First Time Moms + Friendships That Last

I recently was able to spend some quality time with one of my oldest, dearest friends. One of those friends that has seen you at your absolute best, absolute worst, and has loved you just the same. She’s one of those friends that are worth fighting tooth and nail for, because having her in your life makes it that much better. Our conversation ended up detouring to a place that caught me off guard, as she began to share her concerns about the current state of our long-lasting friendship. Concerns I was unaware of. She shared honestly that lately she’s felt like our friendship hasn’t been a priority to me, and that she felt like I thought I was better than her because I had children and she doesn’t. While these things could not be farther from the truth, it made me sad to think that I was unknowingly making someone I care so deeply for feel this way. The conversation we had weighed heavy on my heart for days, and this wasn’t the only friendship that I’ve had some recent concerns about. So I did what I normally do when I need to share thoughts and feelings about this crazy adventure of motherhood – I talked to my Momtourage (those 40 amazing first time moms I’m privileged to called friends). I wanted to know if this was something a lot moms go through when they’re the first to have kids out of their friends, or if this was just me being inadequate in the friend department.

After having some great conversation and sharing of experiences (many of which influenced what I wrote below), I was able to focus my thoughts and feelings in a much more comprehensible way. And as always after chatting with these women, my heart had settled a little bit knowing I was definitely not alone in this. Whether you’re the first of your friends to start a family, or the friend that feels like you’re losing touch with a new mom – it can be a tricky transition for all parties involved. Below are some general thoughts about motherhood and friendships that I’ve begun to realize on my journey. I definitely don’t have all the answers, and I am far from figuring it all out, but I’m learning. And hopefully my friends, along with yours, can ride out the transition and come out better, closer, and stronger on the other side.

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  • Becoming a new mom is just what I’ve stated above – a transition. Between trying to figure out how to properly care for this beautiful baby you’ve just brought home, attempting to still be a good partner to your significant other, trying to manage any bit of household chores and maintenance, and simply getting in a shower now and then, its hard to juggle all these new responsibilities while emotional, sleep-deprived, and with a baby on your boob every two hours. Especially during those first few months, try your best to cut your new-mom friend some slack. She’s not trying to be neglectful, she’s just trying to adjust to her new life. And mom – once you get into the swing of things, make it a point to try and catch up on a little lost time. Your friends have lived a lot of life too while you’ve been adjusting to your new role.
  • Accept the fact that you may not fully understand each other’s lives at the moment – and that’s OK. No matter what you think you might know about each other’s lives at the moment, the truth is you really can’t know or fully understand. Despite the fact that your friendship is on new ground, make an agreement that even though you don’t always understand, you’re supportive and will do whatever you can to still be there. That includes being happy for your friend in their new adventure.
  • Be vocal and open – don’t let things slowly disintegrate without putting up a fight. Don’t let a temporary distance turn into a long-term distance when something could have been said to avoid it. Although you may be at different points in your lives right now, things may change in the future and it could be really painful if you’ve let your friendship slip away when its one you really need later. Speak up and talk about your needs that aren’t being met. Know you’ve done all you can.
  • For the new moms – remember to try and talk about things other than your baby. This is one I struggle with. I am no longer teaching, putting a hold on my master’s classes, and my daughter is my full-time job. Sometimes I feel like I don’t have a lot to bring to the table other than Tayler’s current sleep schedule and milestones. Try your best. Your friend needs to still identify with those pieces of you before you were a mom. And friends – if you don’t want to know all about baby, don’t ask all about baby. I assure you, any new mom will love to talk about their new bundle.
  • Sometimes phone calls are tough. The amount of moments during a day (especially during those first months) that are actually available for a new mom’s undivided attention are few. The odds of catching her at those times, are even fewer. Ignoring phone calls is not desired or intentional. If phone tag seems never ending and you just can’t catch each other, surrender to texts or emails for a little bit. That’s ok! Sometimes a new mom’s time to chat is at a 2 am feeding, so writing you a thoughtful message at that time might be her best bet.
  • If all else fails – make a designated time of the week that you promise to devote to each other. Even if its 10 minutes on Sundays before you go to bed. It’s expected. It’s consistent. It’s a time that you promise you’ll be there to catch up on the simple musings of your daily lives.
  • There is no scale of importance to stack up what each other have going on in your lives. Whether you’re a new mom, a newlywed, fully career driven, or simply living up the single life – all are important, and all are significant. Yes, some might be a little more time-consuming than others, but all are significant and deserve time and attention. One is no better than the other. Sometimes these different life paths at different times are hard to relate to, but often they will come full circle and you’ll be on the same page again eventually. Ride it out.
  • You both might feel left out at times. Expect it, accept it, and know its not hurtful or intentional. Momma – you might miss some girls nights out, a bachelorette party, or the simple freedom to meet up for happy hour on a whim. Friend – you might feel left out of this new life or new friendships she’s taken up with other moms. Its OK. Just make sure the communication lines stay open, do your best, and know that this too shall pass.
  • Give it time. I’m not quite there yet, but from what I hear from my knowledgeable friends with older babies – a new mom’s identity stabilizes a bit around the one year mark and you really find your stride. Becoming a new mom can be a shock to your identity. The priority you used to place on different pieces of your old identity sometimes shift and temporarily go in limbo. Give her time to re-adjust and get back those pieces of her that aren’t solely being a mom. She has them, I assure you, just give her time.
  • Not all moms adjust at the same pace. If you have one mom friend that is able to keep up and maintain your friendship with ease and another that seems temporarily non-existent, it doesn’t necessarily correlate to the amount of care they have for you. Every mom is different with different circumstances. Be patient – she’ll get there!
  • Sometimes these life changes will show you who is meant to continue on in your life and who is meant to move on in their own direction. The truest of friends are the ones who will try to understand no matter what, will know that your friendship thrives despite how often you are able to chat at the moment, and will fight for your friendship if things get rocky. Recognize those friends, appreciate them, and hold on to them with all your might.

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11 Christmas Traditions I Absolutely Adore.

I posted a few weeks ago about a countdown to Christmas you can do with your children that was accompanied by a list of festive activity ideas.  As I’ve been browsing around and thinking about what traditions I would like to incorporate for my small family year after year, I compiled a list of ideas that I just had to share.  Several of which incorporate themes of giving and selflessness that I think should remain at the forefront of the holidays and be taught to our young ones from a very early age.  My big dilemma now is being choosy about which ones we’ll realistically have time for each year – if I could I’d do them all! I hope you find something that seems fitting and enjoyable for your family each holiday season!

1. TOY BAG FOR SANTA. Each year your children fill a special bag with toys they are ready to get rid of and give to children who need them more.  They leave the bag of toys out by the tree on Christmas Eve and “Santa takes the bag back to the North Pole to shine up the toys and give them to children who need them”.  I love this one because it gives our children ownership over the process of cleaning out toys, can be done from a very young age, gets them thinking about others who have less than they do, and its an easy way for mom and dad to keep the house clutter-free.  Well, more clutter-free than usual. 🙂 If your children are older you could also have them fill a bag and take the bag themselves to a church drive, hospital, or other cause where their toys could be accepted and donated.

2. PRESENTS FROM MOM AND DAD. Most kids today have entirely more “stuff” than they actually need.  Christmas time is packed with gifts from family members and usually their needs are already met thanks to mom and dad.  Until our kids are a bit older, we’ve adopted the “Want, Need, Wear, Read” gift giving idea.  We get them one present per category.  There’s no need to stretch your budget beyond your means to get mass amounts of gifts (especially when they’re little and their favorite toy is a plastic water bottle!).

3. SANTA VS. PARENTS.  I really like the idea of having one (or two) special gifts from Santa, and the rest being from mom and dad.  I think it will take away a sense of entitlement from some mystical being, and encourages gratitude. Santa still comes, he just isn’t the one that fills under the tree! Plus, for traveling families at Christmas, it would be much easier to hide one or two “Santa” gifts as opposed to hiding all of them!  

4. POLAR EXPRESS.  I have to do this one.  It just seems like too much fun and excitement! On a random night leading up to Christmas, hide “Golden Tickets” in the kids’ beds that are their ticket to your Polar Express.  As mom (or dad) gets the kids ready for bed upstairs, the other parent is downstairs secretly popping popcorn, making hot chocolate drinks, and putting them in the car.  As the kids climb into bed, they see their ticket and get excited knowing that instead of sleep, they’re going for a fun ride with the family! Put on some slippers and a jacket, and head for the car! Turn up the Christmas music, enjoy your treats together, and drive around looking at all the cool Christmas lights!  You could even make a Lights Scavenger Hunt list to enjoy as the Polar Express rides along!

5. CHRISTMAS EVE BOX. Make a Christmas Eve box for your children to look forward to each year.  Things to include could be: pajamas everyone wears that night, a new movie to watch, popcorn to make, fun drinks, or even a new board game to play that night!

6. TREATS FOR NIGHT SHIFT WORKERS. The truth is while many of us are fortunate enough to spend Christmas Eve at home with our families, there are many people who have to work the night shift and keep some of our essential places of business and service running.  As a family, make a plate of food and treats, and drive them to somewhere you know the workers would appreciate the gesture.  It could be as simple as driving through your local 24-hour drugstore’s pharmacy window! Let them know people appreciate their hard work that night!

7. CHRISTMAS COLLECTION JAR.  Decorate a fun glass jar as a family, and leave it out in a special place all year.  Family members can drop spare change or a few dollars into the jar whenever they feel like it throughout the year, and then at Christmas time you can choose someone or some place that could really use it and drop it off.  It could be a family in need, a shelter, school, charity, or religious organization.  Consider including a note that explains the tradition!

8. 25 BOOK COUNTDOWN. This one is a no-brainer for the teacher in me – I love it! Over the course of the year watch those sales and collect 25 new books to wrap and open each night leading up to Christmas during the month of December.  Can’t afford to buy them? Check several out from your library, wrap them up, and when you’re done you can return them – the element of surprise will still be there!

9. CHAIN LINK OF GOOD DEEDS. Use 25 strips of construction paper and a stapler to make a chain link countdown to Christmas of good deeds.  Brainstorm things that would be simple, realistic, and kind to do for others during the month.  They could be as simple as “saying hi to a new friend at school” or “calling great-grandma before bed” or “taking our dog for an extra long walk”.  Each day you take off a link, and do the good deed you’ve written down.  Help our children realize that good, kind deeds can be done in the simplest of ways all the time!

10. KIDS CHRISTMAS TREE.  If you’re like me, you love having a beautiful, “adult” Christmas tree in your home.  Having an adult Christmas tree and including your kids in the decorating might not mix though! Consider having a smaller “kid tree”.  They can decorate it however they want, as many times as they want, and it might be a good place to include all those homemade ornaments they’ve made over the years.  It’ll be fun for them to see their ornaments, and you get the best of  both worlds!

11. CHRISTMAS SLEEPOVER UNDER THE TREE.  This one is pretty self-explanatory.  After the excitement of Christmas day, gather all the pillows and blankets and have a family sleepover by the tree! Pop in one final Christmas movie to enjoy together, get in some extra snuggles, and reflect on how much we have to be thankful for.  Who doesn’t love a good sleepover?!

Whatever the tradition, I hope you enjoy this time with your loved ones and have a very merry holiday season!

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A Baby Weight Loss Journey By Numbers

I had every intention of saving this post for down the road when I hit my post-baby weight goal.  You know, so I could share my journey and then end with a motivational, “Its hard, but possible!”, or, “It can be done, just stick with it!”.  Then as I rushed out the door this morning for Tayler’s 9 month doctor appointment and grabbed two chocolate nuggets for breakfast, I decided I needed to write it right now.  Like, today.  It’s not going to take the route I had once intended, and I honestly don’t know what the message is I’m trying to portray by writing it.  I have a feeling this one is for me more than it is for anyone else.  It’ll probably be a little scattered and unorganized, and might go in a few different directions, but I can assure you it’s honest, and if anything, I hope it gives you some comfort knowing that you’re not alone.  Losing the baby weight and being able to identify your body in the mirror as your own after the months of changes it has endured is hard. Simple as that.  Its hard.

To give my story some context, I need to back up just a tad.  I’ve always been an athlete, I’ve always loved sports, and back in my hay day I actually used to be pretty good at a few of them.  I’ve always had an athletic build, and have never been model thin.  But I’ve always loved my body.  Like I promised in the title, I’ll do this in honest to goodness numbers.  (Absolutely terrifying, but also kind of exhilarating!).  What have I got to hide? Anyway, all through college I weighed 130 pounds.  That weight suits my body in a healthy way.  The picture below is me at that weight.  God I hate her (and misss her!).  This was when I could drink 3 (or more) nights a week, get crappy food before bed at 2 a.m., rarely workout, and I still had these abs.  Did I mention I hate her? My point is, 130 suits me well.

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After college I became an elementary school educator and during my first year of teaching 5th grade I gained a few pounds.  If you know a teacher, you know that first year is incredibly time-consuming and stressful. It wasn’t much, but a few pounds. I still looked good! A few years later my mother-in-law began to lose her battle with breast cancer.  So, my husband (fiance at the time) and I moved out of state to be with her.  I was fortunate enough to be able to stay home with her everyday, and be there to help out in anyway I could.  Oh, and we were getting married in a few months back in Michigan, so I was trying to finish planning a wedding.  Needless to say, it was a few months of very minimal sleep, stress, and complete focus on everything else but myself and my health. A combination of these different factors brought my weight up to 144 pounds.  It was the heaviest I’d ever been, and my wedding pictures reflect it.  While I wouldn’t change that time with my mother-in-law for anything, it was hard.

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I stayed at this weight until we decided to start trying to expand our family.  After losing my mother-in-law, I didn’t have the motivation or desire.  None.  144 was the number I started my pregnancy at and I felt good.  How could I not? I was pregnant!

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Over the course of those 40 wonderful weeks I gained 32 pounds. Magic number of 176. It was a great weight gain for me, Tayler was beautiful and healthy, and I couldn’t wait to start finding my way back to me.

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Over the first two months I shed 20 of those 32 pounds fairly quickly with minimal effort.  Tayler and I would go on walks everyday, and I was breastfeeding which helped (supposedly?).  But my weight plateaued at 156.  The number I just couldn’t seem to get past.  At 2.5 months postpartum I finally got that surge of motivation to kick it up a notch.  While I couldn’t play with my diet too much because of breastfeeding, I stepped up my physical workouts and started running again.  It felt great. I was active daily, and with a few months of discipline and not letting me be too hard on myself, I crushed through 156 and got down to 137.  Seven pounds lighter than my pre-pregnancy weight! I was killing it!

Then the weather started to get cold, and as Tayler got older she started hating being in the jogger for longer than 10 minutes.  The girl had an agenda of her own, and it was to move! Fast forward three months, and here I am now.  Still at 137.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of myself and I’m happy I’ve been maintaining.  But my goal is 130, and with hopes of adding to our family in the near future, I’d love to hit that number soon.  At the moment, however, I’m just kind of at a stand-still.  When moms get down on their postpartum bodies, the advice they hear is usually one of three things.  And its the same things I myself say to other moms.  1. “It took you nine months to put the weight on, it’ll take at least that to get it off!”.  2. “Your body has endured so many changes over the past nine months, be patient!”.  3.  “Be proud of you new body, look at what a beautiful gift it gave you!”.  It all sounds great.  But #3 was the one that especially got me time and time again.  Whenever I’d look in the mirror before a shower and get emotional over this body that didn’t feel like my own, I’d feel guilty because “it gave me such a beautiful gift”, so why couldn’t I embrace this new body with joy? My love for my daughter runs deeper and wider than any words could ever express, so why didn’t I always love the body that gave me her?

Well, for starters, its because before I was a mom, I was also a woman and a wife.  I still am a woman and a wife (among other things!).  I still want to feel beautiful in my own skin, and I still want to feel like my body reflects what I feel inside.  I still am a wife who wants to feel confident and sexy for my husband.  Yes, I gave him a daughter and he more than shows me and tells me all the time how beautiful he thinks I am, but its more than that.  People take time to adjust to a new haircut, so why isn’t ok to take time to adjust to a new body? I weigh less than I do pre-pregnancy, but its distributed differently now.  My hips are bigger, my boobs are lower (don’t even get me started on my devastation about losing my boobs!), and my core still isn’t as strong as it should be so every time I eat I look 15 weeks pregnant.  Most days I’ve embraced these changes, but I don’t feel guilty anymore when I have a moment or a day when I’m upset about it.  Because the truth is, its hard.

Dinner time can be chaos.  I don’t have time to make a 5-star gourmet meal while I have a very mobile daughter getting into everything and wanting and deserving my attention. When you’re breastfeeding, you can’t really diet – those calories are too important for making milk.  At the end of an entire day working or chasing a little one around after a night of minimal sleep, sometimes all you have energy for is face planting it in the corner of your couch.  Some of us need sleep too desperately to “get a quick workout in before starting the day”.  Some weeks its too busy or chaotic to get to the grocery store when needed, and the only thing left in your pantry is a box of mac n’ cheese.  So you eat it.  Sometimes all you’re able to manage is a week full of takeout for dinner, and you refused to only order a grilled chicken breast with a side of broccoli.  Sure you try to utilize your husband or family so you can squeeze in some “you time”, but what about the times your husband works insane hours or you don’t live by family? There are the weeks you’re on point with your diet and exercise, and weeks its crashes and burns.  Its hard.  Its really, really hard. (That’s what she said? Anyone?).

I guess maybe I’ve somewhat stumbled on the point I was hoping I’d have in writing this.  Whatever you feel about your changing body, the goals you’ve set, the progress (or lack thereof) you’ve been making, its all justified.  Embrace it, pick yourself up, and keep going.  I’ve still got 7 pounds to go.  I’m not sure if I’ll get there, but if I don’t, so be it.  My motivation is coming from the mom in me who wants to have a healthy heart and body so I can watch my daughter and future grandbabies grow for a long, long time.  It is coming from the wife in me who wants to feel like I did in that lingerie I wore on our honeymoon, which will surely drive my husband insane.  It is coming from the woman in me who wants to look in the mirror before a shower and be able to say, “dang girl, you are one badass chick with a sweet little scar to prove it”.   And some days I do feel that way.  But no matter the number, I just want to be healthy.  I deserve it and my family deserves it.  Wherever you’re at, just keep going.  Shake off the bad days, cut yourself some slack, but keep going.  This stuff is hard.

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I’m coming for you 130!

When You Know Better, Do Better.

As a first time mom, I’ve had more than my share of “mistakes”.  I’ve forgotten the diaper bag and had to improv a poo explosion while out and about.  I forgot #3 bottle nipples altogether; we just went straight from #2 to #4.  I’ve had her dressed inappropriately for the weather, and one time I clipped a tiny piece of finger while clipping her nails.  As I carried her into her bedroom one night I accidentally cut a corner too sharply and smacked her head right on the door frame.  As a stay at home mom I feel like there are days when she’s bored with me and I let her down.  And my all time favorite – the time I was working on getting her to nap in her crib.  One afternoon after I laid her down she turned to look at me and started to cry.  My first instinct was to drop down on the ground in front of the crib so she couldn’t see me which would’ve surely spurred her on more.  Great plan.  Until I felt her little body flop on top of me from above.  I had forgotten to close the latch in my hurry to drop to the floor, and she had successfully catapulted herself on top of me.  Thankfully she had good aim, and thankfully she was just fine.  But my heart hasn’t beaten that fast in a long time, and I can assure you I have NEVER forgotten to close that latch again.

If you’re like me, these mistakes can really eat away at your heart.  I so badly want to be perfect as a mom for my daughter.  I want to make all the right decisions, do all the right things, and I want to have the answer for everything.  And its easy to forget other moms have “oops” moments too as we usually only see the “award winning mom moments” on our social media. So when these mistakes happen, whether big or small, mom guilt always shows up with impeccable timing and usually lingers around for a bit.

Then one day I saw this little quote that struck a chord within me, and has helped me shake off those missteps (trust me – there are plenty more, but I couldn’t air all my dirty secrets!) so I could spend my energy being my best for my daughter, not beating myself up over mistakes that are inevitable as a mom.

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This quote put my heart at ease.  It was a much better mentality to take about motherhood than my previous one that sought perfection.  Every day I do my best, as I’m sure you do too.  And that’s enough.  My best is always enough.  When I trip up along the way now, I learn and move on.  And the next time – I do better.  I don’t even entertain the, “How did I not know that?!” or the “I can’t believe I didn’t think of that?!”.  Everyday Tayler teaches me something new about our world together, and everyday I get better as a mom because of it.

If I could go back and talk to myself as a brand new mom, I’d let her know that no matter how many baby books you read, there is no foolproof guide to motherhood.  I’d tell her that there is an enormous amount of information you’ll learn along the way, and that you’re not supposed to know it all right off the bat.  I’d remind her that babies are made to bend, not break, and are created to survive first time parents.  I’d tell her to follow her gut, give it her all everyday, absorb as much knowledge from other moms as you can, shake off your mistakes as quickly as you make them, and when you know better, do better.  And that will always be enough

Incorporating Music Daily & Into Routines

As an adult, music is something that can soothe your soul, express emotions we ourselves couldn’t verbalize, and there is no greater satisfaction than when the perfect song to match your current mood comes on.  It moves us, binds us, allows for endless creativity, and knows no language boundaries.  With all of these wonderful benefits we reap, we have to remember that they apply to newborns, infants, toddlers, and children as well.

First, why its so important to incorporate music into the daily routines of your children:

  • It helps bond you and your child.  Whether its dancing in the kitchen to your favorite classics or the lullaby you sing (despite the quality of the performance) each night at bedtime, its a connection that benefits you both
  • Music is sometimes part of the therapy for premature babies as research links it to weight gain
  • Upbeat tunes can chase away the blues and soft music can help soothe an upset baby to sleep
  • Music is linked to having a crucial role in the “wiring” your baby’s brain for learning
  • It promotes critical listening, creativity, and coordination
  • Music exposes children to early language and literacy skills
  • Your child learns about beat, rhythm, and tone
  • Music can become a form of expression for children before they are able to talk
  • Music is the most natural way for children to explore their environment.  You have probably seen this as your little one makes up rhymes in the bath, hums as they play with trucks, or dances as you sing in the kitchen
  • It can raise your child’s self-esteem and confidence
  • It can have several added benefits in terms of independence (among other things) for children with disabilities or autism
  • The jury is still out on studies linking music to making children smarter, but research does show that it links profoundly to brain development

Convinced? I hope so!

Don’t save music solely for lullabies at bed time.  It can be incorporated in fun ways all day long!

One way I want to talk about is how to include music into your daily happenings and routines.  If we know anything about kids, its that they thrive off consistency, routine, and knowing what to expect next.  Our routines help our babies learn self-control, guide positive behavior, develop social skills, foster independence, and reduce power struggles.  Just to name a few!  Why not incorporate music into these routines we do daily? Make these events such as nap time, bath time, clean up, snack time, and brushing our teeth fun by using a song to accompany them – make it something they look forward to!

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I simply made two playlists on my iPhone – one full of all sorts of fun songs we sing and dance to as we play throughout the day, and one that has songs to go along with some of the daily activities we do (as well as songs about letters, shapes, months of the year, etc).  I also made CD’s of them so I can easily play them in her playroom if I need my phone elsewhere.

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ITunes has a huge selection of songs to choose from, and most are reasonably priced.  I got 150 children’s songs by the Kiboomers for $7.99! (Mind you, not all of them made the playlist, but most are good – especially for that price!).  The Wonder Kids also had a great CD to download of learning songs.  Browse around, and find what works for you!

Incorporate music (no, it doesn’t need to be only children’s music – add yours too!), incorporate often, and have fun learning, bonding, and busting a move together!

Next up: different ways to make music together.

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