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As I told my husband, (silly as this might seem!) I have often worried about having TOO many pictures of the babies. In this age of smart phone cameras hardly a moment goes by without being recorded. Which is a BEAUTIFUL thing, but I have literally worried about being able to choose pictures to use at events such as their future graduations because can you even imagine HOW many pictures I will have by that point?! How will I ever choose?! SO, my solution to this has been to religiously take month to month photos. No matter their mood or the weather, we take a photo every single month on their month birthday. While at first I just wanted to record their growth, this has also become my solution to how in the world I will choose photos one day! Haha!
At first I tried to use the same chair every time but I soon realized that would not be sustainable. So, I decided to go with a blank background and blanket (or similar) and try to have them sitting for at least one shot. Over the last sixteen months, I have done a lot of trial and error and these are a few things that have helped me get (mostly!) consistent, model and Pinterest worthy, professional looking photos even with just my iPhone.
**I received free product from 76th & Newbury for this review however all opinions are my own**
When I was contacted by 76th & Newbury to review their products, I was both excited and nervous. Excited by their beautiful and expansive collection of products to choose from, and nervous for a couple reasons. First, because I had never ordered a customized product and had no idea what to expect, and secondly because having a severe case of mom brain renders all decision making far more stressful these days!
Despite being twins, my babies are remarkably different little humans, I am reminded every single day as to their uniqueness. This was a lesson I had to learn at first, to not compare them (see my earlier post where I talk a little about comparing babies in general here). My son is a sponge, he is constantly absorbing and feeding off of his surroundings. My daughter less so, she currently goes through her days happily singing to herself and her play frogs. Already I can tell her imagination is a deep and colorful one. As she grows I will continue to make a point to be invited into the beautiful world inside that mind, to make certain she always feels safe to include me, and never shuts me out. Because who knows how deeply things are affecting her, perhaps she just doesn’t express them as easily as her brother. And I have an entire post about that challenge, but today I want to talk about the challenge of raising a sensitive and highly emotional child, my little boy.
Harry has always been affected by his surroundings, and there is nothing wrong with that. I feel like in our culture we are so ready to invite concern over a little one’s emotional state, or feel we need to ‘fix it’. I really hate that mentality. My son feels SO deeply, and expresses those feelings with complete lack of inhibition. I will set him down for a brief second to change his sister’s diaper and you would think I had abandoned him in a remote Peruvian forest alone. And yes at times his pathos is a bit comical in the intensity with which he expresses his feelings, (cue face down on the floor complete body throw and sobbing) but the facts are, that is REALLY how he is feeling. His tender heart has not yet learned to hide itself. Yes, eventually he will learn that being set down for a few moments isn’t the end of the world, and he will also learn that when he wakes up he is never alone and left for dead. And one day he will talk to me about his feelings instead of just sobbing.
But, THOSE are the things I want to teach him, not to hide himself away. Someone once told me to ‘stop babying’ my baby. (first of all, right now he IS A BABY. But I digress). BUT, I am not babying him. I am teaching him validation of himself. That who he is MATTERS, that who he is is BEAUTIFUL. That what he feels is beautiful, that there is nothing wrong with his heart and emotions. I do not want to teach him how to stuff his feelings down inside, I do not want to teach him to feel less deeply. I want him to learn how to manage situations that affect him and protect himself, I don’t want him to learn that he should ‘feel less’, or that something is wrong with him because someone hurt his heart. It’s more than I don’t want him to have the ‘man up and suck it up’ mentality. It’s that I want him to celebrate the depth of his heart, to learn to protect it without paralyzing it. I want him to learn he is more than enough, and to not judge his personal worth according to how others treat him. And yes obviously I want the same for my daughter! But I know I will need different approaches to teach each one of them this. We were at the playground the other day, and he was cracking UP watching two little boys run back and forth while my daughter happily played with my mom. They were very kind little kiddos, and engaged with him and played with him despite the age difference. And I watched my baby light up like the sun with their interaction. But, I know not everyone will be so kind. Not everyone will respond to him in such a manner. One day he is going to reach out with his heart and it will not be lovingly received. And I want him to be prepared for that day. I want him to know when that happens it’s ok it hurt his feelings, it’s ok to talk about it, but that in no way is it a reflection of him, in no way is he wrong that it hurt his feelings. I want him to not only give kindness, but to expect it in return, and when it is not given, to not lay the blame on himself.
It is so easy to question ourselves when we have unpleasant encounters, to say, what did I do wrong? And I am not stupid, I know eventually one day my son will not handle an encounter to the best of his ability, he is HUMAN. But I do not want it to be his go to reaction to question himself. There is a difference in being responsible for our actions and being immediately ready to blame ourselves. I don’t ever want him to ask himself, was I too much? Am I too much for that person? Is that why they didn’t like me? I don’t want him to clam up, shut down, hide his heart away. I want him to KNOW he is exactly enough, that he is precious and irreplacable, that while he might not be everyone’s cup of tea that doesn’t mean he needs to change his flavor. I want him to know his flavor is not only one of a kind but to teach him to have confidence and celebrate it. I have lots more to say about this, but I will save it for another post. And yes, OBVIOUSLY I want these things equally for my daughter. But we will talk about that in another post all about her.
We’ve all talked about mommy shaming. We will talk about it more. Daddy shaming, mommy shaming, shaming in general is just a big pet peeve of mine. I was talking to my mother yesterday and she mentioned, “When did it become so wrong to have differences of opinion and be able to have a civil conversation about it?” But really, when did it? Having differences of opinion is a beautiful thing. If we were all programmed robots, all thinking the same thing, there would never be division. But imagine a world where everyone agreed all the time. I don’t think that’s beautiful. That is not diversity. Imagine a world where differences of opinion are celebrated, in all areas, personal areas such as parenting choices, lifestyle choices, etc. And while many claim that is what they aspire to do, not many actually do it. The other day my children ate peanut butter toast off my spoon while running around the play room. One friend’s children ate goldfish crackers that same day for breakfast and yet another friend’s children ate breakfast sitting down at the table like they do every morning. Each one of us parents differently and each one of us is giving our all to be the best parent we can be. And each one of us is doing GREAT.
Breakfast time at my house does happen more frequently as a free feeding carnival and once summer comes we will probably continue this tradition while they run around naked outdoors. (They will probably even pee in the grass…GASP). Even dinner time at the table can be a somewhat exciting experience with beans flying and squash face masks. But, my children do sometimes eat even breakfast at the table and my friends children do eat other things than goldfish. Parenting is not an exact science, and what matters is the big picture. Hey, at least none of us chew our food and spit it back into their mouths like Alicia Silverstone did with her son Bear…(Yep, I am totally sitting here still thinking that is weird BUT I would be willing to bet she made that admittedly disgusting choice because she truly believed it to be the best for her kid. I am just waiting to see what he thinks later, but I won’t shame her for it. I mean, that took balls to admit to in public you have to hand her that).
One of my friends just weaned her one year old, another just weaned her three year old. Both of them are amazing moms and neither one made a wrong choice. Each one made the best choice for her and her child. Each one should be confident in her parenting decisions, for they are both doing their BEST. I have doubts in my parenting abilities, just like we all do. Sometimes I even cry about it (just ask my husband about the other night when we all went to bed after 10pm and I was momentarily convinced I was destroying my children’s development by having irregular bedtimes and so we all three sat in bed and cried while the poor man tried to calm us all down). For us, naps and bedtimes differ because my husband and I both work and we made the choice to have flexible scheduling so we can spend more time with our kids. But, my children do nap, and they do sleep. Sometimes we go to bed earlier and they wake up at 8. Sometimes I work late and they wake up the next day at 10:00. They even sleep with us and our crew of cats and yes we are all still alive and well. And for the most part, I try to practice what I preach and own my parenting choices in confidence, but it can be SO difficult when we are inundated with not only everyone else’s opinions but we also have a zillion articles pelting us via social media every day on how we should parent and why we should do things a certain way. I mean, hanging out with other mamas can straight up give me flashbacks to watching Mean Girls with Lindsey Lohan. (That scene in the school where everyone acts like a jungle animal? Yeah, just replace the school with the park playground).
Why don’t we respect each other’s choices? (parenting and other wise). Why do we feel it is our own personal mission to ‘correct’ one another? I may not agree with you, and I’m not only more than willing to have a civil and respectful conversation about it, but also equally willing to admit that perhaps neither of us is wrong. Maybe we are both right. Maybe I don’t understand why you do what you do, and for that matter you may not understand why I do what I do, but I am going to leave it to the Big Man Upstairs to work that out. Let’s toast to our differences and leave it at that. I have many friends, (both mom friends and non mom friends) who I know have different opinions than I do. However, I am not going to let that effect my opinion of them or my love for them.
Because I also know that they truly are doing their best and acting on what they believe is the right thing to do. And it probably is. Just because it is different than my choice does not make it wrong. So, in the words of Aretha Franklin, “It’s your thing, do what you wanna do” and I will also add, “R E S P E C T”, let’s start socking that to each other on a daily basis, shall we?
Every year around this time I fight off a stab of guilt as I see everyone posting about their New Year resolutions. So many are blazing off to accomplish great things and achieve their goals. And it never fails I question my choice to not set a list of New Years goals, but in the end I stick to my resolve. For me, life goals are about the day to day process. Every morning I wake up and I really try my best. Sometimes that best involves wearing week old leggings, dirty hair, and four cups of coffee but that’s ok. It was still the best I had that day. Personally, I don’t work well with a super set list of new changes just because the calendar turned. For some people that isn’t the case, and if you’re a New Years goal setter, that’s awesome. You do you mama. And I’m not saying I never make a list of goals, or do crunch time and really work to change things.
But there is one thing I know I don’t need more of in life, and that is guilt and pressure. Ok thats two things. For example, today was hard. SO. HARD. It’s late afternoon and I still haven’t brushed my teeth. My hair is a sad and dirty mom bun, (but hey at least my sweats are only two days old). We’ve had fevers, teething, and seemingly endless screaming babies. I did scrub my pits in the shower while holding my son because well, we had a diaper incident, (thanks prune juice, but seriously it NEEDED to happen) and while I’m not overly fond of smelling poorly I really try to avoid smelling like actual FECES. Also, I am currently working on my second pb&j of the day as the first one face planted tragically onto the floor. (Five second rule doesn’t work when the floor is carpet and the item is smeared in jam). And, it’s still a little early for a glass of wine (though I was sorely tempted half an hour ago…).
Anyway, my point in all this rambling is, had I set some new hard and fast goals for this year I’d already be failing them. And at least for me, nothing is as discouraging as failing right out of the starting gate. And while that’s going to happen sometimes, I personally prefer not to set myself up for that scenario if I can avoid it. I mean, I have an ongoing goal of working out more/at all, and I will continue working towards that goal but at least I don’t have to face that I flunked my New Years resolutions before the first month was even over. Now I can just slide today into the big basket of ‘did my best and try again tomorrows’. Which, for me personally, is far less traumatizing.
And of course I have goals and resolutions, I have things I want to change, things I want to do better, or do at all. But they’re on my constantly working to evolve list, my ongoing life quest, my life resolutions. And even those evolve and change. But for me, it’s more doable to look at my resolutions without the fear of immediate failure due to the change of a year. And like I said, what’s important is finding what works for you and feeling confident in that choice, whatever it might be.
On the heels of my pursuit of peace post, I thought today I’d chat a little more about that and how HARD it is to just, well, chill out. I’m a bit of a ‘wound up’ person, I’ll readily admit it. Let’s just say there’s a reason my family lovingly refers to me as Scrat (Ice Age anyone?) Sitting around and doing nothing legitimately stresses me out, but if the holidays bring anything they bring times of extended sitting and visiting with family and friends. Which is a beautiful thing, but for me personally it’s hard. Like, WAY hard. My mind and body were always ‘on the go’ before kids, it’s just my personality, and now that I’m a mom I’ve gotten even worse. I come by it honestly, my mom is the same way. I used to (and still do) tease her that she is allergic to sitting still.
I think our culture really contributes to this mindset of having to always be doing something. I mean, being busy is the norm. If you’re not busy, you just must be doing something wrong, right?! And life is busy, especially with kids. That’s just the way it is. But, at least for me, I feel guilty if I’m not accomplishing something almost constantly. Sitting with coffee? Well I could/would/should be folding laundry/picking up toys/cleaning something at the same time. Babes sleeping on my lap?! Time to crunch work emails! I mean, there is always, ALWAYS something to get done and heaven forbid I stare out the window for five minutes while I drink my coffee. The only time I don’t feel pressured to be doing something is when I’m sleeping (which as you mamas know, with little ones, sleep isn’t exactly something that’s overflowing in my life at the current moment).
Many other cultures emphasize the importance of those moments of nothing, accept them and even celebrate them. And I think that is SO beautiful, and I wish our own culture was like that. So, while I cannot single handedly change our entire culture, I can start to work on my own mindset. Thus, in addition to my pursuit of finding peaceful moments, I’m going to actively work on fighting the guilt and stress that inevitably comes along with those peaceful moments of doing ‘nothing’. As parents, we aren’t exactly overflowing with opportunities for ‘relax’ practice anyway, so the holidays feel like a good time to start. Who’s with me?!
In hopes of helping simplify and bring you a moment of peace, I have compiled a list of special discounts at the bottom of this post that I have procured to share with you, my dear readers!
As I sit here, my babies sleeping quietly on my lap, drinking a cup of coffee and watching the deer wander slowly through the early morning snow outside my Christmas light wrapped window, a rare moment of beautiful, peaceful calm washes over me. My mind typically feels like a loud blend of several race car tracks, loud music and airplanes roaring overhead, all set to the soundtrack of babies yelling and people trying to talk to me through this insane commotion in my head. I feel like I am always in full speed ahead mode, wash this, move that, always trying to focus enough on the task at hand that I am able to move on to task number two (or two thousand) as efficiently as possible.
But in this moment, the silence strikes me. For a moment, the race car tracks are empty, the metal band in my head is still and the sky is clear of airplanes. No children are crying, and no one is trying to ask me anything. The loud static in my head has been at least temporarily replaced by the soft shhhh of the house heat and the gentle purring of the cat. For a moment, everything has stopped, everything is still.
And it feels incredible. I want to freeze this moment, to make it last. I find myself almost nervous to breathe because I am not ready to let it go. But reality is, it will go. The race car tracks will roar to life, the metal band will wake up, (as will most certainly my children) and the sky will populate itself once again with those ridiculously loud airplanes. And that is life. And I love my big, joyous, loud life. But big ships come in over quiet seas, and minds that never stop burn out. I mean, if I was a computer, I would have overheated and blown up quite a while back. As parents, I think one of our biggest challenges is trying to find these quiet moments. It’s so, SO hard to just STOP. To stop our physical, mental and emotional activity and just BE for a moment. There is always something to do, to think about, figure out, or complete.
And I think we need to stop, to let the machine cool off, the water to be still, to RECHARGE and reset, to rest. And I think that takes focus, takes effort. And it’s hard to add one more thing to accomplish when you feel like your to do list is already out of control. I mean, yeah, great, let’s add ONE MORE THING to worry about, right? But I think if we can work on these moments, everything else will eventually seem a little less overwhelming, maybe if we find these quiet moments we can enjoy the loud ones a bit more. And while I don’t do New Years resolutions, (hello PRESSURE) I do believe I will add this pursuit of peaceful moments to the top of my goal list. Even if it means getting up fifteen minutes earlier.
Self care is hard. As a mama, it’s literally almost impossible sometimes. They say you can’t pour from a cup that’s empty but sometimes as a mom that is just what you have to do. Sometimes my kids don’t sleep, so I don’t sleep, and you know what? When they wake up the next morning I don’t get to just ignore them while I catch up on my zzz’s! Nope! They need fed, diapers changed and someone to watch them so they don’t knock out a tooth or stab out each other’s eyes. And yep, I am that person!
Sometimes I don’t get that glass of water or get to pee in a timely fashion because my babies have needs that can’t wait. Call me crazy but it’s really hard to go to the bathroom when my son is screaming because he pooped his diaper and it’s burning his little butt. So I change his diaper, and then eventually, I get to pee. Typically with a kid on my lap (or two). And as you might know from my last post, (click here to watch my rant on sharing love not germs) I just finished having the stomach flu. And nope, motherhood didn’t ‘pause’ whilst I fought that nasty virus.
I used to lecture my mom on self care. I still do sometimes since her kids are adults and she still doesn’t care for herself as she should. But, being a mom myself, I get why she doesn’t. Someday my kids will be adults and I I’ll probably need the self care lecture because let’s face it mamas, decades of a habit is hard to break.
And you know, I chose to bring these little beings into the world, they didn’t really have a say in it. So I don’t think it’s unfair that their needs are put before mine. That doesn’t mean though that some days aren’t so hard I want to cry, and sometimes I just want to eat my dinner without it getting slapped to the floor or shoveling it in my mouth at a race rocket pace. It doesn’t mean I don’t love my kids, or that I don’t want them more than anything. It doesn’t make me a bad mom that I look at photos of women with their hair and makeup done, their cute jeans obviously freshly washed and feel a pang of absence of my self worth.
Motherhood is HARD. Do I love it? With all my heart. Is it worth it?! Without question! I wouldn’t trade being a mama for ANYTHING. But. It. Is. Hard. So hard. Being the primary caregiver to tiny humans is no joke. There are literally lives DEPENDING on you, 24/7! HUMAN. LIVES. Whether or not your child survives let alone thrives is all on YOU. That’s one heck of a privilege and responsibility y’all.
I’m trying to remember to do little bits of self care when I can. Having a third cup of coffee (even if it gets cold), taking the extra 30 seconds to not only rip the ponytail off my head before bed but actually brush my hair, putting on a quick show for the babies so I can wash my face without screaming in the background. These things seem small but mamas you know, those small things are the first to go when you’re prioritizing your moves like a military captain for efficiency.
This won’t be my last post on self care, so tell me, what do you find is YOUR biggest challenge as a mama in caring for you? Let me know in the comments!
Hang in there mamas, and go buy some wine, I prefer the big bottles. A glass may help (I find it heavenly, and yes you can have it even if you’re breastfeeding!!!!). But I’ll go off on that later.