Tag Archives: motherhood

Tooth-brushing Party

In one of my less-than-proud parenting moments, I happened to look closely at Owen’s teeth a few weeks ago and realized he had not been doing a stellar job of brushing.  Probably for a while.  An examination of Quinn’s teeth revealed the same.

Just when I think I have this mothering thing slightly in hand, the children remind me that I’ve dropped a ball somewhere.

I definitely thought I was past the parenting point where I had to teach people to brush their teeth.  But I guess a reminder was in order: as my boys in particular get older, I’m learning that hygiene issues I thought we’d covered in toddlerhood need some attention and tweaking.  I hate to gender stereotype, but these are not things I had to re-teach Bridget and that’s the truth.

I’ve also noticed that my teeth and all the children’s teeth aren’t quite as white as I’d like.  Gabe was actually the one who pointed it out a while ago.  He expressed a bit of self-consciousness over it and I agreed we could use some whitening.  I started to research natural methods, though, because I don’t like chemical treatments if I can avoid them at all.  But I sort of forgot about it without ever really doing anything.

When I saw the state of the younger boys’ teeth, though, I decided that an overhaul of the tooth-brushing and whitening situation was long overdue.  So I instituted a nightly tooth-brushing party.

The fun in this house is just non-stop, you guys.

But in all honesty, calling it a party DID make it more appealing to everyone involved.  It seems dumb, but that sort of thing can make a difference when you’re forcing your kids to go up to get ready for bed twenty minutes earlier than normal in order to complete a multi-step tooth brushing process every night.

Here’s what we do for our “party”:

We set a timer, brush for two straight minutes making sure to hit fronts, backs, sides, and all around.  Previously I had just been sending the kids up to brush on their own and I think they must have been giving it about 20 seconds without supervision because the first night we used a timer they were SHOCKED at how long two minutes lasted.

Then we floss.  I cannot tell a lie, I have flossed more in the last two weeks than I probably had in the previous two months.  The tooth brushing party is good for us all!  I do have to help Owen and Quinn get each and every little space, but that’s okay with me.  The more they do it, the better they’ll get at it.

Then we do the last step in the party process: tooth whitening.  I researched some natural tooth methods and found one that I had all the ingredients for already in the cabinet so that was the one we tried.  I used this recipe and it’s kind of weird – it looks like tomato paste but smells like peppermint (I added peppermint essential oil to make it a more familiar tooth-brushing flavor for us all).  But despite it’s strange appearance, it absolutely has made a significant difference in the level of whiteness of all our teeth in the last two weeks.  I wish I had done before-and-after pictures! It was noticeable even after just the very first use.

We brush with it for two minutes, making sure to concentrate on the teeth that really need some whitening in the front.  Then before we spit it out, we swish it around in our mouths for a minute, kind of like oil pulling.  The kids all use it without complaining, which is all I can hope for.  Because of the turmeric in the recipe, it will stain clothes and skin, though, so we are really careful to clean it all up really well when we’re done.  

That’s it.  The whole thing lasts less than 10 minutes, which is certainly a time-investment we can easily make.  And we have been doing it at least 3-4 nights a week. (On the other nights, we just brush with a 2-minute timer.)

An added side benefit of this tooth brushing party is that we do it at about 8PM every evening before the younger boys go to bed, and since I’ve already brushed at that point, I am doing far less late-night-snacking after the kids are in bed!

It’s funny, I thought this new process was going to be a pain when I first realized that I really needed to be more involved in how the boys were taking care of their teeth.  But in truth I’m really enjoying it!  Over the past few years as our kids have gotten older and more self-sufficient, Matt and I have been less and less involved in the sort of bedtime routine we had when the children were all little.  It’s sort of lovely to feel like we’re needed again.  And it’s a calmer, happier bedtime process too I think.  Plus all our teeth look much healthier, cleaner, and whiter.

Viva la tooth-brushing-party!

Traveling Away

After eight days of being gone, my boy came home a different child.

I put him on a bus in England and watched him drive away, across a country, across the Channel, across half a continent.  I got a text message from one of the teachers the next day telling me they’d arrived safely in Italy.

Then I spent eight days scouring occasional Facebook posts from the school, full of pictures of children covered entirely from head to toe in layers of winter gear wearing helmets and goggles and scarves, for a glimpse of his face.

I saw him twice, smiling at the base of the mountain on the first day and standing with his arm slung over a friend at the bowling alley near the end of the week.

For eight days I didn’t hear his voice.  My house, despite the three remaining children, was strangely empty, weirdly out of balance.  We were missing a piece that made the parts a whole.

I knew when he stepped off the bus after eight long days that he was a new man.  I could see it in his face, in his smile, in his body language.  In the way he said goodbye and thanked the teachers who’d chaperoned the trip and got his own bag out of the bottom of the bus.  He’d found an independence he’d never known, and now it was his to keep.

Still the same at heart, though, he flung his arms around me right there in the parking lot of his school and hugged me and kissed me hello in front of all his friends because if there’s one thing this boy isn’t, it’s embarrassed to show emotions. Thank every god there is for that, because I needed every last hug he had to give.

As he walked across the parking lot dragging his ski bag in his wake and shouting goodbyes to his friends, I had an uneasy realization that we’d crossed a bridge and left behind a little irretrievable piece of childhood.  

We went home and he showered for the first time in several days and I put on the first of at least three loads of his dirty ski laundry and made us both a cup of tea, and we sat on the couch and I gratefully listened to every last detail of the skiing and the sledding and the food and the two 12-hour bus rides.  I soaked in every word and smiled at the odd details an 11-yr old boy remembers and feels the need to share (“our instructor had really cool hair” and “the pasta at the hotel was a weird shape one night”).   And he hugged me, a dozen times at least, and said that even though he was never homesick, he did really miss us. 

Parenting is a series of heartbreaks.  When we do it right, we teach them how to stop needing us, how to move away and become themselves, and in doing so we make ourselves obsolete.  I know it’s for the best; that doesn’t mean it isn’t difficult. 

But I’ll take a cup of tea together, some silly stories, and a few hugs for as long as he’s willing to give them.

Working from Home

Ten years ago this month I started working from home.  I had two little babies: Bridget was three and Gabe was one and oh my goodness they were babies.

Look at my baaaaabies…

I had just learned I was pregnant with Owen a few weeks earlier.

I worked as a consultant for a defense contractor and the project I was on needed a part-time person who could work 24 hours a week.

I volunteered to take the 40% pay cut if it meant I could work from home.  My boss agreed.

I haven’t worked in an office since.

It’s been a decade.  A decade.

I’ve had two more kids.  I stopped working entirely after the fourth one, but only for a year. 

Then I started teaching yoga. 

Then I started free-lancing.  Then I took the job I have now and have had for three years, also this month.

Man, how long ago it seems when I was sitting at my desk in the living room – the desk you can see peeking around the edge of the wall in the photo below, while B & G played in the playroom.

That time can seem to fly by so quickly and yet that this scene can feel like a lifetime ago is a riddle I’ll never solve.

She’s Thirteen

No other moment in my life has been as significant, as life-altering, as all-encompassing than the moment of your birth.  You came into this world and simultaneously the old me left it; with your entrance into this life, I became a mother.  Nothing, not one other thing, has so defined me.  For the last thirteen years, we’ve been inextricably bound – mother and daughter – figuring it out together as we go along.  But I know that my existence as the center of your world is waning.  You will eventually define your life apart from me, and that’s how it should be.  Always, though, my most important evolution will have begun with you.

You’re a teenager now.  Officially and for real.  You. Are. 13.  I know how much you love that, you big dork.

It’s simply incomprehensible, although it also feels like there’s no way you’ve only been around for thirteen years. 

You are funny and irreverent.  You are incredibly intelligent.  You are dramatic and, truth be told, melodramatic.  You see the truth in a way that often surprises me, and you thankfully are not all drawn in by the pitfalls of teenager-hood.  At least, not yet.  You stay above the fray more often than not, a fact for which I am truly grateful.  Good lord, may that continue over the next few years.

You’re you.  You’re totally and fully finding yourself and it is awesome to watch.  I love you.  But I also really, really like you.  That’s important.

I so vividly remember being your age that it’s hard for me to believe that my baby is thirteen.  I hope that my memories and opinions about what was good and what was bad about my teenage years will help me help you navigate yours.  I know I cannot and should not shield you from the trials and tribulations that come with being a teenager, but I hope that I can be for you the person you need to help you get through it all relatively unscathed.

The next few years will absolutely be a defining time in your life.  You will find your tribe, and although the members may change over the years, I believe that the people who guide you through your teenage years have an impact on your life unlike almost any other people you’ll ever know.  If it’s a good time for you, you’ll meet adulthood well-prepared. 

My most fervent hope is that you will surround yourself with people who GET you, who know what is truly important, and who will help you figure out who you are yourself.

I also know that we are, by nature, coming into years when you might pull away and I might try to cling too close.  I hope that by being cognizant of that, I can minimize any potential disasters.

I also hope you understand that regardless of what you WANT me to do, I will be your mother first and your friend way, way, way down the line.  You’re still a kid.  My kid.  Even if you are a teenager.

I think that our decision to move to England has been really good for you.  You’ve already found people who get you, you’ve experienced a new culture and had to adjust to massive change, and so you’re better prepared for the changes to come.  We’ve had some really amazing adventures that I hope will become a foundation for you to build a life on.

You are, though, even at thirteen, my little girl.  You will probably never not be. I truly enjoy spending time with you, regardless of what we’re doing, and I hope it will always be so.  You’re an excellent and skilled cook, great fun on an adventure, and a fantastic shopping partner.  You are able and willing to talk about books and movies with me that no one else in this house has a real interest in reading or watching, and I truly appreciate that.  Like I said, I like you a lot.

You are the apple of your father’s eye, and such a funny little thorn in his side sometimes.  I love watching your relationship.  You are far more like me than you are your dad, and seeing the two of you square off makes me laugh inside every time.  You challenge him – to be more sensitive, to be more patient, to be more willing to understand the challenges and intricacies of a girl.  And he challenges you – to be stronger than you think you are, to back up your opinions with facts and thoughtful arguments, to not fall victim to your own drama.  It’s lovely.  I love you two.

And your brothers are the exact people you need in your life to bring you back to earth.  My very, very favorite thing is to watch the four of you play together, independent of your dad and I, whether it’s soccer, whiffle ball, poker, or a board game.  I hope that your relationships with each of your brothers remains as strong in the future as they are today.  You guys share a childhood with memories and experiences that no one else will ever understand.  They get you in a way that no one else ever will, and you get them.  Stay friends. 

My god, you are thirteen.  I cannot even believe it. 

Please know that,no matter what ever happens, I am so grateful to be your mother.  You are the thing that changed my life, the person who made me me, and for that I am forever grateful.  And as the person who MADE you, please know that my greatest wish is that you live a life you love and you know that you are adored and appreciated every step of the way.

Happy birthday, baby girl.  Happy thirteenth.


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