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Motherhood

Words Of Advice From My Experienced Mom Friends

January 7, 2019

Happy 2019! One of my New Year’s goals is to start writing more in my blog. I took all of the fall off to catch up on other projects that I was behind with (i.e. scrapbooks, Family Year In Review book, some home renovations, and lots of traveling with my family for my husband’s work while dealing with morning sickness…fun fun!). Since I’m expecting baby #3 soon, I figured a great post to start off the New Year is advice from my mom friends with older children. I love learning from my friends who have ‘been there, done that’ and who have raised some pretty remarkable young adults. A year ago, I sent an email to these amazing mama’s asking them three questions, never intending this to be part of a public blog. However, after reading some great insight, ideas, and advice, I thought it would be beneficial and fun for others to read as well. (I will refrain from using names, of course.) The questions I asked these awesome mamas include:

  1. What things do you wish you would have done differently in raising your kids?
  2. What things are you glad you did in raising your kids?
  3. What are your favorite family traditions (holidays, birthdays, etc.) that your children still love as young adults or enjoy reminiscing about?

Here are their answers…

What things do you wish you would have done differently in raising your kids?

  • I think mostly what I think I would have done differently is spend more time with them just playing either outside or inside. It is easy to have my endless to do list interfere with that. And I wish I had been more consistent speaking Dutch (her native language) to them!
  • I wish I would have listened more without giving my opinion unless I was asked. As the kids have gotten older, this is something I work hard at. We have great conversations, and I love hearing their thought process. They are smart and can make good decisions. We don’t have to tell them what to do all the time.  
  • One thing as our kids have hit the teenage years that we didn’t do well and are trying to do better is get to know their friends. It means a lot to them when we love their friends, take special notice of them, call them by name, treat them like our own. For a while, because our lives were so busy, I felt like I was doing all I could do to pay attention to my crew, but now after talking to our kids who are past the teenage years, they have told us that this (getting to know their friends more) really matters. We are working to do better now with the teens that are still at home. It seems like a little thing, but I think it tells them that they matter because we care about who they care about. Also, it’s a good way to keep them out of trouble if their friends love you too and always want to be at your house!  
  • I can’t overstate the importance of being watchful and careful with cell phones, social media, and the internet. The pressure is really strong because “everybody is doing it” to allow free reign on cell phones, video games, etc. There are so many good things about technology today, but also so many dangerous things. I feel like as a mom with boys, especially, you have to also be a tech expert, which is not really my thing, but I’m learning! In today’s world with access to the entire world in their hands, it can be really dangerous and not all kids can maneuver it well. We’ve done our best to shield them and still we’ve dealt with some bad things because of the internet and social media. I would be even more proactive and diligent with restrictions on phones and access to the internet.  
  • I wish I had taken care of me sooner. I learned that I can’t do gluten and had an autoimmune disease, and as a result, I was a very tired mom. I wasn’t as available to my boys and dreaded the park as the thought of it exhausted me. I had no idea I had an autoimmune disease and it just felt like I was walking through molasses. I was depressed and sad and didn’t know why. When I had my girls, I had it under control and felt wonderful. It was much easier. 
  • I wish I wouldn’t have taken things so seriously while in elementary and junior high. We don’t care if we take them out of school for two weeks now. Being at school isn’t worth missing out on a family vacation. I wish we wouldn’t have stressed about it earlier.
  • When my oldest was born, I had never even changed a diaper (is that nuts or what?!), so when she was born I was clueless. I was a very stressed out mom and sooooo wish I would have not worried about the small stuff. For example, every time she got a spot on an outfit, I would change her. What the heck was I thinking?? That just gave me more laundry. When I had my second baby 20 months later, I was totally more chill. I really enjoyed her as a baby. I wasn’t so stressed out. 
  • I wish I knew how to cook so they would have had special memories of meals I made.
  • I think I would have made reading a more important part of my kids lives at a younger age. My oldest HATES to read and I have to force her to do the minimum for school. My youngest used to read a book every 3 days but now her phone is way too important to her.
  • I’m glad we never had to put pressure on our kids for sports or activities as we left the decision up to them, but I regret we didn’t put more pressure on the boys. We let them give up too easily and now, neither are into sports. The hard thing about parenting is you just don’t know what’s the lesser of the two evils.

What things are you glad you did in raising your kids?

  • I am glad we have traveled with the kids a lot, snuggle a ton, our family traditions, talk to them a lot and have always tried to have one- on-one time with each one. When they were little, I would do 10-15 minutes with each child every day which we called “special” time where we would do whatever he/she wanted (except electronics/ tv) and nobody could interrupt. It was super helpful with them not fighting and misbehaving, because so much of that is really just wanting your attention, even if it is negative. Now we will take turns taking one child to the book store, a movie, the park, ice cream etc.
  • When I was young, my mom and I did so much volunteer work together, especially at nursing homes. I started going to nursing homes with my kids when they were 2 and 3. We continue to volunteer at hospitals and nursing homes. I feel that service work is so important to show our kids. We have so much love to give!!
  • We’ve always been really open with our kids. We talk about everything and I think they know they can talk to us about everything.  We always let them know that there is nothing they can ever do to separate them from our love. It is unconditional and never-ending.  I think sometimes kids need to hear that even though it seems obvious to you. With boys, I’ve found, it can be harder to get them to talk and the only thing I can say to help that is truly just time. The best way is to be with them, sit on their bed at night, drive them to practice or to get ice cream and eventually they will talk on their own time.  Patience 🙂
  • Something I think we have done well is encourage our kids to do things that are hard, things that make them nervous, things that scare them. I think kids need to get out of their comfort zone to realize they can do things they may not believe they can. We let them know it’s okay to fail. I love the quote, “If you try and don’t succeed, you’re not a failure, you’re a risk-taker.” We want our kids to be risk-takers!
  • I am grateful I let my kids be curious about things like astrology, various religions, different ways of thinking so they can have their own mind, and politics so they understand why their parents believe the things we do. I love that they see me working but yet available to them…they see what I do and that I’m contributing.
  • I’m glad that with my oldest, I never gave him food like chicken nuggets or french fries. At age three, he was eating artichoke, salmon, chips and salsa, etc. He has a very versatile palette, and I’d like to think it’s mostly due to what I fed him when he was young. Now when he travels, he tries and loves all different foods. However, with my youngest, I didn’t have time to be as vigilant with her food intake and all she wants is chocolate and red meat.
  • I love that I make them earn their trips to Disneyworld. We have a Disney Chart thirty days before we leave which involves chores, acts of kindness, getting an “A” in school, etc. However, if you get six black dots on your chart (i.e. misbehaving, doing poorly in school, etc.), the family has to vote and decide if you can redeem yourself or if you don’t go.
  • Sunday school and church is important, no matter your religion. As they get older, they may not go to church as much, but they want to go when they are home for holidays or just weekends. You will want that for your kids especially as they become adults. They say if you go as a child, you will go back once your an adult. God is Love and Hope. Teenagers often feel hopeless and it’s a bad thing if they don’t have some type of relationship with Jesus. 
  • I am glad I did not let them do sleepovers. It’s our job to protect our kids and putting them in other homes in vulnerable situations is not something I felt comfortable with. As they got older, I just didn’t like other parents ideas like, “I don’t mind if they drink under age as long as they don’t drive.” I disagree; it’s the law. If they really want it, they will get it, but we don’t need to make it easy for them.  
  • I think it is important for your kiddos to see mom and dad love each other and spend quality time together. I’m glad my kids know what a healthy, happy marriage looks like.
  • My kids are very fortunate that they make their own money, however, I give them a small allowance and teach them about the value of a dollar. I think kids need to learn responsibility at a young age. I tell them that I made $3.35 an hour at my first job to show them how things have changed. I have been teaching them how to balance a check book and manage their money. It’s actually really helped my youngest to not blow her money. They now sell their old clothes on Poshmark and really love to see the money they are making. Some of my kids friends come over and I see how they don’t clean up after themselves. I sometimes feel that parents do too much for their kids. I make my kids make their beds, clean their rooms and help with dishes. My mom never taught me how to cook, clean or do laundry. I didn’t even know how to make a baked potato when I was 21! I want my kids to be strong independent women!

What are your favorite family traditions (holidays, birthdays, etc.) that your children still love as young adults or enjoy reminiscing about?

  • One of my favorite traditions is our living wall. It’s a wall that changes with each holiday. Art projects go up at the end of the school year. In September, up comes 20 frames and Halloween-decorated pictures from past Halloweens…then the next day after Halloween, we make a giant tree out of paper and color it. We put a stack of cut-out leaves next to the tree and the kids or anyone who comes to the house, writes thankful notes on the leaves and sticks them onto the tree. After Thanksgiving, Christmas cards and past family photos go up, plus gigantic advent homemade calendars made out of felt with pockets for gift cards, t-shirts, etc. They all arrive December 1st from Santa’s elves.
  • I’m so glad that I created traditions. Every week, we would gather in a room and say “I love you because…” with everyone. You have to go around to each other and when everyone is done, we all would hug each other. It’s something they always remember.
  • We have a “Friendsgiving” every year at our house the day after Thanksgiving. We all wear jammies, play games, eat until we burst, watch old dance recitals. It’s one of our favorite days of the year!! At Christmas, my kids haven’t given me a Christmas list for years. They say they would rather give to kids that don’t have presents. We gather coupons and look at all the sale flyers. We take a day and shop until we drop. This year we shopped for the foster care kids in LA.
  • I love our bedtime traditions. When they were little, we sang “I’m a Child of God.” If you sing the same song every night, it cues the brain that it’s time for bed. When they got older, we sang other songs. I would also always read books about women heroes to my daughters. Every night we would read one story of a woman hero or a strong woman in history.
  • We have family meetings a lot which are very productive. We also do blessings on the kids before each school year, and my husband always says a prayer before every trip for our safety. Our kids never let us forget to do it.
  • Our favorite tradition is Halloween. We have their friends come over, cook different batches of chili at 5:30pm, and then we all go trick-or-treating. They come back and look at their candy, and when their friends leave, we offer 25 cents for each candy or $1 for big ones, until they have a little or no candy at all. They have to decide if giving up the candy is worth whatever it is they’re saving their money up for.
  • Every holiday we get together with their cousins. They do not want to miss it as they have become adults with spouses and boyfriends. It’s so great and as tired as we get hosting, we love having everyone together. It’s so special, but it has to be done every year the same time for it to be a tradition. I have Thanksgiving (both sides) and Greek Easter, my sister has Christmas Eve. Sometimes one or two can’t make it but they all know when it is. My brothers girls never miss. I keep the invite list the same every year with a few guests if friends or relatives are in town. 
  • Decorating for Christmas has become one of our favorite traditions!  We do it the Friday after Thanksgiving. We bring everything down from the attic, blast the Christmas music, make cookies, popcorn and hot chocolate, and dance around the house and all decorate together.    We have a big family and have lots of traditions with our extended family that are fun and that we love, but this one is special because it is just us, and we always have a blast.
  • One thing we have done since the kids were little is a family beach trip every year as soon as the kids get out of school. This is with our entire extended family so all of the cousins are there. We go to the same place every year and there have been years when I’ve suggested we go somewhere a little nicer, but I always get vetoed, ha! They love the tradition of going to the same place, getting Dippin’ Dots at the same place, same water park, etc. Each family takes turns cooking one of the nights so we all eat together. The cousins play and put on skits and performances. We’ve made this time a priority even when our schedules have been busy. It’s amazing how much kids need traditions. I think it gives them stability in their life, things they know they can count on.  I don’t think you need a ton of them, but a few special traditions can really bond you as a family and gives them memories unique to your family.
  • Some of our family traditions: breakfast in bed on your birthday (they pick the breakfast) followed by opening presents and no chores. On birthdays and random days we will go around the table during dinner and say something we love about each person. We also have dinner together as a family every night everyone is home with the tv off. 
  • When I am out of town for work for more than 7 days, I wrap a present for each day and number them. It gives them something visual for how soon I am home.


Motherhood

Weaning Our 2-Year Old: The Process That Worked For Us

October 26, 2017

It’s official. After two and a half years, we are DONE breastfeeding! Woo-hoo! (Or from my son’s point of view, “Boo-hoo!”) I remember thinking last spring that I never thought this day would come, as he didn’t show any signs of slowing down. I swear…my milk must have tasted like a strawberry or oreo milkshake to him. You could sway a lollipop, cookie, or his favorite strawberry cupcake in front of him and he would choose my “milks” over all of it every time. And I didn’t mind. I LOVED breastfeeding. I am a huge advocate for it not only for the amazing nutrients it provides your baby, but also for the bonding element. The sweet bond you get to experience never gets old. Even after two and a half years, I loved every moment of it. Sure, at times I thought, boy wouldn’t it be nice to have my boobs back? But I knew this moment of my child being little only lasts such a short while, and I wanted to let him nurse as long as he wanted. One of my favorite nursing quotes by Marni Jackson reads, “Breastfeeding is an unsentimental metaphor for how love works, in a way. You don’t decide how much and how deeply to love – you respond to the beloved, and give with joy exactly as much as they want.” This quote couldn’t resonate more perfectly to me.

Sadly, due to the fact that I needed to start a major detox (from living in black mold) that is unsafe for nursing mamas, I needed to have Anders weaned by an actual date (September 1st). Since we knew I had to be finished nursing by then, we decided to schedule our first no-kids-vacation at the same time. Thus, the pressure was on!

When I started the weaning process, I had no clue where to start. My first-born weaned himself at 15-months. (I was also six-months pregnant at the time so I’m guessing the taste and flavor must have changed a bit which probably was a major factor in the self-weaning process.) The seemingly daunting task of weaning a two-and-a-half-year old (who was nursing four or more times a day) was a bit overwhelming at first. I called friends for advice, among them my go-to guru for all-things-babies-and-toddlers, Nanny Connie. (She is AH-MAZING…I’ve learned so much from this lady! You can pick up some great tips on her Instagram at @nannyconnie or nannyconnie.com). Obviously there’s no one-size-fits-all for the weaning process, especially when you’re dealing with toddlers, but what we did, worked! We basically listened to friends’ advice, completed our own research, and based on knowing our own child, we created our own process of weaning. Here’s what worked for us:

For two weeks, I stuck firm with the following…

  • I fed him more snacks in-between meals and was sure to offer him liquids more frequently.
  • My husband put the boys to bed, (instead of both of us), so Anders wouldn’t have the option to be nursed to sleep.
  • I changed up his daily routine a bit so he wouldn’t expect to nurse during his normal feeding times.
  • When I did nurse, I shortened the amount of time by half.
  • After the two weeks, I went for two days straight of not allowing him to nurse at all. I refrained from pumping during those two days as well.
  • On the third day, I pumped all my milk out, (a HUGE hallelujah moment!) and placed cabbage leaves on my breasts to absorb the little milk that came back.

Shockingly, this worked like a charm. He didn’t experience hardly any of the emotional behaviors that I had read so much about. We took our trip on the following day (after pumping all my milk out), and I was officially done with nursing. I wore cabbage leaves during our long flight to Tahiti, and once we landed in Bora Bora, I was milk-free and pain-free. It was truly a pleasant surprise. And equally shocking, Anders did just fine while we were away. When we arrived back home ten days later, however, it was a bit of a different story. He definitely tugged at the shirt and asked for his “milks,” but I stayed firm on not allowing it. He tried relentlessly for a couple of days, and has even tried a few times since, but thankfully, all of that is lessening. When you wean at this age, it’s definitely not something they soon forget! It’s a natural tendency, and they certainly remember how soothing it is for them.

I never knew how long I would breastfeed my babies when they were born. I simply hoped I was going to be able to breastfeed, and once I could, my goal was to breastfeed for a year. Two and a half years for my second son was far longer than I ever thought I would breastfeed. I’m grateful I was able to do it as long as I did considering I know how much he needed and loved it. I miss it more than I thought I would, yet at the same time, it is pretty darn nice to have my boobs back! Best of luck to all of you weaning mamas…no matter the age, it’s still a daunting and bittersweet process that requires some tough navigation.

 

 

 

Motherhood

Helping a Too-Rough Toddler with Baby Brother

March 29, 2016

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Perhaps the biggest news in the past month has been a change in my job title. I am no longer a Stay-At-Home Mom. Nope. I am now officially a full-time bodyguard for my 10-month old. The need to constantly protect him from his two-year old brother is a necessity these days, sadly.

Don’t get me wrong, AJ LOVES his little brother. He adores him to no end. He loves kissing him, holding his hand, and being sweet with him. However, sometimes he executes these gestures a little too forcefully. He will squeeze him too tightly while giving a hug or pull on his arm too much when trying to lead him to the playroom. (He would most likely drag him by a limb to the playroom if it weren’t for Mommy.) Moreover, AJ is a fireball of energy and can be a bit of a brute. He is constantly bouncing around the house and if something or someone is in his way, he has little regard. Thus, on numerous occasions throughout the day, I have to dive in front of speeding scooters, deflect toys thrown in Anders’ direction, and race to Anders’ aide when his big brother is trying to pick him up to move him to a spot as a ‘target’ to throw balls. And there’s always the tantrums after Anders takes a toy from AJ, or vice versa. Who knew that a little hand taking a three-inch Thomas the Train toy by his brothers’ side can result with end-of the-world level screams? Ultimately, you can NEVER turn your back when they’re together. (Hence the need for the job change!)

I know I’m not alone when I say that my toddler isn’t known for his “gentle” touch. And why should I expect him to be? He is a toddler. Toddlers aren’t developmentally programmed yet to treat things -like a baby sibling or a glass vase- with the tender care necessary. All I can do is try my best to help AJ learn a more gentle approach with his brother through continuous attempts of sticking to methods that show progress and abandoning ones that don’t. Every toddler learns and reacts differently, and I’m sure every toddler has different reasons for being rough. As for my son, here are some areas that I’ve found success in warding off aggressive behavior and seeing subtle progress with the word “gentle:”

  • Getting down on the floor several times during the day and playing with both of them is always key. I can help gear the play in a way that won’t lead to conflict and prevent them from taking each other’s toys and consequently, aggressive behavior.
  • I have them play separately when AJ isn’t playing kindly, and tell him to take a time-out and rejoin when he’s ready to play nicely. When he does play nicely with Anders, I am sure to always praise him.
  • We make sure to have individual time with each. I will take Anders out for a walk or to the front yard for some play time while Alfonso will take AJ to the living room and have a dance party together or go outside for some golf or baseball play time. We will then switch and do different activities with each. They both seem to thrive with individualized attention.
  • Starting up a creative “be gentle” game. I’ve come up with many variations, but the one that has seemed to work the best is simply lining up a bunch of objects and stuffed animals. I then challenge AJ to go down the line and if he can be gentle with each one, we do a choreographed celebration dance. Each time we do the dance, we add one movement (i.e. a turn, a wink, a wave, a clap, etc.).
  • I just purchased Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves by Naomi Aldort, which was recommended by a few friends. I’m hoping to gain some more tips and guidance once I start reading it this week.

I would love to hear of more ideas or suggestions that have worked for others who have dealt with the same or similar issue. I’m all ears!!