To My Future Self

Because I know myself, and I know that hindsight is in fact NOT 20/20 and rather it’s cruel, I’m writing myself this letter because it’s going to happen, I’m going to look back, reflect on the time my kids were under my care and tell myself I could have done so much better.

Dear Laura with an empty nest,

You are probably sitting down to enjoy your morning read in a quiet house that is picked up, cleaned, and all your carpets still have the vacuum lines in them.  Your house is quiet, a little too quiet, and you are reflecting on the years where you would have paid money (and on occasion did) to have a quiet moment to yourself.  And you miss your kids.  And you think you took the time they were home in your care for granted.  Let me assure you, you didn’t.

You’ll wonder why you didn’t hold them more, kiss them more, tell them you loved them more, or cater to their incessant requests more often.  Here’s why…. you simply couldn’t.  There were days that the kids cried for hours, literally hours a day, over the smallest seemingly insignificant things and you picked them up countless times and then you hit your limit, you simply could not bend over and pick up a child one more time that day.  You were not a super hero, a saint, or a magical being.  You were human and sometimes humans hit a limit, there were days, many days, where you hit yours.  If you had kissed those baby cheeks one more time they would have started getting chapped, I assure you, you didn’t take the plump cheeks for granted, you kissed tears away, kissed them while they were stretched tight from giggles, and kissed them a million times in the morning when they woke up and at bedtime when you said goodnight.  Your babies always went to bed feeling loved by you.  Speaking of love.  You told your kids you loved them constantly, it was probably annoying to them if we’re being honest.  But you felt a lot of love for those sweet little ones in your care and you made sure they knew it.  And the incessant requests, when you finally snapped and raised your voice, and hurt your tenderhearted child’s feelings, I just want to remind you about that human thing, you weren’t perfect, but you were quick to apologize and heal up that hurt heart.

Don’t be one of those older mama’s who while looking at the young mama struggling in the grocery store with her screaming kids tell them, “enjoy it, you’ll miss this when it’s gone.”  Even though you probably DO miss spending your days with them, you probably only remember the sweet times when they would lean together in the cart for eskimo kisses or giggle and beep their car carts at other shoppers.  Those moments were sweet, but they weren’t the majority of the moments.  Many times you did shame shopping where people stared at you and wondered why you didn’t have better control over your children as they were bawling while you walked through the store attempting to complete your shopping list.

You will tell yourself that you should have worked less, I know you will, but work was a source of sanity for you and you needed it.  Not only did it give you something outside of mother and wife, but the money was helpful in those early years.  Don’t kick yourself for contributing to your family in this way, your kids learned valuable lessons while “working in your office” with you and learning how to entertain themselves.  It also made you much more intentional during the rest of the hours of your day when you were with your children you focused more on being present with them.

You loved your children well, you did everything in your power to enjoy the journey.  It wasn’t always easy, some days you wanted to get a full time job (you considered it on several occasions), but you made the choice to stay home with your kids while they were little and you did not take that privilege for granted.  Some days it was a sacrifice, some days it was a total blast and you felt spoiled that you GOT to stay home with your kids, and ALL of it was worth it.  So don’t beat yourself up, don’t wish you did anything differently, instead remember the good times, remember the bad times (that you can now laugh about), and above all enjoy where you are TODAY, enjoy where your kids are as adults outside your home now, and enjoy the journey….life is quite a ride!!

From your 30 year old self raising a 4 and nearly 2 year old….

Here are some photos that give you a sampling of what life was REALLY like day in and day out with these two, because you don’t always take pictures of the rough moments and I don’t want you to think your instagram feed is a good representation of your life at this time!

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The Encouraging and Devastating Truth….

I have been trying to put my current feelings about motherhood into words, and the best description of my feelings would be conflicted.  Here is the encouraging and devastating truth about each phase of childhood.  It doesn’t last forever.

Sometimes in the midst of a long day when the girls are particularly difficult, they’ve been fighting with each other, or we are cleaning poop out of the bath tub yet again I remind myself, this doesn’t last forever.

But then when we are all snuggled in our bed with our freshly bathed babies and we are reading books and singing Teddy Bear Picnic in unison at the top of our lungs, “at 6 o’clock their mommies and daddies will take them home to bed because they’re tired little teddy BEEEEAAAAARRRRSSSS.” it hits me, this doesn’t last forever.

So each day I feel relief AND sadness when I’m with my little girls.  And I actually don’t know what to do with those feelings.  I just keep thinking, what if all of those older ladies at the store or on the airplane are right?  What if I’m really going to miss this as bad as everyone says I will?  Am I soaking all of this up like I’m supposed to be?  Do I appreciate being a stay at home mom as much as society says I should?

There are so many things I want to remember that I know I’ll forget.  Things like how my kids smell.  I actually often deeply smell their hair and tell myself that I won’t forget it, and in 10 years I’ll be walking in a store or caring for someone’s kid and I’ll smell that exact smell and I’ll remember what it felt like to be caring for these sweet little innocent lives day in and day out and I’ll feel so grateful for the time I spent with them when they were home with me all day.  I want to remember how it feels to be told by my oldest several times a week that, “she has so much fun with me” as I tuck her in to bed at night.  I want to always remember what it feels like to hold a sleeping kid in your arms and just stare at them and be in awe that this child has been entrusted to your care for their lifetime.

I just have this sense that these are the sweetest ages and this will be one of my favorite phases ever.  And maybe it’s not.  Maybe it’s just the start of a good rhythm we are falling into.  Maybe this is just a glimpse into what our future will look like and, if that’s the case, I’m really excited.

But don’t be fooled by this post filled with my mushy heart ramblings.  Most days, and I mean most days, it’s survival right now.  These ages are hard and exhausting.  After saying goodnight to our sweet little ladies they sometimes call us back in their rooms for the next hour.  It’s hard to get a moment to ourselves and even after they fall asleep usually at least one of them wakes up screaming at some point in the night and it’s in those moments that my head tells me “this doesn’t last forever” and my heart aches because therein also lies the reality that the sweet stuff like a warm little body crawling in bed to be comforted doesn’t last forever either.

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The End of a Phase

IMG_6494I sold our infant car seat this week.  And then I had some strong emotions about the end of a phase of our lives.  I know that because I am writing this I will be pregnant next week, but I’m going to take my chances and write it anyway.  We MIGHT be done having kids.  I always said I would birth two babies and be done giving birth by the time I was 30 (I was married at 22 so this seemed reasonable).  Then I had a relatively pleasant 2nd pregnancy and a VBAC and I thought maybe I’m not really done.  In the beginning when you are high on “newborn perfume” and those nursing hormones have you feeling like you want to live in that forever I was definitely in the let’s just have ONE more mindset.  Then Vaughn became mobile and we moved across the country and we live in a house that’s too big to keep tidy and I took on 3 jobs and Ellery started preschool and I thought, oh my word I am not even a good mother of 2, how could I ever have MORE than two.  The thought just seemed completely laughable (and honestly still does).  So in my mind it’s like, yep, done, sell all the baby things, get rid of all those clothes you’ve been storing, savor every last kiss on those big baby cheeks that are living in your house right now because girlfriend your baby phase is coming to an end (I fight the tears just typing that).

And then Facebook, Oy Facebook.  So many of my friends on there are either posting their 3rd baby bumps or announcing their entry into parenthood and I think about the sheer JOY that comes with the birth of a baby, there is literally nothing I can compare it to.  It is at the same time insanely happy and terrifying.  I remember during my pregnancy with Vaughn I would literally lay in bed and bawl my eyes out at the thought of something happening to me in childbirth (they do a really great job of telling you that having a baby after a c-section is extremely dangerous and you might die or kill your baby, over and over again) and leaving Ellery without a mother.  So I would no doubt go through those intense emotions only multiplied at the thought of leaving Andrew to care for TWO little girls.

Then I hear stories about the THOUSANDS and thousands of children in the foster care system that would love to have a forever home and I think about our big house and our huge hearts with so much love to give and I think maybe that’s the path we are meant to take.  Whenever someone talks about foster care  I always have a tug on my heart and a pit in my stomach.  I’m also aware that now is not the right time for this phase of our lives and I honestly have no idea when it will feel like the right time.  With that being said I also never knew when the time was right to try to get pregnant, but God told me pretty clearly both times so no need to fret about this.

Because I Have a Reason

This picture has nothing to do with the post really, but here are the girls in their Easter dresses after our church egg hunt.

This picture has nothing to do with the post really, but here are the girls in their Easter dresses after our church egg hunt.

“Because I said so.”  Famous parent words.  If you are a parent there is a really good chance you have uttered this phrase and I completely understand why.  Kids are infuriating sometimes.  I almost swore at my kid the other day because I had asked her to please put her shoes on at least 5 times and the 6th time I JUST about used a rather offensive “descriptive” word to describe her shoes……

BUT as frustrating as they are I made a decision before my kids were born that I wouldn’t use the phrase, “because I said so.”  I can honestly say as far as I know I have never used it and because I have read a lot of good advice on the internet about parenting I thought I’d tell you the two reasons I have made this commitment.

  1.  If I don’t have a reason for something then I don’t expect my kids to do it.  I believe it can be any reason, but I have to have a reason.  Literally I have told my child, “you need to stop doing that because mama is really annoyed and I don’t want to completely lose it.”
  2. I don’t want my kids to blindly follow someone just “because they said so.”  I feel like my main job at home is to teach my kids how to function in the world outside our walls and I think it’s important for them to gather all the information about something before they make a decision.  So that is why I give them a reason for every why.

I don’t think it’s BAD if you use “because I said so.”  I get the rationale behind it, you are the authority and they need to respect that whatever you say goes.  I’m writing this to give you something to think about.  If you started only asking your kids to do something motivated by a reason or you only said no because you had a legitimate objection you may find that your home life becomes more pleasant.  I wrote this post two years ago today (total coincident) on why I try to be slow to say no and I really think it has helped us over the years to cut down on tantrums (we still have A LOT, but less than we could).

If you think this advice is garbage then throw it away, but if you and your kids are frustrated with each other I say give it a shot!

Focus Change

This week I decided to slow down, focus on my kids and pretty much nothing else.  My house is dirty, there are overflowing baskets of laundry upstairs, I have worked just enough to keep my job and I haven’t cooked dinner yet this week.  Last night Andrew ate a bowl of cereal and I ate the last frozen veggie burger after the girls went to bed, and my kids ate grilled cheese.  I’ve catered to my children WAY more than usual.  Putting shoes on and taking them off, carrying them around, following one to the bathroom, letting the littlest “brush her teeth” more than necessary, letting them choose the activities, going to the library and while they watch their daily DVD I have sat on the couch with them.  And for this week it’s been nice.  I can’t do this every week because we’d have no clothes to wear and we’d get tired of eating grilled cheese, mac n cheese, etc, but every once and I while I think I’m going to stop and just let everything go a little bit.  It’s kinda driving me crazy, but my kids have BARELY cried this week and I’ve been able to be super tender and understanding when usually I’m so rushed to get to the next thing or to clock more hours at my job or to get my house picked up.  I’ve REALLY enjoyed snuggling the girls while we watch Elmo, but if I did this everyday I would literally get nothing done until after they go to bed and that is simply not feasible.

Last week I wrote about staying true to yourself and this week I think I’ve accomplished what I was HOPING Spring Break would look like.  I’ve still set an alarm, gotten up early, worked out, done a couple morning chores, showered, dressed and put on makeup.  I’ve planned a couple things to do with the girls and spent time with family.  I even took a NAP yesterday because I just felt exhausted.  But instead of rushing through the day like I often have to do in order to get my lengthy to do list done I’ve just thrown the list away and let my house be a total disaster.  I have the perfect excuse to not do laundry because my dryer broke this week and my washer has been on the fritz since the day we moved in  My “new” set will be delivered tomorrow and then I’ll be back to my crazy schedule to get everything done, but for today we just sit and I’m letting A LOT go and I’m ok with that for today.  I mean these little ladies will only want to snuggle mom and watch Elmo for another few short years and I really don’t wanna miss it.

Photo on 3-30-16 at 3.51 PM #3

You Do YOU

Image found here

Image found here and you can purchase this print for your home (not sponsored)

This is a phrase you’ve probably heard a lot.  Andrew and I definitely use it frequently as do some of our friends.  It basically means march to the beat of your own drum, be true to yourself, and don’t try to be someone else.  We mostly use it when one of our girls is doing something strange, but can be applied to many different circumstances.

Last week I didn’t “do me,” and I was miserable.  I decided “it’s Spring Break,” I’m going to be laid back, I am not going to set an alarm or make a grocery list.  I’m not going to plan our day and we are going to watch more movies than usual.  I’m going to be “laid back mom.”  It always looks so appealing to me, to be a mom who can just say yes to whatever comes along.  Last minute play date, yes.  You want to play with play-doh right now?  Sure! Glitter and glue, bring it on (ok totally kidding on that one).  You get the point, I was going to be cool laid back mom because it is the opposite of our typical week.

And what were the results of a week of laid back mom??  Disaster.  I was grumpy, frustrated, snapped at my kids more than usual, and was completely zapped by the time we went to bed last night.  It was not the idyllic week I was picturing because guess what??  I’m not laid back mom.  I’m structured mom and we all function very well in this house when I am “doing me.”

So this morning I got up 2 hours before the girls.  I worked out and showered.  Applied makeup and fixed my hair.  I got dressed in “real clothes.”  I did 3 loads of laundry and prepared our dinner for tonight.  I made our bed and straightened my closet.  I put away dishes and tidied the kitchen.  All before the girls got up, and my ability to be kind, patient, loving, and present has been leaps and bounds ahead of where I was last week.

This does not make me a BAD mom that I can’t be super laid back about our day and it doesn’t make me BETTER than you that I have dinner made before 8AM, it just makes me ME.  Why can’t we celebrate that more?  Why do I feel like I have to apologize that I like to have dinner on the table when Andrew walks through the door after work, or feel bad that I like to change out of my workout clothes, shower and put on make up?

We tell kids all the time, “just worry about yourself.”  Why don’t we carry that into adulthood (I’m speaking to myself here too)?  So carry on laid back mamas, organic mamas, oily mamas, hot mess mamas, organized mamas, working mamas, stay at home mamas, work at home mamas, single mamas, mature mamas, new mamas, fill-in-the-blank mamas, carry on.  I’ll do me and you do you!  I will celebrate our differences and learn from your wisdom.

Coming Up For Air

Lately I have felt like I’m drowning in motherhood a little bit.  I have said to Andrew several times lately, “I adore our kids between the hours of 8AM-8PM, but I don’t feel that adoration from 8PM-8AM.  Vaughn has been waking up and wanting to hang out in the middle of the night lately, like several times a week.  On the nights that Vaughn sleeps through the night Ellery, of course, wakes up with some nightmare scenario.  About once per week both the girls sleep through the night, and for that one night I am thankful.

We have been needing to come up for air, to take a big deep breath and just be married for 24 hours, not married with children, JUST MARRIED.  My parents came down for Christmas and were able to stay for a bit, we asked a month or so ago if we could plan a night away when they were here and they were totally on board.  We started planning and looking into good deals in San Antonio and then ultimately decided we had no desire to go anywhere, but we would love to hang out in Austin.  My brother told us about this great deal The Hotel Van Zandt was running and we snatched it up.  Gorgeous hotel, stunning lobby, sweet cafe, and swanky restaurant.  I highly recommend staying here if you ever come to Austin and want to stay at a great boutique hotel.  I would skip the restaurant, but everything else was stellar (and I’m sure for a foodie the restaurant would probably be great too).

We spent the day shopping for house stuff at the outlets, bought ourselves some new clothes, and ran errands that would have been much more challenging with two littles in tow.  We ate lunch and didn’t have to feed anyone, we listened to the new Serial podcasts as we drove around town, and we just got to talk and listen to each other without constant interruptions.  I was reminded all day long who we were before we were a family of three and then four.  I was reminded of who we were when we were just an US.  i must admit I really like my husband.  Yes I love him, but I actually still like him and I really love the person he is becoming too.  One of the hardest parts about marriage is we, as humans, are forever changing and you just have to hope and pray that you like the person your spouse is becoming.  I adore my man and I am so lucky that I am tied to him because he pushes me, encourages me, understands me and loves me even with all my faults (and there are quite a few).

The one downside of coming up for air is you are then aware of how amazing it feels to breathe and the drowning hurts that much more.  I know this phase will end.  We will sleep through the night again, but man oh man I’m struggling to keep a positive attitude right now.  Andrew and I agree that we could use 24 hours kids free every month, probably not going to happen, but we gotta commit to get away more than once a year.  A week later I can still see the positive affects of the time investment we made.  Looking forward to a trip to New England soon and letting Nana take kid duty for a bit!

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Don’t Knock it Till You Try it

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6 years ago when my brother and sister-in-law were pregnant with their first baby they got a Babycook and I honestly thought, seriously….what a waste of money!  At the time I think they were over $200 and I just didn’t understand why you wouldn’t just use a food processor, make big batches and freeze them.  And then my sister-in-law asked if I wanted to borrow the Babycook for making Vaughn’s food and I decided I’d give it a try.  Ok, kinda love it!!  I hate dislike cooking, I particularly do not enjoy making baby food/ or feeding babies food.  I decided we were going to do baby led weaning and honestly didn’t intend to do purees and then we became too familiar with baby suppositories and I decided purees and table food should be given in tandem.  The first week of buying baby food packets I realized that making the food was the only way I was going to be able to afford this second child.  She ate about 2 packets per sitting and at $1.40 each that made for a $8.40 day of food packets give or take.  Calculate that out over a month and it’s literally over half of our food budget per month, yowzas.  Now I understand why people say kids are expensive.  So now about once or twice a week I cook 3 or 4 items and feed her those and table food for at least lunch and dinner, saving us a TON of money.  I still buy a few packets, because helloooo convenience food, and I’ve also found that prune puree is just easier to buy.  For some reason this little babycook has turned one of my most dreaded mom chores into something I find a little bit fun and it’s so easy to clean.  I really wish I had had this with Ellery since we did all purees for a good bit, but better late than never and as I have found many times during my motherhood journey….judgement is silly! Don’t knock it till you try it, I’m a babycook believer.  So if you are registering for your first baby make sure to add this, and if you are on your last baby try to find one for resale somewhere!

-And while I wish someone was paying me to advertise for them, they are not, I just really like this gadget!

Can We Talk About the Naked Guy?

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And that question is precisely why we do our best to not watch television with our children in the room (besides PBS kids and netflix kids stuff).  The other night we were hanging out with friends and Ellery was playing with blocks on the floor.  It was nearing bedtime and we were thinking about watching a movie so we were going through netflix and watching movie trailers.  We came across pitch perfect and although we’d seen it before we decided to watch the trailer just for fun.  I didn’t even think Ellery was paying all that much attention.  There is a shower scene in the preview and it’s two girls singing a song and then a guy comes around the corner and says, “you have a lovely voice.”  We go upstairs for bed and not only does she repeat some of Rebel Wilson’s lines (that she heard ONE time), but then she said, “Mama can we talk about the naked guy?”  Um, excuse me?  Did my sweet little two year old ask to talk about a naked guy that she just saw…..wow!  She said, “yeah the guy that was in the shower and opened the curtain?”  I did my best to downplay it and said something to the effect that, “hmm he really shouldn’t have been in the shower with those girls”, but that was a good wake up call for me.  Our kids are absorbing every image, every word, every feeling  that we are putting out there.  What little sponges we live with…….as if parenting wasn’t hard enough.

On Letting Them Be Little

Let them be little– Lovely print from Sweet Peony Press

I’ve seen this phrase all over the internet and I thought I knew what it meant and I thought I was doing a pretty good job of letting my Ellery be little.  What I thought it meant was to lower your expectations on what they should be able to do.  Let them play unstructured a lot, let them explore, let them get dirty, let them be creative, let them be who they are for that time.

And then Ellery started crying A LOT, and when I say a lot I mean like hours a day.  Turns out she had an ear infection that continued on after her first round of antibiotics, so as of today we finally have a reprieve from the insane amounts of crying/screaming we were dealing with for weeks.  On Monday night we got home from a meeting that she had fallen asleep at.  Once we woke her up and got her home the screaming ensued and it was epic.  Like thrashing around on the ground, absolutely uncontrolled, I believe there may have been some gagging, and what Andrew and I call exorcist style screaming.  Nothing I did was even making a dent in the volume level or intensity of the screaming.

Typically at this point I just walk out of the room, I yell talk really loudly, try to reason with her, or start taking privileges away.  Unfortunately she had already lost the privileges I tend to take away so that wasn’t an option, I was worried about what she would do if I walked out, and Vaughn was crying at this point too, so yelling seemed like it would just make everything much worse.  So I rocked her.  I picked her up and starting rocking her and singing to her.  And I did this for a good 20 minutes and guess what, she was completely calm that entire time.  I realized at that moment that there are a lot of areas I “let her be little,” but one area that I expect WAY too much is in the emotion department.

I would never do to my 4 month old what I do to my 2 year old in terms of calming her down.  Would I yell at Vaughn if she was uncontrollably screaming, no.  Would I take away her things for screaming, no.  Would I leave her in a room by herself if she was upset, not usually (sometimes I have to walk away for a couple minutes).  My goal for the next week is to really focus on how I respond to Ellery’s emotions.  They are only little for so long, and as I recall every child hits a point where they want to be and act WAY older than they actually are, so I’ll cherish the time that she wants to be a little girl, a baby even, because all too soon she will be more mature than I’m comfortable with.

**And yes I know that my 2 year old is, in fact, emotionally more mature than my 4 month old and I should have higher expectations on her than I do my infant, but you get the picture.  I was wanting her to be an adult emotionally and that just isn’t fair.