Small Town December

Last night, on December 1st, when it should’ve been snowing gently…and looking like every single Hallmark movie ever made…it rained.  And really…it seemed fitting.  Because as the rain came in and cleared away the snow…and left behind patches of grass and dead leaves and dirt…it was both exciting (because the snow is gone) and sad (because the snow is gone). And, like so many other things, it seemed to be a reminder of all of the changes this year.  This December is like raising teens.  One year it’s picture perfect…and the next… it’s like a pile of dirt.

Ok, I’m exaggerating.  It’s not like a pile of dirt.

But here’s the thing… this December 1st came around and I got to see lovely pictures of friends and acquaintances taking their little ones to the Jingle Bell Parade…and shopping along the Miracle Mile in Chicago…and baking gingerbread cookies…and don’t get me wrong…I love looking at those photos…but it gave me a bit of nostalgia for the days when I got to do the same. 

Instead, this year I have one kiddo away at college, where she’s hanging out with friends, staying up late, watching Netflix, and I’m sure studying…probably.  And I have another who spent most of his December 1st playing Fortnite in the basement with friends.  And while I’m glad that he’s able to connect with his friends all while staying in my house…I still miss him.

So, instead of heading downtown to the parade this year. And instead of indulging in Christmassy-goodness, my husband and I just cozied up on the couch to watch a movie and fall half-asleep under a fluffy blanket while eating take-out and drinking wine…and it was great. ish.

And here’s the thing.  I actually hate the Jingle Bell Parade.  Well…I mean, I really do love the Jingle Bell Parade… Like, I love the lights, and the firetrucks, and the marching band, and Santa.  I LOVE SANTA.  But the overall idea of going to the Jingle Bell Parade I hate. It’s always freezing. And snowy. I remember one parade in which we went with friends who wore full snowsuits…like, the kind that cover you from head to toe in order to go snowmobiling or snowshoeing…or any of the other outdoor winter activities that I have zero desire to participate in.  And then there was me…in my regular winter coat, cutesy stocking cap, and thin gloves…and I froze and hated every minute of it.

Or the year that we came home from the parade to find that our Christmas tree had tipped over, because in an effort to be super-Christmassy, we had cut down our own tree…and it ended up having a wonky stem.  Instead of warming up over a cup of hot cocoa, we searched the house for a set of dumbbells (why on earth did we have a set of dumbbells in our house??) and a jumprope (again…why?) and rigged up a contraption in the back of our tree to keep it from falling over.

So the thing is…it’s not really about the Jingle Bell Parade…or about any of the other things that I don’t really want to be doing…it’s about the fact that despite having no desire to actually attend the parade…attending the parade is off of the table…because our family isn’t all together this December 1st. And that’s a hard reality to face.

But there is also a flip side.  As I write this, I’m sitting in the gym at Alma College, where I get to watch my daughter pursue her goals as a college competitive cheerleader.  She is happy and healthy and has a National Championship ring on her finger...and there is beauty in watching her thrive.

And my son? Well, he may be hanging out in the basement more and more…but yesterday we enjoyed watching football together…and although we are neither from Alabama or Georgia…it was fun to watch two amazing teams battle it out all the way to the end as we cheered for the underdog but ultimately watched a very deserving quarterback win.

And after that?  Well Chris Hottie and I got to curl up on the couch and watch a movie that we didn’t have to turn the volume down for during the bad words (not that we would EVER watch a movie with bad words).  And despite the fact that we now have fewer kids and more room to watch movies…Chris made the following observation:

  • Chris: “You realize there are three full cushions on this couch”
  • Me: “Why would we need to use all 3 cushions?”
  • Chris: “And an entire basket of blankets.”
  • Me: “One cushion and one blanket are plenty for the two of us.”

So…no, we didn’t get to go to the Jingle Bell Parade.  And no, we haven’t shopped the Miracle Mile or made Gingerbread Cookies yet this year…but despite that, I got to look around my little 1/2 empty nest and realize that on this December 1st my kids were happy and healthy (I mean, relatively. They are still normal, imperfect teenagers).  My tree was up (without a wonky stem), And in the end, I got to curl up on a single couch cushion and cuddle with my husband as we watched a Saturday night movie, and enjoy not being out in the cold…and for now…I’ll take that over a Jingle Bell Parade anyday.

Much love from a very nostalgic but content Small Town Girl

Advice for New Moms

This week my baby turned 15.  And all I can think about is this one moment in the middle of the night, when he was less than two weeks old, and I was completely sleep-deprived…and I hadn’t worn pants with a button for almost a year…and I mostly smelled like baby spit up…and I had cried almost every day that week…that I held him in my arms with his little head in my hands, and the smell of new baby all over him and I thought…

“This.  Is totally worth it.”

IT. IS. TOTALLY. WORTH. IT.  New mom, hang in there.  You’ve got this.  And don’t listen to anybody’s advice.  Including mine.  Unless you ask for it. But unsolicited? No. Everyone is going to have lots of advice for you, but just smile and nod and head home and roll your eyes and then do whatever you think is best for your little family…because your baby will be fine.

But in the event that you really do want some advice… totally unsolicited, and easily ignorable…here it is:

Breast/Bottle:

Either one is fine. Just feed your baby. They will be hungry and will  care less about whether or not they drink breastmilk or formula than you and the rest of the world do. They. just. want. food. I tried breastmilk with Kaitlyn until I realized that she slept better through the night if I gave her formula…and with Carson, I just told the nurse at the hospital to please bring me a bottle because seriously…I had just spent 9 months giving my body to my child and that was pretty much my limit. Also…I was ready for some wine.

And ironically, it’s my breastfed child that is constantly sick and costs me way more money in visits to the doctor than any can of formula ever did. That being said, both of the kids have turned out relatively well and have gained plenty of weight and their brains developed the proper neurons…and ok, so neither of them is a valedictorian…but they’re pretty well-adjusted and your baby will be too. So breast? Bottle? Either way, just feed them. They’ll be fine.

Work/Stay at Home

I don’t know. Do you like to work? Do you have a job? Do you need a job? Do you prefer play dates and mommy and me groups? IT DOES NOT MATTER. YOUR CHILD WILL BE FINE. My kids have had a combination of daycare, babysitters, me at home, and days in which they rocked in their car seat under my desk at work. I had a season at home in which I spent time with other moms sharing tips about healthy snacks and watching Caillou, and seasons of work in which I dropped my kid if at a daycare center where they played with other kids and made macaroni necklaces and handprint valentines. So far, my kids’ biggest complaint about me is that I try to pry into their private lives too much, but I’ve never heard them say, “I can’t believe you had the nerve to drop me of at daycare when I was a baby,” or “Why did you think it was a good idea to take me to playdates and feed me Cheerios?” Your kid won’t either. They will be fine. Because you love them and will do what’s best for you and your family. And that is all that matters.

Cry it out / Pick them up

I mean…sometimes do one and sometimes do the other.  I’ve spent plenty of nights with a crying child and a stopwatch to see just exactly how long I was letting them cry.  My limit was always 10 minutes, but to be honest, they never really made it past 3…although those 3 felt like 586 hundred million.  And then one day they just sleep through the night. 

Look, do what you feel is best.  Some moms swear by the sleep schedule (I’m going to be honest…I did this and it SAVED MY LIFE.)  And some moms feel it’s better to pick up their child when they cry…or co-sleep…or sleep-nurse…or all of the other things…and their children seem normal too.  It’s possible that one day my child will be in therapy and will blame all of their issues on the fact that I let them cry themselves to sleep as an infant…but so far they blame their issues on other things… like the fact that I write blog posts about them and hug them in public.  So, new mom, as long as they get some sleep…in a crib, in your arms, in a carseat, before eating or after…they will be ok.  Here’s the truth.  Moms always know best…and I promise…that begins the minute you bring your little one home.  So welcome to the club.

Because soon enough your baby will turn 15 and you’ll still feel completely inadequate as a parent…and you’ll wonder if you’re ruining his life…and you’ll wonder if you’ve done everything wrong…and answer is maybe.  But probably not.  Your baby will always be your baby, but one day…as you look at him across the gym, laughing with his friends and acting like a goofy teenager…you’ll realize that it’s probably not because you’ve fed him breastmilk or formula, you took him to playgroup or daycare, or you let him cry himself to sleep.  It’s because he has you for a mom and you’ve loved him through every stinking minute of his fifteen-year-old-life…and honestly…that is the only thing that you need to know.

With lots of love from an experienced, but still completely mediocre     Small Town Mom.

Small Town Cheerleaders

Last weekend I had the opportunity to watch my daughter celebrate her Sophomore Homecoming as a collegiate cheerleader.  She joined us at the tailgate, took pictures with her teammates, and then headed to the sidelines to cheer on the football team…sort of.

See…here’s the thing about cheerleaders today…THEY.ARE.BAD.ASS. They are less about cheering on the athletes…and more about being the athletes…and I will seriously drop kick the next person that tells me that cheerleading is not a sport…seriously. DROP KICK.

I mean…I was a cheerleader once.  I had a varsity sweater and a pleated skirt that twisted and twirled when I performed the fight song.  I had pompons and a big bow, and I could easily hold Holly Linihan on my shoulders while yelling “Hold that line!”

I was even captain…I know…shocking.

Check the far right…

But let me tell you…today’s cheerleaders, even with their big bows and their pompons…are not your mother’s cheerleaders.  Look, I get that these girls are cute and sweet and can rock a glitter bow…but I also know that they are the toughest young women I’ve ever met and can out-benchpress half of the student population of their college…mostly the male half.  They work-out 4-5 days a week, not including time in the weight room.  And really, you do not want to meet one of these girls alone in a dark alley…unless you need a protector…then by all means grab her hand and take her with you, because today’s cheerleaders will take a mother down.  You do not want to mess.

Ok…I get it.  I know that some of you aren’t really “cheerleading people.” You glance occasionally at the sidelines of a football game and think, “Oh that’s sweet that they are cheering on the boys.” But…I’m here to tell you that YOU NEED JESUS.

Because if you were “a cheerleading person,” you would realize that Friday night under the lights is just one more practice that they have to put in…after 4 others during the week (not including weight room workouts) just to bide their time until competitive season.

You would realize that the jumps, tucks and stunts that you are watching on the sidelines are just the 1st draft of a bigger routine that will push these girls to their limits and might even get them a college scholarship…or a National Championship…I mean, I’m not bragging or anything (I’m actually totally bragging) but I can name one cheerleader in particular, who may or may not look a lot like me despite trying desperately not to, who has both.  Just saying.

Cheerleading is not for the faint of heart.  It takes courage to watch it and strength to perform it…and for those that just smile patronizingly and say, “Oh that’s cute…” I challenge you to climb on your best friend’s shoulders and then have your third best friend climb on yours…

That’s what I thought.

So here’s the thing. Last weekend wasn’t just Homecoming, it was also the weekend that the Alma College Cheer and STUNT team received their NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP rings.  Meaning…and I will not hesitate with the capital letters here…THEY ARE THE BEST DIVISION III ALL-GIRL CHEER TEAM IN THE NATION.  THE NATION.  THE ACTUAL UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. And lest you think I’m exaggerating, you can check out this video..because I’m incredibly proud…and incredibly honored to be a cheer coach and a cheer mom…and incredibly adamant that these athletes are recognized as such.

And in this moment, when our nation is desperately in need of strong women to stand up and have a voice…I just want to take a moment to recognize one specific group of young women who are strong, athletic, fierce, and lovely all at the same time…they are cheerleaders…and I, for one, am cheering them on!

Girls. I’m so proud of you!

With Lots of Love from a former Small Town Cheerleader