Post #13: 10 Things for the New Mom-of-Two-Under-Two

We’re one month in, and when people ask me “How are you doing?” my response depends on the day, and sometimes even the hour. One moment I will think, I’ve got this. The next, I will feel on the verge of a breakdown, bogged down by exhaustion, about to drown in the sea of this responsibility. The one thing that keeps bringing me back up is the relentless faith that this rollercoaster is all normal. Even if it isn’t, I am telling myself that it is, and my mom tells me it is, and Kevin’s mom too. That this is all part of the experience. That being said, I have learned a few things about being a new mom to two babies under two years old. I figured I would share them here for any woman that finds herself in my shoes. And for myself should I forget my own advice.

1.  Never pass up the opportunity for a nap. EVER. Five minutes for me now can be as refreshing as 5 hours was in my college years. If at any point during the day both babies are asleep, I am too. Any time I’ve opted to get something done, I’ve regretted it later. Making Applesauce and Cinnamon ornaments when you could be sleeping isn’t heroic. It’s stupid. Just buy yourself a scented candle and get your butt in bed.  

2. Never pass up an opportunity to shower unless it conflicts with your opportunity for a nap. Which it probably does. So stock up on dry shampoo and educate yourself on how to use baby wipes for a runner’s shower.

3. Simplify, simplify, simplify. This can mean anything from doing your grocery shopping online to buying yourself some paper plates and bowls. I especially like the concept of freezer meals. I cannot tell you how much I appreciated this one feat of my nesting. We have since used up our reserves, but I’ve started to restock them by doubling up a meal a week and throwing one of the pair in the freezer.
Anything you can do to make managing a household a little easier, do it.

4. If you can’t find the milk, check on top of the fridge. I thought pregnancy brain was bad until I got my new-mommy-of-two-under-two brain. To accommodate for a new degree of mindlessness, I strongly recommend having a designated place for your keys. A very specific place like “in a bowl on the counter five inches to the left of the toaster”. If you don’t get in the habit of ALWAYS putting them in the same place, you run the risk of 1. Forgetting where you put them or 2. Letting them fall into the hands of your toddler. I don’t know which is a worse scenario, but certainly neither one is ideal.

5. Ask for help. I’m working on this one. The fact that you have no time for anything except changing diapers, feeding babies, and getting acquainted with the new little person in your house works to your advantage here. Anyone in your company will gladly watch your little monsters for you because your taking a shower is doing EVERYONE a favor.

6. Quit being so hard on yourself. Another toughie for me. Apparently, you are delusional if you think you can do it all. And delusional doesn’t mix well with hormonal. So, especially that first month, cut yourself some slack. It’s not the end of the world if the floor doesn’t get mopped this week.

7. Prioritize. Picture this: You’re dealing with a pooptastrophe. Little baby just defied the laws of physics and pooped sideways, out his diaper and onto your arm. You didn’t notice so now it’s on your hand. Meanwhile, big brother has dropped the Parmesan cheese onto the floor (which is dirty because you’ve quit being so hard on yourself) and he’s now scooping it up with a spoon and eating it. Sure eating spoonfuls of Parmesan cheese off of a dirty floor is gross. But a poop-covered hand is grosser, and so that becomes the priority. Besides, it’s the first time all day you’ve seen your toddler so quiet, so engaged. Who would’ve known spilt Parmesan was so entertaining?

8. Take a step back from the chaos and laugh. Preferably out loud. There’s probably some aspect of humor to the situation if it involves two tiny humans. Like the fact that Brayden always eats with his hands when he’s sitting at the table, but uses a spoon perfectly well to eat grated Parmesan off the floor. See. That’s funny.

9. Take a deep breath. Finish up that laugh will an inhale….. and an exhale…. Ahhh…. Feel better already, don’t you? Forget about Lamaze breathing for labor. Parenting classes should teach you about this breath. The one you take when you feel like you’re in the midst of chaos. When you’re nursing baby 2 and baby 1 pees on the kitchen floor. Or when baby 2 finally settles in for bed and you’re ready to do the same, but then baby 1 wakes up. This breath saves your sanity. The simple rush of oxygenation reminds you that you’ll survive this, and one day, probably even look back on it fondly. You’ll wish to trade a good night’s sleep for a chance to cuddle the newborn version of your grown son. Or a clean kitchen for a chance to play with his toddler-self.

10. So follows my final note: At the end of your seemingly crazy day, when both babies are sleeping peacefully (at least for the next few minutes), and you’re ready to collapse into bed , be sure to tell your other half you love him. Because you do. Even though it may not feel like it at times, you love him for getting you into this mess in the first place. Somewhere in the densely settled fog of exhaustion, far less tangible than the sticky film on your un-mopped kitchen floor is your baby’s first smile and your toddler’s first unprompted “I love you” as you’re settling him into bed. As it turns out, this “mess” carries with it a whole bunch of wonderful. 

Post #12: Welcome Tyler!

He's here! But this post isn't. At least not yet. I'm working on it though, so check back sometime soon. If I'm lucky it'll be done sometime before 2030.



Post #11: Happy Hundredth!

Today, my blog is one hundred posts old. Somewhere between #1 and #100, I went from newlywed to mother and then mother of two. Kevin calling me “wife” then was as novel as hearing Brayden call me “momma” now. We’ve spent two seasons in Italy, one in Wichita, and we’re in the midst of another in Scotland. Our scenery has changed, our family has grown, and our network of friends has expanded to new countries and states. Through all the ups and downs, wins and losses, opportunities and challenges, wanderlust and homesickness, I’ve been consistently grateful for the love that surrounds our little family. Looking back on posts from these last three-plus years that love has been the most/only consistent element to our lives. Suffice it to say, wherever we find ourselves over the course of the next 100 posts, I’m pretty sure it’ll be a wonderful place to be.

Season 2010-2011
Life, Love, and Gelato
Season 2011-2012
Life, Love, and Second Helpings
Season 2012-2013
Life, Love, and Diaper Rash

2013-2014 Season
Life, Love, and Scotland


Post #10: A Letter to Big Brother Brayden

To my sweet baby Brayden,

I’m sure you’ve noticed I’ve gotten bigger, slower, and a little more tired, but I doubt you realize the significance of these changes. Since I first learned that you, my little boy, would be made less little by becoming a big brother, I’ve wondered what it all would mean. For you, for me, for our family… Especially these last few weeks, I’ve found myself worrying about how you’ll feel when a new little love is brought into our family. There’s so much I want to tell you about the wonderful chaos that is waiting just around the corner, but I don’t know how. As we cuddle up with our books, collect colorful leaves on our walks, practice our hockey passes outside, I struggle to find the words. So, I guess I will just write them here. Maybe someday you’ll find them and you’ll understand. You’ll nod your head about how smart your mommy is. How she knew so well the things you’d need to know as you made your way into the Older Sibling Club…

First, you may not always like your little brother, but you will always love him. Always.  This is the reason why you might say something mean to him, it might even be true, but when someone else says the exact same thing, you might morph into a Hulk-version of yourself. Being protective is a natural instinct when it comes to your siblings. And your unconditional love for him will excuse a few minor not-so-niceties that, coming from anyone else, would be unacceptable.

Second, he will look up to you from the moment he is born. Yes, it will get annoying when he wants to follow you around and play with your toys and do whatever you do. But, you will always have a sidekick, a playmate, a friend. A cowboy to your Indian, a bad guy to your good, a forward to your defense (unless you somehow both become goalies like your Daddy and Uncle Mike.) This trade-off works in your favor, I promise. But have no doubt there will come a day where he confides in you. Not in his dad or mom, but in his brother. Be it with a personal struggle, a girl problem, or the request for you to buy him and his underage buddies some beer. When this happens, you are under no obligation to tell him what he wants to hear. Let his friends do that.  He may not like what you have to say, but he will trust that whatever you advise will be in his best interest. He will know, whether he admits it or not, that you know him better than anyone else. You will either have the answer or the tools he needs to find it within himself. Don’t take this responsibility lightly. And don’t forget that he will be there for you to do the same, minus the beer. This will be one of the greatest gifts of your brotherhood, worth more than all of the annoyances and disagreements that come with the territory.

And, finally, no matter who your little brother turns out to be, your daddy and I will always love you. And while we won’t love you more than him, we won’t love you less either. Despite what your Aun-T might tell you about her being Gramma and Grampa’s “favorite” daughter, there is no such thing as a favorite child. You’ll have to trust me on this one, because you might not fully understand it until you have a baby of your own some thirty years from now. Even though I have always felt loved immensely, I couldn’t truly fathom my parents’ love for me until you were born. The reason that there won’t be favorites is that my love for you is immeasurable. My love for your brother will also be immeasurable. And you can’t compare infinity to infinity… you just can’t.

I remember before you were born feeling overwhelmed by the reality that our lives were about to change forever.  I have the same feeling now, but I know, thanks to you, just how wonderful that change is going to be. So, my little Knight, no matter what lies ahead, have faith that your brother will be as great a gift in your life as you’ll be in his. And please don’t ever lose sight of how much I love you…

xo - Mom


Post #9: The Scot on the Cot

It’s funny how, even after nearly a decade of friendship and love including over three years of marriage, Kevin still surprises me. There's always more to learn about the oft-perceived quiet Bostonian I’ve been calling my other-half since the fall of 2004. Our new adventures in parenting have definitely given us the chance to learn more about ourselves, about each other. Things we want for our children, things we don’t. When it comes to the big important things, he is as steadfast in his beliefs. But these are the things that we agree on, like our values, morality, and what it means to be good parents... we wouldn’t be married or at least not happily so if we didn’t have these things in common. When it comes to the little things, however, that’s where we sometimes run into disagreement.

Being a really laid-back guy, Kevin usually relegates all small decisions to me. He knows full well that I might agonize over simple little choices about which he (or most normal people) wouldn’t care. Black or brown picture frame for this photo? Should the couch be on this wall or that wall? Should I buy this shirt in a color other gray, black, or brown? Needless to say, he happily takes a back seat to most interior design, organization, and shopping decisions. Which explains my amusement when he actually DOES have a strong opinion about something that I would have otherwise categorized as a simple little decision in my territory. Take v-neck tee shirts for example. I mistakenly bought him v-neck undershirts a while back. Despite the fact that any undershirt would have been a vast improvement to the holely, miss-shapen ones in his dresser and regardless of the fact that v-necks had long since become a trend in male attire, this package of v-necks needed to be returned. Non-negotiable. He would NOT wear v-neck shirts. Here’s a guy who wears most whatever I buy for him just because it means he doesn’t have to shop for himself and he hates shopping. But he wouldn’t wear a v-neck. He’s since caved, as I happen to really like them on him and I’ve casually mixed them into his wardrobe the last couple of years. He concedes when laundry gets low, but I can’t say he’s thrilled about it.

Anyway, last November I learned that there is something else that, much to my surprise, Kevin has a very strong opinion about: The Elf on the Shelf. In my excitement for our first holiday season with a baby, I was all about establishing some fun traditions. Having a cheerful elf come around to cause a little mischief and bring some fun Christmas activities from the North Pole seemed, to me, like a marvelous idea. I did not expect in the slightest that my Christmas-loving husband would disagree at all, let alone so vehemently. But, he did. “Absolutely not” were his exact words when I suggested we adopt an elf. I thought that maybe it was just the v-neck he was wearing making him grouchy, so I decided to bring it up again later. But he stood his ground. He argued that the elf was creepy and the whole concept was unnecessary while taking away the true meaning of Christmas. And that was that. Well-played Kevin. Spend 95% of the time letting me make the little decisions so that, when you DO put your foot-down on something, it really counts. Yes, Sarah, you can decorate the mantle with whatever your little heart desires, you can choose the hotel and itinerary for our vacation, you can order your own meal but eat mine when you decide it looks better, but NO, you CANNOT bring a little elf into our home every December.

Now, sometimes my darling husband gives me a hard time just for the fun of it. He really agrees with me on whatever it is I’m suggesting, but he pretends to disagree with me anyway. He thinks it’s amusing to see me plead my case on things that are probably ridiculous to him and rest of the world. I brought up the elf again recently in hopes that maybe this was one of those things. That maybe he’d forgotten his joke from the year before and he’d back my idea. But, he didn’t. Same reasoning, same “Absolutely not”. Humph… I really loved the idea of hiding the little activity-bearing elf every night for my boys to find. And maybe I loved it even more now that Kevin was so against it. Why does it work that way?

So, there I was. Defeated. I couldn’t just go get an elf because it was supposed to be something for the whole family to enjoy, Kevin included. But did that mean I had to give up entirely? Marriage is all about compromise… if I could just find a way to meet in the middle. But where was the middle of “creepy, unnecessary, takes away from the meaning of Christmas” and “adorable, fun, adds to the meaning of Christmas”.

That’s when E-bay saved the day. I’d ordered a trainset for Brayden for Christmas and so a list of other things I might like popped up at the bottom. It kind of freaks me out how the web can do that, but without this stalkerish technology I never would have found him… the little plastic Scottish man, dressed in a kilt, and donning a bagpipe.

Ta-daaaa!! What if we had a little Holiday Scotsman instead of an Elf? That addresses the creepiness factor. And what if the said Scotsman brought activities that embraced the spirit of love and holiday giving. Sometimes, crafts, yes. But also activities like “Donate a toy to a child in need” and “Give daddy a big hug”. A glorified advent calendar of sorts! I could concede on having a fun storyline behind his presence in the house like the Elf has with helping Santa to make his naughty or nice list. The Scotsman didn’t have to tie in with Santa at all as long as I could hide him somewhere fun on a nightly basis and use him as an excuse for some holiday activities. Kevin shouldn’t have reason to disagree on those terms!

A click of a button and 5 quid later, the little toy Scottish man was ordered. And, when he arrived Kevin decided he was welcome in our home for the upcoming holiday season. To all of you in my very small but lovely lifeloveandgelato community, I’m very happy to introduce little Hamish from the Kingdom of Fife.

He’s no Elf on the Shelf, but he sure is one fine Scot on the Cot. Can’t wait to see the fun and cheer he will bring to my boys and I this Christmas!


Post #8: The Fife Coastal Path

Here I am, over a month into my stay in Scotland, finally getting around to talking about Scotland. To give you an idea about where we are in this lovely country, I’ll say very generally that we’re a bit South and very East. To my North we have the picturesque Scottish Highlands and to the South we have the great city of Edinburgh. To the East, and, by that I mean two blocks East, we have the ocean. Farther South is where Scotland turns into England, and just beyond the Western coast is where you’ll find Ireland. Outside of Scotland’s borders is where even my most general geographical awareness ends. Hopefully traveling about throughout the season will broaden my scope of the entire UK. For now, you’ll have to refer to our friend Google for more specifics.

Like Italy, Scotland is divided into regions. Here, the region’s names sound like they are straight out of  a Tolkien novel…Ayrshire and Arran, Loch Lomond, Trossachs and the Forth Valley, Aberdeen City and Shire (to name a few). We happen to be located in… wait for it… the Kingdom of Fife. Yes, it’s really called a Kingdom. I don’t know why, probably the geek in me, but that makes me smile.  We are in a town called Kirkcaldy directly situated on the water. Which is, for any New Englander, a happy place to be. A short walk from our apartment flat in almost any direction brings with it views of ocean. And, even on a rainy day, the ocean is beautiful. What’s better is that they’ve made it really easy to appreciate its beauty by maintaining a 117 mile-long coastal walking path. It’s an ocean-loving outdoorsmen’s paradise. The path winds you along the waterfront, bringing you from one quaint Scottish town to another. Green sloping pastureland, tree-lined parks, ancient stone sea walls, tiny fishing communities, all emerging from the sea.

I’d hoped to explore more of the path before reporting on it, but, by Doctors orders, my hiking days are over until baby comes along. Fortunately, I think the few miles of the path that we have traversed are enough proof of its impressiveness.

Ravenscraig Castle to Dysart Harbor

As promised, I didn’t browse the internet for details on where we’d be living prior to our arrival. Which is why Brayden and I were splendidly surprised when our short morning walk led us to a castle overlooking the ocean.

Ravenscraig Castle was built in the 1400’s.  It sits perched on a grassy cliff above the water with views along the coastline of Kirkcaldy. On a nice day, you can see out to Arthur’s seat, a walkable peak in Edinburgh from which you can view the city and it’s castle. (On our to-do list this Spring!)
Kirkcaldy’s little castle happens to be situated on part of the coastal path running through the town. From there, an upper set of trails extends through a beautiful wooded park and a lower set passes directly beside the water. Low tide uncovers a vast rocky beach and high tide brings waves up to the stone-bricked seawall. 

After reaching a grassy opening via the lowermost trail, you come to a tunnel passageway that leads to little Dysart Harbor. There, old fishing boats bob gently beside their moorings. Cute little old men, likely the proud owners of the boats, tinker with their engines and wash their decks. Faithful canine companions sit patiently by, watching from above.

Crail to Anstruther

While we would have been perfectly content to walk from Ravenscraig Castle to Dysart Harbor every day, Kevin and I decided we shouldn’t forget about the other 99.5% of the Fife Coastal Path. One particularly sunny day, we packed up a picnic lunch and drove the windy country roads north to Crail. We’d been told that the roughly 3-mile stretch from there to Anstruther Harbor was a notable walk.
We learned the hard way that, while the coastal path in Kirkcaldy is stroller friendly, the same can’t be said about this particular route. We’d forgotten our hiking backpack, and couldn’t expect Brayden to walk 3 miles, so we opted against doing the entire stretch on foot. Instead, we walked a bit out and back from Crail, and drove to Anstruther to do the same. These segments, we figured would give us a good idea of what the route was all about. We weren’t disappointed in the least...

Starting from Crail, the path took us along the water through grassy pastures. Looking forward put Ocean, rocky beach, and lush sloping hills within the same peripheral. Behind us, the little village of Crail sat atop the water, it’s harbor and old buildings providing a unique companion to the sight of ocean below. Ocean feeding into grassy hill, then sloping up to little town. I’m no stranger to the ocean, but the fluidity between these three elements is different than the ocean views I’m familiar with. While beautiful in their own right, the beaches from home have less dramatic changes of elevation and the greenery is, well, less green.  

After having our lunch in town, stopping in a small family-run pottery shop, and a nearly buying more vases and teacups than we could ever manage to transport home, we jumped back in the car and drove down the road to Anstruther.

While only a couple of miles south of Crail, the drive took about 10 minutes. Pastureland is prioritized over roadway as evidenced by the barely two-lane road winding along the shore. We’ve traversed similarly narrow roads in Italy, but never from the left side. At least from a passenger’s perspective, it feels like every curve is going to bring you crashing into an embankment. To distract myself from worrying about this possibility, I focused on the pleasant views of the drive. As we pulled into the harbor, we realized a significant change in the beautiful weather we’d experienced only minutes before. Blue skies were now gray, and a damp cool replaced the warm dry air coming off of the water. Scotland weather has proven quite unpredictable. You can’t ever leave the house without an umbrella AND a pair of sunglasses. You might run into a shop using one and leave a few minutes later using the other.

Despite being overcast, there was an intrinsic charm to the little town. Café bars and restaurants lined the waterfront and streetside benches were filled with an assortment of locals and coastal path visitors. We happened to be there during school dismissal and so Brayden was happy to watch/admire herds of “big kids” walking through. In their school uniforms, one would think that they were enrolled at Hogwarts. (I keep trying to inconspicuously grab a photo of the little witches and warlocks, but, as it turns out, being inconspicuous is not in my nature.)

At this point, we were quickly approaching afternoon nap time, and this momma doesn’t like to miss her nap, so we piled back into our little Passat to get home. Not before devouring a plate of fish n’ chips, of course. Afterall, who are we not to try arguably the best fish n’ chips in all the Kingdom of Fife? And coming from ice-cream loving families, what kind of example would we be setting for our son if we denied him a lick of gelato after that? 

Good, old-fashioned family fun. In Scotland. :-)


Post #7: Feeling Pinspired

I promise that my next post will bring me back to my blogging roots and actually focus on the sightseeing and cultural components to our hockey-lifestyle. Despite how it looks, I have not been a hermit since my arrival over a month ago. Scotland is GORGEOUS, and deserves way more blogging-rights than I’ve given it. So here’s just one more motherhood musing…

When Brayden was a newborn, I spent many a late-night hour snuggling, feeding, and pinning. In line with the baby books, I tried not to interact with the little babe during his midnight feeds because “too much stimulation at night interferes with the development of a natural sleep cycle” or something like that. But I often needed some sort of stimulation to prevent from nodding off myself.  I’m not a fan of infomercials and I only had so many recordings of Cupcake Wars on my DVR. Therefore, Pinterest was a much better mindless alternative to television at 3am. And so I pinned. A lot. I happily organized my pins into categorized boards and built enthusiasm for all the projects that I’d collected for myself to carry out… And then, I never looked at them again.  With the exception of a few recipes, I didn’t re-visit my account for months. Christmas passed without even a cursory glance at my “Jingle Bells” board, and Brayden move into toddlerhood before I’d had the chance to use my collection of infancy tips stored in my “Oh Baby” folder.

For whatever reason, (new desire to become a domesticated?,  pregnancy cravings for cheesy or chocolaty deliciousness? Good-old-fashioned-nesting?, peer-pressure from my sister to check out the hilarious board she’s made for me?) I’ve been feeling Pin-spired. When Baby 2 wakes up at 11pm with a serious case of the hiccups, I spend the next hour in bed kick-counting and exploring the Pinterest universe. Unlike during my last Pinterest craze , I click on the links and read before actually pinning. Then, soon after, I put some of my pinning to practice. Brayden and I crafted colorful bowling pins with plastic bottles and a little bit of paint poured inside. I made vegetarian chili, a quinoa and chicken entrée, and chocolate chip cookies. I looked at book recommendations for one-year-olds and used them as guidance during library trips. And, most recently, I bought a bunch of little craft supplies necessary for the plethora of wonderful toddler activities I’d found during my midnight pinterest prowls.

There is only one problem. My toddler son STILL puts everything in his mouth. So I have to forget about all those cute smiley face stickers, mini pom poms, crayons, paint brushes, and, well, rocks, leaves, and sand. As it turns out, he’s not quite ready for anything even remotely inedible or that could potentially function as a choking hazard. So much for that really awesome moon sand made of baby oil and flour and so much for all that crafting paraphernalia. I needed something else, and fast. Why was this so urgent? You wonder…

Well, for anyone who doesn’t know Brayden, he likes to GO. He always has, especially since he started walking at 10 months old. And when he’s on the go, running from room to room, practicing his slapshot, climbing on castle ruins, following big kids around at the park, and riding his Lightning Mcqueen push car, he’s REALLY happy. And a happy baby is a LOUD baby. When he’s not on the go, happy and loud, he often gets bored. And a bored baby is a LOUD baby too. This is a problem for a daddy that often has practice until 12:30 in the morning and classes at 8:00. There is a two-hour window after Brayden’s 6am wake-up where mommy is on duty and daddy needs to sleep. As do our neighbors for that matter. Since it’s much too dark to go outside and the 24-hour Wal-Mart-like store is quickly losing its appeal, we are stuck in the apartment. And we need to be considerate. i.e. we need to be quiet. i.e. we can’t be running around i.e. we can’t be bored. What’s more is that I can’t always be 100% dedicated to making sure those three conditions are met. I need activities that aren’t entirely dependent on my involvement. While we love cozying up with a book, building ramps for his car, playing with his kitchen set, and making/demolishing block towers, sometimes I need my 17-month old to be quietly AND independently engaged. Like when I’m making breakfast, for instance.

As I wait for Brayden to grow out of his put-everything-in-the-mouth stage and grow into all of those fantastic crafty activities I’ve pinned, I’ve stuck to a few that are Brayden-proof or could be made so with a little modification. They achieve a little free-time for mommy AND quiet-time for baby. I figured, should there be another toddler like mine out there, I should share those ideas and save some other mother the learning curve. I will include the links that provided inspiration to give credit to those amazingly creative mommies that have enriched our morning routines.
  1. Baby Word Book: I made this for Brayden before leaving for Scotland so he can remember his loved ones back home, and learn all their names. I chose to use a small three ring binder I found at Staples because it fit a half-sheet of computer paper perfectly. Each page simply has a picture with a name in large print underneath. I popped each word-page into a sheet-protector with a sheet of cardstock paper to make it sturdy and Voila! I’ve since added a section for “animals”, “things that go”, “food” and “the outdoors”.  It’s basically just a flashcard system, but I like that it’s personalized for Brayden, and that I can add words of new things he likes in 10 seconds flat. He’s pretty happy flipping through the book himself. But, sometimes, I will remove a section’s worth of pages, spread them on the floor and ask him “Can you find me the monkey?” or “Where’s the lion?” and he’ll bring me back the match. I'm happy to give you the template for my cards so that you only have to right click the image and select "Change Picture" to make your own. I'm just not tech-saavy enough to link it here, so you'll need to message me your email. 
  2.  Water Play: During the summer, with the luxury of having a back deck, Brayden was easily entertained by a large plastic tub of water and an assortment of various-sized cups, spoons, and water toys. I don’t know why I never thought to bring water-play indoors, but thankfully someone from Pinterest did.  I cannot believe how content B is with pouring water between a few plastic teacups and little yogurt containers. Beyond keeping him entertained, he’s gotten really proficient at drinking from a cup. So, if you want a happy, well-hydrated baby, throw a towel under the high chair and serve up a bit of water.
  3. Penne Pasta: Stick kebab sticks in a piece of foam or, in my case, a cardboard egg carton. Have baby put pieces of dry penne pasta on the posts. Since we usually do this after breakfast, B isn’t very interested in eating the uncooked pasta. “Yuck”. But, if he is nearing meal-time, threading cheerios onto pieces of thin spaghetti is an edible alternative. Such clever ways to promote motor skill development in your toddler while you’re doing the dishes or folding laundry (or writing for your silly little blog).
  4. Flour Power: ‘Sensory Table’s are all the buzz in early childhood development. I know because I have a sister who works in a Pre-K center and happens to be incredible at what she does. Her sensory tables are always suited to the week’s learning theme. Of course, I can’t steal most of her ideas because, again, my baby can’t handle manipulatives like sand, dried beans, or acorns just yet. But what about flour? It sure doesn’t taste good by itself, but it’s harmless for B who inevitably tries it EVERY time we use it. Put a little scoop of flour in front of baby and give him a few props. It’s really that simple.
    Sometimes he ends up a bit of a mess, like when he sneezed directly into the powdery mound in front of him. But it’s super easy clean-up. Done and done.

  5. Baker Baby: I’m not the first person on the face of the planet to let their baby, pour, measure, and mix while baking. But, I also didn’t need Pinterest to plant this wonderful idea in my head. My momma did that for me a long time ago when I was just a wee girl. I love to bake. Babies love to bake. It’s the perfect activity to do together. I will happily play with cars, splash in mud puddles, wrestle and play hockey with my dear sons. But they will bake with their mommy, gosh darnnit, however boyish they may be. For at least as long as I have a say in the matter… How long is that, anyway? I’m hoping for a couple of years, but maybe I’ll get lucky and it’ll grow on them. This activity clearly requires supervision because, despite my efforts, B hasn’t quite gotten a grasp on reading recipes or understanding fractions ;-) However, I’d be baking anyway. And baking together checks something off my list while also accomplishing the goal of entertaining the toddler. Most recently we made easy, but yummy biscuits to go with our beef stew dinner. Brayden played with the left-over dough while the first batches were in the oven. He loved it!
    Look at his tongue hanging out there in concentration while he’s using the canteen-bottle rolling pin. 
    I chose the recipe because it only called for a few ingredients, and an egg wasn’t one of them. (It’s funny that I’ve joined the Raw Egg Police when I think of all the cookie dough I’ve consumed, laughing off my mom’s fears about salmonella poisoning. Things really do come full circle, huh?) Obviously eggs are an integral part to baking. But, when baking with baby, I use this handy substitution: 1 egg = 1 tbsp flaxseed + 3 tbsp water. I’ve also tried subbing apple-sauce for oil with great results just to make it a bit less sinful and messy.

And there you have it. Five things everyone probably already knew about babies, but took me nearly a year-and-a-half of mommyhood and several hours of pinning to learn for myself. Oh, and by the way, when all else fails, there are Baby Einstein videos on YouTube. They might not make geniuses out of babies like the creators had claimed, but they are inexplicably captivating to my little guy when I’m desparate for 15-minutes of calm. A mommy’s gotta do what a mommy’s gotta do. And where’s the harm in letting him watch a montage of short clips portraying ocean creatures, farm animals, or ‘things that go’? (Set to classical music no less!) It’s not like I’m using the Kardashian brood to entertain my impressionable son. They’re for my amusement… at the end of the night while he’s sleeping soundly in bed and I’m sweeping up the flour, cheerios, and pasta off the floor. The end of another lovely day. Be well, mommas!

Here are some links to more toddler activities! (I'm especially excited about the make your own paint and playdough recipes.)





Post #6: Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Mother

Today I was a veggie mom. And I don’t mean this in the sense that I was an enforcer to my son’s daily consumption of vegetables. (I’m actually very fortunate that he loves his veggies, enforcement unnecessary. )I mean it in the sense that I myself was a vegetable. I was a casual observer as opposed to an active participant in my son’s day. Laying on the couch watching him run in and out of his fort, sitting with a cup of tea while he was engaged in one of the sensory activities I’d found on Pinterest (More on this in a later post). As nap-time crept closer, we cuddled in bed to watch an episode of Barney. (During which, by the way, I made the ultimate IMDB-worthy recognition of a young Selena Gomez in the cast!)

I know that my baby was fed, cleanly diapered, and well-supervised for the day, but I couldn’t help but feel guilty as the day progressed and I was daydreaming about my next opportunity for a nap. I mean, I even stooped low enough to plop the little man in front of the TV. Super moms everywhere are shaking their head in disapproval.

I blame my mediocre day of parenting on the strong probability that I overdid it yesterday. That walk into town. That damn woman at the bank that totally called me out… she’d be so smug right now to see me this way… unshowered, tired, uncomfortable.

4:00 rolled around and I was still in my pajamas with a night plus two-naps worth of bed head. I’d moved so little that I was slightly worried that my muscles at atrophied. I felt like I’d done nothing all day, and I was feeling guilty about it…

And then I re-read a blog post* my friend had shared on her facebook page. It was written to scrutinize the stay-at-home mom vs. working-mom debate, questioning why the debate exists in the first place. Interestingly enough, it was written by a man. I find what he wrote to be really romantic in an untraditional sense. I think it’s because feeling appreciated is a close cousin to feeling loved. The author defending his wife in her sometimes under-valued role as a stay-at-home mother demonstrates his appreciation for her, which equates his whole post to a sort of love letter. (Any guy that stumbles upon this page should take note: earning big points with the love in your life can be as simple as saying “thank you” or “I appreciate you”, and meaning it, of course.)

In particular, his closing passage really resonated with me….

“I’m not looking to get into a fight about who is “busier.” We seem to value our time so little, that we find our worth based on how little of it we have. In other words, we’ve idolized “being busy,” and confused it with being “important.” You can be busy but unimportant, just as you can be important but not busy. I don’t know who is busiest, and I don’t care. It doesn’t matter. I think it’s safe to say that none of us are as busy as we think we are; and however busy we actually are, it’s more than we need to be.”

Spot on, Mister Blogger who loves his wife. What is “busy” anyway? What activities do you have to be partaking in to be considered busy? If it’s managing a multimillion dollar corporation or running a marathon before performing life-saving heart surgery on one of your patients, then I wasn’t busy in the least. But if it’s ensuring that your 17-month old doesn’t close his fingers in any doors, choke, run into sharp corners, or that he doesn’t feel hungry, tired, or bored, then I was actually very busy.

Anyway, I think that very few mothers look down on their stay-at-home peers (just like very few women bash pregnant ladies in the queue at the bank). But I think I relate to what he’s saying on a different level, not so much as a problem of Working Mother vs. Non-“Working” Mother, but as a problem of Woman vs. Self. Why are we mommies so hard on OURSELVES?

Now, being home with Brayden, I often feel like I’m not doing enough. At the end of the day, even if I never set foot outside of the house, I’m exhausted. Then I feel guilty about being tired because I don’t think I have an excuse… I mean, I’m not even teaching! I didn’t grade papers, organize lesson plans, manage a classroom full of oftentimes incompatible personalities, and maintain enthusiasm while teaching Integer operation rules for the millionth time. What did I even do all day?

Fast forward to me being back at work, putting my degree to use, writing lessons, and enriching the mathematical minds of society’s youth. I’m certain, even in this new situation, I will find myself in a different line of reasoning that leads to the same conclusion. It might look something like this: I didn’t change a diaper, kiss a boo-boo, take my kiddoes to the park, read Tugga-Tugga-Tugboat for the millionth time… what did I even do all day?

Either way, I think I’d find a way to make myself feel inadequate in some way as a mother, wife, human. Whether it be my perceived lack of time with my family or my unused college degree/lack of financial contribution. Despite my husband’s love, support, and appreciation for what I do, I put enormous pressures on myself. And I think, to some extent, that all women do this.

Which leads to the question of why are we women so quick to compare ourselves to others? Everybody has flaws, insecurities, or moments where they feel that they aren’t doing their best. And so what if they don’t! Does it even really matter? I am surrounded by countless women who do all sorts of wonderful things inside and outside of being amazing mothers. I am in constant admiration of them all. I don’t hold anyone else to impossible standards. So why do I do it to myself?

And so comes the little epiphany I had at the end of my day as a veggie mom. Maybe we all need to focus on what we ARE doing instead of what we AREN’T doing. Maybe I didn’t shower, do the dishes, exercise, or make any money. But I did make my baby laugh, read him stories, showed him love, and kept him safe. Busy or not busy, important or unimportant, none of that really matters. I was one little boy’s favorite mother in the whole wide world. And I guess that’s not really nothing after all. 



Post #5: Bear With me While I Overreact

It’s been one of those rainy weeks in Scotland that all the locals warned me about. Rainy days are often lazy days, and so when I saw the somber ten-day forecast, I took an oath to vigilance in making sure that I was consumed by laziness. And I did well! Brayden and I went to the library, I finished a few projects around the house, cleaned, and even squeezed in a couple of strolls and park visits when the weather wasn’t too bad. Then, yesterday, it was the brightest of the gray days I’d seen all week. With a seemingly diminished threat of rain, Brayden and I set out enthusiastically to the walking street for errands and a lunch date. Kevin had the car, and so we packed up the stroller and marched the mile to the shops at the center of town.

After a lovely lunch at a coffee shop, we stopped at the bank to complete our afternoon’s checklist. There, a lady in line behind me looked me up and down, and inquired as to when I was due. I said the end of November with another little boy. That’s when she said it, the three words that marked a change in the tone of our conversation: You look tired. Stop here for a second. Whether I’m pregnant or not, I hate when I hear this, especially from strangers. I think that this phrase is confused as the polite way of saying “You look like crap” when in reality there is NO POLITE WAY of saying “You look like crap”. In this particular case, the most annoying part of it all was that I had actually done my hair and put on a little makeup before heading out that morning. I’d looked in the mirror, and thought to myself, not bad Sarah, not bad at all. Well, clearly I had been mistaken…

Anyway, it gets worse. You’re carrying awfully low, she went on. Well, I carried my son like this too, I replied, trying to remain friendly even though I was becoming increasingly agitated by the woman’s expression of… what was that, disgust? Pity? You look like you’re really uncomfortable, she continued. Thankfully, the next teller called for me and I was gracefully excused from anymore discussion/insult. Truth of the matter is, I was uncomfortable. More about my urge to punch this lady in the face than I was about bearing the “burden” of carrying my sweet innocent baby…

As I trudged the mile back home, I was tired. And, yes, I was uncomfortable. And even though the lady had probably made an accurate assessment of my well-being, it still bothered me that she made an assessment at all. Don't get me wrong. I don’t want people coming up to me marveling at my “pregnancy glow” when I’m well-aware that my skin’s reaction to the hormones doesn’t permit me to have one. I don’t want anyone complimenting how well pregnancy suits me when I’m the first to admit that it doesn’t. I’m perfectly ok with it all because babies are worth it, bottom line. I don’t want people lying to make me feel like a pregnancy goddess. However, I don’t need people stating the obvious either. No one should ever tell a 35-week pregnant lady that she looks “tired” and “really uncomfortable”. Unless maybe they are willing to do something that helps rectify the problem, like fund a prenatal spa day or massage therapy session. Otherwise it’s like telling a starving person “you look really hungry”, but not offering them any food. Am I overreacting? Yes. But, am I wrong? I’ll let you be the judge. 


Post #4: Meet Dino

As part of getting ready for Baby 2’s arrival, I thought it would be smart to prepare Brayden for the role of Big Brother. While he knows the association between my belly and the word “baby”, I doubt that he grasps the idea that the “baby” will soon be vacating the belly to steal his toys and mommy and daddy’s attention. I thought, like many moms before me, that getting him a doll might help with preparation for this reality. At the very least, we could use the doll to model positive big brother behaviors to hopefully keep eye poking and pinching to a minimum. We could practice being “gentle” and “quiet” because those are two difficult words for my 16-month old to put into practice.

And so the search for Brayden’s doll began. I thought it would be a one-stop shop because baby dolls are everywhere. But, as it turns out, baby BOY dolls are not. It’s not that I’m opposed to my son playing with a pink dolly, but it’s the fact that I couldn’t find a blue one that prevented me from buying one at all. It’s the principle of the whole thing. Sure, dolls might not be popular toys for little boys. And that probably ties in with the whole sociological vs. biological debate of toy preference between the two genders. A bigger, more complex issue I will leave for someone else to blog about. For the purpose of this post, let’s assume that dolls are for little girls. Even then, why aren’t there boy dolls? What are we teaching our little girls if all of their dolls are also little girls? Many will have little brothers. And many will grow up to be mommies of little boys. (Like me, for example.) And, though I may not get to dress my babies in those adorable headbands and frilly dresses, and even though the baby boy’s clothing department is a quarter of the size of the one for baby girls, I love having a son. Wouldn’t a little girl feel the same way about having a boy doll?

Disappointed that I couldn’t find a somewhat realistic baby brother model for B, I decided to think outside the box. There weren’t any boys to accompany the Mollys, Kirstens, and Samanthas of the doll world, so I had to make a compromise. Which is where a $5 Kohl’s Cares for Kids stuffed animal comes in… Meet Dino. A plush, likeable T-Rex from a Curious George story who doubles as a training device for brotherhood. And Brayden loves him! He speaks to him in the soft cooing voice he reserves for when someone has a “boo-boo”. He knows that “gentle” means patting Dino’s head. He gives his dinosaur brother hugs and kisses. He shares his toys and even rocks his pal in the rock and play sleeper. When he sits Dino beside him to watch Blue’s Clues, and brings socks to Kevin to put on Dino’s feet, I can’t help but think he’s getting the hang of it. That maybe, in spite of toy-manufacturer’s prejudice against boy dolls, my son is learning to be a good big brother. To a soft, mute, cuddly toy dinosaur, that is. Let’s just hope he gives the same care and attention to his little sibling even though he isn’t green with a scaly tail and a toothy grin. 


Post #3: No Such thing as an Old Hat in the World of Babes

Today, I was scrolling through my photos and I stopped here…

I thought to myself, remember this?

The answer, if I’m being completely honest, is not really. As I watch Brayden run around making tractor sounds and playing with his new toy truck, it’s hard to fathom that baby is this baby. I watched it happen with my own two eyes, and yet I still can’t believe it. I know that parents have these thoughts when their children start kindergarten, graduate high school, or get married. But to be in such disbelief about my baby growing up when he’s only 16-months old is a bit surprising. I can see why it would be hard to remember your child as a newborn when he’s standing on a podium receiving a diploma 18-years later. But how could I have forgotten so many little moments like these already? After less than a year-and-a-half, I should be able to look at that picture and feel warmth on my chest in the place he was snuggled. But I can’t. It is such a distant memory that I can barely believe it happened at all. Maybe I was really THAT tired. Or perhaps, from a parental perspective, the stages of early childhood are just too short for the monumental changes that take place.  It seems that, just when I figure things out, Brayden undergoes some fundamental change. It is a continuous learning process where my own adaptation is just barely on pace with his growth and development. Routines evolve before they are even established so that the details quickly blend together. It’s a phenomenon that I will soon be experiencing all over again.

The very idea of having another little love in my life astounds me. I suppose I thought that reflecting on Brayden’s first months would make what lies ahead with Baby 2 more tangible. That seeing him as an infant would remind me of what I have to expect, to look forward to. That maybe it could prepare me in some way. I mean it was only just yesterday. Wasn’t it? Apparently not. In baby days, it was an eternity ago. Basically, just because I already have one baby doesn’t mean I’m not going to feel anxious about having another.

Needless to say, looking at pictures of Brayden’s newbornhood didn’t have the effect I was looking for. It didn’t leave me thinking “Oh, I remember that. No worries about number two. It’ll be like riding a bike”. It didn't prepare me for having a new baby, especially when I have another slightly older one running around, threatening chaos at every turn. 

Though my picture perusal process didn’t necessarily inspire the comforting feelings of familiarity that I expected, it served one purpose other than to remind me of Brayden's adorableness: It offered a compelling reminder of how fast time goes. And maybe that’s the only preparation I need: The understanding that in two months, I will be holding a new baby. A baby that, 16-months later, I will hardly believe existed. Whose older brother will seem another light-year away from than the tractor-bearing little man he is now. So while I am battling through exhaustion and the trials that come along with being a mother, I don’t have to feel guilty if I’m not “enjoying every little moment”. (Because, let’s face it, some mommy moments just aren’t enjoyable.) I can, however embrace the fact that those moments of frustration or self-doubt will dissipate. Very quickly. Together with the love and cuddles, they blend into nothing more than a strong sense that something wonderful happened. And I am so excited that it will be happening all over again.