Tag Archives: parenthood

Almost 21 Months… Or Something Like That

44950815_697678983939879_2083281798254559232_nIt’s so easy to lose track of time. Often I don’t even know the date on the calendar, let alone the number of months it has been since M’s birth. Of course, it doesn’t really matter, but I used to document it all, each milestone, each moment I wanted to hold forever.

And, lately I’ve been keeping those moments in my head, hoping I’ll remember to write them down. Usually I forget. But the words keep rushing in, poetry dancing, begging to exist on paper or at least a screen.

Her eyes change with the light, little pools of brown turn muddy blue.

Words bouncing around as I made dinner and forced myself to reach for my phone so I wouldn’t forget.

She’s changing so much right now. She went through this phase for a few weeks where she refused to go to sleep until eleven each night, and I nearly lost my mind, but I remembered this is what happens with developmental milestones. And sure enough, next she started climbing out of her crib, forming three word sentences, and attempting to use her little potty all at once. In one single day my baby transformed into a two-year-old. It felt like all we did was blink.

And, two-year-old she is, (unless you count the months on the calendar). I’ve carried her out of many public places lately kicking and screaming. I’m that mom with that kid that makes other people turn to look. But, the second time around, I don’t care. I just laugh and carry her. There’s nothing more to do than that.

I do get loud sometimes for effect. Mostly when I’m across the room and can’t reach her in time to safely fix the situation. Then her eyes well up with tears and she refuses to look at me. She’s so stubborn and yet her feelings are so delicate. So different from her sister who’d just stare back at me with that “so-what” look on her face.

Without the crib, I now lie down on the other side of the room and wait for her to start her nap. Otherwise, she just gets up and plays 17,000 times. As I lie there, she pops up her head and looks at me, to see if she can escape. I point and say, “Lie down,” and obediently she listens. It confounds me. Here I have this independent child who follows directions (at least for a minute) when I get serious. Again, so different than her sister.

And, those curls. Still, those curls.

Almost 21 months and I needed to make sure I’d be able to look back and remember her, just like this. Her sister is already so big and toddlerhood is suddenly a season again, not this daunting stretch it sometimes seems.

Last week we got a kitten and she was one of those women who cries happy tears because she’s just won a house or a car or something huge. She was in hysterics. So much so the next seventeen years of caring for that creature were worth those moments of excitement, the word “kitty” uttered again and again between the tears and the shrieks of joy.

I don’t want to forget.

Those curls, those eyes, that little hand reaching out to hold mine, ready to show me exactly where to go and what to do.

 

 

 

Two.

12842543_10104252860195903_1581912007_oLittle feet hit hard against my knees.

When did she get so long?

She screams as I press her tight against me. Memories of colic flooding back. Now she’s bigger and I know it will stop within minutes instead of hours. Still, night terrors bring all the same feelings back. Please. Make. It. Stop. Please.

Two years, today.

I’ve revisited each moment of anticipation for the past week. Going into the hospital to get checked. Sleeping every afternoon to build strength for the nightly contractions. Returning to the hospital again. An entire family anxious in the waiting room. And, finally, at 8:27 this morning, the moment when she was handed to me and everything changed.

Two years.

Everything is Thomas the Train now, even the little boy undies she’d prefer to wear outside. Obligatory morning hugs for her “grumpy” dogs. “I missed you” breaking and healing my heart simultaneously. Embraces worthy of a luchador, making me a little sorry for those maybe not-so-grumpy dogs. Wash everything, hands and blankies, but never teeth. “Mine” for all things she wants and “yours” for all things she doesn’t. The sweetest sleeping face I’ve ever seen, legs that seem to reach for the far end of the bed, or more often her dad’s face.

My growing girl. My little love. Sometimes I still can’t believe you’re real.

 

Two.

10 Toddler Wrangling Tips

They're more powerful than they look.
They’re more powerful than they look.

Up until recently, I found myself wincing at the idea of E turning two or transforming into a “three-nager” on her third birthday. While I like to joke at twenty two months she’s already solidly a two-year-old, the reality is she’s also a lot of fun. Enough fun I’m not so worried anymore.

Sure, she throws some pretty intense tantrums and is about as stubborn as they come, but she also has such wonder about the world around her. Halloween, Christmas, snow… Everything familiar to me is an amazing new source of joy. And, as far as the hard stuff goes, I keep discovering little tricks that make our lives easier.

Today I’m sharing some ah-ha moments I wish I’d found earlier. My doctor recently told me the secret to a strong-willed child is making the options appealing. I think she’s right:

  1. Connect your child’s wardrobe to something he/she loves. For awhile, giving E choices of what to wear was enough, but then she suddenly didn’t want to change out of whatever she was already wearing. When I’d try to force her to wear what I picked out, she’d kick and scream and I’d have to give her space for everyone’s safety, (have I mentioned she’s strong-willed?). This could go on for 10 to 20 minutes until I somehow got the day’s outfit on and was then late for wherever we were headed. Then recently it hit me! She’s obsessed with pumpkins, snowmen, and Santa. If I told her the outfits I put in front of her were pumpkin dresses (orange), snowmen clothes (white), or Santa pants (striped) she couldn’t wait to have them on. {Insert sigh of relief.}
  2. Make food fun and available. I’m always envious of friend’s kids who seem to eat whatever they’re handed. E will easily skip eating during the day and then want to nurse the entire night, (which as I shared in a previous post is no longer an option). I get so frustrated because food she loves one day she won’t touch the next. I feel required to keep a huge variety of items on hand and practically beg her to eat at regular intervals throughout the day. While I still haven’t fully solved this problem, these tricks make a difference:
    Thanks Lala!
    Thanks for the idea, Lala!
    • Cookie cutters! One evening at my parents’ house, my stepmom pulled out cookie cutters and cut E’s sandwich and apple slices into stars. This made food she wouldn’t touch before interesting enough to eat. We’ve been using this trick at home, too.
    • Create a story around the food. Just like with clothes, if mashed potatoes become snow and broccoli becomes trees, she can tolerate putting them in her mouth. Basically, the food has to be fun enough to make it worth sitting still in her chair to eat.
    • Keep toddler-friendly snacks in a cabinet or drawer your child can access. While I might not always want her to eat a granola bar or crackers, at least I can tell she’s hungry when she heads to her section of the pantry.
  3. Outsmart tantrums. I’m not going to try to tell you every tantrum can be outsmarted, but many of E’s can. Most of her fits are connected to being overly tired, hungry or bored. Here’s what helps us:
    • Honor your sleep routine. Although I can get away with altering E’s schedule for a day or two, if we completely miss a nap or wake her too early, we’re headed straight for meltdown city. It can be tempting when out doing errands to keep pushing nap time back, but the gift of a peaceful outing is worth the time constraints.
    • Always carry food or be ready to find some. Sometimes I forget how grumpy I become when my blood sugar is low. The same goes for E. When her mood shifts and I’m not sure why, food is always a good place to start. If I’m in a grocery store and don’t have a snack for her, I don’t hesitate to break into something in my cart, (string cheese?). This is something I always hated to see my mom do as a child, but now I totally get it. No one at the check stand cares as long as you pay for it.
    • Have a bag of tricks or be ready to find one. Toddlers don’t share the same affinity as we do for fine food, conversation, or people watching. While running errands or visiting restaurants, I always have something in my “busy bag.” Whether it’s a book or small toy, I can usually buy myself a little extra adult time with the distraction. If I’m not carrying my diaper bag at a store, I’ll let her hold merchandise of interest until we get to the check stand. So far, this has worked as long as I’m ready with a different distraction when it’s time to hand it over, (like food).

      Busy bag activities allow us to actually leave the house...
      Busy bag activities allow us to actually leave the house…
  4. Busy bags. Okay, I know the last bullet was about having a bag of tricks, but I think this one is so important I’m going to say it again: have something on hand to entertain your toddler when you’re out. I’m not just saying this because I sell busy bags, I’m saying it because we’re able to go to nice restaurants and actually enjoy our food with the help of activities like coloring books, stickers, small board books, etc. If you don’t want to buy one, make one. Collect items each time you’re out and about and save them for when you feel resistance brewing. Bonus points if you wrap the items ahead of time.

    Our focused time together is the best.
    Our focused time together is the most memorable.
  5. Don’t forget to play with your kid(s). This seems obvious but between multiple jobs, keeping a clean(ish) house, feeding my family, and remembering to take care of myself, it can be easy to spend time around E without actually playing with her. But, focused time together is the whole reason I’m willing to juggle part-time gigs instead of going back to work full-time. I make a daily effort to play even if it means an uncleaned mess or unfinished task. Not only are we all happier for it, but I also notice increased independence from her when she gets a healthy dose of focused attention.
  6. Give your child a little space. As I just mentioned, I don’t constantly entertain E. I give her space to play on her own because I feel it’s important in this busy world to learn to appreciate quiet time alone. On this same token, our TV isn’t always on. There is quiet in our house because I want her to be comfortable without constant stimulation. If I can hear her playing in her bedroom, I give her space to do so without me hovering, (even if I’m still actively listening). Likewise, when she gets up in the morning or from her nap, I let her get herself out of bed and come to me. I can hear her the whole time, but she’s learning independence through the process. I also let her explore at the park or library while I watch from a safe distance. She’s learning to occupy herself for longer periods of time, which is great for everyone.

    We're lucky to live within walking distance of beautiful trails, but it's still an effort to get outside in the winter.
    We’re lucky to live within walking distance of beautiful trails, but it’s still an effort to get outside in the winter.
  7. Go outside. This is one I suck at sometimes. It’s easy to get caught up in the to-do lists and not make it outside before dark (especially during the winter). But, I know kids need to be outside as much as possible. The other day as I was lamenting the challenge of getting her to sleep at night, an eavesdropping dad chimed in that I needed to go run her at the park. He’s right. During these dark, cold winter months, it’s too easy to skip going out, but kids need fresh air, natural light, and space to burn energy without walls.
  8. Be aware of your reactions. Children are mirrors. The other day when I was startled by a raccoon, E wouldn’t take her hands off her eyes for 10 whole minutes. She was petrified and I felt terrible. The same goes for how I react when she gets hurt. If I rush over and make a big deal, she cries a lot more than if I give her a moment and then come over and smile as I calmly check her out. They know when you’re worried and they worry too. Likewise, if they witness you being overly angry or upset about something, they’re likely to repeat the same emotion when they respond to the world around them.
  9. Listen to your own words. This one is huge. As a teacher, I can always pick out what parents must say at home from how a kid talks. This starts early. We purposely try not to use words we don’t want E to use, (although we’re still guilty of slipping up). For example, if you don’t want to be told you’re mean, don’t use the word mean. Instead, say something like “you’re not being very nice.” I’d much rather be told I’m not being very nice, than mean.
  10. Don’t fight over things that don’t matter. I’ll end with this one. It’s the biggest trick I’m coming to accept. I pick my battles with E by asking myself if what is bugging me is really an issue. Often, if it’s not hurting her or anyone else, I let it go. For example, yesterday afternoon, she took a nap with her tricycle in the bed. I could have fought her, but it was clean and there was no reason for her not to take a nap with her tricycle, even if my adult brain felt like telling her no. It wasn’t worth the fight.

Obviously, different tricks work for different kiddos, and even with the same kiddo, something that works one week may not the next. Still, I love sharing ideas because you never know what might help when you or your child is about to lose it. Have any favorite tricks that are working for your family right now? Please, please share! I’m certain we’ll always be learning around here…

Creating Space for Ourselves in a Busy World

Getting to watch the world anew through her eyes is pretty much all the inspiration I need to be intentional with my time.
Getting to watch the world anew through her eyes is all the inspiration I need to be more intentional with my time.

Lately my plate has piled up higher and higher. In an attempt to avoid full-time work outside the home, I’ve taken on a variety of part-time jobs. While the flexibility is awesome, it’s all too easy to get lost in the endless tasks I could (not necessarily should) be doing. Add in domestic responsibilities and the desire to be present with my ever-changing daughter and, well, parts of me are being left behind. Like writing. Like yoga. Like self-care.

So, here I am today making a sweeping declaration. I’m allowed to stop working (for the most part) on the weekends and do things like write even if writing doesn’t pay the bills. It’s okay to have a slightly messier house so I can go to yoga at least once a week. It’s not the end of the world if I’m occasionally not home for my daughter’s bedtime so I can meet up with other moms to write or actually go on a date with my husband.

Basically, I’ve realized I need to look at where I can let go so I can take care of myself. And, I know I’m not alone. We could all benefit from some honest reflection on how we use our time. In the spirit of creating more space for self-care, I offer you the list of journal questions I’m asking myself this afternoon.

  1. Responsibilities. Make a list of the responsibilities you have in life. What jobs do you have in and out of the home? What obligations do you honor with your friends, family and/or community?
  2. Set days/times for each responsibility to be met. I’ve fallen into the trap of allowing many of my responsibilities to wash over each other so I feel like I never get a break. While some obligations may not realistically be categorized into specific time slots, most can be limited to specific days and times. As a student and a teacher, I set up a schedule for myself and stuck to it. This afternoon I’m attempting to replicate the same approach to life as a mom/wife/teacher/entrepreneur/etc.
  3. Develop weekly/monthly/yearly goals for each responsibility. Keep it simple, but actually map out what you hope to accomplish this week/month/year for each of your responsibilities. Finding clarity in what you plan to achieve helps get rid of all the time wasters, (cough::: Facebook).
  4. Acknowledge your distractions. Actually make a list of your biggest distractions from each responsibility. While tools like social media are crucial to many of my roles, they can also be big time wasters. Recognizing this helps me free up time for more important priorities, like meeting bigger goals and actually having time for myself. My newest plan is to set a timer as a reminder to limit distractions.
  5. Acknowledge what brings you joy. Our responsibilities should ideally bring us joy. But what else makes you happy? Make a list of everything you enjoy doing in life, both work and recreation.
  6. Set weekly self-care commitments. Look at your joy list and figure out what you want to do for yourself on a regular basis. Examine your calendar of responsibilities and figure out a way to consistently schedule in time for things like exercise, meditation, creativity, friendship and romance. We all need personal time to prevent burn-out, stay healthy, and be present for the people in our lives.
  7. Allow space to be unproductive. I have a tendency to over-schedule myself and my family. It’s okay to have time not dedicated to anything in particular. We all need hours to lie around the house and get nothing “done.” Instead of feeling like this is wasted time, acknowledge the need to rest and just be as part of the critical ebb and flow needed to maintain momentum in a busy world.

Have anything else that belongs on this list for self-reflection? Please share– these questions have evolved out of conversations I’ve had over recent months and I’d love to hear your secrets too!

Reclaiming my physical self 10 minutes at a time

When I was pregnant, I remember lamenting to a coworker how I couldn’t wait to have my body back to myself. I was thrilled to be having a baby, but I missed being able to move freely. All I wanted was to be able to run down the street at full speed or lie on my belly in bed. My coworker responded, “Oh, you won’t have your body back to yourself for a long time, you’re planning to nurse, right?”

And, she was right. Between recovering from pregnancy and nursing my daughter around the clock, my body didn’t feel so much like mine anymore. Of course, again, I didn’t really mind, but exercise became more sporadic, and my eating habits revolved more around feeding her than making myself feel healthy.

Fast forward two years from when I found out I was pregnant and it’s officially time to reclaim my physical self. In addition to wanting to be in optimum shape before I decide to have another little person sometime down the road, this week I accepted a part-time teaching job as a “games specialist” at a Waldorf charter school. While a little different than your traditional PE program, it will be my job to teach children to be physically fit, which in my mind also means I should be physically fit!

So, as I lay on my yoga mat yesterday evening and contemplated my course of action, I realized I should start small. 10 minute increments. I can claim to be too busy for a lot of things, but every single day should include 10 minutes of my own. The month before I got pregnant, I did a 30 day yoga challenge, so it only seems fitting to start where I left off and pick an activity I enjoy.

Beginning today and lasting through the month of July, I’m challenging myself to spend a minimum of 10 minutes a day doing yoga. Whenever possible, I hope to do more, but with 2.5 weeks of travel planned for July, I know 10 minutes is something I can realistically complete.

Will you join me? Do you have a favorite physical activity you can commit to for a minimum of 10 minutes a day? We can give each other virtual high fives on August 1 and feel more accomplished for squeezing a little extra health into every single day, no matter how busy we think we are, (and, hopefully, this will translate into a new life rhythm of more daily exercise).

If you need additional motivation, check out this article about how exercise makes you live longer or, if you’re a fellow yoga enthusiast, join me in following along to Adrienne’s 10 minute yoga video below as my day one pick, (Adrienne also has a fantastic series for 30 days of yoga if you enjoy her instruction). I find the hardest part about consistent exercise is getting started, so I’m hopeful to trick myself into action by committing to just 10 minutes at a time.

We all have 10 minutes somewhere, right?