A Baby’s Head and Jumping to Conclusions

iStock_000000104406XSmallIt was a warm autumn afternoon.  I had dropped Meg off at her dance class, leaving me with about an hour to kill before she was done.  I didn’t quite have long enough time to drive home and come back again, so I decided to go on a walk in the neighborhood around the dance studio to enjoy the warm October sun.

I changed my shoes to the sneakers I had brought along in anticipation for this little jaunt, and I punched up my favorite music on my iPod as I began my walk.

The area around the dance studio, though safe, is not exactly quiet.  Being a mix of businesses, apartment complexes, and detached homes, there are a lot of cars whizzing by constantly.  I decided to walk the few city blocks in a big rectangle on the left side of the road, always facing traffic and, for the most part, on sidewalks.  The big loop usually takes me about 30 minutes to complete.

As I rounded one corner, I noticed some cars coming off of the tollway up ahead and waiting to turn right towards my direction.  I saw a dark blue sedan with a man in the passenger seat.  The car was still about 50 yards away, but I gasped at the sight of something I could clearly see on his lap.

A baby!

It was unmistakable.  A guy was holding a tiny baby on his lap!  I could see a small, delicate, but perfectly shaped back of a baby’s head and its wispy blond hair.  The infant was most certainly not in a car seat!  And in the front seat!

Oh my gosh — what if the air bag goes off?  What if they crash and the baby goes flying out of this guy’s hands and out the window?  This is child abuse!

I thought of calling 911 to report this crime.  My pace quickened as I raced toward the car before it could turn and take off.  I wanted to bang on his window and wag my finger at this terribly irresponsible act.

As I got closer, I could see this passenger laughing and talking with the driver, another male.  They both looked too young to be responsible dads.  In fact, they looked more like college-age surfer dudes.  Babysitting?  Kidnapping?  What could possibly be the situation under which a mother would entrust the life of her newborn to such reckless young men?  I was starting to feel indignant.  The only thought running through my mind was, “I have to rescue this little child!”

I began to run.  Too late — the light turned green, and the car proceeded to turn right. The car began to speed towards my direction.  When it was within a couple of yards, I was starting to flail my arms wildly to try to stop them and was almost ready to lurch onto the path of this car.  That’s when I got a much clearer view of this poor little blond kid. I did a double take.

It turned out not to be a baby at all.

It was the guy’s knee.

A hairy, perfectly round knee propped up against the side window.

As the car sped past me, I kept waving my arms, pretending to be saying hello to a non-existent person a block ahead.  The two guys were having a great time talking and laughing that they never even noticed me.  Good thing.  They wouldn’t understand mama bear instinct.

After my red face turned back to normal, I began to think that there must surely be a life lesson in what had just transpired.  Don’t jump to conclusions?  Wait to get the whole picture before judging someone? Things are often not as they appear? Some Californians still wear shorts in October? I’m not sure.

Meg finished her dance class and met me outside.  On the drive home, I told her about my goofy experience on my walk, and we had a good laugh.  I’m glad she has a sense of humor.

Have you ever jumped to conclusions like this, even with the best of intentions?  Let’s not completely waste a good life lesson, dear reader.  Let me know in the comments below!

Out of the Mouths of Babes — How My 3-Year Old Taught Me an Important Truth

iStock_000015987368XSmallI was deep in thought one day when my kids were very young.  I think Josh was barely 3 and Meg was still a baby.

I was worrying and fretting over a conversation I had with someone which went really, really poorly.  I was being honest and truthful, but the other person reacted in a way which was unexpected.  She got really mad at me.  The thought of someone really important being angry at me about something I said weighed heavily on my heart.  I kept replaying our conversation over and over, wishing for a different outcome.  I also continued to rehearse what I should have said and what I will say the next time I had an encounter with her.  I knew I was right about my convictions about the matter — which, today more than a decade later, I cannot clearly recall what — but still, I was fearful.

Fearful of letting somebody down.

Fearful of having someone upset with me.

Josh must have sensed that something was amiss.  I was not my usual cheerful self…or at least as cheerful as I usually try to be with only a few hours of sleep a night.  Maybe that’s the reason why this little tiff had turned into a major relational nightmare in my foggy, sleep-deprived mind.

As I mindlessly folded the laundry on my bed, Josh crawled up to join me.  He was never a really talkative child.  Even today, as a teenager, he still tends to be a young man of a few words.  He sat and watched me sigh between each piece of clothing that I folded. He handed me mismatched socks to pair up.

Josh had always been a sensitive and sympathetic child.  When he was in the church nursery and another baby was crying, he would always crawl over and try to console, usually by patting its back.  Someone’s pain becomes his own.  He is still a good listener, and he says that he wants to become a clinical psychologist or a therapist someday.  He can read people using his senses…his sixth sense, mostly.

I put the pile of laundry aside and sat down on the bed.  I wanted to get comfortable so I could really focus on rehashing the incident yet again.  And again.  You know, it takes a lot of energy to continue picking on your emotional scabs!

Suddenly, Josh ambled over the pile of laundry towards me.  He patted my back and said these words which I will never forget:

“Don’t be afwaid, mommy.  Don’t be afwaid.”

Don’t be afraid? How did he know that I was afraid? My little 3 year-old was reminding me in his little toddler way these words from the book of Isaiah:

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

How did he know this?  And how did he know that I needed to hear that statement at that very moment?  Did I ever tell him that there is nothing to fear?  I couldn’t recall if I had ever said those words to him myself, but somehow he knew in his heart that those were the words Mommy needed right there and then.

I knew right away that God was speaking to me through the mouth of my own babe, my toddler son Josh.  It was indeed exactly what I needed to hear, for I was starting to fear the failure of this relationship more than anything in life.  I was reminded that there truly is nothing to fear in this world, certainly not if God is with me.

From that moment on, my fear of disappointing a person began to slowly melt away.  In fact, it took several months and a lot of work to repair, but this relationship has been restored and has gotten even better now than ever.  It was also the beginning of my journey to tackle my people-pleasing nature which had dragged me down for far too long.  I also began to lean on God for his strength and to trust Him in all areas of my life.  Instead of wasting my emotional energy fretting and worrying, I learned to relinquish everything to the Lord in prayer.

And it only took a toddler’s sweet words to teach me that lesson.

“Don’t be afwaid, mommy.”

Has God ever spoken to you through your children?  Tell me about it in the comments below!

Why I No Longer Have Mommy Guilt About Exercising

945106_667223056638236_616353049_nMy life was crazy busy when my kids were very young.  Working out was the last thing on my mind during those days when I was chasing a toddler around the house while nursing a newborn (and yes, by my second child I had perfected the art of nursing while standing, walking, cooking, shopping–you name it).  I hardly had time to finish any of my meals before I had to clean up a spill or grab an escapee from a high chair, and I was routinely awake for more than 20 hours a day.  I was always exhausted and haggard. Although I was at my lowest weight since high school, I was not in much of a shape and lacked muscle tone.  My stomach still jiggled like jello. I looked like a shrunken version of my shriveled, postpartum self, somewhat resembling a prune.

It was a far cry from my running days which stretched from my high school cross country team well into adulthood.  I loved training, racing, and occasionally winning, back in my prime.  Running was so freeing.

Fast forward a few decades, and I found myself pushing two babies in a double jogger, vainly bribing them with cheerios to stay in their seats for at least one city block so I could somewhat get my heart rate up.  Running became anything BUT freeing!  However, running without the kids meant I had to hire a sitter or wait until David got home, and then I would be beset with guilt about leaving the kids for my 30-minute run. So, I just basically gave up on exercising altogether.

The day of reckoning came without any warning: my back went out one day.  I was swinging my toddler son around, and all of a sudden I crumbled to my feet and couldn’t get up for three days.  Just as I got over that painful episode, I tore my calf muscle when I tried to go out one day for a rare run.  The doctor told me it was your typical “middle-age, weekend warrior syndrome.”

That’s it, I said.  I’m going to start going to the gym!

I began attending the local 24 Hour Fitness club, taking full advantage of the wonderful child care program they offered onsite.  I stopped feeling guilty about working out, because I was there with the kids, not away from them.

Before long, I was going to fitness classes and moving with music which, I discovered in my middle age, I totally enjoy.  I regret having made fun in the past of “those gym rats” who weren’t exercise purists like us runners.  But no matter.  I was no longer exercising to win; I was exercising just to survive.  I needed to be strong for the kids, and I wanted to live long, healthy lives for their sake. And I had to stop feeling guilty about doing so.

So, here are a few things I learned about moms and exercising:

1.  Just do it!  Don’t feel guilty about taking care of yourself.  The kids need you, and you will be in so much better mood after a workout.

2.  Do whatever you enjoy.  If you’re able to go out for a run, and that’s your favorite form of exercise, then go for it.  If you like to dance in the living room, walk with a stroller, take a class, or play tennis, choose whatever works for you.  Set yourself up for success, not failure.

3.  Schedule your workouts ahead of time.  If you don’t have it in your calendar like any other appointment, you probably won’t make it.

4.  Work out with a group.  I’ve met some great friends through these classes, and these people keep me accountable.  We text and check up on each other!

5.  Do it for your health, not vanity.  We all still have stretch marks and permanent pregnancy flabs, but we aren’t trying to win a beauty contest.  We’re here to get strong.

My kids no longer need child care, but I continue working out at the gym.  And I don’t feel guilty anymore about that, either!

* * * *

Do you have guilt about exercising and taking time for yourself?  Tell me about it!

What I would Tell My 30-Something New Mom Self

Pink baby shoesThere’s been a mini baby boom going on around here these days.  Most of these moms are first-timers in their thirties with established careers and carefree lives.  Boy, are things going to change for them now!  I was once one of them — wide-eyed, inexperienced, and thirtysomething — so I made a list of some things I wish I had known when I was expecting and put them down here, in no particular order:

1.  Your body will recover, but it will never be the same again.  Enjoy those new curves.

2.  You can’t erase stretchmarks, so wear them with pride as a badge of honor.

3.  One-piece bathing suits are very stylish these days if #2 doesn’t work for you.

4.  Baby blues are real.  Pay attention to them and seek help if you feel like murdering your husband and your mother and burning down the house.

5.  There will be days when you will be disheveled and can’t even find the time to take a shower.  Try to go no more than three days without one, however.

6.  When your baby is turning your life upside down and you can’t understand why anyone would want to congratulate you for being such a mess, just smile and thank them. You will eventually come around.

7.  Plan on not going out to eat at a restaurant for about three years.

8.  Go ahead and accept help, especially meals.  You spent many years bringing meals to others, so it’s finally your turn.

9.  Nursing problems and mastitis are signs of overdoing it.  Remember, you are not going to be as capable as you have been all your life because now there’s a precious little one to take care of.  Kick your feet up and relax.

10.  Speaking of nursing, you won’t be wearing a one piece dress for a while.  For that matter, no dry clean-only clothes for a few years either.

11.  Don’t save baby shower gift outfits for a rainy day, because babies can fit into them for only a few hours before they outgrow them.  Put them on as soon as they fit and enjoy the cuteness while you can.

12.  Join a moms’ group such as MOPS.  Meet up with other moms in your same shoes and you won’t feel so alone.

13.  Speaking of shoes, go out and get lots of pairs of slip-ons.  Your time will be so pressed that you won’t have time to tie up your laces or buckle your shoes.

14.  Get a good tool box and be ready to do a lot of assembling, because you will be doing a lot of it in the years to come.   Almost all baby items and kid toys come with the dreaded words, “Some Assembly Required.”

15.  All babies are different.  Don’t compare yours with others. Be neither haughty nor envious. (I admit that I still do this, even as I watch Olympians the same age as my son and wonder where I fell short.)

16.  You will get tired of hearing this, but in time you will come to appreciate these words: They grow up so quickly.  Corollary 16a: Take lots of pictures.

17.  Avoid driving when sleep deprived.

18.  Try not to rock while standing and talking to someone without an actual baby in your arms.  I know — all moms do this.

19.  It’s going to feel really weird the first time you fill out a form for your child.  On the box where it says, “Parent,” you’re supposed to put your own name in it, not your mom’s.

20.  Praise God for the miracle of life, and thank Him for the privilege of being able to take part in it.

And now, let me say…

Congratulations!

Love,

Your Panda Mom

P.S.  Do you have anything else to add to this list?  Please add them in the comments below.

Let the Baby Cry It Out? Here’s What Happens 15 Years Later.

Baby Josh and me

Baby Josh and me

Our firstborn could never fall asleep on his own as a baby.  We did not let him cry it out, although we tried…once.  We wondered if we were damaging him forever by rocking him to sleep each night.

Well, it’s been 15 years since those sleepless nights, and we now know exactly what happens to babies who are rocked to sleep:

They turn out just fine.

In fact, I think our Josh has turned out better than just fine.  He is a sweet, sensitive soul who loves to give great hugs.

When he was a newborn, he accepted no artificial substitute for a warm body.  He hated the bottle, and he threw it against the wall when he was only a few weeks old in a fit of rage one day when my mother was watching him.  “I want my Mommy’s milk!” he seemed to say through his tears.  He also spat the pacifier right out of his mouth.  Only a real human finger, preferably Mom’s, please.

We bought a baby swing when he could sit up so that my arms could get a little break from carrying him around.  He liked the swing set for about two minutes, but then he demanded that we come back to swing him in our arms.  The seat on the swing was too cold, too mechanical.  I think my back is forever damaged as a result of swinging him in my cradled arms day after day after day.

Night time was the biggest challenge.  He had to be nursed and rocked to sleep.  We had to then gingerly put him down into the crib without waking him which, of course, he would, and we’d start the whole cycle over again.

One time, we were so desperate to get some rest that we actually tried to let him cry it out.  We put him down in the crib fully awake, turned on the mobile music box, kissed him good night, and walked out.  As soon as the music went through one cycle, Josh figured out that his parents were not coming back, and he began to cry.  Then the cry turned into a wail.  The wailing then turned downright angry.  And loud.  I was afraid our neighbors would call the cops on us.  Meanwhile, I closed my bedroom door and jumped into the shower so as to drown out my baby’s cries as well as my own.  David sat in the hallway outside the nursery, dabbing some tears himself.  After about 45 minutes — yes, we really tried and yes, Josh was a stubborn baby — we gave up.  We burst into his nursery like two firefighters rescuing a child from a fire.  Josh was so upset that he hiccup-cried for another hour.  We vowed never to go through this torture again.

Yes, we worried that we were creating an insomniac monster.  Every time a news article came out about the nation’s state of sleep deprivation and how many heart attacks, strokes, obesity, and bankruptcies could be directly linked to insomnia, we cringed.  And we prayed: Lord, please let this child fall asleep on his own! Just any time before he goes off to college.

The good news today is that, indeed, Josh can now fall asleep just fine on his own.  Honestly, he needed a warm body next to him to fall asleep well into elementary school.  He still is a high-contact boy who enjoys wrestling with Dad before going to bed.  He still holds my hands while walking the dog together, provided that none of his friends are around to see us.  He gives hugs freely to his friends and is a great listener.  In fact, he hopes to become a therapist or a counselor someday.  His heart breaks for people who are hurting.  He has the gift of empathy like no one else I know.

So, if you are a parent who is thinking of letting the baby cry it out but has some reservations, we say don’t.  Maybe it’s not for you and your baby.

Go ahead — love a lot, pray a lot, and rock your baby to sleep.

P.S.  Happy 15th Birthday, Josh!

Advice to Dads: Do Not Buy a Tux When Your Kids Are Young!

20130202-081410.jpgI was recently with some parents of two very young children — one infant and one toddler — and was reminded of how physically taxing those early years were with our two little kids. We’re far enough away from that season now that we can dispense a few pointers to moms and dads who are still in the thick of early parenting. Here’s a parenting advice you will definitely want to heed:

Do NOT purchase a tuxedo during this time in life.

My husband doesn’t often go to fancy events, but on occasion he has to attend work-related dinners and banquets. If it’s formal enough, he would go rent a tux. Eventually, he calculated the cost and realized that he should just buy the tux instead of renting one each time, because it would pay for itself within 2 or 3 events. After all, he figured, he’s an adult now and fully grown. So, he got measured and got one made to fit his slim size.

Bad timing: thanks to the physical demands of being a young parent, he was at his lowest weight of his adult life.

He would often be carrying our infant daughter in a Baby Bjorn while pushing our 2-year old son in a stroller. From the moment he woke up till he went to bed at night (and beyond), he was non-stop in motion either at work or at home, burning calories almost as much as running on a treadmill all day long — which is what life mostly felt like back then!

The tuxedo he purchased fit him perfectly on that day. He went to a retirement party for his former boss. He looked great.

A few years later, David pulled out the tuxedo for another occasion. Our kids were sleeping through the night and starting to attend school by then. Life was getting a little easier each day.

David dusted the pants off of the hanger and pulled them on.

“Uh-oh,” he moaned, as he attempted to button the pants.

“Man, this is tight.”

He then took the jacket and pulled his arm through the sleeve.

“Whoa,” he said. He wished that the tux was made of stretchy material like polyester.

Honestly, can our bodies be a little more thoughtful towards us parents? Why can’t we keep metabolizing at the same rate as before, even if our waking hours are no longer 22 per day?

This serves as a reminder of the pitfalls of thinking that this stage in life is permanent. Early parenting years seem to last forever, but the next time you come up for air, our kids are already teenagers. I paid a lot of money to have our home professionally child-proofed, thinking that our house will forever need to be protected against suicidal children. Soon, our kids were unlocking the stairway gates and uncovering the electrical outlets themselves…and showing me how. David and I spent a whole weekend undoing all that child proofing (and we didn’t even get paid for the work!).

I had always intended to do my son’s nursery, but when I finally had time to work on it, Josh was already eleven. Oops–too late. Good thing the changing table doubled as a book case for several more years.

We had our daughter’s room painted princess pink. Now a preteen, she despises the color. We also got her an expensive bunk bed when she was in first grade for “all the sleepovers” which she rarely does anymore due to her homework load and demands of other activities.

Oh well, I guess that’s life. We’ve learned to hold on loosely to each stage in life, enjoying our kids at whatever age, as much as we can during that moment. We’re reminded each day how fleeting our lives are. Good thing we have this promise in Mathew 24:35:

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

Meanwhile, David is still trying to lose that “last 10 pounds” so he could fit into that tux again. He will someday attend his son’s wedding in that thing, even if it kills him.

Motherhood, Trash, and Maggots, oh My!

My clinical psychologist friend Linda used to assure me that early childhood parenting is a time of “Survival Mode.”  How right she was!  Young children require constant attention.  Trouble is always lurking just around the corner, and if you are not vigilant at all times, they could swallow knives.  They could jump off a wall.  They could run out into the public and strip off all of their clothing, diapers and all.

This is why we moms must let some non-essential things go by the wayside, such as personal hygiene.  Sometimes, we may go one day without a shower — just put up your hair in a pony tail and add another layer of deodorant  — but two, or perhaps even three, days?  Yes, it could happen to the best of us moms.

Worse yet, I had precious little time to do simple but necessary household chores such as taking out the kitchen trash.  As long as the trash bin wasn’t completely overflowing, I would squish it down with all my might and would let another day (or days) go by before I finally tied up that little white trash bag and took it about 25 feet to the garage where we keep our trash bin.  Believe me — that is just too much time and distance for us busy moms.

Once, when I had a college student over to help me with the kids while I packed and got ready for our family vacation the next day, I was upstairs trying for the fifth time that day to step into a shower.

“Mrs. Cheng!  What is this?” she yelped from downstairs.  I sighed, then I turned off the water and got dressed again to go see what she was so panicked about.  She was examining some grains of rice crawling on the kitchen floor.

“They’re….they’re MAGGOTS!”  She exclaimed.  I took a closer look.  Yup, I had maggots climbing out of my kitchen trash bin and rolling down onto the floor.  Oh my goodness.  How did I let so much trash sit around for so long that flies would start family planning in my house?

We did the best we could gathering up the little white creepy crawlies, stuffing them back into the trash bag which we threw into the garage trash bin.  I began to sense that I was letting some important things in life slide and vowed to redouble my efforts at personal hygiene and domestic duties even as we left on our vacation the next morning.

After a wonderful week and a half in paradise, we returned home, relaxed and in post-vacation bliss.  We walked into our sunny home, and I began opening the windows to air out the place while my husband unloaded our luggage.  The kids were still peacefully asleep in the back seat.

When I went into the kitchen, I noticed that there were numerous black dots on the hardwood floor, so I bent down to see what they were.

Dead flies.

Oh my!  I must have missed a few maggots which turned into flies!  Ewwwww…

Without any nourishment from my empty trash bin, they all eventually died while we were gone and dropped like, well, flies.  We went through an entire life cycle of fruit flies, right here in my kitchen!  Fearing that the Health Department or, at the very least, Child Protective Services, would come get me, I decided to work a little harder on my home economics skills.

Today, I do take showers quite regularly.  Our kids have now become old enough to actually help out in the kitchen, sometimes even taking out the trash for me.  We have moved out of the Survival Mode and onto Teenage Mode, but that’s another story.

All I know is that I do not want to ever see maggots in our house again!

Growth Chart and Why We Could Never Move Out of This House

Photo courtesy iStockphoto.com

On the inside of our master closet is a wall which has become our kids’ growth chart.  Over the years, I occasionally had our kids stand right up against that wall so I could mark their height along with the date.  Unfortunately, I made the markings directly onto the wall instead of taping up a roll of paper and putting marks on it.

We will never be able to move out of this house.

I wasn’t thinking through the ramifications of my actions when I first began marking our kids’ height on this wall.  It was just amusing to see how fast they grow.

“Wow, Joshy, you’re already 3 feet tall!” I said to our little boy one night after bath.  Within a few weeks, it seemed, he was an inch taller.

Younger sister Meg, never one to be outdone, scrambled over to be measured against her brother.  She tried to get up on her tippy toes to catch up to him.   In no time, she did.

Then there was that growth spurt during 2nd grade.  And 5th.  And this past summer.

I marked my own height on that wall, far above our children’s, thinking that it would be an eternity before they caught up with me.  Well, eternity must already be here, because both of them caught up, then surpassed, their mother.  It won’t be long before they catch up to my husband.

Each time I measure our kids, I tell myself that I better transfer this information somewhere else less permanent, but I always get busy chasing them off to bed or breaking up a fight.  In any case, a second-generation copy of the growth chart just wouldn’t be the same.  The original markings on the wall were made when the kids were actually that small.  I’m resigned to take the wall with me to the nursing home some day.  Or to my grave.

This wall contains precious information to a mother.  We moms have certain treasures that no one else but our kids’ pediatricians care about, like their height, weight, and growth rate.  Also precious to us are hand and foot imprints on various art projects from preschool, kindergarten, and first grade.  They were so tiny and cute back then.  Today, their gigantic, clumsy feet are anything but cute.  Their imprints would only be a source of interest to future archeologists digging in this area.

In the Bible, the people of Israel frequently built monuments to commemorate their God-led triumphs and victories.  These altars were known as Ebenezers.  Usually, they piled some rocks they found in the area.  It wasn’t the value of the material used that made their monument special but what it commemorates that really mattered.

For me, this little wall inside our closet is my Ebenezer.  I fed and watered our little children as they grew and grew, and this wall commemorates the small triumphs we experienced with each measurement.  It isn’t pretty, and it’s way too permanent for my taste, but it is a genuine chart marking the progress on my little kids’ lives.  So, this is why I could never leave this wall behind.

However, if you are a mom of young children today, let me give you an advice before it’s too late: Put up some paper on the wall first and make that your growth chart.  A rolled up butcher paper is far more portable than a wall.

And you can take that to your grave!

* * * *

What’s your Ebenezer — a journal or a photo album?  Tell me how you commemorate your trials and triumphs of motherhood in the comments here.

When Your Child Gets Sick

Photo courtesy iStockphoto.com

I was only a few minutes into the warm-up during a fitness class at the gym when my phone rang.  It was the nurse at my daughter’s school.

“Mrs. Cheng?  Megumi is sick and she wants you to come pick her up.”

Why now?  She was a bit dizzy this morning but thought she was going to be fine, so this couldn’t be too serious.  I was just starting one of my favorite classes, looking forward to burning a lot of calories with a group of other like-minded fitness fanatics like me.  Can’t Meg take a nap in the school nurse’s office for the next 57 minutes?

Other moms all nodded around me in sympathy.  We’ve all been there — when our kids get sick, our own plans go completely out the window.

If you’re a parent and have ever had your child get sick without warning (as if they ever give us any warning!), you know the drill.  Time to cancel that appointment, lunch plans, workout, haircut, and shopping.

It gets more complicated when I have very important plans.  The irony is that the more important the task, the higher the likelihood that one of my kids wakes up with a fever.

Even with careful planning and a backup plan to cover my backup plan, things still sometimes fall apart.  The babysitter can’t make it.  My sister’s flight is delayed.  My mother moves to Hawaii (this really happened!).  “Honey, it’s your turn to call in sick,” I yell to my husband, only occasionally with positive results.  Can’t he see that I really, really need my haircut?

It’s bad enough if the child is sick during the day, but it’s even worse when your kid is sick all night.  It’s especially rigorous when there are stomach issues involved.  Until our kids were about 5, they were somehow unable to notify us of the pending urge to upchuck.  I have laundered a lot of sheets and beach towels in the middle of the night.  It was my goal to get my kids to aim into a bowl before they started kindergarten, and I succeeded.

Fortunately, I have not had a full-time 9-to-5 job since we’ve had kids.  However, I have seen many desperate working parents do things to sneak sick kids into school — rubbing their runny noses dry (which is rather temporary), loading them up with Tylenol to mask the fever, and giving them cough medicine to stop their hacking.  I understand their difficult dilemma, but then the illness spreads like wildfire throughout the campus, multiplying the problem for even more working parents.

As much as I complain about my life being inconvenienced by the illnesses of my children, I can assure you that I don’t mind tending to them at all.  I love knowing that with a tender touch, some chicken soup, and a big dose of prayer, I am helping my kids feel a little better.

As for my morning workout, I decided to be a decent mom after all and go get Meg at school.  I left mid-workout, but not without telling everyone around me to save my spot.  They laughed.  I walked into the nurse’s office to get my daughter who was lying on the bed.  She looked relieved to see me.  She was not feigning her dizziness and had to be steadied to the car.

“My teacher and the nurse asked me if I was having ‘girl trouble,’ but I’m not,” stated my 12-year.  She also told me that she couldn’t believe how many students stop by the nurse’s office all morning, thus proving my point about desperate parents and their sick children.

I dropped her off at home, encouraging her to drink some fluids and go back to bed.  I also asked her to keep a bowl nearby.  Good thing I live close to both the gym and the school, because I was back within 22 minutes flat to a room full of incredulous people.

“Thanks for saving my spot,” I said to my friends, and I continued my workout.

I love being a mom.

* * * *

Ever sneak in sick kids to nurseries, childcare, or schools?  Tell me about your experience!

How this Panda Mom Went Off Sleeping Pills

It was so insidious.  I needed to get some precious rest when my babies were asleep at night, but my sleep pattern had gotten so disrupted during my seasons with newborns that I could no longer fall asleep on my own. So, how harmful is a little Tylenol PM, right?

I took one little pill my first night and was knocked out. Welcome, sleep! As long as the kids continued sleeping until morning, that is.  If they fussed at 2 or 3AM, I myself couldn’t going back to sleep.  I tried popping another pill at that hour, but it left me groggy all morning.  No worries — nothing that a good cup of coffee can’t fix!

After taking Tylenol PM a few more times, I noticed that it wasn’t as effective as it once was, so I upped the dosage.  Then after a while, that wouldn’t work as well either, so I upped it some more…until I quickly reached my max.

I tried a few other options such as Ambien and Codeine.  I only used Ambien for a short while, because I read about weird things that people did while sleeping: walking, driving, eating, and shopping.  I myself reportedly had a full telephone conversation from Japan with my husband and kids back home which I totally could not remember.

This went on for several years.  I didn’t take a sleeping pill every night, but it did concern me that I was needing an increasing amount and that I was — gulp — starting to form a habit.

My true wake-up call happened one weekend when I attended a women’s retreat with my church.  I was in a cabin with about 8 other women, and at bed time we were all popping Tylenol PM like they were M&Ms!  While I was relieved to know that I wasn’t the only one with sleeping issues, it woke me up to the fact that I, along with about half of humanity, had become dependent on sleep aid.

So I decided to quit cold turkey.  Here’s how I did it:

1.  I increased my physical exercise routine

I began taking classes at the gym which were not only more fun but also pushed me much harder than working out by myself.  I would collapse into bed at night from utter physical exhaustion.  I used to work out (er, dawdled) about three times a week, but I upped it to five or six.  I also liked the effect that it had on my bathroom scale.

2.  I took steps to lower my stress level

Mental exhaustion has the opposite effect of physical exhaustion: stressful thoughts keep me awake at night!  I was volunteering at my kids’ school and at church but was facing some difficult circumstances which often kept me up at 3AM.  All this for zero pay?  I did a complete reassessment of how I was using my time and energy.  If things could be pruned, then I prune I would.  It was hard for me to let go of my many activities, but I just kept my goal on one thing: sanity.  With less stress, I was able to sleep more.

3.  I cut out all caffeine after noon

I was in denial for so long about the effect caffeine had on me.  When I stopped all caffeine intake after my two cups of coffee in the morning and iced tea at lunch, the difference was dramatic.  Hello, sleep! And this time, all clean!

These days, I usually (9 out of 10 nights?) have no trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.  Sometimes my husband’s snoring wakes me up in the middle of the night, but I poke him to turn over and am able to quickly fall back asleep.

A good night’s rest is a tremendous gift, and I’m very grateful for it everyday and night.

Jesus said, 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28 – 30 NIV)

So, tell me — do you have sleep issues?  What do you do about it?