Monday, June 29, 2015

Raising Independent Kids

I've had people tell me that I'm lucky that my kids can entertain themselves.  This has always struck me as an odd statement, because I feel like it is something that should be a really normal thing.  My son has always been great at playing on his own and I really think he prefers it to playing with others.  My daughter does really love to play with friends, but she is can also play by herself for hours at a time.  They are both really creative kids, and I love seeing them play by themselves.

I mentioned in my post last week (found here) that I hate the need today's society has to constantly entertain our kids and provide them with structured activities.  I feel that in the long run, the only thing this does is hinder their ability to be creative and learn to entertain themselves.  I'll admit that with my first child, I was quick to sign up for library story hour, and a couple other mom and me classes, but I skipped every single one of those with my second child.  I spent those story time classes trying to corral an 18 month old into sitting and listening to a book, while all the other moms did the same thing.  Did it teach him to sit and listen?  No.  Did it socialize him with kids his age?  No.  Did he learn anything while we were there?  Again, no.  What it did do was drive me crazy and make me feel like a bad mom for not having a kid that would sit quietly and listen to story time.  Really though, none of the kids sat quietly and listened, because kids that age just don't do that.  Needless to say, my daughter never went to one and she's still managed to become a very social little girl who does great in school.  In my opinion, all of these classes mean a lot more to the parents than they do to the tiny kids that are being dragged to them.

Pinterest is one of my favorite things to waste time on, but it is also something that represents so many problems with parenting these days.  The whole philosophy of needing to plan out things for kids to do all day, every day just doesn't sit well with me.  Do I do some projects with my kids sometimes?  Sure I do, but 9 times out of 10, I let me kids do whatever they want to do.  We have a box full of paper, scissors, markers, crayons, paints, and other craft stuff and I don't typically dictate what they do.  My daughter makes projects almost every day, and I love seeing what she comes up with.  She cuts, pastes, colors, and designs, all sorts of little treasures all on her own.  That is what I think is beneficial to a child's development, not putting something that you partially made in front of them, and helping them or telling them how to assemble the rest of it.  Yes it is great for them to learn how to follow directions and put things in order, but it is also great for them to just be creative.  Also, my OCD tendencies always get in the way and I have a really hard time not helping them do things the way I think they should be done.  I learned several years ago that they have a lot more fun, and they are really proud of their stuff when I just back off and let them create.

I have watched so many people who are just exhausted at the end of the day because their kids need constant attention and don't know how to entertain themselves.  The parents move the kids from one activity to the next and dictate every playtime activity.  As soon as the kid has lost their attention span on one thing, then they are asking their mom or dad for something else to do.  I get it, kids attention spans aren't always great, but they really should be able to play on their own.  I've always loved listening to my kids play.  They are the voice of all the toys they play with, and their little conversations with themselves are hilarious.  My son would play for hours with cars, blocks, trains, anything a typical boy likes.  My daughter will set up elaborate Barbie or stuffed animal scenarios and play forever with no need for me to help her.  (Well, other than the occasional dress change on those tiny little Disney Princesses that wear rubber dresses.  What is the deal with making those impossible for kids to maneuver??)  This is something I love because they are perfectly happy and I get a little time to get my things done.  I have a friend who mentioned not having a free second in the day, and after being at her house one day I understood why.  Her son had no idea how to play by himself because she'd never let him try.  I think this happens a lot now and I really don't think it will be beneficial to the kids long term.

We've never had super structured days at our house.  Even when the kids were babies, we were kind of a fly by the seat of our pants family.  We had a time frame that I tried to stay around for naps and stuff, but the world didn't end if I had stuff to do and we skipped something.  I tried to stay with a similar schedule, but life doesn't always work that way and I think my kids are better off because of that.  They have always been able to adapt to schedule changes pretty well, which works out great when we go on vacation or have random things come up.  The thought of having to plan something out for them to do all day every day makes me crazy.

When I was growing up, we lived out in the country and didn't have other kids (just me and my two younger brothers) to play with.  We became really independent kids and went outside all summer long and just played.  We built forts, and made up our own games, played in our little creek, and ran around the pasture.  I can't imagine doing things any other way and I think it helped me grow into an independent person.  I have never relied on others to entertain me or give me things to do, and I'd love for my kids to continue on that same path.

People are moving so quickly towards the "Pinterest Parenting" way of raising kids, and it really scares me what all those kids are going to be like as adults.  What happens when kids grow up and move out on their own after being accustomed to someone providing them with something to do at all times?  Will they be able to complete a day of work when they are responsible for scheduling their day out and getting tasks done with no assistance?  I really hate that there are new moms out there who think they are doing the wrong thing if they haven't completed all of the things on the "100 Things to do With Your Kids This Summer" list they found on Pinterest, or that they haven't taken their baby to multiple "mommy and me" classes throughout the week.  Parents, it is ok to not plan out a full day of activities for your kids.  Further more, it is more than ok to just let your kids be kids and figure out on their own what to play with or what craft project to do.  Let them grow their independence and creativity.  I'm thankful to my mom for sending us out to come up with our own fun, and I'm sure that someday your kids will be too.    

Monday, June 22, 2015

Kids and Sports

I was a gymnast from the time I could walk, until I was 16 years old.  The only other sport I really ever did was dance, and that was because it was something that went hand in hand with gymnastics.  It was serious business and I was in the gym for around 25 hours a week for as many years as I can remember.  I truly did love the sport, so don't let this post make you think otherwise, but my heavy involvement and lack of being able to ever do anything else, is definitely something that influences the way I look at sports for my kids.  

The way kids were involved with most sports was a lot different when I was a kid, than it is for my kids now.  I say this with the exclusion of my gymnastics career, because that is a lot like the expectations of kids and sports today.  I feel like when I was growing up, that recreation sports were just that.  Recreation.  Today everything is a million times more competitive, and everyone starts involving their kids at much younger ages.  I know there was little league baseball, and soccer when I was little, but it wasn't a big deal and was mostly for fun.  Now, if you don't start your kid in soccer, t-ball, flag football, volleyball, or whatever other available activity made available from the time they are preschool aged, then you've done something wrong.  How will they ever get a college scholarship if they haven't been on the soccer field since the time they learned to run???  I have no doubt that there are people out there who truly believe that is the case.  People hand select their rosters for 7 year old baseball, softball, soccer, you name it.  Is it really necessary to dominate the rec league?  I'm sorry, but I'm also not going to pay any amount of money to send a five year old to a volleyball "skills" camp or whatever other nonsense there is for kids that age.  Plenty of people see value in things like this, but I am not one of them. The constant need to have kids involved in a structured activity makes me crazy, and I want no part of it. Send your kids out to the yard to play and kick a ball around, that's what they really need to be doing at that age.  I'll save my thoughts on the need to constantly entertain our kids for another post.  I'm sure this one will already be long enough.

I really started thinking about the insanity of all of this sports stuff last summer.  My son J was 10 years old, and completely obsessed with all things hockey.  For the record, depending on the time of year, he was already playing competitive club soccer, basketball, and baseball.  He talked to us about wanting to learn to play hockey and I actually had the thought "It might be too late for him to start, he's already 10."  What the??  10 is now too old to start a sport?  When I was a kid you tried new sports when you got to 7th grade and had school teams you could participate in.  Now, your kid joining a middle school team without ever having played the sport would blow everyone's minds.  Back to hockey... We'd gone ice skating a few months before my son asked about playing hockey, and to say he couldn't skate doesn't even cover it.  The kid couldn't go three feet without falling.  I'm not talking minor falls either, I mean he was full on wiping out every few steps.  He had a hockey stick and puck that he'd play with in the basement, but skating was not a skill he was even close to having down.  We decided that we weren't going to tell him no, and signed him up to start a skating skills class at our local ice haus.  He was twice the age and size of all the other kids in his class, but it didn't phase him.  He is an athletic and competitive kid, and he had his mind set on passing the three skating levels necessary to be able to play with a stick and puck.   I'm getting off track, but my point is, what in the hell is wrong with our society that I had to think twice about letting my son play a sport because age 10 is "too old to start".  We just hit the one year mark of him starting hockey, and the kid has absolutely blown my mind.  He is a goal scoring machine, dominates the games, has complete love for the sport, and is going to start competitive hockey (along with soccer, because they'll overlap a bit) this fall.  When I watch him play, I just know that this is his sport.  It fits his personality, he is really great at it, and he gets so pumped up for games.  What if I'd never let him give it a try?  By all other standards in this day and age, I shouldn't have because he hadn't followed the timeline of starting when he was in preschool.  I'm so proud of him for not paying attention to the fact that he was learning with kids half his age when he started, and that he just worked hard at something he loved.  None of those kids have advanced with him over the last year, and he now has joined the ranks of kids his own age.  He's a pretty kick ass kid, and to think that I hesitated before letting him give hockey a try because of his age makes me want to kick my own ass. 

I spent my entire youth in the same sport.  My mom let me try volleyball in 7th grade (after much begging and pleading), and I actually really liked it.  I ended up being way too tall for a gymnast, so volleyball would have probably been a pretty great sport for me, but I didn't get to keep at it.  I loved gymnastics, I really did, but as a kid I wanted to do all the things my friends were doing.  I feel like I missed out on so much because I was in such a specialized sport.  Gymnastics takes a huge commitment, and there just isn't time for anything else.  I practiced every day from 4-8pm and also on Saturday mornings, which doesn't leave any availability for other activities. Not only that, but I can't even count how many times I was told that other sports weren't a good idea because I could hurt myself, and if that were the case, my gymnastics would suffer.  I hated P.E. in school because I didn't know how to play softball, or soccer, or any of the things we did in class.  I always felt out of place and wished that I had gotten a chance to be on the fun teams with my friends. It is because of this, that I've always let my kids try whatever sports they want to.  With the exception of gymnastics, because let's be honest, I can barely get out of bed in the morning because my body thinks I'm 85 years old as a result of all my years in the gym.  I was so over committed to gymnastics, that I really have to think hard about my kids and what they do.  My husband on the other hand, grew up wanting to do a lot more, but getting really involved in sports wasn't something his parents were in to, so he didn't participate in much.  Don't worry about him though, he's making up for it as an adult who runs every race he can and is sponsored on a racing team.  We come from very different situations, and now we have to figure out how to balance me not wanting the kids too involved, and him wanting them to be involved in everything.  I'm trying to stick with the thought process of just letting them do whatever they want so long as I can manage the schedule.

Soccer season and baseball season always overlap for about 2-3 weeks each year, so my son misses a couple baseball practices while he wraps up his competitive soccer season. A couple of summers ago J had a baseball coach (mind you, this is in a recreational little league) who griped at him for missing a practice and said "You need to pick a sport, son."  I'm sorry, but at what point did we decide that at age 9, a child needs to determine what the only sport they are going to play from there on will be?  We never played on that guy's team again, and we've yet to "pick a sport."  J loves baseball, but wants to play other things, so we don't play year round competitive baseball like a lot of his friends do.  He does play competitive soccer for a couple of reasons.  One, he is really good at it, and two, there aren't really 11/12 year old recreation teams anymore because so many kids have "picked a sport."  If he wanted to stop, that would be his decision, and I'd have an extra chunk of money in my pocket each year, but he really loves to play.  I really don't see the value in limiting a young kid to one sport.  Physically, it is great for them to develop strengths that different sports provide.  Mentally, each sport requires a different level of focus and determination and I think they need to learn how to prepare and compete in different situations.  My little brother B is one of the best examples I can think of for why kids shouldn't pick just one sport.  That kid (I say kid, but he's 20 now) worked his ass off at every sport he's ever played.  He went through high school not just playing, but dominating every sport he played.  He ran cross country for a couple years, was the quarterback of the football team, one of the leading scorers on the basketball team, and an absolutely incredible baseball player.  He went through high school knowing he'd play a college sport and that it would just depend on which one would pay his way through school.  He went to junior college on a full ride for baseball, and now next year will be doing the same thing to finish college at a four year school on baseball scholarship.  I truly believe that he is such an incredible athlete because he played all the sports.  The mentality of making a kid choose a specialty by the time they are 10 years old is totally nuts.  You risk completely burning those kids out in a few years, at which point they'll quit and not have anything else they are interested in.  The stress and pressure this puts on kids is not healthy, and there is really not a point.  Why can't we just let our kids play sports because they love them?  

I don't really know how all of this developed.  You would think that all of the people my age with kids, would remember how much fun they had playing rec sports when they were little and would want their kids to have the same fun.  Instead, we now have to have signs like this posted at games...

I mean come on people, we need reminders of this?  There was actually a fight between parents a couple of years ago at the baseball fields here.  We now have rules stating you can not speak to the umpires during the game, and if you have a certain amount of incidents then you will be banned from the fields.  I can't even believe rules like that need to be in place.  When I was in high school I went to watch my younger brothers play baseball games almost every day all summer long.  The games were fun to watch, the kids enjoyed playing, and there was no nonsense.  It is something I remember so fondly, and it kills me that summer ball games aren't like that anymore.  Is it really too much to ask that people start acting like grown ups, stop living vicariously through their kids, and just sit and enjoy watching them play sports?  I mean, really.  

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Pencil Skirt

When pencil skirts started getting popular, I swore I could never pull one off.  The idea of putting a completely form fitting skirt on my body was terrifying.  In my mind, the only people who could wear them were stick thin and had no curves.  I was totally wrong right?  As I flip through magazines, and watch tv, the women who wear these type of skirts are full of curves and they look incredible.  I am my own worst critic, and it has taken me awhile to feel comfortable in such a form fitting skirt, but now I feel like I pull it off pretty well (seriously you guys, barre classes have done wonders for my butt! I couldn't have pulled this off last summer)  This brand/style is my favorite and I have three of them because I love them so much.  They are soft, stretchy, and come in such fun prints!  I love the yoga waistband because I can change how I wear it on my waist, depending on what shirt I want to wear with it.  I buy them from a friend of mine (along with the maxi skirt I posted about here, the leggings in this post here, and many other dresses, tops, and skirts that I haven't gotten my hands on yet!), and I couldn't love this stuff more.  She has a website here, but she also posts photos of her current in stock inventory on her Facebook page and will ship to you.  I feel like I buy something from her every time she gets a new batch of inventory in.  

I love the bright floral print on this skirt.  I also have one that is black/white polka dots, and one that is leopard print, but this floral is so great for summer.  I am a big fan of basic, fitted tanks, and I love the blue one I am wearing.  I tucked it in to this skirt, but if I'm being more casual, I'll wear it untucked and wear flip flops or a flat sandal.  My shoes I bought last summer, but there are lots of similar options out this year.

Skirt - Cassie Skirt by LuLaRoe
Tank Top - Target
Shoes - JustFab
Necklaces/Earrings - JustFab

Monday, June 15, 2015

Car Seat Safety - Protecting Your Kids

I've had plenty of friends and family members give me a hard time about my obsession with car seat safety. I've had eyes rolled at me and I've been referred to by some as "The Car Seat Nazi".  I've never understood this, and why keeping kids as absolutely safe as possible in the car, is not at the top of everyone's list of things to do.  I've heard all sorts of comments like "We feel comfortable with our decision", or "We made the same choice with their brother/sister and they were fine", when it comes to car seat decisions, and it all just boggles my mind.  The thought process that because another person did something and ended up fine, is really what some people feel comfortable as a basis for their child's safety?  This makes absolutely no sense to me.

There are a lot of things in this world that we can't control when it comes to the safety of our kids. The kind of car seat you use, the way you fasten your kids in their seat, which direction they face, how long they use a car seat, these are all thing you have control over.  Car accidents?  They happen when you least expect them, which is why being prepared and safe is so important.  I literally feel sick to my stomach every time I see a little one facing forward when they shouldn't be, a toddler in booster seat, or even worse, a small child not in a seat at all.  I see people post pictures of their kids buckled incorrectly, or sitting without a booster with the seat belt behind their back and I want to tell them to please buckle their kids in correctly.  The few times that I've mentioned it, people always say they are fine with what they are doing.  I've also seen people comment and say "Never post a picture of your kids in their seat because you'll end up with people telling you they aren't in there correctly."  I guess maybe it is just me, but if my kids aren't safe, I'd be happy to have someone point that out to me.  

Yes, I realize there didn't used to be car seats, and people are alive today to tell about it.  Yes, people get away with not using the correct seat, or not using a seat all the time.  My question is, if you know better, and you know that you really have no control over if and when someone might hit you while you are driving, wouldn't it be in your (and your child's) best interest to make sure they are secured properly?  Does insisting that my kids be in the proper car seat make me a "Car Seat Nazi"?  I really don't feel like I'm being unreasonable here.

There are age, height and weight requirements for seats, and there are laws (differing by state) for car seat requirements.  Those are not suggestions, and are often minimum requirements.  There has been a lot of research done about what happens to babies and toddlers in accidents, and other recommendations made in order to keep your child as safe as possible.  Is it easier to flip your baby around and forward face at 12 months?  Maybe, but I don't really believe it to be any easier or harder to strap a kid in regardless of the direction.  The fact is, that it isn't safe and the odds are much higher for injury if they are forward facing in an accident at that age. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you rear face until a minimum of two years old, and it is even better to continue rear facing until 3-4 years of age.  Here is a detailed explanation... Why Rear Facing.

A friend of mine was kind enough to let me use some pictures of her kiddos for this post.  The older of her two girls shown, sat rear facing until her 4th birthday. The little one just turned two and will stay rear facing until her 4th birthday just like her sister.  Looking pretty happy and comfortable if you ask me!  Most importantly though, they are well protected.

My kids both rode in 5 point harness seats well past their 6th birthdays.  My son stayed in a regular booster seat until he was 10 years old and had reached the height requirement to ensure a seat belt would cross his chest in the right spot.  The requirement is height of 4'9" AND 8 years old.  Not one or the other, but both.  The age is because of when their bones have reached a certain stage of development, and the height is for how the chest strap sits on their chest.  My daughter is now in a high back booster, and will be there for quite awhile still.  I don't feel comfortable with her, at six and a half, to sit properly at all times in a regular booster seat.  When she was outgrowing her 5 point harness seat, I did a lot of research, talked with the people at Car Seats for The Littles to find the best type of booster for her and for our cars, and then made my purchase.  I can't imagine putting a child younger than her in a regular booster seat, knowing that there is no way they'll always be sitting correctly.  I see people post pictures of their little ones asleep and folded over in their seats and wish they'd do some research.  This article is such a heartbreaking example of what can happen.  I'd read that article months ago, and while trying to find it for this post, was stunned by how many other similar articles I found.  It is just so incredibly sad how many children have died or been seriously injured all because they weren't properly restrained.
Picture from The Car Seat Nerd

Picture from Super Car Seat Geek

Last winter there was a blogger who boasted about how she'd put let her kid wear his puffy coat in his car seat if she wanted to.  Why?  Because she was the parent and that was her choice to make.  I hate, hate, hate shit like this.  So, you aren't going to do what is safe for your child because "no one is going to tell you how to parent"?  This one really confuses me.  If your child gets seriously injured or dies in a car accident, then that will really show people, won't it!?  Do you win if that happens?   It was shortly after reading her absolute nonsense, that I read about a two year old getting killed in a car accident because he was wearing a coat, and therefore not properly restrained.  If you know better, why don't you do better?  I know I could never live with myself if my child died as a result of me not taking proper car seat precautions.  The whole "all of my kids survived without car seats" kind of comments I get from people make me unbelievably furious. That's only the case because they were lucky and never got into an accident.  People, we know better now.  We know more about the development of kids skeletal system, what kind of car seats are right for each size/age, what happens to their little bodies in an accident, and what the catastrophic results can be if children aren't restrained properly.

I don't care if your kid "hates sitting rear facing", or "doesn't like sitting in a car seat" or my least favorite "we aren't going very far, so we don't need a car seat."  You are the parent, and it is your responsibility to take care of your children.  Kids don't know that they like forward facing better if you never give them the option.  Moving kids to a "big kid" seat isn't an accomplishment, or a milestone to be posted on Facebook, especially if your kid has no business being in that kind of car seat.  My kids never complained about being in their 5 point harness seats until they were older and started seeing friends in different kinds of seats, or not in car seats at all.  When they asked me why their friend got to ride in booster and they didn't, I had no idea how to answer them.  I just said some people make different choices, and my choice is to keep you as safe as I possibly can.  Like I said earlier, there are so many things in this world that we can't control, but if an accident were to happen, I want to know that I've done everything in my power to keep my kids as safe as I can.  Do your research, know why recommendations are what they are.  After that read a few stories from parents who lost kids because they weren't in the seat they should have been in.  I know for me personally, no amount of convenience is worth that risk.  

Friday, June 12, 2015

Hats - Not Just for Bad Hair Days!

In college, I remember wearing baseball caps quite a bit to cut down on the time it took me to get ready for class.  At the time (what feels like a million years ago!), there weren't really any cute options at all.  Hats have become a major accessory though, and there are tons of ridiculously cute options to choose from.  I have a friend who runs an online boutique, and I've been watching her post pictures of her adorable, hand crafted hats for a long time.  I like to try things on, so I don't like to buy things online very often, but I felt like I really couldn't go wrong here.  My hat got here last week and I was thrilled with how cute it is!  Perfect fit, great quality, and I just love it!  The one I chose is light gray with gray and white flowers.  I wanted something neutral that I could wear with a lot of things, and this will be perfect.  She has so many other awesome choices, and does a lot of hats to match sports teams, and that type of thing too.  Shi's Jewelry Box has a website, but shopping tends to be done on their Facebook page.  She offers other accessories and shirts sometimes too.  All of it is super cute and affordable.  

I've been obsessed with royal blue for awhile now.  The tank I'm wearing is my absolute favorite style/brand of tank top, and I pretty much own every color it gets made in.  I found this blue and white striped option last week and had to have it.  A tank, jeans, hat, and a pair of Chucks, and I'm good to go!  

Tank Top - Target
Jeans - The Buckle
Shoes - Converse
Bracelet - KEEP Collective (Also seen in this post)

Here is a close up of my hat...

Friday, June 5, 2015

So, I Bought A Jumpsuit!

A couple of months ago a friend of mine and I started chatting about jumpsuits.  There was a cute one we kept looking at on an athletic clothing website, but neither of us bit the bullet and ordered it.  The topic has come up quite a few more times, links to different options shared, and it almost like we've been daring each other to be the first to give it a go.  After a recent conversation with said friend, another friend messaged me talking to me about a black jumpsuit that she owned.  For the record, she loves it, but we had to laugh about her husband's opinion.  I made the decision this week that I would at least try some on.  I looked online a bit and then headed out to shop.  A few of them were so bad that I literally couldn't get them off fast enough.  Then I found one that I actually liked.  Of course, they had the size below and above what I needed, but not my size in the store so I had to order it.

My verdict on this particular one is that I like it, and I don't own a single thing like it.  I wish it was made for someone tall, so that I could wear something other than flats with it, but I enjoy it enough to keep it.  It is soft and comfortable, and the price was such that I feel happy about owning something like likely won't stay on trend for an extended period of time.  So friend, (and I know you'll read this!) now the challenge is on for you to find one for yourself!

I have three different colors of the sandals I'm wearing because I love them so much.  I found this color and they were on sale this week.  I also had some gift cards from Shopkick to spend, so I only paid $10 for them.  That put a big smile on my face!

I love long necklaces, but almost always layer them and wear shorter necklace with it.  You can't see it unless you look close in the picture, but I have a tiny little necklace on as well.  I'm not sure why I feel like I have to layer things, but I always do.  It just seems to work better on my body to have a variety of lengths.

Jumpsuit - Target
Long Necklace & Earrings - Charming Charlie
Short Necklace - JustFab
Shoes - Target 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Stay At Home Mom Thoughts...

My kids are 11 and 6 (both "and a half", you know because that half year is super important to them), and I've been a stay at home mom for 99% of that time.  I went back to work 12 weeks after my oldest was born and quit my job six months later.  I've spent a lot of time over the past 11 years thinking about what I do, how to not screw it up, and most importantly how to maintain my sanity until both kids are adults and not living in my home anymore.

I'm not the person that when asked "What do you want to be when you grow up?" as a child, responded with "I want to be a mom."  I actually wanted to be a fashion designer for as long as I can remember.  I also remember saying many times, that I didn't want to have kids.  I have no idea when that switch flipped, but I grew up and knew I wanted to have kids. 

I feel like I need to share a little backstory here, so we'll start with that.  My son (we'll call him J) came to be relatively easily.  I say relatively because while I got pregnant with him within a couple months, it was our second time trying to have a baby.  I had a miscarriage at 15 weeks a few months before I got pregnant with J, and had a shitty group of doctors who did very little to explain to my 24 year old self what the hell was happening.   I got pregnant quickly after and the minute I held that baby in my arms, I knew that I was meant to be a mom.  He was a dream baby and I remember thinking "This is so easy and amazing, I want to have five kids."  When he was 18 months old, we decided we were ready for another baby.  I thought it would be easy, but I couldn't have been more wrong.  I spent the next three years desperately wanting another baby, but struggling with long bouts of not being able to get pregnant, followed by miscarriage after miscarriage.  I'd long since changed doctors, had every test in the book done (all normal), and had no answers.  I had declared that we'd see another specialist if I didn't get pregnant in the next month.  The universe must have known that I was at my breaking point, and I ended up pregnant with my daughter (we'll just call her R).  Two funny things about that... 1. I had said I wanted to be done having kids by the time I was 30, and she was born five days after my 30th birthday.  2.  I also said I'd never do to my kids what my parents did to me, and have their birthday be close to Christmas.  Her birthday is five days before Christmas (my son's is only three weeks after, so I ruined that plan times two).  We wanted to have one more baby, but after a couple more miscarriages, I felt myself slipping back into that dark place I'd been in between J and R.  When I felt that happening, we decided that we'd take permanent action and have definite knowledge about the size of our family.  Long story still a bit long, I went through a lot to have those little rascals, and to say I am thankful for them would be a giant understatement.

These two make happy and crazy all at the same time...

After putting myself through college, and working my way up in the business world, it was a pretty big switch to then stay home with the kids.  I have never felt comfortable answering the question of "What do you do?" with "I stay home with the kids."  Am I happy that's what I do?  Absolutely, but I guess I just don't like being defined by that.  As much as I love the kids, and love being a mom, I am not "just a mom."  Quite a few years ago I had someone act surprised when they learned that I had gone to college and had a Business degree.  That was a bit of a turning point for me, and sent me on a journey of finding ways to be both a mom and not lose myself in the process.  Bottom line, I learned to find things to do for me.  This blog, working as a health coach, crafting, reading,  refinishing furniture, sewing, making jewelry, that is my stuff.  Yes, I might make stuff for the kids, but it isn't because I feel like they need me to do it.  All of it is ultimately for me and because I like to do it.  Remember how I said I needed to find ways to keep my sanity?  This is cheaper than therapy...although, I haven't completely ruled that out. :)

My kids are changing, growing, and turning into different little versions of themselves on a regular basis.  The babies that I used to snuggle on my chest, are now made up almost entirely of long legs and don't fit on my lap anymore.  They are both full of personality and attitude, and I spend my time bouncing between loving the heck out of them and wanting to ship them off to live with their Nana.  I kid, I kid.  I want to keep them around, but there are days you guys.  There are days.   I love them to death, but seriously, they are always around!  As a stay at home mom, you really don't get many breaks from the kids.  In the last year, I've taken R with me to every hair appointment, dentist appointment, to physical therapy, to workouts, on shopping trips.  You name it, she's been there.  Such is the life when your kid only has half day (and who are they kidding with the term half day...depending on the day she was out either at 10:25 or 11:00) kindergarten.  I'd take her to school, either run workout really quick, or run teach dance class (yes I do that too!), and then go pick her up.  I laugh when people say "What do you do all day when your kids are at school?"  I tell myself often not to wish away time, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't ridiculously excited to have both kids in school all day next year.  

My biggest struggle as a stay at home mom has been finding time for myself.  That may sound selfish to some, but I fully believe that to be a good mom, wife, friend, whatever, that you have to have some time for yourself.  The few little bits of free time I do have, are often spent with me having little panic attacks thinking I've forgotten a kid somewhere.  For me personally, I start feeling a little crazy if I don't have any time to breathe and just be me for a bit.  I take barre classes (if you haven't done this kind of workout, you are missing out), and that is absolutely my happy place.  I can always tell when my husband senses that I'm about to lose my shit, because he says things like "Do you want to go to barre today?"  So, between barre and all of my crazy craft and sewing projects, I have time for me.  I'll say it again, staying home with my kids is an incredible opportunity and I am so thankful to do it.  That being said, I realized a few years ago that if I didn't learn to take "me time" that I wasn't going to look back at the opportunity with fondness and appreciation, but with bitterness and resentment.  My point is this, don't lose yourself.  You can be a mom, and still be you.  They aren't one in the same.  One other little tidbit of advice I have, came from a friend of mine before I had kids.  She was older, in fact I'd grown up being friends with her daughter, and it was the best marriage advice I've ever received.  She said something along the lines of "Don't focus everything on your kids.  You have to take time as just you and your husband too.  Otherwise, your kids grow up and move out, and you realize there is someone you have to live with now that you haven't gotten to know over the last 18-20 years."  She was speaking from experience, and I was hearing lots of stories about how she'd spent every minute focusing on her kids and when they moved out, she realized she didn't know her husband anymore.  I made a mental note and I've thought about it many, many times over the years.  We go out with no kids, we take trips with no kids, and we still genuinely love spending time together after almost 20 years.  I'll forever be thankful for that advice I was given.

My daughter and I were at Target today and I was constantly having to ask her to keep up with me and quit lagging behind.  I finally asked her what she was doing and she said "Screaming inside of my head."  I laughed, and assumed I'd exhausted her patience and needed to leave.  It turns out her mosquito bites were super itchy and she was struggling to not scratch her arm off, but what she said has stuck with me all day.  I feel like she described my thoughts about being a stay at home mom perfectly.  Would I trade being able to stay home for anything?  Not a chance, but have there been a million different times where I feel like I'm "screaming inside of my head"?  You bet your ass there have been.  It is just a big fat learning process on how to find balance, and I'm hopeful that I can master that before the kids turn into adults.  

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