Monday, May 28, 2012

This One's for Morgan

I've known Morgan since she was an itty bitty baby.  Her mother and I have been friends for years and I've sat up at night with her as clueless twenty year olds trying to figure out how to settle a crying newborn.  Since then we've taken her on cross country road trips and to camping adventures and music festivals and I've watched her grow from a cheeky toddler into a gorgeous young girl.  She's now thirteen and earlier this week I had the pleasure of visiting my old middle school to watch her sing a solo and a duet in the school choir concert.

Morgan sings New Soul. 
I stood in the back row rocking Ari while he slept in the sling and I grinned like a fool the entire time.  I still get goosebumps thinking about it.  I know she was super nervous and I'm so proud of her for getting up there and showing off her amazing talent.  Well done Morgan!

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Riker's not much into cooperating for the sake of photos lately but after dinner the other night, we had lots of fun chasing each other around the yard and with the handy "children" setting on the camera, I was able to get some fun shots of him in action.  Ari, of course, was his usual cheery and photogenic self. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


My brother came to visit us this weekend and it was great to catch up with him and introduce the kids to their Uncle Gary.  He scored big points with Riker by bringing him a toy drill set!

Even though there were plenty of new toys to go around, Riker wanted to play with all of them.  Below, Ari is left momentarily toyless while Riker attempts to play with both his drill set and with Ari's new tractor and cars at the same time.

With my brother and mom after stuffing ourselves full of my mom's delicious food and lemon meringue pie.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Parenting Mantras

Parenting is hands down the most amazing and most challenging endeavor I've undertaken.  Most days contain moments that are so precious I find myself wishing that my eyes were cameras so that I could capture the sweetness for eternity.  Most days also contain moments that stretch my patience to its limits.  That's the thing about parenting though - just when you think you've come to the end of your rope, you just have to find more rope.

For those tough moments, I have a small collection of mantras and mottos that I try to call to mind in an attempt to reframe the situation so that I can react in a calmer and more mindful manner (or at least avert tears, mine and theirs).  These are my favorites:

  • This too shall pass.
  • Don't sweat the small stuff.
  • Better out than in.  
  • Will it matter next week?
  • Connection before correction.
  • Breathe. 
  • Pick battles wisely.
  • Love unconditionally. 
  • I'll miss this one day. 
  • Keep calm and carry on. 
  • The days are long but the years are short.

Do you have any parenting mantras that help you to remain calm or prevent you from running off to join the carnival when the going gets tough?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Are You Mom Enough?

Some of you may have seen or at least heard about the latest cover of TIME magazine.  The issue is titled "Are you Mom Enough?  Why attachment parenting drives some mothers to extremes and how Dr Bill Sears became their guru" and it features an image of a mother breastfeeding her three year old son. 

The magazine came to my attention because one of the four mothers photographed for it is Dionna of Code Name: Mama, one of the few parenting blogs that I make time to regularly follow.  (You may remember I posted an article there as a guest blogger on The Big Lessons I've learned on my parenting journey.)  Not surprisingly, the cover has sparked a flurry of debate with many applauding the photos for normalizing something so well, normal, and others are calling it gross, weird and freaky.

Now I certainly don't love the cover photo because it does nothing to capture the essence of a breastfeeding relationship and most of us just wouldn't find ourselves in poses like this one. However, much of the advertising in our culture is far more risque than this cover and I get more than a little irritated that people are so uncomfortable with breasts doing what it is that breasts were meant to do. 

The title, "Are you mom enough?" suggests that there is a competition between mothers for who can be the best, make the most sacrifices, etc.  It feeds the notion of guilt that plagues so many mothers for not being able to breastfeed as long as they'd like, for having to return to work or for the myriad of other ways we can't live up to our ideals every day.

The article associated with the cover is actually entitled "The Man Who Remade Motherhood" and has surprisingly little to do with the "Mom Enough" tag-line or its provocative photo.  In a poorly written piece filled with irrelevant details, the author attempts to profile Dr William Sears, a long time advocate for attachment parenting.  While neglecting to explore any details of attachment parenting, she seems to conclude (with some pretty unscientific reasoning and no demonstrated research) that the practice is arduous and the science misunderstood.

Its not the article that people are talking about though.  It's the headline and the photo and what they suggest about attachment parenting and extended nursing that seem to have the nation in a tither.  

Attachment parenting is about breastfeeding, cosleeping, babywearing and gentle discipline techniques, among other things.  It is motivated by a desire to raise well adjusted children by meeting their emotional needs from infancy and by not forcing independence at a young age.  There is nothing new or modern about these ideas. I've always been drawn to the concepts of attachment parenting but choosing a particular method of parenting doesn't make anyone"more mom" than anyone else.

There is nothing extreme about nursing a toddler.  The World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend breastfeeding beyond infancy.  Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended to six months of age, with continued breastfeeding and appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age and beyond. Anthropological research suggests that three years or older may be a reasonable and appropriate age of weaning for humans.  

I breastfeed two children - a seven month and a two and a half year old.  I do it because it meets the needs of my children and because Riker chooses to continue nursing.  It diffuses negative feelings toward a new baby, offers me a tool to calm a rowdy toddler, gives me some extra quiet time in the day, provides nutrition to both of my children and gives Riker comforting mama time.  There's nothing gross, weird or freaky about that.  

These articles have simply fueled a debate that's been raging for decades.  The media is abuzz trying to establish how long it's socially acceptable to breastfeed a child, but the duration of the breastfeeding relationship should be decided by the people in each individual breastfeeding relationship.  Every mother is "mom enough" - we just need all of the support and information we can get without the media fueling our insecurities.

There is nothing extreme about attachment parenting.  There is nothing extreme about extended breastfeeding.  The lengths TIME will go to to sell magazines however, are nothing short of extreme.  

Read more:
Principles of Attachment Parenting
What Attachment Parenting is Not
Why TIME Magazine Shows Attachment Parenting is Going Mainstream, Not Extreme

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Litchfield Lakehouse

We're really enjoying ourselves here in Litchfield in part because we're staying in a holiday house on a lake just outside of town.  It's great to have our own space again and to have time to relax.  In Cleveland, things were a bit of a blur because Brian spent so many hours working on the house we own, getting it ready to put on the market and because I spent many days helping his mom to watch the other grand kids, which could be a bit of a zoo to say the least!

In true small town style, the house is owned by the uncle of my very dear friend, Kristi, and her cousin, who grew up in the house, was in my graduating class.   We've been getting to know the next door neighbors a little too - they've taken us on a sunset cruise on their new pontoon and we've shared our mead in return.  Love small town friendliness. 

Ari and our beautiful home for the month of May

Sunset on the lake

Loving the lush green grass everywhere!

Thursday, May 10, 2012


What fun it's been to be able to share my awesome kids with each of our parents!

With Grandpa Carl and Grammy Jan

Ari with Grandma Betty

Wednesday, May 09, 2012


Stripey McBlueEyes

McMillins at the zoo

All smiles

Stop staring, I know I'm cute

Bear kisses

Sunday, May 06, 2012


Jenn, Liz and Heather

How I love these women!

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Traveling with Kids

We’ve arrived in Litchfield! Somewhat surprisingly, we accomplished the fourteen hour drive in only two days. The kids did amazingly well and since we’ve now survived a thirty hour expedition with three flights (one a grueling sixteen hours long) and a two day multi-state car trip, I thought I’d reflect on what got us through it all. Granted, these suggestions worked with a two and a half year old and a seven month old but if I’ve learned anything from parenting, it’s that everything could change by next month!

When possible, we made sure the kids were tired and timed our travel so that they would nap. This worked out really well when driving as both days we started off in the late morning and they both slept for the first three hours. On the airplane, we would wander about and explore the plane and in the car, we stopped fairly frequently and tried to offer as many fun diversions as possible to make being strapped into a car seat less boring.

I planned in advance to have lots of activities and toys to keep Riker busy through the journey. My bag of tricks included an etch-a-sketch, colored pencils and paper, sticker books, a handful of legos, some small cars, flash cards, story books, and Riker’s laptop with DVDs of Handy Manny and Playschool. A travel AquaDoodle came highly recommended but I couldn’t find one and I also meant to make felt cutouts and finger puppets but never quite got around to it (just in case you’re looking for more ideas). For Ari, it was simply a matter of having a selection of “chew toys” on hand to keep him busy while he was awake.

Then there were the snacks. I carried a small supermarket so that I could please just about any craving – granola bars, sandwiches, raisins, crackers, grapes, cheese sticks, applesauce pouches, trail mix, bananas, boxes of chocolate milk and juice, fruit leather and dried mangoes.

Of course, a healthy dose of patience and humor along with the ability to drape ones body over a car seat to nurse a screaming baby in rush hour traffic help a lot too.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Family Photos

We're about to head off for Minnesota, but before leaving Cleveland we decided to have some McMillin family photos taken. It was somewhat of a challenge to arrange schedules, settle on a color scheme and wrangle six kids age seven and under, but we managed to get some pretty good photos in the end.  Here are our favorites.

Riker and Ari

Me and my favorite people

The McMillin Clan

Heather, Aaron, Teagan and Cael

Teagan and Cael

The oldest and the youngest, Teagan and Ari


Keith, Liz, Gavin and Edward

Love you all so much!