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Top Ten Things in My Life That Are Giving Me Anxiety

17 Mar

1. The unfinished photo project in my hallway.

2. The unfinished baby clothing organization project.

3. The unfinished plant potting project on my doorstep (do you notice a trend here?).

4. This mysterious worm I found in my bathroom last night. I also found one in Emma’s room. We’ve had enough worms thankyouverymuch.

5. This pile of unread mail (aka: unopened bills).

6. This pile of laundry. At least it’s clean?

7. This pile of things I need to sell on Craigslist (notice another trend here?).

8. Voicemails, emails, my google reader, Facebook, Twitter, etc, etc, etc…

9. Emma’s impending summer vacation (aka: both kids at home with me 24/7).

10. That little “radioactive plume” that’s floating around in the atmosphere right now. Oh, and the thousands and thousands of people who were affected by the tsunami, and the nuclear power plants that are (possibly) melting down. Just stuff like that.

Tell me: What’s giving you anxiety these days?

Did you catch my announcement about Dr. Mom Mondays? Don’t forget to email your Dr. Mom question to morgan(at)thelittlehenhouse(dot)com.

Dr. Mom Mondays: When Playdates Go Bad

14 Mar

I have an exciting announcement!

Mondays at The Little Hen House are now “Dr. Mom Mondays.”

Some of you may have heard me mention that my mother is a psychotherapist. Well, I’ve convinced her to host a weekly series here on The Little Hen House, in which she answers all your tough parenting/relationship questions. She’s pretty awesome at her job and I seem to have turned out relatively healthy and normal, at least that’s what my therapist tells me. So umm… yeah.

What was I saying? Oh yeah, my mom is going to be here every Monday for “Dr. Mom Mondays.” Now, the only way this will work if is if you all participate in my brilliant plan. I encourage you to email me with any parenting or relationship questions you have. I’ll be picking one of your questions to feature every week with a link back to your blog, or I can keep your identity a secret if that works better for you. Everyone needs a little confidentiality from time to time too.

My mom will personally respond to the weekly question here on my blog and then we can all chime in on the comments below. The idea behind Dr. Mom Mondays is to create a community for all of us to share our experiences and support each other during our adventures in motherhood. We will have our own Dr. Mom as the licensed therapist/voice of reason and the rest of us to lend a girlfriend’s point of view.

Are you ready for the first installment of Dr. Mom Mondays? Me too! Today’s question comes from yours truly, as this is what sparked the whole “Dr. Mom Mondays” idea. It’s a real-life problem that I am struggling with, and I know that many other mothers have the same issue.

Please email your Dr. Mom Mondays question to morgan(at)thelittlehenhouse(dot)com. Thanks guys!


My 4-year-old daughter has a good friend who can be aggressive at times, hitting and pushing and slapping my child when they have conflicts during play dates.  How should I handle this with my child, the little friend, and the other mom?


Let’s start with making the best assumption — that the “aggressive” child needs a better way to handle her frustrations. The next time the girls are together, start out the play date with a practice session BEFORE ANY PROBLEM HAS COME UP.  Stay cheerful and positive, like a good coach – make this a bit of fun!

Tell the girls that you are going to teach them something that many kids don’t know — what to do and say if they get frustrated with one another.   First, have them practice saying out loud, “I am frustrated!” while they sit down at the same time.  It is very important that they sit down as soon as they say the sentence “I am frustrated!”  Be sure you join along in the practicing, getting up in between and sitting down again with the sentence.

Then have them practice saying, “How can I help you?” When they can say both sentences clearly, set up a practice session with you having a toy that they want.  They will sit down and say, “I am frustrated!” and you will say, “How can I help you?”  When they say, “Give me the toy,” you can model some negotiating (“Let’s set a timer and when it dings, it is your turn” or “Let’s dance to music instead of playing with toys” or “Let’s each get a toy we both like and trade every 5 minutes” and so on).

The day of the playdate have them tell you every time they make this work, and reward them!  If this doesn’t help, let me know and we will take the solution a step further.

Mary Quinn is a Marriage, Child, and Family Therapist with a private practice in San Diego. She is also a wife of 31 years, a mother of three, a step-mother of two, a grandmother of seven, a passionate gardener, and a writer. She has a Ph.D., survived a childhood with five brothers, and always wears red toenail polish.

Thanks Dr. Mom! Readers: what do you do when a playdate goes bad?

Five Finger Discount

3 Mar

Emma has developed a bit of a nasty habit. Some call it “stealing”, but I’d like to think of it more like “borrowing without ever returning.” Sounds nicer, no?

It started like this: Two weeks ago we were leaving a friend’s house after a fun-filled afternoon playdate. I strapped Emma into her car seat and started driving down the road, when Emma said, “Mommy- look.” She held out her open hand containing a small plastic toy that belonged to her friend. I said, “Emma! That’s not yours! You can’t just take someone else’s toy from their house. That’s called stealing.” She replied, “But Mommy, I love it.” She carried that toy in her hand for three days until I was finally able to pry it from her grasp and return it to its rightful owner. And by returning it, I mean sneaking into my friend’s house and placing the toy back in her daughter’s room without anyone noticing. What? It was my first time dealing with this, ok?

Last week, when I picked Emma up from school I noticed that she was wearing a new accessory- a light-up pink jelly ring. The thing was enormous. I asked her, “What is that?” She said, “It’s a ring. Look- it lights up!” And so it did. So then I asked, “Where did it come from?” She said, “It’s Natalie’s.” Natalie is not her real name btw- I have a reputation to protect-Emma’s of course. I gave up on mine years ago. Back to the story….

So then I said, “Did Natalie give that to you?” Emma replied, “No, she brought it for sharing. I found it.” What?! Not again! So I said, “Honey! You can’t take Natalie’s sharing! Imagine how sad she is right now. She brought that for sharing because it is special to her and now it’s gone!” So then Emma said, “But I found it.” I replied, “Yes, but the right thing to do would have been to return it to Natalie. Just because you found it, doesn’t mean it belongs to you. You are giving it back to Natalie the next time we see her.” That seemed to sink in, except Emma has since broken poor Natalie’s ring, so if you know of a place where I can get a pink light-up jelly ring in a pinch that would be great. *cough*

Why does my little kleptomaniac have such sticky fingers? I am mortified. I can assure you though, I am on it. I’m not sure exactly what being “on it” entails, but I’m going to figure something out. I the meantime, please consider this post a disclaimer.

To all potential future playdates: You lock away the silver and your jewelry, and I’ll give my daughter a full pat-down before we leave your house. Deal? (Please still invite me over for play dates I swear my daughter won’t steal your stuff well maybe she might but I swear that she’ll only take the crappy stuff but if it’s really nice stuff I promise to bring it back except if she breaks it and then I’ll do my best to replace whatever jelly light-up contraption it is because if I don’t have play dates scheduled I might lose my mind or what’s left of it and then the only thing I’ll have left to do is shop at Target and if one more toy from the dollar bin makes its way into my house I’m going to need to be committed.)

The Requisite First Birthday Birth Story Post

2 Mar

It’s official: Annie is a year old. Her birthday was on Saturday and we celebrated by having a few friends over for tacos and cupcakes. It was about 95% less work than Emma’s insane first birthday bash and I think I had a better time. NOTE TO ALL YOU NEW PARENTS: Do not spend a lot of time, money, or energy on your child’s first birthday. All you really need to do is take pictures of them eating cake and you will still get an A+ in the birthday portion of the life test known as “Motherhood”.

The entire day of Annie’s first birthday I was trying to recall the events surrounding her birth. Can I be honest here? I don’t remember that much of it. She was just over three weeks early, I had been in and out of the hospital a few times with early labor, and it’s hard to distinguish the hospital visits from each other. I thought I best write down what I know about that day now for future reference.

I know not everyone is as fascinated by my child’s birth as I am, so don’t feel bad if you don’t feel like reading this one. It’s not really for you guys anyway. It’s something I hope to read to Annie one day. *tear*

The Day Anne Margaret was Born: February 26, 2010

Here you are inside my belly four days before you were born:











Crazy, right?

The day you were born Emma and I went to the zoo. I remember someone asking me when you were coming and I replied, “Any day now!” Boy, was I right! That afternoon I started to feel some contractions. I had been having them almost the entire time I was pregnant with you, but the doctors were able to stop them. I was actually kind of annoyed that the contractions were starting up again because going to the hospital is kind of a pain. Instead of waiting it out, and risking the potential of going to the emergency room in the middle of the night, I decided to go to the hospital to get things checked out while it was still early in the day. Your dad was home from work early (it was Friday) and he watched Emma while I ran down there.

The doctors tried and tried to get the contractions to stop, but they just wouldn’t let up. They finally decided that your birthday had arrived. Your dad dropped Emma off at Mimi and Papa’s and he came down to the hospital to be with me. While we were waiting for the doctor to come, your heart rate suddenly dropped. The machines they had me hooked up to started beeping like crazy and the nurses were rushing around all over the place. A bunch of them rolled my bed right out of Triage and took me right up to labor and delivery. When we got up there, your heart rate went back to normal, which was such a relief. We were really freaked out though!

The doctor came about an hour later and the nurses prepared me for my c-section. You see, Emma was a c-section (she was a breech 9 lb baby) so that meant you were also going to be delivered via c-section. It all happened really fast. I actually don’t remember much of that part. But here you are being born:

Here you are again:

I love this picture so much.

As soon as you came out Daddy started shouting, “She looks just like Emma! Oh my gosh- she looks just like Emma!” That later proved to not be true, but you did look like her- for about five minutes.

This is me on drugs. I know I look happy here, but that’s because I love you- NOT because of the drugs. DRUGS ARE BAD.

Here you are being measured and weighed. You were 7 lbs 2 oz, which is a really good size for a 36 weeker. Considering your sister was 9 lbs, this wasn’t really a huge surprise.

Look at your little chicken legs!

This is how I remember you looking the day you were born:

The nurses and the NICU team started working on you because you weren’t breathing that well. You were early and your lungs weren’t fully functioning. They decided that you needed some extra help, so they took you down to the NICU. You got intubated, which I thankfully never had to see, while I was in the recovery room resting up. When I had recovered from the anesthesia, they wheeled me down to you and I got a chance to nurse you for the first time. You were pretty sleepy and not super interested in eating. That changed quickly though.

Both of us were in the hospital for the next three days. You stayed in the NICU and I was upstairs. I came down every three hours to feed you. You were a really great nurser. You ended up getting a septic infection while you were down there and they couldn’t figure out what was wrong. They gave you two spinal taps and a round of antibiotics. Here you are in the NICU. How cute are you:

You recovered quickly and they let us go home together. Seeing all the tiny and sick babies in the NICU gave me a new appreciation for you. I am so lucky that you got better so fast and that I was able to take you home with me.

Here you are the day we went home:

And here you are meeting your sister for the first time. Seriously? This one makes me cry every time I look at it:

And now look at you:

My darling baby girl: you are one of the brightest lights in my life. What would life be like without you? Thank you for making my days full of laughter, snuggles, kisses, games, hugs, and giggles. Happy birthday!

Big Questions From Little People

17 Feb

This post was featured on the Studio 30 Plus magazine yesterday! How cool is that?  If you blog, and are 30 and over, then you need to join the coolest club in town. It’s just another reason why being in your thirties is awesome. Stop by and check it out!

Big Questions From Little People

Emma and I were driving the other day and singing along to one of her favorite kid songs “Found a Peanut”. I’m sure you’ve heard of it- it’s a classic. It goes like this: “Found a peanut, found a peanut, found a peanut just now…” And then continues on to the narrator eating the peanut, getting sick, dying, and then waking up only to realize the saga of the rotten peanut was just a dream. About thirty seconds into the song, this is what Emma says to me:

Emma: Mommy, why does Daddy have a peanuts?

Me: Ummm. Do you mean a penis?

Emma: Yes. Peanuts. That’s what I said.

Me: Well, he’s a boy and boys have penises.

Emma: I have a peanuts too.

Me: No. You have a vagina.

Emma: Why?

Me: You are a girl, and girls have vaginas. Boys have penises.

Emma: Why?

Me: That’s just the way we are made. Does Mommy have  vagina?

Emma: Yes.

Me: Does Annie have a vagina?

Emma: Yes.

Me: Do you have a vagina?

Emma: Yes.

Me: That’s right. We all have vaginas because we are girls. Daddy is a boy. What does Daddy have?

Emma: A peanuts.

Me: You got it.

Emma: But I don’t have a hole like Daddy. Daddy has a hole.

Me: You do have a hole. Yours is on the inside of your body and Daddy’s is on the outside.

Emma: Why?

Me: Because he is a boy and he has a penis, and you are a girl and you have a vagina.

Emma: Ok Mommy.

Omgomgomgomg. Can I just stop time, or reverse the clock? When did my baby turn into a little person who asks questions about peanuts and holes? She’s three, people. THREE!

In totally related news, I bought these last night:

Because I was raised by a hippie and a psychotherapist, these books had permanent spots on my nightstand. Did any of you have them too? I have to say, that seeing these again brought back very fond memories of learning about the birds and the bees. In fact, it almost makes me excited to start this new chapter in life. Almost. But not quite.

If you need to find me, I’ll be in the kitchen with my head in the oven.

How do you approach tough subjects with little people who have big questions? Am I on the right track here guys?

Wordless Wednesday: Why I Don’t Shower Alone

16 Feb

Top Five Biggest Maternity Fashion Mistakes

15 Feb

1. Wearing your pre-pregnancy clothing a little too long.

Listen- we all want to get as much mileage out of our non-maternity wardrobes as possible. At some point you have to stop fighting the inevitable. If the seams on your shirts are working overtime and  your pant legs are beginning to resemble sausage casings, then it’s time to retire those bad boys. Don’t even think for one second that no one will notice if your fly is unzipped and you have three rubber bands keeping the button closed. Bite the bullet and invest in some maternity clothes already.

2. Falling for the illusion (or delusion) that you are “all belly”.

The thing about having a watermelon stuffed inside your abdomen is that your belly starts to dwarf the rest of your body. When I was about six months pregnant with my first baby, I remember actually thinking that my legs and arms were skinny. Of course, that dream came to an abrupt end the second I tried to squeeze my rear into an old pair of jeans. They didn’t even make it past my knees. Unless you are giving birth to a 35 pound baby, there is a good chance that some of that baby weight is going somewhere besides your belly. Leave the booty shorts and strappy tanks at home, and don’t forget to check your backside in the mirror before you leave the house. This is also the perfect time to remind you that non-maternity dresses will ride up so high on your belly that you run the risk of pulling a Britney Spears. Don’t let this happen to you.

3. Showing too much cleavage (or too much of anything).

You are going to notice all kinds of changes happening to your body as soon as you see those little pink lines pop up on that pregnancy test. The first thing that happens is your bosom starts to expand faster than Becky Anderson’s did over the summer between sixth and seventh grade. Whether you have ittie bitties, or your cup runneth over, eventually your lovely lady lumps will become so plentiful that you will have cleavage in a turtleneck. Less is more in the world of maternity fashion and you already have the best accessory in town- a beautiful baby bump. There is no need to distract from your natural glow.

4. Wearing maternity clothing too early into your pregnancy.

This is the inverse of maternity fashion mistake #1. I’ll be the first to admit that my heart skipped a beat the first time I slipped into a pair of elastic waist maternity pants. Two thoughts ran through my head: 1. Wow- this is really happening! and 2. Finally- an excuse to let it all hang out! The thing is, maternity clothing is made for women with large, round, bellies full of babies- not bellies with embryos the size of pinto beans in them. The clothing is cut larger, longer, and wider than regularly sized items. I know you feel fat and awkward with that in-between belly, but trust me- you will look a lot better in your regular clothing than you will pulling your pants up every five seconds or wearing a shirt that rivals a circus tent. Just wait it out.

5. Getting a drastic haircut.

I think pregnant women feel compelled to cut their hair for a variety of reasons. It might be because for the first time in their lives their hair is shiny and luscious, or maybe they are tempted to tame their mane by chopping it off. Pregnancy also does strange things to one’s self esteem and perhaps they are trying to regain some sense of their non-pregnant self. You also cannot underestimate how hormones, pregnancy brain shrinkage, and insomnia affect judgement. This might seem like the perfect time to channel your inner Michelle Williams and get that pixie cut you’ve always wanted. DON’T DO IT. Not only have you not factored in the shape of your new pregnant face, but you might end up with a high-maintenance haircut. The last thing you will want to do as a new mom who is running on three hours sleep is spend more than five minutes styling your hair. Have you ever tried to flat iron your hair while breastfeeding? I don’t recommend it.

What are some of your maternity fashion mistakes?

This post can also be seen here at Rated by Mom.

Top Ten Worst Valentine’s Day Gifts

11 Feb
  1. Lingerie. We both know who this is really for, don’t we?
  2. A Puppy. Thanks Jerk-face. You basically just got me another baby. Except this one will never grow up. I guess that makes both of you.
  3. A box of chocolates from the drug store. Although, they might give me such a bad headache that I will actually have a legitimate reason to withhold sex.
  4. Anything intended for exercise (this includes yoga pants). This is a no-win situation.
  5. A gift certificate for a massage. Unless it comes with a gift certificate for a babysitter too.
  6. A romantic Facebook icon left on my wall. We’re not 13, ok?
  7. A stuffed animal. Like I need another one of those dust-collectors sitting around the house.
  8. Appliances. Unless it’s a robotic maid.
  9. Something that requires assembly (by me). Do I really need to explain this one?
  10. Nothing. Consider yourself warned.

What’s on your wish list this Valentine’s Day?

The La Leche League- Revisited

9 Feb

Yesterday I linked to a post I had written about my experience at a La Leche League meeting. Later that day, I had an interaction with a reader, during which she expressed that my La Leche post had disappointed her. She was actually very respectful, and I loved that she wanted to have an open discussion about the issue. Considering that she is a breastfeeding advocate, and aspiring La Leche League Leader, I totally understand where she is coming from. The thing is: I consider myself a breastfeeding advocate too.

My original La Leche League post was intended to be a humorous account of an unexpected experience. At the time, I wasn’t quite ready to express the details of my opinions about the La Leche League and its philosophies. I’ve had some time to digest my thoughts and I feel like I can now articulate why I was so disappointed in my experience with the La Leche League.

During my interaction with the La Leche League Leaders (and there have been a few now) I found them to be extremely dogmatic in their views on breastfeeding. I breastfed Emma for an entire year until she weaned herself the week she turned one. I had always considered myself a breastfeeding success- until I went to a La Leche League meeting. To be treated like a breastfeeding failure because I only breastfed for a year, and to be told that a child self-weaning before the age of two is “unnatural” was disheartening, to say the least. As soon as those words were uttered out of the Leader’s mouth, I understood exactly why the La Leche League has earned its militant reputation.

I am a few weeks away from Annie’s first birthday, and she is still breastfeeding. In fact, every ounce of milk she has ever consumed has come from my body. She never took to a bottle, and she has nursed every two hours of her waking life. I have never been able to leave her for more than a few hours at a time, and I am exhausted. I am ready to be done with breastfeeding. Instead of looking back at this time with a sense of pride and accomplishment, there will be part of me that feels like a failure. The words that were spoken to me at the La Leche League meeting have stayed with me. I am deeply saddened by thoughts of the countless women who have looked to the La Leche League for breastfeeding support, only to walk away feeling judged and discouraged.

I was equally disappointed in the advice that I saw some of the Leaders giving mothers who were there looking for breastfeeding support. To see a mother on the verge of tears, and with desperation in her voice, describe how her two year old wakes every hour at night to nurse, only to be told that this behavior is “normal” and the child will outgrow it when they are ready, was shocking. To suggest that a mother put her own basic human needs (like sleep) aside, otherwise her child may suffer emotional damage, seems extreme at best. This kind of advice does not come across as supportive. In fact, it seems more like emotional manipulation.

I suppose it boils down to what breastfeeding support really is. In my opinion, breastfeeding support means helping a breastfeeding mother meet her goals. Because ultimately, who are we to decide what breastfeeding success should mean to another person? Maybe it means exclusively nursing for two years, as the World Health Organization recommends, or maybe it means breastfeeding for certain feedings and supplementing with formula in between, or sometimes it even means not breastfeeding at all. I certainly have my own strong opinions about the importance of breastfeeding, but I also understand that it is a personal choice.

Not only was I shocked at the dogmatic views of the La Leche League Leaders, I felt as though many of those women viewed breastfeeding as a competitive sport. It was almost as if whomever breastfed the longest, and sacrificed the most of themselves to motherhood “won”. And what the prize is, I’m not exactly sure. I truly believe that a happy mommy = a happy baby, and if a mother is engaging in behavior that makes her overly-tired, resentful, and unhappy, then that will ultimately do more damage to a family than a bottle of formula ever will.

Finally, it also seemed as though many of the members and Leaders had a hidden agenda. I believe the lines between breastfeeding support and Attachment Parenting support are getting blurred. It is one thing to provide education and guidance to a breastfeeding mother, but enforcing the philosophies of Attachment Parenting, a style of child rearing that does not work for every family, seems unfair. I felt as though some of the mothers at the La Leche League meeting were shamed into making certain decisions, and were riddled with guilt over their breastfeeding and parenting “failures”. At times it seemed that Attachement Parenting philosophies, instead of those of the La Leche League, were being echoed. If the La Leche League or its Leaders want to advocate Attachment Parenting, then they need to be transparent about it.

If we, as a society, want to support women’s rights such as equality in the workplace, access to birth control, and even the right to choose to have an abortion, then we also need to support a women’s right to decide whether or not to breastfeed. The most important thing we can do is support a mother in her decisions, as we are all just simply trying to do what is best for ourselves and our families.

I Got Me Some Baaaad Ju Ju

8 Feb

Did you see my last post? The one with the baby duct taped to the fridge? Did you also catch the one about how I had to take Annie to the emergency room for a ruptured ear drum? Or what about the post describing the game of “musical beds” we have going on in the house? And who could forget our little pinworm episode? What in the hell is going on?! Is it just me, or do I got me some baaaad ju ju?

Basically, the shit hit the fan this weekend when BOTH of the children came down with the stomach flu. You should all know that the best way to top off ear infections, sleep deprivation, and pinworms is with a good old fashioned stomach virus.

What is going on? Where did I go wrong in life? I obviously picked up my bad ju ju somewhere along the way. I mean, this is out of control. But, instead of dwelling on things like my hair falling out, birthing a baby who rivals Eivel Kinevel, or my DIY bikini wax disaster, I’m going to try to find a way to rectify the situation.

First order of business: I need to find out where I went wrong. Here are some possible scenarios:

  1. Gwyneth Paltrow read my letter to her, and she has been trying to ruin my life ever since.
  2. I spoke to soon about my success in getting my children to share a bedroom, and the gods of Karma are teaching me a lesson.
  3. I made fun of vajazzling, mustaches, and visible panty lines and now Paris Hilton, Ron Jeremy, and Snooki are all out to get me. I shudder at the thought.
  4. The La Leche League heard all about my thoughts after attending a breastfeeding toddler meeting, and they are not pleased.
  5. I’m finally experiencing the backlash from my poorly neglected Google Reader. You can run, you can hide, but Google will find you.
  6. I complain about first world problems (like my wrinkles) when there are wars being waged, children going hungry, and people suffering from incurable illnesses. If this is the punishment for my behavior, then I deserve a lot worse.

After analyzing this list I thought to myself, “Maybe I should stop making fun of people.” No, no, no. That can’t be it. If I stopped doing that, what would I do to feel good about myself? There must be another answer.

Then I got to thinking, “Is this just life with children? Do spend our days recovering from one shit-storm after another, with a few bright moments scattered in between?” I’ve been at this whole motherhood thing for over three years now, but it’s never felt quite this crazy before.

What do you think moms? Does motherhood ever get easier? Is this normal, or do I got me some baaaad ju ju?

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