Every Little Piece

Emilia,

It’s been a while since I’ve written a letter like this. This one is important to me and it’s something I need to write down to remember to enforce every day in myself.

The first time I looked in the mirror and saw beauty there, I was in my 20’s. I have heard the word my entire life, but it was the first time I saw it myself. With naked lashes and spotty skin, I admired the shape of my jaw, the strength of my chin, the size of my eyes… I saw someone who I could love.

Now that I have you (and you are what it took to see myself clearly) I realize how important it is to feel that way. How important it is to bury that self-love deep into your soul.

From this point on I will make up for all of those years I missed. I will love myself now, because now is where we exist; you and I in this moment that we’re so lucky to have.

I am not perfect, but I am beautiful. I am strong. I am confident.  I am secure.

You are all of these things, too. Right now. In all of your two-year old glory. You are SO fierce. So beautiful and strong. You will do it “all by yourself.” And you do, you almost always do. At the same time, you don’t hesitate to ask for help when you need it. I admire you so much for that. You’ve taught me that strength comes not only from independence, but recognizing limits and seeking support.

When I told you your hair was crazy, you corrected me right away, “No, my hair is BEAUTIFUL, Mom.”

And it was. You are always beautiful.

Your anger is beautiful and a force of its own. You lash out, you scream, you don’t want to be touched or spoken to. I stay back, but still as near as I can. I sit there with my arms open and my lap waiting and you come to me, you crawl into it and your hug is just as powerful. I love you so much then. I love every tear that spills over, every scream that rocks my core. You’re so beautiful in that moment it breaks my heart.

Your love is beautiful and more gentle than I ever would have expected. You caress my face and pat my hair and look deep into my eyes. “You love me mommy?” Yes, baby, I love you so so so much! “I love you so much, too. I’ll keep you safe.” Emi, my fierce little girl, that will never be your job. I will always be your  mother, you will never have to take my responsibility onto your shoulders. Broad like mine, yet so delicate, you will always be free to be a kid.

That little sigh you make right before you fall asleep, the way your breath hitches twice; your hand gripping mine from the backseat as my arm goes numb; the way you sing E I, E I, O; the way your whole face frowns; the way you smile all the way to your toes; the color of your skin and your hair and your eyes and your lips and your nail beds; your very faint scar; your endless bruises; your baby teeth gap; your voice; your cry; it is all so very, very beautiful.

By the time you are old enough to read this, Taylor Swift probably won’t be music you listen to, but you’ll know every word to this song anyway.

I love you, little big girl.

10572_183171968515788_441733017_n

Every Little Piece

Traveling TV Free

The most common advice I see for parents traveling with children is to get them a portable DVD player. It makes me cringe every time. We all traveled long before TVs in the car were an option and we all survived it. Most of us probably enjoyed it. Emi is a well-traveled child. At 2 she has already flown across the country three times (and once in utero!) and has spent countless hours in the car since we live so far out in Middle of the Desert Land, USA. She wasn’t always an easy-going car rider, in fact to start with she couldn’t be in the car for more than 5 minutes before making herself vomit from screaming. It was torture, stressful for everyone and I am glad we’re past it. Eventually she took a pacifier and that helped her stay calmer and I learned how to nurse her without ever taking her out of her car seat. It was still bad. I considered turning her front facing against everything I believe, simply because I was so desperate for the situation to be different. It was a rough road to travel (no pun intended) to get where we are now, but I am glad I waited and trusted her to self regulate as she developed.

She is still rear facing at 2 years old and a little over 20 lbs. I will keep her rear facing as long as she is within height and weight limits. I think it’s important to note this because even rear facing, you can help your children become self-soothing, independent, happy travelers simply by trusting them to be. I traveled often as a child, always by car, and we didn’t have cell phones or TV’s to keep us entertained. We had our imaginations, small activities, and each other. My memories of family road trips are some of my favorite ones and I want Emi to have that experience as well.

Before starting out I packed Emi a little bin of activities: booksa coloring book, a magnetic drawing pad, wooden musical instruments, and a puzzle. I used velcro to secure the puzzle pieces so she would be able to play with it vertically. I made sure to have music she likes on my phone and I also packed her some snacks in these awesome spill proof snack cups, and a water bottle. I tried to keep it limited but varied, as not to overwhelm her with options.

Emi happily occupied herself for most of the ride playing independently. What was supposed to be a 3.5 hour drive turned into 7 hours and it was tough for all of us towards the end. As she started getting restless she wanted to be involved more with us. So we all sang songs and played games. It was during these times that we had the most fun and the car was filled with laughter. I know that by getting through these tough times instead of distracting her from her discomfort or boredom, I am equipping her with important life skills. Sometimes it’s hard, but it’s not impossible and it’s so worth it. Next time around I will try to incorporate her toys into the drive if she gets restless, but since she can’t see out the window yet it’s a little hard right now. We could have used her Brown Bear, Brown Bear book to practice animal noises or her car puzzle to look for those types of transportation as we drove. There are always more ways than one to play with a toy, so keep reinventing.

On the return trip, once we got close to home, Emi started to get tired. All she wanted was for her dad to sing her songs and Mommy to hold her hand and we were happy to oblige. As the sun set with her little hand squeezing my fingers and Ross softly singing You Are My Sunshine, I couldn’t have been happier.

Traveling TV Free

On The Eve Of Two

Today you are one. Tomorrow you will be a big girl. A bigger girl. Somehow at two the world has decided you take up too much space to be a baby anymore and you’ll become something else. Someone with her own seat, Someone with her own ticket, someone who needs her own menu… Not quite a baby, not quite a kid, just somewhere in between the spaces.

It’s surreal.

As I write this I feel the tears coming on. They’re going to spill over and if you catch me sitting here crying you’ll climb up onto this unfamiliar bed, put your still 1 year old hands on my cheeks and you’ll ask me “Mommy is sad?”

“No,” I’ll say. “Yes.” I’ll decide. “Both.” I’ll finally understand.

Because I am sad. I am sad that I am losing my baby so soon after I lost the baby I thought would make it easier. Because, in a selfish way, it is sad to watch you grow up. It’s heartbreaking to know every day you are one day closer to going your own way, and that every decision I make now is geared towards preparing you for that time.

But I’m happy, too. So happy! I laugh so much because of you. Today you sang songs in the car I didn’t even know you knew and I thought my heart might explode. Because you are bigger. Because every day you do something to amaze me. You take my breath away and you fill me with joy. Because without you I wouldn’t have been able to survive losing something so precious. And even so, without that loss I might not appreciate all of this so much.

Baby girl, my baby for a few more hours, I love you so much. You are everything I could have ever asked for. You are my soul. My bright eyed, independent, fierce little girl who’s got my chin and my smile and my eyes. You’ve got your dad’s tenacity and intelligence and cheeks. You are the best and the worst of us and you make it perfect. My little big girl, I am so lucky to have you.

So tonight while you are still my baby, my only baby, I’ll cry a little but I’ll laugh a lot. Because I love you as big as the moon, as much as the stars, as endless as the universe!

 Tomorrow you will be two.

Too much.

Much too big.

A big girl.

My bigger girl.

936868_178759642290354_45999219_n

On The Eve Of Two

How To Tell If Your Kid Is Now A Toddler

This morning when reaching into my gym bag for my badge to get onto base, I stuck my hand in a cup of water. The same cup of water I looked all over the house for last night after Emi said she put it away. Also, her new favorite game is “I have a surprise for you…” Ohhhh, life with a toddler.

Let's jump off a rock down a steep mountain! It'll be fun, Mom!
Let’s jump off a rock down a steep mountain! It’ll be fun, Mom!
-Toddler Logic

Are you living with a toddler? Take this quick quiz to find out!

1. Have you been finding random cups of liquid in your gym bag?

A. No
B. Yes
C. I’m too afraid to look.

2. Do you say this phrase more than once a day?
“DON’T MOVE UNTIL I WIPE YOU!”

A. No
B. Yes
C. Except for the days I am saying “Drink this juice, it will make your tummy feel better.” Then, I just pray a lot.

3. Are you failing miserably at hiding your laugh when your child says to you, “This tastes like dirt.” and then just handing her whole tubs of cottage cheese or another food that is the only thing she will eat?

A. No
B. Yes
C. At least it’s got fats and protein. She also eats a lot of dirt, that’s full of minerals, you know.

4. Have you ever seriously thought about duct taping a diaper closed?

A. No
B. Yes
C. Do you like cleaning poop off the walls? Didn’t think so.

5. Do you end the day praying for bedtime, then find yourself randomly standing in the doorway, missing them like crazy?

A. No
B. Yes
C. Yes. But I also have a very big glass of wine in my hand and it’s usually after I’ve spent 3 minutes on the toilet just sitting there without anything catastrophic happening.

Mostly A’s: Why are you even taking this quiz?

Mostly B’s: Welcome to Toddlerhood, Mama!

Mostly C’s: This probably isn’t your first rodeo. Raise that wine glass high!

How To Tell If Your Kid Is Now A Toddler

Discipline Is Not A Dirty Word

Can you believe this was a year ago?!
Can you believe this was a year ago?!

Emi will be turning two in less than two weeks and has been in the midst of toddlerhood for a few months now. Her autonomy and self-realization are in full swing, and for the most part, I love it. As much as it frustrates me that every task has the ability to turn into a battle (no matter how much I try to avoid power struggles with her) I feel so proud of her when she uses her voice. “No thank you, Mommy. Emi doesn’t want kisses.” Maybe it’s not your first response to be happy to hear these words from your child, but I am finding a happiness in it. I am happy that she feels confident and comfortable enough to say no. That she is not only direct, but also polite also makes me happy. I find so much joy in her development it outshines my dismay at being rejected. Emi is finding herself in her words, in the power her little voice holds. It is my job to encourage her sense of self and self-worth because it’s as important now as it will ever be.

At the same time that I need to foster her new-found independence, I am also trying to balance teaching her how to be a contributing member of our family. We are all individuals living under the same roof and it’s each of our responsibilities to be considerate and helpful to each other. While we all have the ability to make choices about the things we will and won’t do, we have to realize that with those choices come responsibility and consequence. It’s important to me that she learns to take pride in contributing; to be responsible and dependable as well as independent and confident.

This weekend she had her first “time-out” in which I wasn’t there explaining things to her. I asked her to pick up her markers so I could vacuum the floor and she looked me straight in the eyes and said, “No.” We had been going back and forth for a few hours, her pushing limits to see where it got her and me trying to stay calm and in control while feeling very frustrated. I told her if she wasn’t going to pick up her markers she would sit on the couch until she could listen and help out with the chores. She was ANGRY. I know this because she repeatedly screamed it at me. “Emi is MAD! Emi is MAAADD!” as she kicked and screamed on the couch. For the first time I didn’t engage her. I didn’t need to tell her how she was feeling, so I didn’t say anything at all. I calmly picked up the mess, finished vacuuming the floor and shut off the vacuum. She had stopped screaming and was sitting there waiting for my next reaction.
“Are you ready to listen, now?”

“Yes.”

“Great.

Now please put that back in the bathroom while I finish cleaning up.”

“Ok.”

“Thank you, Baby. I appreciate your help.”

Over the last two years I have done my best to tailor my parenting to her physical, mental, and emotional development. First as an overwhelmed, overstimulated newborn, then to a curious and contemplative baby, and now a strong-willed and independent toddler. I have followed my heart and my gut with her, being considerate to her emotions while trying to meet her needs. Emotionally, she is now able to grasp her feelings and vocalize them. “Emi is upset! Emi is hurt! Emi is mad! Emi is sad!” She feels these things the strongest and vocalizes them the most, but she’s understanding the more subtle feelings now too. This weekend she crawled onto my back (I was lying on the floor) kissed the back of my head and whispered in my ear, “Emi loves Mommy.” It was heart-melting, but it was also an indication that she was really starting to understand the emotions that had been overwhelming her for the last few months.

To me, this is a key in helping her to understand cause and effect, self-control, and consequences. Until now I’ve been narrating everything, “You are upset. You want to plug the cord into the outlet. The outlet is dangerous and can hurt you. I won’t let you play with it.” Now I can let her try to understand her emotions on her own, hopefully being her guide when she needs it. I believe that to learn control, you have to understand consequences. It’s important to be clear about what is acceptable behaviour and what I expect from her. It’s also important to teach her that she is more than her emotions. Discipline to me isn’t about punishment, it’s about self-control. To be disciplined in something means you have taken the time to practice, to get better, and to be in control of it. I don’t know anyone as disciplined as my husband, I see it as a positive trait to have and I want my daughter to embody it as much as her father does.

Something you will never hear me say to her is that she has been bad. She can’t correct bad, bad isn’t an action. She is not bad and I will not put that idea into her head. Correcting behaviour is important, but it’s only effective if she knows what she has to correct. It’s not a one size fits all approach to development. I feel that she is not only ready, but understanding of this approach. She doesn’t want to be left out and sitting on the couch while I finished cleaning was not as enjoyable to her as helping me would have been. She wanted to help, she just wanted to do it her way. That’s fine, but it was her mess to clean up and in the future I expect her to pick up after herself. This is our first step towards expectations and understandings between us and it was still gentle and respectful, but this time she actually had more control. She had the ability to calm herself down and make a decision on how she wanted to proceed instead of me telling her what was going to happen next. I was proud of how she handled it and I made sure she knew that. I want our family to function as a team as much as it can, I believe her voice is just as important as mine or my husband’s, and this is our journey to getting there.

Discipline Is Not A Dirty Word

Living Life on Purpose

555150_148807201952265_2081807157_nThe biggest decision I have made in my life wasn’t to become a parent. It was the kind of parent I chose to become.

My husband was the first of the big decisions I made. I had a very clear choice. I could have done the safe thing and went off to college, built up a staggering debt, and repeated the small town cycle of life I grew up in. I didn’t know any different. Through him I had another choice. He said, “Stay with me.” And *poof* just like that I made the decision to leave everything I knew and write my story my way. The Hub has been the greatest gift of my life. Together we’ve built a beautiful life full of happiness, trust, and support. I know without a doubt that in 50 years he’ll still be by my side come hell or high water. He makes me strive to be better, for him, for Emi, and for myself.  I know I made the right choice.

When I got pregnant, I realized parenting wasn’t just about my child, it was about me too. When I chose a home birth I faced some of the normal backlash of “But it’s dangerous!” and “It’s selfish!” I think it started me off on the right foot because it forced me to prepare, to research, and to gain more knowledge in the physical and mental processes of pregnancy and birth. I didn’t sit back and let things happen to me, I chose the path I felt was best, regardless of other’s thoughts. This was a huge realization for me. It isn’t selfish to think of your own wants and needs, it doesn’t make you a bad parent to respect your own happiness while fostering your child’s. You matter too! It was the beginning of listening to my truth above the chatter of everyone elses.

As I started thinking about the kind of parent I wanted to be, I only had to think about the kind of person I wanted Emi to be. How could I shape her into a strong, kind, independent, loving, secure, and healthy person? By being that person to her. Without showing her love, kindness, strength, security, and an example of health, how could she internalize those things? She could eventually, but it’d be a harder road than it needed to be. For starters, I do not withhold affection from her for any reason; if she asks for me I give her everything I have. Period. No situation changes that. I set limits, I tell her no, but I do it with respect and empathy for her feelings, because her feelings matter. When I speak to her, I think about what I am saying and I choose my words carefully. I don’t tell her she can’t do something if I can’t give her a valid reason. “I see that you can climb onto the counter! That is exciting for you. I don’t want you to climb onto it because it’s not safe for you to be up there. Remember when you fell off yesterday? It scared us all and it hurt you. I won’t let you play up there.” Does this upset her? Absolutely! Does she push limits to test my seriousness? Of course! But I am her parent and I owe it to her to be consistent and trustworthy. My word has to mean something and without follow through and consistency it won’t.  I am not perfect, I fail many time a day. When that happens I apologize. I take responsibility for my actions and my feelings and I am open with her about them. The night before last I fought with her, becoming so frustrated that I yelled while I was trying to get her ready for bed. I stopped, I looked her in the eye and I apologized. I took responsibility for my frustration and asked her how we she wanted me to help her get dressed. All she wanted was to lie on her stomach while I put her diaper on, such a simple request that took me much too long to listen to. We got her dressed and she crawled into my lap for a hug. It’s moments like that that I am so thankful I parent deliberately and not just from the hip. She deserves my best, I owe it to her to be present and involved in her life every moment, not just for the big picture. It’s the moments that matter most.

“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” — Maya Angelou.

Read that quote again and again; live by it. Let your past go and embrace your future. Learn more, do better, and make the most out of what you have. Live deliberately. Make the choices that will facilitate you dreams. I spent too many years miserable, letting things happen to me instead of making the choices that would have made me happier. I made the right choices where they counted and I love the life I have made for myself with my family. I think the key to happiness is going for what you want and failing as many times as you have to until you get it. And if you have the right people around you, they will support you. They will help you build the ladder that reaches to your moon. Hold those people close and don’t ever let them go.

Living Life on Purpose

Wordless Wednesday Wordplay

I try to think of things
Like back when I was poetry
And all of this was words and letters
strung together by tears and laughter and pain
and I felt and I felt and I felt,
Everything but better.

Back when the clouds looked like loose leaf paper
and my toes were a pen…

Now they’re dangling out of reach
Because I can’t go back to her, to then.

But with time brought happiness
And took with it pain (and words)
I’m reaching, stretching, pushing –
For what belongs to her.

I’ll catch them if I can
Pull them back to me
Breathe them deep into my soul.
Then I’ll plant them in my daughters heart
and quietly watch them grow.

Wordless Wednesday Wordplay