Today is a monumental day for us. Charli started kindergarten this morning! Preparing for this day has felt like preparing for a rocket launching or something. I mean, Jesus take the wheel. I was so afraid that she would be nervous. I was afraid she might cry, that I might cry, that she wouldn't want me to leave her there...that I wouldn't want to leave her there. But she never ceases to amaze me, inspire me. She was filled with excitement and confidence as she walked into her elementary school. I took hundreds of pictures and helped her put away her lunch box and snack, hang up her book bag and helped her find her seat. She put on her name tag and got right to work on coloring a picture. My husband and I just marveled at her working away, like she was this little masterpiece. And she is. To us, she is. And as we marveled, she looked up from her desk and said, "OK guys, go home now. I'll see you after school. I'll be fine!"
Of course she will be fine. After dreaming of her, hoping and praying for her for 6 years as we struggled through infertility, we were finally blessed with her. I made the decision to leave my teaching job as a middle school math teacher and be her mommy full time because after all, I just didn't want to miss this. I almost didn't get to do this. And for the last 5 years, I have been by her side every single day. I began teaching at her preschool when she turned 2 and last year she was in my class. As her Pre-K teacher, I got to see her in action as she learned all her letters, numbers, sight words, and began writing her name. I taught her how to hold her pencil and helped her navigate friendships. I watched her present her Show-and-Tell and guided her as she read her first book aloud. I watched as she began to make sense of basic math concepts and saw her play her heart out on the playground each day. Being her teacher was one of the greatest gifts I've been given; but being her mommy...Well. That's been everything.
She is our little angel, our masterpiece, our hope. BUT... I realize of course that she is not "ours" to keep. And she won't be little forever. Our job as parents is to prepare her to spread her wings. To teach and demonstrate kindness and bravery. To encourage her to pick herself back up when she falls, to show her that life isn't always easy, perfect, or fair; but she can do hard things. As we stand with all the other parents, I am keenly aware that we look like every other parent in the room and our daughter looks just like every other kid. But in my heart, I know we are the lucky ones because we almost missed this. If not for God's grace, I would be childless. I also know that we won't ever do this again. Every first is also a last, but these things are not about "us." They are about her. And as I watch her walk ahead of me into her classroom I have to catch my breath. I'm in awe of her confidence and just so...proud of her. Her confidence gives me confidence and when I finally walked out of there holding my husband's arm, I didn't bawl my eyes out. I exhaled a giant sigh of relief because she is going to be OK. She is going to be GREAT. SHE is ready.
As we walked down the path behind the school back toward our house, I thought of how fast the time has flown. I blinked and she went from her highchair to Kindergarten.
So my advice to all of you mommies out there wrangling your toddlers as they tantrum through a diaper change and throw their sippy cups off the tray of the highchair for the millionth time; Try not to wish you could fast forward through it all. Take time to enjoy their littleness because it just doesn't last forever. Soon enough they will be walking ahead of you with a confidence that reminds you to be brave.
She's got this. And I will adjust to that too. Just give me a minute to finishing scrolling through her baby pictures one more time with a few tears of happiness and pride streaming down my face. I will be fine. And then... I will be first in line for carpool this afternoon.
I will not forget the pain and the longing. I will not forget the emptiness or the desperation. This weekend, I can snuggle up to my daughter and in that moment I will feel so humbled. So satisfied. So grateful. I have been given this gift of motherhood by the Grace of God, my sister, and my doctors and I will never forget that or take that Grace for granted for a single moment.
As I turn a year older, I'm thankful. I'm grateful. Growing old is a privilege and I'm thankful for it. Being a mommy is also a privilege and it is my gift. It's my birthday gift. My Mother's Day gift. It's my gift. Every. Single. Day.
Happy Mother's Day to all the mommies out there.Your job is endless, thankless, and wonderful. And to all the ladies longing to become one, Keep your faith. It's worth the wait.
Who doesn't love a super easy seasonal craft that you can share with friends and family and/or keep and treasure? This one is super cute and I have to give my friend Amber credit for it- totally her idea. It was super easy and we made several to share with family for Valentine's Day! So much better than a store-bought card! Plus, my daughter completely loved it! Especially the part when I just let her finger paint on her own.
You will need:
Last year, my daughter had really no idea what Christmas was and in some ways, that was kind of nice. But this year, she is definitely more clued in. Unfortunately, it feels like all of the attention during the Christmas season goes to Santa and asking for presents. The other day in the car, my daughter was practicing asking Santa for a bike, over and over. Sometimes she even included a "peeze Santa" (please) and several times she added "and candy" to her short list of requests. I love that she's getting the whole Santa idea straight in her head before we make the trip to Santa's lap, but as a Christian, I realize that it's my job to be purposeful about how we begin to explain Christmas to our young daughter.
She is not even 2 yet, so we definitely keep it simple, but we try to instill that Christmas is Jesus' birthday and that we believe that Jesus was the son of God. We try to explain that Jesus' birth was a miracle. We also want to remind her what it means to be Christ-like, and that the season is not all about getting presents. Unfortunately, even as adults it can be super hard not to get caught up in the "buying holiday spirit" and catch a case of the "I wants."
These are a few things that we have started in an attempt to remind our daughter about the true meaning of the season.
So, I guess the bottom line is that while we're busy getting the perfect family photo for that perfect family holiday card, decorating the perfect Christmas tree (or in some cases, trees), covering the house in lights, having a little too much fun at a Christmas party, or standing in those crazy long lines to see Santa or just to check out at Target... Remember the reason for the season and try to be purposeful with what you say and do because after all, it's not just Santa that's watching.
To be honest we don't "craft" often at my house, but with all the rain lately I had to think outside of the box. I found a similar craft on Pinterest and thought it looked easy enough. Thankfully, it was. It turned out super cute and you can really write any phrase that's special to you on it. I chose to write "Thankful for Family," but you might write "Give Thanks" or simply "Thankful." I love this craft because it is actually a sweet keepsake and festive decoration for the season.
My toddler loved when I painted her fingers, but her favorite part was getting to go rogue and just do her thing on some paper afterwards. I also gave her some feathers and she had a blast! It was a win for both of us.
The other night after a nice glass of wine, I did some online shopping. I know, sounds dangerous. My husband hates it when I do that, but that's what he gets for going out of town for work. So, I found the cutest little boots for my toddler. They are like Uggs without the insane price. I had to get them. I mean $11.99 for the cutest little boots you have ever seen?! Who could resist that? Other than my husband.
Of course that got me thinking about the fact that as parents, we all want to give our little ones the best of everything, whether it's adorable boots or organic milk. I belong to a mommy Facebook group and I get the biggest kick out of the banter back and forth about whether Johnson&Johnson soap is actually toxic and how long you should breast feed your baby for optimal health. I've heard moms preaching about not giving your children high fructose corn syrup, red dyes, and even those who insist children should avoid meat at all costs.
Every parent has the right to choose his/her own parenting style. I've said that before and I believe it with all my heart. They have the right to avoid certain foods and promote others. They have the right to use organic diapers, foods, and milks. They can dress them in name brands every day and they even have the right to choose how and where their children are schooled. Look, no judgement here on any of those things.
However, as a former middle school teacher of 9 years, I'm keenly aware of the fact that there will come a point in your child's life where they will not always be with you when important decisions are made. They will make their own choices. They will pick their own food for lunch or just trade with other kids at the table. They will eventually drink what they want and they will be put into situations where you can only hope and pray that they will make sometimes life-saving choices.
My point is, that we have to strive to engage in proactive parenting. Parenting with a purpose is a choice we make every day. It's a gift we give our children that cannot be bought in a store. It's not just about how we dress, feed or school them. Ultimately, all the cutest clothes, fanciest schools, and organic milk in the world will not make your child a good person and will not make them any more likely to make good decisions in their future. It must be our number one priority as parents to not focus solely on the physical things we give our children. But, to remember that the most important gift we will give them are things like love (sometimes tough love), a strong moral compass, a good work ethic, respect for others, and a solid role model.These things become instilled in your child and will be with them long after you are just a memory.
We have to be purposeful and proactive parents, not reactive parents. So next time you find yourself getting caught up in a heated debate about which brand of diaper wipes are safest on your baby's bum, check yourself. While that may be important to you for a few more months, don't forget about the things that will last a lifetime. Choose your battles now, but don't forget, it's your child that will make all the calls in the real world before you know it.
What do you strive to instill in your child(ren)? How do you practice proactive parenting?
While all the latest baby gear was meant to make our lives easier... Sometimes do you ever feel like it just makes things more complicated? Yes, there are definitely baby gear items that are life changing-ly fantastic, but there are absolutely others that simply complicate things and add to the already giant diaper bag you're toting around. I'm not writing this article to discuss specific items that are necessary and those that are unnecessary because I honestly think that it is a personal thing.
As a brand new mom, I remember wanting to ask every mom I knew...So, what do I really need?!!! What should I register for and what is worth skipping? And then I started listening to them and just got confused because one mom would say, I desperately needed a Diaper Genie in every room of the house, where as another said to just use a regular trash can with a top. Then, I would be told by one mom to always carry a convertible high chair in the car to be prepared for any place you might be that either does not have a highchair, or that does not have a clean highchair, and another mom told me that's crazy and just bring a bib when you go to a restaurant. There is also a wipes issue... did you know there are actually wipes for hands, wipes for butts, and even wipes for boogers?! Am I seriously expected to carry around three types of wipes at all times?! My back is aching just thinking about how heavy it would be to hold my almost 30 lb toddler and a tote bag that weighs almost half that.
But, do you ever go somewhere, like say the park... and your mom friends bust out all this cool gear like, hand wipes and snacks in these cool portable spill proof carriers, and a travel mini recliner for their kid as well as a picnic blanket that can also become a tent? Are you sometimes like, oh man, I just brought this bag of pretzels. I need to seriously step up my game!???
But here's the thing... I've noticed that sometimes the moms with ALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLllllll the gear are also the most overwhelmed and exhausted. They are always the ones saying they are not sure if they could handle another toddler because it's just soooooooooooo much work! And of course, yes it is absolutely a TON of work. But if you are spending half your day packing and unpacking gear, just to make your life easier, at what point do you pause and say...wait a minute...is this actually simplifying things?
The worst part is that once you get really used to toting a bunch of gear around, you almost have a panic attack when your kid sneezes a juicy one and oh no!!! You forgot the booger wipes!!!! What will you do now?! I know, sounds silly, but it's true. You start to feel like that's the only way to do things
So, I started taking a good hard look at my "gear" and starting asking myself... what do I really need here? For example, when we traveled and our daughter wasn't quite sitting up in the tub yet, instead of dragging a baby tub, I just held her in the tub and washed her. When we leave the house, I make sure I have at least one diaper and some generic wipes. Those wipes will have to do for hands, butts, and boogers. If we go to a restaurant, I try to remember a bib, but if I forget, that's what stain removers spray is for. And if we are at home, I skip the bib completely and let my toddler eat without her shirt on.
I try not to cut off the crust on a sandwich and I hand my toddler a banana with the peel still on it because all of these things help to simplify my life.I'm also making a concerted effort to start teaching my toddler to help me do simple things like wipe up her highchair tray after lunch (I just hand her a baby wipe), or throw away her trash into the trash can, help me unload the dishwasher by handing me each item (except the knives of course), and helping me put the wet clothes from the washer into the dryer. It hasn't made my life much easier just yet, but I know in time, she will be able to do these things well and without my help.
So, my suggestion to all you new and old moms, is to take inventory on your baby/kid gear. What is really necessary? And does it add more stress and weight (literally) to your life and your tote bag? Because, you CAN rethink how you do things...even if you have been doing them that way for years. Every mom's needs are different so you cannot expect to just ask one mom what you really need. For one mom, it actually makes her life less complicated to have a wipe for every situation, but another mom might find that to be too much to keep up with. Trust your own instincts and don't apologize for using the gear that makes sense in your life or not using the gear that doesn't because in the end, there are many many ways to wipe a booger.
You hear moms say that all the time don't you? In fact, you probably say it too. Sometimes, you are referring to getting it all done, but many times, you are talking about how fast your child/children are growing because it seems like just yesterday, you were taking them home from the hospital. How has your little baby gotten so big?! Where did the time go??
I think it's important to think about it sometimes because the truth is, we can't stop time. We cannot even slow it down. But we can pick and choose where we are spending our time (at least some of our time) and we can make a conscious effort to be present in our own lives because let's be honest, nobody knows what the future holds. You could have lots of time left here or only hours. Don't you want to make the most of your time? You can only do that if you are coming from a place of happiness. Whether you are a working mom or a stay at home mom, do you ever take inventory of where all your time is actually going? What are the time wasting traps in your life? How can you minimize them? And how can you find a happy balance?
When I was a working mom (I completed the last two months of the school year teaching as a new mom before becoming a stay at home mom), my time with my child was limited. I sort of felt like I was given a short amount of time in the evenings and on weekends with my daughter, so I needed to soak up every minute. I was very conscious about not getting too caught up with cleaning the house perfectly, cooking time consuming meals, and mindlessly scrolling through Facebook when I could be spending time with my daughter or including her in the errands I ran, the laundry I was doing (she loves putting the wet clothes in the dryer and closing the dryer door), and unloading the dishwasher (she likes handing me each clean plate). But, I often felt completely drained and guilty if I ever took time for myself because I had a list a mile long that of things that needed doing.
Once I became a stay at home mom, I started to spend my time making even more lists of things I should be getting done and constantly feeling like I'd never catch up with everything. I had this new guilt about being a stay at home mom, like I should be getting everything done perfectly now that this is my full time job. It was a lot of pressure and I was constantly falling short of my own expectations.
For example, during my daughter's nap time, I spent my time getting household things done. But, once my daughter woke up, I found myself still working on household tasks and not being present with her like I wanted to be. I also found myself sort of feeling like the "work" never ended. Like I never "shut down" my work laptop and was "done" with work for the night like I used to feel when I left work. My job seemed like it went on forever. I now sort of "lived" in my workplace, if that makes sense (?). And it was hard never getting any feedback about my "performance" as a mom. You are putting everything into it, yet nobody is patting you on the back, ever. I was lacking some balance. Of course, this is where the voice of reason comes in and I realized I needed some serious balance and moderation.
It's not possible to be really good at anything unless you are taking care of yourself as a mama, and let's be honest, nobody else is going to do it. Can I get an Amen?! Even the most helpful and prince-like hubby cannot read your mind and does not know what you need at all times and likely is not complimenting you on how well you change a diaper and how fast you can clean up after dinner (I'm laughing out loud at this idea!!!). So you have to make yourself a priority. Expecting others (like husbands) to fill you up when you're running on empty, is just not going to happen, and we all know that leads to arguments about stupid little things like, "Do you KNOW how hard I'm working?!".
Now I don't mean spending hours on end pampering yourself nonstop because who has time for that? I'm talking about making a little time for you. Even if you are a working mama, you have to strive for this balance. You will literally lose your mind if all you do is work and take care of others non-stop. You will start to feel totally unappreciated and frankly just worn the hell out. You will have less to give because you are exhausted and you will be less likely to enjoy the "little things" and more likely to say, "Where has all the time gone?!"It's time to start accounting for your time and being able to be present in your own life.
So what are you doing to take care of you? I want you to take this as seriously as you do changing your own child's diaper- not optional is it? And neither is your "you" time. It doesn't have to be anything fancy. In fact, sometimes just going to a coffee shop on a Saturday morning with a great book all by yourself can be dreamy. Or maybe you like to take an evening stroll by yourself and just breathe?
Some my my favorite indulgences are:
1) Going for a walk with a friend or alone
2) Girls dinner/wine night out
3) The occasional pedicure
4) A 20 minute massage in one of those massage chairs at the mall
5) Taking a warm bath and reading the latest gossip magazine
After doing these things, I feel recharged and less likely to snap, crackle, and pop on my husband if he has to work late....again. I also find that I'm a happier person, and because I'm happier, everything is a little sunnier around me. I'm able to be more present and enjoy the little things. I'm not depending on my husband to cheer me up or "fill me back up." I'm not resentful of him for not "making me feel better" because I'm taking charge of how I feel and remembering to make my happiness a priority. I don't feel guilty about this me-time, because I realize it's making all my other time, more meaningful and enjoyable.
Lastly, I will say that you can't forget that your husband also will need some of this time. Make a conscious effort to schedule time for each of you to recharge. Make your needs known to him by explaining that you will need 20-30 minutes to take a warm bath twice a week, or whatever your needs might be. Encourage your husband to take time for himself as well and schedule it a week in advance. You will be better parents and spouses to one another, and you will actually feel more appreciated by one another because you are each considering one another's happiness and you are insuring that your needs are being met instead of blowing up once you are both worn too thin and completely exhausted.
Make a tiny investment in yourself like this and you will be amazed by how much it will change your perspective and allow you to refocus on what's really important. It's time well spent. YOU. MATTER. YOUR. HAPPINESS. MATTERS. Comment below about how you take time out for you! How do you recharge?
Have you or your husband ever grabbed something off the floor that you wanted to wear, but it was a little too wrinkly to rock it? In this case, the shirt was left in the dryer for a couple days, so although it's clean, it is too wrinkly for the hubbs to wear to work.
We can make a major improvement here if you have 5-10 minutes and one ice cube. Toss the shirt and one ice cube into the dryer. You will hear the ice cube bouncing around in there. Once you can hear that the ice cube has melted, pull out the shirt and Voila!
Yes. That is my toddler locking herself in my dog's crate. Hey, at least it wasn't me locking her in it, right? It was a rainy day and we were bored, so why not really? Am I going to win Mother of the Year for allowing my child to play in a probably very funky dog crate?? Nope, not anytime soon. But, did we have fun? Yes!
On days like this, you have to make an effort to have fun because you could just tear your hair out and call your husband a million times with sneaky attempts to get him to come home early, like you think you smell smoke coming from somewhere?? Maybe not though...
Whatever you do, do not compare yourself to the seemingly perfect moms out there that are posting pictures of themselves at Spanish and violin lessons with their toddler. Impressive, yes. But, it's not a competition here. Stop. Repeat after ,me. IT. IS. NOT. A. COMPETITION. HERE. If that mom wants to do that with her child, who cares? In fact, that's wonderful...for her. And them. Just maybe not you. And I'll bet you anything, that same seemingly "perfect" mom is logging into Facebook later and feeling inadequate because her mom friends are all taking their kids to swim lessons. Should she have done swim lessons instead of Spanish?
It doesn't make her/them any more of a mom, or you any less of a mom. Stand by your choices as a mother and realize that we are all doing this parenting thing without a handbook. Plus, all kids are different so there's no single way to parent.
In my opinion, the moms that judge and criticize other moms for being "too perfect" are just as annoying as the "too perfect" moms themselves. I mean, why would you be so judgey and complainey, unless you were the one feeling insecure? Can we just all agree that we are all different and that's wonderful. We might even learn a thing or two from one another. So stop comparing and focusing on what everyone else is doing or not doing. It's time to enjoy that little one free of guilt. Just let it go.