Mommy Crushes

I feel like I should feel some shame about this, but it’s the truth and I have to get it off my chest. Here goes… Sometimes, when I’m home without children, I watch episodes of the Imagination Movers on the Disney Channel, just because I have a crush on Rich.

There, that wasn’t so bad. Sometimes I even listen to their CD in the car after I’ve dropped the kids of at childcare. Hmmmm, still not feeling too ashamed. I might as well also tell you that I also have a crush on Steve from Blue’s Clues.

Now, I feel like I’ve crossed a line.

It does seem kind of weird, I mean as far as I know, my Mom never had a crush on Mr. Rogers, or Mr. Hooper, or Mr. McFeely, et al. (By the way, why were we never too disturbed by the fact that the Speedy Delivery dude’s last name was McFeely? These days, that would be a nickname for a Dr. on Grey’s Anatomy. McDreamy, McSteamy, and McFeely.) The thing is, I love musicians (I was always a sucker for the guitar guy at the party. You know that guy). I also love kids. Ergo, I love musicians who are great with kids. That explains Rich. I suppose now would also be a good time to confess that when the Imagination Movers did their first tour and came to Minneapolis, I bought tickets for my family under the guise of taking my three year old (who is a legitimate fan, for the record) for his birthday. My day was made when Mover Rich ventured all the way up to the nosebleeds where we were sitting to interact with the fans. I was seven months pregnant with the twins, and I’ll be damned if I wasn’t prepared to throw elbows at any toddler fan that got in my way so that I could get a private moment with Rich. I wasn’t above pretending to go into labor for a second of his attention. It’s possible that I was more excited that my three year old. (Okay, I’m feeling appropriately ashamed, now.)

I don’t know what it is about Steve from Blue’s Clues that turns my crank. He seems goofy, and funny, and like he doesn’t take himself too seriously. I mean really, he does a TV show with a cartoon dog for goodness sake. AND THE DOG IS BLUE! WHO HAS EVER SEEN A BLUE DOG? It takes some good self-esteem to act opposite a silent blue dog week after week to make a buck.

I probably give this a little too much thought (gee, ya think an entire blog devoted to the topic of mommy crushes on kiddie show stars is too much thought?), but I wonder how these guys got into this business. Like Steve for example, was he hoping to make it big as a serious actor, and then when he got the role on Blue’s Clues, did he think, “well, it’s a start…?” Or did he go to Hollywood looking specifically for a role on a kiddie show? Or what about the Movers? I gotta tell you, their music really is good (and I’m not just saying that because I’m a psycho mommy fan), but I wonder if they ever feel trapped in the kiddie music genre.

I suppose that the real reason I’m coming out of the Mommy Crush Closet is to tell you you’re not alone (or, if you think this is crazy, I guess my message is that I’m certifiably nuts). If you have a Mommy Crush, you are a normal, red blooded, healthy mommy. Own it! In fact, share it here by commenting, LOUD AND PROUD!


Because Online, I Shop Alone!

I do a ton of online shopping (because it’s easier than lugging 2 car seats, and the bodies that love them everywhere I go.) I belong to an amazing site called Ebates. Whenever I do my online shopping, I link to the site I’m shopping at from Ebates. They keep track of the money I spend, and give me a percentage back in the form of a “big fat check.” All my favorite stores are on there, Old Navy, Target, Vistaprint, Current, etc. It comes in especially handy around Christmas time when I do the majority of my shopping online.

Sometimes facebook friends ask me about my “mommy-must haves,” and worry not, I am compiling a comprehensive list for this blog, but ebates doesn’t really fit into the “must-have” category, nor does it apply specifically to mommies. So, it was worthy of its own post. Sometimes I use it in conjunction with Current Codes because I can usually find a code for free shipping as well.

If you fall into any of these categories, you will LOVE Ebates:

Cloth Diapering mamas like myself: If you sign up for ebates, and then shop for your Bum Genius or Mio diapers at the Land of Nod site, you will get 4% cash back.

Bookworms: Ordering your books online at Barnes and Noble’s site earns you 6% cash back!

Photo loving Friends: Whenever you link to Shutterfly.com through ebates for photo gifts or for prints, you will get 8% cash back.

Travel Savvy Jet Setters: You get money back by using ebates to link to travel sites like Hotwire, etc.

It’s so worth checking out!

While I’m busy telling you about this particular site, I should also share with you my other favorite site, restaurant.com. There you can get gift certificates to some of your favorite restaurants at a fraction of the cost, and then print the certificates right on your home printer. (I seriously just looked, and you can also get cash back by linking there through Ebates, I never knew that). We do it all the time, but be careful to read the fine print because sometimes the certificates are for lunch only, or dine-in only, or they ask you to spend a certain amount in order to use the certificate. We have found it to be a very reliable site, and have enjoyed many meals at a fraction of regular cost.

If you really want to online bargain shop, check out the Woot! sites:


Wine Woot!

Kid Woot!

Deals Woot!

A deal a day! I check them every morning while I'm sipping my coffee before my hubby gets on the train for work. Shipping is always $5 (a little more for wine woot), but you can order up to 3 of anything, so it is great for gift shopping.

Other favorite sites (and these are all about the mamas):

Mama Bargains! All day long, they post a deal on a mommy or baby item and sell it at a fraction of full price. Once that deal runs out, they post another deal, and so on. All day long. It can get pretty addictive, checking that little site to see what they’re featuring at any given time.

Babystealsat 10:00 am central standard time every day (even on weekends), a great, one day deal is posted. At the same time, they also post a deal to their sister site Kidsteals (for older kids). If you’re into scrapbooking – check out their OTHER sister site, Scrapbooksteals which also posts a deal at 10:00 am CST. I do a lot of gift purchasing through these sites. They are great for baby showers, birthday parties, or even for my own enjoyment.

Sure, I still love getting out every once in a while instead of going the virtual route, but I reserve those trips for times when I can go alone, with my wallet, maybe a girlfriend, and a latte.


Bona Fide Member of the Clean Slate Club

It’s been a helluva week. In short, two sick twins (seven month old sick people are not very good at telling you what’s wrong), multiple trips to various doctors, and a three year old (who is getting ever closer to four) who would like to have a little attention of his own (who also spiked a fever, just this morning). Oh, and on top of it all, my back is in full on spasm, and I am now blogging from a supine and highly medicated state (don’t worry, my main squeeze – who also has a fever - is home and caring for our offspring). It’s been a week full of tear your hair out moments, a handful of “oh, they are so sweet when they need me” moments, a pinch of “can I get some space of my own” moments, wrapped in a whole lot of “I’m not sure I have what it takes to do this, but I have no choice” moments.

In my experience, the busier and more hectic life gets, the more it wears on my self confidence. I find myself wondering how I got picked for this job (being a mom is not for the faint of heart, being a mom of multiples REALLY isn’t for the faint of heart or spirit) and if I have the energy, knowledge, resources, imagination, etc. to do the job well. When we found out we were expecting twins, you’d be surprised how many people’s first reaction was, “your screwed.” That really hurt. You see, Matt and I have had the rug pulled out from under us a lot. Our first daughter died of SIDS, our second pregnancy ended in a miscarriage, our fourth pregnancy resulted in the loss of another daughter due to a fatal chromosomal abnormality at 20 weeks of pregnancy. All of those times, we felt “screwed”. When we got the news of twins, the word “screwed” never entered our minds. We thought we would be “challenged,” and “busy,” and even “full of joy.” But “screwed?” Not so much. Before the twins were born, I created a mantra, “do it well, and do it with a good attitude.” I was bound and determined to show all those people who thought we were “screwed” exactly how not “screwed” we were. I promised myself to not let it show when the going got tough – knowing full well that time would come. Well, here I am. The going is tough, and I’m letting it show.

I believe that there are two types of people in this world; those who put their foot on the gas when they encounter a yellow light, and those who prefer prompt use of the brake. I am the latter. I figure, if I stop I’ll be avoiding further traffic jams ahead. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the way I’ve approached this parenting gig. Partly out of necessity (the way you figure things out is to, as Nike says, just do it), and partly out of this ridiculous personal need to prove that I can do it. Gosh, I feel like I’m complaining. That’s not what I mean to do at all. What I mean to do is illuminate the importance of putting the brake on when you see the yellow light. When my three year old was learning about colors, they used the stop lights to help them with red, yellow, and green. One day we were in the car coming home from school, and he spotted a yellow light ahead. He pointed and exclaimed, “yellow means WARNING!!!” There’s a reason that the yellow light signals a red light, the yellow light tells you to slow down, because your next move is to rest, wait, notice, get your bearings, and look for the “all clear” of the green light.

We all have yellow lights in our path daily, I am challenging you to notice your yellow lights. Wait, don’t just NOTICE them, OBEY them. This is the challenge. If we don’t obey them, we will certainly find ourselves in the midst of a traffic jam (sometimes a small one, sometimes an epic one – like the one at the Lindstrom home right now).

So, I’m in the traffic jam, and it’s mighty hard to see what’s up ahead right now, especially since we’re in total gridlock. Will our path be cleared in the morning? I don’t know. I am going to make a choice, though. Tomorrow is a new day, and I am going to wake up and start over. I’ll be the President of the Clean Slate Club. But while I’m stuck here, I’ll pay attention to all the yellow lights I didn’t obey on the way, so that I don’t make that mistake again.


The Process of Letting (Yourself) Go

Before I was a mother, I didn’t understand. Really, I didn’t understand anything, but right now I’m referring very specifically to how hard it would be to keep up my normal standards. In my vision, I would raise children who would be respectful, well-mannered, and helpful. I would do so effortlessly, because I am a respectful, well-mannered and helpful person. In this vision, I neglected to recall the most important part, raising children is a PROCESS. This means that while I am raising those children, there is a lot of… shall we say… revision occurring. Parenting requires equal parts consistency and adaptability. At any moment the plan may change, but within that spontaneity, there are firm boundaries that remain in place for the safety and comfort of the child (bedtime routines, morning routines, nap routines, etc. etc.) In the midst of discovering this for myself, I realized that my own standards also needed to adapt.

You see, I am what I call a “lazy perfectionist.” I would LOVE for everything to be perfect and in place, and in fact, when things are whacky and out of place – I am a complete witch to be around, but I don’t want to have to do the work myself. With each expanse of our family, my standards have had to get lower out of necessity.

For example, I maintain that there are three levels of showering. In order for it to count as a shower, there needs to be nudity, and running water. Those are the basics. In a level one shower, hair and body get washed, but there is no lingering, there is no leg shaving, you are lucky if the soap gets rinsed all the way off. Oh, and the door to the bathroom is most certainly open, in the event that a small person needs immediate attention. After a level one shower, you find the closest outfit that may or may not be clean and may or may not match. And after a level one shower, you do nothing more than towel dry your hair.

A level two shower is slightly longer, the door to the bathroom is shut, but not locked, and there is lingering, only to enjoy the peace, quiet, and hot water. Hair and body are washed, soap gets rinsed off entirely, armpits may be shaven, but no time for legs. Once you are out of the shower, you are able to dry off, and put on clean clothes that match. You may even have time and energy for a little product in your hair and lipstick and mascara, but nothing more.

A level three shower is the gold standard. It is the Holy Grail for a Mommy. The level three shower is the shower you used to take regularly before the small people came along. Door shut and locked, linger until the hot water runs out completely, wash, rinse, shave to your little heart’s content and repeat as you wish. Get out of the shower, and take your time drying off, dry your hair WITH THE HAIRDRYER, put on clothes that are clean, flattering, match, and are wrinkle free, and (drum roll, please) PUT ON MAKE-UP!!!! If you’re lucky, the level three shower happens once a week.

Since there are three levels of cleanliness, we must also cover the four degrees of mommy filth. These are exclusive to moms with young children or babies in diapers, but I am sure some of the bodily fluids can be swapped out as the children get older. There are four elements of filth. In ascending order of grossness; snot, spit-up, pee, and poop. Any of these elements have the ability to end up on your clothes or body. There are four degrees of filth, depending on what you have on your body at any given time. If you are wearing one element of filth - that is considered first degree, two elements – second degree, and so on, and so forth. The more advanced the filth degree, the more immediate action is required. That said, poop alone by virtue of it’s grossness, is an automatic fourth degree, and requires immediate attention. (There is also a law that the lighter the hue of your clothing, the more prone you are to a higher degree of filth).

You don’t wake up one day and realize that you’ve let yourself go. It happens so gradually, and one day you are blogging and realize that you have a whole ranking system for cleanliness and filth. Within the process of letting yourself go, though – there is a process of letting go of letting yourself go. What? Back up the truck, that is confusing. What I’m saying is there is a freedom in not taking yourself and your standards so seriously, there is a freedom in being able to laugh at yourself and where you’ve ended up compared to who you thought you’d be. I LOVE my life, and I love the person I’ve become, but there are some major discrepancies from who my 18 year old self thought my 33 year old self would be. Back before I made small people, I never gave such things a passing thought. Sure, I babysat, but a visit to that world was far different than living in it. I took my alone time so for granted when I had it, and now, I use those moments to get me through the challenges of my week and recharge.

Fridays are sacred at my house. Friday mornings, in particular. All of my beloved children have a short “enrichment time” at the childcare program at our church. I drop all of them off in the morning for four hours of frolicky faith filled fun, while I get four hours to myself to do what I please. What I please is usually a trip to the YMCA, Target, and a second or third level shower (keeping in mind that I’ll be picking them up again, and will be subject to any of the degrees of filth). This morning was one of those glorious mornings. I usually have my entire morning mapped out, and am excited to drop the kids and get my list accomplished.

This morning, I took my daughter out of her car seat to pass her off to her “teachers” and gave her a quick snuggle before the handoff. As I bundled up her sweet little body in my arms, I recognized the familiar odor of the fourth element of filth… POOP! Laughing aloud, I handed her off (feeling a little cocky that I’d dodged the poopy diaper bullet) and said, “Oh, you are going to want to change that diaper! She’s a little stinky.” When Cassie, who is also our regular babysitter in addition to being the one who cares for the twins at church, said, “ummmm, I think you got some on you.” Ugh. I looked down. Yep, poop on the boob. GROSSSSSSSSS!

Do you think I let a little fourth degree filth get in the way of my trip to the YMCA and Target? Nope. Because I’m a mommy – and I’ve been waiting all week for this time to myself. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I have enough time for a level two shower.


Wanna Join a Movement?

I like to think that I am an agent of change. That rather than being the type of person who stands idly by when I spot an injustice, instead, I rise to the occasion and give voice to an issue. Only, this time, I don’t know who to go to… so I’m taking my movement to the blogosphere.

It is time, for parking spots to grow to accept larger vehicles. There. I said it. Now, if I were a little more environmentally minded, I wouldn’t have such a large vehicle (reducing your carbon footprint is so… trendy. Okay... clearly that was an attempt at humor). I drive a vehicle, which the public would refer to as “a crossover vehicle.” I like that title, it sounds so much better than what my car really is, “a mini-van in training.” I used to be the type of person who would boast, “when the time comes in life that I may consider a mini-van, I won’t fight it.” It’s important for you to realize that I am all talk.

When Matt and I were considering growing our family, we also were considering getting a new car. We were trying to think ahead and get a car that would be suitable for a family of four that could also handle the gear that a family of four needs when taking driving vacations. The more the word “mini-van” got tossed around, the closer I was to tossing my cookies. Then, I met, and fell in love with my Saturn Outlook. An SUV on the outside, but a mini-van on the inside. The car came first, the news of twins came after (making our dream of a family of four, into the reality of a family of five). Oh dear. Thank GOD we had gotten that ginormous not-a-mini-van.

The more kids you have the more car seats you have. It’s a fact of life, albeit one Mrs. Garret kept under her bouffant (points for an 80's pop-culture reference?). Ironically, the smaller those kids are, the more elaborate and obnoxious (and often, bulky) those car seats are. It took weeks of experimenting to figure out the best configuration of the car seats in our not-a-mini-van, but we got it, we’re comfortable with it, and we do our best, even though it can be tricky. Everywhere I park, I mentally rehearse the process of getting all the kids out of the car. Who will get out first/second/third? Will I make use of the double stroller, or just carry the twins carriers in my arms? (Surprisingly, there are times that this feat of strength is actually more practical). Where will the safest place be to set a car seat down while I get the other one out? How do I get the 3 year old out of the car and make sure he doesn’t run into oncoming traffic? Etc. etc. My head spins. It’s like designing a seating chart for a wedding (not that I’d know, because I wasn’t even organized enough to do THAT). So, while to the common observer, the dance we do may look well choreographed, it is only because all my traveling time is devoted to planning the execution of our evacuation – as each parking situation requires a plan a, b, and c, depending on the circumstances.

So, you can imagine that this modern problem of the parking spaces inability to accommodate the girth of the not-a-mini-van is especially troubling for the mother of infant multiples in their ridiculously large car seats and a pre-schooler who may or may not be listening depending on his mood. I also don’t want to be that spectacular a-hole who parks across two spots just so I have the room I so desperately need. Where do we go with this? I think this is going to have to begin as a grassroots movement. Once we’ve achieved this transformation, we can begin our movement for bigger shopping carts (with cup holders, please). You’re with me, right? Sweet. Should we march… or drive?


When You Wish Upon a Star... Chart

You know star charts. Those nifty little charts that you hang in the bathroom when you’re potty training your kids. Every time they have a success, you put a little gold star on the chart, and then they get a reward for learning to put everything in the potty? Yes, that’s the kind of chart I’m talking about… and I made a chart for myself, and going potty is not one of the goals (thankfully I got that all squared away when I was little. Thanks, Mom!). The progress chart I made is either the greatest thing in the world, or the most embarrassing thing ever. Either way, here’s where it began…

I was having one of those days. You know the days that usually start with a moment where you look at everything around you and say, “Wait a second, how did I get here again?” Like it’s been a dream. Like just yesterday you were 40 lbs smaller, wearing fashionable, clean, new clothes, oh yeah – and you had showered. And then suddenly you woke up and here you have kids, and a house, and a pair of yoga pants that you’ve been wearing for three (okay, maybe five) days, and your hair no longer needs a rubber band to stay in a ponytail because you don’t remember your last shower. Am I the only one that has those days? In any case, I was at a breaking point where maybe I’d had one too many of them.

All this because last spring, I had a beautiful idea. I thought that the kids and I should spend lots of quality time TOGETHER. While all three kids go to a childcare program on Fridays for four hours, the rest of the week would be all about the quality, enriching time we’d all spend together in a blissful kumbaya. (If you’re not laughing right now, you should be). Perhaps I was riding some bizarre post-birth/nursing high? Or maybe I was still feeling the effects of the prescribed Percocet following my C-Section. Whatever. All I know is that I was craaaaaaaaazy.

Here’s the straight poop, you know the verse in Kumbaya that goes, “someone’s crying, Lord…?” Well, that’s the verse I’m living. Twin A, hungry and crying. Twin B, poopy and crying. Big Brother, needs attention… and… crying. Oh Lord, Kumbaya. I’m like a waitress with three perpetually unsatisfied customers. When one or two are happy (or sleeping), the other one (or two) needs something five minutes ago, and let me tell you, what they need is not for me to be showered and clean.

Disclaimer: To be fair to my beautiful children, most moments are so fun and amazing around here. HOWEVER, when you are having one of THOSE aforementioned days, it feels much more what has been described in the preceding.

It occurred to me that what I needed was a daily task list to keep me on the ball so that I could do the minimum to make me happy (this, in addition to the family task list - which shall be blogged about on a later date). Because, (say it with me), “if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Easy enough, right? People do these all the time to meet goals. So, I sat down and wrote my list of things that I wasn’t doing, that I needed to do.

Here’s the list: EXERCISE (20 minutes a day – minimum. And no, carrying the carseats out to the car does NOT count – even though I do break a sweat), FOLLOW FOOD PLAN (so far, the plan is to eat food. Preferably healthy food, but in a pinch, anything will do), TAKE MEDS (for my sisters with a thyroid problem, you know what life is like if you don’t keep on top of that business), and TAKE A SHOWER (I cannot expand upon this – it’s simply too embarrassing). Seriously. I once had a friend who told me that she thought people who were getting ready for a vacation that put “pack” on their to-do list were pretty ridiculous. She said that was obvious. Making a list of what TO pack however, made perfect sense. I kind of feel like this about my list. Really? Aren’t these the things that I should be doing anyway? These are sort of the bare essentials. While that may be true, the fact is, I wasn’t consistently doing them. Maybe someday I can add things like “read for 30 minutes”, or “get a massage” to my list (hey, a girl can dream), but for now, I just need to get the bare essentials done regularly.

So here’s a picture of my chart:

What’s that at the bottom? Oh, is that a picture of a glass of wine? How could I forget about that? That’s my reward for checking off all of my tasks. In fact, just 10 minutes before I sat down to write this blog, I made a run to the liquor store. While I was checking out, I told the clerk about my chart. She took a look at the six bottles of wine I was buying and said, “well, it looks like you’re planning to be very successful.” Why, yes. Yes, I am.


What the What?????

What's going on here? (I'm in your brain right now). This chick was all, "I'm going to challenge myself once a week and then tell you about it blah blah blah. And then she got pregnant with twins... and she told us she'd still blog - but she's a liar - 'cause she left us all high and dry. Keeping Her Cool? More like Playing Too Cool for School!" It's all good, anything that you're thinking about me is probably 10 times nicer than what I've thought about myself.

A few months ago, a well-meaning (and very good) friend told me that she's noticed that I never finish what I start. Ugh. Who wants to hear that? I realized that in the case of this blog - that was true (however, in my defense, I complete a lot of tasks. Like, just this morning, I set out to take a shower. Guess what, I did!) Here's where I got stuck; I wanted to challenge myself once a week. I wanted to do a great, big, impressive challenge. Once a week. I wanted to really stretch myself. Once a week. And I did, until the stretching became less metaphorical and more literal. That is to say, that once I found I was expecting twins (who are now born, 7 months-old, and affectionately called "the Twinstroms") I realized that the whole pregnancy was stretching me. This is an ongoing challenge.

I wasn't sure how to come back to this blog and have something unique to say each and every week. I didn't know how I could face another challenge each week deliberately, when I had found myself accidentally in the midst of a huge life challenge. So, I disappeared from the blogosphere, but privately kept the blog dream alive.

Time has passed, and yes, I have two beautiful babies (a boy and a girl, for those keeping track) who are thriving and making each moment two times more interesting than they once were. I have been constipated with musings. It's the truth. I'm all stopped up. I am constantly seeing the world with different eyes, and I am dying to share it with you.

So, Keeping Her Cool is coming back at you. With a little makeover - and an even fresher perspective. I'm not going to lie, it will likely fall squarely in the category of "mommy-blog." I have tried so desperately to avoid this label in the past. I didn't want to alienate anyone. However, in trying to avoid the label, I am avoiding who I really am. Right now I am deeply entrenched in the role of Mommy. I eat, sleep, breathe MOM. I LOVE it sometimes, and despise it others. After all, I am a mom. I hope you'll take a peek into this new world. Expect to find a challenge here and there (because I've definitely still been stretching myself), but mostly I want to invite you into this world where I try to keep my cool, both as a woman, and as a mom. Getting back in touch with that fearless person I once was, and combining her with this crazy, at the end of my wits mommy who is just trying to make it through the day without blowing a gasket.

I hope you'll hang with me on this journey. I encourage you to laugh with me, laugh at me, laugh at yourself, disagree with me, respectfully argue with my perspective, see my flaws (believe me, there are many), cry with me (hopefully because you're laughing so hard), and genuinely enjoy the joy that I choose to embrace every day. I invite you to walk with me (and occasionally crawl through tight spaces) and to see what we have in common as we face our greatness!!! Ready... Set... GO!

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