Saturday, May 13, 2017

To All The Mothers

Every mom experiences motherhood differently. We all have our own traits where we excel, and also things we can improve upon. No mother is perfect! And while we spend our days eyeballs deep in child-rearing (and for a lot of us, career-building too), it certainly is nice to have time away from our kids to do some self-reflection and rediscovering ourselves.

I prayed so hard for my precious babies, and it took years for us to be blessed with them. They are both miracles we started to feel we would never get. Ava nearly died in childbirth. I heard her heart rate fading on the monitor as the umbilical cord had prolapsed. My husband helped push me into the operating room until everyone else ran in for my emergency c-section. When I awoke, my sweet little Ava was placed in my arms, completely unharmed. The doctor was even shocked that there were zero complications. I feel so incredibly grateful to have both of my babies here today.

But, there are days where I think back to the time before my babies. When I could just jump in the car and listen to what I wanted and not have to watch the clock for an approaching nap time or pull over for an urgent diaper change. This time of early motherhood means you are switching to a more selfless version of yourself, and that transition could almost be described as "culture shock". You become someone that puts everyone else in the family before yourself. Willingly! And some days, you may find yourself running on empty. And then the negativity creeps in..."I just wish I could..." or "I remember the days when I used to...".

There are so many women out there who are begging God to bless them into motherhood. And sometimes it feels wrong to complain about how heavy your load feels as a mom, when there are others out there who would give anything to be in your place.

But I promise you, that is still a valid struggle, no matter how long you waited for your baby.

Motherhood is not meant to be easy. God has tasked us the responsibility of shaping a tiny human into a responsible adult who contributes to society. That's a lot of pressure! Some days you'll be on top of your game and feel like you could upload your whole day to Pinterest. Other days, maybe you feel like locking yourself in the bathroom to cry and wonder how your mental state got to where it is today.

Motherhood can break you. Little arms always reaching up for you (love those hugs but sometimes mama just needs 10 minutes to get ready, little one!). Little mouths that always seem to be hungry (but not always for what you serve them!). Little feet that always seem to be running off (but I love that pitter patter of bare toddler feet!). Little voices that are always shrieking or crying or yelling (but they need you to teach them about inside voices!). Some days it just seems like too much.

Motherhood can make you! What an honor to create and raise tiny humans! Our greatest accomplishments in life are often described as "my children", and I'm definitely seeing that now.

It is so wonderful to feel needed by a child, but it can definitely feel overwhelming. 

And it DOES NOT MAKE YOU A BAD MOM for wishing for a break. Maybe you don't struggle, but the mama next to you does.

For wanting someone to understand how hard you're trying, but also how much you are struggling. Motherhood doesn't come easily or naturally to us all. And we've got to do better at picking each other up when we are having a hard time. NOT tearing down or being judgmental.

Loving your child DOES NOT MEAN that you don't ever get to complain about the hard parts of being a mom. You would have to be a liar to say you love every part of this role!

Motherhood is a job that is 24/7. You never stop thinking about your children. When you are home with them. When they are at school, or daycare, or at the sitter's. There are no sick days, no days off, no holidays. Some may argue that it is not a "job" - I say it is just not a "chore". I love my job! But there are days when I'm ready for a vacation or I'd like to just not be "on call" for once. Just to have a little time to myself here and there. To have a chance to miss my kids! Being a SAHM with a deployed husband means that there are ZERO breaks from my kids right now. 


By the time my husband comes home, it will literally have been 365 days of being with my kids 24/7 (I have gotten a few breaks here and there). I'm starting to feel a little crazy!!

It's been challenging to feel like I don't have any other purpose other than to be a mom lately. I feel like I've lost a little bit of myself (I'm being super vulnerable here!). I love being a SAHM, but this relentless routine is beating me down. I had several hours to myself recently, and I felt myself feeling anxious and sad without my kids. I bawled when I came home. And I felt better being back with my kids. In a way, I feel like I've lost a little bit of who I am, at the core, during these challenging months without my husband. On one hand, I've learned more about my inner strength. But I also don't feel like I know who I am without my kids by my side anymore. I'm still a person in addition to being a mom! My identity isn't entirely wrapped up in motherhood, although it has been very consuming lately.

I'm not made of endless patience to deal with the hitting and screaming. I don't have endless energy to chase kids who now run in opposite directions. I don't know how to fix or help or prevent crazy toddler behavior all the time. I'm just doing the best that I can, one day at a time, and I'll complain if I want to. I love my babies, but I don't always love every moment with them. That doesn't make me a bad mom!

We all have a story. We all have convictions that make us the mothers we are today. And no amount of mom-shaming or judging is going to change us.

We all want to feel understood, like someone else out there has felt the same way or has been in our shoes. 

Don't let anyone make you feel like you are an inadequate mom because you complain. Or talk about how motherhood is a job and you just need a freaking break. Don't let anyone manipulate you and increase self-doubt about yourself as a mom or make you feel ashamed for trying to challenge them. There is no one way to parent. Take some time and chat with fellow mamas. Be a little vulnerable with her. Share your struggles and I'll bet she'll share hers. We are not all that different! We want what is best for our kids. And acting like you have it all together all the time is not fooling anyone! I feel like my personal relationships with my mom friends have grown immensely lately because I've chosen to share my weaknesses and admit my struggles instead of trying to cover them up or sugar-coat them. I'm learning that I'm not alone, at all, and that a smile and a simple "keep your chin up" can really go a long way.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

"Let's Play!" Series: Toy Rotation

I spent several hours DEALING WITH MY KIDS' TOYS the other day.

I like to rotate their toys, but I haven't done it in several months, and it was way overdue!

I'm going to tell you WHAT toy rotation is, HOW to do it, and WHY you should do it!

Kids have a lot of toys, and it seems like they never seem to play with all of them and there's never enough space to organize them! With toy rotation, you put at least half of the toys away, and rotate them out every so often. This controls the mess (to a degree), creates new interest in old or forgotten toys (maybe because all the toys can actually be seen), and makes for a happier, cleaner home!

A lot of my personal struggle with toy rotation is simply the logistics of it. You'll need to have space to store toys where the kids cannot access them. This could be a closet, basement, a room away from the usual play area(s), or even a locked cabinet. Storage space is something a lot of us struggle with, I think! And often times to stay organized, you have to buy some sort of storage/organizational bins and containers, which can actually get kind of pricy! An added kick for my family is that we move so often that I can't really buy anything specific for our current house because we will just move in a year or two or three! So I try to avoid buying bulky furniture or storage solutions that might not work in another house. Some houses we have lived in have had play rooms or areas, but our current house does not have that option. So I feel like toys are always everywhere!!

I've learned to embrace this phase of life in my house, with toys always underfoot. My children are 1 and 2, so they have to pretty much be 100% supervised while they play. There would be no point for me to try and keep my living room free of toys. The only "off limits" room in this house for play spaces is the master bedroom. I need to have some place to get away from it all!!

So, if toys are always going to be out, I can at least control HOW MANY and WHERE they are stored!

Here's how to get started with toy rotation!

1) You're going to need to have several hours to do this. Maybe more. Depends on the level of "disaster" in your house! You are going to be sorting through toys and putting at least HALF of the toys in your designated toy storage area!

I know what you're thinking.

Ummmm that's a lot of toys to store...

And I know what else you are thinking -

My kids aren't going to have much left to play with!

But it won't turn out the way you think it will!!

While you are sorting, you'll obviously be putting toy sets together. When deciding what to keep out versus what to put into storage, consider this:
  • What is/are my child's favorite toy(s)? Keep a balance between favorite toys and ones that need a little more love. This can encourage new interest in old toys! 
  • Do I have toys out that encourage different types of play? Variety is key! Large motor/fine motor, loud/quiet play, independent/cooperative play, pretend play, music and dancing
  • SPACE - keep out just a few "big" toys. For example, we have a doll stroller and a shopping cart. I always have one put away because having 2 push toys out gets a little crazy! Also, I rotate out Liam's big bulky baby/toddler toys.
Take this opportunity to pull out toys with lost pieces, toys that are broken, and toys that your kids have outgrown or that you know they don't even play with. You might be surprised at how much you can part with!

I will warn you...toy sorting is quite the disaster!!! I started it when Liam was napping so I only had to deal with one child, haha! You could do this after the kids are in bed, but it will take so long that it might be all you do before you can get to bed! I've learned that rotating toys when the kids are awake is actually better because Ava will sit and play with the explosion of toys while I work in another area! I get out all the fabric toy bins and set them out on the floor and start sorting and swapping! 

We have a really ugly storage thing (I don't really know what to call it? A cabinet?) that served as a microwave stand in my dorm room freshman year in college. It may not be very easy on the eyes, but it was only $35 and has survived over 12 years and more moves than I can count!! Pretty good invesment, if you ask me! It has been a food pantry, a dining room buffet, laundry storage, and now in recent years, toy storage!


I have a baby lock on it, and when I rotate toys, I open her up and the mess ensues, haha!

2) Display the toys in a visually stimulating manner. Our toys in the living room are stored in a 9-cube organizer. Some toys go in a bin, but most just go on the shelf. The easier toys are to see, the more likely they are to be played with! I usually do one toy per shelf.

Also, just because your child has 963 cars, does not mean that you have to have all 963 cars out at once!! Scale it down to a more managable amount. But sometimes 963 cars can be fun, so don't forget to let have a little extra fun once in awhile...and then put 948 cars away when the fun is done!!

Because I am a preschool teacher, I like to have little "interest areas" for my kids to play. I have found that if all of their toys are crammed into one corner, they don't play as well or as creatively. They need space to make a mess and pretend and explore! So I have little areas around their entire play space, which in this house, is the entire downstairs. We have an open concept downstairs, so I've spread everything out. I realize this approach is not for everyone (and is also very age-dependent), but it's what works for my family in this phase my kids are in!

Maybe your house doesn't have a lot of toys to rotate - you can also just change the location of where toys are kept! Maybe put the books with some stuffed animals in a quiet area of the house and the blocks at the table instead of on the floor. A new location can be inspiring for our kids too! I've done this many times when I haven't gotten around to swapping toys. I'll do it quick when the kids are sleeping, and when Ava comes downstairs, she immediately notices and says, "wowwww!!!" and goes right down to check it out!

Same corner of the room, different toys.

3)Determine a rotation "schedule". I use the word "schedule" lightly, because it doesn't need to be rigid! Just don't forget to swap toys out! I think ideally it's good to have 3 sets of toys to swap out - and be sure to mix and match what toys are out each time. If you always put out the play food with the shopping cart, they'll never know what they could create if you put the play food out with the dinosaurs instead! Keep it different, keep it interesting! And maybe some toy combos will be complete duds and your toy selection didn't engage as much as you thought. That has happened to me! You can always swap out a few things if you find that something isn't working. Before Liam came along, I was rotating Ava's toys weekly. Now it only happens about once a month - basically when I remember and can get the chance to do it!

It's kind of a chore, but it always leads to kids who play better because they have something new to explore! It's always been worth the effort to swap them out.

Ahhh. Just look at that nicely organized toy cabinet!!!

And don't forget to get on the floor and play with your kids! I am guilty of just sitting and watching them sometimes, but they can learn so much more when you SHOW them a fun, new way to play!

Toy rotation will lead to kids who play better, think more creatively, and express themselves through play! Try it!!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Liam is O N E!!!

Well, he went and did it - little Liam, little 8 pound, 5 ounce Liam, turned one year old!!

We had a little party for him this weekend to celebrate. And I made one of those chalkboard posters for him, and it really made me stop and think about these last 365+ days with him.

Liam was born 5 days early. My due date was February 27. He could have been a leap year baby!! How crazy would that have been?!

He was heavy and I carried him low. I had lots of pelvic pain with him. I remember during the last few weeks that I disliked squatting to get things out of the bottom of the fridge because it felt like he was going to fall out!!

My sweet little boy entered this world via c-section, and it was pretty amazing. I was unconscious for Ava's delivery, so this was my second child, but really the first birth I actually got to experience.

And it was love at first sight, for sure!

My sweet little surprise.

Liam is quite the little man! I can't get over just how much he's changed in the last few months. Few weeks, really. Some things are little, like how he used to cry for almost every diaper change. But not anymore! He does still get a little irritated to be on the changing table, though!

And some changes are BIG. He is fully weaned now, which if I'm being honest, is a HUGE relief for me! Ok, the word "relief" isn't exactly the right word, but I'm so glad I was able to breastfeed for his first year, and I am more than ready to close that chapter. I loved that relationship, but I also love having a little more freedom! It's been a challenging several months with Chris gone, and I'm needing a bit more space and time to myself, apart from my children, whom I love dearly, of course. I was just ready to not be needed in that way anymore!

So I'm feeling pretty refreshed after my trip to Las Vegas and am looking forward to the months ahead with my two toddlers!!!

Liam's sense of humor is starting to come out more! Ava was always such a happy baby, and nearly everything made her smile! Liam is more conservative with his smiles - as a baby, at least. In the last month or two, he's really loosened up and he is loving to giggle and amuse himself! He loves to be chased or to "chase" Ava - he's a fast crawler but he hasn't gotten the motivation to give walking a good try! He pushes his walker all over, as well as chairs and other big toys. He's got the strength, but he isn't quite ready to do it alone yet! I'm honestly really really excited for when he starts walking and running - he and Ava are going to have so much fun together! And just in time for the nicer weather that spring brings! I can't wait for more outside time, and 2 kids running in opposite directions at the playground, haha!

Liam loves to carry toys in his mouth while he crawls around! Makes me laugh every time! He has really taken to a sippy cup and transitioned to whole milk really well! I'm so thankful that Liam followed in Ava's footsteps and sleeps well at night!! It certainly was some serious WORK to get both kids to sleep through the night. I committed to sleep training both of them, and I don't regret that for a second. It does mean that my kids don't nap well or very long in the car, and can't really nap in new places or when we are out and about. But my parenting style is routine and schedules, so it fits in very well! I've put in the hard work, made some tough decisions, and it has paid off!

With that being said, all children and mothering instincts are different! Hug a tired momma today - it is NOT EASY to be sleep deprived!! Sleep deprivation is used as a torture technique, for goodness sake!! Sleep training isn't everyone's cup of tea and I fully understand that. I just don't want anyone to think that it was "easy" for me to get my kids to sleep through the night, because that was NOT the case!! I made some sacrifices and made decisions based on what was best for my family. And I also respect those who are against sleep training - that's called listening to your mommy gut and doing what is best for your family!

Liam also eats like a young cow. A typical breakfast for him is 2 waffles, a banana, and yogurt. At 11/12 months old!!!! He is a hungry, hungry hippo!! He inhales food so fast! Ava, on the other hand, is much more selective and usually eats less than Liam! Baby Led Weaning has worked out so well for having a 1 year old and a 2 year old. Ava is always sharing her food with Liam, which is sweet, but it's hard to stop her before Liam gets ahold of it. If it's something he can't have, he gets really really upset when I have to take it away! So now I just try to have snacks that both of them can safely eat. And since Liam can manage table food, that's actually a pretty long list! They eat the same foods at mealtimes and there's minimal modifications that I have to do for Liam. Sometimes it's just a matter of serving something in smaller pieces or cooking it instead of serving it raw. Big, hard crackers and raw apples, carrots, and celery are pretty much the only restrictions, but Liam could even have those if I julienne them! BLW has made life with 2 toddlers much easier! I think there is a misconception that babies can't have certain foods because they have no (or few) teeth. But have you ever stuck your finger in the mouth of a teething baby?! They have incredibly strong jaw muscles!! Liam manages food just fine without molars!

I am just so, so excited for this next year with my babies. I love the phase that Liam is in - it is my favorite age!! Ava is becoming a little (stubborn) helper and is like a second mommy to Liam! Springtime always feels like a fresh start, and even though it is so awful with daddy gone, we still have to get through this hard separation and find ways to be joyful! I can't wait for digging in the dirt, playing in sprinkler, mealtimes outside, and that delicious summer breeze!! I can't say we will be going to the neighborhood pool very often as 2 kids who can't swim kind of terrifies me, but we will at least have a baby pool in the backyard!! (If anyone would be up for helping me be 1-on-1 with my kids at the pool/lake this summer, please let me know!!)

Ugh. I have so many emotions all the time. Happiness, joy. Thankfulness. STRESS. Sadness. Emotional exhaustion. Strength, determination. Desperation. Numbness. Annoyance. Loneliness. Self-discovery, personal reflection. Gratefulness. LOVE. Heartache. Compassion. Concern. Protectiveness (is that a word??). Fear. 

And sometimes I feel most of these things all in one day. It's like my life is one giant oxymoron!

But, all we can do is move forward!! We are now, finally, on the downward slope of this deployment. We still have a looooooong way to go, but we are doing it!! One day at a time!!

Gosh this post got way off topic. But blogging is like my therapy. Thank you for reading and keeping up with me, haha!

To sum up Liam's birthday, it was wonderful and sad. I love my little boy, and it was hard without daddy here to celebrate with us. I'm thankful for Facetime so Chris was able to be a part of our celebrations. Watching Ava and Liam play is one of my favorite things in this stage of my life. In a time of separation, it is what brings a smile to my face. And what keeps me going. Having kids during a deployment has been harder than I ever imagined, but it is also what gives me the most motivation and joy.

Let me tell you, I sure have learned a lot about myself in these last several months. I think we learn the most about ourselves during our times of struggle, and how we persevere and look for strength. I'm learning what it truly means to be there for those people that you love, how to ask for help, as well as saying "no" when my load is too heavy.

I wish I could say this deployement is almost over. But it's not. There's still a lot of struggle to go. And my family will continue to have good days and bad days.

But in the meantime, I will *try* to enjoy every moment with my kids, ignore the messes, and smile as much as possible. And allow myself to sulk once in awhile, too!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Liam is 11 Months Old!

I feel like I blinked and Liam aged another month! 11 months!! Oh my gosh...he's nearly a year old!! I knew these months would go by so quickly! It seems like once 6 months hit, babies just start gaining more and more independence - they learn to sit, self-feed, scoot, crawl, entertain themselves, get into mischief...

It all happens so fast.

Too fast!!!

I was just looking at my kids today - staring hard at them, actually - trying to captures these fleeting moments in my mind. It's like they are slipping through my fingers! I hear the words so many people tell me:

"They won't stay little for long! It goes by so fast!"

...and I do hear them, it's's just so hard to not want the hard phases to end and to take for granted their sweet tiny bodies and cuddly, needy personalities. It's a double-edged sword - I'd love to have a little less demand from them, but then when I get some space, I realize they don't need me as much as they did yesterday and that makes me saaaaaad because they are growing up before my eyes!! WHYYYYYY

Liam has really been displaying some "toddler behaviors" lately!! He has learned that it's "naughty" to go play in the bathroom! He starts crawling really fast towards it, and I get up and run after him and he giggles and crawls faster and tries to hide behind the toilet before I can catch him! It's his new favorite game!

He thows his lovies out of his crib.

He throws food he doesn't like or when he's full!

He criiiiiiiies when he's trying to reach the remote and I take it away!

He gets really mad when sister is having a snack and he doesn't have one.

Liam loves bathtime! He giggles and kicks all the way upstairs and practically jumps out of my arms trying to get into the tub while I undress him! Both the kids go nuts for bathtime! It's kind of a monsoon these days - they get pretty wild! Ava was such a "well-behaved" baby in the tub - not Liam! He crawls all over and pulls to stand and falls into the water, but he is laughing the whole time! I've had to drastically lower the water level in the tub because he is so crazy! Ava and Liam are pretty much constantly moving and laughing in the tub! It's exhausting...but I love it.

Liam has 5 teeth! He's been busy cutting teeth this month! The 6th one will erupt soon!

I haven't heard any words out of Liam's mouth, but I swear the other day he said "Ava"! Haha probably just my imagination, though! The rest of the time he is just babbling away! I'm hoping his first word will be "mama"! He says "dada" all the time but he doesn't associate it with "daddy" so that doesn't actually count! I think he's trying to say "all done", but I can't be sure that's what he's saying. I need a little more time to hear it - "ahhh nah" is what it sounds like - in context before I can determine if it's intentional or not!

There's been a BIG change in our house lately...momma gets uninterrupted sleep now!! Liam was eating around the clock, every 4 hours or less, so I decided to take a leap and see if I could night wean him, or at least drop one night feeding. I'm so exhausted from broken sleep every night! My technique to get him back to sleep at night has always been to just feed him, no matter how long it had been since he last ate. Mainly because he wakes up crying so loud I just want him to be quiet so he doesn't wake Ava! If I try and go in to him and just hold him or rock him, he would just cry louder! So I wasn't sure how night weaning would go. Once when Ava was a baby, she was waking 4x per night and I was always just feeding her to get her back to sleep. Then it created a cycle where she was getting too many calories at night, so she had to keep waking up to get what she needed for the day. Her nursing sessions were too short in the daytime, and too long at night! So I night weaned her to "reset" her eating patterns, and she slept beautifully after that! So I felt like Liam needed the same adjustment! But he is a very different baby, so I was doubtful I'd have any luck. I braced myself for a mad baby in the middle of the night, and potentially waking up Ava with his cries. I assumed no one would get sleep that week!

The first night, he woke at midnight, and I just let him fuss to see what he would do. He fell back asleep!?! That was surprising. He woke again at 1, and did the same. Then he woke at 4, and was crying. I went to him and changed his poopy diaper, and rocked him. He was searching and wanting to nurse! But I needed to at least try to lay him down to go to sleep before giving in. I was already impressed he made it to 4! I laid him down. He was mad. But, within 10 minutes, he was asleep! He woke at 6 and I immediately went to him to feed him. I was so surprised he did it! And that began the "reset" - the next night he woke once around 4 and whined a bit and went back to sleep. And now he doesn't wake up at all!?!!!!! I can only hope this continues! I feel like a new person, being able to get more than 3 consecutive hours of sleep at a time!!

Liam LOVES food. Well, there are some things he doesn't like, but he eats a lot!! 2 waffles, a banana, and yogurt is a typical breakfast for him lately! Usually by the time I get both kids their breakfast and I get MY breakfast made, one or both of them is all done and ready to be washed up to go play!

Ava has discovered the word "NO" this week - but I'm proud of her for the way she uses it! Liam has started to get pretty grabby with her, and I've been trying to help her either relocate herself (like when she is having a snack I tell her to come sit on the couch so Liam won't bother her) or to tell him "no, I'm still playing with that". And she's starting to verbalize it! She's pretty passive in social situations, so I'm trying to build her confidence and give her words to use when someone is taking something from her. So it sounds a little something like this: "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO BUDDY THATS MIIIIIIIIIIINE! NOOOOOOOOOOOOO BIA!" hahaha!! But she's not really yelling at him like she's mad...she's just talking SO loud! It makes me laugh so I usually have to take a second and hide my smile and then go release Liam's grip and tell her she's doing a good job using her words!

But, for the most part, Liam and Ava play really well together. They seek each other out, and they are SO happy to be reuinited when we pick Ava up from school! They are playing together most of the time, but occasionally they branch off and go play by themselves. My favorite thing in the world is to hear their giggles while they play together!

Their first "sibling fight" has happened...they fight over Ava's sippy cup! Ava likes to offer it to Liam, and he'll take some drinks. But then Ava wants it back, and Liam is not pleased. Then it becomes a game to Ava, but Liam is definitely not finding the humor in it! And then Ava is upset that Liam is all over her, trying to get it, so I have to intervene! Liam likes his own water cup...but he's discovered that Ava's cup often times has juice in it, and he wants it so bad!!

Liam has yet to stand independently, so I think walking will be a few more months away still. He likes to sit on his knees and is a fast crawler! I hold his hands to help him walk or help him with the walker, but after a few steps he sinks to his knees and crawls away! It is so interesting to compare the two kids - Ava was standing independently at 8 months, wasn't crawling until 9 months, and then was walking at 10 months!! Liam crawled at 8 months, but has yet to stand independently or walk!

Ava's language is getting better and better! We can almost have full conversations! She can tell me more things she wants and is feeling. She's also been looking for more ways to be getting into things on the counter and helping herself to food when she's noticed I've left the pantry unlocked! It is sooooo nice that I can tell her to do a task, and she understands and will do it (most of the time)! She's becoming more independent!!

Next month, I'm going to have a 2 year-old and a 1 year-old. Liam will be a big boy!!!