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What I’m Thankful For: An A-Z list of parenting gratitude

Apple Stars: As I was about to slice into an apple recently, I remembered something from my childhood. If I set the apple on its side, when I cut through it, a hidden star would be revealed. It was a cheap thrill. And I couldn’t wait to show my kids. I can’t draw very well. I don’t know how to sew. And I never learned the rules to Chess. But I’m thankful that, no matter how simple, I still have some tricks up my sleeve.

Bathrooms: One of the funniest things I’ve ever heard a kid say was posted on the blog, Toronto Mommy, last year. “Mommy, you should really wait until we are for sure asleep before you go to the bathroom. I was looking for you,” said the blogger’s six-year-old daughter. Her kid is the one who said it, but most of our children are thinking it. Despite our children’s wishes, it’s nice to know there’s a place to go where we can be alone with our thoughts. Occasionally.

Crayons: Markers stain. Paint is messy. And Play-Doh smells funky. Crayons are portable, cheap, and – thankfully, for my ten-month-old – non-toxic. They don’t make noise either. And the American Academy of Pediatrics hasn’t had to issue a warning limiting children’s “crayon time.”

Discoveries: As an adult, it’s easy to forget that the world is a pretty exciting place. Like when you’re watching the news or sitting in traffic or witnessing your 401K shrink right before your eyes. Then along come your kids. I never even really enjoyed watching fireworks until I had my children. I never screamed because I saw a rainbow. (“Over there! Over there!”) When my son turned three, he discovered that not only was he going to celebrate his birthday on that day : but one day a year for the REST OF HIS LIFE. My six-year-old recently discovered if you feed a hamster too many vegetables, it causes diarrhea. I thought this was a pretty gross discovery. Not my son. It’s now a favorite conversation starter.

EpiPens: One of my kids is allergic to tree nuts. It can be a scary thing for a mom, especially when you send him off alone at age six to school, on play dates, or down to the corner deli to fetch cigarettes and beer. His EpiPen provides me with comfort. It gets my vote for one of the best inventions in the last hundred or so years. That and Angry Birds.

Family: How could I not include them? My husband. My parents. My sister. My grandparents. My father-in-law. My sister-in-law. One of them might read this. If I had something else here, like “French Fries” or “Facebook,” I think there might be some hurt feelings.

Google: It is shocking how few of the answers I know to the questions my kids ask me. (Seriously, it’s like the fifth grade never happened.) Why are bricks so heavy? How does the television work? How do they make Scotch tape? How did the baby get “inside my tummy”? Oh, that one I know.

Harry Potter: I waited almost 15 years to read the books. Now, not only am I hooked on the story, but my oldest son is as well. Together, we relish the adventure, the characters, and the magical world J.K. Rowling created. My son is disappointed when we come to the end of a chapter, and I tell him it’s time to close the book for the night. He tries to prod me into reading with him in the morning before school. These books have introduced him to the joy of reading. And for that lifelong gift, I’m grateful.

Itty-Bitty Things: Tiny little baby toes. Tiny little baby feet. Tiny little baby socks. Tiny little baby nails. I could go on. But the point is, babies are effing adorable. They have to be, of course, or else no one would ever change their dirty diapers. And, their small size makes them much easier to pick up and carry around. That’s incredibly lucky for them, since they don’t know how to drive.

Jokes: A few things about good kid jokes: They’re made up on the spot, they’re nonsensical, and the punch lines have nothing to do with anything. Kids, when they’re telling a joke, will also usually laugh from the beginning to the end. And, when it comes down to it, what’s funnier than seeing a kid cracking himself up for two minutes?

Kids Eat Free (Unbeknownst To You): It’s like finding ten dollars in the pocket of your jeans.

Language Development: Is there any milestone more eagerly anticipated than a baby’s first words? What is he thinking? What’s on his mind? What does he want to say? When they do finally start talking, it feels like a miracle. Unless, of course, it’s your little darling screaming, “Are you going poopie or pee-pee?” to you in a public restroom.

Mama/Mommy: And speaking of words, these are my favorite. I waited patiently to be called, “Mommy” – and before that, “Mama.” I remember how each son started babbling the sound over and over and over. But it meant nothing. And then, they became more selective. I was “Mama.” As was my husband. The mailman. The man who came to fix our fence. And the neighbor’s cat. Until finally, I won each of them over. And now, when someone screams, “Mommy, I need more toilet paper!” I know they’re talking to me. And only me.

Naptime: Only one of my three children still naps – the baby – but it’s my downtime. It’s my “me time,” as annoying people like to say. I always have ambitious plans for the nap. I’ll plan to wash, dry, and fold all of the laundry. I’ll plan to sort out our family photographs. I’ll plan to clean out my kids’ closets. In reality, I usually return an email, make a phone call, and watch half of a show on Bravo. My inability to get almost anything done is Andy Cohen’s fault.

Online Shopping: Oh, the places you’ll never have to go!

Pincer Grasp: Can I be really honest for a moment? After the first couple of times you feed your kid baby food, the fun (at least for me) is gone. It’s a time-consuming mess. Enter the pincer grasp, the ability to pick up small pieces using the thumb and forefinger. Ta da! Now even my youngest can feed himself. And he does an excellent job cleaning stray pieces of lint and hair off my carpets as well.

Quiet: I don’t mind noise, which is a good thing because my house can get loud. Really loud. There’s a lot of wrestling. Yelling. Running around. Jumping from couches. Banging on pots and pans. Slaying of imaginary dragons. But I can’t stand when it’s noisy all the freakin’ time. It’s why I’m thankful for Legos, puzzles, books, and popsicles.

Reality TV: I have never dressed any of my children as Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman when she was still a prostitute. I have never dyed any of my children’s hair. I have never bleached their teeth. Or, spray tanned them. The moms on Toddlers & Tiaras set the bar for good parenting REALLY low. And yes, it makes me feel better about myself. So bless their hearts.

Satter, Ellyn: A few years ago, I read the book Child of Mine by Ellyn Satter. It’s about childhood nutrition. In it, she says: “Parents are responsible for the what, when, and where. Children are responsible for the how much and whether of eating.” I used to get really stressed out about what my kids were eating. Now, I just get sort of stressed out about it. Baby steps.

Tooth Fairy: My son, like most six-year-olds, is a curious fellow. He doesn’t believe in things just because someone tells him to. And, this is why it’s particularly funny to me that he’s still going along with the whole “Tooth Fairy” bit. (I think he likes the outcome of the Tooth Fairy story and worries that he might not get rewarded if he doesn’t believe.) And so, I was just as excited as he was when he lost his first tooth. “But what if she doesn’t know?” “What if she can’t see it?” “Should I put it under my pillow or next to it?” He was actually buying it. The kid was a believer. Finally.

Underwear: Two of my three children now wear it. Hallelujah!

Velcro: Yes, at some point, my kids will have to tie their own shoes. But in the meantime, because of Velcro, I don’t need to stop, stoop down, and re-tie anyone’s laces during the day. Let’s say that saves me five minutes a day per child. Three children, 15 minutes a day, 365 days a year. That’s almost 100 hours saved a year.

Wipes: You can never be too rich or have too many wipes in your diaper bag. And if you’ve seen My Super Sweet 16 on MTV, you know that you can be too rich.

XY Chromosomes: I thought I would get stumped on the letter ‘X.’ What would I say? I’ve never even seen any of the X-Men movies and I’m not really a fan of the xylophone. And then it hit me. I have three boys. Long live the XY chromosomes. (And it seems nicer to acknowledge them here than under “P” for Penis.)

Yellow: The road to perfect articulation is a bumpy one. And I get a big kick hearing “yellow” pronounced “lello.” The problem seems to be the “Y” – which is interesting since most kids don’t appear to have any issue pronouncing words like “yes,” “yum,” and, even, “Yankee Doodle.” My three-year-old and six-year-old used to say “lello,” but now they say it the right way. I have to admit, when I hear them say it correctly, I feel a bit nostalgic for the old days. I’m hoping that my infant will mispronounce the word when he’s old enough.

Zoo: Before I had kids, I took zoos for granted. I didn’t give them much thought. Oh, yes, there are zebras, tigers, bears, monkeys, penguins, and giraffes just down the road from the center of the city. (I live in Chicago.) Bored? Tired of the park? Sick of the playground? Go to the zoo. It’s fun, albeit, exhausting. The best part? My kids always fall asleep on the car ride home.

What are you thankful for? Any letter of the alphabet is acceptable.

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