In My House

Sisters

While I was pregnant with my second daughter, the moment I most looked forward to was when my older daughter met her baby sister for the first time.

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It was truly the most precious moment of my entire life because I felt like my family was complete.

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I have been so proud of how well my older daughter has taken her first month as a big sister. There hasn’t been jealousy or anger, just pure love.

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I hope they will be close their entire lives. I know they will fight and argue at times, especially during the teenage years, but for now let me savor this…

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And this…

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And this…

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Photos by Alyssa Crawford Photography.

Adventures

Trying to Just Be

Sit still.

As parents we say this phrase constantly, but do we ever take the advice ourselves? I’m talking about sitting on the porch or couch without thinking of the next task to be accomplished. No technology. No words. No guilty thoughts of what we should be doing. Just be.

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It’s difficult. With or without children, being a responsible adult is challenging. We are expected to keep a tidy home, be nice to people, be good at our careers, and remember to put on matching shoes day after day. I include that last item because I actually failed at it shortly after returning to work after having my first child.

I have long struggled with allowing myself moments to just be. I prioritize accomplishing tasks over personal well-being. Yesterday while holding my newborn daughter I found myself anxiously awaiting the moment she would fall asleep so I could put her in her crib and go do laundry.

This made me sad. Yes, laundry has to be done at some point, but she won’t be little long. Why can’t I be in the moment without obsessing over meaningless tasks.

Moving forward I am going to be aware of this and soak up those moments. We have the rest of our lives to do laundry and unload the dishwasher, but how often do we allow ourselves to sit on the porch and watch the sun go down? To hold a newborn baby well after she has fallen asleep? To just be.

In My House

To the Dad of a Cesarean Baby

To the Dad of a Cesarean Baby:

You are a special guy. In the days to come, you will be needed more than ever before, and you will step up to the plate. After watching your wife experience the pain of labor and major surgery, you will be the first to hold your new baby girl and ensure she feels safe and loved. You will change the first and most disgusting diapers while your wife still can’t get out of her hospital bed. You will help her out of bed to brush her teeth and promise her she looks more beautiful than ever even though she definitely doesn’t feel that way.

You will drive them home safely, taking each corner gently so the incision from surgery won’t hurt. You will do more than your share, hauling laundry down the stairs that she can’t yet take, and lifting your toddler when she can’t. You will be the one getting up those first few nights, bringing your hungry newborn to your wife to feed when her incision hurts too much to get out of bed.

You will assure your wife she is enough when she feels vulnerable and helpless. You will remind her what she did to bring your children into the world is amazing. You will love this little family unconditionally, and know this time of your life is beautiful, raw, and so fleeting.

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I write this five days post-C-section. I am sore and the simplest of movements, while becoming easier each day, are still challenging. My husband is amazing and has taken care of me as well as our newborn and toddler day and night. I appreciate him even more this time around than I did after my first C-section, and have more love for him and our two girls than I ever thought possible. This is for him.

Adventures

The Occasional Farm Girl

I grew up on a ranch in western South Dakota, and although I have a deep respect and appreciation for the ranching lifestyle, I knew early on that I would most likely live in a town or city once I left the nest. However, now that I am a parent, I am profoundly grateful my daughter gets to experience ranching first-hand when visiting her grandparents, which she does regularly.

There is no better place to get your hands dirty and experience the miracle and beauty of life than in the sheep barn during lambing season. This past weekend my 2 1/2-year-old daughter felt a baby goat move inside its mother’s womb, fed bottle lambs, played King of the Mountain on a pile of dirt (not really dirt) with some rambunctious sheep, and rode in the tractor feeding cattle with her grandpa.

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It’s not always fun and happy. Recently, we have had to navigate the rocky waters of one of my daughter’s favorite ewes dying while delivering twins. Fortunately the abundance of playful lambs has dominated her attention so Floppy’s absence has gone largely unnoticed.

I know these painful life lessons are a large part of ranching, but the value of learning to care for other living creatures and put the needs of others ahead of one’s self far outweighs the few inevitable sad moments. And the site of a dozen energetic lambs and a happy toddler playing together on a sunny day should be enough to put a smile on anyone’s face.

 

 

 

Adventures

Why Do We Love Scaring New Moms?

During my recent weekend getaway with my best pal, I had the privilege of getting a mani/pedi from a really great lady. A mom of two small children herself, she struck up a conversation with me about pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting. We began chatting about how people love to scare pregnant women and new moms with horror stories. Why do we do this as a society?

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(Photo by Alyssa Crawford Photography)

In the past few days as I have reflected on my fears about becoming a mother again in the very near future, I have come to realize most of the anxiety I have comes not from my actual concerns, but from the general negativity of other people.

People cannot wait to warn you how hard everything is going to be. My nail technician told me a story about how the nurse caring for her while she gave birth to her son came rushing into the room and said “We’re so busy tonight! We just sent three new babies to the NICU!” (Not exactly what a soon-to-be mommy needs to hear.)

Although parenting is not without its challenges, few experiences have been as difficult or uncomfortable as people hype them up to be. Before I became a mother I was under the impression that children were perpetually teething and had disgusting blow-outs on a daily basis.

I also realize how important my own words are to new or expectant moms. Maybe I should steer clear of the emergency surgery stories and just say how awesome it is the first time you see your new baby. I can do a better job of leaving out the details of sleepless nights and just mention how amazing it is to watch your little one learn and grow.

After all, most of parenting is really, really great. That’s the little secret I don’t think we share enough.

Adventures

Parenting: Requirements of the Girl Dad

Within three months my husband will be officially out-numbered by girls. I can’t imagine a better guy for the job of parenting daughters. He’s patient, level-headed, and kind, and expects that behavior out of others. There are certain duties required of a Girl Dad that I did not realize existed until watching my husband’s relationship with our daughter unfold. I love observing their relationship and can’t wait to see how great he is with two little girls.

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(Photo by Alyssa Crawford Photography)

Here are a few pointers for the Girl Dad:

Respond with “pretty!” at least a dozen times a day in response to everything from hairstyles to artwork to temporary tattoos.

Spend hours searching for tiny Barbie and Calico Critters accessories. Just this morning, my husband spend at least 15 minutes looking for a miniature corn-on-the-cob at my daughter’s request.

Be silly. There’s a certain silliness dads can have with their daughters that is different from the relationship they have with sons. I love to observe just how goofy my usually pretty serious hubby will get when he is caught up in the moment with our two-year-old girl.

Use the birth of your daughter to justify the purchase of a high-dollar rifle.

Teach your girls your hobbies. There is no reason not to involve your girls in whatever you like to do. My oldest daughter can’t wait to test out her new golf clubs with her dad this summer.

Give in to the hugs, kisses, piggy-back rides, and general abundance of affection. My husband, always a bit shy about public displays of affection, has realized it is futile to keep our daughter from smothering him with kisses or hanging on his back in restaurants or at the grocery store.

Hold your daughters to a high standard. A girl never wants to disappoint her daddy. The desire to make my dad proud is probably responsible for at least 75 percent of the success I have had in life. When a dad believes in his daughter, she believes in herself.

In My House

What I Want for My Daughters

This isn’t a political post. Those of you who know me know where I stand politically, and those who don’t probably don’t care. Still, in the midst of so much political discourse on social media, I have spent a lot of time thinking about what is important and what doesn’t really matter so much.

In about three months we’ll bring our second daughter into the world. There is so much I want for them. To quote Marmee from Little Women, “I so wish I could give my girls a more just world. But I know they’ll make it a better place.”

So here are some of the hopes I have for these two girls that I love more than anything in the world.

I want my daughters to respect themselves and others. I want them to have the confidence to know they can pursue any dreams they have.

I want them to shake off criticism.

I want them to know it is more important to be kind and clever than to be pretty.

I want them to avoid growing up too quickly and I want them to play with dolls too long.

I want them to embrace being girly, but not be afraid to get their hands dirty be it on the farm, at the fishing hole, or on the golf course.

I want them to never lose site of the importance of being kind to all people and to animals.

I want them to know it’s OK to be a feminist and the negative connotations that term gets are from people who necessitate the existence of feminism.

I want them to learn how to tune out negative energy.

I want them to find something they enjoy doing and give it their all.

I want them to find happiness, whatever form that takes in their lives.

At the end of the day, even if we differ on our political stances, we are probably not that different when it comes to what we want for our children.

 

 

Adventures

21st Century Toddler Problems

Poor toddlers in the year 2016! They have it so rough. I think one of the bonuses of becoming a parent is that you get to tell the sad tales of how much harder being a kid was “back in your day.” Today I’m sharing a few of the woes of today’s toddlers. How can anyone be expected to deal with these issues?

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Commercials during cartoons: While watching an episode of Paw Patrol the other day, my daughter panicked when a commercial came on. “Where’s Paw Patrol!” It was then I realized she is so used to our ability to DVR cartoons and forward past the commercials that watching something in real time was the ultimate let-down. I actually remember a time in my very young years that we didn’t even have a TV remote. That’s what my brother and I were for: Flipping through the four channels we had so Dad could decide what to watch.

Proper car seats: In the 1980s we just stood on the seat next to Dad as we cruised down the road. I also know a lot of 1980s kids who slept in the rear window of the car during long road trips. The car was a free-for-all, a jungle gym, if you will. No more. Today’s toddler must ride properly strapped into a seat until they’re nearly of legal driving age. I’m all for proper child safety seats and when I start to feel bad for these strapped-in 21st Century toddlers, I just remember that they also have portable DVD players, something us 1980s kids never even dreamed of.

Constantly mugging for photos: Smart Phones mean taking photos and videos of every cute thing our toddlers do is super convenient, but it also means we can take 48 pictures until we get just the perfect one. Gone are the days where moms would have to wait until they could take film to the store to be developed only to realize they didn’t capture one decent photo of the 1980s bowl-haircutted kid blowing out birthday candles. Poor 21st Century toddlers. They’re tired of the phone-wielding parent paparazzi.

Occasions when food must be consumed with a fork and spoon: Pretty much every food comes in a pouch these days. I have banned them from my own household after a few messy incidents, but I speculate that some 21st Century toddlers are annoyed when that night’s dinner requires actual dining utensils.

Risk-free playground equipment: I remember burning the backs of my legs on scalding hot metal slides, usually with sharp metal edges and rickety ladders. The playground equipment industry has come a long way in safety and durability. But where’s the fun without the risk of tetanus or a burned bum?

Maybe in 30 years my daughter will be writing a blog post (or whatever the newer, cooler way of posting stories on social media is) about parenting. All I can say it I hope she remembers being loved and having fun because that’s really all that matters.

Now please excuse me while I go tell my daughter how I used to walk five miles to school in blizzards, up hill both ways.

Adventures

Moms (and Dads), Not Martyrs

Recently my best friend suggested I write about a topic that really irritates us. We’ve heard it often. We’ve maybe even said it ourselves a time or two.

This phrase: “I’d like to (fill in the blank) but I can’t because I have kids.”

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(Photo by Alyssa Crawford Photography)

Her case-in-point was camping, a hobby she and her husband have loved since long before they became parents. When their now four-year-old daughter was born, they were determined to continue this hobby. And guess what? They have, even now with two children.

I remember being pregnant and people telling me I would have no spare time once the baby arrived. My biggest fear was no longer having any time to engage in my most beloved hobby: reading. With some time management and a little dedication to a hobby that is important to me, I read for pleasure even more now than I did before she was born.

But these things take effort, and it’s easy to get exhausted.

You can go to dinner with your spouse, but it will require changing out of your yoga pants, calling a baby-sitter, and perhaps dealing with a hysterical toddler as you leave the house.

You can work out, but it will require hitting the gym on your lunch break or when your spouse gets home from work.

You can take a vacation sans kids, but it will require saving money, lining up child care, and spending a few nights away from them.

You can take the kids camping, but it will require packing everything you own into your SUV.

You can finish reading a novel, but it will require making the most of spare moments here and there.

Sometimes it just sounds easier to stay home with the kids and make envious comments about childless friends and all the fun, fabulous activities they get to do. But get up. Do something that interests you.

Having a life other than just being a parent might not be easy, but a little effort goes a long way. It’s not selfish to continue your pre-parent interests. In fact, it is a great example to our children when we show them that hobbies are important. We do not have to completely let go of our pre-parent selves. Instead, let children be enhancements, not excuses.

 

Adventures

Sometimes a Sick Day Isn’t So Bad

First of all, don’t get me wrong, I do not like it when my daughter is sick. Nothing tears my heart out more than seeing her sick or in pain. However, after a particularly stressful two weeks at work that included a lot of weekend work combined with working mother’s guilt, I actually welcomed a day taking care of a sick toddler.

It is only a mild cold, but her fever means staying home for today, and I think I need the time spent reading a million stories and snuggling on the couch as much or more than she does.

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The sick day is unique in that it is all about rest and recuperation. While on normal days off with her would be spent on housework and errands, the sick day is all about cuddling, reading, and maybe even reveling in the fact that my baby is still a baby.

While I hope she is back to her healthy, energetic self by tomorrow, today I will focus on one thing: Mothering. Everything else can wait.