Sunday, January 24, 2021

Sibling Bonds

{popsicles in January... why not?}

Yesterday, as I was cleaning up the garage, I saw Cody fell on his scooter in our side yard. I waited a second to react to see if he was really hurt, and he started to cry. As I was about to start walking over to him to make sure he was okay, Andie zoomed by me on her hoverboard in his direction. Nolan was coming from a different direction and both of them were asking "are you okay, Cody?". As Andie approached him, she bent down (still on her hoverboard) and said "where does it hurt, let me kiss it." Nolan told him "it's okay, buddy." 

I stood and watched them and felt so much joy. They fight, they bicker, they say mean things to each other... but they really love and care for each other. I want so badly to foster a loving friendship between these kids. They are very lucky to have one another. I am not sure how to help build a foundation of love between them, but whenever I see an opportunity to let them be there for each other, I follow through with it. 

I never went to check on Cody, I knew he was okay. The 3 of them started riding their scooters together. I called Andie and Nolan both out for what they did. I told them how proud I was of them for looking out for Cody and making sure he was okay. When I put them to bed last night, I told them again how great I thought it was that they did that for him. 

I know this seems so little and insignificant - their love is given so freely - but it meant something to me. It's important for me to recognize these moments and focus on them. They happen every day - but some stick out to me more than others. One of my biggest desires is that these guys grow up tied to each other. As their mama, I can't force it, but I can encourage it starting at their young ages.

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