Thursday, February 28, 2013

Ideas for Helping Temporarily Single Moms

Really, the title should be: How Others Have Helped Me

One of the benefits of being on the receiving end of service is having a better sense of how to help others later on, when you're not a mom of young kids whose husband is always away and are able to serve outside your own home. How many moms I could have helped before I had kids of my own, but I had no idea how to. The same thing has happened with my husband gone 95% of the time. We live in a military community so many of the families I know have experienced the same thing, only with their husband/father being gone for six months or more at a time. I've been given so much help and in so many ways that I never would have thought of if I hadn't been served that way first. So I'm taking note for real here, and not just mentally, so that I will know how to serve someone in a similar situation.

- Call her at random times to see how she's doing. She might lie and say she's doing fine, but just knowing that someone remembered her will give her a little boost. Check in via e-mail and text and whatever else too.

- Offer to babysit her kids so she can have some time away from them to regain her sanity and remember how much she loves them.

- Offer to come over and play with her kids, even while she's there. I never would have thought of this one, but this has been the biggest help. My friend has dropped her thirteen year old daughter off to play with my three year old a couple of times, and it's a huge help. Better than babysitting because I can either do stuff around the house and go take a nap with the baby. Plus what my three year old is lacking most is attention and play time with Daddy. When someone comes to play with her, she gets attention that I simply cannot give her because I have another child and household stuff to worry about too.

- Invite her and her kids to dinner. I cook very little when my husband is away because the kids won't eat it anyway. So I eat a lot of kid food, snacks, and sandwiches. Getting an invitation to dinner gets us out of the house, gives me some adult conversation, and feeds me real food that I wouldn't otherwise be eating.

- Bring her dinner. I was sick one of the evenings I was invited to dinner and they brought me leftovers. As stated above, it was awesome to get real food.

- If you have kids, invite her and her kids over for a play date. I've invited some friends over here, and that helps too, but it's really nice to have an excuse to leave the house some days.

- Think about what chores were traditionally done by her husband, and offer to do it for her, either just once or on a recurring basis. A neighbor boy helped me shovel my walk, and it was so helpful. Most of the things my husband normally did, I can do myself. It might be a little more difficult, but I can do them. With small children, I cannot mow our lawn. Even though it doesn't need any care yet, someone has already offered to take care of my lawn once it needs to be mowed until we move. I almost cried when I was offered this because it was a huge problem hanging over my head and she solved it instantly.

- Friends and family who are far away: come and visit. It is so nice to have someone to talk to at night and to do things with. And to break up the monotony of our days and the long stretch of Daddy being far away.

- Just be there to offer help and to listen. I'm not one who likes to ask for help. I even struggle with accepting help (which is probably why I keep finding myself in life situations where I have no other option but to accept  help). But I have a couple of people who have offered and have helped me so lovingly and genuinely, that I truly know I can ask them for help if I need it. And sometimes I really, really do.

Monday, February 18, 2013

His Turn

I always thought I would work after I had children. At the time, that was the point of going to college. I know there are other benefits like gaining knowledge, expanding my horizons, and being an example to my children. But I didn't go to school with a stay-at-home mom role in mind.

I know how blessed I am that my husband makes enough so that I can stay home full-time with my young children. I'm reminded of that when I hear other mothers I know having to go back to work and leave their babies behind. But every once in a while, I get antsy. I wish for a break from my children and wonder what the point of my schooling (and subsequent student debt is for). Once I even started considering the ways that I could go back to work, even part time. But after prayer and contemplation, I knew that it's my husband's turn to be out in the world, not mine. This quote helps me feel at peace with that:

“There is time enough for achieving financial success, accolades, and ‘getting ahead’ besides the first years of your child’s life.” – Mayim Bialik, PhD

I bring this up now because my husband's work has taken him to Denmark. I was talking with another mother yesterday who said, with quite a bit of sadness in her voice, that her husband had traveled all over the world and seen so many amazing things with his job. And she was always at home with the kids. 

I feel a little bit envious that my husband is off doing cool things while I'm at home with the kids doing the same old things. But there's comfort in knowing that I am here for my children during their most formative years. And I look forward to the time I will have and things I will do once my youngest is in school. But for now, I'll enjoy the snuggles from my little ones and getting to sleep in as long as they do.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Meals are tricky with a picky three-year-old. She is convinced that she doesn't like cereal except to pick the marshmallows out of Marshmallow Matey's or "Yucky" Charms. I can't even get her to try sugar loaded cereals like Trix or Fruit Loops. She'll occasionally try pancakes or waffles, but we rarely make that much effort at breakfast time. I'm allergic to eggs, so I don't make them--and my daughter doesn't encounter them enough to eat them. I don't like oatmeal, so I'm not about to try to get her to eat it. What she will eat are muffins and toast. Finding a healthier bread is a fight that extends into lunch time as well. But her muffins I can make as healthy as I like and she's none the wiser.

Most often I make a pumpkin muffin. The easy version is a box of spice cake mix and a can of pumpkin puree. As my baby becomes less of a baby and I have more time, I'm making them homemade again and subbing in healthier options--applesauce to replace oil, wheat flour instead of white.

But I recently found a healthier banana muffin recipe that the whole family loved. I had never made a bran muffin before and didn't realize that it's actually made with bran flakes. The recipe naturally is made with applesauce and only a tiny bit of butter. It's a great way to use up bananas and you can control how many chocolate chips you put in. I usually half the amount called for and it's plenty. If you use mini chocolate chips, you can use even less and still have a good distribution throughout. So yes, my daughter eats chocolate chips for breakfast. But now she's also eating bran flakes and doesn't even know it.

Healthy Banana Bran Muffin recipe found at Mel's Kitchen Cafe.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


My Girls with their Daddy. Pic taken by Grandma at Grandma's house.

Our family just enjoyed a short trip to see extended family. And it was one of the last times our little family will be together for a while. Daddy flew out for a conference the day after we got home from our trip. He'll be home this weekend, and then he'll be gone for a month. Then home for two days. Then gone for a month. And so on until we move across the country to Florida.

Moving is rough on kids, no matter their age. My oldest was 18 months when we moved into a new house and she spent the first few weeks afraid because she didn't know where to find me in the house if I was around the corner. The house was too big and too unfamiliar. As they get older, all the other familiar, routine things in their life are disrupted with a move. I'm pretty sure my daughter could give you directions on how to get to various stores and church from our house. She has friends here she's comfortable with and she knows her teachers and classmates at church. When we move, we'll leave all that behind and everything and everyone will be strange to her. My youngest will be almost 18 months and because of my experience with my first, I know that she will notice the differences. She couldn't crawl yet when we moved here, so this is the only house she has explored. Not to mention kids picking up on the stress that parents feel during the move.

It's not like our life is exactly stable up until we move. Daddy is usually gone and won't be home long enough to adjust to him being back home before he leaves again. Even before the packers come, I am going through our stuff and getting rid of lots of it.

As I contemplated the coming months, I struggled with the thought that nothing in my girls' life will be stable and steadfast. Kids need routine and familiarity--they need something certain, something they can always count on to be there. And then I realized that they do have that--it's me, their mother. Daddy leaves, but Mommy stays. We'll be in a new state and a new house, but Mommy will be there with them. Which made me realize even more the importance of me staying centered and sane and calm for them. Any ideas on how to do that? My world is being turned upside down too.