Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Crossing the Next Bridge ~ Family


In those quiet moments to yourself do you ever sit back and think about the special moments with your kids?  It could be from the day, the week, the month, from when they were little?  When we had our second son, I remember thinking, this time will be the same and different.  I will do the same things we did the first time around and the things I wish I'd done. 

Yeah, well that didn't really happen.  We did some of the same things and a whole lot of just managing to get through the day with two kiddos.  Looking back, the thing I missed the most the second time around.  Holding.  Just sitting and holding my youngest.  Just sitting and rocking. Just putting him in a carrier and wearing him.

Yes, I did some of that, but I wish I had done it more.  But I was always fighting the guilt and the what ifs.  What if my other son needed me at that moment and I didn't hear him over the sound machine in my youngest's sons room or vice versa.  What if I was in the middle of nursing or just sitting and holding and something else needed my attention.  Oh, and the guilt I would feel over spending more time with one over the other.  The guilt of just sitting and not getting enough done in the day, and more.  I still face some of this now.  It's a balance I don't do well sometimes.

But I still wish I would hold onto them a little longer.  I am very thankful and blessed that I get to rock with each of them before I lay them down to sleep.  My youngest will snuggle into me.  My oldest, all 43" of him, will still climb up and try to be like a frog on me.  In those moments I am in awe of how big they've gotten and how I sometimes miss when I could hold them in just one arm or just resting on my chest.

The holding, it is one of those moment in which I wish I could keep forever.  Could last longer.  While there are some aspects that I am more than willing to pass through as quickly as we can and hopefully as easy as possible.  I know that we have to go through both in every stage.

I can't help but to wonder, what if we had three kids.  Then how would I feel, what would I do different, how would I survive?  We had always said we wanted three kids.  When you look at it, we have three.  One in heaven and two we get to have with us every day.  Three. 

My oldest is 4 and my youngest is 19 months (almost).  I am 35 and my husband will be 36.  Looking at where we are right now we have a decision to make.  Do we want to grow our family more?  Do we want to have three kids with us every day and one up in heaven? Sure, the path we've been on to get where we are at isn't at all what we had expected, thought of, or saw coming.  But where should we take this path?

Start trying again, work through pregnancy (which is tough on me), birth (even tougher as I know it has to be a c-section again and three kids to manage instead of two this time around), the infant stage (which was rough with two, I can only imagine what three would be like...my oldest hated every moment of me breastfeeding for the fourteen months I did it), the postpartum depression and anxiety, and whatever else rolls in with it.

Or do we say we are done.  Or be done for now and adopt later on down the road.

We've always had a girls named picked out.  Sage.  Not sure why that name was placed in our hearts, but it has been there since before we started to grow our family.  When our first pregnancy came around and we found out it was a girl and also that we had miscarried, the name Sage didn't seem to be the right fit.  Partially, because it just didn't feel right in our hearts and paritally because we knew we wanted to have more kids and what if we had another girl, so we saved it for the possibility.

Since then we've had two boys.  And now, here we sit.  With this name in our hearts, a daughter in heaven and two sons by our side with a decision to make. Are we done?

For some, the answer comes easily and quickly.  While it may weigh heavily, it can be a simple yes or no looking at circumstances.  For others, so many factors and emotions roll into it that the decision takes a bit.  We've been asked this question by others from the time my youngest was a month old.  I will tell you then, had I been required to give an answer, it would have been no way.  But when you are sleep deprived and have a newborn and a toddler, your brain and heart are not anywhere on the same page...probably not even in the same book.

As time passes, the question becomes a little clearer to answer.  My answer, we aren't sure.  We will cross that bridge if and when we get there.  Well, we are at that bridge.  Some could say that when I started selling all the stuff that my youngest outgrew or wasn't using anymore it was because we were done.  Well, that was simply not on the mind.  We needed the space.  I was tired of storing all the stuff he had outgrown and all the stuff my oldest outgrew and was holding onto for when the time came for my youngest.  So it just seemed easier and simpler to get rid of what we didn't need.  And if we decided to have another kid, then we'd restock as necessary.

But now it's time to cross that bridge.  For me, it's an easy answer and a hard one.  Because there are some aspects, some things I want to redo, some things I want to have again, and some unknowns still out there that make me want to go down the path of adding to our family.  And yet, I also look at where we are and what we have, and I say enough.  I know what I've been through to get here and what it would take to do it again, and I say enough.

So after crossing the bridge, do we say go for it or do we say all done.  All done.  We are all done. Our family is complete.  Our home and lives are full.  We have the joys and blessing, as well as hardships of this path we are on.  Am I going to miss some of things? Yup.  But there are a lot of things I am not going to miss.  For now, I am going to soak up all the little moments in the day.  Capture them in my heart, mind, and if I can on camera so that down the road I can look back at them fondly, but also savor what is in front of me at that moment.  

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Judgement and Being a Parent


Yup, there I said it, judgement.  Why is it that when we become parents we suddenly becoming highly critical of others, their ability, and how they parent?  We judge each other.  We try hard not to and we even say we don't, but there is still that twinge tugging at us about how they do it verses how we do it.  Could it be jealousy? Could it be guilt? Could it be that we are critical of others because deep down its similar to our own faults and failures? Could it be fear?

Yes, yes it could be any or all of those.  I am not innocent of being judgmental.  Over the past year and a half I have gotten better with it.  If I find myself rolling in that snowball, that just seems to grow into a ginormous ball loosing control, I try my hardest to get off before it catapults into something making a big mess.  It doesn't do any of us any good and we all need to find others who can support us while we support them.  But it is so easy to get caught up in that snowball.

I often wonder, if I am being so critical of something, what is it about me that is the problem?  Chances are it's something inside of me, causing me to act out in that way.  More often than not, its my own insecurities, failure, and guilt that are to blame.  So really, who are we judging?  We are judging ourselves and being critical of ourselves.

Parenting isn't easy.  If it was there would be a handbook and guidelines that were all the same, easy to follow, and we would all do.  But its not. So let's do our best to raise great kids who become great adults (as said by Andy Andrews) and look deeper into ourselves to figure out what we need to change instead of using it to judge others.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Closing the Books and Closing the Computer


As parents, we have access to an abundance of resources.  The internet alone can let you explore answers to questions for hours.  Don't forget the vast amount of books available on a particular parenting topic.  Then there are always family and friends who step in as a resource as well.

All of these are great!  And yet, sometimes, it's just too much.  We can get overloaded on information very quickly.  Which then causes us to feel discouraged, guilty, fearful, full of worry, stressed and the list goes on and on.

I have recently hit this point.  My youngest has not been a great overnight sleeper.  I have been trying to figure out why and how to make it better.  I needed the sleep just as much as he did.  I haven't slept well in nearly a year (yes, I know A is only 8 months old, but I haven't slept well once I hit the second trimester and going forward).  I was done being beyond exhausted.

I scoured the internet, I read books, I asked friends, I knew what our pediatrician thought.  I filled my head so much I couldn't let my mom instinct function any more.  And everything I did filled me with much angst and guilt.

I decided I needed to close the books and put them aside. I needed to close the internet and put it aside.  I needed to stop listening to everyone else and just focus on my son.  I cleared out all that I could of what I read and heard.  I took a few key things to remember, like how many hours of sleep in a day a kid needs, how long can they realistically stay awake between naps, and a slight insight of kids basic personality category. Then I observed my son. And I let go.

I stopped focusing on the exhaustion the best I could. I stopped focusing on the shoulds. And just let it be.  My youngest is a cross between a cautious kid and a spirited kid (Found the descriptions in the Happiest Baby Guide to Sleep Book).  The key thing I took away from it was that kids that are more spirited like to be around where the action is.  They are the ones who keep going until they just pass out.  They will be mid sentence, mid giggle and fall asleep.  The key is to catch them before they get to that point and get them down to sleep.

I say that my son is a mix between the two because he is very alert and always wants to be where the action is.  If there is too much going on he will not fall asleep easily.  He will go from happy and content, seeming like he will be awake for awhile yet to the other extreme of fussing and just being done with everything around him.  Sometimes we get the cues of yawning and eye rubbing, other times he just makes the switch.  He isn't one where you can look at the clock and say he will sleep at this specific time.  Its usually a range.  Sometimes he can go almost three hours between sleep and other times we might get an hour and a half.

By taking the few nuggets of information and pushing the other stuff to the side, I was better able to figure him out.  I will admit though, I am still learning and still trying to figure him out.  We need to get him to sleep longer stretches at night more regularly.  And of course, once I figure it out, it will change again (as it always seems to do).  But for now, I will take this small success and run with it.  And maybe soon, we will fall into a rhythm and both get the much needed sleep we need.

I encourage you to close the books, close the computer, and tell others you need a break from their advice and just be present.  You can learn a lot from observing.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Taking the Time to Rock

When T was little, from the get go, we rocked with him.  Once we got passed the rocking and shooshing stage, I would rock and sing him to sleep.  It was one of the highlights of my day.  No, not because he was going to bed, but because I got to spend that little extra time with him as he fell asleep.

There came a day, which I knew would happen, he didn't want to rock or sing. He just wanted to go in his bed.  Then it became, read stories and say goodnight.  I began to miss the rocking and singing.  Then one day, after about four months of having a brother, he asked to rock again.  I think he need that time just as much as I did.

For awhile we would just rock.  Then, he began to ask me to sing.  The songs have evolved.  It used to be requests for songs he knew.  Now, its topics to sing about.  He tells me what to sing about, I put it to a tune.  Every now and then we go back to some of the originals I used to sing to him when he was really little.  I think it is on those days he needs it the most (and so do I).  He needs that little extra mom time.

The other days, it's just a part of the routine. Most nights, that is how we end the day.  More and more though, he spends it talking with a few songs scattered throughout.  But at the end of the day, he still wants to curl up, all four feet tall of him into my lap, snuggle, and rock.

At first, with A, it was we would just get him to sleep.  Then after some time, I began the rocking and singing.  He never really seemed interested in the rocking and singing at first.  I would get through one song if I was lucky.  But lately, for the past several months, for naps and bedtime we rock and sing.  I think he likes it as a transition.  Some days we get through three songs, other days, one or most of one.  Either way, it's a little extra snuggle time.  A little bit longer I get to hold my baby in my arms.  Because all too soon, he won't want to do it any more and all too soon he will be too big.

Over the past few nights as we've rocked and sang, I begin to let my mind wonder a little.  I close my eyes and remember when I was little, sitting in the rocking chair in the living room with my dad rocking and singing "hush little baby".  I don't remember how often we did that or how long it lasted. I just remember being curled up on his lap and listening to him sing.

It might be why I enjoy it so much with my kiddos.  It's a calming way to end the day out.  Maybe one day, if they have kids of their own, they will rock and sing too.

So if your kiddo asks to rock, take the few minutes to pause and rock.  Even if you don't want to sing, or read or talk.  Just take the moment to sit and rock with them in your arms.  It is a moment neither of you will forget.  It is a moment that both of you need.



Friday, April 14, 2017

School Choice ~ Our Decision

Awhile back I did a post on socialization and our kids, as well as a lot of society's perception of it verses the reality.  I did the post because T is at the age where he can go to a prekindergarten in the Fall. I, like many other families with kids the same age, was spending my time looking at all the options we had.

Pre-Kindergarten is not required by the state.  So, you can try to get into the school you hope to get into for kindergarten, you can go the private route or day care route, you can go the Christian school or program route.  Many options to look at, sift through, visit, and think on.  Living in the city we do, you can do anything from Montessori, to science based, to art based, to foreign language, art, and more.  Choices are everywhere and that is just the public school route.

It is a hard decision.  Oddly, harder than I thought. I used to teach four and five year olds.  At the end of the year I would see them off to Kindergarten and their next school.  A choice that seemed to come easily to the parents I worked with and talked to during conferences.  Now, with my own kiddo, the choice proved to be a tougher one than I had anticipated.  Well, at least at first.

After some time, some thought, and a lot of prayer we finally decided which route we are going.  Before I say more, take a moment to think about these questions.

Picture the most ideal set up for a classroom for your kiddo.  What do you see? What does it involve? What does the day look like?  What do they learn?  How do they learn? What extras are built into the day? How many teachers? What kind of teachers? Is there art, music, outside time, etc? How many kids are in the class? What kind of movement is throughout the day? Is there one on one instruction? One on small group instruction? How often? How long? What happens when a kiddo picks up on the topic quickly and can breeze through it? Then what? How do they spend their time?  What if there is something that really peaks their interest and they want to learn more, as well as spend more time on it? Do you want to be able to take learning on the go?  Where do you think they will thrive most?

My ideal classroom would look a little like this: Small class size, lots of one on one time, lots of small group time, outside time, learning throughout the day, little to no homework, time spent with family, time spent in nature, learning on the go and wherever we are throughout the day, leaves room for play and learning through play, a chance to be around various ages, creative time, hands on learning.

That is just the beginning.  So after looking at what we wanted in a school and looking at our options out there, we made our decision.  We have decided to homeschool.  Now, before you start commenting and judging our decision take a moment.  Homeschool doesn't mean that we will be at home doing school all the time.  It means that we as parents are the teachers, as well as family and friends.  It means that the learning can and does take place wherever and whenever.  In a sense, we've already been homeschooling our kids.  We are choosing to continue with it as our kids learn academics too.

The first question I've gotten since we made the decision was, well what about socialization?  That is why I wrote the post on it early.  You see our kids don't need to go to a building and be taught by a teacher to learn socialization.  In fact, being in a school has little to do with socialization.  Being out in society and learning as you grow up about the world around you and how you interact within a society is what socialization is about.

I've also been told, well we send them to a preschool or prekindergarten now so they can get to know the other kids in the neighborhood and the kids they are going to be in school with.  They can start to build their friendships.  My question is what is stopping you from getting to know those kids outside of a school setting?  Why not have the neighbor kids over to play? Why not meet at a playground near by?  Why do they have to be in a school setting to get know one another?  Especially when being social is frowned upon and takes a backseat to learning and testing.

Most school classrooms are in the same mindset, we have to get them ready for the next grade. Instead of teaching what is truly necessary, the focus is on testing and the getting the kids ready for the next grade.  So things move at a face pace.  Sometimes kids handle it great and sometimes not.  Why not let them delve in deeper and learn the things need to through the avenues that interest them the most?  Why not take the extra time to help them understand ideas when needed, and jump ahead quickly with the ideas they understand already? Why make them sit in a classroom for hours on end, especially when it's not developmentally appropriate? Why make them sit for hours on end in a school, only to sit at home for hours at night doing homework?  If they can get the work done in an hour in the day, why not let them and move onto other stuff?

We've decided to make the world around us our classroom. We are going to learn along side our kiddos. We are going to use the abundant resources that are around us, wherever we are to teach, to learn, to grow, to thrive.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Birthday Cake Fun

I remember when I was little for our birthdays my mom would make our cakes.  Sometimes it was our favorite (I had pumpkin pie one year because I love pumpkin pie so much) and sometimes it was something she created and decorated.

When we got to my oldest's first birthday I knew I wanted to make his cake.  In fact, at that point, I wanted to do what I could, when I could, to make as many of the cakes for my kids' birthdays.  I have found that a lot depends on the number of people and how much time I have to put something together if it is actually going to get done. It also depends on my ability.

My youngest, for his first birthday I so wanted to do a hedgehog cake.  But I couldn't easily figure out how to do make one on my own.  I scoured the internet for ideas and how toos,   Then I looked at the timing of it all and the number of people, schedules for naps, and the mealtime style (buffet) and decided that it wasn't going to happen.  I wasn't going to be able to make his cake.  However, with the help of my parent's, he got hedgehog cupcakes from a fantastic bakery and they were delicious.  His party was before his actual birthday, so I did manage to make a simple cake for us to enjoy on the day of.

For my oldest, I have done themed cakes since his first birthday.  His first one was a monkey because his room was jungle themed.  Since then, I've gone off what he likes.  The second cake was a construction site with diggers and dump trucks because he liked all things vehicles.  Still liking vehicles for his third birthday, even hinted at two trucks he wish he could have for birthday presents, I made him a road cake with those trucks on it.  This year, fourth birthday, I asked him totally for his input.  He said he wanted a camping one.  So I asked what needed to be on it and he gave me a short list...a camper and vehicle, a fire, a tent.  I went with it.  This year he got a camping cake.

I will admit, each year stretches my creative ability.  But each year I figure out different techniques to add to the overall look, trying to make it look somewhat realistic.  When I am decorating the cakes I get into a zone.  I am truly happy making and decorating them.

Will my kiddos remember the cakes they had? Maybe, maybe not.  But what I do know is that I will remember the sheer joy on their faces when they see their cake for the first time.  If they take anything away from it, I hope they remember that their mom made their cakes for them and the love she put into them.

Now, who is ready for some cake!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Birthdays ~ Our Style



There are as many ways to do birthdays as there are people.  Everyone has a thought on how they want to celebrate their birthday.  It could even change from year to year, or if it is a milestone type birthday (1, 40, 50, etc).  We, well we like to keep them simple and low key.  Even with kids, this is our preference.

Birthdays are important to celebrate and to take the special day to be around those who mean the most in your life if you can.  Does that mean you have to throw a big party every year and invite everyone and their neighbor? No, not unless that is your style and what you truly want to do.  Whether you are an adult or kid, input is key.  Knowing the person is even better to putting together just the right celebration.  As for kids, just know, as they get older, they come to expect certain things in a "well we did it that way last year" kind of way.

For our kiddos, well, my oldest is four, so we've done four birthdays now.  As for my youngest, well he is 18 months, so we've just had the one so far.

Their first birthdays we made a bigger deal out of them.  Yes, we invited a bunch of family over for both.  Granted my youngest's was bigger and more involved, but only because we did his baptism as well at the same time.  So everyone came to celebrate his baptism and his first birthday.

Both kids had a themed first birthday. My oldest was jungle themed because his room was that theme.  My youngest, Northwoods, because well, that is how his room is decorated.  So the decorations, colors, plates and the like, were all themed accordingly.

However, since the first birthday, we've kept them low key.  My oldest, when he turned 3, we did a small party with his few friends doing an art project and having some cupcakes.  Nothing huge, but we decided to take something he enjoyed doing and had been asking to have his friends join him and do that. Yes, we've been invited to other kids' birthday parties, but he has never asked to do that sort of thing for his.  Granted he is only four, but his memory is insanely detailed.  It won't be long before he makes the connection.  For the other two, we kept it family and food he likes.

That is our general plan overall.  Keep them low key and simple.  Food they like, with people they like, and cake they pick.  Over time, birthdays will change.  I get that.  But we don't want our kiddos to expect a bigger and better birthday party each year.  We may consider on the bigger milestone birthdays of doing something a little bigger, more elaborate...then again, we might not.

I've often wondered, when kids are this little, who the party is really for.  Have you ever noticed that more often than not, the people invited to a kids birthday is family, neighbors, and friends...of the parents?  There may be a few kiddos running around.  But generally a kid's birthday party seems to be overrun with adults.  I get it, if you invite a kid over you invite one or both their parents.  However when the adult to kid ratio is heavier on the adult side, then really, who is the party for?  So often we get caught up in the, well we were invited to their birthday, we have to make a bigger deal and invite a lot of people over.  I've known people to spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars on a kid's birthday party year after year.  But why? What for?

You can keep a birthday low key, you can keep it to just a handful of people, you can keep it budget friendly if you really want to.  Or you can invite tons of people, throw a big giant event, and more if you want to.  Whatever your style is, go with it.  Our style?  Low key and simple.

At this point, my four year is just excited to be four.  First words out of his mouth this morning "I am four now!" (his birthday was yesterday).  He thinks it's a pretty cool thing.  He was perfectly happy and content, grateful, for getting to spend the morning doing a play date with one of his friends and then eating his favorite food for dinner and a camping themed cake he picked out.  Opened presents after and then he played until bed with some of the new stuff he got.  During prayers last night, he said he was thankful for all the new clothes and the camper/car that was on his cake.

I like the idea of just letting the magic of the simple things bring the joy and smiles to my kiddos.  Maybe instead of thinking, "oh, I am 35, I feel old now", maybe I should wake up and shout "I'm 35!"  Age is a number, nothing more.  What means the most are the people around you and the moments you create with them.

Let's be excited for the simple things.