Thursday, August 30, 2012

"No. Big girl."

Bella is talking more and more and more and it totally blows my mind when I take the time to think about it, which is frequent. 

I had asked Bella to head upstairs and open the door to check on Emmett, which she loves to do, while I finished doing whatever I was doing at the end of naptime. 
She lovesto be the one to go get him. A) I think it makes her feel like a Mama/Big girl and B) She loves waking her friend up to play. 
She opened the door and I heard happy jabbering and the door close behind her, which is normally fine but I make sure to go up and check on them within a couple of minutes. I opened the door and she was in the pack and play with Emmett (yes, she climbed in!) and she was saying "Hide! Hide!" and nudging Emmett to lay down as they both laughed. Adorable, right?
"Hide! Hide!"

 I played along and hid around the door frame and peeked out at them and after a couple of times Bella says,

"Way, Mama."
" want me to go away?"
"...well. Uh, can you"
How do you remind your toddler to be polite in asking me to go away?? She reached a point a few months ago where she knew when she just wanted to be alone, which I remember smiling and thinking how grown up she was getting as she slammed the door. When she vocally asked me for space, it was different. My baby is not going to need me or want me that much longer. (I mean, when you look at time in it's entirety, 5 more years out of 80ish is not much longer.) It's not that she hurt my feelings or anything. With my mouth open in surprise I agreed and then quickly texted Palmer about what she had just said with smiling emoticons.

While she was sitting on the potty daddy was sitting on the ground next to her talking to her about both of their days. Bella's day was less exciting than normal thanks to her Mama's ever growing and uncomfortable belly. So she talked about watching a few shows and playing with Emmett. Daddy told her about how he was working on a picture to send out to everybody in town and how it was hard work. (He creates the mailer that our church sends out to everyone a couple of times a year.) He also told her about how he has to give a talk at church on Sunday.

"I have to get up in front of a lot of people and talk about things. Grandma will be there, and Grandpa, and Emmett's mama, Emmett's daddy and a lot of other people. It's a little bit scary."
"No scawe, Dada. Nice peepo." (No scared, Dada. Nice people.")
"The people are nice so I shouldn't be scared?"
"Yeah, Dada."

Wise words, sweet girl.
We went to McDonalds first thing this morning to celebrate her earning her Big 5 Reward for earning 5 potty stickers. We were there from 8:15am until 11am. I think it goes without saying, but I am play placed out!

While we were there she asked me for a tissue so I showed her where the napkin dispenser was. She got a napkin, successfully cleared her nose and threw it in the trash can by herself. I said, "Great job, baby!" which Bella replied with, "No. Big girl."

My gosh. She is a big girl. I've been looking forward to her getting older and experiencing all of these awesome and fun kid things, like the play place and amusement parks and family vacations and Christmas and school and art projects, (and no diapers!) etc. And her big girl talking! The conversations we will have are something I look forward to so much! Already she's saying the most sweet and amazing things.
Ex: tonight she wanted to sleep with her bedroom light on so that the moon could see her.
I get to see who she is better through her words and I get to know this amazing little person better. The inner workings of her mind are fascinating and heartbreaking. And i get to know it better each day! 

But that means my baby is no more. I'll never have that little Bella I can hold in my arms. Who I can tap her booty when I change her diaper. Whose best friend in the world is Baabaa, her stuffed sheep. It's the epitome of bittersweet. As I write this it is the first time I have unwillingly cried about it. I've never cried about the idea of my kids growing up until right now, when I heard Bella tell her daddy that she wanted the moon to see her as she slept. 

Parenthood will and should break your heart. In the absolute best way possible. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Potty Training Day 2

Bella's already filled one row of stickers!! YES! My girl is kicking butt!!
That is 5 STICKERS! 5 times going pee in the potty! With only 2 accidents! 

That means tomorrow morning we go to McDonalds for breakfast and to play at the playplace. :) I really didn't like that she earned her Big 5 Reward right before bedtime because she couldn't actually see the reward until tomorrow but we tried to still make a really big deal about it before bed. Hopefully she's excited about it tomorrow and the progress continues! High fives all around!

Now the next obstacles I'm looking over are how to get her to poop in the potty and how to get to her to stay dry during the night. I know I'm TOTALLY jumping (another big and scary) gun with that one and that those are things that I have time to worry about later. Those are ideas that make absolutely no sense to me. First thing's first, though.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Big, Scary, Ugly Words - Like Potty Training

Potty training is a scary, scary word. And yes, it should just be one word. One bad word. It's terribly intimidating! I was the weirdo who was worrying about it while pregnant with my first baby. How on earth is it done without everybody melting down into a mess of...our own messes?

I bought the potty chair when Bella was about 18 months and collected what potty books I could. She's got the idea and it's been very intriguing to her until about 4 months ago. I thought surely introducing the potty chair early and getting more serious when that very first sign or two had shown themselves would give me a head start. We talked about it at least once a day and we were always soooo excited about the potty. We were hoping our oozing excitement for pooping in the potty would become so apparent she would decide, 'why yes, I'm going to poop in the potty from now on'.

Nope. She's peed in the potty a few times and our mistake was doing what all the lists and articles said to do, which was get REALLY excited. She's a funny girl; she doesn't normally like a spot light being shown on something she does. An art project, a new word, how high she can jump, anything I ask her to show off for someone else is normally met with a very bashful Bella. I totally respect that and understand it. It does get a little frustrating when you want her to show daddy how ADORABLE it is when she dances to our new song with motions, but I have to remember how embarrassing it is to sometimes be put on the spot. And in some cases, she would get so bashful it would make her upset. And our loud cheering for her pee pee in the potty was one of those moments. On the verge of tears she wanted OFF that potty! She got a Dora sticker and her marshmallow, as promised, but had no interest in going through THAT again. (I should add she pooped in the potty once on accident. For that she got several marshmallows but cheering was also the wrong thing to do.)

So within the past two months we've been really trying to be serious about this. She totally gets it. She's totally able. She just flat out doesn't want to use the potty. I ask her happily, 'Do you want to sit on the potty?' which has now turned into, ' Let's go sit on the potty, sweety!' which Bella responds to with a near emotional meltdown.We read as many books as she wants to and she watches her shows on it only to have her get up to pee on the floor in the next room. After so long it's hard not to get very frustrated. I do my darndest to not let it show, though - I know that would make things worse.

 So we've come to a stale mate. I'm doing "research" on Pinterest but I've not found anything to help me potty train my girl with the will of steel. I can't force her onto the potty, that would be traumatic. So my next idea is to form a sticker chart system. She has loved having a chore token system so I'm hoping that introducing something similar will make her feel responsible and empowered. She's definitely a girl that needs to feel like she has control of something and I strongly believe this is something that she needs to be in control of. So hopefully making a system that empowers her to use the potty will help.

I've also promised a trip to Disney World. Who wouldn't give up diapers for that??


Day 1 of our potty sticker chart: "baby peepee" =  A small success!!! 

This is the potty chart I came up with. It's not nearly as neat and cute as it was in my head, as most things I make turn out, but it worked! (...once)

The idea is that with every time that she goes pee pee or poo poo in the potty she gets a sticker to put on her chart as well as a treat. I was a little overwhelmed with the treat options but I decided her treat options would be either a fruit snack or marshmallow (and the treat is doubled if she can poop in the potty!) A bag of marshmallows and a package of fruit snacks are clipped up next to the chart as a reminder. 

When she gets 5 stickers she gets a BIG treat, which right now is either a trip to the McDonalds with the playplace or ice cream. She gets to choose which big treat she wants by seeing the picture of her options. It was much harder than I anticipated coming up with a great end reward that was inexpensive (preferably free) that she would consistently be interested in or that I can actually promise her. For instance, we went to an inflatable play place last night that I thought would be a great 5 sticker potty reward but they're not open consistently enough for it to work. She would end up having to potentially wait 2 weeks until their next open play to actually see the reward and that can't easily make sense to a toddler. I thought about a trip to the playground being an option also, but what if the weather is bad? I'm still brainstorming better ideas for an end reward, but for now this will work.
She visited the potty every 20 minutes and read one book each time while I had the faucet running next to her. By the 3rd time, it was difficult to get her to follow our rule of sitting on the potty when the timer went off and for some silly reason, all patience I had was hanging on by a thread. The potential I saw was drained completely as she sat on the couch, crying and telling me no potty. I did finally get her to sit on the big potty which, again, led me to believe that she just needs to be given choices in as many different situations as possible. She happily sat for almost 10 minutes and....

...ta da!! She peed! Once! A baby pee pee, as she called it! In the potty! And you know what made all the difference? We didn't squeal and freak out with excitement! Daddy was the one who was in there with her when she was done and he started to say, "Bella! You peed!!" which then made her shrug her shoulders, look down at her feet and 
whine. Daddy realized what was happening and very quickly dropped his tone down to normal level and said, "Great job, Isabella. I am so proud of you. You went pee pee in the potty. High five, baby girl." She smiled and high fived him and, I swear it's the hormones, I fought back tears as I showed her what sticker options she had for her chart. 

She chose a marshmallow treat and happily ate it while in the next room Palmer exploded with enthusiastic praise for the sticker chart. I couldn't not cry anymore, which I felt silly about. But you know what? This is a daunting task. And there are too many "defeats" in parenting. And the day of our first trying it out Bella did it. We all did it. And Palmer was so proud of me - so it's ok to cry.
 Let's hope I'm still crying for that reason by the end of day one...
My big girl pretending to read a recipe for me. :)

Winning recipes from the week

This was a week of very successful new recipes and even a favorite from last week!

While Palmer and the staff were in North Carolina, I stayed with my parents so I could get a slight break and so Bella could have a fun weekend with Nana and Papa.

 I made these enchiladas again for us all to have and my parents also commented several times on how good they were. They even echoed a comment I had made that they were better than most enchiladas I've ordered in a restaurant! This is not at all to say how great of a cook I am, just to state that if you're looking for a good enchilada recipe, this is it.

Simply Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas. Photo by Andi of Longmeadow Farm
The Recipe

And this recipe WAS toddler approved!

I also made these Crispy Southwest Chicken Wraps and they were also really good. I actually made them twice because I had extra tortillas and both times they were a little different. That's something I love in a recipe though - when you can make as many variations as you can think of. The first time I only added the cilantro and lemon juice to the rice so it had the light flavor of Chipotle's rice (uh, YES PLEASE!) and skipped adding the chili powder and cumin. It was a little more bland that way but with salsa it was great.
The next time I made it I added all of the spices it called for and it was just as good, just had a slight kick to it. I don't like things that are spicy and adding the chili powder didn't make it too spicy for Bella or I. I also added lettuce into the crap trying to mimic a Chipotle burrito (I love the fresh and cold crisp of the lettuce in their burritos) but it didn't turn out the way I had liked it too. Next time I'll try just adding the lettuce to the top.
The Recipe

I can't say this one was approved by my toddler because she's a little finicky when it comes to toasted breads. She ate part of the chicken contents once, the other time it was a chore to get her to try it. It's a great family dinner recipe though, in my opinion, so I'll be making it again whether she likes it or not. :)

Finally, we tried a Honey Butter Pork Tenderloin recipe I found on Pinterest. Palmer's parents came over for dinner and it turned out to be a great recipe to make for visiting company. It was really very easy yet tasted like it wasn't. My only complaint was that it didn't easily feed the 4 1/2 of us (4 adults plus Bella) so if I make it again I may try to buy a bigger pork tenderloin or make two of them.
The Recipe

This was DEFINITELY toddler approved! Bella had seconds, which is very unusual for her when we're not having macaroni and cheese!

I also tried a potato salad recipe to go with the tenderloin and I didn't care for it at all. Palmer and his parents said they really liked it, however. I decided to post the recipe in case anyone else wants to try it. I love potato salad and I guess am very picky about the way I like it. That's why I thought I would post the recipe because maybe someone will try it and love the sweetness of it, which were what I didn't like.
Grandma's Potato Salad Recipe
The Recipe

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Strong Willed Child

I remember the first few times somebody made those comments about Bella being "strong willed". It's always a negative thing. It's a nice way of saying your child is difficult and hard to enjoy. I remember being so upset when it was said. It was in the nursery at church, where I was still new and getting to know people. I was also still new to the whole motherhood thing, where comments taken negatively are almost always funneled back into yourself as a mother.

"Strong willed???" I remember thinking. "She's 11 months old! Strong willed?! This person doesn't even know my child. How can they say that about her?" I vented, ranted and fussed about it every time to Palmer, who also furrowed his brow in response. He didn't take it nearly as negatively as I did.

I started to grow slightly more comfortable with the term as she blossomed and grew into a little lady whose longing for independence and passion to do what she feels is right was more and more apparent. I found that learning to let her be herself and not stifle those beautiful qualities were what would make ALL of our lives not only pleasant but immensely more rewarding. Lucky for me, I'm not a parent who likes telling her what to do or needs her to simply obey when I tell her to do something. We have a lot of discussions around here, more than I have the energy for half of the time. She doesn't do much of anything without knowing why and if she doesn't agree, she lets me know. This is not to say I have anything perfected, just that I learned what worked for us and how I learned to parent Bella ( so far).

My mom recently shared a link with me about parenting strong willed children. It wasn't written with any negative language at all. In fact, I read it and was proud. I was already proud of those qualities I mentioned, but to have an article tell me why made me even more happy.
I am so proud of my strong willed, big hearted, daughter of integrity who does not succumb to peer pressure and chases her dreams with all her heart.  Well, so the article predicts. If you hung around Bella for a few days, you may likely agree. :)


Palmer went out of town last weekend with the staff of our church to visit Elevation Church in North Carolina. They were gone from Saturday morning to Tuesday afternoon while they observed this church of 12,000 people and how all of the behind the scenes details work. It was really difficult to be away from him for that long and it was almost as difficult not to be selfish and pout about his being away. But when he got home and told me about everything he and the team learned and took home with him, I was so happy that they got to go. He relayed with enormous enthusiasm all of the exciting changes that will be implemented starting THIS Sunday, which sounds crazy but a lot of times "crazy" is what makes things work and what makes things exciting. I hope the fire of passion spreads quickly.

What I've loved about my church, Eastlake, is that it strives to reach people who haven't been reached or have deemed themselves unreachable. 

It strives to reach those people with hope and acceptance, which this world is easily lacking. And it strives to reach those people by being unlike most churches. And "most churches" aren't necessarily doing anything wrong but what a lot of people have experienced is that these churches get stuck in routine and tradition. They get stuck in  the "spiritual vernacular" and the trivial arguments. They get stuck in denominations and drawing alienating lines in the sand. They get stuck in keeping up with expectations and keeping up their own. And when you break it down and peer back into the core of it all, it's useless. It's garbage that makes the church look irrelevant and sterile. 
It makes God look irrelevant and sterile. 
Just by looking into my own life, He is not.

I remember the early evening that Palmer came home from work at his wireless sales job and mentioned to me that he had received an unusual text that day. (Although I remember the moment vividly, I don't remember the exact words of the text so I have to paraphrase ) The text he had received was from an unknown number from an unknown person identifying themself as a pastor that Palmer wouldn't know. (Creepy?) He said he found Palmer through a site I've never heard of and that they're looking for a worship leader and would Palmer be interested in visiting sometime.

We were living in Emporia, KS at the time and longing to move. We were stagnant in every area of our life there. After many discussions and many of my infant's naptimes spent dreamily looking at houses for sale online, we had decided we eventually wanted to settle down in either Lawrence or Kansas City to be near our parents with our growing family. There was nothing taking us to either place though. We owned a house in Emporia, which we were eager to find a reason to sell. Palmer hated his job but there were no openings elsewhere and switching to an entirely different job in an entirely different city didn't make sense. Bella was six months old and uprooting everything to move into the unknown was uncomfortable and didn't make sense. We were happily married, had the baby, the house, the new family car, the job where he was climbing the corporate ladder easily, the church we were a part of from it's beginning, etc. We were doing everything by the "American Dream" handbook and were just completely stagnant.
Another side note  Palmer never wanted his career to be in sales of any kind. He wanted to lead worship. From the first few weeks I knew him I knew that about him. So this text was even more unusual for that reason.

So, here comes this text. Palmer very nonchalantly mentioned the text and my interest was immediately piqued. I think Palmer was ready for it to be nothing so he wasn't as excited as I was at first. But he talked to this guy, Matt, more over time and found it was more legitimate than the random text let on.
We finally decided to visit. Palmer's family has a bi-annual Branson vacation that lasts about a week. We decided we would check out Eastlake on our way to Branson. When we walked through the door it was more exciting than we had anticipated. "Exciting" is the best word I can come up with - it described everything! The music, every person we saw, even the bulletins and signs. It was new and exciting. We listened to the music, which was all new songs to us except one.
 We sat through the talk. We read everything there was to read. We whispered to each other all of the things we noticed were so different. Some we liked, some we didn't know what to do with because it was so different.

I'm not exactly sure how the progression happened, I know it involved a LOT of discussion but on the last day of our trip we decided this was it.
Eastlake was God's next step for us. 

We announced our move to the family that was more shocked and confused than happy and excited. They literally said little to nothing about it, which at the time bothered us but later was totally fine. What could they really say, after all? They couldn't know, nor could we, how big and exciting this was.

Within that next month there was a job opening in Overland Park, KS, we listed our house, started to pack and let our church know we were moving. We couldn't sell the house in a month (and we ended up not being able to sell it at all) so we moved in with my parents in Shawnee while Palmer commuted to work in Overland Park and to volunteer at Eastlake in Lawrence. He did that for the next year until he was able to be hired on as staff.

There are several other untold bumps along the way, like the complications of  basically breaking up with our church in Emporia and how you desperately try to sell or rent your 6 bedroom house from 100 miles away, but that was our defining chapter of our lives. We closed a chapter that ended with brokenness (the confession of an affair, financial calamity, rampant hurt feelings and broken relationships, etc) and opened a new one of complete rebuilding in every sense of the word. We rebuilt our marriage, our faith, our roles in a new and thriving church, how God would use us, our finances, most of our relationships with other people, everything.
The next year was tumultuous and without Eastlake and the church that it set out to be, we would have crumbled. 
Without a doubt.

This church, without anyone knowing it, reached us. I believe in entirety in this place and I long every day for everyone I know to find a place they love and thrive as much as we do here. And right now is when things are going to start getting really exciting.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The sky seems propped against the earth somehow.

And the 3 of us laid on the driveway looking at countless stars. Some moving, some colored, some bigger than the trees, as Bella pointed out. We watched the stars and lived in the moment, staying up way past our bedtime. Those punched out holes in the sky were a welcomed goodnight.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The whole point of this blog thing was to be real and honest - and to hopefully replace my Facebook with this.

 But I'm finding it really hard to be honest about how lonely I've felt over the last few months. It's hard to share because 
A) I'm used to retreating and secluding myself when I feel sad in any way.

B) I can't share anything about it without sounding pitiful or childish

C) I can't even take my own emotions seriously anymore because of these damned hormones. I don't want to put my feelings out there only to realize upon further contemplation that I was out of line or being dramatic. 
D) If I were to put myself out there and people were to respond with being more intentionally friendly or extend more invitations to hang out or something, I would feel like a burden who was pitied. 

But I can't shake this heaviness and I just can't quite keep my head above it. I can't ignore the voice telling me something is wrong with me - making me incapable of lasting relationships of any kind. I wrote a few weeks ago some thoughts about it, hoping to spark a change in my state of mind/heart/whatever.

"After sinking into an isolating depression about it, a realization that drifted into a few different discussions struck me. Friendships, and relationships in general, do not exist simply as an adult. As a child, having a few interests in common were enough to establish a contract of friendship. 
This friendship was kept alive by simple, daily routines: 
1)eating lunch together
2) playing every day at recess
3)being invited to birthday parties
4) all of the above
A bonus was when you got to go to their house to play on the weekend. 

What dawned on me was that I was still waiting for friendships to function this way. To happen simply and effortlessly. And is it really so wrong to expect that? All relationships happen organically, but as an adult to keep a relationship alive it needs way more effort and maintenance than you would initially think.

I saw Moonrise Kingdom about a day before I decided to really put a lot of effort into the friendships that meant anything to me. The movie was fine - it was funny, charming and creative. But what I have still carried with me was the love between the two twelve year old characters. They fell in love immediately and after sending a few letters back and forth, decided to run away together. She packed her kitten, stolen library books and a record player. He brought his boy scout training and some survival gear. It was simple. They brought what they loved for that’s all they would need. They later decided to get married because they wanted to be together until they died. Simple. Matter of fact knowledge. And that’s the world I’ve been living in. 
Pursuing a love like that, a marriage like that and parenthood like that have brought me infidelity, insatiable depression and many, many, many failed relationships with other people."

I had later wrote that I was not going to decide to give up and stop trying to be anyone's friend but that it was harder and harder to take the feeling of being rejected in some cases or simply forgotten in others.
And almost a month later it's still hard to get over. I keep kicking myself and telling myself that I'm just being childish. I hope I start listening soon.
Tonight I took several hours to myself, which was surprisingly pleasant. I didn't do anything special, but being in total silence was slightly rejuvenating. It reminded me of times when I did so much in solitude. I used to spend so much time observing everything and it was easier to make sense of things that way. I could easily sort through thoughts and feelings by writing it all out, unfiltered. I've been trying to pick that habit up again and have found it ridiculously hard - stumbling through words and frazzled by pent up, unspoken emotions. 

Being in the quiet tonight was the escape I needed from the heaviness of my heart. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A little pick me up via Funny Pictures

Winning recipes from this week

These enchiladas were better than any enchilada I can remember ordering in recent memory. They reheated well and included in the directions is even when to cover and freeze it to make it a freezer meal.
My only alteration was adding a can of diced tomatoes with chilies instead of just chilies. I'll definitely be making it again!
(I used to make sure I took pictures of the meal and, if it was toddler approved, a picture of Bella enjoying it but I forgot to.)

This was the other winner I made yesterday. Bella even ate both the beef and broccoli! It tasted better than take out and reheated really well the next day also. I'm definitely saving it for when I'm craving Chinese!

I can't resist sharing good recipes!

Random Tuesday

Today we woke up tired, took no nap and went to bed a frazzled mess, but everything in between was filled with the moments I dreamt parenting to be.

We went to the library for a storytime with corresponding snack (which what kid wouldn't love?!)

I totally love that Baabaa travels around with us now because usually I look in the rear view mirror and see her either dancing to whatever music we're listening to or happily smiling at me in the mirror. :) Bella and Baabaa - forever friends!

Rollin like pros in the double stroller despite the rain! 

Baabaa had to stay in the car but she brought Hissy in with her, who she was seen pal-ling around with most of the day.

Watermelon fishes

This girl has a newfound love for watermelon!

And then Daddy and Bella were tigers from dinnertime to bedtime. She was growling so fiercely she actually really freaked our cat, Bemmetts, out. 

And to end my Tuesday I have to share some pictures I found.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The reason why I do this.

I decided to start sharing my days and my thoughts in an effort to reach other women and moms struggling to achieve that "Amazing Mommy" award in the ever so competitive sport of parenting. All while hurling myself through life's other unpredictable obstacles. For me, those were becoming a new mom, stumbling through what I later learned was post partem depression and finding out I needed to survive and heal through an affair. 

All of it is terrifying, humiliating and induces more guilt than anyone can think they can live with. But you do. And you can. And that's the reason I started this. 

So this is my vulnerability being laid out. 

I rocked my baby, smelled her hair, felt the squishiness of her small cheek with my lips, embraced her cuddling with my shoulder while I swayed and sang her the lullaby Palmer wrote for her, which has become her bedtime anthem. I quietly answered her predictable questions of “Dada?” with “Dada’s at a friends house”. 
“Kitties are sleeping” 
“Babies are sleeping too.“

I sang her the words I’ve sang easily a hundred times now, lucky me, so that now I can let my mind wander while I press “play” on that ritual lullaby.

Tonight, I thought about the bath I gave her earlier in the evening. It’s the first bath I’ve given her myself in months. That’s because I hate bath time. I hate giving her baths. Not because of her. But Palmer said he enjoyed bath time and bed time, and I was grateful of the opportunity for Bella and daddy to bond. And the chore that I now don’t have to do. 

But I think it’s time I really come clean with myself. I don’t hate bath time. I hate the remnants of fear and loathing that still linger with it.

As a brand new mom I used to think back to my old diary I used to write in every couple of years. The last entry was from before I went to college and I was struggling with some weird form of depression. I was sailing off into a world of independence and self discovery and starting brand new adventures. Instead of the excitement I thought I’d feel, it was a cocktail of anxiety mixed with fear and a healthy dose of doubt. In this entry where I spilled my guts, hoping for a revelation as to WHY I wasn’t as excited as I should be, I wrote about my dreams. To be an art therapist, to travel and live all over the world and to find my perfect companion (meaning, an awesome husband) . But I noted that my overall goal, above all else, was to be a mom. Not just birth some children, but to be a really, really, good mom. The best mom I could possibly be. And the only thing that had got me through the darkest times of my life were those children I was determined to meet. 

The day I met Bella confirmed that to be the best decision I have ever made. 

The background story was to preempt the next part of this confession with hopefully a little more enlightenment.

Through the end of my first pregnancy,  I was plagued with this awful sense of dismay and doubt through the last couple of months. The convincing thoughts of suicide nagged at me over and over. How never, could I ever live up to the expectation I have for myself as a mom. Never, could I ever be a GOOD mom. Never, could I ever give my child and husband what they deserve and never, could I ever, be all that I need to be. How the best thing I could do for them was kill myself, giving enough notice so that they could save my baby. If I was smart enough, maybe make it look like an accident so what I COULD do for my family was give them the financial security they need.

I know how terrible and selfish that all sounds.  Somewhere inside the rational part of myself was still around to dismiss any real insanity. And after a few weeks on bed rest, baby arrived. The combination of bed rest and then the emergency life flight of our newborn to Children’s Mercy Hospital to deal with some complications ended up really taking a toll on my job as a mom so far. 
Even though nothing that happened was my fault, that awful part of myself did a good job making it feel like it. 

“The preeclampsia had to have happened because of something I did. Unhealthy diet, whatever, who cares, if was probably your fault.” 
“She was probably life flighted because you didn’t have the natural birth that you wanted. You did the research on the drugs that the hospital uses and you did it anyway for your own comfort, it was probably your fault.”
“And now you’re not breastfeeding like you had planned. You know that’s the best thing for your baby. You don’t want to have to get up and go up 2 floors every 3 hours to attempt to breastfeed her for  45 minutes at a time? How lazy. How selfish.”

That part of me really needs a good ass kicking.

So after all that, we weren’t off to a good start. Once her umbilical cord fell off and we could bathe her, I noticed how uncertain and scared I felt doing it alone. And then I had an awful nightmare where I accidentally drowned her in the tub. The image from that dream still nauseates me. Her 3 week old form, swaddled and floating face down in the bath. And it was my fault.

From then on I begged Palmer to bathe her. I begged him not to make me do it alone. He didn’t understand and I could hear in his voice he thought this was silly, and I didn’t blame him. I just thought “If you only knew. If you had only seen what I saw in that dream. If you could feel how I feel right now, you would know.” 
And things got so much worse.

I loved my baby. I knew I did. She was my dearest thing. She was what I was alive for. She was why I was on this Earth. But…there was something wrong. It was almost like….I didn’t LIKE her. There was zero connection. Someone else could have picked her up, said she were theirs and left with her and I would have believed them. And of course, I blamed myself. 

“It’s because you didn’t have adequate skin to skin contact” 
“Because you didn’t breastfeed well enough”

Blah. Blah. Blah. It was my fault.

As the months went on, that overwhelming love I was supposed to feel starting taking better form. But as the months went on were also when the day dreams of hurting her started.  I HAVE to try to make other people understand this. These were not thoughts of hurting her, making her suffer because I didn’t like her, or that I wished that on her, this sweet little baby. They were intrusive thoughts of accidental harm. They would interrupt our times to the park. Our times at the mall. Our times just being at home. It was like someone was forcing these images on my mind. I would become so sick. I would become so angry. I would wish harm on myself just to make it stop. But this caused me to fear myself. What if?? What if these are things I could actually do?? I absolutely couldn’t live with myself if I could do that to one of my children. Or ANY child. I absolutely couldn’t take that risk. What kind of person was I to even have to worry about this?? 

I loathed myself. I was already failing at #1 goal for life = be a good mom. Scratch that one off. I think thoughts of killing your baby immediately disqualify you from achieving that one. 

These thoughts finally started calming down and eventually fading away completely around her first birthday. I think by that point I was able to have proven to myself that I was capable. And not only that, that I absolutely, head over heels, life over death, adore and love this baby more than anything I have ever known. Even if those abrasive thoughts assault my mind, the smile on that precious girl’s face could convince me of anything. She could smile and tell me that she could explain the meaning of life in a sentence and, aside from my astonishment at her speaking abilities, I would believe her. 

This nagging sense of necessity to share this deeply secret, dark and embarrassing part of my life has overcome my utter terror of people knowing it. When people say with a smile and nudge, “Bella needs a sibling!” I smile and stay silent because the thought of going through this again can bring me to tears. What if this next time I’m not so lucky? What if next time any one of those things happen again but don’t end the same? It’s so scary.

And now, not only that, but everyone knows. Everyone knows what that awful dark passenger of mine says. My poor husband doesn’t even hear about that part of me. Now everyone’s heard. Everyone will see me different. My life different. My little girl different. My next pregnancy different. My next baby different. But then again, maybe that’s my dark passenger talking.

I’ve been working very hard this past year to be a really good mom. To make the absolute most of my time with Bella. To make the most of my life with Bella. To give her as much of myself as I can. And hopefully, THAT is what will make me a good mom. THAT is what people will see when they see me. 

A good mom, who loves her babies more than herself. Who makes every day worth living.

I didn’t write all of this for fun. I felt nagged over and over for months to write about it. And something just clicked one day and I decided, just like that, that yes, I was going to write it all out. And not only that, I would post it. There have to be other women out there carrying around this baggage. This guilt of this supposed evidence of poor mothering. Not just poor, but flat out bad.

Please reach out to someone if you’re thinking or feeling anything debilitating. You may not even realize how debilitating it is, but I promise you that reaching out for help now will save you more pain later. If you are someone who can relate to any part of what I shared, I pray for you. I pray you reach the point of safety that I feel like I’m slowly gaining sight of.  

Monday, August 13, 2012

A regular Monday with a little extra food dye

Today is Monday, which means I will be vocally corralling Bella around Aldi's, like every Monday, in that borderline tone between withered nerves and the patience of Jesus. Which is what I did.
"Bella, please close that refrigerator door. Bella, I asked you to stay by Mama. Can you see Mama? No you can't, you need to stay where you can see me. Honey, don't open the package of peppers. We don't need any more fruit snacks, we have a lot at home still. Honey, I'm sorry you bumped your head but I had asked you to not push the cart like that.  Bella, I told you we can't open things unless we buy them. Please don't pick up gallons of milk."

I have to say I keep my cool 98% of the time. One random act of kindness one Monday was from a woman who kindly stopped me at the checkout and said, "You are doing such a good job with them." ('Them' being Bella and Emmett, who I usually have with me also) "You are so patient."
That literally made my entire month. On those hard days where the patience of churchy Jesus was nonexistent, I would think back to that lady's words. "You are doing such a good job with them". As a mom, half of the time it's really easy to think you're not.

So, today I was bagging the groceries while they sat on the counter looking out the window when it struck me that Bella's defiant behavior and extremely poor listening happened a few months ago, also. I had decided to try cutting out food dyes 1) to be healthier and 2) because I had heard that that can help with behavioral problems. The next two weeks we cut out the cereals, the yogurt, the snacks, the fruit snacks (which she would still get on special occasions) and everything else that food dye was surprisingly in. It's crazy how many things have food dye in them!!

After a good week of no food dye there was a definite difference. It wasn't a night and day difference because her behavior wasn't extreme, just over the top from the norm. The height of her tantrums decreased, the amount of tantrums decreased, she was much less defiant and more likely to listen and talk to me. Just like normal Bella. I realized this last week we had had either Fruit Loops, fruit snacks or flavored yogurt at least once a day. And this Bella that's been roaming the house lately is not the Bella that was here a few weeks ago.

It could easily just be a phase, which is totally normal, but we're cutting out the food dyes again to see if that really was the culprit last time.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Face Painting

Today was a very bi polar day, to say the least. There were an equal amount of fun events that had me laughing and admiring my growing and hilarious little girl and moments where I nearly threw a public temper tantrum. And it’s easy to feel both completely normal with how confusing and dramatic the day was as it is to wonder how anyone could possibly feel normal with a day like that.

Bella has started being more defiant and ignoring me when I’m trying to talk to her. She hasn’t done that in a long time (since maybe she was a year and a half) and nothing infuriates me quicker than being completely and deliberately ignored. I know it’s normal because she’s done things like this before, where her behavior suddenly is surprisingly bad and she’s testing boundaries constantly. Today was a day I just couldn’t handle it, I guess. And we’ll just blame it on the hormones.

She easily cracked me up today, though. Lately she’s been making songs up about the new baby. We’re not sharing baby’s name until she’s born and ONE time we asked Bella if she liked the name “fill in the blank” and she said, “Yes.” So 2 weeks later when Grandma is admiring her weekly letter artwork, we get to the first letter of that name and we ask what letter is it. She says baby’s name. WHAT?! She said it over and over until Grandma looked to us for translation…which we told her, totally astonished. I never thought Bella would be the one to spill the beans on that one!! She doesn’t talk clearly enough for most people to understand her, luckily! But I’m afraid by December, who knows how well she’ll be telling everyone?

Anyway, it’s totally adorable. She was in the back of the car on our way to a block party singing, “Baby, ___ Baby, ____” and when daddy sang it too she angrily said, “NO! MY baby ____” This Mama thought that was pretty adorable, but she’s not the one who’s been excruciatingly constipated for days. If it’s her baby, let’s trade.

In the same car ride we were talking about the block party and that there would be face painting, which Bella told daddy was silly. “You don’t paint on your face,“ was her thought, which makes sense. “Yes, you can,” said Daddy, “ You can get a Baa baa or a kitty or a butterfly! On your face, or on your hand, wherever you want!” So this thought eventually went to her saying, “A Baa baa, a church, on my booty.”

…OMG. That’s my daughter. She was kind of obsessed with church today and brought it up several times in different conversations.
She had a wonderful time in KIDS jumping in the bouncy house and got to help tear down at church, which included a little impromptu show with Daddy. Maybe that's why she talked about church all day. :)

So, her suddenly talking about Baabaa, church and painting on her booty wasn’t totally shocking …but was still pretty surprising. I’m still laughing about it. I love her.
And here she is getting her face painted for the first time! I was surprised she was actually going through with it. Normally she would have wanted to observe and then MAYBE get something painted on her hand or something. I'm proud of her!

And yes, she got a Baabaa on her cheek, but not the one on her booty. :)

And a kitty on the other cheek :)

Several other things happened today outside of our family unit to contribute to the downs, which made the day more uncontrollably bi polar. But at the end of the day, I got my “Mama Muah” (Mama goodnight kiss) that smelled like bananas and hotdogs which made most of the stress and darkness from the day melt away pretty quickly.

Friday, August 10, 2012


Today was a glorious day of family time that consisted of a long visit to the playground, baking with Mama, a pool noodle fight around the house, celebrating a friend's birthday and ending with a piece of cake and a happily squealing toddler running down Mass Street. 

Lately the wind down for naptime or bedtime has been close to catastrophic every day, which is a phase we've visited before, but that doesn't make it any easier. On the drive home I tried to make it easier by going through the play by play of our day. When we talked about our time at the playground, she chimed in, "No, No, No!" amongst a wordy toddler rant I coudn't understand much of. I did know what she was talking about though.

While we were at the playground Daddy and Bella were playing chase and climbing on the equipment. Another mom had sat down next to our things so I sat on the same bench to be close to our stuff while I waited for them to wrap up their play time. She started talking to me and asked me how old Bella was. I responded and she excitedly said, "Oh, so is my daughter! (child's name), see that little girl? She's the same age as you! You should play with her!" To be honest, that was a little annoying. Bella was playing with her daddy on our designated family weekend (because daddy will be out of town next weekend). And besides that, I knew how coercing Bella to play with someone she didn't know would turn out. She's not a child that jumps in and plays with anyone - that's just not her personality. This mom and her daughter obviously did not have the same personality as Bella. 
Palmer stood aside and of course, Bella looked down and turned her shoulder when the girl approached her. Not that there's anything wrong with that! She's an observer and doesn't respond to social interactions like that, unless it's a rare occasion which normally involves too much sugar. 
The little girl hung around her but mainly did her own thing, as did Bella. Bella and daddy started to climb up the stairs of the equipment with the little girl trailing behind them and she suddenly got in front of Bella and yelled, "NO! You can't go up there!" I know I'm Bella's mommy, but this Mama bear was MAD when I saw the hurt on Bella's face. It took me a minute to realize what was going on because this mother was filling me in on all 3 of her pregnancies and deliveries, but hearing her burst into tears and seeing the look on her face made me bristle. At the same time, Bella has done that to Emmett so many times, I know this is also potentially a learning experience for her. She'll hopefully understand what I mean when I say it hurts people's feelings when you boss them around and yell at them.
The little girl said it again and Bella came down the stairs to me crying. The little girl followed and the other mother told the little girl to say sorry. The little girl turned and ran away and the mom kind of laughed and said, "She's got a problem with being bossy." I said Bella did too with people she's comfortable with. Which is true, but I try hard to nip that behavior in the butt as soon as I see it. I know it's completely normal but I feel like part of parenting is teaching your children how to be kind to others, not shrugging it off.
So I was sitting there with my daughter crying in my lap thinking how I can justify this to her. I told her it was okay and to just keep playing with daddy. She walked over to daddy, who was also well aware of the situation, he was just waiting like I was to see what was going to happen next. She went back to daddy to have this little girl do this to her two more times, each time sending Bella into tears. Bella was a little more sensitive than normal, where normally she may have either yelled back or quickly come to me to tell me what was going on. Today her reaction was to break down, which I totally understand - we all have those days. 
I was mad. Twice the little girl was asked to apologize, which she ignored, and another time she left what she was doing across the playground to bolt over to Bella to yell at her. The third time the mom just told me, "Oh, see, she's just doing it for the attention now." Ridiculous. 

We reached that line that every parent gets to at one point or another. Another child was picking on my child with the parent present but doing nothing - even making excuses! What do you do?? I wanted to tell the little girl to listen to her mom, to at least say she was sorry because her mom asked her to or because she's a nice girl and wants to do the nice thing. I wanted to tell her why NOT to yell at someone else like that. I wanted to point out how it was making Bella feel (which may have been the trigger for her to continue doing it, who knows). And finally, I wanted to tell her to freaking cut it out and stay away from Bella. Her mother was right there so I said nothing. Palmer in front of the mom was finally telling Bella, "Just ignore her, she's not being nice and you just ignore it and keep playing" which didn't do much to help her wounded feelings. I listened to the mom tell me about her Braxton Hicks contractions that really were labor pains and her recent camping trip and then finally heard Bella's little voice quietly say from a distance, "Mama! Eat, show, home!". Yes. Thank you Palmer for the wonderful suggestion - let's get the F out of here. 

In the car, Palmer and I were talking about the whole situation. I asked him when she had left her alone and Palmer said it was when she came over to yell no ANOTHER time that Palmer said, "Why don't you just go away?"...which she did. My first reaction was an "Oh Snap! You said that to someone's toddler!" and my second reaction was "THANK YOU!!" Thank you for standing up for Bella. For stepping in when the other mom wouldn't. That's so very important to me. Growing up I remember specific occasions where I or another child wasn't stood up for by an adult that should have and as an adult I see how it affected my feelings of self worth. It's important to me that Bella grow up being championed. That she know that her feelings are important, her worth is valuable and she learn to not be taken advantage of or belittled. 

I still am not sure how a situation like that can be handled. I'm paralyzed by confrontation so my initial reaction to anything is to do what I can to make it pass quickly. But this was very different. This involved my daughter. And I'm not sure a better way to say it, but at 2 and a half, her sense of "justice" (I use the word loosely) is understood. She knows when something isn't fair (although like any toddler, when things are leaning her way it doesn't matter if it's fair). She usually knows when she's being wronged and in that moment she knew she was. She knew she would have had to apologize or we would go home because she couldn't play nicely. She heard the mom tell the daughter to say sorry and saw the girl ignore her mom, which would have gotten Bella in big trouble for not listening. How do you explain the complications of " being fair" to her? 

Other than that hiccup in the day, we had a wonderfully fun time all day. And one good thing that's coming out of this is the potential for that hiccup to be a learning experience was proven to me in the car on the way home tonight. Bella recalled the little girl being mean to her and we talked about how it made her feel quite a bit. I hope I can learn how to stand up for her at the right times and handle situations like that in the future appropriately, whatever they be and whatever that looks like. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Is Motherhood a Rock Bottom Job?

{Another repost from July 29th, 2012}

“Is motherhood a rock-bottom job for those who can’t do more? Or those who are satisfied with drudgery?”

This is what I’ve been struggling with a lot this last week. My solid, rock bottom moment was when I tried to take advantage of Bella and I time and take her to the Natural History Museum in town. If whoever, other than myself, is ever reading this and for some reason wants to read every trivial detail of the morning, I’ll separate it. Otherwise if you don’t really care, it will be easy to skip.

—I talked the museum up and told her we would see animals, and cool displays of rocks and things and maybe even some dinosaurs. I don’t really know, I haven’t been to a natural history museum in a very long time - I have no idea what’s there. She didn’t know exactly what to expect, based on my vague and confusing description, but she was content and happy to do something different.

I spent 35 minutes listening to MapQuest audibly lead me all over the KU campus and run into one way road after dead end road. And finally it lead me to the street I needed to be on but it was a restricted road that was closed to the public from 8am - 2pm. Maybe it’s just hormones or maybe I’m just not the patient person I have led myself to believe I was, but I am so angry. Bella had done a very good job being patient in the car and being okay with the abrupt change in plans. So instead of the museum we went to Half Price Books to sell two large bags of books I had been holding onto for too long. Bella is a sweet and independent little toddler. That being said, she’s not the best listener at times. I had a very hard time getting her to listen to me, to stay with me in the store, to not open products and to follow me to the front when they called my name.

For the two bags of books I had expected at the very least $10 for, they offered me $3.25. It’s so silly, but it was another defeat. I had hoped to make enough to maybe buy us a happy meal lunch or pay for a new toy I was going to pick up from someone from a Buy Sell Trade group. I begrudgingly accepted their offer and played with Bella in the kids’ section for about 5 minutes until it was time to meet the woman from the group about her new toy. It took many polite requests to follow me and keep walking and a lot of patience to get her corralled out of the store. It also took every bit of patience I had to keep track of her baby that she had to bring into the store with her. The last straw was when I turned around to check on my little dawdler to see her baby was missing, again. We had literally walked 6 feet from the door where she last had it. I was frustrated and asked her again in exasperation where her baby was. She smiled like she knew but wouldn’t communicate with me. I tracked the baby down to a nearby bush and explained to her that we can’t hide baby when we’re not at home. If we had left the store without baby, baby could be gone forever so we really need to hold our baby the whole time we’re not at home. She got upset and asked me to carry her which I frankly just didn’t have the energy for. I told her No, that she was a big girl and could walk this time and she started to cry. —

I lost all my patience and in my own much loathed cry voice asked her why she was crying. I’m just trying to get to the car! I’m just trying to get us out of the house for ONCE this week! I’m just trying to have a good time as mother and daughter! And it’s going downhill terribly fast!

I scooped her up because she wouldn’t walk at that point and waddled to the car with her, still crying. I buckled her in explaining that we had to go get this new toy I’ve been telling her about and she was crying harder. I slammed the door, got into the driver’s seat and lost it. I yelled and punched the steering wheel, asking why everything had to be so hard this week. Everything had to be so terribly hard and lonely. And it seemed like the harder I tried to make my daughter happy the worse things got. That morning was the final piece of evidence I needed to solidly prove that I was not at all the mother I had thought I would be. The mother I had really planned to be.

I cried and felt terrible that Bella had no idea what was happening to her mom in the front seat. I turned around and looked at her startled eyes and told her how much I loved her. If she ever remembered that moment of my maniacal crying, I had hoped she would remember my last words in the moment being that I loved her so much.

I composed myself and punched in the lady’s address into that damned MapQuest and listened to her stupid voice lead me around town once again . On the way, for the first time in my life as a mother/housewife, I seriously doubted my ability and considered my other options of work outside the home. It was a sad moment I hope to never visit again. I have always known this is what I was meant to do. I was a nanny for a family one summer in 7th grade and remember vividly looking out her quaint kitchen window and thinking that this was what I wanted to do when I grew up. Anything else would be extracurricular, whether it was being an art therapist or a writer or musician. My true calling was to be a mother, and the best damned mother I could be.

But driving home in that moment I seriously doubted it all. But there was not a single other option and I felt hopeless. From the backseat Bella started talking to her baby about Baa baa and suddenly it all snapped back into place. I was pretty devastated by my buildup of self doubt, negativity and lonliness but hearing her sweet little voice was the spark in my hope. “Motherhood is not a hobby, it’s a calling”. My privilege, my joy, my dream job, my calling, my life.

I stay home with my babies because they are my absolute number one priority. They are my blessing and they are who bring me back from the most hopeless of places, every single time. God has blessed me immensely through them and I can never fully thank or acknowledge Him for that.

On a slightly lighter note:
This is a magnet we have on our fridge and the other day Bella pointed to it and said, "Mama!"
... why, yes. That is me sometimes. I hope your honesty is always this endearing, sweety. :)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Letter K and other fun

I was trying to work on a letter a week with Bella and Emmett (an almost 2 year old who I watch a few days a week) and became so discouraged with their lack of interest that I decided to take a break for a while. I had a lot of fun doing it but it was much more stressful to get them to follow directions and listen to what I was trying to introduce (whether it be a craft or activity) than it was rewarding -  and I would end up finishing their crafts. So after a summer long break we jumped back in with K this week.

Our week got busy so we didn't do everything I had planned, but we did get to wear "K" pouches and hop like a kangaroo in a hunt for K's around the house.

They were SO over standing still for the camera. :) They both needed their loves - Baabaa and Bandit - if they were going to do any more pictures. I also asked them to point to their letter K's, which they're so enthusiastically doing. :) I love how unfiltered toddlers are...sometimes. 
There's a K!!
Putting a K in her pouch

At the end of the day, this was probably their favorite thing to do. You'd think I'd remember that by now. :)

And this is our fort with a brand new front door installed, thanks to daddy.

Today it was just Bella and I so I worked on cleaning the carpets and other housework that I can never get on top of (even now, there's a sink full of dirty dishes that accumulated after dinner). 
Bella was so patient with me while I cleaned and my back hurt so much I couldn't play on the floor with her so she happily compromised and played on the couch with me. She's acting more and more grown up in the way that she seems to understand my limitations with a growing baby belly. I wish I could know what she truly comprehends about the new baby. She seems to get it unquestioningly, with for a 2 and a half year old is very surprising to me. I remember when we first told her that there was a baby in Mama's belly she studied my belly and then responded like, "Oh, ok. That makes sense." She even gets that daddy doesn't have a baby and most other people don't have babies in their bellies, just Mama. I know she's my daughter and I'm kind of supposed to think she's amazing...but I think she's astonishingly smart. 

After nap time I decided to make time for something for just her and I to do and I had seen on another blog earlier in the week an idea I wanted to try with her: meting hard candy into cookie cutters to make new suckers. Awesome!
First we sorted the like colors. Then we crushed them, which I thought would be the best part, silly me. Eating them was all she was interested in and of course I can't blame her. 

Going into the oven...

whoops....I didn't think about the heart cookie cutters being plastic...
If you do try this, the trick was to wait until the perfect time to pop them out. I tried taking the butterfly out when it was still too pliable. I almost waited too long to take out the train, though. I'm always bad at these kinds of things but at least most of them were salvageable/edible! 

"Smile with your suckers!"

Overall, a success

We poked a hole in four of them and hung them up in the window. Palmer said it looks like a rose and a strawberry, which we're pretending was intentional.

After all that, we painted our nails and watched a show. She sat like this the whole time. Have I mentioned I love my little girl?
Today was a lazy day, but we worked a little bit more on the letter K. We gathered keys and put paper over them to make a rubbed stencil drawing of the keys we found. She enjoyed it for all of 30 seconds and then wanted to just color the page, which was totally fine. 

After that was snacktime and I told her we should try to find some letter K snacks. She automatically made  binoculars with her hands up to her eyes and helped me scour the pantry. Unfortunately, we didn't have anything so we settled on a snack that had the letter K somewhere in it, which ended up being animal crackers. Lucky for us though, one of the first 4 animals we pulled out of the box was a kangaroo! 

And now I have to post funny pictures I found.