Wednesday, January 20, 2021

My motherhood 'To-Do List'

I realize that motherhood can't simply be explained in a to-do list. So much of motherhood is based off of emotion, reaction, gut, and spirit. 

I know myself well enough to know that I am motivated by lists. I like to be able to physically see what I can get done to be more productive in a day. I like being able to see what is on tap for the day and make things happen. It makes me feel good when something is completed. 

Motherhood, of course, is different. But I do feel like there are certain things that I try to do everyday because some habits are good for the soul. It also helps me stay centered when things get off balance. I have a bit of a mental to-do list that I try to remember daily with my kids. These aren't actually tasks, they're mental reminders of connection with my kids and separation from outside noise. These are also not always 'checked off', but I do try to focus on these connections whenever I can. 

If I had a motherhood to-do list, it would look like this:

+ good mornings are important, it most certainly can help set the tone for a day. A warm greeting, rub on the back, or big hug for each child. I also sometimes ask how they slept or if they had any good dreams. Usually not much comes from that, but occasionally I hear about a remembered dream. It takes seconds, but they need to know I am grateful for their existence and a warm embrace helps elevate my mood, too. I try to do this for everyone regardless of the night or morning I am having. 

+ good nights are just as important as good mornings. The day could have been a complete crap show... but if I try to regain a connection -no matter how exhausted I am - in the last 10 minutes before they're asleep, I feel like at least they have something positive for the day. We always tuck our kiddos in with a hug and kiss. I also try to revisit something positive from the day to remind them of so they go to bed with those thoughts. Of course, every goodnight is a little different and there are days where my tank is too empty to muster up the conversation, but I always keep these thoughts in my mind. 

+ I read somewhere a long time ago that children should receive affection at least 7 times a day.  I have no idea how or what doctor came up with this random number, but it resonated with me because it makes sense in my mommy brain. Security and love is something we all want and for a child I could see how it boosts confidence and overall mood. Usually, this isn't something I have to think about - we are an affectionate family and hugs are given quite freely between everyone. But when the days are busy and full, this can be a bit harder to do. This is an area where we also rely on community - prior to the pandemic, my kiddos could hug their teachers, friends, and extended family. I also feel that when I am upset with my kid for something, a few moments to regroup and a hug can help calm us both. I don't sit around and count how many times I have hugged my kid - but if I feel like I haven't made a connection with them all day, I try to be purposeful to give them a hug or kiss.

+ Have a conversation with eye contact. This one seems obvious, but I was surprised when I realized how often I am doing something else when I am talking to my kids. Cutting food, rushing around to get somewhere, folding laundry, cleaning their room... multitasking is such a huge part of parenting, so I try to make sure I connect to my kids with eye contact. I am obviously not a doctor, but I do know that when I am talking to a friend, if they are looking at me I feel like they care more about me and what I am saying. I want my kids to feel that, too, even if the conversation is about a monster truck that transforms into a strange looking robot. The little things will become the big things someday. Of course not every coversation has eye contact... but I try to make that connection at some point every day - even with my babies and their babbling.

+ Focus on the few minutes before any goodbye. Along with a good morning, I personally feel that a rushed, chaotic, short tempered, or angry 'good bye' is detrimental. I try to use the drive to school to positively energize us all. Talk about good things or sing and dance. Obviously, this is not always attainable, but it's worth the conscious effort. I feel that a child being dropped off a few minutes late to avoid the chaos is better than them being on time with a flustered and overwhelming goodbye. The minutes leading up to any goodbye are always important. I always tell them I love them.

Like I said, motherhood is obviously so much more than checking off a to-do list. But I have learned if I can try to remember these 5 mental things and a few other things, it makes me feel like we have happier and smoother days. It's for me as much as it is for my kids. These are less of a checklist and more of a habit as time goes on - and unlike my daily to-do list, I don't write them down. 

Motherhood is truly so complex, but at the core of it all, I want my kids to feel my love for them.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

A Reflection of 2020

 2020 reflection. I answered these questions back in 2013 and I love to look back and think about where a year takes us.

1. What was the single best thing that happened this year?
The relationship between my 4 kids grew stronger. My husband earned a well-deserved promotion. I realize that's not a single thing. Their relationship with each other will always be number one... but his promotion was an exciting number two.

2.  What was the single most challenging thing that happened?
Feeling helpless - for my husband at times... and helpless for the world in a time of sadness and unrest. 

3.  What was an unexpected joy this year?
I grew closer to friends who have become a big support system for me and we found laughter and joy and acceptance in each other. 
And, with the pandemic, being forced to be at home more than usual brought us more joy than I anticipated. I became overwhelmed with gratitude for my kids and their joy found in the walls of our home. 

4.  What was an unexpected obstacle?
A pandemic. 

5.  Pick 3 words to describe 2020.
Turbulent. Growth. Home. 

6.  Pick 3 words your spouse would use to describe your 2020 (don't ask them, guess based on how you think your spouse sees you)
Homebound. Mom. Crazy.

7.  Pick 3 words your spouse would use to describe 2020 (again with out asking).
Dad. Work. Home. 

8.  What were the best books you read this year?
Children's Books are about the extent of my book reading. That needs to change. Someday. 

9.  With whom were your most valuable relationships?
My relationship with my husband is the most important one in my life and we continued to grow closer this year. The last few years have brought us profound growth and in times that could have pulled us apart, we worked to get stronger instead, which is something I am very proud of. What we have is sacred and private to us.
My mom and dad hold a very special place in my life and heart. They have become just as important to my children and I am so grateful to have them in our lives. The value of our relationship is in the dedication and love they have for me and my family. They are always there to support, encourage, teach, and inspire us. Their love is unconditional and I will make sure my kids always recognize the blessing in their bond with them. 
My sisters. Both of them mean something different to me and now that I have my own kids, I understand why my parents always wanted to nurture the bond between us. It's an unconditional friendship, an alliance, and having them to laugh with and talk to about the silly and the serious parts of life is a gift.
My friends. Those friends. You know, the ones that have you laughing in a group text, the ones that don't judge, and the ones that really get you. I am very lucky to have a group of gals who have loved me through my unlovable times this year as we all managed twists and turns in a pandemic. We developed a trust in each other that has helped carry us through the difficulties of raising young kids in an isolating time. 

10.  What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year?
My biggest personal change was a newfound confidence of being able to handle it. We can do hard things... I have said that over and over to my kids and myself this year. A lot of stuff happened that was out of our control and all we could do was focus on what we could control and make the best of that. 

11.  In what way(s) did you grow emotionally? 
I am becoming more aware of the fact that it's okay to be emotional. It's okay to feel. I am learning to allow myself to recognize and value the growth that comes from feelings and emotions.

12.  In what way(s) did you grow spiritually?
I am always open to spiritual growth, especially when it comes to growing that deeper connection to my kids and spouse.

13.  In what way(s) did you grow physically?  
I am physically stronger. I was able to selfishly reclaim my body that has been growing and feeding children non-stop for the past 8 years and rekindle my love of distance running. After several hundreds of miles (mostly on a treadmill) I feel more connected to my body. I also went through another surgery in early December that knocked me on my booty. I was forced to rest. There's growth in that, too. 

14.  In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others?
I am learning to be more vocal and honest about what works and what doesn't - this may be an area of growth that is the largest of 2020 for me. Sometimes a relationship can cause more harm than good and you have to learn to set boundaries. 2020 taught me that boundaries aren't always a bad thing, and it is okay to have them. 

15.  What was the most enjoyable area of managing your home?
Being home with my kids. Feeling gratitude that I get to be here to kiss their owies, hug them if they're sad, watch their chubby cheeks bounce when they run, see the tender moments between them, watch them laugh and play together, watch them build forts and have sleepovers all over the house. I GET to bathe them, tuck them in at night, snuggle with them every morning in my bed, hear about the details of their day, brush their teeth, memorize their voice, take their photos, hold their hands, watch them try new things, hear their footsteps running up and down the hallway, and enjoy life with them and their daddy. It's not always as satisfying and immediately rewarding as a job outside of the home... but I am grateful for the stay at home life that I have been lucky to have for this window of precious time when my children are little. I miss working, but when the time is right, I will work hard to get back in to wherever my path takes me. 

16.  What was your most challenging area of home management?
The constant need to feel like things have to be cleaned up. I feel scattered and uneasy when the house is cluttered and messy and the pressure I put on myself to clean up most nights can be overwhelming. Organizing growing kid's clothes, keeping up with the laundry, keeping the closets and bedrooms picked up, the kitchen clean, the playroom shelves in order, and the normal everyday cleaning... having all of this stuff done helps to keep my balance but it also takes a lot of effort. 

17.  What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?
Social media. Hands down, no question. Clicking through posts to see people fighting with each other about politics and the pandemic - it all was draining and sad to me. I chose to delete it for the month of December and I didn't miss it as much as I thought I would. Stepping back and setting down my phone has made me feel better. Boundaries are good and less time on my phone is even better. It's okay to not always be in the know. It's also okay to not feel the need to share every photo. 

18.  What was the best way you used your time this year?
Any time spent with my babies, family, and friends is the best time. It was devastating to see the world pause and people lose everything - and we felt grateful that we were able to use the time to be together and stay home. My husband never stopped working, in fact, he was at work more with everything going on... so we learned to slow down and enjoy the extra time we were given with the kids being home. We saw the positives, but we are also excited for them to experience the gifts of childhood (full-time school, sports, large playdates, birthday parties, etc) again soon.

19.  What was the biggest thing you learned this year?
Life is fragile, inconsistent, and always changing, but I already knew that. Direct your efforts and love toward the people who see your value and prioritize you, too. Communication and boundaries are essential in our relationships.

20. Create a phrase or statement that describes 2020 for you.
Accept what you cannot control and make the best of what you can control. 

Lastly... something I want to work on for 2021...
Stop feeling the need to explain myself to everyone. If things are too heavy, ask for help or let them go. 

Dear Spencer... You're 18 months old!

 Our Spencie-Spence,

18 months old. Our little love, our little stinker! You are growing and thriving like crazy these days. It seems like every day you are doing something new. You absolutely love being free to run around the house, yet you love to open every drawer and make messes wherever possible. You always know exactly where to run and how to get into the places that you aren't supposed to go. Your daddy and I are convinced you're a smart cookie, and you love to be mischievous. You have emptied almost every drawer in your reach in the kitchen and you know right where to run to be naughty! 

You are also such an amazing and sweet little boy. You are snuggly and love to be held. You love the attention you get from your siblings and the 4 of you are building an amazing bond. Andie has learned how to carry your comfortably, take you in and out of the car and your high chair, and loves to help soothe you if you are sad. You are starting to trust her more, and I love seeing the relationship grow. Nolan is always so proud to help with you, too. He loves to go into your room and spend time with you in the evenings before bed. He looks out for you when we go to the park. You and Cody are also starting to play and interact more. You two are trouble, so we can't leave you alone for too long!

This Christmas was so special with you. You don't fully grasp the magic, but we loved watching you rip open wrapping paper. You really loved the Christmas Trees, especially the one in your bedroom. Santa brought you a new red ride on toy and some other books and toys. We spent the holidays with family and made some incredible memories together. In the chaos of the year, these memories of you and your cousins will always be a highlight. 

You are still a wonderful eater. You sometimes eat more than your siblings combined. You love all fruit still, peanut butter and jelly, quesadillas, chicken, potatoes, hamburgers, and you've been doing pretty well eating broccoli and a few other veggies. You are growing like a weed - taller by the day. You wear size 5 diapers and 18-24 months, some 2T, too. You absolutely hate having your diaper changed - something that has been a huge challenge the last few months - but you are starting to get a little better. We did something we said we would never do and got a wipe warmer. It was a desperate move on our part, but it is helping a little bit!

You are very inquisitive and it is fun to watch you pick things up and try to figure out how they work. You love toys, flashlights, and books. Your favorite thing to do is kick a ball around and it's pretty impressive to see you run and kick it around the house. Your favorite possession is your "Pengie" or stuffed Penguin and you sleep with him and carry him around everywhere. You love to be outside and with the nice weather lately, we have been trying to go to the park as much as possible. With everything closed because of the pandemic, it's been hard to socialize with you in restaurants, so we look forward to everything opening back up so you can learn the ropes! Luckily, we have a great group of close friends and family that you've been able to connect to. You are warming up to others more and more all the time, and I am grateful for that. You are also a mommy's boy - and I love that!

You are talking more and more and attempting to put words together. We can hear when you say things like "I love you, too", or "thank you" - even though others may not be able to make it out. You love to say "Da Da" and I think you're purposely holding out on saying "Ma Ma"... even though I have heard it a few times. You are very good at nodding your head yes and shaking your head no. The other day at school pick up another mom asked if you were the baby and you shook your head "yes". Then she asked if you are one year old and again, you shook your head "yes". You are pretty good at following direction when we ask you to do things and you definitely love to point at things you need or want. You are a loud kid with a loud scream and cry and you know how to let us know if something isn't right.  If someone messes with you, you are quick to defend yourself - something we noticed much younger with you than with any of your siblings. (In the bath tub if Cody is hogging the water, you will smack him on the head with a toy until he moves over)

You are doing pretty well with your napping and sleeping schedule. Most days, you nap from about 13:30/1 - 3 or so. The nap always gets you rested and ready to take on the late afternoon. You are usually in bed by about 7 and most nights you sleep through the night. With your back molars coming in, we've had a few restless nights, but overall, you've done very well. 

I love hearing the pitter patter of your feet running down the hall. You run pretty much everywhere... you are always on a mission. Your cheeks bounce when you run and if you're up to something, you have a little look in your eyes and a sneaky little smile on your face. You've also been one to open the garbage cans and help yourself to anything you can find. Sometimes I will find you eating the leftovers of a sandwich or the rest of the yogurt in someone's left over lunch. You also love to dance and you will do it in your carseat if you hear a good song on the radio. You have lots of nicknames - "Spencie", "Spencer-bear", "Spence", "stinker bear", and of course, "Spencer Harrison!" (when you're in trouble).

You love bath time and scream at us when we take you out. You are a water baby and I am excited to see you at the water table and pool this summer. You really enjoy your family and you are absolutely obsessed with your Gramz & Pops. It warms my heart that they get to make that special connection with you. I hope you never know just how much you are loved by all of us.

I can't believe my baby is 18 months old. You are keeping up with your siblings and are thriving. I am anxious to see what you weigh at the doctor because you've grown so much in the past few months. You love to be held and I am trying to hold you as much as possible. I love feeling your body weight on me and getting to take in your scents and kiss those chubby little cheeks. You are truly scrumptious and sometimes I am overwhelmed by all of your cuteness. Daddy and I talk about how much we love you and your siblings every single day. We are so blessed to call you ours. I love being your mommy, Spencer. I love having you little and I am doing what I can to enjoy all of these precious moments. 

I love you forever and ever, Spence.

Love, Mama

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Dear Nolan... You are 6.

 Oh, our sweet Noley-Bear,

SIX. Whoa, my love, that sure happened fast. You are truly special to us and the last 6 years of having a son have been such a joy to me as your mommy. I am so proud of you. 

This year was an interesting one with the COVID-19 Pandemic. It came along in March and changed the world as you have known it your whole life. Suddenly, you couldn't go to preschool anymore, couldn't see your friends, and you weren't able to start Kindergarten in-person in August. It was hard as your mom to see all of the fun and exciting adventures of starting elementary school taken away from you. 

Your first 3 months of school were virtual and although it was very challenging, you did such a good job keeping a positive attitude and following along to learn what you could. We worked together and you are truly impressing us with your ability to persevere and learn more about how to read and write. You are now reading and your handwriting is really impressive. You love to sound out words and I love the excitement I see when you get them right. You are also getting much more artistic and your drawings are from your heart, which is why I struggle to get rid of a single one of them. You have a wonderful teacher who has reached out and bonded with you, which makes me so happy.

This year, there was no soccer, but you did pick up golf this summer. You and sissy are playing once a week and it has been fun for you to learn some new skills. You two are so cute with your little golf sets. The two of you have really grown even closer this year with the amount of time you are spending together. We did a lot of swimming this summer, playing outside, making forts, and having sleepovers all over the house. You guys get along pretty well, with the occasional tif here and there. Seeing your friendship grow has meant so much to me. I love how protective you are of her. You always want to make her happy and I love when you go out of your way to give her the little things she wants. You also do very well sharing everything with her. 

You are also growing closer to Cody and seeing you in the big brother role has been very fun. Sometimes the two of you will play legos or tractors and you do very well working with him and helping him. It is so much fun to see how much he loves you, and you love him so much, too. I hope you and your siblings are always close. It is one of my life's greatest joys to see you all play together and support one another. 

This year, we didn't do a ton of traveling because of COVID, but we did go to Hawaii in January before it all hit the US. We visited the Big Island of Hawaii for a family wedding and then we flew on a tiny 8-seater airplane to Maui. The flight was fun because we flew low to the ground and got to see a beautiful view of the islands from up above. It was your first trip as a strong swimmer and you loved getting to go down the waterslides and swim with Andie. You also spent a lot of time digging in the sand and building sand castles on the beach. It was a lot of fun to go! 

We also spent a few days before Thanksgiving in a beautiful home Nana rented in Tahoe. There was the perfect amount of snow and you got lots of sledding it. We were also fortunate to have your cousins from my side there so you all could make memories together sledding and having a big sleepover in the "kids bunk" room. You built legos, a snowman, had sledding races, explored the wooded area around the house, swam in the indoor heated pool, made s'mores, and enjoyed being with family. So many special memories were made! We are truly lucky.

You are getting more adventurous with your eating, but you are still quite picky. Your favorite food is hamburgers and it's what you requested we have for your 6th Birthday party meal yesterday. You love chocolate cake, chicken sandwiches, peanut butter and jelly, and all fruit "especially eating a banana like a monkey". You are quite thin, but growing taller and wearing a size 6, although it is a little baggy on your smaller frame. The theme for your birthday party this year was Super Mario Bros because you love the Mario Kart racing game we play on daddy's phone. You are also very into Legos still and you love to build anything you can. For Christmas, you got lots of legos and building things from Gramz & Pops, and it is so much fun to see everything you create. Your preschool teachers think that you are going to grow up to be an engineer of some sort because of how you love to build and assemble anything you can. 

It's been a bit of a crazy year this year with lots of adjustments, but you have handled it all very well. We have really valued the time together and I love getting to spend so much time with you. You have the sweetest voice, the tightest hugs, and you are wildly affectionate. You are extremely protective of your family and we are protective of you. You are such a special part of our family. 

I love you to the moon and back, times infinity. I am so proud to be your mommy and I always will be. Happy 6th Birthday, my love. 


Dear Cody... You are 3!

My sweet, content, happy Cody-Bear!

I can't believe you are 3. You are our happy boy. The other day I asked you "why are you so cute?". Your response to me was "because I like to be happy!". 

You have the sweetest giggle and when you laugh really hard, you squint your eyes and it shows on your whole face. You share that laugh with us everyday and you love to make us laugh, too. Your personality is pure gold, even though sometimes you can be a little stinker, too! We are all absolutely crazy about you.

You are growing closer and closer to your older brother and sister as the days go by. I love seeing your love for each other blossom. Yesterday, you jumped into the cold pool with out knowing it was cold. You started screaming for some help and your sissy jumped right in after you from the hot tub after saying she wasn't going in the pool. No matter what, I love knowing that my 4 babies will always have each other. 

You love preschool. You started in August as the youngest little one in your class, but you are keeping up and thriving. You look forward to going and on the days when you don't go, you always ask if you can go. You love your teachers and on the first day, Miss Kim sent me a photo of you with the biggest, most happiest smile. You're making new friends, learning new things, and really enjoying your time to shine. Your teachers told me that during story time you always go and climb into their laps. Your love of snuggling and affection has started to spread outside of our house, and I love seeing you share that. 

You are growing like crazy. You are wearing size 3 in everything and in pajamas, a size 4. Like your big brother, you love staying in your pajamas and with how often we have been home this year, they've been your staple outfit. You are still not potty trained. I know you are smart enough to do it, but you just don't want to yet, and I don't want to push you into it. You will get there in the next couple of months in your own time. 

You are talking and communicating so much with us. You really started to get talkative at about 2 and a half and since then, there's no holding you back. The way you say things like "I love you", "bro-der", "An-ee", and "Spence-ie" is just adorable. You are getting clearer every day and have a pretty big vocabulary. 

Living in a pandemic this year has really allowed us all to be home the past 9 months as a family. You've grown closer to your family and the group of friends and family that have been in our lives. You do pretty well holding your own with the older group of kids we have "quaran-teamed" with. The seem to love you, too, because you are so easy going and fun.

You are a pretty good eater and you sleep well through the night. Naps are definitely still a thing of the past but you go to bed usually between 7:30 and 8 and sleep until about 7am. You still love your crib even though you climb in and out of it on your own. I think you love the feeling of being cozy and enclosed in your crib and it will be yours for as long as you want it to be. You never give us any trouble when we tell you it's bedtime and you love to be covered up and use your pillows. 

It's been a very interesting year. We started out in January with a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii for a family wedding, and then to Maui. It was so much fun to see you enjoy the pools and beaches we visited. You did so well traveling. But besides that trip, we've mostly been home making memories here.  We also took a quick trip to Tahoe for Thanksgiving. You loved playing in the snow and being with family at the beautiful home Nana rented. 

This Christmas was a very fun one with you. You finally understood the magic of the season, our elves that visit every year, and of course - Santa. You loved waking up on Christmas and having your presents to open. You lined up all your goodies and admired them all day long. It was so much fun to see you get to experience it all with your siblings and with your cousins on Christmas Eve. The bond you are growing with the 4 of them is truly special and I am grateful that the 8 of you have each other. 

You are such a sweet kid, Cody. We all absolutely adore you and I am so proud to be your mommy. As much as it hurts to see you grow, change, and blossom every day, I absolutely love seeing all that you're growing in to. You have such a good heart and I know you're going to grow up to be a loving and sweet boy. We love you very much, Cody. You are such a special part of our family.

Love you forever and ever,