Adventures

My Apologies to Every Single Person in the West Side Starbucks Last Saturday

Sometimes I feel like I’m really rocking the motherhood thing. Then my toddler, dressed like a fluffy white snow owl, trips a lady carrying a laptop computer and a cup of coffee. Just like that, I’m one of those people. You know, the kind of people letting their kids run mad in a public place.

Last Saturday while my husband was working, I tried to take our four-year-old and 18-month-old trick-o-treating in downtown Rapid City. It was cold, windy, crowded, and not worth it for three or four Tootsie Rolls, so I decided to abort that mission and take the girls for hot chocolate and cookies. The nearest place with easy parking and a public restroom was Starbucks on the west side of town.

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I got the girls settled at a table with the most adorable owl-shaped cookies and their Starbucks beverages of choice: Hot chocolate for the eldest, white milk for the youngest. Everything was going so great. I was sipping my vanilla latte and patting myself on the back for raising such little angels who can go out for an afternoon coffee break without losing their stuff.

Then my youngest got restless. She started to climb around on her seat, throw her cookie, and then run around the Starbucks seating area. The more I tried to rein her in, the wilder she became. My oldest picked that precise moment to spill her hot chocolate so as I scrambled to clean up that mess, I turned my head for just a moment. (Classic mom mistake). I heard a crash, then hysterical crying. My little one had run into a young woman carrying a laptop. The woman dropped her laptop and my daughter hit the floor, where she immediately started sobbing.

The young woman was incredibly gracious. Apologizing (it totally was not her fault) and trying to make sure my little one was OK (she was). Fortunately her laptop was, too, I think. I quickly gathered my crew and booked it to the car, apologizing desperately as I high-tailed it out of the building.

I was embarrassed. I was mad at myself for taking my young children to a place where others were trying to have a quiet afternoon, and, above all, I doubted my ability as a mom. In the days following, I realized that the only person judging me that day was me.

In most circumstances, this one included, we as mothers are our own toughest critics. Everyone in the coffee shop was kind. In fact, there were two other moms enjoying a coffee date with their school-age children who were behaving a little on the wild-side, too, and no one seemed to mind. It made me realize that these interactions are an important part of teaching our little ones social skills.

So I’ll probably still take my little ones out in public by myself sometimes. I’ll probably still tear my hair out occasionally when doing so. And I’ll probably be embarrassed again at least a time or two.

To the kind young woman my toddler tripped, thank you for being so gracious to this frazzled mom. I owe you a Starbucks. And maybe a new laptop.

In My House

Black Hills Summer Photo Session

I’m finally getting around to sharing the photos from our session last month with Tayhart Photography. Tarin is so talented! My littlest one was not the best participant, but the pictures portray her as the angel she (usually) is.

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I love how Tarin captured the real “us.” She incorporated our love of reading to the girls. She photographed my youngest’s seriousness and curiosity and my oldest’s fun-loving spirit.

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Tarin is a mom of six and so she had no trouble at all making my little ones feel at ease. I love outdoor photos in the beautiful Black Hills. While these were taken a few miles from our house, the images truly look like the landscape of our own backyard.

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Tarin’s attention to detail is impeccable. Her turn-around time is also super quick, which was great because I was chomping at the bit to see the images she captured. Thank you, Tarin for capturing our little family and the beautiful region where we live.

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All photos by Tayhart Photography

In My House

Which is Harder: Backing Out of the Garage or Squeezing into a New Swimsuit?

I hit my driver’s side mirror on the side of the garage door while backing out today. Again. I shrugged it off. I do this about once a month. My car is tiny so I have absolutely no excuse. I live in cattle country where a lot of women can back up a Ford F-150 pulling a trailer in their sleep while applying lipstick. Not me, girl.

Speaking of no excuses and squeezing into tight places, it’s swimsuit season. I was planning to be in super awesome shape by mid-June, but the baby weight (yeah, I know, she’s 14 moths old now) lingers. I don’t feel anywhere near as svelte as I would like to be, but I am getting back into a fitness routine that I can follow at least part of the time. I put the swimsuit on anyway.

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As I was splashing in our hotel pool with my two daughters I totally forgot about the added pounds. I forgot about my work stress and my endless list of tasks to accomplish. My daughters don’t care about a few extra pounds (even though they put them there). They just want to have fun in the pool with their mommy.

As women we are usually our own toughest critics. What it boils down to is that if my daughters feel loved and I am taking the time to care for myself so I have the energy to care for them, I consider myself successful. I will never look like a Victoria’s Secret model or completely cross off every item on my ever-growing To Do List, but there’s more happiness in a little bit of imperfection any day. And please be sure to tell that to my husband when he finally notices the dings in the side of my garage door.

 

 

 

Adventures

The Good, The Bad, The Beefarino: Why We Travel with Small Children

I think this picture is about the most accurate depiction of what it is like to travel with a one-year-old and a three-year-old. My oldest daughter is having the time of her life, basking in the glory that is a pink, sparkly horse-drawn carriage ride through the streets of San Antonio, her new stuffed purple shark from Sea World within arm’s reach. My one-year-old is having a complete, nap-deprived tantrum. Did I mention it is Mother’s Day? Did I mention the horse had just eaten an entire can of Beefarino? I’m kidding on that last part of course (Seinfeld-reference) but traveling with small children, whether by car or plane, is no joke!

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So why do we do it?

I love traveling. There is something about getting away and exploring a new place that completely fills my soul. I think the best part of taking family vacations, even if they’re a modest trip to a hotel (with a pool…always with a pool) in a nearby city, is the time we get to focus only on our little family of four. I’m not thinking about laundry or groceries, I try to keep work thoughts to a minimum, and I’m able to really just be with the ones I love the most.

As chaotic as it can be, I find that almost immediately after returning from a trip with the girls, I only remember the good things. If I think hard enough I can conjure up the images of my one-year-old screaming her lungs out on the airplane or my three-year-old’s disgusting love of using any and all drinking fountains she encounters. Instead I remember their laughter at the sea lions at Sea World, my baby swimming for the first time, and my oldest daughter smiling through every moment of her princess carriage ride. The happy memories always overshadow the inconveniences of traveling with littles ones and make it oh so worth it.

I want to instill this love of exploring in my daughters, and give them memories of fun times during which I was entirely and completely focused on them. And I don’t even want a stuffed purple shark. The only souvenir I need is the happy memories and the fun, focus, and willingness to go with the flow that I hope will linger into our everyday life long after we return.

Adventures

Motherhood Should Come with a Lifetime Supply of Kleenex

She’s three, sitting there bravely waiting to have her ears pierced, and I’m digging frantically in my purse for one of the little packs of Kleenex I can never be without. They’re not for her. I look away, pretending to be interested in a display of tacky pink feather boas, hoping she doesn’t notice my tears.

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Her sister will be one in a week. Again, I am reaching for Kleenex as I put finishing touches on her birthday party plans and wonder where the last year has gone. I can’t help but think that motherhood has made me soft. But in reality, it has also made me incredibly strong because I know I can and would do anything for these two girls.

I kick myself for crying because, well, I’m usually a little embarrassed about it. But, when you think about it, maybe that willingness to be vulnerable and to love deeply is actually one of our super-hero powers as parents. Capes are the new mom-jean.

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I know reaching for those little packs of Kleenex is just part of my life now. I’ll be digging for them at first days of school, graduations, and wedding days, and all of the milestones in between. I wouldn’t change it. Motherhood is such a deep, consuming type of love. We can’t describe it, and we can’t contain it, so sometimes the only thing left to do is to invest in a lifetime supply of little Kleenex packs. We are going to need them, and that’s a good thing, because I really believe most of those tears will be the happy kind.

Adventures

Who Gets the Best Version of Me?

A little voice crept into my head a few days back asking this question. I had given my all at work that day, put in extra hours, and was not being as kind or patient with my husband or daughters as I would like to be. I was drained. Who gets the best version of me? That day it certainly wasn’t the three people I love most in the world.

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(Photo by Alyssa Crawford Photography)

We can’t be “on” all the time. Well, at least I can’t. I get tired. I get impatient. I feel pulled in too many directions. I feel guilty.

Something has to give. I have found that I frequently use up every ounce of positive energy I can muster at work or on other tasks that do not include being a loving and kind wife and mother. My husband and daughters didn’t tell me this. They’re not complaining. Still, I can tell I’m not giving them my all. They’re not getting the best me.

Guess what? My endless work email list will still be there if I take a full hour lunch break to recharge. No one will be any worse off if I fully engage in playing ballerinas with my daughters instead of mentally making a grocery list or worrying about the next week’s work priorities.

Who are the people who really matter in your life? Do you dwell on an unpleasant exchange with a person you rarely see or don’t even know instead of nurturing the loving relationships close to you? I know I am guilty of this.

I am not proposing we slack off at work or start being rude to the strangers we encounter, but sometimes I’m a lot friendlier to the cashier at the grocery store than I am to my own husband. Who gets the best version of me? By asking myself this question regularly, rather than beat myself up for being a sub-par wife and mother, I hope to be more aware, take care of myself better, and save some energy and positivity at the end of the day for those who matter most.

Adventures

Momming Jessie Spano Style

Do you ever feel that when Jessie Spano had her epic meltdown on Saved by the Bell, she might have been speaking to how her viewers would feel years later when they became parents of small children?

“No time! Never any time! I don’t have time to study. I’ll never get into Stanford!”

I feel that way sometimes (well, except I’m not really worried about getting into Stanford) when all the tasks of work and parenthood seem like too much. If you remember the episode, Type A Jessie overwhelms herself by trying to be perfect at everything. She can’t accept earning a B instead of an A. Then, her caffeine pill addiction spirals out of control until A.C. Slater, pleated acid wash jeans and all, intervenes with the help of Zack Morris.

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(Photo by Alyssa Crawford Photography)

Sometimes I feel like I really have it together. I mailed Christmas cards early. My children are fed and have clean clothes. I cook legit dinners a few times a week. I make it to work on time.

But there are many, many moments when any semblance of perfection flies right out the window. I wiped my baby’s nose with my bare hand in front of her daycare provider last week, then proceeded to analyze my action over the next hour. Does this woman think I’m the most disgusting person ever? For the record, I did wash my hands thoroughly a few minutes later.

If there is one thing we can learn from Jessie Spano is to cut ourselves some slack. Perfection cannot be the goal for everything. Something has to give!

Sometimes I need to park my kids in front of cartoons so my house isn’t completely filthy. Sometimes I need to say no to a volunteering opportunity to just stay home for a couple of hours. Sometimes my baby uses a pacifier so we can sleep at night and I bribe my three-year-old with candy to clean up her toys. Sometimes I have a baby bottle in one hand and a glass of wine in the other.

We have to prioritize, be kind to ourselves, stop judging others, and be willing to say no without feeling tremendous guilty. I am working on all of these things as I try to remind myself daily that doing my very best is enough. And if all else fails, let’s launch into our best version of “I’m So Excited” and wait for Zack Morris and his huge cell phone show up before we pop that second caffeine pill.

In My House

The Bond of Sisterhood

Almost exactly a year ago I found out I was expecting my second daughter. This news delighted me, and I could not wait to watch my daughters begin to develop what I hoped would be a lifelong friendship. Having no sisters of my own, I am fascinated by the strong, sometimes-tumultuous, fiercely loyal bond between sisters. Even as young as they are, I can see this between my girls.

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(Photo by Alyssa Crawford Photography)

I am so fortunate to be the person who, along with their Daddy, gets to nurture their independent spirits and help them find their own distinct personalities. I hope that even when they argue, and I know they will, they will always love each other and be there for one another. They are each individuals, yet compliment each other so beautifully.

No one makes my youngest daughter laugh the way her sister can. My oldest is a genuine protector of her baby sister, a characteristic that was present instantly the moment she met her in the hospital room. Both girls light up our world just by being in it.

Those of us without biological sisters find our “sisters” throughout life. I am blessed to have some very close friendships that withstand time and distance. These relationships sustain me when life gets tough. Those ladies are my sisters, not by blood, but by memories, shared laughter, and countless conversations. Whatever sisterhood means to you, there is no denying it is special and something to be cherished.

 

 

 

Adventures

The Perks of Being a Working Mom

Any mother who has left a baby in daycare to return to work after maternity leave knows that dagger-to-the-heart feeling. I felt it with both my daughters, too, and occasionally still do, but now nearly four months have passed since I have been back to work and I’m hitting my groove. I’m also reflecting positively on being a working mom. There are days when I definitely feel guilt, exhaustion, and the desire to clone myself a few times just to get everything done, but the reality is there are good and bad elements of everything. Today, I’m focusing on the good.

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(Photo by Alyssa Crawford Photography)

I firmly believe that we, as mothers, make our decisions with our children’s best interest in mind, and not something we take lightly. Choosing to be a working mom or a stay-at-home mom, or something in-between, can be one of the most difficult, guilt-inducing dilemmas we face. Sometimes circumstances make the decision for us. Further, none of it is necessarily set in stone.

My positive feelings are greatly because I enjoy (usually) my current job and love the daycare/preschool our daughters attend. Would I reassess things if that wasn’t the case? Absolutely. But we can also choose to be thankful for the path we are on and the blessings that come with it.

Here are a few of the great things I have experienced because I am a working mom.

My children meet and make friends. Watching my oldest daughter develop friendships at daycare over the past couple of years has been so heart-warming. I love that she’s only three, yet has already experienced many close friendships.

I, too, meet and make friends. Just last weekend my husband, daughters, and I spent a fun afternoon with a great family we met through our daughters’ daycare center.

Unapologetic quality time. Not seeing my daughters as much as I would like during the week means I allow myself to make at least one day each weekend all about fun. Whether we take in a fall festival or just watch princess movies and make cookies, intentional effort is made to engage in quality time, laundry pile be darned.

Using a variety of skills. I will probably always be better at analyzing a budget than at singing a lullaby. And that’s OK, but I get to do both and how cool is that?

Feeling valued. Moms, you (we) should all feel valued and appreciated all the time, but that’s not necessarily reality. Sometimes our coworkers are better at expressing appreciation than toddlers are.

The satisfaction of completing a task. Sometimes just cleaning the bathroom with my daughters around seems like it takes 17 times longer than it should. At work (on a good day) I can crank through a to-do list and at least have a few legitimately completed tasks by the end of the business day.

The end-of-day pick-up. You guys, there is absolutely no better feeling than how happy my girls are to see me when I pick them up at daycare at the end of the day. It never gets old.

Adventures

Mommy Needs Alone Time (But Only 10 Minutes)

I fantasized about my kid-free weekend for a month. I would read, enjoy a quiet anniversary dinner with my husband, and maybe even find time for a manicure. There would be no diaper changes, no Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, and, perhaps most enticing, I would sleep past 6 a.m!

But guess what, as soon as I dropped my daughters off at my parents’ house and pulled out of the driveway, I missed them. Like immediately. I felt like a little piece of me was left behind in my parents’ living room. How could I miss them instantly when all I had wanted for weeks was some alone time?

“Any update on the girls?” My husband asked me as we sat down for our quiet, romantic dinner. Apparently, he, too, was missing our little ladies. My mom texted us a couple of photos of them for us to swoon over.

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(Photo by Alyssa Crawford Photography)

For parents with young children, it is a tremendous help to have people we trust to care for them overnight or even for a short evening out. These relationships and encounters benefit the parents, the care-takers, and, most importantly, the children. Despite missing our daughters, we had a couple of great child-free days catching up on yard work, enjoying quiet meals, and sleeping in (until 7 a.m.)

I think it is healthy for parents to want (and take) some alone time now and then. It’s also healthy for us to miss them while we do that. We love them.

Parenthood is a mixed bag of emotions. We are stressed, blessed, annoyed, amused, elated, and exhausted all at the same time. That’s OK. So take a little alone time, even if you spend most of it looking at pictures of your kids on your phone.