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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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

Adventures

Holding onto Three

Any parent will tell you how quickly time flies. Any grandparent will tell you if you blink, suddenly your little ones are grown and starting families of their own. And great-grandparents? Don’t even get them started on the swift passage of time.

I was excited to celebrate my daughters’ transitions to age one and my oldest turning two, and then three. Each of those milestones meant new experiences, as the personality of this sweet little thing bloomed and flourished. While I’m looking forward to the fun that age four will bring, I am feeling the need to dig my nails into time and tell it to SLOW DOWN! Slow down and let me absorb each and every wonderful moment that having a three-year-old daughter brings.

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Three is downright magical. It’s the perfect balance of capability, enthusiasm, and innocence. A three-year-old makes everything exciting. Mine in particular is sensitive, sweet, funny, and unapologetically girly.

So while bidding age three adieu is bittersweet, I look forward to the joy that age four will bring. The really beautiful thing is we get to anticipate the experience of age three again as this delightful girl’s precious baby sister grows.

I recently read a blog post written by a mother of a boy who passed away suddenly at a young age. She urged us as parents not to mourn our children getting older, but to be thankful for every one of those birthday celebrations because nothing is certain. Getting to know our children at every unique and beautiful age is truly a blessing, even if we don’t think we’re quite ready for them to grow up.

 

Adventures

Soaking It All In

Like a lot of parents, my husband and I spend a good share of the work week away from our children. This definitely leads to some feelings of guilt, but the silver lining is it also gives us the excuse to spend an entire Saturday at least once a month doing fun activities with the girls. The laundry can wait. The yard can wait. It’s all about family on those glorious days.

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Last Saturday this involved breakfast at a nearby restaurant, a trip to a pumpkin patch, and various other activities.

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On these amazing, care-free Saturdays, I focus on soaking in every moment with these three.

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It’s so cliché, but the little ones truly do grow so fast. I love being a mom, but I also find value in my work outside the home. One major perk is learning to make true quality time on the days the four of us can be together. I love those days. P.S. Isn’t fall the best?