Breathe Grace

Emma Kate Warren was born on 9/12/2017. In the age of Wiki and all the information available at our fingertips I thought I was 100% ready for motherhood (all seasoned moms laughing a little here right now). I took prenatal classes, I learned prenatal yoga and rocked it! I had every plan to read a book (but who am I kidding, was too tired to do much else) But ya know, I had my baby showers, I had all the supplies needed….I got this. Ya know, I really did have this. However, I absolutely lacked one really important thing: Grace for myself.

If I could go back in time, say 9/11/2017, and have a quick 15 minute conversation with Destiny (probably after those 11 hours of no-med labor when I finally got some relief from the epidural) OR, if I could give you a little bit of advice new mamma. These are the five things I’d tell myself the day before I held my little Emma.

  1. Fed is best. So whether it’s formula or breast milk, give yourself grace. If you’re trying so hard but don’t have a large supply, or if the pain is so much that you just can’t go on. Maybe you have post-traumatic stress from a previous babe and stressful breastfeeding experience. You’re not a failure. Give yourself grace. Thank goodness for formula, baby is fed. That’s what matters. Give her what you can, or don’t if it’s too much for you. Baby feeds off of your mood as well, so don’t let it steal your joy.
  2. Babies cry, it’s not a reflection of you. So who cares if your in-laws are over to see the baby. OF COURSE they want to see the baby. Baby crying is not a reflection of your motherhood. Babies cry. You’re a great mom. Breathe some grace into your situation, and sometimes let someone else hold the baby. You need a break, take it.
  3. LET OTHERS HELP YOU. I feel like this is a point everyone told me, but I didn’t want to “put my mom out” when she was over. What was I thinking!? Let your family and friends clean your house, you take a nap. Is your mom OFFERING to watch the baby so you can nap. Don’t say no, please nap. You have earned the nap. Who cares what the house looks like if you don’t have anyone there offering help. Snuggle your babe tighter, and the house will be ok. Breathe grace in, breathe grace out.
  4. Co-sleep, no co-sleep? Do what feels right to you with no shame. It only makes sense that your little baby who slept so close to you for 10 months wants to sleep close to you still. No justification needed, you both need sleep and you’re not a bad mom. You’re just tired. So do it, or not-but do what is right for you and don’t look back. When those thoughts come creeping in, just gift yourself some grace. You’re doing a great job-let that be enough.
  5. “Comparison is the thief of Joy” -C. S. Lewis. Don’t let yourself go there. It’s unfair to you to compare your journey to another’s. We are all too different. Situations are so different. Give yourself grace. Compare your journey to no one else’s-and I promise you-you’ll live with more freedom.

I hope I get the chance to be a new mom to another baby some day. I know I’ll come back to this same post when the hormones are through the roof, all reason has gone out of the window and I begin to let myself believe lies that current Destiny would be shocked by. Words have life, and I truly believe what we say to ourselves (even when its just a thought) can become true when we tell ourselves enough.

The grace you would extend to another mama, give to yourself as well. You’re worth that and more.

Cheers mama,

Destiny Warren

You’re a Mom…But That’s Not All

My kids are my life, and pretty much everything I do revolves around them. However, I’m a firm believer that you have to take care of yourself first and you have to have your own life outside of being a mother. Yes, it is my most important job and my highest calling. But I believe that in order to be the best mother I can be for my children, I must be healthy not only physically, but mentally. If I do nothing but parent 24/7 and do nothing that is enjoyable to me, I will get frustrated, irritated, annoyed, and burnt out. When this happens, you become like a volcano just building and building until an eruption. A lot of times you take things out on your spouse or your kids or your friends or other family members, and this isn’t fair to those people.

Take time for yourself.

Take time to relax and clear your mind. Take time to do things that you enjoy–that don’t involve the kids. When you do these things for yourself, you are helping release more of the good chemicals in your brain that make you feel happy and satisfied with life. If you are feeling satisfied, you will be in a better mood, have more patience, and will be more willing to read that dumb dinosaur book to your kid for the 57th time today.

Happy moms are the best moms and you can’t be happy if you never take any time for self care.

Another reason I believe it is so important to have your own life as a mother is one day, far too soon, these children will grow up and sadly, leave me. While I still hope to see them very often and be involved in their lives, I will need to have my own life. As someone who has struggled with depression, OCD and anxiety for a large portion of my life, I can see how parenting could become an unhealthy obsession.

An obsession where I give and give of myself until there is nothing left. Looking to the future, what’s going to happen when they’re all out of the house and living their own lives? What will I be left with? An empty house, an empty heart, and no friends or hobbies of my own. I can see that being a very dark time in my life if I don’t do things now to combat that. So I try to have things that I do regularly outside of being a mom. I believe all mothers should have hobbies and things that interest them besides their kids. It is so important to not lose your own identity for the sake of being a mother. You are still an individual and when your child grows up, you can’t live their life for them. They will become their own person and if you lose your own identity, then when they find theirs, you will be left with nothing.

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So how do we keep from going insane as a mother and also keep our own sense of individualism? Here is a list of ideas to help:

  1. Go on a date with your significant other
  2. Go to a coffee shop by yourself for a while to read a book or online shop
  3. Have dinner with friends
  4. Go to the gym
  5. Get a massage
  6. Get your hair done
  7. Get your nails done
  8. Get a facial
  9. Go for a walk alone
  10. Go to a movie with your mom
  11. Go shopping without the kids
  12. Have your significant other take the kids somewhere and let you take a nap at home
  13. Go out for a drink with friends
  14. Take a bubble bath when the kids are in bed
  15. Take a local craft class
  16. Take a long drive to nowhere
  17. Have a show that you keep up with (that is not a cartoon)
  18. Have a podcast or radio show you keep up with
  19. Join a local club or group
  20. When all else fails, hand the kids off to your significant other and  go to Target!!!
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What are some things you do for self care and to keep your identity that I didn’t mention? Comment below or email me!

Let’s be friends! Life is so much better when we do it with others.

xoxo,

Lindsey

Being A Parent Is The Greatest Adventure

Tonight I sat alone on the living room couch, watching my husband soothe our daughter to sleep on the glow of the baby monitor. I reflected on how being a parent is hands down the greatest adventure I have ever been a part of.

Sure, it has its ups and downs. Some days I don’t want to get up at the crack of dawn. Some days I want to pull my hair out in frustration with a baby who won’t stop fussing. And sometimes I wonder if I’m doing everything wrong raising this tiny human…

It’s definitely one crazy ride.

But I always try to remind myself on difficult days that I will never get this time with my daughter back again. I wonder where the time has gone already when I look back on these last ten months.

I remember the first few weeks my daughter was earth side. How quickly she learned I was her go-to person. She always needed me, always wanted me. I was her walking, talking, warm and comforting food source.

I remember I was able to soothe her cries quicker than anyone. I was the person who could whisk her to dreamland with little to no effort. I was the one she stared at with wonder or awe in her eyes. And I was lucky enough to be the reason for her first smiles.

She was completely a mommy’s girl.

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My husband would sometimes become frustrated that she preferred me over him. He didn’t understand why he couldn’t calm her cries as quickly, or put her to sleep as I did.

I understood his frustrations, and every once in awhile, I wished someone else could rock her to sleep so I could have a break.

But for the most part I secretly reveled in the fact that I was her lifeline. I felt on top of the world that I meant so much to this tiny human already, at just a few weeks old…

I remember holding my daughter and crying when she was just a few weeks old, knowing these precious newborn moments couldn’t last forever. She wouldn’t always be so small. She wouldn’t always rely on her mother.

I knew I would never get that day, or any of the precious past days back. She would never again be as little as she was in that moment…

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Then in the blink of an eye, ten months passed. About a week ago, the tables turned.

My daughter suddenly refused to let anyone hold her to sleep other than my husband, not even myself. All of a sudden when she wakes crying in the middle of the night, it’s my husband’s strong, comforting touch on her back she’s seeking. He is the only one who can soothe her wailing and put her back to sleep…

I thought to myself, when did things change so abruptly? When did she turn ten months old and become such a daddy’s girl? She already seemed to no longer need me as much. At least not at this current moment in time.

I’ve heard so many others say babies go through stages. Sometimes they prefer their mother, and other times they need their father. I, for one, can’t wait for my daughter to prefer her mother’s cuddles before bed once more.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to see my husband triumph now! To succeed in the little things when it comes to parenting, as I once did just a few months ago.

But the slight difference in parental preference at night serves as a reminder of just how quickly time passes and changes… How short these last ten months were. How fleeting the baby years are in general.

Even eighteen years of childhood are so very brief when you actually think about it. In the blink of an eye, one day I am my child’s hero, while the next day my husband is. One day I’ll be helping her learn to walk, the next I’ll be watching her head off to college…

So tomorrow morning when my daughter wakes, I will hug her a little tighter. I will embrace every stage of her life. Each milestone in her childhood as it happens, even the difficult ones.

Because one day she will wake up and no longer need me as much at all. And one day she won’t need my husband as much either. That’s the beauty of this parenting adventure. Doing the best you can to raise a little human being in the time you are given.

So soak it all in moms and dads! Do your best to enjoy this fast-paced, chaotic adventure, full of learning experiences and growing pains for all. You’re doing the best you can. You’re not alone.

And just remember, it won’t last forever.

There’s only one part of this adventure that I know will always remain constant. Maybe it’s the most important…

I will always remember my daughter as she is right now. Beautiful. Ever-changing. Full of life. Youthful… My baby, forever.

And nothing will ever change this love my whole heart holds for her. A powerful mother’s love that adapts with each new season of both her life and my own. A love like no other I’ve ever felt before.

This is the greatest adventure.

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Cherishing every season you are in!

Momming is not always easy; pretty sure that’s an obvious statement right!? I always knew being a mom wasn’t all cupcakes and rainbows, but there are some things that people can’t prepare you for. For instance the newborn stage that pretty much turns you into a zombie, or the constant fussiness because your baby has a sensitive tummy and nothing sits well. What about the sleep regressions?! Right when you think you’ve figured it out something changes and you are back to square one! Raising kids is hard! But there’s something that I constantly…try..to remind myself of, and that’s to enjoy the season you are in. 

One thing I wasn’t prepared for when becoming a parent was all the negativity that people will speak over you, your children, and honestly your life. People don’t say these things to be cruel, or because they wish bad things upon you. They say them because it’s what was always said to them and it’s just become a reality. Has anyone ever told you “Say goodbye to your freedom because once that baby comes your life revolves around them”? Or what about “Oh just wait until they hit the terrible twos”? I can’t tell you the amount of things people have told me regarding the season me or my girls are in. When I hear the sayings above, I can’t help but think, “Why can’t they be the Terrific Twos?!” I choose to empower my little ones, and speak life into them. Not putting them in a box. So chances are, mamas, you have heard all of these things and maybe even told another mom some of these, and that’s okay but I want to speak on this for a minute. 

Every age, season, and phase has its own set of difficulties and rewards. There’s nothing that says because your child hits the two year marker, it means they will automatically turn into a terror. As a mom you are always finding new ways to parent the stage your little one is in! But that season only comes once. My husbands grandma told me something when I had my first baby and it has stuck with me ever since. I was making a comment about how I can’t wait until Charlie can start sitting up. She told me don’t say you can’t wait because one day you’ll be wishing for these times back. It’s SO true! Yes you can look forward to things in the future but cherish the moments you have right now. Soak all of it in. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Soak up every tear, laugh, cuddle, or if you have little girls like mine- every sassy remark. 

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Let me clarify really quick! I am a mom of two little ones and I know parenting is HARD! It’s exhausting, emotionally and mentally draining, and some days I feel like a total failure but I don’t want any mama to fall into the trap of the hard times. I think because we have been told so many times the newborn stage is exhausting, the twos are terrible, pre teens are disrespectful, and those teenage years will make you cry we just go into those seasons believing all of that! Your kids are your kids and however you parent them will determine how they turn out. Don’t let someone else’s words distract you from the beauty in every stage. 

I know it can sound so cliche to say soak it all in and embrace every season but it’s so true. Here are some things I have found helpful for me personally and things I remind myself of constantly. 

  • Our kids are little humans. They have emotions, feelings, curiosity, and independence just like us. 
  • We are not here to be their dictators. We are here to be their guide through life! 
  • I will never get this moment back with my girls. 
  • Breathe, mama, breathe! 

That last one, I tell myself often! When my ten month old is teething and screams literally all day, I take lots and lots of deep breathes. When my toddler is fighting me on every little thing I walk in my closet and take lots of deep breaths. But after those breathes I walk back out and serve my babies. 

God did not make a mistake by making you their mama! You are the best mom for them and know exactly how to parent your kids. Don’t let the world blur your lens of the beautiful season you are in. Being a mom is hard, but I promise you there will come a day you will beg for that “testy toddler” phase back or those teething baby cuddles. Cherish the season you are in with your kids, and go in your closet and take a deep breathe! 

Don’t Blink, Mama.

Don’t blink, mama. 

I have always struggled with my perception of time. When I was a kid time moved so slowly, I measured my years by my birthdays and they always seemed so far away. I would tell my mom all I wanted was to be a grown up. I didn’t want time to slow down, I wanted it to speed up. So I would blink as fast as I could hoping that one day I would wake up and find myself to be that “grown up” I had always wished for. Once I became that grown up I discovered that time sped up. The more I appreciated time the faster it went. I began to understand why everyone complained about time slipping away from them and how fast time really does change. 

Please blink, mama.

After my first was born I told myself to enjoy every moment. My pregnancy had gone by quicker than I thought but I was so excited to hold my baby that it didn’t matter. I had heard other moms saying “They grow up so fast.” and  “This phase will be over before you know it”. I knew they were right but still didn’t completely believe them. I tried, honestly I did. I tried to enjoy every smile, to appreciate all the cuddles, or every time she fell asleep in my arms. I tried to remember every outfit, or commit to memory her first smile or how she struggled trying to roll over. I tried not to worry about the laundry or the messy house, but the truth is I still did. I got distracted and would say I can cuddle tomorrow, she won’t grow that fast. I tried to breathe in her new baby smell and when I was rocking her at 3am because she wouldn’t sleep, I tried to tell myself how quickly this phase would pass, but I didn’t believe it. I couldn’t see through the tiredness, the loneliness, and the stress of adjusting to motherhood that those early days would go by so fast. Each day felt so long but so rewarding and those moms were right, that phase was over before I knew it. Soon she wouldn’t let me rock her to sleep, she stopped needing me to feed her, she wanted her independence. When did my newborn baby turn into this independent sassy little girl? 

You blinked, mama.

I did, and I woke up one morning to find out I was pregnant again. We were trying, so it wasn’t a huge surprise but in that moment I found myself asking, “How is this even possible, didn’t I just have a baby? I can’t be pregnant again, it just isn’t physically possible.” With this pregnancy I knew it would go by in the blink of an eye so I tried to take more time to enjoy being pregnant. To love my growing belly, to appreciate every kick, but even though I knew it would fly by I still blinked.

My first pregnancy- I didn’t believe it would go by as fast as it did, my second pregnancy didn’t allow me to fully soak in those nine months because I didn’t want to miss any of the huge milestones my first was hitting. When we found out we were pregnant I calculated when I would be able to find out the gender and thought 20 weeks is so far away, but I knew that in the blink of an eye we would be on our way to the ultrasound, making our announcement to friends and family and planning for her arrival. As the weeks went on I packed our hospital bag, we transitioned our first out of the nursery and unpacked the newborn clothes into the dresser. I knew she would arrive in a few weeks but the anticipation made it feel like the date would never arrive. I should have known better, soon she was here and we were already home from the hospital. We were introducing our new baby to her older sister who welcomed her with open arms. As I held our daughter down to meet her big sister I realized my brand new 5 lb newborn won’t be this little for long. My journey of holding on to each moment as they passed was starting all over again. I knew that her sweet innocent cries would soon turn into toddler screams and her little hand that couldn’t quite grasp my fingers would soon grow to hold my hand as she stood. I enjoyed the cuddles in bed. I didn’t guilt myself over laundry this time because I knew, this could be that last day; the last night feeding, the last newborn outfit, the last morning cuddle in bed. I took in every smile as they happened and tried to commit to memory every giggle but inevitably I also had to blink. 

You have to blink, mama.

As I looked down at my growing toddler I realized that each moment that seemed to disappear, that slipped out of my grasp too quick, led to new moments that created more memories. When I think of holding my daughter for the first time the memory is blurry. I remember the emotions but I can’t pinpoint the exact moment in my life, but If time had stopped there, or when she was an infant I wouldn’t have gotten to hear her say “mama” or “daddy”.  I wouldn’t have gotten to watch her learn to sing and dance or learn how to go down slides all by herself. As quickly as time goes by and as much as Idon’t want to blink, I have learned blinking is necessary. In those fleeting quiet moments that I’m not chasing the toddler around the stairs, cleaning the house, or doing the million other things on my list, I remember. I remember what her first smile was like, how we would cuddle and she would fall asleep in my arms, how I would rock her to sleep at 3 am, and how precious her new baby smell was. Then I stop remembering and I start living in each moment before I blink and those too become distant memories. 

3 Tips For The Busy Mom

I am a busy mom. I work full time, I single parent two young children on a week on/off basis. I manage our household, I have important relationships that I care about and need to show up for – all while striving to maintain my health as a top priority in my life. I hold my health at the top of my to-do list every week, because I know that if I am not at my best, then it trickles down throughout my life in a negative way. My parenting suffers, my work suffers, and my mental health suffers – and we all know that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Full disclosure though: some weeks I am a hot mess. I am by no means perfect, but I have definitely learned the hard way how important my health is and how different I feel on the weeks where I have all of my ducks in a row. I have spent a lot of time fine-tuning what works for me and have had a lot of questions on how I manage it all. I have developed a great routine for myself and have found such a good groove for myself. Changes don’t happen overnight, and in an effort to not overwhelm you, here are my top 3 tips for thriving as a busy mom!

1. Meal Prep – 100%, without a doubt, absolutely non-negotiable. If you are going to do ANYTHING, start in the kitchen. I’ve been meal prepping for years now, so I have it down to an art. But it doesn’t have to be complicated for you. The top 3 things to have in your fridge prepped are protein, fruit and veggies. I usually hard-boil eggs, cook chicken in the crockpot and shred it, and pick a few veggies and fruit to have cut up and in containers for the week.  Everything else is gravy. If you have this all ready to go, you’re less likely to hit the drive-thru or go rummaging through the pantry trying to find something for yourself to eat. If you feel that you don’t have time to exercise, at the very least having healthy options to grab when you’re busy will be a game changer for you and give your body the fuel that it needs.

2. Sleep – Sleep is one of those things that we put on the back burner, but it is one of the most important aspects of thriving as a mother. If you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re not running as well as you could be. Sleep affects your mood, your energy levels, your stress management, your work ethic… and the list goes on. If you’re not getting enough sleep you are not 100% you, and the rest of the world is missing out. Although I am not one to always follow the rules I set for myself, I try to make it a habit to be in bed by 9pm, and up for my alarm at 5am. That gives me plenty of downtime and sleep and I know that when I follow this routine, I always feel incredible the following day. Below are some tips that will help set you up for a great night of sleep:

– Put your phone on airplane mode at 8pm.

– Enjoy a warm tea/lemon water and a book to settle your mind.

– Keep a notebook beside your bed to write down any thoughts that might keep you up at night.

– Pack lunches/bags the night before so that you’re prepared for the next morning.

 

3. Grace – The thing is, I know we’d all really love to do it all. We’d love to be the perfect friend, perfect housewife, perfect partner and perfect mother. In an ideal world, everything would be meal prepped and your diet would be on point, you’d get all of your exercise and sleep in, everything would be organized and handled, and everyone would be happy and you’d just be killing it at motherhood. But life is busy and messy, and some weeks we just can’t do it all. Some weeks, everything runs smoothly and some weeks one or two or ten balls drop. That’s just how life goes and we can’t be perfect 100% of the time. It’s important to go easy on yourself and remember that life happens. Give yourself some grace and forgive yourself if all you do is just survive some days.

All the love, mamas!

Amy xo


 

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Amy is a single mother to two girls, living in a small town located on the lakeshores of Lake Huron in Ontario. She loves writing, traveling and maintaining a healthy, all- natural lifestyle. You can read more about her here!

Traveling With A Little One: My Best Tips And Tricks.

I took my son Asher on his first airplane/out of state trip when he was 7 months old. Since then, he has been on 29 flights and to 19 states! We just visited the Outer Banks the first weekend in November and I always think back to that first trip when I was getting ready to pack and how nervous I was to embark on my first adventure with my infant in tow.

My husband, Casey and I got married at Oak Alley Plantation in Louisiana. We wanted to celebrate our anniversary there but I wasn’t ready to leave my baby over night yet and I was still breastfeeding regularly. Wanting some alone time but not being ready for a baby-less vacation, we invited my mom to come along! I was SO nervous about being a new mom and traveling with an infant. What if his ears hurt? Would people be mad if he cried? What if I had to change a poopy diaper on the flight?!

The plane ride from Denver to New Orleans is almost three hours and I was totally consumed with what those three hours could hold for me. I read all of the blogs and Pinterest tips and was as prepared as I could be.

In the past three years I have traveled regularly with Asher, our longest flight being 7 hours nonstop and our longest travel day being 16 hours. We have had easy flights and we have had downright miserable travel days where we left at 2 am and didn’t get where we’re going for 13 hours. I feel like while it still requires a lot of planning I have definitely figured out some things since then that may be able to help moms who are feeling the same way I was on that first flight!

First off, planning ahead helps so much. When Asher was a newborn he mostly slept on flights which was great for both of us! But, that doesn’t always happen. Here is a list of things I would say are must haves for little ones:

Newborn-crawler age

1. Diapers and wipes.
2. Hand sanitizer.
3. A blanket to lay them down on the floor in the airport so they can play or get changed. (I try to always fold it so the side that is on the ground is always folded up inside and is always the same side on the ground, that way they aren’t playing on the dirty side.)
4. Another clean blanket for covering them up in the plane, stroller, car seat etc.
5. A couple changes of clothes. That first flight to New Orleans, Asher had a major blowout and there was no changing table on the plane. My husband and I cleaned him while one of us held him up midair and the other one washed and changed him. It wasn’t easy, but it was feasible. Extra clothes are a must for kids and sometimes adults.
6. Small toys and books.
7. A bottle or sippy cup for take off and landing for their ears, if they are not breastfeeding. (I recommend nursing or giving them something to drink when you take off and descend to help relieve ear pressure. This worked great for us every time and often helped put him to sleep).
8. Stroller.
9. Baby-wraps (Keep in mind if your baby is in your baby wearing wrap at security they will make you take him/her out. Same goes for the stroller but they are great to have for the rest of the airport).
10. Snacks for you!

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Older babies and toddlers

I have added and changed some stuff on the list. Extra clothes and diapers are a must but we bring a lot more toys than we did when Asher was a baby. My absolute favorite airplane toys are slime and putty! They keep Asher busy for so long and they are less messy than playdough. Make sure they are under 3 oz because airport security considers them a “gel or liquid” and they will take them if they are more than 3 oz. I also love to bring coloring books, magnet play sets, reusable stickers, and small games like memory cards. Amazon has great reusable sticker activity books.

We bring Asher an iPad for long flights. We only let him watch the iPad on airplanes. We do this because we feel like it makes it special for him and gives him something to look forward to. Since he isn’t allowed to watch it at home, it is a lot more fun for him to have something that is just for airplanes. We also use it as a last resort. Once we have played all the games, read all the books, and eaten all the snacks – he can watch his iPad. Some parents let their kids watch their iPads the entire flight and I am all for that as well. If that works for you and gets you through a tough travel day, I call it a win.

We hit bad weather flying home from Georgia this spring and had to be rerouted to a nearby state and were stuck on the plane for 4 hours longer than planned. I can’t imagine the meltdowns we all would’ve had if Asher didn’t have a movie to watch. Asher wasn’t into videos until just recently so we haven’t used that as our main form of entertainment. It’s also nice to have backups in the event of a dead battery, or no WiFi, etc.
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My other bit of advice when packing is to always bring a reusable water bottle and snacks, especially if your child has any dietary restrictions. Finding food at weird times and in a hurry in an airport can be challenging and stressful when you’re hungry so it never hurts to have a backup snack.

Car seats

When we plan to rent a car at our destination, I always bring my own car seat. We have rented them a couple of times and I always prefer to have my own. You can check your own for free at ticketing and it will arrive in oversized baggage at your destination. I’ve had to use rented car seats that are filthy. They have been out of infant or toddler seats and we have had to wait while they go get one from another rental facility (which is the worst when you’ve been traveling all day already), and they are usually expensive to rent.

Strollers

We always bring our stroller to the airport and check it at the gate. You just have to get a stroller tag at your gate and leave it right before you get on the plane.

We have always been really lucky with Asher on the plane. He enjoys it and is usually really good, but if your little one does have a meltdown or cries uncontrollably, just remember that a lot of the people on the plane have kids of their own and have been where you are. They know it’s hard and you’re trying your best. Flight attendants are often awesome with kids and will try and help you calm them or redirect their attention. If you know of something that may help, ask them. I can almost guarantee they will do it. If nothing helps and people are starting to give you snarky looks or making comments, remember that they are grown adults and they should’ve brought their noise cancelling head phones. No one wants their child to cry on an airplane- just try your best to stay calm and know it’s temporary.

Taking your kids on trips can seem overwhelming and be a lot work, but after that first flight, you will feel like a pro. Traveling with Asher has been my favorite thing. We have seen so many things together and at just three years old he has met so many wonderful people along the way. I know that all of those red eye flights and late nights packing and planning have been completely worth it. Take the trip! You will be so glad you did.

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Not The Nanny

I found myself in unfamiliar territory not that long ago. A sweet, young grandma asked me if I was the nanny to my twins. I figured this was bound to happen at some point. Perhaps it’s surprising it took this long. From the outside looking in, anyone could make this mistake.

You see, the twins are about as white as snow with the most stunning sea-green (yet sometimes blue) eyes. Their hair is wavy dirty blonde like their Dad and Valentina has the same dimple placement as her proud Papa. For the record, I really want to believe that Valentina and Victoria have my nose. And that’s about it.

In case you haven’t seen me in the flesh, I have tan skin, dark brown hair and eyes. Big sis, Gabriella is my spitting image. My “mini-me” in every way. There’s no mistake she’s my daughter. When we’re together I get the sweet sideways glances from strangers who seem to say, “Awwww, look at that cute mother-daughter duo.” I relish that we do look so much alike.

When I was pregnant, Ben and I would joke back and forth about how one twin would arrive looking like him and the other like me. I didn’t give it a whole lot of thought because it really wasn’t that important to me. I had bigger things to worry about with the twins impending arrival.

Back to this sweet grandma on a random day this Summer. The twins and I were having fun at an indoor gym and a light-hearted conversation started between the two of us. After the usual exchange of niceties, she socked me in the stomach when she asked, “Are you the nanny?” I like to think I’m not easily offended, but it did sting just a bit. And I know this is just the beginning of many times ahead when I’ll be in this same situation. Do I need to buy the matching Lily Pulitzer Mommy-Daughter dresses to send the message loud and clear?

I think most people are perplexed when they see the twins and I together. Working out in their minds if I’m the nanny or the Mom. If Ben happens to be around or come around later it’s almost as if there’s a collective “Aha” from the on-lookers. Now it makes sense!

You may be wondering what my response was to this unassuming lady who just sucker punched me. I said, “Nope, I carried them for 37 weeks and 4 days to be exact.” After the blood drained from her face, we laughed and I told her not to feel bad. And I meant it.

While the physical likeness between the twins and I is almost non-existent, I hope that the intangible mother-daughter bond between each of us supersedes any doubt of my role as their mom. They remind me everyday, that no matter how I look (which is usually pretty tired), I’m their mama. Not the nanny.


 

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Lillian Sowles is a wife and mom to 3 girls, residing just outside of Charlotte, NC. She enjoys reading fiction, having fun with her family, trying new recipes and sipping hot coffee. You can read more about her here!

Finding Gratitude Through Tough Times

“I don’t want to carry gratitude in seasons. I want to carry it in my bones. I want it to rest on my tongue like it is a language that I never stop speaking.” -Arielle Estoria

I saw this quote the other night and it really resonated with me, especially with the holidays just around the corner! Yes, Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to celebrate all of the blessings in your life, and yes we all know we are of course just as thankful throughout the remainder of the year, but do we really focus on that gratitude outside of the holiday season? A lot of us do not. And what about when life has been particularly hard to us? How can we focus on gratitude when we feel like life has been unfairly cruel?

Having a special needs child has completely changed the way I celebrate gratitude. Madison is a constant reminder to be thankful. When you have watched your child fight for their life, and when they are left with needs in which people can’t tell you what to expect or how long you’ll have with them, every single day with that child becomes a blessing you are immeasurably thankful for. Every moment with her is a reason to be thankful because I truly don’t know what her future holds.

And special needs or not, the day to day of motherhood is HARD. There is no question about that. In fact, for many women their journey to motherhood is HARD. It doesn’t come easy to everyone. And when you’re longing for a family of your own, the holidays can be tough to bare.

When in the moment each day seems so hard, it can be difficult to be thankful. There are days when I just curse this universe for what it’s done to Madison and my family. How can I feel thankful when the daughter I’ve waited for my whole life was stolen from me at just 11 days old? And sometimes I let myself feel that way. I let myself have days where I’m angry and sad and that’s ok, because I have every right to be. That’s right mamas, you can be thankful AND be sad! We can be grateful AND be angry. We can feel all of our feelings, as long as we don’t let ourselves get stuck in the sad ones.

I have a lot of hard days as a special needs mama, but then I remember how much sadder I would be had Madison not survived. I think of all of the incredibly strong superhero parents that I’ve seen lose their children far too soon, and I know that I’m lucky I have this time with her. So even though I don’t always like this special needs journey I’m on, there are still things to be thankful for. There are still things all of us can be thankful for, even through the darkest times when it may not feel true.

Community

Personally, I am thankful for my husband and his unconditional love and support. I could not get through life without him. I’m thankful for our family and friends who stand by us everyday, help us when we need, and simply check in on us to see how we’re doing. I’m thankful for the doctors, nurses, specialists, and therapists who saved Madison, who continue to make her care a priority, and who have helped her get to where she is today. I’m thankful for the other special needs mamas that I’ve connected with over the year. These mamas have helped me immensely in learning about new treatments or side effects, have given me stories of hope, and also been those I could vent to knowing I would not be judged because they are the only ones who truly know what I’m going through. It’s a tribe I never thought I’d be a part of, but I’m blessed to know so many incredibly strong women.

It’s important as mamas that we find our tribe and hold onto them. For some of us our community consists of family or friends. For others, a yoga class or coworkers. Hell, your community might be an online support group of women you don’t even know in person, it doesn’t matter! Let’s value those relationships ladies, and be thankful for the people in your life that make you smile and lift you up, even when you may not realize it.

Progress

Sometimes it’s hard to see how far Madison has actually come, but when I think back to last year I realize how much more fragile she was. It’s so easy to focus on the areas our children struggle, especially when your child’s developmental goals are things that come so easy to a healthy child, but we need to remember to celebrate the inchstones too. Any progress is better than no progress and is something to be thankful for. No matter what Madison is able to accomplish, you can bet I’ll be proud of her. We cannot compare our child’s accomplishments to another’s. Try not to stress on the missed milestones or areas your child is struggling. Take it from the mama of a medically complex babe, these things truly don’t matter! Celebrate their health. Celebrate the things they CAN do. Celebrate the fact that you have a child when so many women long to be mothers. Celebrate your child for exactly who they are and watch how much fuller your heart becomes.

Strength

Being on the special needs journey will mold you into a completely different person. I can’t tell you how many times people compliment me for my strength, but in all honesty, I have no other option but to be strong. Being an advocate for a medically complex child will make you more resilient, unafraid to speak your voice, smarter, more compassionate and understanding, and less judgmental. I have no time to worry about anything in life other than Madison and my family. Nothing else matters. And I’m thankful for this strength that has allowed me to think like that. It can be hard to be confident in our mothering abilities. We all wonder if we’re doing enough, even though most days it feels like we couldn’t possibly give any more. But trust me, you are enough. There is no one stronger than a mother. The days may be long and hard, but remember to be thankful for them; for they have made you the strong, badass woman you have become!

Resources

I’m also extremely thankful to have so many educational resources at my fingertips. With each diagnosis and with each failing medication, all I do is research what else I can do for Madison. What meds haven’t we tried that might work? What alternative treatments are available? What therapies have worked for others? I can’t imagine going through this journey in a country where the access to education and resources is limited. We’re lucky to be able to research and learn on our own and to have the ability to travel freely to esteemed medical professionals. Fertility struggles? Marriage problems? Addiction? The list goes on and on for the plethora of difficulties we might face, and yet there are so many resources available to help us through. Going through hard times can cloudy our want to be thankful, but it’s important to remember that we have resources to help pull us out, and that is a blessing in itself.

The Chaos

The pure chaos of motherhood may seem like something silly to be thankful for when it’s also the thing that drives us crazy, but trust me, it is. So your house is a mess? Be thankful to have a roof over your head. Be thankful your child is able to make that mess. It means they are learning and playing and figuring out this world, a joy that a mama of a disabled child, like me, would give anything for. So you’re juggling therapy and doctors appointments for your medically complex child? Be thankful you’re able to offer them care and opportunities to grow. So you’re balancing fertility appointments or childcare with work? Be thankful you have a job, a safe place to send your child, or the means to explore the wonderful advances science has to offer in helping you start or grow your family. The chaos, as exhausting as it might be, simply means we are living!

Let’s also remember that feeling grateful and being grateful are two different things. No one feels grateful for the bad things that happen to them, but despite those things, we can choose to BE grateful for the things we do have. Being forced into some really tough times has showed me not to take anything for granted, as I’ve seen firsthand how quickly life can change. When you learn that the things you love most can be taken away in an instant, you become immensely more thankful for them. My gratitude for the good times has also provided me hope and the will to keep going.

So as you sit with your loved ones this holiday season and reflect on how hard this year may have been, remember to instead focus on all that you DO have. There were moments and people and learnings and even your own bravery through these times, that you can and should be thankful for. Let us remember to be thankful every single day, and not just during the holidays. And above all, please be thankful for the health of yourself and your children. Not all mamas, like myself, are as lucky in that regard. Hold those babies close and I promise you, you’ll feel more reasons to be thankful than you ever imagined possible. Here’s to a wonderful holiday season mamas! We’ve got this!

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Kelly Backiel is a wife, and SAHM to her daughter, Madison. Madison was diagnosed with meningitis at 11 days old, leaving her with severe brain injuries and complications. Kelly blogs about her experiences as a special needs mom, and hopes to spread awareness and support to others in similar situations. She is a fan of the beach, and a nice glass of wine! Read more about her here!

An Unexpected Journey : Teen Pregnancy

It was the November 2003. I was 15 years old, and had been dating him for a few months when I decided that I was going to have sex for the first time. Again I was 15, never really had a clue about monitoring periods, pregnancy etc. A little naive, if you will.

Fast forward to May 2004. I was getting ready for prom with my friends (after a pretty rough few months being in the middle of a custody battle between my parents) and I noticed the dress I had just bought a month before no longer fit like it did when I first bought it.

So did my mom.

I went off to prom, had a great time and finished up the weekend at home. The next Monday I went to school and received a note that I was going home for the afternoon. It was my mom picking me up to take me to the doctors because she had a feeling I was pregnant. In the car on the way there I remember laughing at her and saying she was crazy, it only happened one time and it was back in November.

We walked into the doctors office, went back into a room and the doctor came in. I remember at that time getting extremely nervous, but I did not know why. She gave me a cup, I went to the bathroom and came out. The doctor came back within 10 minutes to tell us the results.

I was pregnant.

I instantly got sick to my stomach and thought to myself “What the heck am I going to do!?” My mom was in shock and she did not say much after that. The doctor asked me a series of questions, none of which I could really answer because, like I said, I never really paid attention to when I got my periods. She sent me to another room and did an ultrasound to determine how far along I really was. After she completed her exam and measurements of the baby she told me I was due around August 19th, 2004 and ITS A GIRL! August 19th?! That was only 3 months away! How did I not know?

On July 22nd, 2004 after being in preterm labor for around 2 weeks, I gave birth to a healthy, beautiful baby girl, Michelle Elizabeth. One look at her, and I knew I was destined to be her mother. It was 8 days shy of my 16th birthday, and I was a mom. I promised her on that day, I would never give up and I will always do my best to be a great mom to her. I was not going to let the stigmas surrounding teenage pregnancy affect anything.

I was going to beat the statistics.

For two days I sat in the hospital just staring at her, holding her and loving her. For a moment, I forgot that I was just a baby myself.

Fifteen years later, I still hold those same promises to her (at least I think I do, with a few bumps here and there… I AM STILL HUMAN).

I proved every person that doubted me wrong. I graduated high school with HONORS, went to college and got a degree. All while working and taking care of her without much help.

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Life was definitely not easy. I still dealt with all the teenage drama, breakups, being broke etc. But I never let it steer me from my ultimate goal….providing Michelle with the best life possible.

Now I am raising a daughter, who is 15 (along with another 14 year old bonus daughter, and two 10 year old boys; biological and bonus). She is the same age as I was when I became pregnant with her. She is smart, sassy, beautiful and completely obsessed with school. When she first got a boyfriend, I was worried. But hoped I had raised her to know she can always come to me and how to prevent teen pregnancy. It is a conversation I have openly with her, because it was not a conversation my parents were willing to have with me. While I do not regret being her mother, as it has made me who I am today, I do not want the same for my children (or bonus ones). There are times where I wonder who I would be today if I had not become a teen mom, but the answers are blank.

Yes, I am often asked how old she is and how old I am, and I watch those who ask do the math in their heads and just stare at me. I just simply say, “Yes, I was a teen mom.” My daughter often gets the same treatment from people that ask her the same questions. She just smiles and tells them they’d be lucky to have me as a mom. GOAL ACCOMPLISHED. No matter how many times we argue or “I’m ruining her life” because I take her phone; she always knows I always did my best.

As a probation officer, I often come in contact with girls in similar situations. Not the best family life, lost in the world, and making poor decisions. I try to use my struggles and most importantly my accomplishments to help them get on the right path in life and not dwell on what could have been done and focus on what CAN be done. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But just like 15 years ago, I never stop trying.

It is true that your current life is, to a large extent, the result of your past actions, choices and experiences. The great news, however, is that your future is determined by how you act in the present moment. In other words, your past does not have to define you or your future.

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Nicolette Geigle is a wife and mom to 4 amazing kids (2 bio, and 2 bonus). She works as a Parole Office and resides in Metro Detroit. You can usually find her supporting her daughter at dance, or on the sidelines cheering her sons on in sports. Read more about her here!