share your stories and join in on the discussion on Facebook!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

get your healthy back - Mary Gauvin

Welcome to a new series on the blog this month, Get Your Healthy Back. This is all about encouraging you moms to work it on out and feel stronger in the process. 

The goal is not losing weight, it's not some canned diet. It's real moms sharing their honest experiences with finding an exercise routine that works, that even at their busiest they are making time for themselves because it's important. It's about being able to keep up with and chase your toddler. It's about being present, focused, and having patience with your kids because you feel physically better. 

Hope you enjoy reading these stories, and even more, I hope they inspire you to get moving! 


Thanks to Mary Gauvin for sharing her story first! 
She is an amazing friend for so many reasons, and being strong and teaching her son good healthy habits is just one more reason I adore her! 

All images from Mary Gauvin

1. When in your life have you felt the most physically fit and in shape?
October-November 2013. In September of 2013, I did a Whole30 Challenge. It was amazing. Right now, I'm doing pretty well, but I'm not enjoying fall allergy season so I haven't pushed myself as hard as I could. 
2. What was it about that time in your life that made you feel so physically in shape?
A combination of good diet, major gains in my training program, and confidence in my abilities. When I say "good diet", I'm referring to the self exploration and trial & error I've done to find what works best for me. As someone who will forever be recovering from an eating disorder, my goal is to be healthy. I use the term "diet" to describe what I eat, not what I restrict myself from eating or a program I follow. 
3. When you were pregnant, what type of physical activity did you keep up with and how long into pregnancy? What did you notice afterward with birth, etc. about how your body felt when you were active during pregnancy? 
I was so sick from 7 weeks to the day I delivered. Walking, light weight lifting, and prenatal yoga helped with the nausea. I had a fairly quick recovery and a fairly easy delivery. I attribute both to staying active. I stayed active the whole pregnancy.
4. After you had your child, how do you get your body back to being strong again?
A diet that worked for me, breast feeding, walking, Burpees! 
5. What exercises are you currently doing? How often do you exercise? Where do you exercise? What time of day? Where is your child when you're exercising?
I currently do CrossFit at least three times per week. My son and I go to the Box tomorrow, our WOD is at 7AM and usually lasts about an hour. R plays while I work out. 

6. What do you like about your current exercise routine? Why would you encourage other moms to try this particular routine?
Most CrossFit boxes are family-friendly. The workouts can also be scaled (example: I don't run due to ankle injuries, so I usually row) to ability. It's never the same thing, so your body is constantly changing and adapting. My coach worked out up until she delivered! 

The CrossFit community is also incredible! It's a second family. Even if you are the last to finish, there's always someone there cheering you on. I do best if I have someone telling me what to do... and the fact that I pay for it is also incentive to attend. 
7. What are some challenges you find to working out? 
One of my favorite quotes (not sure of the author) is: You'll never regret working out, but you'll always regret missing the workout. Sometimes motivation is an issue... especially when I have to shovel the driveway (i.e., do a workout before the workout even starts!) or if my son didn't have a great night's sleep (which means I didn't). 

8. What are the best parts to working out? 
Having more energy, less illness, and seeing results! I recently hit the 200lb club for deadlifting. That was pretty cool. Both my husband and I also love that our son is exposed to health and exercise. 
9. What is your advice to moms who just can't find the time, don't have energy, cannot seem to make working out a priority? What helps you to make it important in your life? 
As with anything, if you want it to be a priority, you have to make a change. It's important to me because I want to be around for my family as long as possible. Start small, even once a week. Go for a walk. Do a situp or a Burpee challenge. Small goals can equal great accomplishments!!
10. How does being physically active make you a better mother? 
I have a three year old boy. If I can't keep up with him, it's all over. It's pretty awesome to be strong enough to toss my 37lb child up above my head... I had a friend caption a photo, "It's not just Daddy that can throw me up in the air!". I also think that modeling a healthy lifestyle is one of the best lessons we as parents can share.
11. Anything else you want to add? 
Get after it. Find a workout buddy! Believe in yourself.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

working outside the home - survival tips - part TWO

Part two of our working outside the home series. Here are some suggestions for how to manage your busy days! Thanks to all of you mommas who participated in the discussion. 

GREAT ideas. Here are some things you said:

REAL MOM TIPS: (from real moms in the Mommy Stories Facebook group)
  • Get up earlier than you'd think you need to get up. 
  • Pack lunches and backpacks, etc. the night before.
  • No time for chores mid-week, only on weekends. 
  • Get yourself ready before the kids wake up.
  • Do laundry and dishes right when you walk in the door at home otherwise you'll sit and won't have energy later on.
  • It helps to find a great sitter who you completely trust, that way when you're at work you're focused at work and it makes it easier being there away from the kids. 
  • Helpful daddies rock! That's the only way I can survive.
  • Cook meals so you can eat leftovers the next day.
  • Try to do all chores midweek so that the only chore on the weekends is grocery shopping, that way you get more family time in.
  • Make two huge meals on the weekend and reheat them all week long.
  • Meal plan on weekends. 
  • Only wash and dry my hair every few days instead of daily.
  • Workout right after work before daycare pick up, or when husband falls asleep. 
  • Pick up and clean as we go, a little at a time.
  • Lay out clothes the night before for everyone.
  • When partner leaves before I do, he takes everything to the car that I need (lunches, diaper bag, etc.). 
  • Dress the kids top to bottom - including shoes all in one movement. 
  • Gym during lunch hour. 
  • Take deep breaths driving to work.
  • All chores after kid is in bed. 
  • During commute to work, catch up with family or friends on phone then, so that when at home it was all about the kid.
  • Shaving or other longer showering tasks need to be done the night before, so that morning of is a quick shower.

Fellow momma Shelby Davis shared the following AWESOME advice for working outside the home:

1. Do everything the night before. This includes showering, laying out clothes, making lunches, packing bags, setting out coffee mugs/milk cups, etc.

2. Get up and get myself ready before my son gets up and ready. It’s easier for me to spend the 15 minutes focusing on myself: getting myself dressed, teeth and hair brushed, makeup on and THEN get him up (it takes double the time when he’ll zooming around me), although when he was a baby I would leave my clothes til last in case he spit up on me.

3. Have dad do daycare drop off! This actually has been my #1 life saver. I go to work a little earlier than my husband and he works later than me. So it’s nice that I don’t need to think about getting him there. Plus dad has a MUCH easier time leaving him at daycare than I do. I linger and talk and kiss him a million times, whereas dad drops and goes. On the rare occasions I do drop off, I see this is the norm. The moms linger and the dads get out of there stat. I get the fun job of picking up, the “my mumma!!!” screams and the running and jumping into my arms. : )

4. Have a dinner plan. I meal plan for a month in advance. So I always know what we’re eating and making my grocery list is easier. There isn’t ever a day when at 8am I don’t know what we’re eating that night, so I can take something out of the freezer or start a crockpot or whatever. 

5. Run errands during lunch break if you can. I pay bills, make phone calls, etc. Getting as much done on lunch hour as possible is a huge help. Or work out. Go for a walk, head to the gym. Utilize lunch break in whatever way you need to. 

6. Get out of work early one day a week and do your grocery shopping before daycare pick up. It’s so much easier to fly through the store by myself, and not have to drag my son on errands during the weekend. Because I work full time, I want every spare second with him to be enjoyable. That does not include grocery shopping.  

7. Make sure weeknight dinners are fast and easy. I try to keep them under 30 minutes and under 6 ingredients. I like to be home by 5, have dinner ready by 5:30 and give myself a full hour to do bedtime prep of playing, tubby, teeth and jammies, stories, snuggles and kisses to give him a bedtime between 7-7:30.

8. Teamwork. I could never do any of it without my husband. He’ll clean up from dinner while I’m doing bedtime. Or he’ll make lunches while I’m cleaning from dinner. From 5-8pm we are in constant motion, but that means we get to grab an hour or two of alone time at the end of the day. 

9. Hire a cleaning person. When my husband told me after my son turned 2 that we should hire a cleaning person, I was so surprised. He finally understood that having me spend time cleaning the house takes away from the weekend time I get with our family. There are still plenty of other household chores, but it’s nice to get the floors, bathrooms and kitchen done. It gives me a head start on everything else and I don’t feel so buried and frustrated. 

10. Don’t sweat it. There are never enough hours in the day being a full time working mom, trying to squeeze in household/family responsibilities along with quality time with family and getting personal mom times to grab dinner with friends or get a pedicure. I make sure I do the important things first, like puzzles on the living room floor, or a movie with popcorn on a rainy weekend, before the things that honestly don’t matter, like laundry. 

I’m never going to look back and think, “wow, I wish I had done more laundry”, but I am going to think, “I wish I had said, screw it, and spent more time with my toddler.”

working outside the home - survival tips - part ONE

I have written a little about it here on the blog lately, how hard going back to work after the long, wonderfully warm summer we had (I work in a school). So I figured there have to be other moms out there struggling with the routine also of shuttling kids to and from daycare, school, soccer practice, etc. 

This past month has been overwhelming and exhausting for me. I've been a working outside the home mom for years, but for some reason the stages my kids are in right now and just this busy September have made this one particularly challenging. We're getting through it, figuring out what works and what doesn't. One day at a time, right?! So goes motherhood. 

Hope these ideas help you a little! 

(sometimes imagining myself on the beach in my happy place from summer helps me get through my busy work day! ha!)

Here are my tips for surviving your working mom adventure:
  • Get the sleep you need. I go to bed at 7:45 p.m. randomly when I can feel I'm snippy and not focused at work, not keeping up with the kids in the afternoon. All I need is one night of great sleep and then I can adjust myself again.
  • Get myself ready first. I try to get up at least 15 minutes before the kids need to get up so I can be entirely ready, including my breakfast, so when they are up I can focus on getting them ready.
  • Pack lunches on Sunday for the week. This works for daycare, not sure how it would work for when my son goes to school next year, but for now it's working for us.
  • Leave daycare bag there. My kids have a bag at daycare and a bag at preschool that stays there. I have about 3 sets of clothing in it, hats, sweatshirts, etc. there so I'm not carting an extra bag around daily. I take it home about once a month to change out sizes and seasonal clothing. 
  • Crockpot Sundays. I cook chicken in there while we're home cleaning the house or hanging out. It takes care of lunches for the week or at least a meal or two. 
  • Eat simply. We LOVE leftovers. I know some families who toss them out and I can't figure out how they cook that much! We don't mind eating things for lunch that were last night's dinner. Saves on what I have to cook. We eat breakfast once a week because it's easy (always on the night that my husband has a meeting and I'm flying solo that night.). Meal planning the last year has helped me tremendously as a working outside the home mom. It's so much easier walking in and knowing what we're eating instead of thinking up something when we get home after a long work day.
  • Remind myself "you're a mom until you get to work to be an employee." My co-worker taught me this a few weeks ago and I LOVE it. She reminded me that yes, I need to get a routine down and get going to work, be there on time, etc. work IS important, BUT I'm a mom until I get there, so just be mom, slow down slightly and do what I can. 
  • Drink an entire bottle of water before I get to work. I read about this in the book French Women Don't Get Fat. Love that book! It's about how when we're sleeping we get dehydrated, so we need to replenish that for good skin and overall wellbeing to start our day, we're more focused and alert also when we drink up. So I drive a half hour commute to work and daycare drop offs, so I make sure I'm sipping the whole time and finish before getting to work.
  • Write things down and do it right away. For example, if my daughter accidentally pees on her pants at school so they send them home to me to wash, I get home and immediately go up and take out another clean pair of pants, put that in her school bag for the next day, so I don't forget they need more clothing. If it's the weekend of the month to wash the sleeping bag for preschool, I try to do it right away when I get home on Friday afternoon so I get a jump start on it and am not scrambling around Sunday night trying to dry that thing. 
  • Everything ahead of time. This means filling up the sippy cups of milk the night before, setting my lunch bag on the kitchen table and filling my water bottle, putting the preschool check in my bag for Fridays, etc. Every little thing is done ahead of time, so in the morning we're literally showering, getting dressed, shoes on, eating, etc. out the door quickly. 
  • When at work, WORK. I'm 100% focused while at work. I check my phone periodically to make sure daycare hasn't called in an emergency, but for the most part at work I'm working. I love my job, so that makes this part much easier for me personally. I found after maternity leave the #1 thing that helped me was to do as much as I could as fast as I could at work, so I could leave it all behind and get to spend time with my kids at home. I still live by this philosophy of "work smarter not harder." I found ways to do things easier, quicker, better, more efficiently at work, so that my time at home could just be family time. I do work at home, but it's after kids are in bed. I write to do lists at work and update myself Sunday evenings with emails, lists, etc. so that I go into work on Monday morning refreshed and ready to take on the week. I also encourage moms who have to work to find something they at least enjoy a little bit. Find something in your job that you like so that it's easier to leave your baby. 
  • Chores a little at a time but not a lot during the week. I like to do chores a little at a time. If my bathroom looks messy on a random day during the week while I'm giving kids baths, I clean it up while in there. I don't wait until the weekend. However, lately I'm finding we are so busy that Monday-Thursday I'm barely doing any chores right now. I'm just getting through the week! I maintain things like cleaning up kitchen after dinner, throwing in a load of laundry, etc. but not any extra chores. I try really hard to do most chores though, including most of the laundry, by the end of Thursday night. I zip around doing floors, unloading dishwasher, etc. Thursdays so that my weekend is not focused on cleaning up from the busy week. Of course I do more laundry on weekends, but I try to make sure most things are done Thursday so the weekend is FUN with the family. 
  • Partnership. My husband and I developed the BEST system of teamwork after our second was born. We are 50-50 on all the chores at home and I love it! After kids go to bed each night we zip around for 30-60 minutes and take different parts of cleaning up, then we retreat to our computers to do things for work individually, then spend time together watching TV. I could NEVER do this working outside the home mom thing without him. 

  • Fully stocked diaper bag in the car. This helps a lot for after work when we're stopping at the grocery store or dentist appointment, or playground, we have everything we need all the time. Extra clothing, socks, sweatshirts, hats, etc. Wipes, too! Working outside the home moms are always on the go to some meeting or errand, etc. so being prepared is key. 
  • Prioritizing. Making choices. Using the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. We utilize the Habits at my job - being proactive, setting goals, etc. and it works wonders in my work habits as well as at home. I highly recommend this book! It teaches all about doing what's important first, then putting in the other things later (like scrolling Facebook!). 
  • Talk it out. I get stressed and overwhelmed with the crazy routine of drop off and pick up from daycare, making lunches, never having enough time to myself or to work out, etc. I need to talk that out to my partner, best friend, etc. and it really does help. 
  • Have FUN. Some mornings we're stressed rushing around, kids melting down. So I insert fun and regroup us (even if running late, oh well!), and we sit and read a book together, all snuggled up, or we tickle and laugh. It's important to feel connected before I drop them off all day at school. It helps me get through my day. When we get home from school it's PLAY time. Chores wait until later after they are in bed typically or while they are playing independently. We spend tons of time outside. We make sure weekends are super fun, too, to make up for the time we aren't together during the week. 
  • Do NOT feel guilty. I hate hearing moms say they feel so guilty working outside the home. For us, it is what it is, we need a two-income situation to survive. I also happen to love my job, so that helps with not feeling guilty. The way I see it, we're teaching our kids great skills to see us juggle things, manage our days and schedules, be independent workers, etc. I know my kids are well-loved and cared for at their schools, socialization is wonderful for them. Sure, would I love to be home with them for every sniffly nose day or would I like to make sure I have their birthday off from work, yes, absolutely. But it doesn't make me a bad mother if I'm working. 
  • Make time for YOU. I also encourage working outside the home moms to take time for yourself without feeling guilt either. At least once a month I'll leave work right on time some afternoon, head to my favorite store, and shop for an hour alone, for ME. I'll pick up one child and take her to Target while my son is at preschool. I'll pick up my son first instead of my daughter. Yesterday I took my daughter to an after work party, while my son was at preschool. I knew he was having WAY more fun at school, outside on the playground, digging in the sand, instead of sitting still in a restaurant with me. I work out on Saturday mornings while my kids are watching cartoons or making pancakes with dad. It's important for me to be healthy, too. None of this makes me feel guilty. I do what we need in that particular moment, and sometimes that's time alone, there is nothing wrong with that. Make time for YOU, hard working mommas. You deserve it!

Keep up the good work! More tips to come in part two. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

painting with acorns - a fall craft!

I found this idea off of a preschool site on Facebook, not my original idea. So much fun!

We first started out by taking a fall walk outside in the sun, picking up acorns, talking about how they grow trees, etc. It was my favorite afternoon in a long time. I love being outside in the fall.

Then we put a piece of paper into a plastic bucket. We had to cut it to size to fit nicely in there.

Then I put dabs of paint on the paper.

Put the acorns into the paint.

Shake, shake, shake! Move back and forth, up and down, all around. That's the fun part!

She was so into this craft! Shaking paint? Awesome!

It really made some cool designs. We intend to use these as birthday cards! 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

falling short but not failing... and still being a COOL mom

This parody of Taylor Swift's "Shake it off" song came across my Facebook the other day and I was so excited I think I teared up and started dancing. I've been thinking these things for three weeks, trying to figure out how to put them to words in a blog post to share with you all. You HAVE to watch this "Cool Mom" video.

I posted earlier this week about how hard it's been for me returning to work after the summer off, doing two kid drop offs, etc. I'm exhausted, losing patience, and struggling to figure out what works with getting us out the door.

But I started feeling like you know what? I'm not all that bad at this mom thing. Yes, it's a rough patch right now, we all go through those phases where we feel like we can't get it right. But overall, I'm not too shabby around here. I'm failing at a few things, succeeding at some others.

I know moms everywhere will understand this, so I share with you my recent mishaps and the silver linings I learned from them.

MISHAP: I knew it was my father-in-law's birthday the morning that it was. I reminded myself that we needed to call him. I thought about it after work when I was headed to pick up the kids. I then got busy with dinner, bath, kids fighting, cleaning the house, etc. that we didn't call.

SILVER LINING: We called the next afternoon when I picked the kids up, a day late. My father-in-law was SO pleased to hear his grandson singing happy birthday to him, he didn't care that we didn't make it the day before. He thanked us 5 times. Score!


MISHAP: Got a birthday invitation 9 days before the party. Checked calendar, waited a few days to ask husband if he was able to go or if he was working, wrote it on the calendar, bought a birthday gift. Didn't RSVP until two days before, big NO NO in the partying world.

SILVER LINING: The mom was so happy we could just attend since a few friends couldn't go, she didn't care it was two days in advance. We got sent home with extra goodie bags at the party! Yes!


MISHAP: Babysitter was having a rough time. I wanted to make her a meal like she's done for me a zillion times before, but we didn't have extra money or time to do it on the day that it mattered. I felt like a loser, wanting to help but not able to.

SILVER LINING: I called on the tough day to say we had been thinking of her, asking if she needed anything, etc. She was so grateful with the thoughtfulness. Sometimes it's the little things that mean more than the tangible things.


MISHAP: I was snippy and overtired, woke way too early one morning to whining kids. I rushed us, we all were fussy and annoyed with one another. Not a great way to start a morning.

SILVER LINING: I took my son to the playground in the morning before school for 8 minutes. Freezing cold. But we LAUGHED and laughed and it made the snippy parts of the morning go away. I wasn't perfect, but I turned it around.


MISHAP: I arrived 27 minutes late to the library event. We were so excited to go to this super hero craft, story, snack time. But something at work made me leave 10 minutes later than planned, then the babysitter had to tell me something so that took a few minutes, so we were late.

SILVER LINING: I remember the superhero capes, had them in the car already so we didn't have to stop at home. We arrived anyway, I thought, well if the event is over by the time we get there, we'll just read stories. We got there in time for 2 stories, craft and snack! They only missed 2 other stories. Big deal that we were late. I was so proud of myself not canceling altogether because the kids had a blast.


MISHAP: Some friends asked us to be the guardians of their children if anything ever happens to them. This was in July. I've still not written the long letter of intentions and gratitude my husband and I want to write to them, because there was never that much time to sit and focus, together, and really be thoughtful about it. I feel guilty and terrible.

SILVER LINING: Two months later, I'm sending that letter today. I'm making sure it happens, and honestly when they read it I imagine they'll be grateful and thinking, "how sweet" instead of "geesh, two months late, eh?!" I'm accepting that I was late and that it's all good. It's the thought in the end that counts.


MISHAP: My good friend called me like 7 times in a few days. Every time he called I had no time to talk - kids screaming, in the middle of bath time, cooking dinner that was almost ready, etc. or I just missed the call because of working or laundry or something. When I called him back a few days later, he asked if I'd be his son's Godmother. I burst into tears, kinda because I felt terrible not getting back to his phone calls.

SILVER LINING: Someone wants me to be their child's Godmother. Clearly I'm doing a zillion things right, way more than the things I'm doing "wrong." And I apologized, told the truth, "I'm so sorry I was busy being mom, I couldn't call you back. Forgive me. I'll be a fantastic Godmother and I'm so honored." It's OK to have these moments. It's not worth having guilt over your reality getting in the way.


I have about a hundred examples like this from the last few weeks, where I didn't get things done the way they "should" have been done.

Times when I wished I'd cleaned things, remembered things, acknowledged things, sent a card on time, arrived sooner than we did, responded to a text message or email earlier than a week or two late, RSVPd sooner, etc.

Sometimes we're busy, other times we have Mom Brain and just plain forget. Sometimes we have to choose, prioritize, do something over another thing. Sometimes we are exhausted so not thinking straight. Sometimes we have to just put ourselves and our kids first. Sometimes we don't even remember, genuinely just don't recall what we were supposed to do.

I say all of that is normal and OK.

I say we need to be forgiving as mothers - forgiving of others who make some mishaps or come in a day late and dollar short, as well as forgive ourselves, not be so hard on ourselves to make it perfect every time.

Sometimes it's taking baby steps to get to where you need or want to be. That's OK to take it slow. Have patience with yourself.

I could have given up on all of the above. I could have turned around, ignored, felt defeated, said "nope, not doing it." Instead, I just did it later than I planned. This part is HARD for me. I'm type-A, organized all the time or at least try to be, get frustrated when things are not in order. I'm not a clean freak, my house is not super clean, I'm not perfectionist, I am all about being real. But I like things working, and I have huge ideas on how to help others and give of myself all the time... when I can't do those things I get disappointed.

I was able to manage that way of being with my first child for the most part, but then two kids came along and ever since I'm not able to do things as quick or as often as I used to do. I'm behind the mark sometimes. That's hard for me to accept sometimes, but it is what it is. There's no controlling it. What helps me is writing things down, I have a big white board calendar in the kitchen that I write a zillion things on. I keep post-its and keep a calendar with me at all times. I put notes in my phone. My husband puts reminders in his to remind both of us. I prepare ahead of time as much as I can.

We do the best we can. We make our kids happy, each other happy, and ourselves. Then we do our very best to give back and help others and acknowledge the great in the world. Sometimes we're better at this than others.

I live by the philosophy "treat others how you want to be treated," I learned this growing up and try to live this way. So, while I'm still working through my own disappointments about not being able to be as quick or reply as often or have as much money to do the things I think up doing for friends, I'm realizing that it's all OK, as long as the thought is there, as long as I'm continually trying to get better and to do what's right, it's all good.

I know most in the world understand what it's like being a mom. They get how busy it is, how scattered life can be, how you're going here and there and all over the place. I think most of the world understands, so I have to be understanding within myself, too.

Give yourself a break, moms. And realize that if you can't do it just the way you wanted to do it originally, you still CAN do it. It's the thought and gestures that count, even if a little later than your Mom Brain planned.

Remind yourself that even though some days you don't shower and you use baby talk more than you wish you did, or if your hair hasn't been cut in way too long or you're just not doing xyz.... remind yourself, you're still mostly a COOL mom. You got this thing. Keep on rockin' on... even if you're a little late sometimes. 

why you should be an Instagramming-momma

A week or so ago on the Mommy Stories Facebook group the question was asked, "What the heck is Instagram? How is it different from Facebook? Should I be on it?"

My answer is of course YES!

A site completely dedicated to taking the most random, sometimes mundane but always super cute photos? YES PLEASE. That's my kinda site.

I joined Instagram in January 2014. My younger brother showed me the ropes. He set me up. It was easy! You just sign up with your Facebook account or your email address. Get the app on your phone. Done.

My name is @themommystories, find me!

The point of Instagram? To share your pictures with those who "follow" you.

I like Instagram because it's a smaller group of people following me and who I follow. You can follow as many people as you want, but for me and many of my mom friends it's about following those I'm closer to, not the random aunt's cousin's boyfriend or every old high school person like on Facebook.

The other thing I LOVE about Instagram is it's a go-to storage place for your pictures. We take a zillion pics of our kids, right? Instagram makes it cool and acceptable to post a zillion of them. Since it's all about photos, not as many commenting or discussions, it's about the images. Taking the same posed pic of your child gets old on there, so you'll often see sweet photos of simple moments... feet swinging from a park swing set, feet jumping in mud puddles, brand new jacket buttons and tiny fingers, ice cream cones, etc.

Also, moms like me are on there showcasing our lives and our blogs. It's a great resource for mothers! I purposely post pictures of disaster areas of my house, messy kitchen sinks and toys all over the floor. My purpose there is just like on this blog - to show the REAL side of being a mom so that others know they aren't alone, we're all kinda crazy in this mom thing together :)

It's a good way to feel less alone, more normal as a mother.
Moms post things on Instagram they'd never post on Facebook. Facebook is huge now and lots of viruses, etc. Instagram is a way to sort of keep things closer if you choose to.

It's like a big old mom support group on there via images.

A few moms on Instagram that I follow and absolutely love:

  • @keepupwiththejonesfamily - LOVE this one. she's so real.
  • @notsosupermom
  • @thishappymess
  • @knaptimeknitter - my awesome sister's Etsy and food blogging fiasco of fun
  • @shopthroughtheheart - my sister's shop on Instagram to sell her gently used and totally adorable kids and adult clothes 
  • @easygreenmomblog
  • @cariduganphotography
  • @lifewithroozie - this is AWESOME, it's two moms raising their daughter and she falls asleep just about every night with art supplies drawing. Soooo cool. They also wear converse every day. Love.
  • @thebeantownbelle - a mom from Boston, love finding "local" moms
  • @complicatedmama
  • @paleogamomma - she shares paleo eating 
  • @idalaerke - TONS of amazing photos. She maybe is from England or something and the pics are just gorgeous
  • @inbeautyandchaos
  • @instagram_kids - beautiful pictures that regular moms submit of kids
  • @itsreallytenmonths
  • @mommyneedsamartini
  • @iheartorganizing
  • @clothdiapergeek
  • @etst - Kelle Hampton's book Bloom is my favorite, she has a sweet blog and even cuter Instagram pics of her daughter with Downs Syndrome and other children 
  • @adomesticmomma
  • @noahsdaddotcom - my fave online dad ever! He has a son, Noah, with Downs Syndrome, and he's the most active, energetic, super positive and fun dad around. Follow on FB also, awesome duo!
  • @peekaboopottysicker- great resources for potty training
  • @maybematilda - great blog too
  • @thepaelomom - eats for kids and adults
  • @superhealthykids - great food ideas for littles
  • @sweetinsahmnity
  • @wonderwohm
  • @soccermomblog
  • @mom_hub
TONS of cool moms, check them out!

The thing I'm not too keen on with Instagram is I haven't figured out a way if after I've allowed someone to follow me, but then I don't want them following me anymore for some reason, I don't know how to make them unfollow me. I haven't figured that out yet, so if you know how please email me!

Overall, YES, you should be an Instagrammer. You should follow me @themommystories where I show tons more than just the blog write-ups. I show you books we get from the library that we love and would be good gifts. I share things I'm grateful about being a mother and with having kids around. I show messy MESSY moments, and then some of my organization tips. It's fun! I promise it's fun.

There are SO many childhood moments I want to capture with my kids, but I don't always have the camera on me (well, most of the time, I do, you know this, but not always). So having Instagram is a great way to upload pics that would otherwise just stay on the phone sitting there for nobody to see.

Enjoy it! Check it out and have fun!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

surviving the first weeks of school

September is my favorite month of the year. And the craziest. Not sure how those match up, but for me they do.

I LOVE the crisp fall air where you can wear sweatshirts but also still have on flip flops. I love apple picking and pumpkins and planning for Halloween. I love the leaves and how the sunshine hits them in the afternoon.

The crazy part of fall though, well, that's no fun! I work in a school so have the summers mostly off to myself and the kiddos. Going from easygoing, slow, lazy, sunshine days outside doing what we want and being organized most of the time, to fast paced, rushing all the time, little patience, not enough sleep, too much on the to do list, not feeling organized at all, scattered and busier than ever.... it's a hard adjustment. I think everyone feels this, regardless if they have summers off or not. Getting the kids back into the swing of getting up early and out the door on time is tough also.

The lazy days of summer seem so far away. Where I had meals ready and clothes clean and the house mostly organized.

Now it's rushing here and there, something every weekend when I just want downtime, the house a complete disaster. The first full week of school I literally didn't do a single load of laundry or dishes. You should have seen my house. Worst mess ever. And I didn't care. I had no energy to care.

I've tried being that carefree mom I was in the summer and who I promised to continue to be this fall even though back at work... but I'm struggling. It's HARD. I'm having a hard time getting out the door. 

My work schedule changed so I have to be there at 7:10. I commute a half hour to work. Two kids at two different drop offs. I drive through bus traffic, slow speed limits, red lights, and kids crossing the street. It's HARD. I have not made it to work on time more than maybe 3 times in three weeks. I'm struggling.

Summer seems way too far away. I miss it.

I'm trying my best. Packing everything at night, including water bottles and setting out shoes and jackets. Every little thing happens ahead of time, preparation is key, I know this. I've done this whole drop off thing for 5 years now, I know what it takes to get me out the door. But it's hard. And I'm snipping, rushing, losing patience, have no energy, and feeling annoyed at how long everything takes with kids. I adore them, but they are slow and when you're a busy mom who needs to get out the door to work, slow isn't your friend.

I've done a little bit of the stay at home mom thing and it's HARD. There were moments, sometimes daily, that I said out loud or to myself, "I'm going to lose my mind." It's really challenging to be the one on duty all the time, never getting a break or talking to adults. So hard.

There is something really difficult for me personally though about going back to work after being home. I work in a fast paced job, where the second I arrive to the second I leave there is something going on that I need to do, someone who needs me. I do not ever sit and eat lunch with anyone besides a kid I'm working with or a computer that needs responding to, and when I do sit and eat it's literally 10 minutes. I don't know what a lunch break looks like. I LOVE my job, anyone who knows me knows it's so important to me. But it makes being a full-time working out of the home mom really difficult, to be so dedicated to a job you love, so busy all the time, when you are also a parent.

I'm trying though. I'm trying to find balance. When can I ever work out again like I did daily in the summer? When will I get enough sleep? When will I catch up on laundry? Will I ever remember to send that card that's 3 weeks late? When will I actually remember the grocery list and have time and money to make some meals to freeze?

The answer... who knows! It's just part of the game, I guess, of life, of parenthood, of working.

The only thing I can do is to keep trying to be better than yesterday, to get it right - right for me not right for someone else. I can keep trying to smile and remember that I AM that carefree mom inside of this messy house and working life.

I wrote this for all of you moms, those staying home and finding it hard to balance being a woman and adult versus just a baby feeding-changing-helping machine. I wrote it for those trying to get to work on time without having baby spit up or boogers or mud on your not ironed, totally too wrinkly but you don't care skirt. I wrote it for those who feel they are losing patience too often and who aren't able to figure out what the heck to pack for school lunches.

I wrote it for all of you, moms, who are trying SO hard to get things right, and who are feeling like they are defeated and failing, not getting it the way you hoped it would be.

I write this for you, to know you aren't alone, that you aren't sucking at this whole mom thing, that you are doing better than you believe, because you are continuing to try every single day to get it better than yesterday for your babies.

The first Friday of the first week of school it was GORGEOUS outside. I opened my window in my office and closed my door, thinking, "OK, I have so much to do and plan to get things organized for next week..." Phone calls to return, emails to organize, messy desk to clean, etc. I opened the window and glanced at a picture of my kids. I looked back at the mess... the mess that is always going to be there, not an emergency. I left 5 minutes later.

I realized the warm weather won't always be here. The mess at work will be.
I thought, my kids won't always be this little where they LOVE surprises from mom. The duties will be.
I realized, I needed a break. Already, yes, already, even a few days into this fiasco of going back to school/work. Work won't give you a break. But you can give yourself one when you need it.

So I picked them up and said I had a surprise. The smile on their faces was priceless! They knew. They know our happy place, Mom's happy place. THE BEACH!

So we went. In school clothes. In my skirt from work. Without swimming attire, without shovels or towels. We just went and jumped right in!

We ignored how tired we were. I forgot about the chaos I left at work or how messy my car and house were right now. We just went and existed together, happily, like in the summer.

Too often we moms are hard on ourselves. We expect the world for our kids, so we expect way too much of ourselves. Well, I am learning that yes, I'm failing at a few things, I'm making mistakes, I need to figure out better methods in the morning to get myself and the kids out the door. I'm working on it though, that's what matters. Losing my mind or patience in the process is not OK.

My friend at work told me, "Before you get into work, you're a mom first. So just be their mom and do your thing, then get to work and be a great worker." She's so right! It's that simple. 

It doesn't feel that simple, I know, but it really IS that simple. I'm mom until I walk through those doors, so that means I need to slow down, focus, be present and supportive and awesome for my littles, then I can transition into being a great worker. I CAN find balance and I CAN do it all, just going to take some practice and patience with myself I suppose.

So here's what I know I'm doing well lately:
*Making sure every single day there is time. Time for hugs, "I love yous" and bed time stories. Time to laugh. We all need that, but especially me.

*I'm still trying to find time every week to do something fun, to take "adventures" like we call them.

*Yesterday I only had one drop off so we had an unexpected 10 minutes before we could get to preschool opening. So, I took my son to the playground. At 6:50 a.m. and 45 degree weather, for only 8 minutes. But it was the BEST morning we've had before school/work so far in three weeks!

*All kids are dressed, fed, and telling me they love me daily. I'm doing something right.

To the moms struggling to get things right these first few weeks returning back to school, please know you aren't alone. It's not all rainbows and butterflies, right? We'll all get there. The kids will sleep better again soon and they will eat their lunches we labor over. We'll get into a routine of cooking something other than pancakes for dinner, and all will be well again. Trust me, it's all OK. Hang in there, Moms.

Happy back to school!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

this time next year: fears about the big K

So "this time next year" is a phrase I find myself saying over and over the last few weeks.

I keep seeing photos of fresh Kindergarteners in their cute outfits and way too big backpacks.

I keep imagining my own son, 4 1/2 years old now, wearing a cute outfit next year and me taking a zillion pictures.

I see busses everywhere. Now, I work in a school so that's not abnormal. But since mid-August, the sight of a bus has sent me into this inner panic. I picture my son on that bus, without a seat belt (I'm sorry, I just cannot get over the no seat belt thing with busses!). I picture him getting into trouble or someone bugging him. I picture him forgetting his stop and me not knowing where he is. That whole bus thing kinda scares me.

The whole thing is a bit frightening I'll admit. The idea of him, my baby, heading out into a world that's unknown, where he'll be surrounded by teachers who may not get that he's loud and has so much energy he cannot sit still in a seat all day long. Where he'll be engaging with kids who perhaps don't have great upbringings and are allowed to swear or treat people not how they want to be treated, or where he'll maybe be in a class of best friends one year and then separated from them the next year and find himself miserable. I even worry about what he'll eat, if he'll be the one getting 3 ice creams or only eating the good parts of the meal instead of the whole meal.

The whole thing scares me!

I work in a school. I know the positives, the best parts, the socialization, the fun assemblies and field trips. I know the bus rides aren't terrible. Yet I know there are some yucky things, too. Things like the words "school shootings" that I wish I could ignore and pretend won't ever happen here, but as a mom those words terrify me.

I am afraid of him getting lost... not only off the bus or on some field trip without me, but in the classroom he attends every day. I'm afraid he won't be noticed, or maybe he'll be the one who can't stop talking, raising his hand so much the teacher says, "Anyone else have something to say?"

My son LOVES learning right now. He loves it. I don't want that to ever change.

He also LOVES me, his mom. He runs up to me every single day after preschool, huge grin on his face, cannot wait to tell me what he drew or the artwork he's taking home that afternoon. He doesn't care if his friends are there watching, he's all about his momma. I live for this moment all day at work.

And yet I work with middle schoolers. I know what's coming... the eye rolls and the "I'm going to pretend she did not just ask me to give her a hug before school" looks on their faces. Sure, middle school sounds far away from Kindergarten, but it's all relative. It's all out there, once you take that first bus ride.

So "this time next year" can just stay where it is... a year away. I'm not ready. I probably won't be ready next year either, but I'll force myself to smile and be excited for my son, the big growing boy that he is, ready to take on the world and learn everything he can. I'll do that for him because I know it's right. But also because I KNOW, for sure, that it'll be great. It'll be OK. I know that, I really do. There will be hard nights of getting him to do homework. There will be teachers he hates or that we are disappointed with. There will be mishaps with friendships, sports teams that don't go so well, and then tons and tons of successes to celebrate along his academic journey. I know these things to be true.

So we'll enjoy this last year of preschool and rock it like it's a party every afternoon when I pick up my sweet growing boy. I won't take for granted those hugs. I'll know how special they are and will savor them. And I'll keep my fingers crossed this whole year that this time next year my big baby still runs up to me when I pick him up from school, arms open, eyes sparkling, grinning from ear to ear with pride of something cool he learned in school.

I write this for all the moms who sent their babies to school this fall, as well as for those in my camp gearing up for "this time next year." We're all going to survive this. We have to, they are depending on us to be excited for them on this journey. We can do it.

Love this piece below, made me cry!

Happy Kindergarten, Moms!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

little boy, great big smile - a cleft lip story - Amanda Rapier

I am grateful that Amanda Rapier reached out to me to share her story of strength, courage and determination. A high school classmate of mine, I've come to learn that she's a super momma that's for sure! Such an amazing advocate for her son, Owen, (of course I LOVE the name, as it's my son's name, too!), I admire Amanda's dedication to making her son's life as fun and normal as any little guy his age. 

She and some other Maine moms started a fantastic support group and organization for other moms with children with facial disfigurement. I hope that at least one mom reads this post and knows she is not alone, that her child is absolutely adorable, and that differences are what make our world amazing. 

Thank you, Amanda. I'm brought to tears while editing this. I'm so happy to be a part of your mission to help other families in Maine. 

Images from Amanda Rapier

Here's my story:
         I found out at my 20 week ultrasound that my baby would have a unilateral cleft lip and palate( A cleft lip and palate is an opening in the lip and roof of the mouth that occurs during pregnancy). 

It was sort of a surreal experience.

I was at the hospital and during my ultrasound, the technician asked me to step out and wait in the waiting room after we got a peek at the baby and she announced the gender- a boy. I waited anxiously for about 20 minutes in the waiting room and then the technician came back in and told me that I could go home. I thought that was kind of weird but was bubbling with excitement to tell our family that we would be having a boy! Later that night, I got a call from the hospital telling me that my son had a cleft lip and palate and also a dark spot on his heart, which indicated a serious heart condition. 

They referred me to the cleft lip and palate team (a team of doctors who specialize in treating this condition) at Maine Medical Center. At one point during my pregnancy, I was told that my son may not live after birth for fear that the cleft lip and palate and heart defect indicated a fatal genetic condition called trisomy 13. 

After an eventful and complicated pregnancy (due to high blood pressure), I delivered Owen at 36 weeks. He weighed 4 lbs, 2 oz. He was my tiny miracle: he was born with a cleft lip and palate but the serious heart condition that they told me he would have was non-existent!

           Fast forward eight and a half years, and I have a perfectly healthy, fun loving, smart, and very sweet almost third grader! 

Owen has endured 4 surgeries- a lip surgery at 6 months, another lip and palate surgery at 13 months, a palate surgery at 2 years and a fistula repair (his palate re-opened) at 7 years. He will have the fifth surgery next Spring. This will be a bone graft so that later on he can have a tooth put in in the space that is where his cleft is. 

He has seen numerous doctors, had speech therapy, and a horrible case of pneumonia that sent him in intensive care with chest tubes at Maine Med for weeks. 

Throughout everything, Owen has been incredibly strong and resilient. He has taught me how to be strong in the face of adversity and has sparked a need to advocate for him and other children who have gone through this.  

I've tried to help him advocate for himself as well and I've really stressed the understanding that it's okay to be different. On a recent play date with a friend, Owen matter- of- factly told his friend "I was born with a cleft lip and palate. I had a hole in my mouth, want to see?" as he opens his mouth to show his friend. His friend said, "Oh, cool!". His classmates have been wonderful to him- even sending him cards and pictures when he was in the hospital last year for a palate repair. 

          After Owen was born and I finally got the hang of taking care of a baby with a cleft lip and palate (feeding can be complicated), I felt the need to meet other mothers who were going through the same thing. I searched the internet but found very little about any groups or networks in the area. I had an idea at that moment and knew that a cleft lip and palate network in Maine needed to be created but I didn't know where to start.  

A few years later, I met another mom who was trying to do the same thing! She was instrumental in getting the project started and with the help of the coordinator of the Cleft Lip and Palate clinic at Maine Med and a few other moms of children with cleft lip and palate, a group was created. 

Our organization is called Facing Maine and our goal is to spread awareness, education, advocacy, and support for families of children with facial disfigurement in Maine. We have a Facebook support group which currently has 53 members and we plan family get-togethers so that families can meet. We are hoping to reach non-profit status and start raising money for our cause in the future. We welcome any families of children with a facial disfigurement or conditions to check out our website, join our Facebook support group, and attend our events. 

1. How did you first feel when you found out your child had a cleft lip and palate? What were some of your worries, fears, concerns in hearing this?
When I first heard about Owen's cleft lip and palate, I felt extremely anxious, scared, and alone. I had never heard of this diagnosis and didn't know much about it. I wanted the best for my little boy and worried that it would affect his development. I did a ton of research after I found out, which, coupled with the added fear of my son having a heart condition, made me extremely stressed as there is SO much information( which is not always accurate and can be very negative). 

I was also scared that I may have somehow caused this to happen to him but then learned that a cleft lip and palate can occur spontaneously and the cause is often unknown. 

2. What is your advice to someone who has a child with these conditions? 
You are not alone! There are many other families in Maine who are experiencing the same thing. Reach out to groups like Facing Maine if you need support or advice and ask your families to help.  It can be a tough job taking care of a baby with a cleft but there are lots of resources to help. 

3. How has this experience made you stronger, or a better mother? 
Having Owen has made me a strong mother because I have had to learn not only to advocate for him throughout his procedures and experiences but also to advocate for myself when I needed support.  Owen and I have such a strong bond. I know that we can get through anything!

4. What do you hope the world learns about kids with cleft lips and palates? 
That they are incredibly resilient but can also be sensitive to the fact that the outside world may not understand what a cleft lip and palate is. It's important to encourage a child with a cleft lip and palate to educate others and to practice their responses when they are potentially faced with questions that their peers or even adults might ask. 

5. What do you hope your child knows about himself, regardless of this cleft lip and palate? 

I want Owen to know that he is loved beyond measure. I am so proud of the person he has become and that he has been an inspiration to me.