Our Fall “girl date”

As a follow-up to my post on ‘being all in’ with my daughter, I wanted to share our recent “girl date” as we like to call it to the beautiful Irvine Park Railroad and Zoo. As luck would have it, the weather was gorgeous and Fall-like, which is unheard of lately in Southern California. We set off around 10am and had about five hours to explore the scenic grounds, eat lunch, see the animals at the zoo, visit the pumpkin patch, have some snow cones, and take a train ride. I know she needed to have her mama all to herself, and I needed the connection time with her too. She recently transitioned to elementary school and it’s hard to be away from each other for longer periods during the day.

We started out just exploring the park and looking at the pretty Fall colors.

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The challenges of staying at home

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A mother staying at home with her children is not revolutionary.  This, I know.  There is nothing unusual or particularly interesting about it.  But what I didn’t know when I decided to quit my job to stay at home full-time is how incredibly challenging and long my days would be.  What I want you to know is that staying at home with my children does not always feel like “enough” for me as I had always envisioned it would.

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Happy Every Day

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I was all set to write a Mother’s Day post that included sentimental thoughts on parenting as well as my hopes and dreams for my children.

Then today happened.  And I found myself wishing that maybe I could spend Mother’s Day alone.  I know…awful.  But not.  Because this job is hard.

By 8am they had both tested my patience so badly that I almost cried trying to get the three of us out the door and by 8pm, I felt like I had run a marathon.  Ok, maybe a couple marathons since my husband pointed out that a marathon would take me around five hours. Continue reading “Happy Every Day”

Mom Misconceptions Part 2

Another round of those moments I assumed would be different once I had children….

I recently saw this post and completely related to it – when did having kids get dropped off to birthday parties become a thing of the past?  Is this a generational thing?  When I made a list last year to have a party for my daughter’s 3rd birthday, the total was around 75 people and that did not include anyone under the age of 2.  There is no way to have all of those people in our house and where would they all park?

In the end, I had her pick 3 little girl friends to invite and I provided food, cupcakes, goody bags (and wine for the moms, who happened to be my friends).  The girls went outside, played dress-up together, colored and ate.  It was the perfect little party and in no way overwhelming for my child.  When I read the above-mentioned article, I was in complete agreement.  I am so down with the drop-off party!  I hope people start doing it as my daughter gets older.  Birthday parties seem to be every single weekend…does anyone else feel they’re a bit overrated??

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I’ve touched on this before, but I never realized the incessant talking – and more specifically, the talking in circles – that would take place with toddlers.  For example, this conversation happened on Saturday with my 3-year-old:

Her:  “Mom, why am I taking a break from Sunday school?”

Me:   “You’re not.  You went the past 3 weekends.”

Her:  “No, it was the past 5 weekends.”  (5 is her go-to number)

Me:  “Oh, ok.”

Her:  “Well, can I take a break from Sunday school?”

Me:  “I guess, if you want to.”

Her:  “No, I really don’t want to take a break.”

Well, that really solved a lot.  Sometimes I have no idea where anything is going in conversations with her…these seem to happen quite a bit lately!  They leave me very, very puzzled.

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The idea that two of your own littles ones close in age will play (or play well) together.  When, if ever, does this happen?  I know mine are still pretty small, but I am constantly intervening.  It’s almost worse than if it was just one of them playing independently.  Inevitably, one will hurt the other on accident (or on purpose, let’s be honest) and I must stop what I’m doing for the hundredth time.  I guess I thought they would be happy to have each other.  There are glimpses of this at times, so I’ll keep hoping it gets better in the future.

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Back to the sleep issue (mentioned in my other Mom Misconceptions post) – my baby, bless him, has been sleeping like a dream for 5 straight months now.  No wake-ups that whole stretch except one, ironically, on Saturday night (darn eye teeth, I think).  My nearly 4-year-old who has dropped her nap will now crash out before 7, but going to sleep that early means a wake-up may possibly happen in the night.  To inform me she has to potty (just do it – no need to wake me!) or like the other night, to say, “Aubrey told me today that I can’t do a cartwheel.  But I can.”  Is she really wanting to discuss gymnastics and friends at midnight?  When do they ever continuously sleep – or when is it that us parents get to sleep, I should say.  I hear we will worry when they’re teens and out at night, so really, I guess once you’re a parent, sleep is for the birds.

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I never knew driving would feel so tumultuous at times.  Tantrums and meltdowns in the car are no fun.  I feel like I may lose my mind.  When I’m trying to navigate to a new place, that makes it even worse.  I’m attempting to hear Siri, but the cries or screams make it near-impossible.  Luckily, these episodes don’t happen too often, but when they do – Lord have mercy on  us all.  Sometimes, all you can do is laugh and that is what I often find myself doing!

 

 

If Mom isn’t happy…

I saw this quote recently and decided to take the challenge, since it’s something I really struggle with.

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After a successful 24 hours, I then went all WEEK LONG without one complaint – a pretty big feat for me!  And I have to say, it felt pretty good.  The three of us had the best week we have had in a long time.  Yes, there were still challenging moments when they both needed me or fell apart at the same time.  This is something that definitely frazzles me.  I feel helpless when I have to pick between the two of them and whose need to meet first.  So this past week I didn’t let the internal struggle happen and instead I just met one need and then met the other’s, quickly putting out fires one by one.

Not complaining also meant resisting the oh-so-satisfying eye-roll or sigh when the kids needed me while I was in the middle of something.  You know – daunting details of my day like attempting to work out, pay bills, make a phone call (impossible!) and the never-easy task of cooking dinner.  I am so used to thinking (or guilty of sometimes even saying aloud), ‘I will never get this done!’  This week I tried just stopping what I was doing, quickly intervening if necessary or getting whatever it was one of them needed and then went back to what I was working on.  Matter of fact, no negative emotion involved.

If my mind started to turn pessimistic on me, I stopped the thought process in its tracks.

I never realized controlling my thoughts could truly change my circumstances.  I’m so used to letting my circumstances dictate my emotions, not the other way around.

As if reading my mind, a friend sent me this article that describes just how powerful the brain is in practicing and determining happiness.  It’s pretty exciting knowing you can rewire your brain and train your mind to be optimistic, leading to a more fulfilling life.  The article recommends keeping a journal of all you are grateful for.  I had started one of these a couple years back when the book 1,000 Gifts was big, so I got it back out to keep up the practice.

I thought this would be a good time to play The Happy Game with my 3-year-old daughter last week to try instilling happiness and being thankful in a simple way.  Here’s how the conversation went:

Me:  What makes you happy?

Her:  When we paint together.  {which we were doing at the time}

Me:  Something that makes me happy is going to the beach with you.  What else makes you happy?

Her:  Playing with you and swimming in the big pool together and when we play legos together.

Me:  It makes me happy when I make a big, yummy meal and everyone eats it and likes it.  What else makes you happy?

Her:  It makes me happy when you’re happy, Mommy.

And I was floored.  Not at all what I expected.  Every single answer was about me.  And then the kicker was that she cared so much about my happiness.  Incredible.

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Goodness, I feel like I could/should have been doing this for years.  I’ve always wondered how my husband does it at work.  In sales, he is rejected day after day, yet he’s built a successful practice somehow.  He always has the best attitude even at the end of a  day that didn’t go his way.  I actually asked him a few weeks ago while I was in an exhausted mental state what he would do in a situation that kept recurring in my days.  He answered matter of factly, “I would figure out how to work around that and stay happy despite those circumstances if that’s where you’re at right now.”  My mind just does not think that way.

I guess it may be starting to now.

To work or not to work?

To work or not to work…that is the question.  This is a topic on my heart lately, and I admittedly hadn’t given it tons of thought over the years since I became a mother.  I know tons of working mothers.  I also know many stay-at-home moms. Some, but not many, mom friends of mine work a part-time job.  As a mother, I’ve only stayed at home, so I know nothing different from this.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I was commuting from Orange County to LA which amounted to roughly three hours a day in drive time.  I didn’t know how I was going to make it work doing that drive plus working 9 hours a day.  I knew that I would likely not see my baby girl at all if I continued to work, so I opted to leave the workforce and stay at home with her full-time.

Fast forward nearly four years and another child – and lately I have found myself feeling a little antsy.  While I know I am fortunate to be able to stay home with my children, I often wonder what happened to that other part of my identity.

I feel in a way I was forced into staying at home, due to the long commute – but I still think the option was appealing to me at the time (and still is in many ways).  I have some friends who went back to work because they had no choice due to the need for health insurance or an income to provide for their family.  But for many, it is a choice and I love hearing women’s hearts on the topic and what factors influenced their decision.

As for me, there are many benefits I enjoy from not working, of course.  I don’t miss any of my children’s milestones.  I don’t have the “mommy guilt” some of my working mom friends say they experience from being away.  But on the other hand, it’s hard being “on” 24 hours a day.  No one can be great at a job all the time when there’s no start or end to your workday.  And so I’ve found myself contemplating the subject of working vs. staying at home and whether a change is in store for me.

Perhaps it’s because this is a tough season with my children so small – it’s emotionally and physically draining.  But I’m sure if I was working I would be just as exhausted, if not more.  I think I might be sad about missing my children’s day-to-day activities, but then I also see the lure of adult conversation and feeling a sense of purpose in other areas.  It’s a tough predicament.

I googled some articles on the subject of staying at home vs. working, and found it’s quite a heated discussion (as I imagined).  I found many compelling arguments on both sides of the issue.  I also polled some friends regarding their personal experiences.

One girlfriend has been staying at home for the past year after being a working mother for several years prior, so she had some good input on the pros and cons of each.  She said when working, it was nice to connect with other adults without being interrupted every 1.5 seconds (a luxury I can only dream of!) and nice to feel like a ‘real person.’  She said the hard parts are managing a household on top of a full-time job and taking care of her kids – feeling like she can’t give any of it her “all.”  And the pros for staying at home are witnessing her kids’ days instead of just hearing about them as well as the opportunity to create a stronger bond while having more control over discipline and food choices.

She gave me a lot to think about.

I do know that when I have a creative outlet, I find staying at home more rewarding.  Whether that is decorating my house or writing this blog or art journaling, I know I need those things that feed my soul in addition to my kids.

Valuing ourselves and being the best mothers we can be are two of the greatest gifts I think we can give our children.  Thankfully, the two are not mutually exclusive.  As mothers, we can do both and I am extremely grateful for that.

I’m thankful that my children’s pediatrician chose to do both.  I’m so glad my daughter’s preschool teacher chose both.  I’m grateful my friends who are therapists and nurses and professors and writers chose both.  I think of the lives they are touching because they love their children but they also value themselves and recognize their vocation makes them the best version of who they are.

I think I just need to figure out what that combination looks like in my own life.  Whether my future includes going to a physical office or writing on the side here and there, I’m sitting in the gray area of not knowing.  As I contemplate it, I’ll be taking breaks as needed and keeping up my creative outlets.  It’s a delicate balance – but valuing myself and feeding that part of ‘me’ surely makes me the best mother for my children.

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Mom Makeup

Over the past year, makeup has become a bigger part of my daily routine. As I mentioned, I feel it is part of taking good care of myself to do my hair and makeup just like I did when I was driving to a physical job each day.  I have always done some makeup, but in the last year and a half or so, I’ve started following blogs on the subject to learn proper application. My favorite makeup blogger is Cara Brook, who runs the site, maskcara.com.  I’ve learned what highlighting and contouring can do for your face and tips on what to do differently for family photo sessions.  She also is great about giving drugstore recommendations and when it’s best to splurge on a quality product, which I appreciate.

One of my favorite and most applicable Maskcara videos is her four minute everyday makeup look – some days, let’s face it, that’s about all we have in the morning (or afternoon!) to spend on our faces.  Cara is a mom herself, so she gives a very practical way to get your face done with children at home to care for.  I hope you find her makeup tips as helpful as I have!

 

 

Find Your Flock

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One of the best things to happen to me since becoming a mother nearly four years ago, is stumbling into a self-formed group of four other new mamas. We met at Granola Babies, an awesome boutique in Orange County that hosts a variety of support groups and classes as well. We all meshed really well together and were similar in some ways but different in others. What started off as a once a week playgroup has evolved into a beautiful friendship that has seen one Vegas trip, countless girls’ nights out, and five new, precious additions. Sadly, one mama moved out of state so really we are now eight children and four mamas but she and her babes are members forever as far as we are concerned.

Even though our times together can be chaotic and even stressful as we manage our little ones and help intervene as necessary, I still come away feeling refreshed by the presence of my friends. There is something so invaluable about having a group of mom friends who can support each other through the ups and downs and constant questions that arise in motherhood. I’m also so grateful our children have this constant presence in their lives – they know every Tuesday where we will be going and who we will be seeing. It’s precious seeing their friendships grow and change over time.

If you don’t have a group of mom friends like this, I encourage you to find your flock, so to speak. Having this support group has been an integral part of this self-care journey for me. I love my playgroup mamas and their sweet little ones!

Distraction Action

I recently took a fast from social media for a month or two and it was so refreshing.  I couldn’t help but notice how much more secure I felt as a parent and how much less I compared myself to others. Sometimes it’s hard scrolling through a feed and seeing a snapshot of another mother’s “bad day” and it still looks styled for the camera. I don’t think they would want to see what my bad day looks like!  Posts like this can definitely make other moms feel “less than” whether that was the intention of the person posting the photo or not.

I want this blog to be a place of encouragement and never a place where someone might walk away feeling judged or less than. I think if we are aware of ourselves and our parenting, there’s probably a good chance we are doing a pretty great job and definitely the best we can – whether we make home cooked meals or get carry out…whether we formula feed or breastfeed….whether we vaccinate or not. The list could go on and on. The most important thing, in my mind, is that we are authentic – that we don’t try pretending that we have our act together if we don’t (and honestly, who does?).  I know I don’t have mine together – I am challenged and frustrated in a new way every single day on this journey of motherhood.

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One thing I am trying to work on is not constantly looking at my phone, iPad, etc. throughout the day.  I have been reading a great book, Hands Free Mama, that is helping me break this habit.  Right now I am setting my phone aside on silent for set increments of my day so that I’m not distracted from my children.  But the other day when practicing this, I came downstairs with the kids and saw 5 missed calls and 4 text messages from my frantic husband who needed me to find something in the house for a coworker to swing by and pick up. So I’m not entirely sure how it will work and I’m trying to figure out this balance!  I am definitely a work in progress.  A girlfriend recently sent me this video on social media and the harm it has done to society.  If you find that you’re distracted by your phone, it is a must-see!!

Bronze Beautifying

Last month, a girlfriend and I went to a Nordstrom makeup event, where we received hour-long makeovers by Bobbi Brown artists.  I love stopping by their counter from time to time to get some good tips, but this was even better, in that it was an hour long!  Plus, the cocktails and girl conversation we got to have beforehand made the day so fun!  I had plans that night to go to a fancy restaurant, and having my face done by a professional made getting ready so easy.

I purchased a few Bobbi products that day, but my bronze Shimmer Brick compact is by far my favorite.  Especially for summer, I love the glow it adds to my face.  I was still a little bit unsure on how to use it, but this awesome MM&L video gave me the perfect tutorial.  If you haven’t subscribed to the MM&L channel on youtube, don’t wait!  These girls’ videos on mostly makeup and hair are so addicting and help people like me who are pretty clueless when it comes to these things.

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Also, I noticed that Shimmer Brick is on sale at Nordstrom right now!  It’s the perfect addition to your summer makeup routine.