Thursday, September 7, 2017

Under Construction

 We've done remodel projects before, this is nothing new to us.  But this time around we had two kiddos and a kitchen to be redone.  With the help of family and my hubby they got things going and through the toughest part.  Normally, I stay around to help out, but with two little kids, my help was best utilized by findign somewhere else to be.  Something that I had to be okay with.  I didn't really feel like I was much of a help, but having the kiddos out of the house for the week had a lot of benefits for everyone. 

By the end of the week, the kiddos were asking to go home.  I knew we'd be walking into everything being under constrction still.  Things were taking longer than we had anticipated.  But the kiddos and I were ready to be home.  Not that we didn't like being at the lake; it was simply that we missed daddy. 

We started the project August 19.  Today, a week into September, we are still under construction.  While the cabinets are in (all but one), there is no countertop, no sink, no dishwasher, and finishing details need to be done yet.  My bathtub doubles as a dishwaher, but at least the microwave and stove are working, and we still have gorgeous weather so we can cook outside.  Plywood and boxes make up my countertop, but in all honesty, as much as I want it done, it works for us right now and I am okay with that.

Today, I started making breakfast and had to step out of the kitchen for a moment.  When I came back i saw my two kiddos sitting at the dining room table playing.  The older one helped his brother into his high chair.  You see, before the remodel, the only sightline into the dining room from the kitchen was the doorway.  Now, the wall is gone and you can see straight through (which I love!).  While standing by the makeshift countertop watching the kiddos, I began to think. 

Aren't we in a state of under construction often throughout our lives?  As we grow and go through different stages, different seasons, it is like we are in remodel mode. 

My kitchen is under construction, and so are we. 

My oldest is 4 1/2, my youngest is almost 2.  Two years into two kiddos and I am totally feeling like I am under construction more often than not.  My parenting, my me, my everything around me is in some state of remodel when I think about it. 

I often feel like I have lost me since having the kiddos.  I am "Mom" "Mama!" "Mommy" all day long, I often loose sight on who Liz is.  Something I am working on.

My parenting is often chaging because my kids are changing (too quick sometimes) or because something different needs to be tried and I am trying to find the right fit.

Seasons change, projects come and go...where does that leave us as moms? as a family? as ourselves? or in whatever other roles we fullfill each day?

Though we are under construction often, where we have been, where we are, and where we are headed our always on our minds.  During these remodel times, these season changes, it is a good time to re-evaluate.  Look at where we are and where we want to head.  Take the time to figure out how to get there.  But also, take the time to slow down.  By slowing down, you can take the world and life in in a way that your kiddos do. 

Change is hard, but it can be good.  Going through these physical, mental, emtional, and spiritual construction times is what is need for us all to grow.  To reach our goals, hit the successes we have been wanting, and to learn.  No matter what age we are, we need to face these challenges.

Some of these phases are easier to take than others.  Sure, it can last a day, a week, a month, a year or more, we need that time.  While they may seem daunting, overwhelming, stressful, and more, it is that pressure that causes the most change and the desired outcome.  

You may not see it yet, the results of the remodel, but it will show it's self soon enough.  My kitchen already looks awesome and we like where it's headed.  Being finished will be the icing on the cake.  We work around the stresses of beinging under construction still by doing the things we love and making the most out of what we have.

Where are you under construction right now?  What do you need to finish?  Where do you want it to end up?

Friday, July 7, 2017

Road Trip Anxiety

I will be honest... I get stressed, anxious, and worried about road trips.  Didn't happen much until I had kids.  Even then, after having one kid, road trip adventures didn't seem so bad.  I even got the nerve up to go on a few on my own.  Just my son and I.  Granted, the drive wasn't more than 5 hours.  But I tackled them.

Sure, even when traveling there is some worry and some stress.  It goes with the territory and goes with being a parent.  How would they do?  What will I do if they scream the entire time?  How do I entertain them? What if I am traveling alone with them? What if naps are shorter than expected, or hoped for? And the questions just keep going.

Now with two kiddos, I take a week to pack.  I am packing for three people and worry I will be forgetting something.  I even make lists, and sometimes, my lists have list.  Sometimes, I just have to take on the mentality, it is what it is.  If it's a disaster, oh well.  Hopefully some of the time we spent where we were headed was at least good, even if the car ride sucked.  And almost always there is a Wal-mart or the like if we forget something.  If we have the kids important stuff , loveys, stuffies, and nuks, well that is good enough.

I started road trips on my own with two kiddos this year after the first of the year.  A short 3 1/2 trip, that can be done mostly during nap time with a stop part way for lunch at a McDonald's with a play area.  Doable.  Worried some, but doable.  We have a DVD player in the car, so my oldest could watch something while my youngest would nap (and I would pray he would sleep for as much of the first part as possible).

When we planned our longer road trip in June and had the shorter one the end of May, I thought good, still on two naps that should help.  Um...nope, he had dropped a nap about mid May.  If he fell asleep in the car he was either tired because he was up too early, sick, or not going to nap again that day.

So when we got closer to the one in June, everything hit a high of all the emotions.  I was excited, yet filled with a lot of stress and worry.  You see, we were going to be gone 11 days.  That is a long time for a kiddo to be a way from home.  My oldest, up this point, didn't do well with change and sleeping in a different place.  My youngest, well, the last time we were going for a chunk of time, we spent the next week or so getting him reacquainted with his room again. Plus, there were times the kids would share a room or all of us would...all new concepts for them both.  I was thankful we were starting and ending the trip out a my parent's house (a somewhat familiar place for both).

We were down to one nap officially.  Which was great for the days we didn't drive anywhere and we could extend our adventures, but for the days that were more than 3 hours of drive time, well I was scared.  The first day, we had 5 hours of driving and the second day we had 7 1/2.  How in the world will we pass the time and not have to stop every hour?  Fortunately, the rest of the driving was 3 hour chunks every other day and could be done during nap time for both kids

Even now as I type this, I can feel my heart rate rising slightly and the anxiousness returning.  Somehow, by the grace of God, we did pretty decent with the travel and accommodations.  The kids did get a little squirrely as the week went on when it came to being back in the car by the end of the week.  Which resulted in an extra stop and some vanilla shakes to bribe them back in for the last little bit of the drive. The kids managed to make the 7 1/2 hours with only one stop at lunch time.  It still amazes me how long in between bathroom breaks my oldest at 4 can go.  We figured if they were mostly content we would just keep plugging along, and we did.  We even packed outside toy activities in case we had to make extra stops.  Then again, whenever we take a road trip, we always pack a soccer ball just in case we need to get out and run around.  I also hit of the dollar store to create road trip activity bags (you can read more about that in this post Road Trips ~ How to Save Your Sanity With Tips and Tricks For the Ride)

For some reason, both kids were up early the first day we were heading out.  Which, actually worked out alright because then my oldest zoned out to a DVD and took a decent afternoon nap, while my youngest took two decent naps as well.  And because of this, they went to bed early.  Which led to being up early the next day, and we could head out earlier and my youngest did two naps again.  Everything reset itself that night because the two shared a room together for the first time and having not spent a lot of energy for the day, took a bit longer to fall asleep.

The kids did better than expected with the accommodations, but we were all ready for our own rooms by the end of the week, as well as not having to be as concerned about the volume (and noise) created by two younger kids in a hotel room.  I am thankful that for some of the trip we had a suite so we could split up a little.  Most of the days they were so tired and worn out from the adventures that it didn't take long to fall asleep for both nap and bedtime.

We survived the vacation, we survived the drive, we actually had a decent amount of fun and were all happy to be back home (except my youngest, who need to get reacquainted with his room again).

I know a lot of my anxiety was me, my brain trailing off, and creating scenarios.  But even in the day to day we go over bumps, delays, and other unexpected things.  So, why would it all go away when we go on vacation?

Vacations are an adventure.  Usually people use them to reduce the worry, anxiety, and stress.  To relax and reboot.  But how does one do that with kiddos.  It sounds kind of funny, vacation and two kids under 5.

Well, it is possible to have a vacation, to go on adventures, to reduce the stress and the like, to relax and reboot.  It takes a change of perspective.  It takes knowing that you are still running on the same schedule and that you will face the same problems you do at home.  It takes having some flexibility and a whole lot of grace.  It takes lowering some of your own expectations.

Fill your vacation with things that you all enjoy or that you think the kids will enjoy.  For us, if we are outside, everyone is happy.  Give my kids water, sand or dirt, sticks life is good.  So we can go hike or camp.  We can go spend time along one of the lakes.  Both my kids love boats.  Both love collecting rocks (especially my youngest).  My oldest is getting into lighthouses and has a fascination for cars (especially old ones).  My youngest is starting to get into cars too.  So we filled out vacation with all those things.  So many of these things, we enjoy too.

We stayed in Detroit and watched some big cargo ships come in and saw a couple of lighthouses.  We visited the Henry Ford Museum, which for my kids the look on their face was better than on Christmas.  Can't lie, I felt the same way too.  We drove up to Port Huron so we could put our feet in another great lake.  We had already stepped in Lake Erie on our way to Detroit and we knew we would set foot in Lake Michigan at the end of the trip, so why not try for another one.  Plus that gave us a chance to see another lighthouse.  We even we got to climb up one of the lighthouses.  We went to a giant splash pad, had dinner at a train station where they are known for their pizza and the kids got to play with pizza dough before they ate, and built sand lighthouses.  We even did the unthinkable, we had ice cream before dinner one night.  But when you are on vacation, why not.

I even finished a book and began another one.  I had time to think quietly.  I had time to go off on my own for a little bit.  I ran through the splash pad, had many laughs along the way.  I had fun.  I even learned how to unplug from emails and facebook.  While I do love to write (which I did some of that too), I knew I needed the time from trying to always catch up on social media.

So will this stop me from having anxiety, stress, and worry leading up to a road trip or even while on one?  No, it will still be there.  But I also have a better footing in the let it go side of it.  I can settle in on the fact that there will be less of it, less chance of it getting to me, and less chance of it holding me back from the true moment of it.

Now, I am not saying every moment was perfect and without a hitch.  We had some off moments, some rough ones, and some that pushed everyone just a little too far.  But despite it all, it's not the part we remember.  And we really did enjoy our trip.

You know what, you can too.  Happy and safe travels and adventures this Summer!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Road Trips ~ How to Save Your Sanity with Tips and Tricks For the Ride

We recently went on a road trip vacation.  We had two weddings to attend, one week apart.  One in Ohio, the other in Wisconsin.  So in between the two, we decided to make it into a vacation, visit places we have not been and wanted to explore, and break up the driving.

Some of our driving was during nap time in three hour chunks.  But we had two 5 hour days and one 7 1/2 hour day.  We wanted to keep moving along while we could and as long as the kids were content we plugged our way through the long days.

The longest, 7 1/2, was the day I was dreading the most.  It is already a long time to be in the car, but if we had to make a lot of stops, it would take us even longer.  Also, my youngest was down to one nap by the time we left and the longest he had lasted in the car until this point was 2 1/2 hours.  It was going to be a long drive.

So, I prepared myself mentally for that.  I also prepared my kiddos.  While my oldest could watch a DVD the whole time, I didn't want him watching that much T.V if possible and my youngest could glance at it, but not get much out of it as he still faces backwards.

We always have books and toy remotes in the car.  The kids tap into those as we drive around town.  We did use these some before taking out the new stuff.  Luckily, we have the DVD player and we only use that for long distances and for the first part of our drive.  But we did pop one in a couple of extra times just to get a little more mileage out of the drive before stopping. 

But I knew that even the usual stuff wouldn't hold them over for the entire trip or as the week went on.  I also wasn't sure if we would need ideas to fill our time in the hotel, as well as at any stops we made.  When we travel we always toss a soccer ball or two into the car just in case we need to stop and burn some energy off.  So, the soccer balls, DVDs, books, and remotes were ready to go as usual.  We also travel with water-less reusable paint books.  Melissa and Doug make painting books that just use water filled paint brushes.  The kids paint on the page and the picture shows through.  The water dries and they can use it again. 

But this time, I wanted to change things up and create some surprises for the kids in hopes it would allow us to get a little further in our drive or in the case of through Indiana, we couldn't stop until we got to the other side as everything was under construction.  Before going, we spent some time at the dollar store.

Oddly, the day we were scheduled to leave and the next, two of longest days, both kids were up early.  Which helped because then my youngest did two naps and my oldest did a decent afternoon nap both days.  Very helpful.  But, for the in between times, here is what we packed and why.

We found all the items at the dollar store.

Bubbles, stickers, blank notebooks, whiteboard, crayons, car bingo, sticker activity books, a frog jumping game, and coloring activity books.  As the drive went on, we added in beach balls and counting games

Bubbles:  a great idea that I wish I had found sooner.  From Jill Savage I got the idea.  You crank the car's vents up to high.  Make sure you have just the top vents on (it works better).  Hold up the bubble wand to the vent and let the air blow the bubbles.  We have a van so they flew all around and the kids had fun trying to catch them.  This alone would sometimes buy us an extra 20 minutes or more of drive time.

Stickers: Nothing to it, just stickers.  I would hand them back to my youngest and he would stick them to where he could reach.  The kids also had blank notebooks to use however they wanted.  They would sometimes stick the stickers in them.  Sometimes, my oldest would put them in his and then create a picture to go with it.  We used smiley face ones, which are fun to just put on things and have a smile at you.  The other was farm themed.  This one too would give us a decent amount more drive time.

Blank Notebooks: My oldest loves art.  So I figured if anything he can pull this out and crayons to color and create pictures.  My youngest likes to color, so blank pages and crayons were easy for him to use in the car.  I even thought that maybe it could be used to "write" about our trip.  The kids also stuck the stickers in them.

Whiteboard: My oldest found a Thomas one.  It had number writing practice on one side and counting engines on the other side.  He used it once in the entire trip.  But it was good practice and fairly clean.  He asked for it and I figured for $1 why not.

Car Ride Bingo Cards:  I was planning on making them, but when I saw them in dry erase form, I bought them instead.  One was road signs and one was vehicles.  My youngest just looked at them.  But my oldest tried to find some of the stuff.  He didn't want to mark any off, but still enjoyed them.  We joked about some the things pictured figuring we'd never see them from the car, like a hot air balloon and a sailboat, but we did end up seeing everything on them. Being four, my oldest preferred the vehicle one over the signs this time.  I just taped them to his window.

Sticker Activity Books:  These were an extra find.  I knew my oldest liked stickers and knew his letters, numbers, etc., so these were something he could do on his own.  He had to find the right page to put the matching sticker.  He had lots of fun doing them.  The only tough part was getting the stickers off.  We solved the problem by pulling off all the extra parts around the stickers.  Then he could easily peel them off.

Frog Jumping Game:  Not intended for the car, but was a lot of fun in the hotel room.  It could be done outside if needing a break at some point, or even at a restaurant.

Color Activity Book:  Just a bunch of pages that can be colored, mazes to do, word finds, etc.  We used these more in the hotel room if my youngest ended up needing a morning nap, then my oldest would color for a bit.  

Beach balls:  Never realized how much fun these could be.  We picked them up at one of the lighthouse gift shops for the kids.  They had fun playing with them in the car ride back to the hotel.  They also used the water filled paint brushes to paint them.

Counting Game:  At one point we picked a vehicle...semis...and said let's count semis.  You could totally do this with any other vehicle or object.

For older kiddos I spy works great and so does the ABC game, as well as the license plate game.  The ABC game is: starting with A, find the letter.  Once found, move onto the next letter.  The only time I skip over a letter is Q and Z.  But when I see them, I bank them.  Then again, more and more license plates are showing up with a letter Z on them.  The license plate game is: watching for license plates from each state and marking them off. 

In the past, when we make stops, we try to plan them around meal times.  Added bonus if we can find a place that has a play place inside.  But if not, on a decent day, we find a local park to go play at or green space nearby.  I have also stopped at a rest stop and let the kids do a nature scavenger hunt collecting pine cones, flowers, and sticks to decorate the picnic table there.

The black pocket thing in the picture hangs on the back of a seat.  I put it on the seat in front of my oldest's seat and put all his stuff in there or under his seat.  He could reach the pockets and I could reach the stuff under his seat, while it all stayed organized.  My youngest's stuff was in a bin near the front seats to easily hand him stuff.  We also kept a cooler in front with us filled with snacks and water to have within easy reach when needed.

This is what worked for us.  Will it work next time?  I hope so, but I don't mind changing things up a little bit too.  Then again, I don't know when our next long distance road trip is happening, so a lot can change between now and then.  But have fun, be flexible, and let the kids help pick out ideas too. 

Before your next trip, head out to the dollar store or dollar section at Target and see what you can find.  Get creative and have fun.  If it doesn't work that's okay.  Have a bunch of options to work from.  Just because it didn't work at one point in the trip, doesn't mean it won't work later on (or vice versa).  And you know what, a vanilla shake can go a long ways sometimes.

What are your tips and tricks for road trips?  Extra bonus if they aren't electronic.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Thunderstorms of Life

 So how does a picture of a van have to do with a thunderstorm?  Keep reading to find out.

This post comes after being woken at 4 am to help settle my oldest as a thunderstorm rolled through. Fortunately, he fell back asleep and fortunately, my youngest slept through.  But that left me awake, trying to go back to sleep.  Once I got up and ready for the day, I sat on the edge of my bed thinking.

Thunderstorms.  I don't mind them during the day, but at night, I don't like them.  Never have.  So I get my son's aversion to them as well.  But it made me think more, more about the thunderstorms of life.  We all go through them, both weather wise and life wise. Life has a way of bringing them into the day.

No matter where you are; on vacations, at playgrounds, out on adventures, and more, they show up.  In fact, I have been working on some posts about our recent road trip.  But life has a funny way of sticking things into your life that you need to write about in the moment.  Well, that is where today's post comes from.  It started with the weather, but ended with me thinking on our most recent thunderstorm in our life.

Nothing major, just inconvenient.  You see, the day after we got back from our vacation, my car began to have the high temp light come on.  No biggie, checked the fluid, added some, and things went back to normal.  Drove fine the rest of the week.  That is, until the weekend.  We decided to go strawberry picking.  Didn't get more than five minutes from the house when the light came on, stayed on, and I couldn't accelerate anymore. 

Again, no biggie, just inconvenient.  We pulled off, let things cool down, watched a few videos and came to the conclusion that the temperature gauge needed to be replaced and it was something we could do.  So, home we went, swapped cars and seats around and headed out for the morning.  The next day, we picked up the part and my hubby worked on making the fix.  Seemed to drive fine again that night.

The next day came, hubby took it to work and didn't make it more than 15 minutes out before coming back home.  Now, this was becoming more of an issue.  Now we had to get it in, be down to one car, and explain to the kids why plans changed.  Most of what we did was met with flexibility, as  we figured we would get the car back by the end of the day.

So, hubby headed to work and the kids and I headed outside.  We went for a walk and enjoyed the beautiful weather. Then the car repair place called.  Bad news, head gasket.  Worse news, could need a whole new engine.  Now, we are left with what to do.  Fix it, hope it lasts or with it being a 2004 vehicle do we just replace it.  If we fixed it, we would be out one vehicle for at least a week.

My oldest's concern was how were we going to get to see our friends and visit playgrounds with them.  My concern was, no vehicle for a week and we had things to do.  But also, which route do we go.

Well, by 9 that night, there was a new to us van sitting in the driveway, kids were asleep and I was picking up the old van from the repair place.  Now, what do we do with the old one? We wanted to try to get something for it.  So, the next day I spent my time calling salvage companies to find someone who would take it.  Found one to pick it up Friday.

We weathered the thunderstorm.  Now, we could look at it several ways.  No, it wasn't major, but it still added a storm to our life.  Storms come in all sizes, this one happened to be a smaller one.

Now that it is all done.  The old van has been picked up.  I am getting used to the new one.  The emotions have settled a bit.  I am thinking.

I am sad.  Yes, sad over a van.  Why?  Because I wasn't expecting this, wasn't ready (we only had it four years), and I liked the van I had.

My oldest told me, "mom, it's okay to be sad.  It's a different color, that is okay.  But it works better than the old one.  This one is good."  Wise words from a four year.

But I also look at how it all came together.  Timing wise, in our mind, not great as it was unexpected.  However, when we look at it.  We were home.  We had just gotten back from a trip out to Ohio the day before the initial problems started.  At least we were close to home.  We were able to find a new one the same day we found out that my old one wasn't worth fixing.

It is odd how it all came together.  The sales guy had said there was an appointment before us, but they canceled.  It was the same people who had looked at it a few days before.  This new one has all that my other did, plus a few upgrades.  There are a lot of things that are better or work better, and everyone seems happier with it overall.

But going even deeper, I look at the blessing of having the finances to buy it.  My hubby, has been not only working a 40 hour a week day job, but also has a side job in sales through his own website and backyard life gear, as well as on Amazon for several years.  It is because of this we were able to pay cash for the vehicle.

It is almost like God had put into place all these pieces of the puzzle and carefully placed the timing of the thunderstorm.

Life has an unusual way of working sometimes.  We ride the thunderstorms as they come.  No matter how big or small the storm, we make it through.

The picture at the top is a picture of my old van.  The picture below, is my new one.  So how does a picture of a van relate to a thunderstorm?  Well, because our van change out was a thunderstorm in this thing we call life.

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 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.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Control ~ Letting Go

So a couple months ago my youngest got hit with a viral crud that left him throwing up all day long.  Then a couple days later it hit me and my oldest.  I've personally only had the flu two other times prior, once when I was four and once after we lost Samantha.  My oldest has not been much for being sick like this very often either.  So when it hit the three of us, I was down for the count and then some.

When my youngest got it, he was clung to me for the rest of the day.  Then while I had the run with it and my oldest too, he was stuck by my side for the day as well.  As much I don't like to be sick, especially while staying at someone else's house, I was relieved to have to go through this and have the extra hands of my parents to help out.

While I had one kiddo stuck to me, my parents entertained my oldest while my hubby helped tag team my youngest.  Then when I was sick, they entertained my youngest while my hubby helped my oldest and me out.  It was a humbling experience.

After going through it it made me realize that letting go of the control can lead to such a big impact.  You see, since having Samantha and losing her, i have a very hard time giving up the control...even when I didn't have it in the first place or when it wasn't mine to have.  When you really think about it, how much control do we truly have.  I know one thing for sure, I can control my thoughts, reactions, and my attitude.  But I can't control everything in life and nor should I.

But after having become a mom and loosing my daughter, when T came along I thought things had to be my way because it was better, they had to be just right.  I needed to have the control.  I didn't want to loose another child.  While I knew in my heart that Samantha was in God's good hands, he was the one in the control seat, I didn't want to face that again.  So, I went overboard on the control factor, trying to control as much as I could and had myself convinced that I probably had more control than I did in reality.

Add in another kiddo and the realization of things changing greatly made me begin to notice I was loosing control.  In reality, I probably didn't have the control like I thought and trying to control all just ended up, well, it ended up going to one extreme or the other.  Either I was a push over and gave in to easily or I was too hard and had to high of expectations.  Neither area was good and neither was the swing between the two.  I thought I could compensate with things like frappes, spending extra money when and where it didn't need to be spent, toys, and the like.

The time we were all sick, my plans had changed.  The one day my mom and I were supposed to go get pedicures.  Something I was looking forward to greatly.  But with my son being sick, I wasn't going anywhere.  Then on the day I was sick and my oldest as well, we were supposed to be headed back home.  No way were we going to get into a car for five hours.  I had to let everyone around help out because there was only so much I could do on my own.  I had to let it go.

Me getting sick made me realize that it doesn't always have to be me, or my way.  There are other ways that work and are good too.  By trusting and letting someone else have the control I can put focus and energy into other areas of my life. Like going on a date night with my hubby.  Which we got to do do for the first time since T was born.  Even better, I was able to let go of some of the guilt I  would feel not being the one to be there, but letting family watch over the kids and the kids getting extra grandparent time.

It's a hard thing to do.  While I do want to be there to tuck my kiddos into bed at night, read them stories, and do their prayers, I know that there are others who can do it once in awhile.  By letting others in, I can work on making my marriage strong, dig deep and discover my dreams, set some goals, and soar.

There are many facets to life.  All areas need time placed into them.  If we focus to heavily in one area, the others begin to falter.  Putting too much control into one area leaves an imbalance in the other areas.  Our kids need to see us, the need to see their extended family, they need to see there are lots of ways to accomplish tasks, they need to see what it's like to dream and make those dreams come true, they need to have time to themselves.  They learn through us.  Through all our successes and failures, they learn. They need to know that there are some things that they can control and there are some things they can't.  They need to learn to trust.

We as parents need to learn to let go of the control.  Divide and conquer.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Loss ~ A Different Perspective

Y'all I just had a hard dose of reality recently.  After facing the depression and anxiety post, while slowly coming to terms with that I am on this path that just took a hard left.  The last time I had such a hairpin curve was when we lost Samantha.

You see, it was a loss.  We all face loss and there are many different kinds of loss throughout life.  I began to think a little more on things.  I lost a grandparent when I was in fourth grade.  That is the first loss I can really remember.  Sure, I am sure I lost toys and the like.  But that seemed kind of different.  That's when I realized something.  Loss, depending on how old you are can take on a totally different meaning.

My oldest, nearly four now, had been acting out in a different way.  Some would chalk it up age, language, emotions, changes...which I do agree with when I think about it.  Then, I began to think on it differently.  I began to think on it from a different perspective.  The perspective of loss.  It made me realize, in the past 18 months he has face a lot of loss.  While sometimes handling it well, sometimes not so much in the moment, and sometimes the proverbial "shit hitting the fan" in the moment he has faced a lot in that short time.

Some of it comes with age and change, but broken out, it's a lot.  Let's run through the list.

We moved...yeah, great!  Definitely exciting and he handle it well, loves the new room and bigger yard.  However, he lost what he knew of the old house and familiarity as well as the ability to continue to go to some of the places we had been going easily.  Overall, a great change, but still the change was him loosing what he knew for the unknown.

We added to the family...we knew we wanted to grow our family.  We brought home his brother.  That in itself had a lot of loaded weight to it.  He now had to share mom and dad.  I couldn't, at first lift him like I could before because of my c-sec.  Then his brother grew and began to move.  So T's space got less and less his, and more and more ours. (Including that bedroom he loved so much).  There became no just T space if A was awake.  It happens, I know.  But still, a lot of small losses as we adjusted to a new normal and routine of another kiddo.

No more diapers!!!  Yeah, potty trained.  I can't believe how long he can go between peeing now.  I am pretty sure his bladder is bigger than a lot of adults I know. Any-who, on the positive side, yeah no more diapers.  However, on the loss side, he lost diapers.  Happens as kids get older, but sometimes I think, at first, he wouldn't have minded the extra him time and attention during diaper changes.  Now, he uses the bathroom as a quiet him space perusing books before bedtime.

Nuks...ufda.  Love hate relationship with the nuks.  I wasn't looking forward to the day we had to work through giving them up, but knew it was fast approaching.  And how unfair his brother got to have one and he didn't.  It was a dentist visit where they suggested that by age four for him to be done.  We had started planning ways to transition off, and then he said if I get rid of them today can we go pick out a toy and stuffed animal.  So, we went with it.  While maybe not the best way of doing things, especially for him and his personality, we went with it.  Well, four months later we are done with them.  Have been since that day.  While every now and then he asks for one, they are getting further from his mind.  Makes me dread having to do the transition with his brother.  Either way, a loss, especially when dealing with a comfort object.

His bed.  Don't worry, he still has a bed, it's a twin one.  But he did have his crib.  He loved his crib and never seemed to want out.  In fact, I am sure he would have stayed longer had we not needed it for his brother.  He never had an issue with making the switch. He has enjoyed the big bed since it arrived, despite it staying on the floor for over a year.  It didn't take long to make the switch.  He picked out sheets, we put them on the bed with a pillow and put it next to his crib.  Let him decide which one he wanted to use.  He picked bed and that was that.  The next day the crib came out because he found it fun to stand on the rails and jump off onto his bed.  So, while fun and exciting, still a loss.

Toys.  Toys galore and they are everywhere.  Same with stuffed animals.  But, now the kids have all the toys accessible.  Nothing is off limits to the younger brother like they once were.  Let me tell you, even after working with kids and dealing with sharing, nothing compares to siblings and sharing.  But it is a lesson we are all working on and learning.  But there is nothing that A won't get into, onto, or try out for himself to be like brother.  So we face toy issues and loss a lot and on most days.

Most of that stuff happens with life and transitions.  We face different seasons of our lives.  We have to sometimes face loss to make room for what is to come next.  Even if the loss is a part of life, the transition, or a good thing (especially in the long run) it is still not easy to have to face something every couple of months.

Growing up is hard to do.  We need our parents to help us through it all.  But we also need to remember to look at it from the perspective of the kid.  It may not seem like a big deal to us, but in the eyes of the child it can be too big to know how to handle.  What seems like a paper cut to us, seems like a much deeper wound to heal and fix to them.  So, how are we going to handle loss to help our kiddos handle it?  Sometimes we just need to change up the perspective in order to get a better and deeper understanding.  Loss happens.  Good or bad.  We face it and so do our kids.  Their loss is sometimes more on a simplistic plain that we need to get down on their level to understand.

It 's also why sometimes kids start acting in different ways with behaviors that are much less desirable.  We have to face the fact that these changes are going to happen, but we also need to face the fact that sometimes there is a deeper meaning and more understanding needed to figure out the behavior.  We can't always chalk it up to age, or because other's judgements of the how kids should be, or changes.

Life happens, change happens, loss happens, but through it all growth happens.  So how are we going to take this and let the growth happen?  Look deeper, look beyond the initial behavior, and look at what all is going on around you.  Step out of the box and moment, step back and observe.  Learn and grow.  Your kids are doing this every day, maybe its time that us parents do it more.  Maybe it's time to start growing with our kids.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Digging in Deep - Anxiety, Postpartum, Depression


Fair warning, this post may get heavy and it will probably go deep.  It is my hope that writing about my experience will help others, as well as help me open up finally and share another part of my story.  So, here goes.

Anxiety, postpartum and depression.  Most people don't know that I have had them and continue to do so in varying degrees.  It took me until June of last year to finally agree with the fact that something just wasn't right.  I couldn't put my finger on it until after talking a little more with my doctor.  She knew in an instant when I started talking that there was more going on than met the eye.  She also knew my history since having Samantha.  She said that with all that I had been through, recently and over the past five years, it makes sense.

I have a hard time taking care of myself most of the time.  When life throws me curves, I retreat inward and put on a happy face.  When we miscarried Samantha, I never really let myself process the grief.  I was admitted on a Wednesday, had her Thursday, and went home Friday.  I was able to take until the following Wednesday off.  My boss told me if I needed more, I could take it.  But in reality, I didn't feel like I could and they really didn't want me to be gone any longer.  Luckily, my co teachers were a great group and very understanding.  They did everything they could to make the transition back go as best as it could under the circumstances, the parents were there when I needed support, and my co teachers did what they could to make it so I could be in to work early and leave early for the first few days.  My way of coping was calling for bathroom breaks and crying alone in there.  Bolting the second I could at nap time and getting a coffee.  And running even faster at the end of the day to my car, once again most days for awhile crying all the way home.  It wasn't until nearly nine months later I finally decided to take the time I needed to take care of me and deal with what all had happened and more of the grief.  By the end of that Summer I knew something wasn't quite right.  I couldn't put my finger on it.  I decided what I needed was time.  Time my work didn't or wouldn't allow.  So, with the help and support of my husband, I stepped out of my classroom.  I had become a jack of all trades so to speak there.  So it made it really easy to step away, but still have the hours to work when I needed.  I could take the time away to begin to heal.  My husband and I could take the time away to heal as well.  I also found a couple of outside resource groups to help work through the grief. 

Move forward to finding out we were pregnant the second time.  Shortly in, I started bleeding.  This after praying for so many months that God would give us a child.  It was minor and because of that and prior, we were put on high risk.  I could even stop just to hear the heart beat if I needed.  The whole pregnancy left me filled with anxiety.  So, I did what I do best.  Sank myself into working as much as I could and then at the end of the day going to sleep or taking a nap.  I did this until a couple weeks before.  Which then I spent my days vacuuming, visiting my hubby, and just plain waiting.  After my oldest son was born, I faced the normal postpartum that is typical.  Sure I was anxious, worried, and somewhat self critical.  But Summer came and went.  Before I knew it our days were filled and busy.  I would be harsh on myself for mistakes I made.  Yell out in frustration when I didn't understand. But overall, things went pretty good once we settled into a new routine.  I will say though, that I had (still do) a hard time letting go of the control.  I wanted to be the one to tuck him, I would check in on him before I would go to bed, I didn't want to go on date nights, I didn't always let other people hold him (especially at the beginning).  It had to be me.  I took my anxiety and turned it into being a control freak.

I have to admit, these past 16 months have been the hardest and roughest ones for me by far.  Most of the time it's not noticeable on the outside.  But if you got into my head, you would hear a different story.  So much so, I couldn't hear my own heart, my own mom instinct, or could even trust that gut feeling.  Even right now as I type this, I am finding it a challenge.  Like I said early, it took me nearly eight months to finally say something about it.  But that is as far as it went.  I told my doctor, she wrote me a prescription.  She told me I didn't have to fill it right away, I didn't have to be on it forever.  When I was ready, it would be there.  It took me another two or so months to admit that maybe I did need to get it filled.  Even then, it took me a good week before I made a decision.  I decided to try it, just one night before bed.  It was one of the worst nights of sleep, even worse than during the newborn phase.  I was filled with so much anxiety and guilt.  I never took another one.  But, I also never dealt with what was going on.  Instead, I did what I do best.  I retreated inward and put on a happy face.  I bought coffee almost daily.  I spent money when I didn't need and probably shouldn't have.  Gave in way to easily to my oldest or was too critical.  And more.  All the while crying myself to sleep.  Being extremely self critical and full of negative self talk all day and all night.  The slightest mistake I made snowballed into an avalanche. To be honest, I still don't deal well with my mistakes and my emotions.  And some of the behaviors, the coffee and spending money, the giving in to easily have all become habits.  Not good ones either and have left me with a mess to clean up now.

To be honest, this is where I am at right now.  I know that I have anxiety problems, I know I've dealt with postpartum depression, and I know that I am still sitting with the weight of all of this.  I haven't wanted to take the prescription, I've tried oils, I've tried working out as a relief.  But what it comes down to, is I've never opened up about any of this.  I just let it roll around inside my head.  It truly affects me daily and I have a lot to learn, as well as work through.  Fear has kept me from saying anything.  Fear has kept me from admitting to myself. 

Life is hard.  Parenting is hard.  It takes a lot to care for a child, let alone two, or more.  I think it makes it even harder, when you have been touched with the reality of how short life is and when you've face a pregnancy loss at any point.  You've faced dreams dying when your child died.  And sometimes we push that into our next kids.  This happened the first time around, I am going to change it so it doesn't happen again.  Or, I am going to do everything to give them everything (this goes beyond the basic necessities of life, it's the special treats every day, saying yes after saying no because you didn't want to deal with the emotions that followed and it seemed easier, and so on). 

The guilt that we feel can be such a huge load to carry.  Splitting my time between two was something I didn't balance well at the beginning.  Might be a little better at it now, but still have a ways to go.  Any time my focus was on one kid, I felt the immediate guilt rush over me for the other one. I haven't been able to put my focus into one person at a time without feeling guilty and thinking of the other, as well as all the what ifs or the I shoulds.  Bonds have suffered and aren't as strong as they once were or could be.  All the while I keep thinking, if I can't manage my emotions and work through them, how am I going to help my kiddos.  My oldest will be four in a few short months.  He feels big emotions.  He needs to know how to work through them.  I need to know how to work through them.  But I need to work through mine in order to do that, while at the same time putting mine aside to help.  He can learn a lot from watching how I deal with mine.  And when it's time to deal with his, I need to lay mine down to help him work through them.  Draw him in closer to draw them out.

I am hoping by writing this, I have begun to draw mine out.  To make it okay to open up about something that nobody really wants to talk about.  Sometimes the best way to let go is to open up and let in.  Draw it of you, draw those you love in closer, and be truly heard.

If you are struggling in any way, please find a way to open up.  Find someone. Find somewhere.  Let it out.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Well, What About Socialization?

 Why is it that once you have kids, the question "well, what about socialization?" pops up all the time?  It's like once a kid is over four months, this all that people care about.  What classes are they going to be in? Are they going to do ECFE? Are they going to day care? How are they going to learn socialization?

Once you get closer to three years old, then its all about school.  When are you going to go to school?  Are you in school yet? Where are you going to go for preschool, prekindergarten, and beyond?  If you say you aren't sending them to preschool or prekindergarten, then you are constantly asked, "well what about socialization?"

Now that my oldest will be four in a few months, he is eligible to go to prekindergarten in the school district.  Not a requirement by any means, but we can go through the early childhood screening, looking at school options, and picking them out.  We've been asked a lot lately, as we've decided not to send him to prekindergarten, "well, what about socialization?".  It's almost as if people assume you need to be in a school building, a classroom filled with others that are only your age, and have to have a teacher in order to have socialization.

I am pretty sure we will continue to get this question a lot once people find out what our school choice is.  But I am saving that for another blog post.  For now, is about the socialization aspect.

So, what about socialization? In my best Inigo Montoya voice...
Image result for Inigo Montoya "I don't think that words means what you think it does

Can you honestly say you know what socialization means?  Take a moment to look it up.  I am guessing you will find yourself quite surprised by the true meaning.  And also find the actual word you are looking for.

More often than not, people want to know about socializing.  Which is not the same as socialization.  Socialize, meaning to mix with others socially, is really the question people are wanting an answer to.    What people really want to know when they ask this question, really is "well, how are your children going to have playmates?" This concept, the concept of socialize, is just a mere aspect of socialization.

Socialization, meaning the process by which individuals acquire the knowledge, language, social skills, and value to conform to the norms and roles required for integration into a group or community, is something that is learned throughout life and from those who are a part of the person's life.  You don't need to have a school building, a classroom of kids the same age, or a teacher to do this.  This is something that can be taught by parents and others through day to day life.  Now remember, a community is a family, a town, club, city, or organization.  Even a group of friends can be considered a community. If a child is learning to fit into their community, then socialization is happening.

So you see, kids don't have to be sent to a school to learn socialization.  Even more so, when someone asks the question about socialization and you answer with a simple, "you don't need a school to learn socialization" you usually end up with a response of "well, yeah I get that" or "I know that, but..." and the answer seems to trail off.  It's as if it has become common place to ask the question and people have become so set in the ways that looking past what has always been done may not be the best reason any more.  Or more likely, they really aren't looking for an answer...especially if it doesn't fit in with their line of thinking or their way of doing things or how others around them do the same things.  Fear of being judged because of the what a family member decides or friend decides is really what it comes down to. 

There are some many other ways to get socialization.  Church, grocery shopping, going out to eat, play dates, visiting museums, classes out in the world around you, helping others, interacting with other age groups, sports, clubs and organizations, the library, even going on a walk around the neighborhood. The list goes on and on.

There is so much more to socialization and kids learn it through seeing others in their community.  They learn it from their parents to start.  Then it continues as the kids grow and their world around them expands.  Their knowledge, skills, and values build and grow as they do.

So, the next time you ask the question, "well, what about socialization" be sure you are ready for the answer that is given to you.  If you honestly know or get it, then you don't need to ask.  If you are just saying "yeah, I know that" or "yeah I get that, but..." then take the time to listen to what the person is answering back with.  Take the time to learn and understand, don't just ask because it's become common place or to say something about it.  If you don't want to listen, then don't ask the question.

My children are learning socialization through their every day and day to day living.  They learn it from us, their family, and friends.  They learn it through their neighborhood and church communities.  They learn it while running errands and while out on adventures.  My kids are not at a day care, they are not in a school.  They are around all ages.  They are growing their knowledge, social skills, and values. I have great faith in the community around us and them, that they will continue to grow all these things and more.

Well, what about socialization? Yeah, my kids are doing just fine in that area.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Checking it Out ~ The Library


The library really has so much to offer year round.  However, we've had a tendency to utilized it the most during the colder months and rainy days.  I need to get better at making the library visits more of a priority.  My oldest loves to read books and would read all day long. My youngest is just getting started in sitting long enough for one story.  Added bonus if there is a play area for them to explore and meet other kids.

Beyond the books and play, the story times are great.  Well, at least at the library closest to us.  A good morning song, letter of the week, action songs, stories, puppets, good bye songs, coloring sheets, and stickers.  Keep it moving, keep it short, keep the kids engaged.  A great win for everyone and an awesome learning experience.

I was skeptical of story times at first because of two libraries making it tough to sit through one.  The first time we ever went the good morning song involved greeting each of the nearly 30 kids that were there by name.  My son didn't make it very long and ended up falling asleep in the car ride home.  We left before they were half done with greeting each kid.  The other time we tried a story time was at a rather large library, however, we weren't there quick enough (and by quick enough, you had to be ready to run into the story time area to claim a spot) and there wasn't enough room in the space they used.  We were turned away, very disappointed.

However, we just happened to be at the library near our new house to see what it was like and it happened to be a story time day.  My son decided to join in and it was fun for everyone. We try to go to the library at least once a month, but I want to make more of an effort to go on the story time days more often.

Since moving, I've recently noticed we have 10, yes 10 libraries that are within 7 miles of our house.  So, we are going to spend the next several months going on a library treasure hunt to try out all of those libraries and see what they have to offer.

Before we know it Summer will be here and we can utilize the Summer reading programs.  These are great, even for the little kids!

My oldest did the reading program the Summer he turned one.  Each day we read, he colored in a part of a picture and once filled out, he could exchange it for a prize.  We ended up with egg shakers, some really cool books, and a CD that both kids love to listen in the car (and now some songs skip a smidge).  Older kids get chances to get state fair tickets and more.

The library is one of the best free resources out there.  The only cost is the time you invest into going and reading.  Everyone can and does benefit from it. Both my kids have a library card and get to check out books.  Yes, even my one year has his own card.  He had it shortly after he was born.

So, who else is ready to go on an adventure? Check out your local library.  What fun things do they have to offer?

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Being Okay With Staying Home

My oldest working on the letter S and my youngest just exploring crayons and stickers
Being okay with staying home.  This phrase has two meanings.  The first has to do with making the decision to be a stay at home mom.  The second has to do with staying home and not going out for the day.  For now, I am talking about the latter.  Being okay with staying home and not going out for the day.

From the time my oldest was born, I've watched other moms go one of a few ways.  Either they stay home all day long, fill their and their kid's day with so much stuff they are always busy, or a mix of the two.  I will admit, at times I've tried to fill our days with more stuff than maybe I should have.  And there are times when I've looked at the others and wondered if maybe I wasn't doing enough. 

The Summer before my youngest was born T and I spent most days out on adventures.  Every morning he would ask where we were going or if we could go somewhere.  Some of the reason was because I wanted to pack in as much T and I time before his brother arrived. Another was because he would ask where we were going.  Lastly, our house was up for sale, so many times we had no choice but to be out of the house and we were trying to visit some of our favorites before moved to a new area.

After my youngest was born, we were still trying to go out and do something. Looking back, I often wonder if it was more for my sanity than anyone else.  But I know that some of it was to keep with something consistent for my oldest that he was doing before his brother arrived and also to give him activities that were more focused on him.

Moving forward, I would still have a hard time with staying home.  I am not sure why though.  It is still a mystery to me and I am extremely curious as to the deeper side of it.  I almost wonder if it was a way for me to get out of my own head.  Or to try to keep up with other moms out there.  Fear is a very powerful thing sometimes and it pulls a lot out if you let it determine what others might think.

That being said, when I look at things, our calendar is probably the most empty of most of the moms I know.  And yet, our weeks fly by as there is always something we are going out to do.  I am not saying that having activities and play dates is a bad thing, but I wonder if sometimes we over schedule our kids with out of the home activities and classes, that they get lost and so do we.

And while they enjoyed their time, I enjoyed the chance to drink a cup of hot chocolate (that was still hot) and begin to write this post.
The thought came to me today about staying home while talking with my oldest.  He said he didn't want to go anywhere today.  If there is one thing I've learned in nearly four years about my kids, and well a lot of kids, is that they too need down time.  When we take the time to listen, they can be honest and real. There is a reason he was saying he didn't want to go anywhere.  Not to say that later in the morning he got upset when he decided to want to go somewhere, but  a three year old can and does change their mind a thousand times a day.  But after I said we weren't going anywhere, told him he had said he didn't want to go anywhere, and explained why we didn't have the time at that point to go, he continued on with the activity he was doing happily.

Normally, I go stir crazy staying at home all day long.  It's not as bad in the warmer months of Minnesota as we can break up the day by going on walks and going outside to play as well, but in the cold months that is not always as simple of a task.  Especially now with two kids, getting bundled up in full outdoor gear takes more time than we have to play or it's just too darn cold out.  However, in the past, I would find a reason to leave the house, even if it was to just wonder around Target. 

After having two holidays in a row and pretty much staying home for each of the extended weekends, my thoughts and feelings have changed. It took going through New Year's weekend though to begin feeling okay with the idea of staying home and not going anywhere.  Now, that's not to say we didn't go a few places, but the majority of the days were spent at home.  So, today, when we opted for staying in, I felt oddly, but refreshingly at ease and comfortable.

Going forward, we will still have activities and play dates outside the house, but I am also going to better utilize what we have right around us and plan for staying in days.  I think in the long run, we will all benefit from it.

Would love to hear your thoughts and comments. What are some of things you and your kiddos like to do when you stay home or have a stay in day?