take a minute to help him with his hair, scrubbing that big puppy head, tickling his ears, and thinking that he is just my joy even when he makes my brains hurt.

And the wonderful thing is, in about an hour or so we start again.

Facing Mom FOMO

Posted by Carly Morgan

It’s 2017! Happy New Year!! I’m going to have the best year ever!!!

(Wait, am I? Are all my best-year-ever ducks in a row? Are there ducks out there having an even better year already?)

FOMO is the Fear Of Missing Out on things, usually inspired by social media. It’s a term that’s been around for a few years now, although I think it comes up about 500% more often in the blogger world so maybe you haven’t heard it. I’ve heard it. I’ve felt it. It shows up every time there’s a conference or event or party that’s all over Instagram while I’m at home with my kids’ dirty socks and sticky handprints. That’s the trouble with keeping up with everyone all the time: someone is probably having more fun than you right now.

I just had a major case of FOMO (ok, confession, I’m in the middle of a major case of FOMO) because I got this email today:

 

I’ve been invited to the 2017 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration. Kyle and I went to the 2015 DSMMC and it is down in history as the greatest blog event I’ve ever been a part of. So much fun and super exclusive which makes getting invited a pretty big deal. But…

It’s a no this year for about fifty reasons, the biggest being that the DSMMC schedule splits the conference between a couple of nights at Walt Disney World (sob!) and a few nights onboard a Disney cruise (sob! sob! sob!) but Felix is too young to cruise and wouldn’t be allowed. He’ll be just three months old and I can’t be away from him overnight yet, let alone for a whole week, so it’s a no. And I have a beautiful healthy baby and what a great reason to miss a work conference, right? Beautiful baby! Healthy baby! Baby time all up at the Morgan house yay!!!

There’s going to be VIP events. Swag. Giveaways. Park tickets. Beach time at Disney’s private island. FOMO. FOMO. FOMO. I’m missing something fun and flashy to be home with my kids. I’m missing taking my kids to something fun and flashy. I’ll be home while other bloggers and kids are on that private Disney island with the VIP events and the flashy fun. FOMO.

It’s not just blogger events. I’ve had lots of mom FOMO. We pulled Calvin out of his preschool finally after a truly disappointing four month run and even though they lost him and lost his stuff and it was generally a bad experience, I started thinking about him missing out on the Valentine’s Party and his chance to be the kid of the day who gets to have his parents come in and help with the craft and suddenly FOMO. I was afraid we were missing out. When Eva stopped taking ballet because she wanted to do other things, I was relieved to not have to do the recital thing anymore but then thought about recitals happening without us and…FOMO.

Life got too busy to hit the special weekend event in the city? FOMO. Hit the special weekend event and didn’t have time to do the family movie night or home craft time I’d planned? FOMO. Even after a great day, I can get on Instagram at night and suddenly wonder why my kids are having whole childhoods without trampolines in their backyard or weekend camping in our Airstream or handmade dresses sewn from fabric that was printed at Spoonflower from a design they made while they were at the special art camp at the beach for freethinking families. There’s always something we’re missing…always some way my kids’ childhood is just a little dimmer than someone else’s.

What to do? Well, I could stay off social media but that would make my worklife pretty tough and I don’t know that totally isolating myself from the world is the answer. Instead, I try these things:

/// Hang on to things I’ve done. I don’t get to go to the ’17 DSMMC but I went to the ’15 DSMMC and it was amazing. That makes me luckier than a lot of people and a quick flip through those photos reminds me of how great that trip was! I do the same with photos of our family doing fun things or crafts we’ve done while spending quiet days at home.

/// Remember that sharing is cultivated. I’ve posted gorgeous photos from events where I wasn’t even having a good time because it was the only thing salvageable about the evening so I have to remember that sometimes those envy-provoking shots are smoke and mirrors.

/// Get some mom perspective. I get bummed out all the time by things I feel like I can’t give my kids (the right preschool, all the lessons/activities, their own bedroom with en suite bathroom) but realistically my kids don’t walk around feeling like they’re missing out. My kids have no idea that we aren’t going to that conference just like they have no idea that we haven’t ever seen the Grand Canyon and they don’t eat five star meals every night. Do they know they have to share a room and we can’t always buy the latest toys? Sure…but probably better than them expecting the moon.

/// Elevate the everyday. If it really is social media that’s brining up all the FOMO, turn the tables and contribute the best part of whatever you’re doing right now. I guarantee that I’ll be wistfully following the conference hashtag come February, but I’ll be tossing some cute baby cheek photos in there to remind myself that there are some awesomely kissable things I’m not missing out on.

/// Turn it off. When all else fails, turn it off. Turn off the social media, turn off the TV commercials, turn off the things you heard about that new preschool, and just breathe in and out for a minute, letting yourself be enough. A little mindfulness can go a long way in mom world, even if you find meditation tough! (If you’re lost, these mindfulness tips from the Mayo Clinic might help.)

Do you struggle with FOMO? What are the things that trigger you?

50 Things to Be Thankful for as a Mom

Posted by Carly Morgan

Happy Thanksgiving! It’s that time of year to sit around and count your blessings. If you’re a mom, there’s a good chance that you’re too tired to get up past number four or five so I did the heavy lifting for you and put together 101 things this mom is thankful for this year:

  1. The Internet and the fact that you can Google “preschooler ate lego problem?” and get immediate answers.
  2. Being able to scroll through Instagram before bed and feel like you’re catching up with old friends even if you ran out of time to actually call anyone that day.
  3. Good husbands. Wonderful lovely helpful husbands with that nice soap and flannel husband smell.
  4. Bedtime hugs.
  5. Kids who think drying and putting away dishes is a fun game.
  6. Washable paint that’s actually washable.
  7. People who went to medical school and nursing school and all that so they can fix your kids when you can’t.
  8. The big Christmas decorations at the mall that blow your kids’ minds.
  9. Having kids in a time when bullying is out, including everyone is in, and a mom support group for your kid’s issue is only a Facebook search away.
  10. Boogie wipes, hand sanitizer, and children’s cough suppressant.
  11. That HBO didn’t let Sesame Street dry up.
  12. That Mister Rogers turned into Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.
  13. That you can find full Snoopy episodes for free on YouTube.
  14. That you can find John Legend on YouTube.
  15. Babies with good breastfeeding latch.
  16. Getting the piece of art from school that you know your kid worked really hard on with the intent to make you smile.
  17. School costume parades for Halloween.
  18. Grandparents. Yours and your kids’.
  19. Microwaveable Trader Joe’s meals.
  20. The moms you can text with gross questions who text you right back with detailed answers that are even grosser than your original inquiry.
  21. Clorox wipes and Lysol spray.
  22. Pinterest.
  23. Coffee you can make at home.
  24. Coffee that comes to your house unexpectedly in paper cups held by a friend.
  25. iPhone videos you forgot you took of your kids being teeny tiny.
  26. Listening to your kids sing along to your favorite old rock songs.
  27. Dishwashers, washing machines, bagless vacuums, and Magic Eraser sponges.
  28. All those people who wrote all those books that your kids either love or will love soon. Harry Potter! Matilda! The little vampire bunny and his friends!
  29. Public libraries.
  30. The huge leaps in car safety and car seat technology that take place every few years.
  31. GPS.
  32. The fact that stretchy, comfortable, and easy-to-wash has been the big trend in mom clothes for the last five years.
  33. Dry shampoo.
  34. Jobs that let moms work from home if they want or need to.
  35. Jobs with flexible schedules so moms can work around their kids’ school schedules.
  36. Doctor’s offices, dentists, carpet cleaners, and cab companies that let you set appointments online.
  37. Food companies that label correctly and use disclaimers for allergens.
  38. The magical uplifting shopping experience that is Target.
  39. Feeling like my kids are safe in their beds every night.
  40. Sleepy good-morning-cuddles with the kids before everyone wakes all the way up.
  41. Subscription services for diapers, printer ink, oatmeal, and all that stuff we used to run out of all the time.
  42. Kid coats with little ears on them that make children look like small bears.
  43. Being the person in the checkout line behind the mom with the screaming kids because (A) you can give her the kind “I totally understand and have been where you are” smile and (B) those aren’t your kids.
  44. Bottles of water and packs of jerky in the checkout line for when you realize that you forgot to eat breakfast or lunch because you were too busy preparing/serving/cleaning up breakfast and lunch.
  45. Baby carriers for when you have three kids and only two hands.
  46. That late night moment when they wore you out all day but you still miss them after they go to sleep and it reminds you to be patient with the inevitable spilled milk in the morning.
  47. Warehouse stores and farmers markets.
  48. Bubble baths with Netflix on the iPad.
  49. One or two nights without the kids every year just to de-mom.
  50. Whatever journey it was that got you to being a mom, no matter how bumpy or crooked or unexpected.

Enjoy the holiday!

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