Nighthawk around the age he got lost on the beach

Every mother’s worst nightmare…your child is lost.

Oh, the stories I’ve heard.

When mothers tell their “lost” stories, it’s like going to a horror movie—you’re listening avidly (you might as well be eating popcorn), and you can handle the terror factor because you know the child was eventually found.

Thank God!

But of course, there are times when the child isn’t found safe—such as in the Etan Patz case that’s been in the news lately.

I’ve had one “lost” situation where I came damned close to thinking that we weren’t going to have a happy ending—but we did.

We did.

Thank God.

I always remember it every Memorial Day weekend because that’s when it happened. And as in all “lost” stories, it all started innocently enough. My husband and I took our kids to the beach—it was opening weekend, and the beach was jammed with people. We took a walk, as we always do. Two of our kids went with us (the other stayed behind to boogie board with friends).  I remember our youngest, Nighthawk, age 7 at the time, hopping like a bunny behind us, his older sister Indie Girl, age 11, at his side.  We walked for fifteen minutes, and then we turned around to head back to our spot on the beach.  But as we approached and I turned to say something to Nighthawk and Indie Girl, Nighthawk was gone. Indie Girl hadn’t noticed where he went. She’d been kicking at the surf.

I stayed calm at first, but then there comes that moment when you flip into full-fledged panic mode. Nighthawk was missing a total of forty minutes, the worse forty minutes of my life.  We didn’t know if he had drowned or if he’d been kidnapped. It was so bad that we had half the beach looking—and a small crowd literally sipping beer and staring at the crying mother as if I were a freak show. The police were there. The atmosphere was somber.

I remember holding onto Indie Girl. I remember looking at the sky where it met the sea and begging God to hold Nighthawk in the palm of His hand. And by the way, that was literally the day that I found out I really, truly believed in God. Because even when we weren’t sure what had happened to Nighthawk, even though I felt lost and terrified myself on that vast expanse of sand and sea and in those throngs of people, I felt the strong, sure power of God’s presence. I can’t explain it. It was a gift, I suppose, for my wanting to believe. When I finally needed God, He came through.

To make a harrowing story short, Nighthawk was found ten blocks away down the beach. He’d run past us to get to our towels and beach chairs and been lost in the crowd. He kept walking and walking, looking for our “spot.” He was found by a policeman on a bicycle who’d been alerted to look for a boy matching his description.

I still don’t like thinking about that day, about the “what if’s.” I try to focus on the happy ending. We got our beloved Nighthawk back. How I cried when I saw his sandy, semi-sunburnt self walking toward me.

Nighthawk this year, long after his “lost” episode!

What I learned that day is that no matter how hard you try to control life—especially around kids—things happen anyway. Sometimes bad things. But sometimes good things happen, too, and more often than not.

And I’m reminded of the time I was lost once, as a kid. I was tired of shopping, so I went outside and sat in the car. I must have been about five. I didn’t feel lost at all. But everyone acted like I was when they found me. The whole experience sort of baffled me, but I’ve learned something from that, too.

You’re only lost if you believe you are. Sometimes we find ourselves in the wilderness as moms, but you know what? Decide that where you are as a parent is where you want to be and where you need to be. Don’t let anyone else decide for you. Don’t let anyone else tell you you’re “lost.”

Put a giant red arrow on your place in the parenting spectrum and in all caps say, “I AM HERE.”

Do you have any “lost” stories? I’d love to hear them. And I hope they all had happy endings. I hope that you’ll always have happy endings. XOXO

Kieran Kramer, Merry Mama

Hi, I’m Kieran. My family loves music and anything that makes us laugh out loud. I try to teach my kids that we have to actively choose happiness–and if I accomplish nothing else as a mom but pass that one lesson along to them, then I think I’ve done my job.
My oldest guy, Dragon, was diagnosed in kindergarten with Asperger’s syndrome, and now he’s a sophomore in college; his sister Indie Girl, who’s younger by 16 months, is a college freshman; and my youngest, Nighthawk, is in eighth grade. My kids are compassionate, smart, fun, and funny people–and they turned out that way even though I wasn’t June Cleaver. I lose my keys all the time. I stare into the fridge and wonder what’s for dinner in half an hour and then remember I have to cook it. I double-book things a lot because I have three ways to make appointments (phone, purse calendar, and kitchen calendar) and haven’t yet worked out a great system for streamlining them. I don’t know how I managed to write a book, much less five now. But for me and my kids, it’s about managing your weaknesses and wringing everything you can get out of your strengths. And along the way, finding joy.


Birthday Party Madness

This weekend we had my daughter’s seventh birthday party.

It seems impossible for me to believe that she’s actually seven! (But that’s a post for another day.) Mostly, today, I just want to comment on the craziness that is kids birthday parties in modern America. I’ve now hosted eleven of these events (some much smaller than others). We been to way more. So, raise your hand if you think kids’ parties are crazy these days…. yeah, me too. (I’m just pretending you agree with me.)

For my most families we know, the rule seems to be invite everyone in the child’s class at school. Also invite friends from sports and other activities. Which means we’ve been to parties with upwards of forty kids. As for the execution of the party, the crazier and more elaborate the better. We once went to a party with a  petting zoo (complete with spitting camel!) and a face painter. Once, there was a petting zoo (:-(but no camel), a bounce house and a mobile food cart (which provided roasted corn, snow cones, cotton candy and funnel cake). This year, my daughter attended a Justin Bieber themed party where there was a team of professional party hosts who taught the girls Justin Bieber dance moves and they put on a show at the end of the party. Seriously.

I think all of those parties were just a little crazy over-the-top. It may sound like I’m being too judgemental. I’m not meaning to. Families have to what’s right for them and their kids. And just because most of us live in a world with out barn animals in our daily lives, that doesn’t mean our kids don’t crave that experience. And my kids loved riding that shetland pony. And it’s also true that we don’t go to many carnivals, so my kids got a huge kick out of the food cart with the snow cones and cotton candy.

But I also think you gotta know your limits. After 7 years of hosting these parties, I can freely pass on this one bit of advice: know your limits. Know where the line is. For me, I’m on one side of the line, Justin Bieber is on the other.

My good friend, Hattie (who is, coincidentally, Robyn’s mom), once told me you should have no more than the age of the child, plus one. Given that rule (which I think is a brilliant rule), we were aiming for eight kids. About four families brought younger or older sibs (which was absolutely fine), so we had 12 kids total. I thought that number was manageable. But just barely. I wouldn’t have wanted any more kids. Seriously. More than that and I would have started freaking out a bit. Even with the eight to twelve adults, I was quite nervous about having that many kids running around. At the end of a birthday party, I always breath a huge sigh of relief. No one got hurt. No one got lost. Forget whether or not anyone had fun. No one died. That’s enough for me.

How do you feel about birthday parties?

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In Denial About Summer

I kind of hate summer. There, I said it. Summer does not make me happy. Maybe if I lived some place lovely where summer meant 75 degree days and afternoon rain showers. But no, I live in Dallas where it gets so hot that you can hardly bear to be inside with your overworked air conditioning (which can never keep up), much less actually venture outside into the 100+ degree oven daily. And it is just not natural for it to still be 95 degrees at midnight. Seriously.

But now I have an added thing to make me dread summer. Lack of school for kidlet. Up until last summer he’s been in part-time daycare. So it didn’t matter when summer came because his schedule stayed the same. But now that he’s going to the special preschool program with the school district, that program ends just like all the others for summer. And since he’s still not potty-trained at four (please God, let this click soon), that means daycares now won’t take him and summer camps are out. So our only option is a drop in daycare that we use on occasion. I like the place, but it’s limited and he’s going to get bored if he goes there too much.

But mommy (that’d be me) has to write a novella and full novel by the end of October. And there’s no way I’m going to get all that done without some kidlet free work time. So basically, I’m in denial. I’m refusing to even think about the long days of trying to keep a very active, very intense child busy.

So I’m appealing to you moms out there. What are some activities you use to keep your little ones busy during the summer that give you a little bit of quiet time in the process? And am I the only one with her head in the sand about summer?

I’m Roni Loren, or as I’m called ‘round these parts, No Drama Mama. I’ve been married for ten years and have a four-year old son, who has recently been diagnosed with high-functioning autism. My days are spent writing very sexy romances (my PC way of saying erotic),avoiding all things housework, and hanging out with a kidlet who I suspect is vastly smarter than I am. I secretly dream of having a life that looks like the pages of Real Simple magazine, but would settle for Sorta Decent if could get there. My daily goal is to keep the drama on the pages of my books and out of my life–I’m successful at least twenty percent of the time. www.roniloren.com

Moments of Joy with SuperGirl and WonderGirl

In many of my past posts I’ve discussed how hard it is to be a parent. How difficult sleep schedules (or sleep, period) can be, how difficult keeping your sanity can be when it seems sometimes that all your kids do is cry or scream or whine or fight…and so on. But today I don’t want to tell you how hard it is to raise kids…that’s something I think we all can agree on. Today I want to tell you why, specifically, my girls are my joy. And I mean that wholeheartedly, despite all the sleep deprivation, moments of frustration, and self-doubt.


  • Having WonderGirl try to play peek-a-boo when I’m changing her diaper after she should already be asleep.
  • Opening the door when I’ve been away (either out of the house or working) and hearing happy cries of “Mama, Mama” and little feet running toward me.
  • Closing the door behind me when I leave and hearing angry cries that I’m leaving without them, because they want to be with me.
  • Having my very own hip attachment. Even though it gets frustrating sometimes, I love that WonderGirl wants to be that close to me.
  • Cuddle time with SuperGirl.
  • Holding them in my lap and reading to them (even if it is the same books over and over).
  • Teaching them new things or new words or new experiences.
  • Sharing my joy or horror with them (as in looking at pictures of spiders and screaming together).
  • Seeing their joy.
  • Dancing to loud 90s and oldies and rock music and not caring how crazy we look.
  • Doing “female” stuff, such as sharing my perfume and jewelry, doing their hair, picking out their outfits, etc.
  • Watching them play together.
  • Seeing SuperGirl’s attachment to her doll that she’s had for two years, who no longer has arms or legs and whose head is about to come off, but who SuperGirl refuses to give up (I’ll have to post before and after pictures someday).
  • Continuing to move the rearview mirror down as I drive home because I can’t get enough of watching them sleep and admiring how adorable they are.
  • Seeing them being nice to other kids or being polite to adults.
  • Answering all their questions when they want to know “what’s that” or “what’s this”.
  • Hearing their laughter.
  • Kissing their boo-boos.
  • Singing Itsy Bitsy Spider and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Jesus Loves Me together.
  • Going for family walks and enjoying nature.
  • Hearing SuperGirl shout “yee-haw!” the way my dad taught me to do when I was a little girl.
  • Seeing WonderGirl give her little smirk when she knows she’s being cute or knows she’s doing something she’s not supposed to do.
  • Watching the bunny in the front yard together.

I’m sure I could go on and on, and writing this list helps me realize that no matter the things I get frustrated at, there will always be more that I’m grateful for. Being a parent can be hard, but the joy I receive from just having them, loving them, and having them love me in return outweighs it all.

I’d love to hear some of your “joy moments”! Please share! Tell me what brings you joy with your kids and why they (no matter their current age) are so wonderful. =)


I’m Elise Rome, AKA Midnight Mama because I’m usually burning the midnight oil. If SuperGirl (2, with a speech delay) and WonderGirl (1, my very own hip attachment) aren’t getting up in the middle of the night, then I’m busy working on writing and writing-related business until early morning…usually 3-4 am or so. Both my husband and I stay home with the girls (he’s a writer, too! www.lukasholmes.com), but usually I’m focused on them throughout the day and only get started working until after 8pm when they’re both in bed. I’m a former Texan now living in Colorado who desperately misses no-snow winters, and my parenting goal is to raise my daughters to be strong, intelligent, and independent women…much like the heroines I write, as a matter of fact. I’m a recovering perfectionist, recovering procrastinator, and perpetually aspire to keep the house clean (because it never actually is). When I’m not chasing around my daughters or adoring my cooking/cleaning/diaper-changing husband of 8 years, I write historical romances about women who fascinate me and men who somehow always remind me of Rhett Butler, the first literary hero who captured my heart. www.eliserome.com

Parenting is a Marathon

It’s a great pleasure for us to have guest mom and fellow writer Christina Hergenrader at Peanut Butter on the Keyboard today! Welcome, Christina–we’re so glad to have you here!

The Marathon

Thank you, ladies, for inviting me to guest blog.

I’m a mom of four kids, ages 7, 4, 4, and 1. My most recent book was God Loves Moms, a Bible Study about twelve moms in the Bible. I also blog at www.bestoftimesblog.com

I love this blog and all of your witty and realistic takes on mothering and writing.

As the mother of so many little kids, I’m a walking magnet for advice. Truthfully, this could also be because I don’t really have my act together.

If I go to Target with all four kids some older woman will stop me to say, “Wow. You have your hands full.”

Yes, I often (literally) do have my hands full with kids or Kleenex or something, so I smile and nod.

Then I try to leave. Because I know what she’ll say next: “Enjoy every second of these years. They go SO FAST.”

Which I’m sure they do. I mean, they don’t seem to be going all that fast this week as all four kids are battling a stomach virus.

Actually, last week didn’t go all that fast either.

BUT I can appreciate what this stranger is warning me about…look past the minor inconveniences (is a stomach virus for four kids with questionable toilet skills really minor, though?) and soak up the fun.

Here’s what I wish other Target customers would say to me instead: “Sister, it’s a marathon.”

If you’ve ever cheered on marathon runners, you’ve seen that they pace themselves. They reserve passion and energy for the trials and excitement to come…including the finish line.

Recently a friend of mine had her first baby. She had waited a long time for this baby, and his birth was a VERY BIG DEAL. (It takes one to know one—I was the same way.)

As she obsessed over breast vs. bottle and co-sleeping and Ferberizing, I shared that advice: It’s a marathon.

You have to save some passion for the potty training, and school choosing, and virus fighting to come.

Coincidentally, I recently told a writer friend the same thing: “Sister, it’s a marathon.”

After years of trying, she had just landed her first book deal. She became obsessed with the contract and writing and edits like I had about my first baby—and my first book. At lunch she complained about how hard the publishing process was and how she JUST WANTED TO BE DONE!

I felt like those well-meaning ladies at Target as I told her, “Cherish this time. There’s, really, nothing like the thrill of writing your first book.”

And I meant it. I may have become wiser with subsequent books, but I’m also more cynical. I know about the book signings when no one comes. I’ve had my heart broken when even my closest friends forget I have a book coming out.

But there’s nothing like the anticipation of having an actual editor, of holding your first book, of signing your first copy.

And, really, there’s nothing like the career of writing. Or the joy of being a mom.

As long as you remember that they’re both marathons.

In defense of adoption from the foster care system

Okay so adoption is hip these days. More than likely you know someone who has adopted or is planning to adopt. Part of it, I’m sure stems from the fact that people are marrying later and therefore having difficulties conceiving their own children. The Professor and I have been in the adoption game for a long time since about 2 years into our marriage. I researched everything. At the time we lived in a different state who had different requirements for foster-to-adopt, namely they mandated that you accept a child age 8 and up. As first time parents we didn’t feel equipped to charge down that road, so we looked into other options. I researched Chinese adoption, I mean come on, how beautiful are those children?! But again requirements put a stop to us, namely their net worth requirement. On the heels of an across-the-country move and being still newlyweds, our finances were simply not in that kind of shape. We went down other roads, but all to no avail. So finally we moved back to Texas.

Texas has a fantastic fost-to-adopt system, not all states make it so “easy” to adopt state kids. Needless to say all states are different. That being said, I think there are a lot of other preconceived notions about adopting from the foster care system that simply aren’t true, or at least not the full truth. For one if you ever watch Law & Order or Criminal Minds, 9 times out of 10 when they’re discussing the “perp” they say something like “tossed around from one foster home to the next…” creating a perception that all criminals come from broken homes. Certainly this happens, but it’s not the only requirement, there are plenty of perfectly  nasty criminals out there that grew up in great families.

Another myth is that there are only older kids available. Now, there are a TON of teenagers available for adoption and it, in all honesty, breaks my heart. To think of those kids not having a “home” to go to for the holidays, or someone to be there for their wedding, etc. It’s just terrible. There are lots and lots of waiting kids and someday, I hope we’re in the place to make a home for some of those kids. But there are also lots of little ones that are stuck in the system. They’re not always “free” for adoption right away (like our girls) so of course there’s risk, but there’s risk in conception and birthing.

I simply can’t imagine our life without my daughters. They’ve challenged me and pushed me and pulled me outside of myself. I can’t imagine loving a child more than I love them, even one of my own flesh and blood. And we’re only one success story. It’s certainly not without it’s challenges. Our oldest daughter came to us and refused to change clothes for two weeks. We had also been told she was terrified of the bath so we had some obstacles there to work through and those weren’t the full extent of them. But what parents don’t have “issues” to deal with with their children?

Tonight we’re going to speak at our former agency to talk to the latest group of “graduates” from the foster care education class. We’ll tell them the truth, the good and the bad, and we’ll encourage them to move forward, to stay in this and find the kids that belong in their forever family.

There are lots of adoption routes out there, but this one I think is the one most often overlooked. So if you’ve ever considered adoption or know someone who has, please encourage them to research this as an option to adding to their family. You can find out more info here.

I’m Robyn DeHart, AKA Basket-Case Mama, but not because I’m crazy (though really, what mom isn’t?) but because I have a slight obsession with baskets, well containers really. I’m a bit of an organization nut and I love to containerize stuff. And yes, I’m authorized to use words like that because I am also a writer. But back to the kids, so I’m mom to two ridiculously beautiful little girls and I can say that without bragging because I didn’t actually make them. Last year my husband, The Professor, and I adopted said little lovelies from the foster-care system here in Texas and now we’re a big happy forever family. Busybee is three and so full of joy it just oozes from her. Babybee is a walking-talking toddler who has a heck of a temper but is so cute, it almost keeps her out of trouble. Though neither of my girls are newborns, I’m fairly new to motherhood compared to the other peanut butter moms, but we’ve settled in as a family as if we’ve always been together. When I’m not trying to keep up with my two bundles of energy, you can usually find me on my laptop on Pinterest, no, that’s not right, um…you can find me writing, yes, that’s it, writing my latest historical romance. www.robyndehart.com

An authentic American experience

That’s a line in the movie We bought a Zoo. He’s explaining to his brother why he bought a zoo. Because he wanted to give his children an authentic American experience.

Well, I’m not sure what exactly what makes owning animals an “authentic” experience or for that matter an “American” one. (Point of fact, the actual zoo the story was based on is in England.) But even if I can quibble with the phrasing, I get the point. No, I’m not going to run out a buy my kids an aardvark or a lemur and certainly not a lion, but there is something about caring for animals that just goes hand and hand with childhood.

I grew up in the suburbs with cats, a dog and the occasional rabbit. We never had anything that was truly exotic or certainly nothing that Ol’ McDonald would be interested in. However, my husband grew up on a farm in west Texas and his upbringing was so very different than mine. It was a cotton farm, not like the Fisher-Price farm, so they never had the full complement of barn-yard animals, but they had a cow or two, some horses, and yes, chickens. I had an ordinary childhood–not much to complain about really–but I’ve known ever since I fell in love with my hubby that I wanted our kids raised more like he was than like I was. I wanted our kids to have the experience of raising and caring for animals. I wanted them to have the responsibilities, the joys and yes, even the heartaches. Sure they could have had all that with a puppy, but I also wanted them to make the connection with where our food comes from. I wanted them to eat things grown in our garden or gathered from our own chickens. And, yes, I admit it. Baby chicks are cute.

Once, years ago, I saw an episode of Martha Stewart in which she toured a baby chick factory. (I’m sure that’s not the right word, but you know what I mean.) I was totally charmed. Those cute little fluffy things? Who wouldn’t love those?

Still, at the time I thought she was crazy for raising her own chickens for eggs. Things have changed drastically in the past decade. Now, yard chickens are a growing trend. People all over town have them. And now, we do too!

I’m eager to see how this all goes. We’ve already had a brush with the heartache. We started with six and now we’re down to five, but the kids love them and are getting much less Lenny-like when it comes to touching them. If all goes well, in six to ten months we’ll have eggs!

Are any of your yard chicken owners? Or do you have any other exotic pets?

Zen and the Art of…Having No Zen

People ask me, a lot, in interviews for blogs: What does a typical day look like at the Yates house?

I never know how to answer this. Mainly because at this point I’m completely unfamiliar with the concept of typical, or routine. Even with my special needs kids, the need for a routine just doesn’t seem to be there…or be…possible.

I should have gotten the hint that this was how my life as a parent was going to be when I only had one child, and I was dressing him to go on an outing and he peed through his diaper and onto his fresh, adorable outfit, creating the need for me to change his clothes. Which I did. And then he immediately did the same thing to his backup outfit. So I changed him again. And he did it AGAIN.

Yes, this early warning sign should have been heeded, should have been seen as a dark vision of things to come. It was not.

Fast forwarding six years and that kind of incident is really…typical. Let me walk you through the morning ‘routine’ (haha).

Diva gets up, and her first words to me might me: CUP!! SHOW!! GO GEEGO GO!! (That’s Go, Diego, Go.)

Me: All right, okay. *sets down coffee and hops to attention*

Dive: CUP!! A CUP!!

Me: I know. Just a second. Where is your cup?

I might search for ten minutes and find it behind the couch, where she threw it the night before during a pre-bed fit. Okay, I’ll make her some milk (CHOCATE MIWK!!) okay, chocolate milk, and then I’ll get the show.

Drama awakens: Morning.

Me: Morning.

Drama: What’s the capital of Minnesota

Me: I don’t know what is it.

Drama: *looks at me like I’m stupid* St. Paul.

Me: Good job.

Drama: I need milk

*makes more drinks. Then cereal.*

Danger gets up. Right now he’s saying: WANT THIS all the time because he knows he’ll get his way as a reward for using speech so from the moment he gets up, everything from the sugar to the jars of jelly to the honey bear (all things he knows he isn’t supposed to have) are WANT THIS. By now, Diva is done with her milk and wants more, but Danger also WANTS THIS and they’ll probably both shout CUP and WANT THIS at me until I get it done.

Then comes the mad search for clothes. No, I didn’t set them out the night before. SOCKS!! WHERE ARE THE SOCKS?? How is it we have three socks and none of them are the same color!? (somewhere in here I drink more coffee)

While I’m hunting for clothes, Danger will manage to get into something. Last week it was Nestle’s Quick. Over the course of the day I had to shower him off three times after he carried the tub of powdered chocolate off and basically PAINTED his body with it. Then I’ll clean up Danger’s mess.

Then I’ll look at the clock and realize it’s time to go. So I load all three kids up into the kick butt mini-van, realize Danger still has chocolate on his face and scrub it off with a cold baby wipe that sat in the car over night (He will fuss at me BUT HE SHOULDN’T HAVE GOTTEN INTO THE CHOCOLATE), get the movie turned on (my van DVD player has saved my sanity on more than one occasion) and start the twenty minute drive to the school.

Halfway there it will occur to me that I forgot Drama’s backpack.

So there, that’s an idea of what a typical day is. Nowhere in there do I see perfection. It’s not organized. I am not June Cleaver. 

I used to look at the Facebooks of friends I grew up with. At how they got up at six and baked bread and then sat all their sweet, clean-faced children down and they ate a hot breakfast all together. And I would wonder why that wasn’t me. And I would feel bad. But then, also through Facebook, I would watch people grow horribly discouraged about their day, about their parenting in general, because a child got jelly on his new shirt and the whole day was thrown off. Or because they hadn’t managed to keep the house spotless. The day wasn’t perfect.

And then it hit me that life can be so much more enjoyable if the idea of perfect is adjusted just a little bit. Perfect is time spent with my family. My husband, my kids. It’s any day where we avoid a (serious, life-threatening, fire-involving) disaster. It’s when my kids are allowed to be kids. Joyful, messy, annoying, dirty kids.

It’s finding zen in the middle of the chaos. Joy in the imperfection. Because it’s the life I have, and it won’t always be the same. The kids will grow up and I won’t have jelly hand prints on my wall. I won’t have someone chattering in the background (constantly) asking me what state borders Idaho. And I don’t want to look back on this and realize I wished it all away. That I was waiting to arrive at a point of Perfect, and Organized and Clean and Quiet before I could start enjoying it.

I want to enjoy it now. It’s chaos…but it’s my chaos. And it’s the chaos I’ve got. The life I’ve got. My prayer is that I learn to embrace, fully and completely, the joy of the life I’ve been given, and not spend all my time wishing I was doing different or ‘better’.

Though, I bet my husband wishes I would vacuum in heels and pearls. Or maybe he’d just settle for me vacuuming….

How to Measure Success as a Mom

It’s a great pleasure for us to have guest mom Elitza Allen at Peanut Butter on the Keyboard today! Welcome, Elitza–we’re so glad to have you here!

I plunged into motherhood straight from graduate school. Nineteen days after I defended the Dissertation, I was pushing and groaning in a hospital bed giving birth to my beautiful daughter, Manu, as she now at the age of two calls herself. In the months that followed, I tried and failed to stop what seemed like a slide from one world into another.

In graduate school, I was used to having stepping stones and small achievements that produced a sense of purpose and accomplishment: a progression from one conference paper to another; from a research grant to a writing workshop. Tiny pats on back that helped to sustain a graduate school experience filled, as it often is, with self-doubt and excruciating number of rejection letters. The occasional praise and external recognition helped to replete my self-confidence when it dwindled and gave me energy to face what seemed like an insurmountable challenge: coding and making sense of huge amounts of data, and producing a meaningful, coherent argument.

With motherhood, then, I was fully unprepared to find out that this line of work—the most important of all, as sometimes we are told—brings almost no regular, sustaining recognition. The work is literally and figuratively back-breaking, nerve-wracking and exhausting. And it takes a long time, if ever, to show what you did right and what you did wrong. Often you don’t see the results of your labor until much later, until a high school or a college graduation, or a wedding, when you can finally look around and say to yourself, “Yes, this is my son or daughter, and look how they turned out!” And sometimes you may not get even that.

It’s true, fathers help out these days. Many help out a LOT. My husband does a second shift at night and on weekends at home, and helps to make sure that I have time to teach and write. Yet even with his help, the goal of raising a child that is healthy, happy, well-adapted, smart and stimulated–in addition to holding together a house that is fairly clean and occasionally gives out the pleasant smell of home-cooking—it all seems sometimes almost as unattainable as the completion of the Dissertation did at one time. But in contrast to graduate school, here there are no pats on the back; no signs to tell me “You are doing good. Keep going.” As a mother, I had to redefine what constitutes accomplishment and to learn where to look for the signs that indicate that I am doing something right and that I should not despair in my capacity to raise a competent and happy child, and to keep up a livable, lovable home.

So now I mostly measure success by gut feeling. I try to remember to take note and acknowledge if it feels like I did something right. Did Manu and I manage to find some connection and harmony? Did Manu seem happy? Did I set limits where I should have? This weekend, I skipped the trip to the grocery store and took Manu for a walk instead. (We walked to the playground. The stroller has long been in disuse.) It took half an hour to get there, and half an hour to get back. Manu picked flowers from bushes in bloom, held my hand when crossing streets and passing by loud dogs, and gave me sticks, stones, and brown leaves to carry. In the end, without distractions and without my trying to multitask as usual, this was a blissful afternoon. No tamper tantrums, no testing the limits, just a general sense of peace and connection. These occasional moments of bliss count among my achievements now. They give me hope that I can manage to give my daughter what seems to matter most at this early age: a sense of feeling loved, secure and happy, and hopefully more as she needs it growing up.

So how about you? How do you know you have done well as mother? How do you give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done?

Sleep Deprivation

Everyone knows that new parents don’t get much sleep. Babies sleep in short bursts (or not at all) and need constant feeding, changing, and comforting. No matter how many books, blogs, experts, or friends an expectant parent consults, nothing can prepare him or her for the reality that is sleep deprivation.

I’m going to be the first to admit that I didn’t like the newborn phase. A lot of you will tell me that you loved it and you love babies. Did your baby sleep? Because mine didn’t, and I hated being so completely exhausted all the time. I felt like I had a new job that was 24/7 (which I did). That was fine for about a month, but then the deprivation started to take its toll.

I remember at one point, Baby Galen must have been three or four months old, getting up in the middle of the night to answer her cries and thinking, I need to go to a hotel. I can’t get any sleep in this place. My brain had forgotten I had a baby and was operating on escape mode.

Baby Galen just a few hours old. I should have been sleeping, not taking pictures.

Another time I was sitting up with Baby Galen in the middle of the night, rocking her back to sleep, and through the walls I could hear Ultimate Sportsfan snoring. I had to make a concerted effort not to get up, grab a pillow, and smother him.

Here’s the good news for all of you new parents. Your child will sleep. Someday. He or she may sleep at five weeks. Or it may take eighteen months or five years. Some day you will get to sleep through the night again.

But here’s another truth: you are never going to get as much sleep as you did before you were a parent.

You know what inspired this blog? One morning I was up at about 5 a.m. working and I saw a post from fellow PBK mom Emily on Facebook. She was also up working and posted that she had no idea how much sleep she would give up before she had kids. I could so relate. I still can because I’m writing this at nine p.m., and I’ll be up before five to get back to work. Why do I do this? Why not hire a baby sitter, stick Baby Galen in front of the TV all day, or put her in daycare full time? Because here’s the last truth: childhood is short.

I once heard a teacher say of childhood, It’s the longest hours and the shortest days. I can’t get this special time with my daughter back. I’m lucky enough to be able to work from home. That doesn’t mean I don’t make sacrifices, and sleep is just one of many. But I know it will be worth it in the end.

Tell me your sleep stories. Did your baby sleep through the night at two weeks? Not until 3 years? How do you manage to fit sleep in now?


Shana Galen, Multitasker Mama
I’m Shana Galen, AKA Multitasker Mama (and aren’t we all?). I’m a wife, mom to a two-year-old daughter I call Baby Galen. My parenting motto is, “Keep moving. Don’t pass out. Don’t throw up.” Or maybe that’s my fitness motto? www.shanagalen.com