Staving Off Insanity

The past few weeks have been rough. They’ve been full of unexpected, unhappy change and new stress. Our family is all struggling and I’ve been having to dig deep to stave off simply checking out from my family. You know, being physically there but escaping in your mind to someplace else.

I’ve discovered that one of the keys, for me, in remaining fully present is by providing myself with daily self care. Weekly solo escapes to the coffee shop or library are wonderful and needed, but don’t always happen. Sometimes there is just too much junk going on at home. And those once a week moments never seem like enough if that is all I’m doing to take care of myself.

Now, I’m trying to take care of myself in at least one little way each day. Nothing extravagant, no online shopping sprees on Etsy. Rather, small things that are easily attainable, easy to sustain and can happen daily.

Self care step one

That post about coconut oil treatment for my hair? That was a self care moment. Just giving myself time and permission to just take care of myself. Bonus was that my hair looked AMAZING after and was a huge moral boost.

Self care, step two. My favorite lunch on a paper plate.

Making my favorite lunch. The kids tend to not eat much for lunch, so I might as well make something I love and they’ll probably just pick at (as they would with anything I would serve?).

Self care part three. It's pretty sad that I think washing my hair counts self care.

Investing in decent shampoo and actually taking the time to condition my hair. Conditioning may not happen *every* shower but once a week is attainable!

Self care number four: kisses with baby, who loves with reckless abandon.

Smothering my baby with kisses, who loves with reckless abandon, and soaking up her giggles. Some days are just crazy and I get to the “witching hour” just before dinner prep without having taken care of myself. I know, without a doubt, that it will be worse than normal if I don’t do something ASAP. So I set the big kids up with playdoh and step outside with the baby to just take a moment to breathe. Often, that ends in lots of giggly kisses and I return to the kitchen with a sense of renewed energy.

If I take care of myself daily, I find I have more to give to my family and life in general. Those now infrequent trips to the library or coffee shop don’t serve as a reminder of how little I get out. Instead, they act as intended: providing me with some solid time to myself. Even when they were weekly events, I felt like I was just grasping at the fluttering pieces of me and just taping them together best I knew how. Since I’m finding time each day to tape myself back together, time away rejuvenates and encourages me.

How about you? What are ways you take care of yourself?

Babywearing Through Motherhood.

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This is the very first picture I have of using a baby carrier with my Ella (my first born). I know she was worn well before this. In fact, I have a distinct memory of my birth doula coming by a week after her birth and helping me figure out my moby wrap. But this picture, taken when she was seven months old, is the first documentation I have of me wearing her.

What I do have is a lot of pictures like this:

Daddy giving mommy a break

Snoozin' on Daddy

Baby wearing gave Aaron the tools he needed to learn how to be a dad. It helped soothe his colicky, cranky first baby while I struggled with severe postpartum depression. It allowed him to give me the space I needed to pull out of the fog of PPD while still building a bond with our baby.

Then came Miles. My rolly polly, bald baby boy who had a sister who wasn’t quite yet two. Saying I needed both hands is an understatement.

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Eight days after Miles was born. He was lower than recommended because I had just finished nursing him in the wrap.

Being able to pop that squishy baby in my wrap and literally chase after Ella was a life saver. That toddler girl never stopped moving and wearing the baby allowed me to meet both children’s needs. Making sure both their needs were met was a HUGE concern of mine during Miles’ pregnancy. I cried about it during labor. My baby carriers made that worry less of a concern.

omg our day already

Don’t get me wrong, we still had dreadful days (as documented above). Knowing that Ella was melting down because she didn’t have enough snuggle time and the baby crying just because he wanted to snuggle and sleep was a relatively simple fix. Once I managed to get both kids on, I would head to a dark room, turn on the white noise machine and sway back and forth until they both calmed down.

Without Aaron or I really realizing it, wearing our kids (babies and toddlers) became a way of life.

Babywearing, tidying Daddy

Aaron discovered Miles loved the sound of the vacuum and our floors were never cleaner than those few months it worked to calm the baby down.

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And really? Who doesn’t want their bald baby to be happy?

When Miles was about 8 months and Ella was 2.5 years, we began to have regular doctor appointment in Chicago. I briefly toyed with the idea of bringing a stroller. Ella was so tall and Miles was so heavy! Then the vision of us dragging a stroller up flights of stairs to an L platform nearly caused me an coronary and we decided to sling it.

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My 23 pound baby was easily worn the entire day, up and down Chicago, in my favorite mei tai carrier.

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Ella was able to be soothed from the stress of sleep studies by picking her favorite carriers to use on our trips.

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And when my sprained my ankle, Aaron was ready for the task.

Close enough to kiss.

A few years later, another sweet baby joined our family. Keeping Hazel close enough to kiss meant I could still have both hands for my older two

Untitled I foresee many evening practices like this.

I was able to decompress with my piano after stressful days thanks to my wrap.

Hanging laundry. As much as I hate laundering clothes, I love my main level laundry room.

Laundry tackled.

Bus Adventuring

Wearing my almost 3 yr old at the waterfront today.

When Miles began to feel displaced, I was able to wear him in the same wrap I used when he was a baby and tell him stories about his babyhood. It helped him ease into the position of middle child with more grace than I was anticipating.

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Tossing Hazel on my back meant that the kids and I could hike while I let out my internal anger and frustration. Without my carrier, I would have been relegated to the neighborhood with a stroller. While that would have been a bad option, the woods was the best.

I know I would have been a good mom without the tools of baby wearing but with the ability to wear my kids, it has given me the opportunity to be an even better mom. Not only that, but it has given Aaron the ability to bond with all of our kids and settle into the role of Daddy .

I really don’t know how we could have survived 3 kids in 4 years with as much grace as we have without wearing our babies.

Conversations: At Target

Yes, I know my hands are full. Why do you think we all have Starbucks?

Yes, I do know my hands are full. That is why we all have Starbucks. 

The other day, I was on a mission at Target. I had the big kids in the triple cart (whoever created that is a genius and I am so thankful!) and Hazel strapped on my back. I was fueled by caffeine and the kids were quiet thanks to dairy and caffeine free “happy-chinos” (as Miles calls them). Armed with my list, I had 30 minutes to get everything I needed and back in the car.

I was almost done with my list and preparing to make the mad dash for the check out lines when a grandma aged woman stopped me. Cringing inwardly, I politely smiled and sent up a quick prayer that she wouldn’t be rude. Ever since Hazel was born, I’ve had complete strangers actually track me down in stores to glibly inform me that my hands were full. I braced myself to put on a smile and respond with, “Hands full is a good life” or something like that.

Instead, she smiled at me and said I was doing good. She raised three children and shopping with them had been her most dreaded chore. Other moments were good, but shopping was never one of them. She even confessed to refusing to shop with her own grandkids! Then, she waved at the kids, encouraged them to be kind, and went on her way.

Thank you, kind grandma, for your encouragement. Hearing that was exactly what I needed.

 

 

Linking up with The Parent ‘Hood this morning.

Serenity Now

Napping in arms today.

I’m learning to accept getting Hazel down for nap as an exercise in finding serenity. Grasping moments of mindful quiet when and where I can.

The real struggle is not falling asleep with her.

Doomed

After 3 kids, I finally get to buy one.

I have pined and lusted after a Sophie the Giraffe for YEARS. Every since Ella was tiny, I’ve wanted one but just couldn’t justify it. I finally bit the bullet and ordered one. This might be our last baby and she’s growing so fast. I wanted a Sophie the Giraffe in my house, so I had better get her sooner rather than later.

After three kids and a click of the mouse, I waited and waited until  Sophie the Giraffe finally showed up on my doorstep via Amazon.

I gushed over her in her tiny little box. Then I pulled her out and felt how nice the texture was — not gritty and not slick. Perfect for a teething babe.

Then my beautiful Sophie the Giraffe squeaked and the world as I knew it ended.

We don’t purposely choose toys that independently make noise for our home. Kids are noisy enough. Come to find out, my ultimate baby toy makes noise and Hazel screams whenever I take her away.

Also? She smells like a tire.

Doomed. I’m completely doomed.

Hello To Goodbye

I’ve been mulling over the phrase “motherhood is a long series of goodbyes” from this post on Renegade Mothering. It struck a spark of conversation between some friends and I and it was rather revolutionary for me.

At first, I wasn’t sure if goodbyes were the right perspective to hold. The word goodbye seems so… sad to me. Negative. Despondent. Those adjectives are polar opposites of what I want my life as a mother to reflect. But then, through further conversation, I realized the other side of goodbye is hello.

As I say goodbye to the sweet smelling head of my tiny infant, he is saying hello to new found mobility and exploration.

As I say goodbye to knowing what my almost five year old is doing 95% of the day, she is saying hello to experiencing taking the bus and going school.

Other goodbyes are more subtle. Having to assist with every stitch of apparel to being down to only tying shoes. Picking up tiny crumbs of play doh off of the floor before stepping in it.

The most vivid and current goodbye I had was sending Ella off to half day school, which started last month.

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She loves her teacher already. And she's home!
(1) Obligatory first day of school picture (2) Too excited to be still.
(3) She loves her teacher so much. (4) Home safe and sound.

Her joy and enthusiasm for saying hello certainly eased my goodbye. All I can do is hope and pray I can continue to accept goodbyes with grace while encouraging my children towards greeting the new stages of their life with excitement and curiosity. I absolutely know some goodbyes will be harder than others but I cannot allow my struggles with saying goodbye to a part of their life hinder their ability to move forward. I’m sure that we’ll meet a hello they are dreading and it will make it all the harder for me to say goodbye, but we’ll make it.

Insta Week

Insta Week

A highlight reel of my week, via Instagram.

(1) Amazing gluten free muffin that I will be posting about next week!

(2) Best after school snack EVER. (ps she loves those huge bows)

(3) Epic popcorn fail involving coconut sugar. The kids still ate it, though…

(4) Miles mimicking a cartoon character frantically searching for something. All while I was in the bathroom for 30 seconds, max.

(5) Miles say the phrase, “I love you” to the tune of Jingle Bells. I joined in and we both felt loved.

(6) Out of the world food came from that Brazilian grill. YUM.

Serenity Now

My daily life. It's as awesome as it is difficult.

My life, with three young children, is awesome as it is difficult. Sometimes, the only way I can catch a breath is with the baby on my back and handing the kids cupcakes. Then I breath deep and think serenity now.

Conversations (with myself): Being Real

I think we do each other a significant disservice when we present caricatures of ourselves online. I understand the idea of having niche audiences and wanting to be an encouragement to others. Being an encouragement doesn’t mean simply talking about the positive. Only showing the glowing, rosy moments. What about the moments when your feet stick a bit to the floor as you walk or it’s 8am and you still haven’t done dishes from yesterday’s lunch (or is that just me?)?

Pictures of sacred moments in childhood or great accomplishments do inspire me, but what about that personal bit? What about that bit to connect with real life and the real people around you? The wonderful moment of tender love between your children accompanied with a story about the non stop bickering that had been taking place all day. The reminder that they DO love each other, despite what has been going on all day. Or what about sharing pictures of your 7 failures leading up to your amazing culinary accomplishment. And how about a snapshot of the wall behind the couch your toddler colored on while you were frosting that cupcake?

Lately, I’ve been struggling with a feeling of inadequacy. Everywhere you look, beautiful images and stories can be found about the joys and perfections found in motherhood. Why isn’t that my reality of motherhood? What do these women have that I don’t? Why can’t I attain their level of beauty and perfection, no matter how hard I try?

Most of my daily life is as if I’m in a wilderness of sleep deprivation and constant boundary holding. An amazing wilderness that has joy and rewards, but a wilderness none the less. There are moments like a refreshing breeze. Sometimes, I come across them daily. But those moments never last and they always seem to be just enough (thank goodness!) to get me through the next stretch of parched life until I stumble upon a new, brief oasis.

I’ve begun to reach out to the community of mothers surrounding me. I’ve been holding my breath, asking quiet questions. As the answers have been rolling in, I’ve begun to breathe again. It turns out struggling with parenting, keeping your floor mopped, putting laundry away, keeping patience always at hand, and making sure the kids have on matching shoes are all pretty common. Maybe not those specific examples, but everyone has their own parenting and house keeping demons.

But no one shares them. Why is that? Is it because we’re being afraid of being perceived as a negative nellie? Someone who can never say anything nice? Or how about being seen as weak and disorganized? Worse yet, being seen as a bad mom?

This has to change. Not only do we need to balance the good with the bad but the bad with the good. We need to be real with one another. If we expect to survive this awesome, exhausting, amazing, intimidating thing called parenthood, we have to connect and reconnect. Share the happy with the sad. Sunshine with the rain. Strong points and downfalls.

It’s not comfortable, but real life isn’t shouldn’t be comfortable. My hope is to share my life in color. Not monochromatic or in a specific color scheme. The bright and popular colors, along with the underrepresented and disliked colors.

I want to keep this real.

So, as a first step, I give you this picture:

15 minutes of actual cleaning

Caption of a sunshine yellow color chip: “Did this in 15 minutes while wearing a baby on my back! Woot! Anyone can keep on top of their house in 15 minute chunks!”

Caption muted grays: “Too exhausted to keep up with dishes and the baby is so grumpy, I had to do this while wearing her on my back.”

Real caption that is kind of a muddy mess of yellow, gray and a bit of glitter: “Trying to tackle my kitchen in dedicated 15 minute chunks is possible if I can spread it out over an hour. Three kids is no joke! At least I can wear the baby on my back while mediating the big kids and killing spiders in the bathroom.”

Beautiful doesn’t equal perfection. Even the messy, dirty and possible inadequacies about our lives can offer a beautiful oasis to others.

Serenity Now

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After a stressful day, this is how I find calm.

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