Category Archives: Ages & Stages

Making Time for Me

April 21, 2014

As a mom, most of my waking hours – and some of my sleeping hours – are spent working or taking care of those I love. Working in an office or cooking and cleaning at home, sending emails and wiping dirty bottoms and runny noses, my days are not my own.

And I love it.

I love being a wife and mom. I love the messy joy, the sticky hugs and the wet kisses. I love planning meals and birthday parties. I don’t love the dishes and laundry, so if you know anyone who’d like to volunteer for those tasks, I’m all ears.

And yet, even with all the joy and fulfillment being a mom brings, I have needs to be met. Making time to care for oneself can seem impossible or selfish but in reality the value of “me time” is immeasurable. Because when I am in a healthy place – physically, emotionally and spiritually – I am best able to care for my family.

Creative Commons — photo by Adrian Serghie

Creative Commons — photo by Adrian Serghie

Here are five ways I’ve found for keeping the “me” in Mommeeee happy and healthy:

  • Get dressed. Even on days I’m not going to the office, I try to get showered and dressed before my husband leaves for work. Starting my day off with a tiny bit of privacy – while he watches Reagan – and a lot of hot water sets the tone for a better day.
  • Take a break. When possible, do something that you enjoy during nap time. For me this might include a short dance-workout via video, reading a good book or my Bible, taking a nap, trying out a new recipe or watching one of my favorite reality shows with a bowl of fresh popcorn (embarrassing confession – I’m a sucker for all things reality-tv).
  • Make a plan. Schedule a weekly or monthly activity that gets you out of the house for some fun with other adults. Maybe a weekly Bible study, a monthly Bunco group, a Saturday hiking club or an every-other-week MOPS meeting. Whatever you find, commit to it.
  • Set a date. No really, time away from the kids with your man on a regular basis is crucial to a great relationship and a happier, healthier you. So find a trusted family member or friend who can watch the kids for a couple hours while you and your guy reconnect.
  • Invest in yourself. Even in the midst of parenting, you can continue to grow and develop  the person God has created you to be. As your schedule allows, take an art class or dance lessons. Go to a writers’ conference or a weekend women’s retreat. Take an online class and work on your degree. Not only will you be growing but you’ll be modeling to your children a love for life-long learning.

And before you think I’ve got this me time thing down, let me reassure you: these are things I try to do. Some days I do well, other days it’s all I can manage to drag my weary body to bed at night. And that’s okay because I will have another chance to do better tomorrow.

How about you – what do you do to best care for yourself? How does taking care of your needs affect the way you are able to care for your family?

Hating Me

April 17, 2014

“Look at this,” I moan in disgust pinching a handful of stretch-marked, flabby skin from my mid-section. “Why do you even like me?” I ask J dejectedly, adding insult to injury as I place the value of my personhood on the perceived failings of my exterior.

“You had a baby,” he patiently soothes. “You are beautiful and wonderful, and a good Mommy.”

But I hear none of it. Too focused on the imperfections in the mirror. If I could just lose 20 pounds, then I’d be happy, I tell myself.

And I believe it.

I remember the first time my mom mentioned my weight to me. I was in 6th grade. She doesn’t remember, but I can vividly see us standing in the kitchen and my dad telling her she was silly, and that I looked great. A girl needs a dad like that.

It was silly, and that’s probably why my mom has forgotten the conversation. I was fit and healthy, and looking back now, just starting to add a few girlish curves. But I think it’s around that time that I started to realize my mom wasn’t happy with her body. After giving birth to my youngest brother – her third child – she’d struggled to lose the last 10 pounds of baby weight.

My mother was (and still is!) beautiful, vivacious and simply fabulous but I don’t think she always saw it. She was too focused on those 10 pounds.

And now, I’m repeating the cycle. So focused on my imperfections – so focused inwardly – that I sometimes miss out on the joy of just being me with the ones I love.

What would it look like for me to break the cycle before it reaches the next generation – to learn to appreciate my body so that I can teach Reagan to value hers? One thing I know, this change has to start now.  Today.  With me. Steve Maraboli wrote, “There is nothing more rare, nor more beautiful, than a woman being unapologetically herself; comfortable in her perfect imperfection. To me, that is the true essence of beauty.”

Creative Commons -- photo by Robb North

Creative Commons — photo by Robb North

And so today, instead of focusing on the things my body isn’t and can’t do, I’m choosing to focus on the beauty of my body, the perfect imperfections. The stretch marks that grew as my body expanded to hold and nurture my precious baby. The round arms that offer comfort and hugs to family and friends in need. The pale legs that carry me out into the sunshine to work and make a difference in the world.

And as I focus on living a healthy lifestyle (because even as I learn to value my body, I want it to be healthier so I can do even more with it!), I want to teach my daughter to appreciate her own body and show her how to best take care of it.

Some days I will fail, but I pray that God will give me grace and help refocus my vision when it begins to settle on negative thoughts so that I can see myself the way he sees me.

One Year In: What I’ve learned since becoming a parent

March 26, 2014

In the last year (well, 13 months really but we’ll get to that later), I’ve learned a lot about being a mom. I’ve learned about sleep deprivation and poop, how you can be lonely with a small person strapped to your body 24/7 (okay, that’s an exaggeration because Reagan mostly sleeps in her own bed), and how you can love someone else so wholly and completely that not only would you give up your life for them, but you would live your life with their best interest in mind.

Image

Looking back over my time as a parent, here are the top ten things I’ve learned so far.

  1. Parenting is harder than I ever imagined. You are learning to put someone else ahead of yourself. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about parents taking care of their needs too but, when it comes down to it, Reagan comes first (if you need evidence just take inventory of her closet compared to mine!).
  2. Parenting is more amazing than I ever imagined. The giggles, the funny faces, the cuddles – I love the smell of Reagan’s hair after her bath, and the feel of her breathe on my cheek as she drifts off to sleep in my arms. I love the smile she freely gives me when I pick her up from the babysitter and that greets me when I open her bedroom door first thing in the morning. She brings my life more joy, more meaning and more purpose and I wouldn’t trade being a mom for anything in the world.
  3. Growth percentiles mean very little. I’ve worried, and cried, and lost sleep over Reagan’s growth (she’s an itty-bitty thing!) but overall, she’s growing at a consistent rate albeit fairly low on the growth chart. She is healthy and happy and strong – none of which can be fully determined by a chart tracking her weight and height.
  4. Postpartum depression is real. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please talk to your doctor. Postpartum affects about 13% of women for up to one year after giving birth.
  5. You will never be on time to anything ever – EVER – again. Refer back to first sentence of this post.
  6. It wasn’t love at first sight. I mean it was love but not like I imagined (Bravo if it was for you … really, I mean it!). For me, I wasn’t exactly sure what to do with this cute but squishy-faced baby when they gave her to me. She was round and blonde and not at all what I expected. I loved her right away but it took a few days, weeks and even months before the parent/child bond really set in. And the cool thing is, it’s still growing. I love my child more every day.
  7. You can do it alone but parenting – and especially mothering – is better in community. I encourage you to find a MOPS group or a local mothers group to get involved in. Community is good for mom and baby!
  8. Sleep deprivation stinks. But feeding and rocking your baby during the night is pretty awesome (although most nights I would have traded it for more sleep).
  9. No matter how hard you try, you will never be perfect. And neither will your child. Sometimes I get frustrated – sometimes she gets frustrated. It’s bad when we both get frustrated, and sometimes I have to walk away. That’s okay. Soon my baby will understand my “I’m sorrys” and hopefully she’ll learn to ask forgiveness too, from the example I set.
  10. You are not a perfect mother, but you are the perfect mother for your child. God blessed me with this little girl – he gave her to me, and me to her, and no one else.

 

The day I caught the vomit … twice

January 5, 2014

The first time was at the lunch. Reagan is eating solids but has a tendency to stuff too much into her mouth at one time and choke herself. She had been given a few oyster crackers and, while I was talking to friends, she stuffed about 6 into her mouth and began to choke. As I started to pick her up out of the chair, she coughed up the culprits. As quickly as they came up, I put her back down and caught the mushy crackers in my hand.  I think I’m done with lunch.

The second time was right before bed. I think she just ate too much. Right after story time as we finished bedtime prayers, she spit the formula right back up … and right into my open hand.

But that really isn’t the point of this post. I really want to talk about decisions. Decisions we make as moms and dads; Decisions to jump forward with open hands to catch vomit, and decisions about working and childcare and heartstrings.

It’s been an emotional weekend in my house. Okay, it’s been an emotional weekend for me in my house. Our previous work schedule which allowed for Reagan to be home with James or me throughout the week worked well for a while but as she nears her first birthday, we knew something had to change. A choice had to be made – a parenting decision. And at this time, the best decision for our family is for me to increase my work hours {although still part-time} and return to working in the office two days a week while Little Miss goes to a friend’s house – an amazing, sweet mom who will care for Reagan as if she were her own. But that doesn’t change the fact that two days a week, Reagan will be away from Mommy and Daddy. And Mommy will be away from Reagan.

My sweet baby girl

My sweet baby girl

Tears caress my cheeks and dampen my spit-up-soiled blouse as I think about it. “It’s only for a season,” I tell myself and I know it’s true but I worry that Reagan will take her first steps or say her first real word while I am away. I enjoy working and I’m good at what I do, but I don’t know that it’s what I want to do right now. But for this season I am heading back to work and we will evaluate the next season in due time. If you see me in the office, be sure to say hello; and please ignore my puffy, red eyes and stained blouse.

Decisions we make as parents aren’t always easy {in fact, they rarely seem to be!}. What tough parenting decisions have you had to make or are you making now?

“Is she your first?”

September 17, 2013

As a mom to a new baby, I get this question a lot. And you’d think it would be a pretty easy question. Or maybe, if you are like me, it isn’t such an easy question.

Is she your first

Photography provided by Danae Wheeler {www.dwdesignandphotography.com}

Reagan is my only living child, but she isn’t my first child. In fact, Reagan is my third.

A few months after ditching the birth control, J and I were thrilled to see that positive sign on the pregnancy test (and at least 3 more … just to make sure!). We couldn’t contain our excitement and called our parents and siblings to let them know right away. Unfortunately, just a few days later I miscarried. And our hearts broke.

“Dear Lord, I would have loved to have held my babies on my lap
and tell them about you, but since I didn’t get the chance,
would you please hold them on your lap and tell them about me?”
{author unknown}

That’s when I learned that nearly 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. That didn’t make me miss my baby any less nor did it ease the ache over the lost dreams I had for the precious life taken-too-soon, but it softened my heart to other mothers who grieved silently, never having the chance to hold their little ones.

After a physical, I was given the green light to start trying again and we were blessed to get pregnant right away. I tried to contain my excitement, in case. This time we waited until after we saw our baby’s heartbeat to begin sharing the good news. When we passed into the second trimester, I breathed a sigh of relief. “We made it!” or so I thought.

Just before hitting the halfway point {20 weeks}, signs of trouble began. When I made it in to the doctor’s office we were shocked to discover that my cervix was dilated to 4cm*. I was rushed to the hospital but before my doctors could try any interventions, my water broke. There was nothing that could be done. Twelve hours later I delivered my stillborn son. We named him Samuel Evan after his grandfather and because of the story in the Bible {Samuel means “asked of God”}.

“The mention of my child’s name may bring tears to my eyes,
but it never fails to bring music to my ears.
If you are really my friend, let me hear the beautiful music of his name.
It soothes my broken heart and sings to my soul.”
{author unknown}

Reagan was born almost exactly 12 months after Samuel went to Heaven. She is my rainbow baby and brings her Daddy and I great joy.

But I still have struggled with how to answer the question, “Is she your first?” I have found it best to craft my answer based on who I am talking to. For the most part, when I am asked {by a sweet stranger in the grocery store or a new acquaintance at church}, I simply answer “yes.”  But when I am asked by another mom who I know will understand my heart and my loss, I share, “She’s my third. I’ve got two other precious babes in Heaven.”

Who do you share your mom-heartaches with? MOPS is a community of moms who gather together to talk about the highs and lows of motherhood. From first smiles and steps to potty training and starting school… and everything in between. MOPS mourns with moms who are hurting and celebrates with moms through each life victory. Find a group in your area!

Today I am giving away a FREE MOPS Membership (valued at $23.95 but worth so much more!).  Comment below for your chance to win. I will draw and announce one winner (using random.org) on Friday, September 20.

*I have since been diagnosed with Incompetent Cervix. More on that later.

A Tub Full of Toys

July 31, 2013

We’ve recently entered into a new era in our household – with something that has taken over our tub – bath toys! I’m not really sure that at five months old Reagan cares about entertainment during bath time {other than Mommy} but it still felt right. During that first bath time, I showed her each water creature and how they all have little spouts to blow water out. I practiced on the side of the tub, on Reagan’s arms and tummy and on Daddy when he peeked in to see what all the commotion was about. She was happy just trying to stuff the purple walrus into her mouth.

bath-toys

Fast forward to today. Today I’m tired. It’s been a long week. So during Reagan’s nap time I decided to indulge in a hot bath. I turned on the water, grabbed a cold bottle of water to drink and dipped my body into the glorious heat. I closed my eyes and leaned back… “squeak!”

I knew the toys were in the tub but I was too lazy to scoop them all out into the bathroom sink and I haven’t made it to the store to buy one of those mesh bathtub-toy bags yet. I assumed they would just gently float around me while I relaxed. I would hardly know they were there. And yet almost all had wedged themselves between me and relaxing recline.

Kind of like motherhood.

Reagan has brought joy and entertainment to my life but also requires a lot of extra work. She refuses to gently fit in to my schedule, my routine, instead changing every part of my life from the inside out. And if I don’t acknowledge her presence, her method of notifying me sounds an awful lot like “squeak!” Or it did until she found her lungs. Reagan has wedged herself into every crevice of my heart until the thought of life without her brings me physical pain.

Life as a mom is wonderful and hard and messy and beautiful. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world, even if that means that my little restful moments alone are met with a tub full of toys.