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Saturday, December 6, 2014

Mom of the Month - Kristen Coutu

You know that mom who you think has it all together, and yet is so wholesomely real and genuine? Well, that is definitely our December Mom of the Month, Kristen James Coutu! She's a mom to three beautiful babes, including one who has medical challenges. She's a hard worker, and so truly dedicated to being the best mom ever. I admire her strength, courage and perseverance when it has come to figuring out what is best for her family. 

She also has some AWESOME ideas about keeping Christmas in perspective and not going overboard with things that don't really matter that much. I also LOVE LOVE LOVE her idea of "special 10," where every night each child gets to choose to have 10 uninterrupted minutes with one of their parents. LOVE that. Such a realistic and important goal! 

Congrats, Kristen! Thanks for sharing some of your life with us.

1.Describe your children in 3-5 words.
Braiden- sensitive, caring, inquisitive, confident
Addison- Silly, Intelligent, spunky, loving
Gracelyn- snuggly, friendly, care-free, mischievous

2. How old are your children?
Braiden-6, Addie-3, Gracie-18months

All photos from Kristen Coutu

3. How would you describe your pregnancies?
All 3 were very different!
-My 1st went by fast. I was newly married, in grad school and kept busy all the time. By the 8th month it all caught up with me and due to pregnancy induced hypertension I was put on bed rest for the last 4 weeks and induced 2 weeks early. This Induction was the scariest and longest thing I had ever gone through, (and totally not what I planned or wanted!) but in the end all that mattered was our healthy baby boy.
-My 2nd was planned and we were very excited! I felt great through my entire pregnancy and was able to work and keep up with my then 2 year old. I labored mostly at home, we arrived at the hospital about 20 minutes before Addison was born and I delivered a healthy baby girl completely naturally!
-My 3rd was a big surprise! We were not prepared for another baby so soon (already having a 3 year old and 12 month old) and I had a hard time dealing with that for a while. Looking back I think my mindset might have played into this pregnancy… I was overwhelmed, scared, so sick and just exhausted. To make matters worse my due date came and went with no baby! Finally I was slowly induced a few days later and our family was blessed with a healthy little girl!

4. Describe yourself as a mom in 3-5 words.
Creative, organized, encouraging & fun

5. What type of mom do you hope your children think you were someday when they're old enough to tell you?

I hope my kiddos remember me as being understanding and supportive, encouraging, always finding exciting ways to make the everyday things fun, and I hope they will always remember the value and importance of quality family time together.

6. What things have you done as a mom that you're most proud of?
I completed my Master’s degree while pregnant with my 1st baby. I started and maintained a successful career as an Occupational Therapist while keeping my family the center of my world. 

Finding that balance can be so hard but I am proud of the accomplishments I have done professionally, but most importantly that I have and always plan to keep family my #1 priority.

7. What have been the most difficult parts to being a mom?
I am so fortunate to have not gone through a loss or tragic situation as a parent so I feel lucky to say that Sleep deprivation is the main thing that stands out for me. It’s so hard to function with little or no sleep… and even harder to hear other moms say that their little ones sleep all night! As a mom you truly don’t understand the depth of sleep deprivation and how it can impact your everyday life unless you have experienced long-term sleepless nights.

8. What is your favorite baby/child product(s) that makes your mom job easier?
Baby wearing was a life-saver for me, I love snuggling my little ones and I am a major multi-tasker so my moby wrap and boba carrier were the best- especially once #3 came along and I had 2 other little ones running around!

Pacifier clips are also big in our house. Not just for the binky though. We always would hook toys or clip their special blankie to them and clip to the car seat, stroller, shopping cart cover, front carrier etc. We would have lost so many toys and blankies without these clips! 

I also LOVE our video monitor. Without being able to see my babies sleeping I would be constantly tip-toeing into their room!

9. What advice about being a mom would you give to a brand new mother? What advice would you give to a mom who has a child with illnesses?
Best advice I would give to a new mom would be: stop worrying about everything! ☺ Follow your own instincts and call the doctor if you are worried, but otherwise don’t stress the small stuff!

Having a child with a medical condition can be difficult, but having a child who you know is sick but has not been diagnosed is even worse! We went through a life-changing year with my 1st child when he was 2 years old. He was so sick but the doctors could not figure out what was going on. We endured test after test with no answers. It was physically, emotionally and mentally draining. 

I learned in that year how important it was to advocate for your child, follow your own instinct and never give up. After several doctors telling us different things but all with no real answers (that my son’s sickness was caused by a virus or  was growing pains… we heard it all!!) we made a self-referral to Boston Children’s Hospital. Taking the risk of being labeled “that crazy parent” we knew something was wrong. 

After a year of struggles, fighting, advocating, brushing off bad advice, picking up and moving on, we figured it out! 

Please Moms- Fight for your child, what you feel is best for them and advocate for what they need. Whether it be for their medical, educational, or social needs don’t be afraid to be “that mom” because your child is depending on you- the person who knows them best!

10. What is a typical day like for you?
5:00- Hubby leaves for work, I Shower, get ready, Prep/pack lunches, pack school/daycare bags & my work stuff,  make breakfast, then catch up on dishes laundry ect. as time allows before kids wake up.
6:30-Kids wake up, snuggle on couch, read books/songs, get kiddos dressed,  eat breakfast together, talk about plans for the day
7:30- head out to bus stop for my kindergartener
8:00- drop girls off at daycare then I go to work 3 days/week. On home days the girls and I come home, get things done around the house, usually go to story time at the library, gymnastics class, meet friends for playdate/walk etc., home for lunch, rest time
3:30-4:00 leave work pick up girls from daycare/ get Braiden off bus
4:00-6:00 unpack bags, play outside, hubby gets home, dinner, baths, set out next days clothes
6:00-8:00 read books, try to give each kiddos their “special 10”- 10 minutes doing an activity of their choice with mom or dad with no sibling interruptions, bed time routine and bed! 
The little one usually goes down about 30 minutes before the older 2 so we can read their big kid books together ☺

11. What 5 things would you like to do with your kids someday, if anything were possible and money no object?
-Take a year off from work and homeschool all 3 while traveling around the country
-Take a yearly vacation to a new destination in other countries
-Buy a lake house and spend summers playing on the water and enjoying the view
(Is it bad I can only think of 3?! ☺)

12. What are your favorite CHRISTMAS activities to do with your kids? Traditions? Things you love to eat? How do you prepare for the holidays?
I try to keep the holdiays in perspective for our family. No crazy present buying preparation months ahead. I do try to wrap and label gifts as I purchase them to avoid a late night of wrapping on Christmas eve.  

We try to celebrate the real purpose of Christmas. Whether you are religious or not- I feel Christmas is a time to remember, to cherish time with family and loved ones, to be thankful for everything we have, and to realize we are just a tiny little piece of the big story. The presents, the “things” are that- just things, yet the experiences we give our children and family help to shape who they are and the memories they will have forever.

BUT- on a less serious note…. everyone LOVES presents too! Santa brings 1 present unwrapped at our house (usually a special toy they have wanted) and the other gifts are from mom and dad, and each other. Each of our kids buys a simple gift for their siblings too! They have as much fun giving a gift as they do getting one.  This year we are limiting presents based on a cool article I read… “something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read”. I hope this helps us keep our goal of keeping the holidays in perspective.

We love to make a yummy crockpot or breakfast bake and have it ready to eat Christmas morning. We also make and decorate a birthday cake for Jesus usually Christmas Eve day with the cousins.

13. Tell us a time where you felt like you failed at parenting... but then realized you truly had not failed, things worked out fine.
I thought that I had totally messed up with “sleep training” (or whatever you want to call it-lol) with my kiddos. I thought they were difficult sleepers because I was always checking on them too frequently, or that I let them cry too long, or any other crazy reason you can think up in the middle of the night with a fussy baby!! I soon learned that you can encourage good sleep habits and sleep routines, but ultimately it just boils down to your baby being who they are. The sleepless nights are hard but will soon be a distant memory. I feel content that my memories of these difficult nights are filled with sweet baby snuggles, nursing, and rocking together.

14. What makes you a strong mom?
I have always and still do wear my heart on my sleeve. I can be pretty emotional and sometimes feel like that gets in the way of me doing my best as a mom in difficult situations. Over the years I have seen that this quality actually has made me stronger. I am passionate about the things I feel that are important and try to make the best out of even the most difficult circumstances. 

I have learned perseverance, how to increase efficiency, how to help other moms when I can, and how to ask others for help when I need it (although this continues to be a work in progress!)- these things make me a strong mom!

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