When your daily activities are in concert with your highest priorities, you have a credible claim to inner peace. – Hyrum Smith


Top 10 Things to Do on Mom's Night Out

As a new mom, I often had a hard time leaving my baby.  Below are some of the reasons why…

1. I was too tired to get ready.  I don't mean the kind of "boy I could sure use a few extra hours of sleep" tired.  I was the "my bones literally ache inside my body which is filthy because I can't remember the last time I took a decent shower" kind of tired.

2.  I was nursing and was needed every few hours.  It's hard to consider a night on the town when you're covered in spit-up, swollen, changing nursing pads every few hours, and wondering "why won't this evil child darling baby take a stinkin' bottle already?!"

3. I felt frumpy.  Nothing fit right.  Everything was too tight or in a pile of laundry somewhere needing washing or folding or both.  My roots had grown out, my nails were unpainted, and thanks to raging hormones, my skin was a hot mess.

4.  I was not entirely certain the baby would be safe alone.  Regardless of the caregivers available (husband, family, neighbors), when I was not home, I assumed the baby was essentially alone.  I didn't see anyone else racing up the stairs if the baby's breathing wasn't loud and clear through the monitor.  Anything could happen while our non-rolling newborn lay in his crib (devoid of all baby bumpers, soft toys, blankets, etc., because a baby could suffocate, you know?).

5.  I was nervous about normal, adult, social interaction.  Could I manage a conversation that didn't revolve around what baby ate or how often he pooed?  The only current events I'd concerned myself with were doctor visits, diaper supply levels, and traffic reports (for the love of Pete, when was daddy ever coming home?).

Still, somehow, in those early days, I managed to get out (thank you, Serina Armstrong, Heather McGilvray, and Carol Gilbert - to name a few of my early co-conspirators).  Even now, eight years later, I still cherish my mom's nights out and feel they are essential to my well-being and effective parenting [effective parenting - ha, ha!].  For any mommas with little ones who might possibly read this and question, if it's really worth all the effort…Let me assure you, it is!

Here are some ground rules:  (I'm all about the lists tonight.)

1.  Get.out.of.the.house.  Don't have mom's night out at someone's house.  Then she will have to clean it.  No fair.  Make a reservation somewhere.  Anywhere without a drive through will do (it's likely you've spent enough time in those places already).  Spearhead this sucker.  If you don't do it, it might not happen.  I don't care if you don't know how many are coming.  Just make a big reservation (you can always adjust numbers later).

2. Make sure it's late.  I'm not talking midnight, but it needs to be late enough for your husband to be home for awhile before you leave.  Remember, you need a real shower (one long enough to cut through the forest growing on your legs).

3.  Invite lots of new mommy friends.  Call up (don't text) the ones you met in the hospital new parents group or at the park or at swim lessons.  The ones you meet in the swim lessons particularly need to get out.  I know, because I was one.  A baby is not going to know how to swim or learn anything about water safety at 5 months old.  Those lessons are for the parents.  The ones who need to get out of the house.  Yes, baby likes to splash in the water, but he can do that in the tub at home.  For goodness' sake, invite those moms out already!  If you invite them and they don't come, don't feel rejected.  They are probably just exhausted.

4.  Get ready.  This is the fun part.  Lock the bathroom door and really get ready.  Like the kind you did when you were dating.  There is something about going out with a group of women (whom you know also spent time getting ready) that makes you want to take things up a notch.  You want to feel cute.  Try on a few outfits until you find one you actually like (or at least don't despise).  Blow dry your hair.  Apply your make-up in a real mirror (not the van's rear view mirror).  Put on some bright lipstick.  Remember, you were a woman before you were a mom.  She's in there somewhere!  Pull her out, just for tonight.

5.  Now hop in that minivan, crank up the music, and sing like no one is listening.  Because they're not!  You are alone.  In the van.  Alone!!!  No tiny little eardrums to worry about.  Savor this freedom before you cruise to your destination.

6.  Carpool.  I can't overemphasize the importance of this one - which means some moms won't get to do #5 - sorry.  It's really like going on a date.  I get absolutely giddy with excitement when I carpool on a girls' night out.  We laugh and sing and tell stories.  We feel like, well, girls.  Then, when the night is over, it's not really even over until the last person is dropped off.

7.   Ban gossip.  You can't ban talk about your children (I've tried; not possible).  But you can refuse to gossip about any adults.  You can simply do this yourself or you can introduce it as a group rule.  It might sound really weird, but when your new friends realize you won't say nasty things about others, they can trust that you won't say nasty things about them when they are not around.  It is so freeing and encouraging to be around a group of loving, supportive moms.

8.  Be yourself!  As a new mom, or as a mom of any newborn (whether it's her 1st or 4th), it is so easy to lose yourself in the daily tasks of completely caring for the life of another individual.  Try to remember who you were before baby.  Talk about what your hobbies used to be (even if you don't have time for them right now).  You are a great mom, but you are more than just mom.  Everyone wants to be known deep down.  Share a bit of yourself, and pay attention as others do the same.

9.  Take pictures.  Let's be brutally honest here.  You haven't looked this good in weeks, and you likely won't again for some time to come.  Also, it's probably going to be awhile before you get to go out again (see the first list).  Take some pictures already!  Post of Facebook, text your husband, tell the world!  When you're at home feeling lonely or frumpy or both, you can pull out your phone and scroll through them and smile.  

10.  Go home and check on your kids.  Kick off those heels, tiptoe upstairs, and check to make baby is still breathing.  Who knows?  If all is well, you may actually decide to do this again!



Poopted (Vietnam - Part II)

I wrote a little about our recent trip to Vietnam, but I wanted to add a few memories before we moved on to the next adventure…

We spent several days exploring the aptly named "Old Quarter" of Hanoi, as some of the streets are over 1,000 years old.   My favorite day was Tết (or the Vietnamese New Year's Day).  Just like back at home, shops were closed, and people were sleeping in.  It was the perfect time to explore with our crew.  A couple million fewer motorcycles to dodge.  

We walked around the beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake and over a red bridge to view the temples and statues.  

When it came time for a potty break, we were in dire straits.  It was a national holiday so most places were closed.  Finally we stopped at an official-looking building where two men in suits were chatting in the lobby.  I stayed with Caleb in the foyer while one man guided Aaron and the others up some beautiful marble stairs.  It was only as we were leaving that we noticed a sign in English indicating it was some sort of intelligence agency.  Fabulous.  What sort of surveillance did they now have of the Rausch family?  I envisioned hidden cameras in discreet locations.  If that was the case, Vietnam got to see us in all of our glory.

On another day we attended a traditional water puppet show at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theater.  My first thought, as we took our seats in the large theatre was: What the heck is a water puppet show? My second thought was:  Whatever it is, I'm pretty sure our four, loud wiggle worms should not be seated in the front row.   And when the first water puppet emerged, a rigid, lacquered figure flailing its wooden arms to the Vietnamese narration, I shot Aaron a "What did you just spend our money on?" look.  Turns out I couldn't have been more wrong.  

Water puppetry is a fascinating ancient art in which puppeteers stand in waist deep water hidden behind a curtain, and control puppets supported by large rods.  The puppets appear to be moving over the water.  The show was highly entertaining for all ages.  The costumes and story lines became more and more elaborate as the show continued.  There were even fire-breathing dragons at one point.  We weren't allowed to take pictures during the show, so I am shamelessly using one I found online:

"Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre2" by Gryffindor - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Thang_Long_Water_Puppet_Theatre2.JPG#/media/File:Thang_Long_Water_Puppet_Theatre2.JPG

We ate traditional Vietnamese fare until the kids complained they were starving (at which point we found a great Italian place overlooking St. Joseph's Cathedral).  Caleb was so tuckered out that the owner had pity on him and created a makeshift crib from the oversized, comfy chairs.

The following morning we went on an extremely bumpy bus ride during which Caleb became airborne and landed head-first on the metal floor between the seats.  And the Parents of the Year Award goes to…

The bus dropped us off at Halong Bay.  There we boarded a boat called The Legend and cruised the Bay for about 2 days.  Lovely boat.  Quaint rooms with no internet or electronics (cue the gasps from the children).  Long, communal dining table glistening with wine glasses and real [glass] plates with nary a highchair or plastic cup in sight.  Oh dear.  And finally, the observation deck where lovers could lean against the rails in a warm embrace or relax on the lounge chairs, a cool breeze blowing in their hair, listening to the sounds of the water lapping against the side of the boat.  At least that's what they were listening to before we arrived.  Pretty soon the sounds of running, shouting, whining, laughing, and crying could drown out even the engine going at full speed.  I'm pretty sure we had the honeymooners thinking twice about cozying up in their cabins.

(This is how Caleb napped on the boat.  Safety first!)

Despite my sadness that we ruined the romantic atmosphere aboard the ship, I'm glad we made the trip.  We got to canoe up to a traditional floating fishing village, visit a beach, and venture up into the caves that are found inside the astounding rock formations rising from the bay.  We bumped our way back to Hanoi and explored some more.

As I mentioned in a previous post, we visited the infamous Hỏa Lò Prison.  See previous post for details  (http://rauschfamilycircus.blogspot.com/2015/02/good-morning-vietnam.html).

We also stopped at The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum (where countless tourists requested to take pictures of/with the kids).  At one point, we noticed someone following us with a camcorder.  Maddie whispered a bit nervously, "Are we famous, mommy?"  I was tempted to explain that we are famous in the way that reality TV stars are famous…in a freak-show kind of way.  Our four little ones (including a pale skin, blond-haired baby) tend to stick out in Asia.  Seeking to reassure her and minimize my own embarrassment, I smiled and said, "Yes, Maddie, I suppose we are a little."  And with that, she put her hand on her hip and struck a pose.  Oh my.

We continued walking to the One Pillar Pagoda, a famous historic Buddhist temple. 

Finally, it was time to return to the airport.  Along the road, there was a beautiful tile mosaic that stretched on and on for ages.  

Once in the airport, the kids became little banshees.  They were running in circles and making an inordinate amount of noise.  I finally forced them all to sit on one big square tile while we worked out our tickets.  *Sigh*  We were almost home!

We bought some snacks and headed for the next line: immigration.  There weren't many people in front of us, but it was still taking a long time.  The kids began to run around again.  We were shushing them and telling them to stand still.  Jack was sitting on the tiles.  At first, I assumed he was just tired and didn't think it too odd.  Silly me.  

"I poopted!" he shouted.  

My eyes widened.  "What?" I hissed, scurrying over to him.  The Asian couple behind us exchanged an incredulous look.  

"I poopted," he said simply.

"You mean you need to go poop?"  I was confused.  Jack has been potty trained for nearly two years.  Surely he couldn't really mean…

I lifted him from the floor and [whew!] could immediately tell that he wasn't kidding.  It was bad news.  We were trapped.  People in front of us.  People behind us.  No bathroom in sight.  Jack was waddling.  Fantastic.  

As he stood uncomfortably in line, I wrangled the rest of the kids into position.  I attempted to ignore the various onlookers and prayed our turn would come soon.  It did.  But then there was security.  Jack waddled through.  I grabbed him and ran full speed ahead to the nearest restroom.  

We left our own little souvenir in Vietnam.  Jack rode home commando.  So long, Vietnam!  

To An 8 Year Old Boy

Dear Parker,

This post comes a few days after your actual birthday.  It is Saturday night, and you are tucked in bed, surrounded by stray Lego pieces and Nerf bullets.  Today was a doozy.  Today we held your 8th birthday party in our home.  And it was LOUD!

There was a point today, during the party, when I took a step back and just smiled.  I smiled because you'd done it again.  You'd won the hearts and loyalty of a brand-new group of friends, halfway around the world from your home.  In the short eight months we have been in Singapore, you have managed to form your own little "gang" of buddies.  You ride bikes in the street with them, play war games and Slugterra, swim, have Nerf battles, and build Legos together on a daily basis.  You are a natural born leader, and today, I watched in admiration as you directed the troops.

You still get tearful when you talk about your friends in Kentucky and Texas, and while that breaks my heart, it also brings me joy to know you form meaningful, lasting relationships.  This is a skill that will serve you well, son.

You have continued your work as an entrepreneur.  In Kentucky it was a hot apple cider stand, in Texas, a lemonade stand.  Here in Singapore, you are "selling" your very own homemade bug spray (which you advertise as "100% safe for humans").  While you haven't actually sold any yet, you have given away many samples and distributed numerous flyers to potential [5-8 year old] customers (with permission slips attached, of course). 

You love math and Chinese classes.  You play soccer and Match Attack trading cards.  You are starting to beat me at Battleship and checkers.  You love chess and swimming.  You just got a bike with gears and ride everywhere.   

You are an amazing big brother.  The way you include Jack in the neighborhood games just melts my heart.  I watched one day as he raced to put on his shoes so he could join you and your friends outside after school.  I held my breath as he trotted down the street, plastic sword in hand.  Would you let him play with the big boys?  Then I heard you shout: "Hey guys, my little brother is on our team, so he qualifies. C'mon Jack, stay with us."  I turned away with happy tears in my eyes.  You amaze me, sweet boy.

As much as you and Maddie fight, you are closer than ever since we moved here.  You are best friends and worst enemies all at once.  You are a shared soda and a pillow fight.  You are her annoying big brother and her hero.

Caleb is in love with you, too.  He allows you to carry him around and gives you kisses on demand.  You pat his head and call him "Cutie" and he follows you like a puppy dog.

I am so very proud of you.  I have read the articles.  The ones that tell me that I should say, "Wow!  I'm really proud of how hard you worked at that!"  The ones that warn parents to shy away from simply saying "I'm proud of you.  You're amazing!  You're special!"  Because you just might believe you are unique and important.  You might become spoiled and develop a sense of entitlement.

I read those articles.  I try to change the wording of my praise.  However, I don't know if the adaptations will prove useful, because I think you know that I just adore you.  I love you because you are you.  You are special and unique.  You are one of a kind.  You are amazing.  (And I hope you don't read this for many years to come so it doesn't mess up your development too badly.)

I love you, my sweet eight year old boy.  Thank you for teaching me how to be a mommy.