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Sunday, August 14, 2016

Dear Mom of an Almost Kindergartener,

Dear Mom of an Almost Kindergartener,

I know what you're going through. I was you just last year. I was crying most of last summer, tears welling up in my eyes at random moments when I'd realize my son was going to leave me. I work full time, always have since my son was born, so it's not like he's been home with me, and yet I still felt last year like he was leaving me, like I was losing a part of him to this big elementary school I felt I knew nothing about.

I was scared last year. I was afraid of what would happen if he misbehaved or didn't listen or couldn't sit still. I really did NOT think he'd sit still and learn like he should. I was afraid they would not understand his needs or what worked best for my son. I was afraid of school shootings even... which was a crazy fear, I knew, but hearing too much in the news worried me, I admit it.

I was nervous about him being picked on by other kids. I was afraid he would not make friends. I was worried he'd be the one picking on others.



I wasn't sure if I could trust the teacher or staff or building to keep him safe. I wondered how on earth he'd behave on the big playground where they cannot possibly watch them every second. If we had to do the bus thing I'd have worried about who he'd sit with and not being buckled in and staying in his seat, too. I'd have totally followed the bus to school every day for two weeks if we did the bus thing.

I was nervous about my son not having lunch until way too late in my opinion (closer to 1 p.m.!). I'm not kidding, this one sent me over an edge last summer wondering how he'd misbehave being SO hungry for so long. I wondered if he'd forget all this things from his backpack, if we'd bought the right backpack or the correct size snack bag.

I was afraid I'd hear nothing. I wouldn't know what was going on every day like I got with a daily update at daycare and then preschool the last few years prior to Kindergarten. I wanted to know, was my boy OK? Did he need me?

I was so worried. I didn't know what to expect.


And then the day came. The first day of school for my new kindergartener. I was so nervous. I had a pit in my stomach, trying to stay positive and smiley and happy for my big boy, so that he wasn't super nervous like I was.

And I cried. Sobbed. I was sad most of the day. Just wondering... He's my first. It's hard when it's your first and you have no clue what to expect.

Until I picked my son up after school, after racing out of work to go get him and hear his stories. We stayed in the parking lot for 15 minutes just talking, he would not stop, he was firing things out of his mouth that he LOVED about his first day. I stayed on the side of his car seat door, holding his hand, grateful to have him back with me, and hanging on to every single word he said. I wanted so badly to videotape this moment, but didn't want to mess it up by taking my eyes off of him. I'll forever remember this moment. Forever. He was SOOOO happy and proud and excited. Sheer excitement. I've never seen him so interested in something before in his life. It was amazing.

I realized then and there that if HE was OK and psyched, I'd be fine, too.

(Note: To those of you who have had your littles home with you for years and are worried about your shy one, I know several close friends whose kids in these situations were actually nervous for Kindergarten, even having to drag them in crying to school... BUT this lasted a day or two, and they were totally great after that. So, if this is your situation, I need to share this honesty with you, but reassure you it doesn't last long. Promise.)


So, Mom of an Almost Kindergartener, I'm thinking of you. I have been there. I was ridiculous last summer with my questions for other moms who had gone through this. I wrote tons about it on my blog, too, how we prepared for Kindergarten and things I felt. I remember this like it was yesterday.

And yet looking back, I realize as normal as it was how I felt, I wish I hadn't wasted all those moments worrying so much. My son's year in Kindergarten could not have gone better. He had the perfect teacher who totally understood him and praised him and told us how great he was and taught him to read! He had fun. He was invited to more birthday parties than I could have imagined, made tons of friends, which meant I made friends, too, with parents who felt the SAME way I did and who had the same questions I had and who even had some answers for me also.

He learned SO much. Math, counting, adding and letters and writing and reading. He wrote real books! Real books! He can climb the monkey bars and was safe on the playground. He didn't get crazy overtired. He didn't starve daily either with a late lunch. He adjusted. He learned to grow and stretch his wings. He flew... and he came right back to me every day at 3 o'clock. He didn't leave me. He still needed me. Every day he needed me. And your little guy or gal will, too, promise.



I thought Kindergarten, public school, would change my boy, make him grow up too fast, make him more independent and not need me as much. This is true. He grew SO much more than I anticipated. But all good ways. He became more patient, more responsible, more hard working. He was a better friend. He shared more. He learned more. It was awesome.

And yet, he was my little boy. He played with Legos. He wanted to snuggle with me to read his new library books he got every week at school. He couldn't wait to share with me his drawings of snowmen and tractors and of me and dad. He saved a cookie for his sister from his Valentine's Day party at school. He loves to dress up like a fireman and Superman. He still needs help tying his shoes and packing his backpack and he still looks little in that huge backpack. He still needed us, and your little one will, too.

The new things he'll learn to do, you'll be amazed by. The things she comes home to teach you or tell you about learning that day in music or pe class, you're going to smile so big. You won't be sad. You'll realize this is all what it's about- them learning to be these awesome people, to show us what they can do and make of themselves.


What helped me with adjusting to Kindergarten may not help you. Our kids are different. But I promise you, you'll both get through this. For me, it helped emailing the teacher ahead of time, sharing some important things with her about my son. She must get these emails because she smiled and encouraged me. It helped visiting Open House to see the classroom. It was great to spend time at the playground ahead of the fall, all summer, visiting and talking about it with my son. It was fun letting him pick out what to put in his backpack, what to pack for snacks, what type of lunch bag he wanted to take. He got excited with every step toward Kindergarten, which made me do the same.

It really helped spending time in the school, getting to know staff and parents and kids and seeing the place he was all day. It made me feel comfortable.

It was great realizing I wasn't the only one. Every other parent was new to this, too, even those who had older kids seemed new to this and a little nervous the first few days. Talk to people. Get to know them. Ask questions. It's good to connect. Attend a PTO meeting if you can. It's a good resource.


You aren't alone in how you feel. It's OK to be worried, anxious, scared, even upset that your little one is heading off to the big K. I get it. It's OK to have a zillion questions about how you're both going to get through this.

Have patience with yourself. You will get through this and it's going to be GREAT. More than great. I promise. You'll see this soon. In the meantime, cry, hold her a little tighter, spend some time together one on one with him if you want. Relish this time together. And then prepare yourself for a difficult first day, full of tears and excitement. And then rush to school to pick him up and embrace him, and just soak it all in. Listen to her and hear how great it was and what she learned. And if he's crying or sad about leaving you, do what you've done since he was born and encourage him, support him, and lead him the way there, because you know it's right, it's good and it's what is going to be the stepping stone to him becoming who he's supposed to be someday... this awesome kid that YOU got to this point of being ready for Kindergarten and learning and growth.

You can do this, Momma. I promise you can.

Love,
A fellow mom, sending her first grader to school this year, crazy how time flies





keeping up with summer learning

Summer is a time for fun in the sun! I love that part about summer. But now that I have a kiddo in elementary school (and because I know how important it is from working in a school myself) I realize  that we need to keep some learning happening in these awesome summer months.

There is a thing the educators refer to as the "summer slide." It's proven that kids LOSE what they learned from last year in school if you don't keep them reading, writing, doing math, and overall learning in the summer. They can slide back a few reading levels. It's not fair! What works is just keeping them active in the routine of doing some school type work. It doesn't even have to be tons, but keeping them practicing what they learned and pushing a little forward helps keep them ready and active for the fall when they need to be ON for hours a day.


Here are some ideas for helping your little one continue with learning in the summer months:

  • READ READ READ- There are a thousand ways to get reading in during the summer time. A few ideas:
    • Sign up for the Barnes and Noble reading program (they read 5 books, write down the titles, visit the store to pick out a NEW book for FREE)! Easy and good incentive.
    • Sign up for your local library's summer reading program. My kids do this every summer, for FREE. It's so easy and they love it. They earn prizes weekly for reading in the summer. They earned free Subway food gift cards and Sea Dogs baseball game tickets, too. Check it out! 
    • Attend summer reading programs at the library. They always have reading story hours that are short, sweet and interactive and count as reading for your kiddos. 
    • Pick out books at the library. 
    • Visit book stores. 
    • Attend used book sales at libraries- just about every library around does this, and it's SO fun to see your kiddo getting excited about picking out a new book.
    • Make up stories together at night before bed - you start the story and have your child add to it. It's like reading. 
    • Go back through your book shelf. Pick out favorite books and books to donate, but read them all before they head out. 
    • I saved all the little paper books my son's Kindergarten teacher sent home this spring so we could re-read them in the summer. I'm so glad I thought to do this in May so we'd have some to keep around, at my son's level. It's been GREAT practice. 
    • Find words when you're out and about- at the store, driving (Stop signs, etc.), at the movies, etc. Ask your child to spell them out and talk about them. 
    • Give them books to occupy them on long car rides.
    • Get some Apps for those iPads that help them with reading and figuring out letters. 
    • Give them new magnetic alphabet letters to work with on the fridge while you're cooking.
  • DON'T FORGET MATH!
    • Measure things when cooking.
    • Count cucumbers at the farm stand
    • Line up rocks and toss them in the water while counting. 
    • When driving ask your kids to count to 10, 20, 100.
    • Get flash cards to count items. 
    • Count using Legos.
  • RESOURCES - Target dollar bin has tons of workbooks that I've used the last few summers. They have great pages that help my son do writing, reading, math numbers, etc. And I'm not a teacher, so these help me in knowing what he should be doing. There are great flash cards to make it more like a game. There are white boards to give them a more creative way of learning to write letters or do math. Dollar Tree has great workbooks also. 
  • ROUTINE & FLEXIBILITY - It's helped us to try to do it routinely as part of our morning time. I don't do it daily, but strive to during the week. We eat breakfast, brush teeth, then sit back down for a short time of school work (no more than 30 minutes is what I can get out of a 4 and 6 year old, and the 4 year old it's really just for fun to do what her brother is doing, tracing letters, etc.). It's easy for them to expect it if it's the same type of time/routine each time you do it. But also have flexibility. There are mornings where we're heading to the beach and I'm making lunches and we're crunched for time to go do something fun, so it's all good to skip it. Just try to do it more than you don't do it. 
  • OUTSIDE LEARNING- Remember the BEST learning happens out of the house or classroom - where they are LEARNING real things they will use. Remember to go for hikes or nature walks, do experiments or let them explore new areas, learn to swim or bike or build something outside. My son is all into catching bugs this summer. So we could then go to the library and get books about bugs to make it interesting. It doesn't all have to be pen and paper. 


The biggest suggestion I have heard is DON'T get too into the summer school work and learning that you forget that you're supposed to give the kids a break in the summer. They need time off, so do you, and that's GOOD and OK. Just remember to keep some learning happening so that they don't get totally off the school track.

I've noticed even more things beyond math and reading skills happening with my son this summer. For him, it's about reminding him how to sit still at the table, listen to directions, pay attention to something kinda boring for a while, and to keep trying even when he doesn't get it... all skills he'll use on day one in first grade this fall. It's about patience and working hard, responsibility and growing.

So getting them in the routine of working hard this summer to keep it up from what the teachers did so well last year, it's a great way to set them up for the fall's learning that will happen.

Happy learning!


more summer pregnancy survival tips

This whole pregnant in the summer thing is a whole new ball game, I tell people. It's nothing like when I had the first trimester in the summer with my first February due date baby or when I got pregnant in August so went right into the fall with morning sickness. No, this third trimester starting in June all the way through September is a crazy freaking ride, that's for sure. It's HOT. I mean HOT. I'm serious, I've never sweat so much in my life. It's nuts.

And yet I tell people I can't complain much since I've spent most of my summer near cool water and with ocean breezes, working only once a week typically in the summer since I work in a school. To the third trimester summer mommas who work every day out of the house, man, I am sending you popsicles or something.

Regardless of what you do or where you are in the summer during the third trimester, it's hot and it's difficult, more difficult than the winter pregnancies, I'd say. In the winter, I was nervous about falling on ice and snow. The large sweaters and pants were hard to put on and off daily, as were shoes with swollen feet. But other than that, winter pregnancy was far easier than this summer thing.


Here are some real tips to help you survive and keep your cool during the last trimester in the heat: 

  • SWIM SUIT - Get a comfortable and cute bathing suit because you will live in it. Not kidding. Something that doesn't bug you or feel uncomfortable. Something that holds the top in and grows with you as you grow. In fact, get a few different size tops if you must, so you're ready for whatever size you become. Get something that makes you feel good about yourself, too, because we know that as we grow sometimes we are uncomfortable with our body image.... and in the summer it's ALL out there and not covered by big sweaters. So enjoy it with a cute suit. 
  • GO FOR COMFORT - When shopping for summer clothing, look for comfort versus just style. Granted, we're lucky these days, the comfy things are also super adorable to wear now, thankfully! I got some awesome tank tops at Old Navy that I've lived in this summer. I found some regular Nike shorts and just bought them in a larger size, sports shorts have been my lifesaver this summer, they're so comfortable, especially when heading out with the kids. Big flowing dresses are great and keep you cool, too. It's all about staying cooler.
  • RESTROOMS ONLY - This is something I've realized is super important - only go places where there are bathrooms. You remember the third trimester right? When it's all pushing on your bladder? Yeah, not fun. Now times that by 100 in the summer, because that's how much MORE water you're drinking in the summer to stay hydrated so you're peeing even more... so, you need to stick by lakes and oceans with bathrooms. It makes life easier.
  • HYDRATE - It's so important in pregnancy to drink enough water, but in the summer time t's even more of a necessity. I made sure I had plenty of larger water bottles with me. It's important to take one or two with you everywhere you go. For me, when I knew I was going to the beach or outside all day I'd make sure I drank at least 3 huge glasses of water before I even left the house, enough time to use the bathroom and feel like I started the day hydrated. On really hot days, it was helpful to drink some Vitamin Waters to nourish myself with vitamins that were needed when we were dehydrating. Hydration is important for keeping the swelling down, which happens more in the summer time, too, as well as avoiding contractions and early labor issues. Go buy yourself a fancy new water bottle to help yourself feel cool.
  • EAT LIGHT - Regardless of pregnancy, in the summer there are hot days where we don't feel quite like eating our normal meals. It's too hot to cook! I don't think I've made more than like 5 meals all summer. I'm not kidding (thank you husband and take out restaurants!). So eat lighter items like salads, sandwiches, fruit, smoothies, watermelon, popsicles, and even cereal. I've had tons of cereal for dinner this summer because it was all I wanted. Pasta salad is a great alternative too. It's OK to avoid cooking, too. Go out to eat more, it's all good, just make healthy choices while there. Snack frequently so you don't have to sit for a big meal that makes you hotter.
  • INDULGE - Ice cream is your friend, and it's OK to indulge this summer while pregnant. I've had a fair amount of ice cream this summer. At night I crave something icy cold so I've tried some fruity organic popsicle things that are actually ok for you instead of more sugary ice cream. But when I'm out and about and sweating, yes, ice cream is a great thing! When else can you really indulge like this? Baby likes it. 
  • REST - In the summer we swell normally, even when not pregnant. So while pregnant on hot days, it's important to get your rest. Take naps if you can. Definitely put your feet up more to decrease natural heat swelling. I do this each night, take a cool shower and then lotion up my belly and feet and lay down with feet raised. It's a good time to just take a load off. 
  • SUNBLOCK - You are susceptible to different burns and the sun affecting you in different ways when pregnant, so make sure you always have sunblock on and with you to reapply. Especially if you already have kids, this is really important to make sure you remember. Put it on BEFORE you leave the house, otherwise you'll forget, busy watching the kiddos. 
  • HIT THE SHADE - Because we overheat while pregnant (I heard that pregnant women feel things 10 degrees HOTTER than what the temperature is for everyone else, yikes!) it's important to stay more in the shade in the summer than in the sunshine. Bring a big sun hat, sit under a tree for shade, and get some umbrellas to keep you a little cooler. Also, I've noticed some skin pigmentation on my face this summer from the sun and being pregnant, it doesn't mix well for skin sometimes I guess and it makes these weird blotches on your face. A hat and more sunscreen helps this.
  • SLOW DOWN - You already know that while in the third trimester you aren't running any marathons. You have to slow down physically without it even being a choice since you're carrying more weight, feeling lightheaded sometimes, perhaps blood pressure concerns, etc. In the summer, I feel like you need to slow down even more because of all the heat around you and in your body. So just walk a little slower. Get comfy shoes and try your best to do what you want to do, but with taking smaller steps and giving yourself more time to get there.
  • GET OUT EARLY - Back in June when I was only like 6 months pregnant I knew I wanted to do all the fun outdoor amusement park type activities with my kids early on in the summer before I got too tired, big and hot to do them later in the summer. Man, am I glad we did that! We went to a water park and to Story Land and all kinds of activities earlier in the summer. By the end of July I could feel myself needing to slow down physically, being way too hot and getting crabby and having stomach issues if I were out in the sun too long. So my advice is to get outside early in the morning for fun activities. Try to avoid being at the beach past noon, morning is much cooler and the sun is less dangerous then and you can head home for an afternoon rest perhaps. Also, earlier in the season is best. It's less hot in June than it is in August typically, so if you're planning a trip or camping or an amusement park day head out in early July versus late August if you can. 
  • SWEATY- Yup, it's just a fact of life for all of us in the summer, but specifically us who are large and pregnant. Just pack deodorant with you in the summer. I never need to take it with me otherwise, but this summer I notice I'm sweating more and so it is a must-have in my purse. It's all good.
  • STAY INSIDE - On those really hot days, it's OK to take a day off and stay indoors. Indulge in TV and AC, or get some nesting done around the house in the cool air instead of heading outside. 
  • AC- Mine have been turned on and full blast since like May, I swear. And you know what, that's OK. I've never and never will again run the ACs like I have this summer. I know it's not great for the world and electricity or my bill... but this summer, it's all good and we are needing to do this, keep the momma bear cool. My poor husband has a cold and sleeps with a winter blanket on his side of the bed... but I'm all nice and cool with the air conditioner!


Granted it's not all that bad when you're pregnant and near the end of the process in the summer. It's good to remember some of the good things, too.

Here are my FAVORITE parts about being pregnant in the summer:

  • FLIP FLOPS- OH MY WORD amazing! I cannot imagine being pregnant again and having to wear real shoes, especially near the end. Wearing flip flops since like 5 months pregnant until the end... that's a DREAM COME TRUE. No tying shoes. No buying another size bigger shoe because you're stretching out your typical shoes. No squeezing into boots. It's amazing. I LOVE flip flops. 
  • CUTE CLOTHES- I am loving the flowy dresses and simple outfits of summer. Tank top and shorts, voila, and I'm ready. Versus in the winter, it's like a tank top or t-shirt underneath a big sweater and larger pants with the huge belly covering thing, and socks and shoes and ... it's just easier to get dressed in the summer. Also, the skirts and dresses are SO cute these days. 
  • SHORT-LIVED - Remember that if you're pregnant in the summer, it's only a few months, promise. It'll be over before you know it, whereas winter is a bit longer and if you don't like winter that can be hard. 
  • WATER - I can live in water if I want to this summer. I put my beach chair in the ocean sometimes! I love that I can get out somewhere to get cool if I want to. It's perfect. 
The very best thing about being pregnant in the summer is realizing other women get it, they will support and encourage you and empathize with what you're going through. I've had SO many women this summer look at me with a smile, while I'm HOT and large and outdoors with my kids at the park or playground or store or beach and they stop me and smile and say "I get it, I was there, too, I'm with you, sister, hang in there, it's almost over, you can do this" or "How are you holding up in this heat? I'm thinking of you." It's incredible. Like countless women have said this to me, at least 10 strangers have stopped me to say this. It's wonderful. It's like this camaraderie that I didn't know existed among moms. I love being a part of that. They are saying to me: "You have every right to complain if you want about this heat, cause it sucks and you're big and tired and it's OK to complain. You can do it though, we did it, I've been there, and I know. But I also know it ends and you won't be hot forever and big forever. Keep up the good work, Momma." I loooove this. Women are super kind and supportive. So when you get these looks from moms in the summer, know they mean well and are supporting you and rooting you on. Say thanks and smile and appreciate their encouragement. 


Stay cool, moms! You CAN do this :)



Dear 6 1/2 year old Owen,

Dear Owen who is now 6.5,
You are at the best age ever right now. People told me 6 was awesome, and they were right. You are all hilarious, coming up with big words you heard somewhere and coming up with things to say to us that just astound us. You are SO smart. Like really smart. And we are amazed by it all the time. Kindergarten was the best thing in the world for you. I was so nervous sending you, and yet I found within two days you were so happy there, loving every second, soaking up all the great things you could learn there. It was awesome hearing about your days. We are so proud of you.


You love math. You can whip through several pages without flinching. It's so cool to see, especially since I've never been great at math. Seeing you loving school is the best thing I've seen this year with you. You LOVE it. You run into the building and can't wait to get started. I LOVE that and hope so much that we can continue that excitement for years to come. You read to us now, too. It's awesome. The best thing I've ever heard is your voice sounding out letters and words. It's astonishing how fast you picked up the language. Wow. My big growing boy.

You build crazy amazing things out of Legos. Every time you ask me to come see what you made, I put down what I'm doing, knowing it's important to you and also that you have made this awesome thing I just HAVE to see. I love it. Again, mostly because Legos weren't my thing. I can't create anything to save my life. But you, this little 6 year old body (excuse me, 6 and a Half) can do the coolest things with just a box of colored blocks. It's so great. I love this phase.


Your favorite food is still of course ice cream, and chips. You loooooove peanut butter sandwiches most of all, as in you could eat them daily. And you practically did all Kindergarten school year- peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (you complained about the jelly, not understanding why they can't just give you peanut butter like we do at home!) with chocolate milk ("No, Mom I didn't get too hyper with the sugar in the chocolate milk!" you'd tell me when I'd roll my eyes about another chocolate milk experience I could not control.). 

You learned SO much at soccer, basketball (your best sport! love it!) and baseball this year. It was light years improvement from last year, so focused and able to do these awesome things in the games. We're so proud of how big you are and what you're learning to do. 


You are still obsessed with tractors and trucks, John Deere and sand. You dig in the sandbox every chance you get at home. You bring trucks to the beach with you. You make me feel still like despite how tall you are (off the charts, still, and people think you're like 9 years old, wearing size 8/10 clothing!) that you are still my little boy in that big boy body. It makes me stop and memorize what you are doing and playing with, because I know someday you won't be this small and playing with trucks. I told Dad the other day that the moment you stop pushing trucks around my kitchen and living room is the day I'll cry realizing you're too grown up. Hopefully that's a long ways away. I love your creativity and interest in all things that move.

You are a mover and it's the best thing about you. You always keep going forward, looking for the next thing to create and believe in. I love that about you.


I love how goofy you are. I love that you've lost 3 teeth and can't speak the same anymore, it's the cutest thing in the world. Your smile lights up my world, still, 6 1/2 years later. It always has. I love that every night you ask me to tell you a Once Upon A Time Story. We make things up about pirates and sports and tractors and dragons and castles and tractors. It's so fun. We've been reading Roald Dahl books together... that's my favorite time. The Twits was our first and it was hilarious. You snuggle up to me like we did when you were a baby with bed time stories. I love that. I hope that never changes. 

You talk about our baby all the time. You can't wait to be a big brother again. You drive your sister nuts, but then you are best buds and looking out for each other all the time, too, so it's great. It makes me really happy. 

You're doing awesome, Pal. We are really proud of you. Keep growing... I can't wait to see what you (we) learn in first grade this year!

Love, Mama













Saturday, August 13, 2016

exploring the Isles of Shoals, Star Island

I've wanted to go on a boat ride out to the Isles of Shoals and Star Island for a few years now. It was such a fun adventure we did about a month or so ago! I recommend everyone take a trip out there if you are near the area to Portsmouth, NH. It's a fun day trip. We were out there for about 4 hours total. I'd say that's enough with kids, as there isn't much to do but walk around a lot. It's worth the trip, but not sure I'd want to be there longer.




The island is gorgeous! We had a beautiful day out there. The boat ride was smooth and with a nice breeze. The weather on this day was like 95 degrees on land, so I was glad to get out into the water.



This main building above is fun to check out and see up close. There is a huge porch that runs the width of the building, with many rocking chairs. If I'd been solo, I'd have pulled up a chair, drank a lemonade and read a book for hours. Such a relaxing spot!



There's a tiny playground and a basketball court with balls there that could keep kids busy for a bit. We packed a picnic lunch for outside in the grassy area when we got there, but they do have a snack shop inside with minimal offerings like ice cream, hot dogs, lobster rolls in mid-season, snacks, etc. It's only open certain hours though, so prepare with bringing snacks.



The touch tank building was worth visiting with kids. They loved it! They got to pick up a lot of sea life- urchins, starfish, etc.









We walked around visiting around the island, checking out some of the little cottage buildings. It didn't take long to see most of it. Sneakers helped though!










This snack area was inside the large white building. I had a delicious smoothie!



The kids and I found a cute beach area to find TONS of sea glass. Tons! It was awesome. Bring a sandwich bag or something to put them in!


Some things to bring with you:

  • Wear sneakers. It's not tons, but it is walking for the kids and it's rocky since it's an island so it was easy to walk with sneakers. 
  • Lots of water and snacks. Pack a lunch if you want! 
  • Bring a container or baggy for the sea glass or shells you may find.
  • Camera- such a gorgeous spot to take photos.
  • Sunblock, but also sweatshirts. I was told to bring sweatshirts because it gets cooler out in the water on the boat and on the island. This particular day we didn't need them, but I'd packed long sleeve shirts in the backpack. Sunblock for sure, it's sunny!
  • Parking in Portsmouth is I think $5 at the boat so have cash for that. 


It was a beautiful day out in the ocean. I'm so glad we visited!



Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Mom of the Month - Morgan Hotham

I am excited to feature this hard working, dedicated SUPER momma our August Mom of the Month, Morgan Hotham, mom of a busy (adorable!!!) two year old boy. She has the craziest birth story of strength and overcoming disappointments of how feeding ended up, and awesome advice to all moms: you do you. Love it!

Thank you for sharing with us, Morgan, and congratulations!


Images shared from Morgan Hotham


1. Describe your children in 3-5 words. How did you choose their names?
BUSY, Funny, Sweet. His name: A few years ago my sister and I were travelling to Kentucky to visit family. During a layover we were sitting in a small waiting area with many other people. There was a sweet little girl there with her Mom, and she was running through the terminal. I hadn't been paying much attention, but as the toddler ran off I heard her Mom yell "Sullivan! Wait!" I looked at my sister and said, "Sullivan. What a cool name." I never forgot it after that. When we found out we were pregnant a few months later, we decided that whether it were a girl or boy we would use the name Sullivan- Sully for short. Once we found out we were having a little boy, we chose the middle name Steven after my Father. Sullivan Steven Hotham
2. How old are your children? How did you tell people you were expecting a baby?
He just turned 2 in May. How, I am not sure. When they tell you time flies, it's so, so true... We were so excited (and a bit shocked- 1 try was all it took!) that we told our parents right away. My Father-in -law had brought us over some tomatoes from their garden a day earlier, and my parents had said they would like some. We stopped at their house first with a paper bag of tomatoes, and a positive pregnancy test inside. I remember my Dad being upstairs doing something, and after my Mom yelling to him several times to come down, we grew impatient and told her to open the bag. After some screaming and a few tears, she had to pull it together for when my Dad came downstairs and we told him to look in the bag. Lots of excitement! Then we headed to the in-laws to tell them there was something wrong with the tomatoes they had given us... they didn't look quite right... I will never forget my Father-in-law wielding my pee stick around and sticking it up to his face to see the two pink lines Lindsay, who nominated me for this, found out the same day I took my first test. I was in such disbelief that I stopped at Target on my way into work and bought about 5 tests, then locked myself in the bathroom at work. After the first 2 I realized it was real, and I stuck one up my sleeve, walked down to her office (we worked together at the time) and set it on her desk. I am sure my face said it all!
3. How would you describe your pregnancies? How was delivery, birth and labor for you?
My pregnancy was a dream. I only gained about 20 pounds (which has stuck around... ugh!) and was in great health. I am normally a pretty sick person, sinus infections... strep throat, colds, you name it. Other than a rogue stomach virus I was not sick once during my entire pregnancy. I was super lucky and had zero morning sickness. My belly was small so I wasn't overly uncomfortable. I will never forget the nurse who took my weight around my 36 week checkup and said "wow, I don't know where it is, because you definitely do not look like you weigh that!" God bless her. 
As a first time Mom, I was so anxious to meet our baby. When I went in for my 40 week checkup, there was nothing going on. I was nervous and scared, so when the Doctor said she could schedule me for an induction 2 days later, I said yes. 
We arrived at the hospital the morning of May 29, 2014 and I had been having contractions for about 7 hours. I was hoping things had advanced a little, but no dice. 0. They induced me around 7 a.m. After about 6 hours and no movement, I remember looking at my Mom when contemplating an epidural and her saying the words that let me give in "you don't have to be a martyr." The epidural had to be inserted 3 different times as it only took to one side of my body. After it was in place, I found some comfort and was able to rest. I think the rest of it is a blur... my husband is usually the one to recount the in-betweens. 
I remember my last check at about 11:30 p.m. when I was FINALLY dilated and ready to push. The doctor had left and gone home, so they called him back in. I started pushing and had to stop because he was coming quickly. After 15 minutes, our beautiful 7 lb. boy was here. We had some family time, then invited the anxiously awaiting extended family into the room. Tears, happiness, and French fries and a milkshake for Mama. After everyone went home and it was just the three of us, we settled in. 
The nurse came to check on me and started the wonderful process of pushing on your belly- which resulted in a lot of blood. I could tell by the look on the nurses face that it was alarming. She went to get another nurse, and another push on the belly resulted in more blood. A lot more. I remember looking down and thinking "this is not good." I looked over at my husband holding our son, and saw his face go white. Then things went into panic mode. The doctor had once again left, and they called him to come back as soon as he could. They called in anesthesia who once again tried to insert an epidural into my swollen back- no go. The doctor came in and spoke to me, telling me he needed to bring me into surgery as I was losing a lot of blood and they needed to see what was happening. My husband was crying. I was scared. I remember the Doctor and the anesthesiologist fighting, as I had already eaten food and they did not want to do local anesthesia but had no other option. They wheeled me out and for the first time in my life I honestly thought I would not make it. 
The doctor discovered I had a blood clot the size of a football in my uterus. They were able to remove it in surgery and actually recycle the blood to transfuse back into my body (isn't medicine amazing?!) This enabled me to avoid a blood transfusion. I remember waking up, immediately asking for my baby, and then only a few hours later saying "hey, so what happened?" as my poor Father stared at me from across the room with tears in his eyes. I spent 4 days in the hospital on iron drips, etc. Although terrifying, it was totally a freak thing. Nothing particular caused the clot, I don't have any medical problems or clotting issues. My birth story is not one I often offer up to pregnant friends or family as it's one of those "Oh God!!" stories that is totally just a fluke.

4. Describe yourself as a mom in 3-5 words.
Loving, Careful, Worrisome. I'd like to think Fun and Compassionate fit in there, too!
5. What type of mom do you hope your children think you were someday when they're old enough to tell you?
I hope Sully knows how very much I love him, and how I always want nothing but the best for him. Being a Mom is definitely one of the things you can't fully understand until you live it yourself. I look back at all the times I thought my Mom was crazy, or over protective, or too harsh- and I get it. I totally get it. Waiting up at night worrying. Crying over my own heartbreaks. This little human is an extension of your heart living outside your body. You feel so much for them, and with them. I hope he knows that everything I do... day in and day out, is for him. And that I am cool. Right? I am a cool Mom. Yeah...
6. What things have you done as a mom that you're most proud of? 
I look at my son and see how smart, happy, and silly he is... and I know that is from me (and my husband!) He uses his manners. He is caring. He is adventurous. He takes in everything around him. That being said, he is also a 2-year old boy, but hey. Can't win them all. So far he has amazed us with just how awesome he is, and while I give him most of the credit for being his own amazing little self, I know we helped in that. And it's so cool to watch.
7. What have been the most difficult parts to being a mom?
The thing I struggle with most is giving in. I am totally the push-over, which I would have NEVER in a million years expected pre-baby. I don't know what it is, but that little boy does no wrong in my eyes. This infuriates my husband (ha!) and we are working on coming together on this. It's a struggle as we have come to learn our parenting styles are very different. All the things you talk about when you are dating, or first married, about how you will raise your children... where you stand on this issues, or that issue... it all goes out the window when that baby is really here. It's hard. It's taxing on a marriage. But we are trying to work on understanding each other better and finding compromises.
8. What is your favorite baby/child product(s) that makes your mom job easier?
As a baby, I would definitely say the Rock-n-Play was a life saver! It's the thing I most often recommend to my expecting friends. As a toddler, I would say apps. Maybe that sounds bad... I feel like it does. Ugh. Mommy guilt. But really, apps are awesome, or even YouTube (with supervision, of course!) There are so many great learning videos and games that have really helped my son grow. He knows all of his letters, can count (almost) up to 20, know his colors and is currently learning shapes (have you ever heard a 2 year old say PENTAGON? Um, so cute!) We do a lot of work with alphabet magnets, flash cards, books, etc. but his time on the iPad definitely contributes. We limit his screen time, but he really enjoys playing and learning.
9. What advice about being a mom would you give to a brand new mother?
Be kind to yourself. Seriously. Everywhere you go, everything you do, someone is going to offer their input or make comments. Take it at face value, but do what's best for you. YOU know your baby better than ANYONE else. It's ok if you do things differently. It's ok if your way isn't the "norm." You do you. It makes for a happier baby and a happier Mama.
10. What is a typical day like for you?
Ugh, I'm tired even thinking about typing it! We wake up at 5:30 (yup, every day, even on the weekends...) and my husband and I get ready for work. We are extremely lucky that Sully only needs to go to daycare 2 days a week, and my amazing parents moved their work schedules around to be able to stay with him the other 3. So, depending on the day, we either drop him off at daycare or at my parents house around 7:20, then head off to work. We both get out of work around 5, I pick him up, we head home. Let the dog out, change, and (right now) head outside to play for a bit. As soon as my husband is home, I go inside and start dinner. Dinner usually happens around 6:30. Cleanup, bath time, 1 TV show, then we play with toys or read books to wind down before bed. Bedtime is generally between 7:30 and 8. IF there is no fighting or crying... I then make lunch and prepare things for the next day. Finally, we can usually sit down on the couch by about 8:30- enough time to watch 1 TV show before we are both falling asleep on the couch, then mosey into the bedroom. Repeat endlessly.
11. What 5 things would you like to do with your kids someday, if anything were possible and money no object?
1) Travel- often, and everywhere. 2) Have them meet their deceased relatives and all the people who are no longer here, but love them so much. 3) Have a farm. It's a weird dream I've always had... living off the land, having a bunch of animals to love and care for. Big gardens. I think there is so much to learn and it's very humbling. 4) Stay home for a while. I do love my career and being a working Mom, but can't help but feel like I miss out sometimes. I wish I could choose to stay home for a few months out of the year just to live the day to day "stuff." 5) (I am struggling with #5... everything keeps coming back to cool trips and life experiences!)
12. What are your favorite things to do in the fall? What is your favorite part about "going back to school" season?
Fall is my absolute favorite. Like, I literally LIVE for fall. The cool weather, pumpkin everything, beautiful foliage... crisp air. I am sitting here daydreaming about it right now. I have loved fall for as long as I can remember- football games, the start of a new school year, apple picking. And of course the BEST thing about fall is HALLOWEEN. The BEST HOLIDAY EVER. I have been nicknamed "the Queen of Halloween." It's serious.
13. Tell us a time where you felt like you failed at parenting... but then realized you truly had not failed, things worked out fine.
I was super hard on myself about breastfeeding. After birth, my body was really weak. I was taking all kinds of vitamins and supplements daily to help my iron and blood levels stay normal, and I was having a really hard time producing milk. I pumped, he fed, but it was never enough. When I was in surgery, I was out for 12+ hours. He needed to eat, and was given formula. I felt so guilty that I wasn't there for him and that he never really "had a chance" to bond in that way with me right after birth. He has always been small (just hit the 5% mark at his 2 year check up!) and I have always wondered if it were my doing. Would he be bigger, or a better eater, better sleeper, if I had been able to breastfeed? I know all of those things are silly. Things have worked out fine, and he is a smart, healthy little boy. Fed is always best.


14. What makes you a strong mom?
Moms are superheroes. I am convinced of it. We just power through, no matter what. No matter how tired, or sick, or overwhelmed... we just do it. It's totally a superpower. 
I think what makes me a strong Mom is just that- knowing that no matter what, I will do what is best for my child. His needs always come first. His health, happiness, and well-being is my #1 priority. I want him to be a well-rounded and engaged individual. I want him to contribute to society, be happy, and strong. That is what keeps me going and inspires me to be my best.
15. Anything else you want to add?
I am so thankful for this group and all of you wonderful Mommies. The insight, recommendations, and wisdom I have picked up over the last 2+ years is tremendous. I love that everyone is caring and supportive, and also up to offering alternatives. It really does take a village and I am so thankful to be a part of it.