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.

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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

Monday Mindset

I’m recovering from a vacation hang over, so enjoy this adorable video of Emi flipping her very own tire!

I have lots of pictures from our trip coming this week, once I get a little time and a lot more sleep.

Monday Mindset

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.

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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

Snapshot Saturday

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My ray of hope.
My reason to keep trying.
My first, but not my only.

Snapshot Saturday

Why Words Matter

I can run down a mountain like the wind. My toes barely touch the dirt before I lift off, every rock that is dangerous to someone else is a spring board to me. I run, leap, and slide like I was designed for it. I’m sure I don’t look graceful, but I am able.

Yet, my entire life I have believed I was clumsy. Uncoordinated. Accident-prone. I tripped and stumbled and fell often, not just literally but figuratively. I didn’t feel capable, not like I do now. That was who I was, I was the clumsy one, the gangly girl — all knees and elbows. The one who couldn’t ever be a ballerina because face it Melanie, you just aren’t graceful enough.

Words have a tendency to become reality. What you believe is what you do. If you don’t think you can, you won’t. If you are told you can’t often enough, you just might start to believe it. So I am very careful with my words now, especially with Emi.

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I don’t call her clumsy. I don’t tell her she can’t, that she’s too small, that she isn’t strong enough. You want to lift mommy’s tire? Go for it! You can’t right now? Try again tomorrow. Tomorrow you’ll be stronger. When we fear for our children, we put fear into them. So, I tell her she is strong, fierce, a hard worker, insistant, and capable. I believe she is able and I speak strength into her.

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I still set limits for her, I don’t let her do everything she wants just because she thinks she can, but I try not to interfere if I can help it. I mean, she’ll have to hold off on the knife juggling until she’s four. Until then, I let her try. I let her fail. Most times, I let her fall. And you know what? She gets back up. She always gets back up.

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She needs to learn her own limits, to learn to not only trust her body but to respect it. How can she listen to herself if I am constantly shouting over her? Instead, I sit quietly by. Far enough back that she isn’t in my shadow. And when she needs it, when she looks my way with hesitant eyes, I tell her “I believe in you.”

Because she can do it, she can do anything.

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Why Words Matter