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Friday, August 30, 2013

book - Bloom by Kelle Hampton

Bloom - Finding beauty in the unexpected by Kelle Hampton

This was one of the best, most emotional, sweetest memoirs I've ever read. Kelle Hampton is also author of the blog Enjoying the Small Things, www.kellehampton.com.

I have been obsessed with her blog since I found it at least a year ago. She is everything I want to be:

1. An incredibly devoted, dedicated, fun loving and Super Star mother.
2. Amazing photographer, like the best photos EVER of just little tiny feet or cereal bowls and everyday life.
3. Sweetest, most heartfelt and heartbreakingly real and honest writer. She's written not only an awesome blog that I savor every second of every word I read when she posts something new, but also a book. I've always wanted to write a book.
4. She's also the coolest, most confident and sassy, best-dressed woman around.

I look at her photos and read her words and think, "Man, I just want to be her friend! Why can't I meet her at a play group?!" She seems so FUN.

Read one post of her blog. I swear you'll fall in love in seconds. Her kids are so incredibly sweet.


I've had her book, Bloom, on my reading list for a year now. Having a new baby and a second one at that was a challenging year, so no reading for me. The second I got on this year's summer vacation from work though I ordered up Bloom and was so eager to read. It's taken me weeks to get through, sort of savoring every chapter like I do with her blog but also because summer is a busy time with family, making me fall asleep within moments of hitting the pillow.

It's an honest, raw, emotional, up and down roller coaster of a book. It's the sweetest book I've ever read though in terms of family meaning everything and overcoming huge and frightening obstacles. Hampton is so honest in this book. And as you all know from other posts I've done on my own blog, honest moms are my FAVORITE. I admire people who let it all hang out, no shame, no worry about judgment, no hiding their truths. Hampton does just this.

The book is filled with her incredible photos also, so flipping through the pages is even more fun than just reading a book.


Hampton starts by describing the birth of her daughter, Nella, who unexpectedly was born with Down syndrome. The book is about the first year of Nella's life, the pain and disappointment, the hurt, the worries and fears, and ultimately the growth and joy Hampton found with this diagnosis and her new daughter.

On page 54, she describes what it was like in the beginning. "And what is it about perfection that makes it so appealing? The white picket fence, the polished image of Ken & Barbie and their perfect Skippers who are pretty and smart and heterosexual? What is it about different that makes us think it's not perfect? We set the bar higher and higher, and what is it we strive for, and once we reach it - this perfection - what have we achieved? It's never enough. Through pain and growth, I have come to appreciate - no more than that - I've come to love my fence, even though it may be different from the neighbors'. The concept of perfection is not flawless or ripped from a magazine. It's happiness. Happiness with all its messiness and not-quite-thereness. Its' knowing that life is short, and the moments we choose to fill our cup with should be purposeful and rich. That we should be present for life, that we should drink deeply. And that's perfection."

The title of the book is explained at the start of chapter 3. Hampton wrote that  

"Healing is a bit like watching a flower bloom. You don't really know when it's going to happen, and despite the fact that you might be sitting there in front of barren ground attempting to will a bare stem to blossom, it doesn't happen on command. 

"No, it is gradual. Like time-lapse photography. And as you are sitting, waiting, pleading for growth, you eventually begin to forget that you are waiting until suddenly, days later, you look and behold ... a bloom."


Hampton chronicles in detail her struggle, courage and devastation as she feared the worst about her new daughter's diagnosis of Down syndrome. They had not taken any tests while she was pregnant, so therefore were caught off guard when they realized she had Down the day she was born. Adjusting to this news and how it may change her family's life was a struggle at best. The way she describes every moment, experience, change is beautiful. I literally cried several times reading this story.


Another large theme in this book, in addition to overcoming obstacles and accepting something different as beautiful, is that of friendship. She has a large group of women friends - she calls them the Net - that stand by her, support her, and are always there for her. It made me want to call up all of my great friends and suggest a girls' night. She expresses several times in the book how she would not have gotten through such a trying time without her friends around her telling her it would be OK.

Her sister was one such friend who helped encourage her in those difficult early days after Nella was born.  

"She said I was lucky - that I'd been offered a shortcut to what life is all about when some people search for it their whole lives and never know."

She researched (chances of leukemia, eye problems, Alzheimer's, seizures, surgeries and heart problems are common with Down), talked to doctors and friends about Down. She wrote her daughter's birth story as a blog post and shared it with the world. She started to change how she viewed what had happened to their family as something positive instead of a challenge.

On page 137 she wrote, "Things were slowly shifting as my perspective tilted toward seeing my child having Down syndrome less as an obstacle and more as an opportunity. An opportunity to bloom where we are planted. And if that was the beginning of my story, then this was going to be one hell of a good one." 


I love how Hampton described this process of letting go of her fear and her worry about her daughter with Down syndrome and instead embraced it as part of her new life.

On page 206 she wrote, "Grappling with any new challenge in life is like learning to swim. In the beginning, it damn near feels like you're drowning. But you exhaustedly flail and flap and kick to survive. Slowly, you learn to tread water, and though moving forward might mean clutching the wall of the pool like a toddler and scrambling your fingers along the edge, you move. Eventually you tread water and graduate to new strokes, and finally, after flailing and flapping, after clambering and slowly scooting, after experimenting with backstrokes and breaststrokes, you find the current and let go."

You can see the metamorphosis of this mom with an unexpected health challenge and special needs daughter into a confident, strong woman who can handle anything the future has in store for her. In every word she writes, you can feel her pain and really associate with her life, even if you can't really relate to what she's gone through. I adored every second of this book. I want to read it over again... which that's a huge compliment, since as a mom myself I rarely have time to read something once!

On page 235 Hampton wrote, "The thing is, we don't really know what the future looks like. And that thought takes my breath away just as much as it calms me into a place where I am forced to enjoy this very moment." 

On page 237, she wrote,  

"Pain has a way of pulling you forward to a surprising place of, 'I didn't know I had it in me,' and while you think there is no way you will ever make it through in the beginning, you do."

She fundraised money for Down syndrome research. Her lofty goal was $15,000. She raised that in ONE DAY. So she moved on and end up raising $105,000. She continues every year with this fundraiser on the birth of her daughter Nella.

Through reaching out to the Down community and to her friends and family, she finally is able to let go of grief and fear and just love, love, love her new family with Nella in it, challenges and all.

On page 252 she wrote, "We take efforts to make moments like exchanging vows or celebrating a high school reunion memorable and worth of praise, and yet how many more events in our life are laudable occasions?"


She continued to say,

"Because once a long time ago I had a white picket fence, but it fell down. And while I didn't choose the crazy-colored one that was erected in its place, I had grown to love it. I wouldn't change it for anything in the world, and if there's one thing I've learned, it's that you can never ever go wrong with vibrant color." 

This book started out with a quote by Mary Oliver, my FAVORITE quote ever that I recall from graduate school when I was studying to become a counselor. It sums up this entire book, really.

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"


Beautiful photography and writing from a wonderful person - or so she seems, I've never met her, although I hope to someday. One can wish! She's like my blogging-photographer-mom idol out there in Florida where she lives.

I admire her not just for her talents though of writing a book and successful blog. I really admire her strength and courage - for sharing her deepest sorrows and shortcomings when it came to the birth of her daughter with Down, for sharing her growth toward acceptance and true love with Nella.

It takes a strong, confident woman to be able to look the world in the eye and say, "This is me, all of me, and whatever you think is OK with me, because I know there is more love out there than bad."

It's a great read. I really recommend you pick this one up at the book store.

It's always nice to support a fellow mom in her journey. All of our experiences are so different, yet universally the same. 

Even comparing my life to that of a woman with a child with Down syndrome, I found I could relate so well to her experience. Isn't that the wonderful thing about mothers? We are so cool like that.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

cloth diapers 101 - a learning curve

The Cloth Diapers 101 series continues with another couple of weeks of me trying cloth at home. Here are a few of the fun adventures we've been on lately, and a little less but still a good amount of me complaining about the stink around here!


GREAT DEAL
I found an awesome deal on a cloth gDiaper ($10) at a kids' consignment store in New York when visiting my sister. It's this cutie cream colored one. Love it. It's even better that it still had tags on and wasn't used!

Fast forward a week and somehow when washing this one with my two orange gDiapers, the orange must have spread or something because now this adorable cream diaper has a nickle size orange splotch on the bum. Ah well, it's still cute.

GDIAPER SUCCESS
I'm happy to report that I'm officially aboard the gDiaper train! I love them. They are SO easy to wash (you can throw them in with any detergent, your other clothes, etc. if you want to. They dry FAST so you don't need a zillion of them, you can use them within hours of washing them, versus it taking a day for my other pocket cloth diapers to dry outside in the sun. They can be worn more than once after changes, love love love that part. They don't need to be washed the second they come off from a diaper change, I'm using them 2 and 3 times before needing to wash them. That's a very big plus to this mom who is already buried in enough laundry.

I'm also loving the disposable inserts the most. They capture everything in them.Haven't had a leak yet. I have not really figured out flushing them though, our toilet was not working well with it. That's still a work in progress. But tossing them in the trash doesn't make me feel as bad as disposable do ... they break down in like 1% of the time as disposable.

The bag that cost us a bit of money $15 for 32 I believe it was, which is more money than disposable diapers, is lasting quite a while since we also use our pocket cloth diapers. It's lasting us weeks, which is awesome because I can't justify buying these frequently because they are so much more expensive than disposable and cost, unfortunately, is a concern of ours on a strict budget. It's not full-time, but it's a compromise. I'm happy with it.


P.S. Have I put enough of a plug in for reusable swim diapers?!
There is one on the ground next to her feet (she was playing with it, whatever!). LOVE these. They work better than disposable and of course are washable and totally adorable. We have a few of them that I've found great deals on, need to get more. I swear you'll love them if you give them a try.

DADDY DIAPERS
Well, this was unexpected... my husband loves gDiapers! He was hesitant about them at first, telling me it's just not cheaper so he can't see justifying going that route with our tight budget right now, no matter how great they are for the environment, he had to think financially.

Then I was gone for the afternoon and my daughter needed a diaper change while my son was running around downstairs. I hadn't re-stocked the disposables downstairs because I'd been using cloth while home during the days... so he used a gDiaper!

My first question was, "Is it on right? Is the 'g' in the back?! How did you know how to do it? I had to watch a video to learn this stuff!" 

He said it was easy, totally fine. He then called me back to tell me apparently my daughter and the "g-thang" wanted to test his abilities because she pooped in it - and guess what? No mess on the diaper! He said he was impressed. Score one for husband approval!!!!


CHARLIE BANANA
I've found out that another cloth diaper offers disposable inserts... Charlie Banana. The good thing about these is that they are sold at Target, very easy to access, unlike the gDiaper inserts which I have to buy online or at Babies-R-Us, which is farther away from my house.

I was in Target the other day and saw a Charlie Banana cloth diaper actually, it was on sale, red, would have fit my daughter, I totally wanted it.... but decided to wait, because I'm more hooked on the gDiapers right now.

However, what I found out for those who are wondering is that these Charlie diapers seem AWESOME... soooo soft and fuzzy, came with two cloth inserts. They do have disposable inserts, but the difference I saw with those versus gDiapers is that gDiapers has a plastic feeling liner that the disposable insert goes on top of that is easy to quickly rinse instead of the Charlie ones where the disposable insert lies right on top of the cloth... meaning, I'm assuming, that you have to wash the whole thing each diaper change. I'm not positive on this, so if anyone knows different let me know.

I'm going to see if I can try Charlie Banana disposable inserts on gDiapers to see if it'd save any money. That's the next project!


CLOTH OOPS....

So there we were, shopping in a kids' store... when all of a sudden my sister says to me, "Um, Ang, her diaper is coming off!" 

My daughter was walking around, with half her gDiaper tab coming off of her! I was mortified! She's a mover and a shaker now, so it's hard to get her to sit still... so it took a little convincing to let me put the diaper back together as she was standing up. The velcro came undone. She was wearing a dress and didn't have bloomers on over the diaper, so I'm assuming her moving a ton made it come undone.

I've noticed with these gDiapers that sometimes my daughter is figuring out how to undo the velcro tabs. That terrifies me. I have nightmares of walking up to her crib in the morning to get her and she's covered in poop from head to toe! Serious nightmares of that, frightening! She has only done it a few times, when she has no other clothes on but the diaper. She's never tried this with disposable diapers, so who knows, maybe it's just more exciting.

OOOH THAT SMELL...
My cloth inserts still stink.
Sorry, I'm probably being a baby mom about this smell, but I just can't deal with it.

So they have sat in the laundry bucket for a week and a half now as I haven't had time to stay at home to boil them on the stove to get rid of residue and build up from detergent, rinse them in water only in the washing machine, then wash with detergent in washer, then rinse with water again in washer, then line dry them in the sun, then put the inserts in the dryer, as they don't fully dry in the sun around here for some reason... That's quite a process, but it's the one that people have told me may work to get the smell out. I just haven't had time lately and hope to get on it this weekend.

I've also been told about an orange bottle of stuff that will clean the smell right out. It's $15 or so, sold at sporting good stores and in the sporting aisle at Wal-Mart. I don't recall the name, but hope to look into it soon... although that's a hefty price... so hmm... Wondering if I can use it once or twice to get the smell out at least?

I also bought All free and clear detergent two weeks ago to see if that will help to clean the cloth diapers better than my homemade detergent does. Still a work in progress. I'm not giving up yet on using cloth diapers part time while we're home, but I'm not there entirely yet. Still working on it. I LOVE cloth and think it's awesome and people who use it full time are martyrs to me! I'm just not there entirely, which when I started this project this summer I knew I would never be a full time cloth diaperer, so that's OK. I've made progress toward using cloth so that's good enough for me :)


Thursday, August 22, 2013

cloth diapers 101 - Eco Baby Boutique!


Another episode in our Cloth Diapers 101 series, featuring my first small business momma owner, Stacie Ericson. She's a nurse at a local New Hampshire hospital, has four awesome kids, a working husband, and now a brand new super awesome and helpful cloth diapering business, Eco Baby Boutique (seriously how COOL is that for a business name?!).

I was happy to meet up with her at Bundle Children's Resale shop in Sanford last month to see all the great things she sells at her shop. She was the NICEST person and so easy to talk to, answering all of my very naive and new-to-cloth type of questions. She's patient and very dedicated to teaching others about cloth diapers.

If you are not doing cloth, no worries, she has tons of other cool items like reusable lunch bags, homemade baby wipes and solution, cookies to help bring in your baby milk, etc.

I highly recommend you contact her with any questions, and definitely like her page on Facebook www.facebook.com/ecobabyboutique

and check out her Web site here:
www.ecobabyboutique.net/

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Here are some great ideas about cloth from Eco Baby Boutique's owner, Stacie: 

When did you start using cloth diapers?
I started using cloth diapers with my son who is now 5 but didn't stick with it at the time. I started with cloth full time with my daughter, Mia this past Easter weekend. I'm happy to say, we haven't used one disposable since then!

What got you interested in cloth?
Cloth diapering really interested me because I really didn't want to throw away any more diapers, it just seemed like such a waste. I had used disposables on my first three children and know first hand how expensive and wasteful they can be. I then saw a baby of someone I know in the cutest cloth diapers and figured I could give it a try and really commit this time. 

I'm so happy that I stuck with it! It is working so well for our family.

How was it when you first started looking for info about cloth? Where did you get the best information from?
It was extremely overwhelming when I first started looking for info about cloth. I spent many hours researching different brands, prices, types, laundering, stripping and the list goes on. I really wanted to make sure I was doing everything the right way. Some of my best info came from a blog called "Dirty Diaper Laundry" and other online stores and cloth diaper companies on the web.




(I bought the wipes solutions below and they are AWESOME! Only $1!!!)


Where do you get your best information about cloth?
I also got a lot of great information from specific companies' websites such as Charlie Banana, Cotton Babies and Kelly's Closet. You can find some really great information at some of the smaller online boutiques as well. There are many stores like Eco Baby Boutique that were started by moms just like us


Which brand of cloth diapers do you like best for your kids and why?
This is difficult to answer because I have several Brands I love for different reasons. I also think its good to have or try several different brands and types of diapers because every baby is different and what may work for my baby might not work for yours. Of course I love the diapers I sell in my boutique. First, I love my Charlie Bananas! The fit is great and trim and I love the adjustable leg strap. I also love Just simply baby because they have really great prints. My new favorite diaper is the Tots Bots by Bummis. This is an all in one pocket. It is so soft and trim, so no big ant butts as we call them in our house. I also have to mention that I use Bum Genius 4.0 pocket diapers with Velcro that I love and sized Fuzzibunz. I hope to carry these brands when I have a physical retail space.



What is your laundry routine?


Doing diaper laundry can seem intimidating, but once you get your routine down it can actually be fun and I actually enjoy it!  

I store my dirty diapers in a wet bag placed inside a small plastic trash pail with a cover. I purchased the pail at Target. I usually wash every other day, but have gone two days without any problems or stink. My routine goes like this:
1. Quick wash without detergent on cold or warm. I usually use the setting for large loads so there will be as much water as possible. 
2. Normal or heavy wash with detergent on hot or warm wash/cold rinse with an extra rinse to make sure all detergent residue is gone. 
3. I like to hang everything to dry on sunny days because the sun actually bleaches out any remaining stains and naturally sterilizes the diapers. On rainy days it is perfectly fine to throw everything in the dryer on medium heat. Use wool dryer balls to shorten dryer time and never use dryer sheets because they will make the cloth repel liquid. 
Don't be discouraged if this routine doesn't work for you. You will find what works best for you with your type of washing machine. Eco Baby currently sells Charlie Banana detergent and we will soon carry Rockin Green and Eco Sprout.




What is the best part about using cloth diapers?
I'm not going to lie, the best part about using cloth for me is how adorable they look and how soft they are on a baby's bum! The best practical reason is they are reusable. It takes over 200 years for a disposable diaper to disintegrate and I just think about myself, and how many diapers I have personally thrown thrown away with three children! That is a lot of diapers. I'm not a crunchy, hippy mom by any means, but if there is something little I can do to help decrease my carbon footprint, I will do it. My husband, hands down loves cloth because of how much money we are saving. You can spend $2000-$2500 diapering a child until they are potty trained. You can cloth for as little as $300. The cost might be a little more up front but you save in the long run especially if you use your diapers for more than one child. You can also make some of your money back by selling them when you are done with them!



What are some challenges with using cloth diapers?
Most of my challenges with cloth were in the very first weeks of using them. It took me some time to figure out the settings on my pocket diapers with snap closure. Once I figured which snaps to use it was so easy after that. The other challenge I had was with laundry. It took some trial and error using my he front loader. Now I have my system down its as easy as regular laundry, but more fun.

What is your advice for someone new to using cloth?
The best advice I can give someone who is new at cloth diapering is to not give up on it. It does take a little trial and error at first, but with the right resources it can be easy and enjoyable. I would also recommend finding a system that works for you and trying different types or brands of diapers to see what you like best. There are so many options out there!

What are your how-to directions for putting on, taking off, storing, etc. cloth diapers , in simplest terms, for a first -time user?
As soon as the diapers are clean and dry I stuff the pockets and put the prefolds in the covers so I can just grab one when I need it. I stack my favorites in a cupboard in the baby's room. I have several extras as well as extra inserts stored in pull out bins in her room. Putting them on is just as easy as a disposable. I use all snap and aplix (Velcro) closure diapers. When they are dirty I take the inserts out of the pockets and throw in a wet bag inside of a small covered trash pail.



Why did you start your cloth diaper business, Eco Baby Boutique?
I started my business because I fell in love with cloth diapering my daughter. I really wish I would have known how easy it was to do with my first three children, but I had no idea. I want to be able to spread the word that cloth diapering isn't like it was a long time ago and it is quite easy to do even on a budget. I have also always wanted to own my own boutique but I just never knew what types of items I wanted to carry. I chose to carry Eco friendly items in the boutique so I could appeal to non cloth diaper users as well. I realize not everyone will share my passion for cloth diapers but almost everyone knows a baby. Eco Baby Boutique focuses on cloth diapering, but we also have items if you just need a quick baby shower gift.

What is the best part about having this business?
Hands down the best part of having my business is meeting all the awesome moms. It is very exciting teaching them what I know and I just love the feedback I get from all of my customers.


What items do you sell and where are you located?
Eco Baby Sells cloth diapers made by Just Simply Baby (this has been a best seller so far), Bummis and Charlie Banana. We have cloth diaper accessories such as wet bags for storing dirty diapers, biodegradable inserts, prefolds, microfiber, bamboo and hemp inserts, diaper rash balm and cloth wipes. We carry food containers and storage such a Sili Squeeze a reusable baby food pouch as well as reusable lunch bags and sandwich bags. We also carry baby leggings, reusable nursing pads, natural rubber pacifiers and home made wool dryer balls. I don't make my own diapers, but a lot of research went into finding the companies I choose to work with. Many of them were started by moms or dads just like us. Most of the companies are based in the USA or Canada, but all the companies are run under fair working conditions and under USA or Canadian standards. This means the workers get breaks, vacations and time to spend with their families.

What else do you want to share with us about your cloth experience?
The last thing I want to share is that I realize the upfront cost of diapers can be quite intimidating. I like to suggest to people that you don't have to buy all your diapers at once. It's fine to buy one or two and use your disposables too and just keep adding to your stash slowly. You also don't have to buy all new. There are plenty of places online where you can buy used. I think it's nice to have a mixture of new and used, it really keeps the upfront costs down. In the grand scheme of things you really do end up saving, especially if you go on to use cloth on more than one baby. You can save between $1,000-$2000!

A few of Stacie's pictures she sent our way:



I'd totally buy cloth diapers from these cuties!



Look at how adorable that cloth diaper stash is!!!!


THANK YOU, Stacie, for such great advice! What an awesome business you have :) I wish you luck on this adventure. I encourage all moms to check out her great boutique, even if you aren't into cloth she has tons of baby shower gifts and other ideas for mommas. :)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

challenging children ... strong mommas


Dear Mom of a Challenging Child,

So you have a challenging child. You know the ones, those kids who run a lot, never seem to stop, who are busy busy busy. Those kids who are louder than the rest, who do all of those things listed under Terrible Twos in the What To Expect the Toddler Years books. The ones who make you tired just looking at them because they seem to have more energy than a freight train. The ones who you adore and laugh at their every antic, despite that they make you want to pull your hair out some days.

I know how it feels. No, really, I do.

I get what you are in the middle of right now - the chaos, the guilt, the feeling that everyone is staring at you. It may be because your just-turned-one-year-old has learned to screech at the top of her lungs or your Terribly Two Toddler has learned to hit/kick/bite/spit or any number of talents.

Maybe it's your three year old whose ears seem to have fallen off at some play group because literally every word that comes out of your mouth doesn't just come out once but twice and four times and seven .... because he doesn't hear a word you say. And even if he did hear you, he'd want to do it all "by self!"

Maybe it's your 4 or 7 year old who is just wired, I mean running around like maniacs, saying all kinds of rude words to you, just because well, they can outrun you, no matter how unfair that seems to be to you right now.

I get it.


I get what it's like to have others staring. 
Looking.
Watching.
Wondering what on EARTH you, as the Mother, are going to DO in this situation?! 

It's embarrassing. It's difficult. It's that awkward self conscious feeling of standing in front of a room of people, giving a speech on a topic you know nothing about, feeling like they are watching your every move and going to criticize it the second you leave - or worse, that second in their minds while you stand there helpless, unsure of yourself.

It's hard being at soccer while the other 3 year olds are only kinda distracted, kinda not doing what they should.... while your child is running around, not listening, taking the cones all over the place away from the kids, totally in his own world. It's hard to be his parent, and the one the other parents are staring at ...they don't match up. As his parent you believe in letting him do his thing, be a 3-year-old, get that energy out, who cares if soccer isn't his priority at this very second. But as the parent the other parents are watching, you feel pressured to step in, say something, DO something, make him follow every single rule, stand in line, sit, quiet down, act the way they want him to act.


It is annoying when you're at someone's house and your child is the one acting up, or when others come to your house and your child is the one not sharing or being rude. I get how frustrating it is to set out to the beach or playground, thinking you have this awesome thing planned that your child will be so happy for ... only to have her ruin it by being defiant, throwing sand, running away from you, or hitting that third time after you said "If you do that one more time we'll have to leave..." so you have to leave.

I see you, Mom with the challenging child. I see all the things you try and keep trying, never giving up.

I see you in the grocery store, when you're about to turn around and leave the half-filled grocery cart in an aisle as your kid screams and kicks as you tearfully walk back to the car, defeated.

I see you at the doctor's office when you are doing your very best to keep the quiet atmosphere thing in the realm of possibilities for your active, hates-sitting-for-one-second toddler.

I know you are doing your best. I know you packed crayons and coloring books for the restaurant, always prepared for a possible meltdown over chicken fingers not being delivered to the table quick enough. I see that you always, always have Goldfish or granola bars or something else somewhat nutritious packed in your large purse just to make sure your kids aren't hungry, that empty bellies are not the reason for the possible active-ness or loud talking in a public place.


I know you work so hard to make sure naps go off without a hitch, because you know what happens when sleep deprivation gets the best of your growing child. I get how hard that is some days, too, yet I acknowledge your efforts.

I get that you want to cover your ears like you are the one who is the toddler when it's difficult hearing what the onlookers say.
"Quiet down... Man, he's loud."
"Geesh, does she EVER sit still?"
"How do you deal with this all day? Wow. I couldn't do it."
"Enough ... settle down ... would you sit still? ... Just be quiet."
"You didn't act like this when you were that age."

I know it's difficult to swallow the advice, too.
"Maybe try taking her off sugar/gluten/food dyes/dairy. See if that calms her down."
"Maybe she has ADHD."
"Maybe ask the doctor for medicine."
"I think he needs more discipline."

I know it hurts sometimes. Even when you say it doesn't. Even when you are trying so hard to just be positive, confident. I know you get discouraged, disappointed, frustrated, and that some nights you cry because it's SO. DAMN. HARD having a challenging child.

I know that you're doing OK. I know that your child is not a monster. You are not a terrible mother.
I know that your child is growing. You are learning as a parent, too.

Nobody ever said this was an easy road, getting our kids to adulthood. It's not supposed to be perfect. 


I know there are good people out there, too.

Just last week I was in a suit store, having my son try on an outfit for an upcoming wedding he's in. He was tired. Had been at preschool all day then just rode 30 minutes to the store. He was wired and hungry. He did NOT want to sit still, be patient and quiet in a store. He wanted to be loud. He wanted to play with me and anyone who would look at him.

The lady  who was measuring him didn't mind when he was picking up her receipt scanner. She let him take her pencil because he told her he needed to work there. She laughed when he answered the phone as it rung and said, "Hello? Who is this?" and it was a customer. She smiled when he took off the suit jacket twice after she'd just put it on him to see if it fit. She gazed happily as he picked up every utensil, piece of paper, clothing, etc. on her desk, asking her what they were for and what her name was.

She gave me a reassuring eye after the tenth time I had exasperatedly said, "Owen, please, stop that, put that down, come here, sit still, no, no, no, put that down, stop, we're almost done here...." She told me, "He's OK, He's OK" about five times before saying, "Listen, Mommy, I have a 5 year old like this boy. I know how these boys are. I understand. He's OK. He's really OK."

And you know what? He WAS OK. I was the one not OK. I was mortified. Feeling like everyone was staring. Like I wanted to climb into a hole. But the other customers were smiling, thinking he was cute and funny. And my son was happy. And the lady was amused. So what if it wasn't quiet or conventional? It was and is OK.



Here's the thing, I get how hard this is... but have you considered it's just a phase? Something short that your child is going through and you'll manage it just fine, and in a few years you won't remember it being as bad as you feel it is right now? Sorta like the newborn months... you survived that, didn't you?

I read this article at the link below. And I cried at the dose of truth and reality it gave me. You need to read it:
www.mothering.com/community/a/there-is-not-always-a-fix-for-the-difficult-child

Maybe some kids ARE just harder, more challenging, more difficult, busier, louder. Maybe that's just who they were built to be.

Maybe these challenging children are the future leaders of America, and we are the privileged parents who get to raise them into being awesomely kind and productive adults. 

Maybe someday those parents who judge us or look at our kid like he's crazy will actually think he's the coolest thing ever and their kids will be boring. So there.

No, don't go there. Don't get all mean and angry at the other parents. Really, they don't know any better. They will have a tough developmental stage to go through, too, they just don't know it yet. Instead of anger, smile at them and know their turn will come. When that happens, have compassion, you know what it's like to be misunderstood and have a child in a phase you can neither prevent nor stop.


Stop worrying what others think. You know they think something... does it really matter though? 

Your child should matter more than anything else. Her happiness should be the most important thing. So what if she's most happy screeching at the top of her lungs at how excited she is to be getting grapes at the grocery store and it makes all the old ladies give you the stare down?! It doesn't matter. You are buying grapes and doing the best you can, it's all good.

So, you have a challenging child. So what? Let it be. Do your best to find tricks that work. Try to manage the behavior as calmly and patiently as you can. Try to ignore the stares and comments as best you can. And tell yourself every day that you're doing your best. Ask for help when you need it, give tons of hugs and praise the good behaviors you see your child exhibit. Let the rest go. It doesn't matter in the long run. What your child does at the age of 2, 3, 4, etc. will NOT define who he is as a teenager or adult.

Learn from this different type of kid on your hands. Learn patience and understanding. Learn to love the things that make him different than other kids - how he's busy and moving a lot while he's learning new things and making up new games and creating new ways to play. Appreciate what he teaches you - to love life, to laugh a lot and loudly, to be excited about the world around you, to see what matters and not care what others think about you. See the positives instead of the challenges. There are a thousand more great things about your child than difficult things.

So, Mom of a Challenging Child... you can do this. 

You've got this. One step at a time.

Your son or daughter is AWESOME, totally OK. 

Love,
A fellow strong momma, proud to have a super COOL future leader of America kid on her hands




Thursday, August 15, 2013

a guilty story - Courtney Drew

A graciously honest mama, Courtney Drew, is on the blog today offering her insight about that dreaded Mama Guilt, her experience with it after 3 kids and preparing for her 4th, nursing trouble and an unexpected breech baby. Thank you for sharing, Courtney!

P.S. I'm always looking for more moms who want to write about Mama Guilt for the blog. Email me at themommystories@gmail.com :) 




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When I found out I was pregnant with my first baby I was over the moon.


All photos from Courtney Drew

My whole life I had dreamt of being a mother. I wanted to do everything perfect. 

I read a ton of books. Went to every birthing class and had a delivery day plan.

On October 5th of 2005 my sweet Adelaide came in to the world with no drugs. I pulled her out myself. We bonded at the breast right away. It was perfect just as I had planned.

So naturally when I found out I was due with my second child I had every intention of following the same plan.

Makayla had a different idea.
My pregnancy with Mickey was fantastic. I had no nausea, tons of energy and my skin looked great! So as I moved closer to my expected due date I was certain she would be delivered in the same easy way as her sister. Then the day before my 36 week appointment something felt really different. The bump under my rib cage was no longer bum squishy it was hard and hurt. I was no longer being kicked in the ribs those kicks were much lower.

The doctor quickly confirmed my fear. Makayla had turned round and was now a breech baby. I wanted to cry. This was not what I had planned. 

The doctor assured me that we could try a few things before scheduling a C-section but I knew deep down they weren't going to work. I tried everything but after my third attempt at aversion I decided to give in and we scheduled Makayla's birth to be December 28th.

My devastation subsided a little as the excitement of knowing she was coming in ten days, nine days, eight days. When the day finally arrived I could have cared less how she came out. I couldn't wait to hold her.

We arrived at the hospital at 6:30am. The doctor told us we would be holding our little lady by 8:05am. Unfortunately due to two unexpected deliveries we were two hours late getting into the OR. At 10:10am the sweet cry of my Mickey Mouse filled the operating room. I could not wait to get my hands on her.

Scott brought her over to me all bundled up and as I turned my head to look at her I almost threw up. This is when everything went downhill. I posed for one quick picture as a family, gave her a kiss on her head and Scott took her upstairs to meet our family.


For two hours I sat in the recovery area fighting nausea and battling against the spinal to move my legs. I itched all over and with every new med they gave me I felt further and further away from seeing my baby. I couldn't even remember what she looked like.

When they finally brought me up to my room I still had all sorts of tubes and wires in me. I had to be transferred from my OR bed to the recovery bed all while my wide eyed two year old looked on. I felt horrible! Adelaide was clearly scared and I had missed that precious moment when she got to meet her sister for the first time. I still hadn't conquered the vomiting so after a few quick pictures off she went.


I finally had Makayla all to myself. I unwrapped her and held her in front of me trying to take in every bit of her. I tried nursing but just holding her hurt and she didn't want to latch on. That night was awful. Every time I tried to nurse she would just scream and scream.

By the morning the nurses determined that I had no milk. They were pressuring me to feed her formula and I just couldn't get my head around the whole thing. How could I not have milk? I had done this before, for 13 months no less.

I knew how to nurse. Why was my body not doing what it was supposed to do? 

I finally gave in around mid afternoon and the guilt was unbearable. I felt like such a failure. I had done everything perfectly for Addie. Why could I not do the same for Makayla?

The next day, against the doctors better judgment, we went home. I was feeling badly that I was neglecting Adelaide and I just thought if I could get Mickey home I would be able to make everything work. Boy was I wrong. I still had no milk and refused to bring any formula home from the hospital. Stupid! The baby was screaming, I was getting angry, my poor sister tried to help by suggesting I pump. Which would have been great if I had remembered to lower the settings on my pump from high. I ended up with no milk and two blisters on my nipples. I sat in my room and cried. I felt so low.

My poor baby was starving and I couldn't do anything to help her. However, that night my milk came in and we settled into our new routine. A happy little family of four.

After having a successful v-back with my third I still feel guilt over Makayla's first few days of life. With Liam it was much the same as Addie. I pulled him out myself and he was on the breast and nursing before they weighed him. We bonded instantly.

As I prepare to have my fourth child, another v-back I am trying to let go of what happened with Makayla. She is five years old now and those few days didn't seem to have a lasting impression on her. 

In fact she loves hearing her birth story because it is so different from her siblings. But that mommy guilt just runs so deep.


I keep reminding myself that no matter what happens during delivery a healthy baby is really the most important thing.  

Having three kids I have really learned over the years that there is very little we can control and to be okay with that.  

During this birth I really want to try and relax and let it go the way it is meant to.  

I also want to let go of the guilt I always feel when I am in the hospital with a new baby and not home with siblings. It is such a short moment I want to enjoy every minute of it!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Dear 3 1/2 Owen,


Dear Owen,
You are now half way through this year, you're 3 1/2 now, speeding toward the big 4 in February!

The past few months I've been home with you, enjoying summer vacation. I'm so lucky to be able to witness your growth. You are becoming a boy... like a real big boy, doing all these things on your own, Mr. Independent I call you.

It's pretty much the coolest thing in the world as a mom to see your itty bitty baby, who you swear was JUST learning to roll over and crawl and walk and try new foods like yesterday or the day before, turn into this big guy who surprises you by saying things like, "Stop being re-dic-a-lous, Mom!"

You have a zest for life, something that sparkles about you. It's always been there, since we'd be pushing you in a baby carriage in the grocery store and have people stop us and say, "My, what a happy, happy little guy." People still say this to us. You're always laughing, the proverbial silly goose, definitely a class clown, star of the show type of little man. I've already told your dad I worry about school and how all of these antics and silly jokes are going to go over with the teacher. He reassures me you equally looove to learn new things as you do make people laugh, so you'll be all set.



We've had some rough moments, of course, being that you're in that post-toddlerhood, preschool phase of driving your parents insane and not listening to a word we say because you're ALWAYS on a mission to do something you NEED to do right NOW.

We've been "putting on our listening ears" for months now ... which you do in a swift motion with both hands at your ears, twisting with a pretend screwdriver to make sure those ears are turned up and ready to be on for listening to teachers at school and parents when we go to someone else's house or the grocery store. These magical things work most of the time.

Other times I get this smile as shown below in the picture, that smirk of total joy and innocence, not a clue in the world that what you're doing to make me want to pull my hair out is anything bad. Just silly. That's you.

And as much as it drives me crazy some days, I love it about you. I wish more people lived life like you. If I could earn a quarter for the times adults like your grandparents and others have said "Shush, Owen, shhhhh, come, sit still, Owen ..." we'd be living in a bigger house.

You're busy and on the go, all the time. It's something that's tiring to all involved - including yourself, thankfully lending to your 2+ hour naps every day still at the age of 3 1/2 when most of your friends no longer take naps! Yet this busy-ness of yours is also what makes you the most adorable guy I know.

It's this inner light that shines out in all that you do because you LOVE life. I wouldn't change it.


You're also the best brother, and helper to your sister. You're always including her. You call her "sweetheart" and every single morning this entire summer you have woken up and gone into her room with me to say, "Good morning my best friend, we've got work to do today. How are you, sweetheart?" in the sweetest voice I've ever heard.



Of course, as siblings naturally are, you have your moments with little sis here. She gets into your toys, you pick on her by tickling her too much. But I'm so proud of how you've been as a brother. It's like you always were those 2 years before she even arrived, you just went with the flow of having a new person crying around here, and have been so awesome ever since.

It never gets old to me seeing you love her, hug her, and talk to her.

The best thing in the world is when you're in the backseat and all of a sudden I hear her giggle, and then you giggle, and then you're both cracking up so much that it sounds like someone is about to cry ... and sometimes that's me crying, realizing, yes, this is it, this moment right here, this is why I was so tired pregnant with her while you were a toddler and why another C-section was worth it and why feeling like I don't get a moment to sit with two now is SO so worth it. Siblings ... there is nothing greater.

Thank you, pal. You are the best big brother we could have asked for Addisyn.


You've learned a lot of new things this summer, too, like playground climbing and riding a scooter. You ride a bike like you've ridden it for years.

I don't know what happened with the playground stuff, too, but all of a sudden this summer I don't have to follow you around anymore. I don't have to worry that you're going to climb something too big for you. Because now you're big enough and climbing all the time.


You even learned to play soccer this summer. I was beyond excited for this to start. I've waited since you were a baby to sign you up. You are such an active guy, I knew you'd love soccer. At first you were shy but you tried it out. You told me on the way to the first practice, "Mama, I nervous because there might be strangers I don't know there." Then with a little reassurance you were kicking the ball like you'd done it 100 times before.

That's how you roll. You have these shy moments - sometimes, not often. And you cling to me or Dad. And I love those moments. Because it reminds me you still need me, you're still my baby in there under all that big boy body and words stuff.

Yet I'm so incredibly proud that you are such a confident, happy guy who is up for anything, rarely shy.

We want you to go out there and explore this great big world. Just stop every now and then and reach out your hand for me and say your famous line, "Will you hold me, Mama? That why I not want to be alone." 

(You've taken to saying "that why" in place of "because" this summer. It's cute, and I've stopped correcting you because I think it's adorable and you'll learn because later.)








Dad and I were talking recently about how you are SO creative. Dad said you don't immitate other movies or things, you make it up as you go along. Your games are all unique to your wandering mind. It's pretty awesome.

Last week you made a fence and barn out of blocks for all of your animals. When I asked why the animals weren't standing, all laying down, you said because it was nap time for them, they were tired. You brought the play house over and put cars all in a line leading up to the house. When I asked why, you said there was a party at your babysitter's house that day, and the red truck in the garage was the same one that your babysitter's husband has in his garage. I let you keep those toys out for a week because I loved how creative you got in building this little world.

You are always making up new games. Like sand angels on the beach recently.


You adore your family... they are everything to you. So much so that when you had soccer games and your big family of aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents came to visit, you were too excited to see them that you started showing off and running away from the soccer field, begging for us to let you go play with your uncle or grandfather.

You ask every single day about at least a few people in your big family. You ask for them to come over. You ask to go to their house. You ask to Skype or call them. It's how we set out to raise you when we talked about it in the hospital room when you were just days old. We wanted to make sure you knew who your family were and went to them when they walked into the room. We are so proud of you, big family loving man.



You still suck your thumb. You've done it since birth. It's totally a part of you. We remind you not to talk with your thumb in your mouth and that it's not allowed at preschool. Yes, I fear you'll do it till you're 10, but I'm still in that mode of you're young and you'll get over it someday. We'll get there. No worries.

You still dig and work a lot... tools are your favorite thing in the world. You tell us that when you grow up you want to be an electrician like daddy. Papa told you to stop working so hard, just be a kid and have fun. I swear you're going to be the laziest teenager on the planet after working so hard in your toddler years!




You're growing at the speed of light... I swear I find something new about you every day.


You are curious about the world. I've said you have the best qualities from me and dad. You are so incredibly smart, curious and interested in everything in the world just like your father. You are a hard worker like both of us. And you are social, silly and happy like me. You put those qualities together and we have a VERY busy little man, who talks and laughs a ton, and who adores his family and working above all else ... well, maybe not more than ice cream!


At least even though you're a super big boy now, you always have time to snuggle your Mama.


So keep learning and growing, big guy.

Keep loving your train table and pretend drills and making pancakes on Saturday mornings with your dad. Keep whisphering (after we taught you not to shout it and wake your sister!) first thing in the morning, "Can I come downstairs? Guys, where are you?"

Keep smiling. Keep making us laugh. Keep running and trying to figure everything out.

Keep making your sister giggle more than anyone else can. Keep asking me to tell you one more story at bed time and moving over so I can lay down next to you for a few minutes in your way-too-small toddler bed.

Keep being my favorite boy in the whole world, my "special," as we call it.

You sure are special, Owen Joseph.

3 1/2... where is the time going? 

Love,
Mama