All posts by joyepehlke

To my little boys: How to “Be A Man”

I don’t really care how smart you are or how good you are at sports. What I deeply care about is that you are a compassionate and kind human being.
Smile.
Use your strength and privilege for good.
Challenge other men who pressure boys to be tough, competitive, feeling-less, and closed-off.
Show your gentle side. Be vulnerable.
Don’t believe anyone who says pink is only for girls. Pink is a fucking color not a label.
And while we’re at it, the only thing I can think of that’s “just for boys” is a urinal. And even that assumes certain biological sex characteristics. Everything else is fair game.
Please don’t use the terms sissy, pussy, or girly to denote “less than.”
Don’t hold back if you feel the tears coming. Holding them back creates scars and perpetuates the notion that men shouldn’t feel.
Build others up.
Spread gratitude.
Hold babies. Snuggle bunnies. Laugh and play with kids. Hug your family and friends.
Stand up for others.
Take care of your family. Defend and stick up for your brother.
Learn to communicate freely (without a screen or smartphone) and truly listen without judgement, IT’S A SKILL.
Share your emotions – the good stuff and the trickier stuff.
Cultivate compassion and empathy for others.
Don’t hold sad and mad feelings inside.
Treat women and all human beings with the greatest respect. Also all animals. (Yes, even bugs).
Learn mindfulness. It will save you from your monkey mind.
It’s OK to feel embarrassed and vulnerable. Everyone does. But not everyone knows how to be resilient.
Be thoughtful about how your actions and words affect others.
Above all else, be yourself.

I love you so freaking much it physically makes my heart ache. I hope you know that feeling some day.

Love, Mommy

Growing boys

Wanted to take a moment to capture a few quotes and happenings before my brain loses them. I am almost 40 ya know! Enjoy!

Ash:

  1. The Sunday after Thanksgiving we started discussing going back to school on Monday. Ash says from the backseat of the car: “Yes, my do wuv my new school, but my will miss you, mommy… (tears streaming down his face)… It makes my heart feel sad.”
  2. He often say things like, “When you kiss me, mommy, then my heart won’t break.”
  3. When I pick him up from preschool, he always asks, “Mommy, did you have a nice work?”
  4. It was so fun to see Ash and Skyler play over the holiday break. They are only 6 months apart, and they were little buddies for the first time. We have such a small family that lives all over the country, and Austin & Ash’s other cousins are in their twenties, so it’s special to have this time together. See video. (context: they were pretending they had x-ray laser eyes that allowed them to “freeze” the other person)

Austin:

  1. Austin is into football lately, reeeeally into football. We think this started with the hype of Michigan’s football season this year, as he went to his first game at the Big House and everyone was more tuned in because of Harbaugh. Austin loves Michigan and also likes to watch highlights of NFL games, plays a football game on the iPad, and plays lots and lots of football (tackle, flag football, and other versions) in the basement with mommy and daddy and also on the trip with Uncle Jon. His favorite player is Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks.

austin football

2. Austin has gained a lot of patience lately with Ash. He will purposely lose races, help Ash win at games and let things go so that Ash doesn’t have a meltdown. This has been an awesome development.

3. Patience is not my strong point. I had a parenting fail moment recently that showed Austin’s growing maturity. Austin and I were trying to play football outside, and Ash was having a total meltdown. (Joe, aka: my sanity, was not home). Ash just wouldn’t let up with the incessant crying, intolerable stubbornness and just 3-yr-old-ness. I started to lose my cool and say things like, “ok, well, good luck, Ash – we’re going outside anyway” and other parenting gems. At one point, I noticed that Austin was trying to console both Ash and me, since he realized I was so frustrated and worn out. I looked at Austin and said right to his face, “Wow. You are officially being more mature than your mom right now.” He knew it, too. He gave me a “yeah, i know” face. It was weird to experience a 5-yr old behaving with more emotional resilience than a 39-yr-old. I was proud of him and it helped me to mindfully snap out of my impatience and frustration.

That’s all for now!

Hope everyone’s 2016 is off to a great start!

 

SIGNS

SIGNS

…that we don’t put our kids in button-up shirts very often:

Ash: Mommy, what are deese? (pointing to his shirt) Are deese belly buttons?

…that we need to work on Ash’s ABCs:

Ash: a,b,c,d,h,i,j… h,i,j,k,lama lama p

…that Ash is the most resilient kid ever: 

  1. when he got his most recent shot, he didn’t even shed a tear and said “I love my ouchy!”
  2. after capsizing in the kayak and floating down the cascades backwards in his life jacket, Joe said, “see, you said you wanted to go swimming today!” Ash immediately smiled and said “oh yeah, you’re right!!” 
  3. since Austin rarely lets Ash win a race, Ash will proudly shout, “MY GOT 2nd PLACE” even if he is actually first. 

…that Austin is really, really tall:

austin tall

…that Austin is still working on his emotional regulation:

threatening to pour the rest of his milk on the rug when it was time to get ready for bed

…that Austin is attempting to understand consequences while helping mommy to emotionally regulate:

not pouring his milk on the rug

…that Ash loves his big brother:

Doctor: Ash, who is your best friend? Ash: um…Austin!

…that Austin needs/appreciates time away from Ash:

Austin: Mommy, I really like it when I get to spend time with just you. 

…that our kids are just like all other kids who try to locate an object:

it

…that I need/want/hope to start blogging more:

last post: 5 months ago

Heart Bursting

We tried to be intentional about introducing the idea of a new baby to Austin while I was pregnant. We talked about the baby growing in mommy’s belly and read books about a new baby. My friend Marsha even bought Austin his own little baby doll for practice.

Austin was barely two years old at the time, but he would say all the “right” things when asked.

“Are you excited about the new baby?”

Yes!

“Are you excited to be a big brother?”

Yes!

One often sees adorable pictures of big sibs lovingly holding their baby brother or sister in their arms, beaming with pride about being the big sib. However, it became clear immediately after Ash was born that Austin was not thrilled about this new little person in our lives.

Case in point: here are pics from the hospital and then a few days later.

Image-1 Image-1 copy

About two days after we brought Ash home from the hospital, I vividly remember Austin looking over at Ash in his little bouncy seat on the floor, turning to me with a scowl of frustration on his face and asking, “Where’s Ash’s mom?”

This is when it hit me that Austin had not grasped any part of this transition AT ALL. He was ready for Ash to leave.

Austin, I am Ash’s mom, honey.

Oh.

Fast-forward two and a half years later, and you will understand why my heart almost burst over the past few days and months. These two little guys are legit friends now. Mind you, Austin will still take the opportunity to punch Ash out of sheer frustration, but more often than not, they have fun together.

Chasing each other around the kitchen, playing board games, splashing in the bath, wrestling, watching their favorite shows, racing each other, riding bikes and trikes, and making each other laugh.

Image-1 copy 2

Today as I was watching them at the park near our house, I had tears well up as I watched them playing a chasing game and giggling and laughing together. There was a time when I truly could not picture the two of them playing together.

I had another heart bursting moment while they were both at their swim lessons. It’s so liberating to watch your kids do things independently after feeling for so long that they are permanently tethered to you, physically and emotionally.

“Ash did really good in swimming lessons today, Mommy!”

“Austin good at simming, tooooo!”

Austin will also coach Ash at times, which is adorable. We were playing the Sneaky Squirrel board game and Ash was having trouble using the squirrel tongs to pick up the acorns. Austin tried to teach Ash how to do it, and instead of getting frustrated and refusing to play anymore, he leaned to me and whispered, “This is going to take forever, but that’s ok!”

Hope this brotherly love lasts.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite Ash quotes:

Wanna know who my wuv? Mommy and me and Austin and Daddy and Nammy (Grammy), and… the uffer (other) names. (He then wants me to list all of our family members and sometimes all of his teachers and classmates)

Life with lil kiddos

I’m currently reading the book All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood, which is both a scientific and anecdotal account of how the experience of parenthood lands on modern parents. I’m a sucker for neurological insight and evidence-based research on why parenting is hard. And also awesome. A lot of parents blog and post about parenting successes and woes. Some are fun to read. Others feel judgmental and holier than thou. Mostly, I think, all of us are just trying to get through the day with our little people who simultaneously drive us nuts and make us infinitely happy. Here are a few reflections of mine from the past few weeks.

Parent mini-fails:

1. When I asked Ash what his favorite fruit or vegetable was, he said “pizza.”

2. Our kids still sleep with us. They are super cute and cuddly but it’s getting old. Working on it. Ash stayed in his own bed until 7am last night!

3. Our kitchen table is round with a split down the middle for the leaf we insert when we have guests. You can only imagine what kind of gunk is lodged in that split down the middle.

Parent wins:

1. The kids inhale homemade chocolate chip cookies that are loaded with oats and ground pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and flax seeds. And have half the sugar (coconut sugar, Aunt Tara!).

2. Ash and Austin hug and kiss on the lips before bed most nights.

3. We’ve transformed actual kick and hitting fights into ” brother wrestling time” in the basement on the extra mattress. They still get hurt, but slightly less. They both start on the mattress and the goal is the get the other one to “GO HOME!” — which means, push them off the mattress. When Ash pushes Austin off the mattress, he lifts his fist in victory and says “I get one moint (point)!”

Kid Convos/Quotes:

AUSTIN
I was explaining to Austin the other day about my dad’s colostomy surgery and ostomy pouch. Austin was extremely interested in how it all worked. He wanted to know why Grandpa Dee had to have the surgery and why he doesn’t poop out of his butt anymore (sorry, TMI). We talked about it for a while, and I apologize, Dad, but I did refer to it as a “bag” sometimes while explaining the whole thing.

Later that evening, we were discussing our extended family members. It’s confusing for Austin to think about Uncle Jon as my brother, or Grandpa Cary as Joe’s dad. So I asked him, Who is mommy’s dad?

Austin: Bag
Me: What the heck are you talking about?
Austin: With the bag??
Me: (hysterical laughter because I realized he was referring to our earlier conversation about Grandpa Dee’s ostomy pouch)
Me: Austin, it’s called a pouch, not a bag.
Austin: Oh ok, well, your dad is the one with the pouch.

ASH
One of the things you hear encouraged a lot with toddlers is for them to “use their words” when frustrated. It’s just plain easier to cry (I don’t like that!) or whine (pretty please, I want that!) or hit/push your brother (puh-leaaaaaaaaaaaaaaase play with me, Austin!!) to communicate.

Recently when Ash (who is a talking up a storm these days!) whines or cries when he’s frustrated, I’ll gently remind him: “Use your words, Ash,” or alternatively, “Honey, say words so I know what’s wrong.” Then, with big puppy dog eyes and tears rolling down his face, he’ll look at me and say, “Words.”

And then I’ll see him with a sly little smile. That little bugger.

Mindfulness

If someone had been able to explain to me — truly make the physiological and emotional sensation manifest in my body — the overwhelming feeling of panic and over-protectiveness I would feel as a mother, I’m not sure I would have had kids. It catches me off guard at times, especially after a particular event has occurred. For instance, what if Austin hadn’t looked both ways when he crossed the street earlier? Or, what if Ash had fallen off the couch and broke his neck? Or, what if Ash had gotten lost on the busy streets of Chicago? These are examples of worries that are constantly floating through my mind. The flow of worry is something that I seemingly have little control over. I never would have described myself as a worrier before I had kids. But the thoughts and the panic arise as if from nowhere, and sometimes it’s hard to let go.

There are two things that make me feel better. One is other parents (usually moms, it seems) who can relate to similar feelings of panic. One of my friends recounted a detailed fear in her mind – completely irrational, but very real in feeling – of her daughter falling down a manhole, unable to get out.

The other thing that helps me is mindfulness. A colleague of mine (actually the same colleague with the manhole story) and I are facilitating a workshop on “Mindfulness at Work” in a few weeks. It’s been helpful to plan this talk because it has refocused my energy towards mindfulness in those tougher moments. Mindfulness only works if you practice when things AREN’T stressful. It also helps when you have a small reminder. Like last night when I (not one of the kids) spilled apple juice all over the kitchen table and the floor right at the moment we were finally sitting down for dinner. I was very hungry, which never helps in any situation. Sleep and food are key for this mama.

“SHIT!”
Austin: What?.
“Oh, I just spilled apple juice everywhere. It’s really not that big of a deal, but I’m hungry and want to eat.”
Austin: Mommmmmmmy….
What, honey?
Austin: You know you’re not supposed to say that word.
Oh, right. I’m sorry I said that word. Thank you for the reminder. And I’m supposed to take a deep breath, too, huh?

“Mindfulness boosts your awareness of how you interpret and react to what’s happening in your mind. It increases the gap between emotional impulse and action, allowing you to do what Buddhists call recognizing the spark before the flame. Focusing on the present reboots your mind so you can respond thoughtfully rather than automatically. Instead of lashing out in anger, backing down in fear, or mindlessly indulging a passing craving, you get the opportunity to say to yourself, “This is the emotion I’m feeling. How should I respond?” (From Psychology Today) 

I appreciate this aspect of mindfulness because it takes the heat out of the moment. Instead of spiraling down an unhelpful path, I have a chance to refocus and make a conscious choice to react differently. This is very helpful in parenting small children.

How do y’all out there practice mindfulness?

Kid Quotes

I always like to include a few kid quotes, mostly so I’ll remember these precious moments.

ASH

My doe dare (I want to go there)

My nums!!! (I’m hungry)

Beeg ump! (Big jump!)

Where Aus doe? (Where did Austin go?)

AUSTIN

1. OK, OK, Mister Bossy! (from Finding Nemo) Austin used the same inflection as Ellen (Dory) and used it appropriately in a situation where I was being kinda bossy, so I just had to laugh.

2. At the grocery store:

Mommy, what’s that? (looking at the fresh fish display)

That’s fish.

Ew. I hate fish!

How do you know? You’ve hardly ever tried it.

Well, either way, that one has the eyeballs still on it. 

3.  MOMMY! MOMMY! (while running down the street after me in his pjs and bare feet, as I’m rushing to catch the bus)

What, Austin? I need to catch the bus.

I just want a goodbye kiss! 

Aw. I would definitely miss the bus for that.

Kid Convos

Austin conversations:

Austin still loves pondering and asking questions about death, which I’m totally OK with.

The other day we were visiting a neighbor who is known as the “duck lady” because she has tons of ceramic and wooden ducks around her house and garden. She invited us inside to pet her cat and give the kids a cookie. Austin always asks about her dog, who died.

Austin: “Why did he die?”

Me: “Well, he was very old and it was time for him to die.”

Austin: “Will her cat die?”

Me: “Someday.”

Austin: “Oh. Well, where are her kids?”

Me: “Her kids are all grown up, honey, they live with their own families now.”

Austin: “Yeah. Or maybe they’re dead!”

I almost lost it with that one.

 

Austin still likes pretend play with firetrucks and ambulances (ambeelinces). He’s very concerned when anyone gets hurt and *always* wants to see the cut or bruise.

Ash fell and his head is bleeding? Can I see it, please???

Someone threw up? Can I see it, please????

Dead mouse on the sidewalk? Can I see it, puh-lease????

I think he would make a great doctor because he’s not squeemish about blood or anything gross and he’s also very concerned with keeping people safe.

Anyway – he was driving a small ambulance around on a play mat with different buildings and landmarks. The game went like this…

Ambulance driver, Austin! Someone needs help over at the hot dog stand! They burnt their hand on the stove.

Austin: Hospital or doctor?

I think just the doctor; it’s not too bad of a burn.

Austin: Ok, I’ll take him to the doctor right away! 

Oh no, an emergency at the circus! An elephant got loose and stepped on a man’s foot!

Austin: Hospital or doctor?

Hospital this time — his foot is broken.

Austin: Did he break any bones?

Yes.

Austin: How many bones?

Seven.

Austin: oooh, that’s a wot! Too bad it wasn’t two bones!

Oh no – trouble at the ice cream stand! Someone has brain freeze!

Austin: Hospital or doctor?

Well, I guess the doctor, but brain freeze isn’t really serious.

Austin: Why not?

It’s kind of just a joke.

Austin: Why is it a joke? 

Sometimes people’s heads hurt when they eat cold things too fast.

Austin: But, WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY?! Hospital or doctor? 

[Me: slap hand on forehead]

 

Ash quotes with translations:

“My dat!” or “Me dat!” = I want that, or that’s mine, or give that to me now

Mmmm = what Ash calls Joe for whatever reason

“Oh hum, mmmm” = Oh, thanks, daddy

“My do jo! My do jo!” = my cookie!

“My do boo bus?” = Can I ride the blue bus?

“Me ha-ha dorge?” = Where is my monkey, George?”

Cousins

tiny superheroes
Tiny Superheroes!
photo 1
Having fun at County Farm Park

 

photo 3
Uncle Jon with a lap full of boys
photo 4
Funny mirror!
photo 5
It’s fun to ride on Uncle Joe
photo
Cutie boys!

We had a fantastic time with Uncle Jon, Aunt Tara and Cousin Skyler during their week-long visit to Ann Arbor in May. It was so hard to say goodbye!

The kids had so much fun playing together.  Lots of time spent in the basement and in our yard and neighborhood. I wasn’t sure how it would go with Ash and Skyler since little ones aren’t typically great at sharing. Mostly it wasn’t an issue, but it was funny to watch Skyler hoard toys away from Ash and hide them behind his back, and Ash would get a tad bit jealous if mama was giving Skyler too much attention. Mamaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

Austin was an amazing big sib/big cousin. He really took on the role of “leader” of the kids and tried to ensure that the little kids were getting along and happy. He did this pretty well, unless he was busy petting Aunt Tara’s long braided hair (just like Elsa’s hair from Frozen) or having a meltdown about one thing or another.

Some of the things we did together: threw rocks in the river, fed the ducks pieces of graham crackers, played with our neighbors Evan (2.5 yrs) and Miles (2.5 yrs) and Ryann (15 yrs but a kid at heart), blew lots of bubbles, rode on all sorts of bikes, trikes, big wheels & plastic cars, went to the Hands On Museum, visited the birds and went for a nature hike at the Leslie Science and Nature Center (we’re cultivating little hikers, Grandpa Dee!), hiked and played at County Farm park, and shared lots of smiles watching the little guys experience life together!

Kid quotes from Skyler’s visit to Ann Arbor:

Skyler:

“Yu–p.” he really accentuates the “p” at the end
“I going to the basement nowww.” translation = i will be in the basement playing for as many hours as possible — don’t bother me.
“It’s me, Skyler!” In response to, “Who’s this little guy in the living room?!”
“Rice buddies!” translation = at the dinner table we’d all eat a bit of rice at the same time so Ash and Skyler would take a bite

Sidenote: Skyler actually eats sautéed spinach on a cracker for a snack. How amazing is that!?

Austin:

“Skyler is driving right now. He’s only 2. Maybe you can both drive?” (protecting Skyler at the park when some bigger kids were trying to bully him out of the tractor seat)

“Can Uncle Jon and Aunt Tara and Skyler live with us forever?”

Ash:

“Mama – Me!”
“No, this!” (no, dis!) translation = Why can’t you understand what I’m saying?! I want this!!
“This – Me!” (dis – me!) translation = I want this or I did this
“What is this?” (whaziziz?)
“Right there!” (wite dare!) in response to = Where’s Mama? Where’s Dada? Where’s Austin? Where’s Skyler? Where’s Uncle Jon? Where’s Aunt Tara?
“Big rock!” (beeg wock!)

Wish we all lived closer!

My Take on Breastfeeding

If this topic feels too personal for some, I get it. Here’s your chance to opt out.

I am a public breastfeeder.

I’m not bringing this up to cause controversy, but because it’s been a significant part of my life for the past 4+ years.

A headline caught my eye yesterday: “The Voice Australia contestant Dallas James’ moment in the spotlight was dashed on Wednesday when the mother of his child breastfed on national TV during his live audition.” 

This sparked controversy in Australia, apparently, but mention was made to the facts that:

a) the clip NEVER would have been shown in the U.S.

b) it would have sparked exponentially more drama here.

I utterly (udderly?) do not understand what folks’ issues are with breastfeeding. I really don’t. How did we get to this place of judgement around something that women have been doing across the globe for millenia?

Here’s the deal. Plain and simple.

1. THE BOOB’S FUNCTION IS FOR BREASTFEEDING.

Literally.

That.Is.What.They’re.For.

2. Some women can’t breastfeed for multiple reasons.

3. Some women choose to breastfeed and some don’t. That choice is up to them, hopefully with appropriate support and education about the subject.

4. Some women are more comfortable breastfeeding in public than others. Great.

5. Some women use cover-ups, some don’t. Sounds OK to me.

6. Some women choose to breastfeed past 6 months. Or 1 year. Or 2 years. Or 3 years. Some don’t. Let’s support women’s choices instead of judging them.

7. Having lactation rooms available is AWESOME. And. Women still may choose to breastfeed in public and that’s OK.

8. Also, and I think this a point that gets lost sometimes, breastfeeding is HARD. It’s not easy and if a woman is choosing to do it, it’s a very conscious choice for the good of herself and her child.

OK, getting back to being a public breastfeeder.

I happen to be comfortable breastfeeding in public. That’s a personal choice for me. For the most part, I have felt extremely supported. And, that is certainly because the 2 places I’ve lived over the past 4 years have been Santa Cruz, CA and Ann Arbor, MI.

I am as discreet as possible, but it’s pretty obvious when someone is breastfeeding a child whether or not you can actually see what’s going on.

Part of the reason I don’t find a more private place is because:

1. There often really isn’t anywhere else to go.

2. Sometimes the only other option is a public restroom, which is gross to me.

3. I often don’t want to miss the conversation or event that’s happening!

4. Honestly, I want others to feel comfortable doing it, too.

One of the places I breastfeed often is at daycare. This is a supportive place and I don’t worry about it at all. What’s interesting is that I nurse Ash 2-3 days a week there and I have only witnessed 2 other moms doing the same in the almost 3 years we’ve been going there.

At the end of the school day all Ash wants is a little mama comfort. The other day another mom said to me, “You’re *still* nursing him?! How old is he?!” She wasn’t being mean at all. In fact, she was smiling and acting more curious than judgmental. It truly didn’t bother me that she asked because in some ways I LIKE being a person who is willing to show – in public – that breastfeeding a 22 month old is OK and normal.

We shouldn’t have to hide or cover up (unless we want to!)

I’ve only had one negative experience, a few years ago, when a waiter at a restaurant completely changed his tone and friendliness once he saw that I was nursing Austin at the table.

Mostly I’ve had good experiences. But I know a lot of women feel judged.

Please understand that feeding a child can be more than just nourishment. It can be comfort. It can help to avoid a meltdown. It can prevent tantrums. It can be healthy for the mama. It can provide a feeling of safety and love. And did I already mention it’s not easy?

Why am I writing this?

I guess I hope the people closest to me (and others) will feel comfortable challenging anyone who attempts to negatively judge a women who chooses to breastfeed in public.

Feel free to comment on this one. I’m completely open to your thoughts!

 

 

 

Ash

I realize I post a lot about the drama we experience as parents. Mama drama? (Maybe that should be my blog name?)

I want to make sure I also blog about the everyday stuff these crazy kids do and say.

Ash cracked me up yesterday. I wish I had a video. He is really starting to say more words, even if they’re hard to understand. One of his favorite words to say is “bye.” We went for a walk around the block and he said “bye” to everything we encountered along the way. He says “bye” like this: “buy-yyyyee” so you have to imagine it drawn out like that.

Bye, house! (bye howww) As we’re leaving the house.

Bye, dog! (bye woof woof) He can’t say dog so he just makes the animal noise. Adorable.

Bye, cat! (bye meow) He said this one at least 15 times as we were walking away from the cat. He says the “meow” in a high pitch.

Bye, rock! (bye wock)

Bye, bee! (bye beeeee) This could be an actual bee or any other bug.

Bye, rock with a bug on it! (bye beeee wock!) This was ridiculously adorable.

Here’s a quick video.