In My House

Little Moments of Gratitude

On most mornings I go to work before my husband and daughters leave the house. I back out of the driveway as the sun is starting to come up and can still see them through the dining room window, rounding out their morning routine. In this moment I am enveloped by the warm feeling of being so grateful for the three of them. They don’t know that in those precious seconds each day, my mind is completely on my love for them.

wiederholt2018-35

Photo by Tayhart Photography

It doesn’t matter what I have on my plate at work that day. It doesn’t matter how difficult my two-year-old might have been at bedtime the night before. It doesn’t matter that my dog yaps at the deer or the neighbor dog every single morning. I take that moment to feel thankful for what I have. A job to go to, a cozy house to return to at night, and a husband, daughters, and schnauzer who make it all worthwhile.

Moments later I’ll be knee deep in budgets, emails, and meeting agendas. Life is busy and it is easy to be feel bogged down. Remember when I copped an attitude with my husband over a lost sock? The more stress creeps into our lives, the more challenging it is to really feel gratitude.

It seems like there is a lot of talk about being present and living mindfully, but I’m still trying to figure out what that all means. I think one way of doing that is to find more moments to let the gratitude wash over me. They’re so good for the soul.

Adventures

Parenthood: Equal Parts Unconditional Love and Wiping Things Up

Last night I was watching my daughters play and found myself so overcome by unconditional love for them that my eyes filled with happy tears. I miss them when I am at the office, especially at the end of an especially long work week. It felt so good to be home with them, listening to their laughter and the silly songs they learn at daycare.

wiederholt2018-101

Photo by Tayhart Photography

An hour later, I was grumbling under my breath as I cleaned up spilled milk from the kitchen floor for the second time that evening as my daughters argued over a toy in the other room. Sometimes the whining (my two-year-old) and the bossiness (my four-year-old) are a lot to handle. Sometimes them constantly needing me is exhausting. Sometimes the thought of being away from them for another full day of work hurts my heart.

That’s parenthood. There is deep, deep love. There is frustration. There is more deep, deep love. More frustration. Rinse and repeat.

Sometimes I need a break from them. And when I have one, I immediately miss them. There are so many emotions.

Parenthood is stepping on a Lego on your way to their room to make sure they are breathing in the middle of the night. It’s painful at times, but so rewarding and meaningful that the annoying parts outweigh the agony.

Parenthood is letting your two-year-old drink from a regular cup at a restaurant even though you’re nauseous through the entire meal because you know it’s going to end in disaster.

Parenthood is being so proud of your little one for being excited and ready to start kindergarten, but also digging in your claws to hold onto each last bit of their last summer before it starts.

Parenthood is watching your child make decisions, move through phase after phase, and achieve milestones knowing that although they’re not a baby anymore, they’ll always be your baby.

On the hard days when I have to dig deep to find enough energy for all life’s demands, I hope I can cut myself some slack. So let’s look at parenthood not so much as an emotional rollercoaster, but more as a leisurely train ride through a beautiful mountain range. Don’t worry, there’s wine on this train. All aboard.

 

Adventures

Two-Year-Olds and Passport Photos

A while ago we went to get our daughters’ passports. The long, harsh South Dakota winter had us fantasizing about a tropical vacation for next year so we thought we should get the passports done. Wrangling two little ones in the passport office while laying out all the proper documentation was a little daunting, but my husband and I got through it.

A few weeks later, my oldest daughter’s perfect passport arrived in the mail, featuring a Miss America-style smile and adorable hair. The next day, a letter from the United States Department of Homeland Security addressed to my two-year-old arrived. It informed her the photo taken of her by the passport office could not be accepted because her hair was in her eyes. Uf, really?

Rather than take her back in to have a professional photo done since that didn’t work well the first time, I decided to do it myself. My husband helped. We bribed her with candy. There were tears, threats, and groans of dismay. We nearly threw in the towel. Does a two-year-old really need to go to Cabo?

There is a lot of advice on the Internet about taking a toddler’s passport photo, and, trust me, I gave it my all. We sent in the photo and have yet to see if it has been accepted. Mind you, she had also fallen on the playground at daycare in the weeks prior to the photo, so has a lovely scrape under her eye for her passport photo. I couldn’t bear to just delete all the bloopers off my phone so here they are for you, dear reader.

Adventures

I’m Not Ready for This

I’m not ready for this. I have that thought often as I navigate this thing called parenthood. It was front and center when I found out I had to be induced two weeks early with my first baby, and when I went back to work after my youngest was born.

I’m not ready for this. The thought crept in again a few days ago at my daughter’s kindergarten screening.

I’m not ready for this. My aunt texted it to me a week before my cousin graduated high school.

I’m not ready for this. A friend said it recently before her oldest moved away for a new job.

Spring 2019 (14)

Photo by Heritage Photography

As parents are we ever really ready as the next milestone comes our way? Can we love someone as much as we love them and ever feel like we have done enough? Did we have enough time to prepare them, teach them, and let them know how loved they are?

I’m not ready for this. I know that will be my state of mind when I drop my daughter off for kindergarten in a few short months. Like with all milestones, all I can do is hope and pray that everything I have done up until that point is the best I could have possibly done.

I’m not ready for this. When we doubt ourselves as parents, most of the time what we have done has been enough. We have prepared our children by loving them, and by sending them out into the world with a supportive home to return to, be it after the first day of kindergarten or on break after the first semester of college.

With every new step, when our internal voices are telling us I’m not ready for this, we might not be ready, but they are.

Adventures

Eat Your Vegetables and Stop Apologizing So Much

It was nearly 10 p.m. one night a couple of weeks ago when I realized I hadn’t eaten one serving of fruits or vegetables that day. I had grabbed fast food on the go to a work meeting. I then got home late after attending a meeting for a volunteer group, and stood in the kitchen ravenously devouring the rest of the macaroni and cheese my husband had made for our daughters.

I had trouble getting to sleep that night. I felt lousy. I felt rushed. I felt like I hadn’t done a good job at anything that day despite giving it my best shot. I felt like I owed everyone an apology.

wiederholt2018-34

Photo by Tayhart Photography

Then around midnight, a voice of clarity crept into my restless brain. It said: What you need to do is eat more vegetables and stop apologizing so much. Wow, voice of clarity (we’ll call her Lucille), well-said.

Eating more vegetables is pretty straightforward, but what about the apologizing? I apologize a lot. Even if I don’t say the apology out-loud, I often have thoughts like: “Did I offend that person? Was that too harsh? Should I have done that differently?” Most of the women I know do the same. Why do we feel this need to apologize constantly?

I even see it in my four-year-old, who often apologizes for things that truly do not warrant an apology (dropping a toy, mispronouncing a word, writing a letter the wrong way), and I can’t help but wonder where she got that? From watching me? You won’t catch most guys apologizing incessantly for the minutia of the day.

When I look at my young daughters and all the other amazing women in my life, I am often overcome by just how much I want for them. Sometimes, though, the message is simple: Take care of yourself and stop apologizing for everything. There’s a time and a place for a sincere apology, but chances are, others are not criticizing your actions as harshly as you are. That’s Lucille talking again.

Adventures

Because Someday She’ll Leave for College

I took this picture of my youngest daughter the day after she was born. It was one of those lulls in visitors at the hospital and my husband had stepped out to spend some time with our oldest daughter. I just sat there with her by myself looking at this perfect new baby, foggy from the post-Cesarean pain meds, but so happy and in love. I just wanted to soak in every moment, already so aware of how fleeting these moments are.

She is now almost two years old and my oldest will start kindergarten this year. I’m constantly looking for ways to be more present and enjoy every moment. If you have been following A HOUSE WITH CHARACTER, you’ll notice I don’t post as much as I used to. I have started really limiting my time spent on social media. I love connecting in those ways and I’ll keep blogging at least a few times a month, but right now the connections I have with my girls are most important to me.

I often struggle as I strive to be a more present and mindful parent. I don’t want to be distracted by my phone, the endless laundry, or whatever work stress is on my mind, but those issues inevitably arise. I don’t want to be the mom who loses her cool when her toddler spills cereal on the floor for the umpteenth time that day, or my four-year-old is whining because I won’t give her candy.

image

I am still a big proponent of parents making time for kid-free experiences like travel, date nights, and outings with friends, but I try to schedule that time thoughtfully. Our travel plans include our kids more often than before and we are loving that. (Ask me again when we are half-way through our flight to Alaska in July with a two-year-old and a four-year-old.)

I have also found that if I make a little more time for self-care, whether I’m stopping at the gym to run a couple of miles before I pick the girls up from daycare, or making some time to read during that small window of time when they are asleep and I am not yet, I an actually a more present, less stressed version of myself.

The quality moments with my two daughters are definitely not extravagant. Some of my most enriching moments with them involve reading a book together or playing “Baby,” a silly game we made up where I sit on the floor and hold out a blanket and the girls run to me. I wrap them in the blanket and they shout “Baby!” Don’t tell the people at Parker Brothers or they’ll surely steal that million-dollar idea.

At the end of the day what I remind myself when I feel like I can’t do it all is that they won’t always need me this much. Someday there will be no cereal on the floor, no diapers to change, no 5:30 a.m. wake-up calls on Saturdays, and no sleepless nights. Someday they’ll go off to college and I’ll be so grateful for every single moment of parenting small children through the good, the bad, and the sticky.

Adventures

Elements of a Strategically Organized Trip to Build-a-Bear

Last month on our girls’ trip to Phoenix, my lovely bestie had the idea to take our daughters to Build-a-Bear Workshop at a nearby mall. Mind you, this was during Build-a-Bear’s “Pay Your Age” campaign so the place was busy. Couple that fact with the endless decisions to be made (princess or ballerina outfit? cupcake-scented or strawberry-scented? bear’s name?) and it could get intense. A strategically organized game plan was the only thing that would help us get out alive.

July 2018 (15)

Here are the tactics we employed.

INTELL: Prior to the voyage, my bestie and I conducted a high-stakes intelligence gathering summit which involved the two of us meeting in the hotel room bathroom while our girls played Enchantimals in the other room. We sat on the edge of the tub and scrolled through data on our phones obtaining such critical knowledge as mall hours of operation, Build-a-Bear pricing, and, perhaps most importantly, the nearest location for us to get post-shopping margaritas.

UNIFICATION: This being my first trip to Build-a-Bear I was horrified to discover that children can have their bear equipped with a voice and even have them sing specific annoying pop songs. We agreed that under no circumstances would we be allowing either of the girls to select this option. We would remain firm, strong, and united. If you allow one of them to elect the bear-voice option, you have to allow both of them to, and then the terrorists have won.

FISCAL CONSERVATION: Although the “Pay Your Age” campaign meant each bear only cost a few dollars, the abundance of accessory choices makes staying on budget a true challenge. Just so we didn’t wind up having to take out a second mortgage on our homes after buying light-up fairy wings and a red convertible for stuffed animals, we made a budget. Each girl got a bear, an outfit, a brush, and a toy hair dryer for the bear. Still sounds ridiculous, but I was happy when my daughter’s bill came to less than $50.

EMOTIONAL SUPPORT: As you might imagine, little girls can be horribly indecisive when presented with thousands of teddy bear clothing options. I thought I was home free when my daughter finally decided her bear would be a ballerina, only to find there were at least six different bear tutus from which to choose. Just when I was about to tear my hair out from the agony of a four-year-old’s decision making, a little pep talk from my bestie put me right back in the game.

EXIT STRATEGY: The bear is selected, stuffed, dressed, and beautifully accessorized. Time to leave, right? Not just yet. Now your child gets to use a computer to name her bear and print a birth certificate. The concept is at the same time adorably sweet and mentally draining. I could sense frustration mounting as my friend’s daughter struggled to choose the perfect name for her bear. I intervened, throwing out as many cute names I could think of at the time all while easing my own daughter to the door. She named the bear Sprinkles, printed the certificate, we paid, and we left, the sweet sight of the mall’s Mexican restaurant (there are margaritas there) in our crosshairs. Victory is ours.