The Hardest Part of Being a Stay at Home Mom

The hardest part of being a stay at home mom isn’t the lack of mom friends, the diapers, the awkward play dates or the serious lack of adult conversation. It’s not the chores or the desperate attempts to cling onto whatever career you once had. It’s feeling like, and sometimes knowing, that you’ve seriously screwed up this mom gig multiple times a week, sometimes multiple times a day. Because it all comes down to you.

As a stay at home mom, I’m the one who forgets that they’ve been in their diaper for four hours straight, resulting in the start of a nice diaper rash.

I’ve put her back in pee stained pants, in public, because I forgot to pack an extra pair.

I’m the one who prays with my little girl every night, and curses in front of her at least once a day. OK, let’s be honest, multiple times.

I can’t blame anyone but myself for my daughter’s love of Mickey Mouse Club House, and her desperate attempts to get the TV on. It’s the only show she’ll watch from start to finish, and I totally take advantage of that. So I can do laundry and clean.

If my daughter is taken care of by a grumpy, not in the mood for the job caregiver, that person is me.

If her lunch isn’t so well rounded, read peanut butter and Goldfish crackers, that is absolutely due to my lack of ability to negotiate one more thing.

I have no one but myself to look at if she hasn’t done any art activities.

Same for sensory and early science.

Her socialization? Also entirely dependent on me.

As is her amount of physical activity. Yet somehow that playground a mile down the street often seems a world away.

The days when she’s in a bad mood? Most of the time I can trace that back to me being in a pissy mood and passing on that negativity.

I’ve worked as a preschool teacher and a nanny. I am well aware of what is expected of professional caregivers of children. And the truth is, if I was working for someone else’s family, I would have been fired long ago for my mishaps and misgivings. And somedays that is a hard truth to gripe with.

What I do offer, even on my worst day, is my love for E as her mom. I’m banking that that is enough to make up for the lack of professionalism as a caregiver that I bring to the table daily as a stay at home mom. Like really banking on it. Because like I said, I screw this gig up on a regular basis.

I’m going to go ahead and hope I’m not alone on this one.

 

 

 

Yup, It’s Just Another Day, and I’m Good With That.

We didn’t go to a museum today, we didn’t have a play date, or go to a story hour. We didn’t make an art project, or do a special sensory activity. We have nothing Pinterest worthy to show for ourselves today. We didn’t even go outside (to be fair, it’s pouring rain). We spent the day hanging out inside, playing, dancing, watching some TV (gasp!) and just living out another day.

And it’s been lovely.

Not because it’s oh so relaxing, I mean I’m still spending it with a toddler, but it’s nice to take a day to slow down and have an opportunity to sit back and really look at how awesome my kid is. When you’re rushing out the door to get somewhere and your little one is bound and determined to finish their puzzle, their mastery of basic shapes may not seem so exciting. On a daily basis you might “know” what your kids can do, but knowing and appreciating are two different things.

And so, after a quiet day at home, here is the latest awesomeness of E:

E can count from 1 to 10. It may be the cutest thing I’ve ever heard. 

She can count three objects in a row (pointing and saying “1, 2, 3″)

She has a serious love/obsession with flipping off of laps. 

She has mastered a majority of her puzzles. 

She loves to read. She now “reads” her favorite books. 

She has a strong love of Mickey Mouse Club House. I’m not proud of that one. 

She loves to dance. 

She has a really great sense of humor. She even cracks herself up. 

She’s a little cuddle bug, and gives some of the best hugs. 

She has some serious leadership skills. These occasionally land her in Time Out, but they’ll become very useful later in her life. At least that’s what I’m telling myself today. 

E checking out the rain, just to make sure we really, really couldn't play on the slide.

E checking out the rain, just to make sure we really, really couldn’t play on the slide.

E made a chair out of her blocks, which all four of her baby dolls took turns sitting in followed by herself. She thought this was JUST hysterical. And really, it was kind of amusing.

E made a chair out of her blocks, which all four of her baby dolls took turns sitting in followed by herself. She thought this was JUST hysterical. And really, it was kind of amusing. Notice the Minnie Mouse socks?? Ya. Not proud. 

Tomorrow we’ll be rushing about to enjoy our last full day on the Cape, with hopefully some nice outside time, and Friday we’ll be traveling for a busy wedding weekend. But today, we’re taking it low and slow. And I’m good with that.

 

 

 

5 Fall Inspired (and real life friendly) Art Projects and Exploration Activities for Young Kids

My inner pre-school teacher comes out with full force in the Fall, so with the cool air this past weekend here in the Northeast, I couldn’t help myself. E had just turned 1 last Fall, and so doesn’t have a clear notion as to why we’d be making leaf prints, painting with acorns and getting excited over Jack O Lanterns. Since we’re not in VA with my vast library of a former preschool teacher, we headed to the local library to find books about Fall and Halloween and went from there!

Having run a preschool classroom of at least 8, but typically 12, and washing up each and every little love after an art project, I can guarantee you that these are real-life friendly art activities that you can actually do with your little ones. No artistic ability on your part is required.

5-Fall-Inspired-Art-Projects-For-Kids

 

1. Make Your Own Jack O’ Lantern: You’ll need a paper plate, orange paint, black construction paper to cut out the parts of a Jack O’ Lantern (eyes, nose, mouth) and brown paper for the stem. Have a model Jack O’ Lantern for them to look at (a picture from a book, or one you made). First have them paint the plate, then using the paint like glue, have them place the parts where they think they go. This is an interesting look at their perception of what they see, and is fun to do year after year to see how they’re perceptions and abilities change.

2. Leaf Collage: Is there anything more fun in the Fall for little ones than playing with and jumping into piles of leaves? Make it a game and have them collect their “favorites” from the pile. Crunch them, fold them, inspect them all over, and if there are still leaves on the trees help them compare the two, the ones on the trees and the ones they’ve collected.

After you’ve got your bunch of leaves, help them make a glue design on a large piece of paper and let them place the leaves as they see fit. We took our leaf collage and attached the Jack O’ Lantern for a kind of Fall nighttime 3D picture.

3. Play Dough Leaf Prints: I love play dough. It is so versatile and fun, and pretty much suitable for any theme, project or lesson! Make some homemade play dough in a Fall colors, and add some Fall scents like all spice and vanilla for an extra sensory experience. Take some leaves (some will inevitably fall of the leaf collage, this is a good one to “save” those with) and press them into the Fall play dough. Talk about the shape of the leaves, the veins of the leaves that appear in the play dough, and how the really crunchy ones react when you press them into the dough.

4. A Seasonal Tree: This is fun for Spring, Winter and Fall! Here’s the one we made in the Spring. Go ahead and duplicate the project, but instead of making leaf prints with a crayon, paint the leaves with orange, red and yellow and use them like stamps. Talk about what will happen to the trees in the Winter, and the new leaves that we’ll see in the Spring. If you made the Spring one (and still have it, what can I say I’m an art project hoarder!) inspect the two trees and talk about their differences.

5. Acorn and Pine Cone Painting: This is a fun way to explore how objects roll with gravity. Take a piece of paper, and either leave it as is, or cut it into a shape (like an acorn or a pinecone) and place it at the bottom of a large but moveable container (kids will be picking it up and moving it side to side). Add some paint, along with some acorns and pinecones, and have them experiment with what happens when they tilt the container all around. Do the acorns and pinecones move? How far? What happens to the paint? Do they make different patterns in the paint? Add in seeds and pine needles if you want to make it into a collage of sorts!

Enjoy!

 

It’s Not Potty Training, It’s Potty Exposure

Potty Exposure

Pretty sweet outfit huh? Mickey underwear, a zebra sweatshirt, some sporty orange sandals and a baby doll. E’s got style, what can I say. 

I’m pretty sure that those people who say they potty trained their child in three days waited until they were going regularly by themselves and then just sealed the deal. Which is fine, but it made the rest of us think it was possible to start from square one and get there in three days.

The worst part of this guise? It will often seem like it does actually only take a few days. Three days, some M&Ms, and E was staying dry and clean all day. And then E seemed to say “Oh, I get it. This is where YOU put your wee wee and poo poo. Lovely. I’ll keep mine in my diaper for now, but thanks for the candy!” After despairing over this to a few friends with older kids, turns out I’m not alone. This is a very common occurrence.

And back we went, back to diaper changes, only now we were changing more expensive diapers in the form of Pull-Ups. Oh, Pull-Ups. Another fun part of learning to use the potty that barring you are a saint you will very likely end up with.

We started with real underwear, that’s what she was “potty trained” in “in three days”.Then life happened. We had lots of family around, and going potty was far from E’s mind. This resulted in her wetting her pants and getting really, really upset. Now maybe I should have pulled out my Tough as Nails Mom act, but I couldn’t. My poor love was so upset, so I decided that rather than go back to diapers, which seemed like a huge step in the wrong direction, we’d do underwear inside a Pull-Up.

Apparently it wasn’t the wetness that bothered her, since she had no problem staying in wet and soiled underwear inside a Pull-Up. Awesome. Once again, not wanting to take a step backwards (though by this point we’d taken about 50 steps back already) I kept her in Pull-Ups. And here we stay…

This morning it seemed as though we’d finally hit a turning point! She asked to go potty, and…she went! Both 1 and 2! Insert fireworks here! Stickers were given out, even a Fig Newman cookie! And then…downhill from there.

And with all of this in mind I propose that we call it what it is: Potty Exposure, not Potty Training.

See we can’t “train” our children. They are little autonomous beings who exert control over their lives in any way they can. We can try to lure them into deciding that going in the toilet is a grand idea, but at the end of the day, it has to be their decision. And we as parents have to have faith that our sweet loves will someday, before they turn 18, decide on their own that toilets are awesome and diapers suck. Though I will continue to offer stickers that she will inevitably stick on the wall to make her own little glorious mural, and may even throw in some M&Ms. I’m an optimist and a dreamer.

Es Star Mural

I found this in a corner. I call it E’s Potty Sticker Starry Sky. There are more below, but this does the whole thing justice I think.

So who’s with me? #pottyexposure

 

Life is Not a Hallmark Card, and Neither is My List of 10 Things I Want My Daughter to Know

E on the Flats

1. There is One Thing in This Life That is Guaranteed: You will have a big butt. It’s your genetics. Own it, tone it, love it.

2. Nothing Makes a Woman More Beautiful Than Her Confidence in Herself: Not her size, her makeup, her skin tone, or the cost of her outfit and accessories. It’s her confidence in herself.

3. Confidence is Made, Not Given: Take risks, live outside of your comfort zone, and do what is right, not what is easy. This, and this alone will make you a confident woman.

4. Be Unoffendable: People will hate you. They will scorn you and mock you. And when they do, you’ll know you’re onto something. Keep it up. Don’t give them the fight they want, move on in peace with faith in yourself and the vision you have for your life.

5. Food Will Never Fill an Emotional Void. Only Healing Will: If you’re hurting emotionally, don’t be too proud to seek the help you need. Food, and drink alike, will never fill that void. They’ll only make it worse.

6. Your Clothing Size Does Not Determine Your Worth: Maybe you won’t be a size two. Maybe you will. Whatever size you are, OWN IT. See #2.

7. Follow Your Arrow and Do What You Love: Don’t allow preconceived notions of “the right path” to keep you from where you know you belong. I have complete faith that you will succeed in whatever you choose to do. As should you.

8. Your Family is Your Backbone: Your aunts, uncles, cousins, hell even distant cousins, these people will inevitably have a large impact on and in your life. They will be there when things go bad, which they will. This is life. Build these relationships, now and always.

9. Life Will be Hard: And it will. You will grieve and you will be heartbroken. But you will always persevere. Know that and thrive.

10. I Love You, Always: And Forever. And Always Will. It doesn’t matter what you do, what size you wear, what you eat, what career you choose (or don’t choose) or who you marry (or don’t marry). I love you and I will always have faith in you.

You come from a long line of strong women. You, like them, will persevere no matter what life brings. You will succeed and you will overcome obstacles you never imagined you could along the way. I have faith in you.

 

Family Pic on Beach

The Art of Doing it All Over, Day After Day, Again and Again.

Whether you are a working mom, a work at home mom, or a stay at home mom, I imagine that you, like myself, have the same schedule a majority of the time. Day, after day, after ever loving day. I also imagine that you, like myself, wake up on a Saturday and contemplate what it would be like to not know what the day might bring. Can you even remember those days? Or are they for you, as they are for me, this distant foggy memory of a time when I wasn’t ruled by a really demanding, albeit also really cute, toddler with an attitude. For stay at home moms, this reality can be even more daunting, as there is no break sans a hopefully quiet night. 

In reality the childcare component, in and of itself, is mostly enjoyable. I love watching E have an “ah ha” moment, or just play her little heart out. Seeing her run down the beach with the biggest smile, laughing uncontrollably, that warms my soul. Time outs and tantrums, not so lovely, but when she goes to do the same thing later on and makes a better decision, it makes it all worthwhile. So yes, the caring part, I’m good with that.

It’s the doldrums of the everyday need-to-do list that really make being a mom, and specifically a stay at home mom, challenging. 

Sure, don’t clean. And then proceed to rush around like a mad thing trying to get out of the house because you don’t know where anything is. Laundry? Let it go. And then come up with a creative way to clothe your child for the day when everything that fits them is dirty. Meal planning? Far too time consuming. That is until dinner time arrives, and you have nothing to make dinner out of. My point is you just can’t choose to not do the everyday tasks, and focus solely on parenting. Well, you can, but you’ll live in filth and disarray, making every outing and life in general more of a struggle, and you’ll be eating whatever you can scrape together from the random food in the fridge.

So we can’t avoid them, but what can we do then to make life with the monotony of the every day need-tos more tolerable?

1. Give Yourself a Weekly Cheat Day: Both on healthy eating (if that’s your thing, I won’t get preachy but it should be) AND on the chores. Pick one day of the week where you are OK with eating whatever your tastebuds desire, as well as nothing getting done on the ever so present, never ending list of crap that needs to be done. Yes, that may mean one extra load of laundry the next day, and maybe even sandwiches for dinner, but it gives you a much needed break to replenish you for the next 6 days of healthy choices and an abundance of chores. And hey, maybe while you take a break someone else will pick up the slack. *wink, wink*

If_Its_Your_Cheat_Day_Make_It_Good

2. Make a 6 Most Important Things to Do List the Night Before: This successful tool isn’t just for people in the business world. Come up with the Top 6 things you NEED to get done tomorrow (not want to, need to) and do those first, starting with the one you want to do least or that is the most challenging. Once those are done, whatever else you happen to accomplish is just icing on the cake of an already successful day. 

3. Do One Really Fun Thing Each Week for You: Often we moms do a little something for ourselves each day. An at-home pedicure (read use a pumice stone and clip our toenails). A mid-day glass of wine on a Friday. Sleeping for an extra three minutes through the early morning “mooommmmmyyyyyy”. Finishing off our kid’s last bit of mac n cheese. And yes, these luxurious moments are slightly satisfying, but they sure as hell aren’t about to propel us into a state of renewed vigor for what the next day holds.

But you know what will? And possibly get us through the next WEEK? A great night out, a ridiculously delicious and kid free meal (an at home dinner with your love works too!), an actual pedicure, or that one item you’ve been jonesing after for months now. Like a new camel coat for the Fall and Spring. This is a classic piece that you won’t regret investing in. 

inspiring-fall-outfits-camel-coat-look

This isn’t to say we should throw ourselves into financial turmoil to psychologically survive motherhood, but instead, rather than get by with a few half hearted attempts at pleasure, each week we should give ourselves a “paycheck” of sorts. Kisses and hugs are great, but a delicious meal and a great bottle of wine sans small children? Not to mention a camel coat…

4. Take Pleasure in the Mundane: At the end of the day, all the laundry, the dishes, the dirty floors, the food prep and KP duty, are all reminders that you are so very blessed to be a mom. Many, many women only dream of such a life. And yes, that will mean very little as you spend yet another afternoon cleaning up messes you had no hand in creating, but when the little ones are in bed, and all is quiet for five minutes, remember how blessed you really are. Let that be the thought that you go to sleep with, how beautiful motherhood really is. It just may help to pull you through when those sweet little faces wake you up at 4:45am, on a Saturday. 

 

 

E’s Second Birthday: A Semi-Homemade Party Designed with Little Ones in Mind

It’s very easy to get caught up in the Birthday games, where the winner is the mom who spends their money, time, blood, sweat and tears on the perfectly created theme where no detail is ignored. A beautiful party is a lovely idea, but on many occasions these kind of parties are not kid-friendly (or mom friendly for that matter). A slew of colorful decorations and elaborate tablescapes in a theme that very often the child couldn’t care less about can be overwhelming for children, as can large crowds. My feeling as a parent is that if it’s supposed to be a party for the child, shouldn’t it be about the child?

E at the moment likes Thomas the Train, Mickey Mouse (specifically Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, don’t judge) and Octopuses. Tablescape that one.

Being that we were clearly going to be piecing this one together (surprisingly enough there isn’t a large demand for Thomas with Mickey and some Octopus decor) while also keeping it kid-centered I had E help make the decorations. Displaying children’s art work is a wonderful way to validate their abilities and efforts, while also giving them a sense of ownership over the space. It becomes not just a well decorated room, but a special place they took part in creating. I came up with the odd idea of Mickey and Thomas (as Mylar balloons in this case) sailing the high seas, each in their own ship, along with some fish net on the opposite wall lined with fish, octopuses, Thomas decals, and a Mickey Mouse Happy Birthday Banner. E showcased her artistic talents in finger painting, marker swirling, and having her hands stenciled by painting the boats, coloring the tops of the waves, and having cutouts of her hands be the arms of the octopuses.

The Party DecorThis was a multiple day process. For the boats, after she painted the paper brown I let it dry and then cut out the shape of the boats. The tops of the waves are coffee filters colored with blue and green markers that are then lightly spritzed (I used a garden hose nozzle on the mist setting) to make the colors bleed together like watercolors.

Tops of the Waves close up

The Octopuses are a repeat, you can find the original post here.

the Octopi upclose 2

For the tables we used cloth mermaid themed tablecloths (a repeat from her first birthday party, reuse and recycle) and had a light brunch menu with various salads and breads, including Goldfish for the kids and Mimosas for the mamas.

Party in action cropped

And of course, a cake!

The Cake from Above 2

We kept the party very intimate. My sister and her family, a few close family friends and their respective little ones. We asked guests that weren’t intent on bringing a gift to not feel obligated as she was going to get so many as it was. Like overwhelming crowds, tons of gifts can be too much for a little one, taking the fun out of birthday presents. And really, how many toys does one two year old need?

More than enough gifts

We were clearly not lacking in gifts, and with a manageable number we were able to let E open each one in her own time.

Present opening with mama

Her favorites: A Thomas The Train for toddlers, and anything to do with baby dolls. The various puzzles and Duplo blocks (including a block set that came in a John Deere Truck) were also at the top of her list.

I wasn’t completely sure I was making the right decision by having it be a small party with handmade decor, but by the time the party had begun I knew I had made the right decision. It was calm, fun for all, and E was excited on multiple occasions to point out her artwork. Proud mama I am. Best of all, E’s Dada was there to celebrate with us.

Family Pic on Beach

A family picture from the night before E’s party, at my extended family’s annual beach party. Yes, that’s my necklace she’s sporting, and no, she’s not donning a crop top!

Here’s to many more calm Happy Birthday Parties for E!