Category Archives: Being Mommy

Sitting in the carpool line, waiting for the bell to ring and the chaos to resume, I realized that I forgot to volunteer in Chachi’s class.

Sigh.

This was perfect. I was already reeling from forgetting to pack his homework and knowing he was getting lightly chastised for missing it. To top things off, as I thumbed through my emails, I saw one that I was sure would be filled with wonderful news, but was mistaken. My idea for an online class was not only denied but was also dismissed as unmarketable. Something I had worked on for weeks (months!).

Sigh (again).

I was having “one of those days.” Nothing seemed to be going well. I felt like crying. It was all a little too much. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to bury myself under the covers or in a margarita.

Once the kids were in the car, my mind was filled with thoughts of them. Sassy had a decent day, although she was annoyed with something one of the boys in her class did at lunch, and Chachi was a little upset about the missing homework and my absence in his classroom.

And this is where things shifted for me.

As I was reminding them that tomorrow was a new day, I found myself listening, really listening, to my own words. I felt a shift and exhaled as I realized that this advice while it comes from a children’s book, applies to me, too.

Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse.

Life Lessons from Lilly and her plastic purse - learning how to mom better.

(Find Kevin Henkes’ book on Amazon)

If you haven’t read this book to your kids, and they’re under the age of 10, I highly recommend it. Not because it’s a masterpiece, but because it has a simple life lesson that applies to all of us.

At one point in the book, the teacher says to a disgruntled Lilly,

“Today was a difficult day. Tomorrow will be better.”

Almost immediately after reading this book, I found myself repeating this exactly sentiment or a similar one. Usually I say, “We can try again tomorrow. Today was a hard day.”

Life Lessons from Lilly and her plastic purse - learning how to mom better.

Chachi is currently the frequent receiver of this profound wisdom, but I suspect Sassy will hear it many times during her preteen and teen years. And apparently it’s something I need to remind myself, too.

Because there always is tomorrow. And we get try again.

Lifestyle family photographer Bay Area

Before you go… I want to remind all of you working mamas about my “other” job (not the mom one, but a sparkly new one!). Head on over to www.jenniferchaney.com to find out why I’m also The Business Mentor for Busy Moms. You’ll find mom stories, business tips and motivation to move on your business idea (or make your existing business even stronger!). :)

There we sat. Feeling like frauds. How on earth did we get to this place? Sitting in a hospital room, waiting to be sent out into the world with a tiny baby that we couldn’t even get into the car seat without help.

Something must be wrong with the universe.

Somehow we slipped under the radar and were granted a tiny little charge. Someone who would make me grow to question everything I thought I ever knew about people, love and my place in the world.

With a little luck (and a lot of cursing), we got the car seat into the car and managed to make our way home. Both of us terrified of the little bundle in the backseat.

2015-03-20

Once home, we all squished together on the couch, and I couldn’t help feeling that even though I finally had my own little family, I had never felt so alone.

My mom was several states away. And I lost my dad to cancer just the year before. My aunt and Gram were back in North Dakota (go Sioux!), and my in-laws tucked away up north.

My brain raced at the idea of raising a family on my own. I had nightmares about how I was going to fail at motherhood because I had no help. To add to my new mama stress, we had just moved to the area, and I had yet to make any solid friendships.

But just as with everything else I have found challenging in life, I somehow survived. And so did our little girl. I think one of the main reasons for this is the telephone.

I spent hours on the phone each week talking with my grandma and asking for her stoic Norwegian advice (if you know an old school Norwegian, you know what I’m talking about). But my lilac-loving gram somehow made the world a safe, warm place. I relied on her advice. From fevers to splinters to ill-fitting shoes, she was always there for me.

Until she wasn’t.

In the winter of 2011, I lost Gram. Along with missing our holiday phone conversations as she attempted to walk me through lefse making from 1,200 miles away, I miss her parenting advice because it wasn’t just any old advice. It was clean, efficient and nurturing (for me and my kids).

She had a Grammy-specific style of parenting that successfully married “do exactly what I say” with “a house filled with love.”

In her absence, I began to seek out motherly advice and stories from anyone who was willing to share. My aunt was a great source of inspiration. As a mom of four, she was a wealth of support. To this day, her birthday party advice has been shared countless times over the years: The age of the child directly correlates to the number of children invited. That is parenting gold, people!

The rest of my conversations happened with my clients – moms of varying age and with varying numbers of children. Their stories always pulled me in. They, too, had priceless pointers and hilarious stories of poop art on the walls and sharpie art on the arms. Hearing their experiences had me vigorously nodding my head and repeating excitedly “me, too!”

What I discovered is while we all are different, we experience many of the same things. And we all have something to offer other moms… all of us… new moms, veteran moms, aunts, friends, and siblings.

There are so many stories to be shared.

Thousands of parenting tips. (nay, millions!)

And an equal number of tears of laughter waiting to be spilled.

And this is when the idea hit me to write a book that desperately needs to be written; a book where moms from across the country share their stories of motherhood – the good, the bad, and the hilarious.

A new parenting book is in the works: Crowdsourcing Motherhood. Come share your story for a chance to join the crowd and be in the book.

Do you have fantastic mothering advice or survival tips? Join the crowd and be a part of a book.

Because good parenting isn’t all trial and error. We all have lessons we’ve learned and stories to share.

We need to crowdsource motherhood.

I’ll be spending the spring of 2015 gathering stories and creating my book. I want to hear from you because I know you’ve got something to share! I’m looking for stories about struggles you overcame, advice you’ve received, advice you now give, and/or humorous stories (check your FB updates! That’s where we share some of the most hilarious moments).

Sometimes seemingly simple advice is life changing. Several years ago I was complaining about how my daughter refused to wear pants. The wise woman I was chatting told me not to fight my daughter’s desire to wear frilly skirts because one day she would permanently shed them in favor of jeans. I’m glad I listened because that day did arrive. And now have a few extra years of beautiful, twirly frilly skirt memories to fill my heart rather than countless “wear jeans today” arguments.

Use this link to tell me more. You don’t have to go into great detail; I’ll connect with you if what you share has a place in my book.

As a little sparkly bonus for those wanting to spread the love, I’ll be including family photos in the book, which means you might receive a complimentary photo session with me. ;)

Much love to you beautiful women. All of you. The ones who feel like they’ve got motherhood nailed, the ones who feel like every day is a crapshoot, and especially those who feel like you’re drowning. You are not alone. We are all in this together.

Lifestyle family photographer Bay Area

P.S. Here’s one of my all-time favorite photos of my gram and bop. Notice they’re the misbehaved ones in the photo? My Bop has his finger in my aunt’s ear, and my gram is giving us bunny ears. Oh, and lest you miss it, her sweatshirt reads: “Runs with scissors.” LOL! It  was one of her favorites.

Seeing this photo makes me miss her so much. And it also puts a HUGE smile on my face. I adore her… even long after she’s gone.

Reading to my crazies is one of my favorite parts of motherhood.  I’ll quickly pass up trips to the playground in lieu of curling up on our big chair and reading. In fact, I love it so much that we regularly miss their bedtimes because we’ve “just gotten to the good part.”

Right now we’re on some pretty action-packed series, but in the past, some of the books have been truly mind-numbing. Others, however, have left a lasting impression.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing simple lessons I’ve learned about life and parenting through children’s books.

 

Many Moons 

Children

The book I need to start with is a book from my childhood. A book I remember my mom reading to me, but as an adult, I couldn’t for remember the title for all the margaritas in the world… I could only remember the premise (A princess, a stubborn king, a jester and the moon). But I knew it was one of my all-time favorite books.

When I first met my now husband (My Guy), we were in the delightful discovery phase of our relationship. Back in the days when I paid a ridiculous amount of money for a small one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco. When my biggest worry was making it to the bus stop by 8:05 a.m. to catch the number 45 to the financial district. When life was was comparatively less complicated.

These stress-free days always ended with long phone calls with My Guy. And during one such call I had revealed a sliver of a memory from when I was a child. I recalled reading a book about a princess who wanted to wear the moon on a necklace. This was such a tiny part of our conversation that I didn’t even recall that we talked about it a year later when he gave me the book for Christmas.

Parenting Lessons from Children

Ahhh the sweetness of the courtship… My Guy spent a ridiculous amount of time hunting down this book (remember this was pre-Google – holy cow, we’re old!). Once he got the book, he dug up a picture of me when I was in first grade to include on the inside cover. (I think he sealed the deal for marriage with that genius move.)

Children

I tucked this little gem, first grade photo and all, onto a bookshelf and quietly waited for my turn to read it to my children some day. I anticipated reading my kids all about the princess who wanted to wear the moon around her neck and the king who couldn’t figure out how to do that for her. And when that day finally came, I got more out of the book than my crazy babies.

If you plan on reading it, and I hope you do, know that the book is really long and requires lots of summarizing or it will go over a young child’s head.

But it’s SO worth wading through just to get to the golden nugget of truth: let your kids solve the problem.

I know. It sounds so easy, but as parents, we’re wired to teach, not ask. Since learning this little trick, we’ve used this countless time when our kids ask us questions that we either don’t know the answer to or don’t want to tell the the truth because the time isn’t right.

 

Children

“The thing to do is find out how big the Princess Lenore thinks it is…”

Rather than jump online and Google it, we resist the urge to answer it for them and instead ask them what they think. Their answers astound us. We clearly don’t give our little wild ones enough credit.

I highly recommend reading the book, if not to your kids, to your spouse. It’s such a wonderful life lesson. Who knew a children’s book would help us parent?!

The next book is a personal favorite because it goes to the core of my parenting beliefs. Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse.

 

Lifestyle family photographer Bay Area

P.S. Have a book from your childhood that you still remember? Share it on my Facebook page… I’d love to hear about it!

She padded into the kitchen, squinting and shielding her eyes, but I didn’t give her a chance to adjust to morning light. I swept her up into my arms and spun her around the room showering her with kisses and nuzzled her as we twirled.

As her eyes opened, so did her heart. She held on tight and squealed, “Hi mama!”

. . . . .

More than a decade ago, when children really weren’t on my mind, I learned what kind of mama I wanted to be, and what I needed to do to be her. I was on the treadmill at the gym, when I caught the tail end of a Toni Morrison interview on Oprah. (I avoided watching her show at the gym in the past lest I slip on my tears, but I’m glad I watched this episode.)

“When my children used to walk in the room, when they were little, I looked at them to see if they had buckled their trousers or if their hair was combed or if their socks were up,” Morrison  explained.

Toni Morrison quote- and motherhood epiphanies born on a treadmill.

And thus this concept became a core tenant of motherhood for me. I still struggle to override the militant side me that prefers to subject everyone around me to the mission at hand (she’s very good at getting stuff done). But I’m quickly reminded of the mama I want to be when I see the pictures I have taken of my family… you know the ones. The ones that I have done to help document how much I love my husband and my babies.  

jennifer chaney photo light up face

The photos above show me in “work mode”… they show me doing my thing. People. That is not fun. That is some serious green shake making.

And the photo below shows how I feel. Such a gigantic difference (the hug helps, too)!

jennifer chaney light up your face

It’s so easy to go through the motions and operating in work mode as we try to get our morning moving and our day started, but it’s serious work. We have tasks to do and places to dash off to. Our kids don’t. They’re connected to the moment and soak it all in.

We affect them. Our actions matters.

After my big, over the top morning greeting to my crazy kids, I have the rest of my day to work on my furrow line.  For now, I hope my expressive show of love will set the tone for their day and they’ll head off to school knowing how dearly loved they are. Even if rush them to the school door. They’ll know.

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P.S. While my morning routine still includes over-the-top enthusiastic greetings, my kids are a little bigger, and I can no longer easily traipse around the house with them in my arms. Instead, I dance around them and love on them just the same.

Two weeks ago I padded out to our mailbox to sift through the pounds of paper recycling when I flipped by Xfinity’s latest mailer… and my jaw dropped. DROPPED.

Sweet baby Jesus. Is this advertisement from Comcast for real?

My mind was swirling as I quickly read through the ad. What were they selling? Oh, yes. I see, it’s not really unhappiness but rather more ways to watch TV.

While the headline screams ENTERTAINMENT, all I see when I look at this ad is a very, VERY unhappy family. Good grief. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near them.  Look at their faces. Look at the SPACE between them, even though they are mere feet away from each other.  My mama heart is breaking as I type this…

And then I got to thinking… is this an oversight by Comcast’s crack advertising agency, or is it reality? Do we really look like this? Is this how we entertain our families? 

Jennifer Chaney Family Photos

Most likely yes, we do sometimes look like this. Probably more often than I think. Which makes me want to toss out my iPad, disconnect our cable and head for the mountains to run in a daisy-filled meadow with my crazy kids.

While I know this ad was meant to inspire me to pick up my phone and add their service, it did the opposite. And I love Xfinity for it!  

Why? Because it showed me what my family might look like on any given Saturday evening. Granted my kids are younger and their screen time is very limited. This advertisement gave me a peek into a future I don’t want to have. And I’m writing about it with hopes that other moms will see this in the same way… as a reminder of what not do.

Please, for the love of all things chocolate, don’t let this be who your family really is. It’s not too late to put your phone down and engage with your kids. Save your screen time for when they’re at school or karate class.  They’ll thank you for it… or you’ll thank yourself for it. Either one. Probably both. :)

Lifestyle family photographer Bay Area

P.S. I wrote about my effort to put down my own phone in a past article. You can read it here: It Can Wait :: It’s Time To Put Down Your Phone

…..

There have been several times over the past few years where I have openly expressed concern for my sanity.  Sometimes it comes up in the form of a moderate breakdown complete with tears and hyperventilation.  Other times it’s more subtle, like a thought that floats into my head and then right out.  But the overall theme centers around one thought:

When did I become the adult?  

It’s very sincere question.  When did I start being the one people relied on; the one who seemingly had all of the answers?  The last time I checked, I was still me, which means I laugh way too hard at potty humor.  I don’t make my bed in the morning unless we’re having company.  And if my husband didn’t do our grocery shopping, our refrigerator would be empty and my visa bill would be littered with restaurant charges (okay, that last part still happens, but whatever).

So again, I ask, when did I become the adult? 

The thought of being an adult makes me a little crazy.  The thought of being an adult with two wild children legitimately qualifies me for temporary insanity… moments when I just don’t feel like myself.  It’s odd really.  Kind of like an out-of-body experience.  I can see the real me floating above the adult me wondering what in the world is going on… but then I came across this quote and all the pieces sorta fell into place.

Motherhood Quote - mothers are all slightly insane

It’s not that I’m a little looney. It’s that motherhood makes us all a little looney. And I know I’m not alone. Several friends and clients have shared similar thoughts. Where they vacillate between being the adult and being anything but. And that kind of emotional ping-pong match is enough to make anyone question their sanity.

I’ve come to the conclusion that insanity is an extension of motherhood. It’s time for this mama to embrace it, because I clearly can’t change it.

Lifestyle family photographer Bay Area

P.S.  If there was ever any question about who the adult really is, it’s not me. But I must be doing a decent job at pretending because I’ve got my kids fooled… okay, maybe it’s just the fact that I’m taller than them and have the keys to the car. Either way. I’m the boss. For now.