Lessons from My Toddler: Moving On

Let me paint the picture for you.

I’m running about 15 minutes late to put my daughter down for her nap. A meeting I was holding remotely ran over by about 10 to 15 minutes. My father was watching her during this time and she was a perfectly content little toddler. I would have heard her if she wasn’t!

Once I finished my meeting, I followed our routine, I nursed my daughter and laid her down in her crib so she could fall asleep. I sit next to her crib while she dozes off and then sneak out like a ninja once she is asleep. Usually I wait a few minutes after she falls asleep before I leave so I don’t wake her when I get up. This particular nap I thought, “Well she’s going to fall asleep fast since we are running a little bit late. She probably could have gone down about 20 to 30 minutes ago.” So I give her a big squishy kiss on the cheek and lay her down and she shuts her eyes within a minute or 2 and seems to be dozing off.

I had yet to even attempt to leave and those beautiful blue eyes pop back open. “No big deal” I think. This isn’t out of the ordinary for her to start to sleep and wake back up for a second. She’s fine at first, she’s not upset she’s just moving back-and-forth a little and saying, “mamma,” “mamma,” “mamma” over and over. I smile at her and just gently lay her back down the crib with a little pat on the butt.

Oh boy, things take a turn when she gets past her sleep window. This continues, now 30 minutes later she’s very upset and fussy and she’s asking for teta. This is Spanish for breast and what she says when she wants to nurse. So I think, “Ok, if that’s going help you, then you know what, at this point forget what I needed to get done during your nap, I’ll just let you lay in bed with me and take your nap.”

You are currently thinking, “This must be where this boring story ends.” NOPE! I’ll fast forward for you though. Nurse. Cuddle. Time keeps ticking, she can’t fall asleep and gets to the point of exhaustion where she is screaming and crying, absolutely hysterical. Nothing I’m doing is helping her she’s just getting more worked up and more worked up. This went on for well over an hour. I tried all the things. I knew she needed to fall asleep, by this time her eyes were closed she was so exhausted and the screaming just exhausted her even more.

I am past stressed and frustrated to full blown anxiety over what to do with this precious child. I decided to just get her up after all the failed attempts to soothe and cuddle her back to sleep. Then, the lightbulb moment! I thought, “Ok let me try putting her in the stroller and will just go on a walk and hopefully that will calm her down so she can take a nap.” Praise the Lord, she calmed down within a minute or two. It took her a bit to fall asleep, but she was CALM! As a mother it is so hard to see your child completely hysterical and upset Although she isn’t the best sleeper, behavior like that is not her normal.

Now, why did I spend so much time describing this horrible no, nap situation? To help put you in my mindset of frustration. I was so tense and upset by the time she was asleep. I was frustrated with the things I knew I wouldn’t be able to get done since I was spending her nap strolling her instead of working. I was anxious about why she had such a big meltdown. I was tense from trying to calm down such a high level of emotion for so long.

As I was walking there was an older woman out sweeping her driveway and she saw me and smiled and said, “It is such a beautiful day, I just love days like this!” Even though Adaline was calm at this point, my mind was still spinning. All I wanted to say to this lady was, “Do you have any idea what I just went through for the last hour and a half?” But of course I didn’t say that I smiled at her and said, “Yes it’s gorgeous out!” What a blessing I ignored in that moment. I don’t know what I would’ve done if it were a rainy day. I was too focused on being upset in that moment to recognize this.

After we finished our walk Adaline was still asleep and I wasn’t poking that bear, so I continued to let her sleep in the stroller. When Adaline woke up I was tentative at first because I didn’t know if my sweet daughter was going to be waking up or the tyrant toddler!

Well. The sweetest little girl is who woke up. She opened her eyes and immediately smiled at me like nothing had happened. Mind blown. We can learn so much from our children if we allow ourselves to. She had completely moved past our little fiasco. She wasn’t upset with me for not being able comfort her when I was holding her. She just moved right on from this moment. She doesn’t let one negative moment, even though it was a very lonnng moment, affect the rest of her day. What a beautiful ability to have!

When she woke up I was still tense. My jaw was clenched, my shoulders were still tight. I can’t help but laugh at myself and laugh at how we tend to just take our kids for granted and ignore the lessons they can teach us. We’re so focused on what need to teach them, that we forget to allow them to show us what a blessing it is to just appreciate the simplicities in life and live in the moment.

The moral of her lesson today was to move on. We may have stressful situations everyday, but we need to leave them behind, once we are past them. Why do we continue to stress about events once the moment is over? (I’m obviously referring to mundane stresses and not traumatic events). What a precious little gift she gave me, what a precious little lesson.

Once I I recognized that she had completely move past it, then I was able to relax. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Not today. This momma learned a lesson from her toddler!

We can all take this lesson with us and try to remember it as often as possible. How many times in your week do you get a snarky look from somebody in the store when your child is being loud or you have a coworker make a passive aggressive comment towards you. We tend to just obsess about these moments and go over them again and again and again. Once the moment has passed, it does us absolutely no good. What my daughter taught me today was a great reminder to have your moment, but when it’s over, it’s over, move on with your day.

I hope we can all remember this lesson so we can appreciate the good in our days and not get stuck on the stressful moments. Seeing the world through the eyes of a toddler is such a blessing. It strips us back to our core. It allows us to see things as they are in black and white again, without having to muck up the picture with all the grays.

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Snack Like a Mom

One of my favorite podcasts to listen to is Risen Motherhood. I’m new to the podcast so I’m currently going through some of the older episodes. This Spring the hosts interviewed a woman who was discussing how to make time each day to “eat” what nourishes you: spending time in Scripture, spending time to yourself, spending time doing something you enjoy and other activities that fill your cup.

So why am I talking about eating? The analogy she shared compared snacking to taking bites of time for ourselves. As mom’s do we not snack here and there for the most part? I definitely do. It seems I’m constantly chasing my toddler around and feeding her bites of food. So my meals are consumed, oftentimes, in snacks and little bites here and there. Is it the best way to get nourishment in me? Not necessarily, but it’s working for this chapter.

I am 100% guilty of saying, “I don’t have time to sit down and do (fill in the blank)”. I still stand by this statement, it is very accurate. Juggling motherhood, household duties and my job is exhausting and leaves me craving time for activities I enjoy. The past few months what I have found to be extremely helpful is to do this activities in bite size pieces – aka snacking! Is this ideal, nope Of course, it’s important to take time to sit down and have a meal. But, let’s be real, it’s not always realistic. Especially now for myself as my husband is currently working on a project in a different state, I have no one to “tag in” so I can sit down for a “meal” neither figuratively or literally.

It’s easy to become frustrated and resentful during the chapter of growing your family and raising those tots. I have found myself feeling bitter on more than one occasion and I’m sure I will have those feelings again at some point. Probably today if we are being completely honest! Sometimes I get so angry that I can’t just have a little time to myself, where I don’t have to fill it with household or work duties.

When I break down the activities I like to engage in though, writing, reading, listening to podcasts… RELAXING and place myself in the mindset of filling up on these activities with snacks, it’s very helpful. I may only get to consume these activities in bite size pieces, but by the time I finish all my bites, I’ve written a blog post, listened to a book or podcast in it’s entirety and even watched some TV.

The years we are in the trenches are years of being needed on every level: physically, mentally and surely emotionally. When I get frustrated, I try to change my mindset to what a blessing it is to have this stress. What a beautiful daughter I have. How blessed am I that she wants to be my constant companion in everything day and night! When I really need perspective, I think about what my life will be 10 or 15 years from now, when Adaline and her future siblings are in the tween and teen years. Lord knows, they probably will not want to be around Mommy all day. I already know, I’ll yearn for the days that I had a little one pulling on my shirt to get picked up or asking me to read a book for the tenth time in a row.

So, during these fleeting years of neediness, I will lean on the Lord to help me embrace the chaos and fill my cup by snacking like a mother. Plus, from what I’ve read, small meals / snacks across the day is the best way to keep your metabolism burning efficiently!

Falling Through Seasons of Life

I took a walk at Mill Creek Park the other day while I had a brief minute before I needed to be at a client’s home nearby. As I was walking down the trail, I stopped to pick up a big yellow leaf. My daughter loves picking up leaves and tearing them into pieces. In a few weeks when the leaves change and drop she will be in ultimate glory!

As I stared at this leaf it was if a quick snap of film highlights flashed before my eyes. Showing me how much my life has changed over the past six years I’ve been walking these trails. Trekking through the trails six years ago feels more like six lifetimes ago, while simultaneously like it was only a breath ago.

I first started exploring Mill Creek in the Spring of 2013. I had recently met my boyfriend (now husband) and he lived not too far from the park. That spring it was just the two of us.

Then late summer he (we, let’s be real) got our first fur baby. We loved taking Mabel to Mill Creek! The first time we took her, she whined the entire time and then puked from nerves. Too much stimulation. This was such a fun and exciting season. New relationship. New puppy. Easy, breezy.

Then the leaves turned and dropped. Fall changed to winter and we moved to a different state for my husbands job (still boyfriend at the time). I continued my job, working remotely and traveling a few days a week to see clients.

Seasons kept changing and blurring together. Since then we have lived in two more states and four different cities. We added a second furbaby in the Fall of 2016, after our wedding and our first child in the Spring of 2018.

When I look at our family now and how many seasons, long and short, we’ve gone through since that first year, I’m so amazed by how quickly time flies. Now as we are starting to try for baby number two, I can’t help but look at this leaf and the symbolism it holds.

Every year, changing, letting go and growing. Just as we do through life. We change, we get swept up in the breeze of life, we flourish, we take rest. Time moves forward whether we want it to or not.

As I held this leaf, I wondered what this next year will bring. What will our life look like next Fall as the leaves change? Will we have another child, God willing? Will we have bought our home by then? Will I be working or staying at home? Sometimes it feels overwhelming when you don’t know what the future holds. What I do know is that the seasons will change regardless of our plans. So I’m going to try and take a lesson from this lead and just allow myself to be swept along in God’s plan.

To My Daughter on National Daughters Day

It’s National Daughters Day (apparently). I can’t help but reflect on what it means to be a mother to a daughter. What an incredible journey these past 17 months have been.

I have felt the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Usually within the span of about 10 minutes. Motherhood is hard and gritty and beautiful. I have learned more about myself since becoming a mother than any personal development book or class could ever teach me. All facades are ripped off when you are in the trenches of parenthood.

Something pure and enchanting happens when that facade is removed though. That’s when real life happens. This is when the best memories are made. These are the times you will look back at and smile at how quick the chapter went even though in the moment it felt like eternity. You will look at your beautiful daughter and see glimpses of yourself in her sparkling eyes. You will see glimpses of the little girl she will become. You may be exhausted during a midnight wake up, but you will also learn to embrace one more opportunity to sneak kisses all over her soft little head.

So, to my daughter I am honored to be your mother. I am blessed to grow and flow with you. I will always love you. When my frustration runs high because you won’t go to sleep. I will love you. When you don’t have the words, so screaming is what you use. I will love you. When you refuse to eat your favorite food. I will love you. When you color on walls, floors and doors. I will love you. When I can no longer stand the crying, I’ll say you get your personality from your father and I will love you.

Work like a Mother

Is it possible to have great work-life balance? This question has been plaguing me recently. I’m finding myself becoming increasingly frustrated with feeling like a failure at all my jobs while desperately clinging to the edge of the mountain that consists of my responsibilities.

I’m sitting in a park as I write this. I had a client cancel a meeting so I have an hour before I have to head to my next case. The sun is shining, it’s 70ish degrees out and the breeze is blowing steadily and I can smell the leaves as they fall off the trees. In other words, pure perfection. All I can think about is saying, “screw it!” and staying here all day. I would LOVE to have my daughter with me right now. I can picture her so clearly toddling around this little area and then running down the trail next to me.

I’ve been feeling so burnt out the past few weeks. Changes at work have kept me in a constant state of scrambling. Normally I’m pretty good at going with the flow, but I just don’t have it in me right now. I want to blame months and months of sleep deprivation. I’m sure that’s part of it, but I have this other voice constantly nagging at me. It’s telling me, “After this week I’ll be able to catch my breath.” Y’all I’ve been saying that for the last DECADE.

That voice is a liar. I’m over it. I think that’s what really underneath it all, nags at me. I want to be done. I want to focus on my family. I want to spend the teeny tiny bits of time I’m home and not with Adaline on things I enjoy and find relaxing (like gardening and writing on my poor, neglected blog) . Instead of being glued to my laptop working.

I haven’t been proud of my parenting the past few weeks. I’m snippy with Adaline and struggling to maintain calm when she melts down. Which is about every 5 minutes because toddlers be crazy. Their emotions are bigger than their understanding and self control. They need you to remain calm when they can’t and help them through their feelings. Yet, all I can think when this happens is, “Seriously, I can’t get anything done. I’m never going to get (fill in work task here) done on time.” This is not the mom I want to be. Even when I tell myself it’s only a chapter of my life and I will be able to stay home at some point, it doesn’t help in the heat of the moment.

I know right now the extra work is so long term I can stay home. Yet all I’m left feeling is like a failure as a mom AND as a Behavior Analyst. I commend the moms that “do it all”. But, right now, I just don’t want to. Saying that hurts my pride a little, but it’s just reality. I don’t believe in only showing the shiny, polished parts of life. That isn’t real. Life is in the raw ugly moments too.

I’m more than grateful for my job and the opportunities it’s afforded me, but I have my eyes set on another job I’d like to do full time. Praying God gives me the patience and perseverance to put in the work now so we can reach our goals as a family. πŸ’œ

Help me feel less in despair. What are some strategies you use to balance all your roles?

5 Moments We Should Share with Expectant Mothers

I’ve noticed a trend over the past few years. I’m not sure how long it has been going on because I paid it no attention until my husband I decided it was time to start trying for our first child.

It was as if the second other women heard my ovaries were open for business, they felt it was their job to share horror stories about pregnancy, birth and parenting. Why do some women do this? Why is the first reaction to try and scare another woman? Are we searching for some kind of validation in this? It’s so silly to me. Listen, we all know pregnancy, childbirth and parenting is hard. I don’t know a single person who went into it thinking it would be a breeze.

I’m not saying we need to sugar coat or hide the hardships of anything. Doing this only sets women up for failure by giving the illusion that hardships mean something is wrong when the craziness is totally normal! But, let’s not embellish. Let’s not focus on the hard. Let’s focus on the good! Does the good not outweigh the hard? It does for me, especially when I stop to think about the wonderful journey motherhood has been.

This idea of finding the little moments in the day to day helps me focus on pulling out and cherishing the wonderful that comes with motherhood. Those moments that cause you to pause in awe of this little human you’re raising. What’s been amazing to recognize – it’s not the big moments, the milestones (first word, crawling, walking). Those moments are wonderful. The moments that capture my heart the most though, are the ones that happen in the mundane moments.

Below are 5 moments I’d like to share with mothers. Five different kinds of moments you can look forward to and you can hold close to your heart on those days when the hard makes you feel like you can’t breathe.

1. There will be a million moments that you will look at the world in childlike wonder through their eyes. It’s freeing. It’s nostalgic. It’s wonderful. Children are blessed to see the world through unsullied eyes. The first time they play in the grass, pluck a dandelion, splash in the water. Watching your child take in the world around them for the first time is humbling and amazing.

2. When you share something you love with them (a childhood toy, favorite activity) and the joy in their face mirrors yours. I love to read. Thankfully my daughter also loves to read. When she walks up to me with a book and wants me to read it makes me so happy. When she walks to the front door and points to go outside, it makes me radiate with joy that she loves nature as much as I do.

3. Those times your child snuggles into you, reaches for your hand, wraps their arms around your neck. Oh my goodness. Your insides will melt. Any stress you are feeling will instantly melt away, if only for a moment. I don’t care what you are in the middle of doing. No task is more important than stopping to reciprocate a hug, snuggle or kiss. A million kisses will not come close to being enough.

4. When you see someone else love your child *almost* as much as you do. When I see my parents or siblings loving on my daughter it makes my heart swell. I love seeing others dote on her and teach her. I love seeing how this tiny little human my husband and I created melts the hearts of those around her. It’s a pride I didn’t know I could feel.

5. Unconditional love. Alright so I can’t speak to the tweenage and teenage years because my daughter is only 17 months old. But, let me tell you she has seen me on my worst days and still loves me unconditionally. I am still her person. Momma has a meltdown over how tired she is. Still loves me. Momma is stressed and snippy because work deadlines loom. Still loves me. Momma hasn’t showered in 3 days and stinks. Yup. Still loves me and wants all the momma time she can get. It’s a love I’ve never known before and wouldn’t trade for anything.

To the expecting mothers, new mothers, seasoned mothers and everything in between. Motherhood is so hard. So. So. Hard. There are days that I wonder if I can ever do anything right. On those days, I hold my baby close and breathe in her sweet, sweet baby smells and think about the magnificent in the mundane.

Share with me your favorite everyday moments you share with your littles.

Motherhood: Learning to Let Go

Raise your hand if you are a total Type A. Come join me friends! Let’s dive into our crazy together.

One piece of advice I was given before having my daughter that I knew would be true, but still decided to fight anyway: Let go of things you cannot control. Really this is solid advice for anyone. Which is why pretty pictures with this quote scrawled across them are constantly flooding my Facebook feed. Cliche, yet true. So annoying.

This has been the hardest part of being a parent. I want to control absolutely everything and micromanage it all. Everything. It makes my teeth ache when things don’t happen as I want them to. As a first time mom, I read all the books, all the blog sites, all the recommended sleep schedules, feeding ideas, toy ideas. All. Of. It.

You can try to control it all, ohhhh how you can try. I did. I still do. I’d classify myself as a recovering control freak / people pleaser. I read all the books so I would have all the tools to control how everything progressed with my daughter. If you seasoned mom’s are laughing at that statement, go right ahead. I now see how preposterous it is as well. I read so I could make sure I did everything “right”. Wouldn’t want Kathy Nobody to think I’m a bad mom if I’m following my mothers intuition and doing things my own way!

Here’s what happened when I tried to continuously pigeon hole my daughter into the molds of infancy the books laid out. I lost my ever loving mind one day at a time. “Eat. Play. Sleep.” I recited it like a mantra and felt like crap when it never worked for us. Yet I kept trying and kept trying. Constantly feeling this little cloud of disapproval over my shoulder. Waiting for the imaginary fairy who determines whether or not you are a good mom to smite me.

Then something happened, very slowly. I mean very, very slowly. I started to realize and notice some mom’s around me, in person and in online groups, seemed to be at ease with motherhood. HOW? How are you not in a constant state of stress? Then I noticed something else. They all had something in common. They all followed their intuition. They all listened to and let their hearts guide them when caring for their children. They don’t care if they are doing things differently. They don’t care if Betty is judging them. If their children are happy, healthy and thriving, why should they? Lightbulb moment for this first time mom.

Over the past several months I’ve started to become more confident and less obsessed with control. I’ve gradually begun to release the notion that I have to do things the way the books dictate. I follow my intuition and my daughters lead. Of course I provide structure and routine. It would be impossible for me to completely forgo this (recovering control freak, remember?). But within our routines I allow for flexibility and change.

Maybe today we’ll take two naps, maybe tomorrow we’ll take one. I have completely let go of the sleep expectations. From day one we have struggled. I did not have that newborn that slept all the time. This has always been (and still can be) the biggest trigger for me. Probably in part because the second the umbilical cord is cut, everyone and their great Aunt is asking you if your child is sleeping through the night. Do you see the bags under my eyes and my oily mom bun? Obviously not Karen.

I’ve gradually begun to just freaking roll with whatever Adaline throws at me. Sleep can still be a struggle. Steadily, I’ve started to not dread bedtimes and nighttime. Part of this is because I’ve embraced the fact that I LOVE having my daughter sleep in bed with me. Yup. I said it. Our typical routine includes having her fall asleep in her crib at night. During this time I get some work done and shower once it’s gotten to the point I can’t go another day without one. When she wakes up, I bring her into bed with me. It makes any other nighttime wake-ups so much quicker and easier. I simply plop out a boob. She nurses and rolls back over to sleep. She also sleeps longer stretches next to me. Am I recommending you do this? No. Figure out what works for you. That’s the take home point of this post.

I talk about sleep, but this goes for everything. Eating. Maybe you want to do baby lead weaning, maybe you want to start with purees. Follow your gut, what is it telling you will work with your child? Leisure activities, clothing, toys, anything you can think of. Quit trying to live up to everyone’s expectations. They are not raising your child. Different does not mean wrong. What we do with Adaline, we may not do with our next child. Every child is different, so I don’t see why we have this notion that we must treat them all the same. It is absolute ludicrous. I only wish I had understood this months and months and months ago.

What have been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned since being a mom?