Toddler Learning Toys

Well it happened. My baby girl turned two at the end of August. Yep. We have a toddler now. How in the world is that possible? Yesterday we were praying and begging God to let us please keep this pregnancy, and now that little heartbeat and blob on an ultrasound is two years old. We blinked. Damnit. Everyone tells you not to blink, that it goes fast, that the days are so long but the years are short. They were not lying to us. We know that now. And we know that the next years will only increase in speed as they fly past. 

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You are not alone.

My house is a mess. She is still in pajamas. My anxiety is high. Life is hard. Humans can really suck. Being a full time, working from home / work hybrid, toddler mom, during a global pandemic, while the world is literally on fire, and families are S.T.R.U.G.G.L.I.N.G is well….F*ing exhausting. 

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But I am doing the best I can. 

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Some days that looks like me snuggling my toddler in bed reading books most of the morning and working late. Other days that’s me up early praying she sleeps in so that I can get as much done before she wakes up as possible so that when she wakes up I can actually focus on her. 

We miss her friends. We miss having her interacting and playing with kids her own age. We miss the stress of commuting and getting lunches packed and the three of us out the door on time. We miss normal. 

My husband and I have not been on an “Us” vacation since our honeymoon in 2014. So knowing that this year we were going to hopefully purchase a home we also decided to skip extended family vacations last year. Which SUCKED. But it’s what we wanted to do in order to achieve our bigger goals of home ownership. By the grace of God, we were able to purchase our first home in June and moved in July. It has been THE biggest blessing to our family this year by far. 

That being said, we also made the decision that we needed to take time for us as a family and we planned to extend my business trip in November and have Michael and Zoe fly out at the end of my trip to join me in California and go to Disney. DISNEY! Then spend a few days at the beach, because come on…It’s the beach and who doesn’t want a beach vacation in the middle of November? I am sure you have guessed by now that we ended up canceling that vacation due to COVID-19 and the health risks that traveling could bring to not only us, but to those around us. Honestly the closer we are getting to those canceled trip dates the more my heart hurts and the frustration with how 2020 is going rises. 

I am done. 

I am tired. 

I am over it. 

There have been times in the last 6 months that my mental health has crashed into dark and twisty. I climbed out. I did the work and got my head better. There have been times that life has been wonderful and I have been okay with living differently this year because it was only temporary. And you can do anything for a few weeks…I mean a month…or two months…or I guess a year? When is this shit going to end? (Asking for a friend.) 

I started this blog in April with the goal to encourage other young working mothers. To let them see that normal working mom life is chaotic, but beautiful. That it is hard, but if you love your career, it is so worth it. That there were other young working moms, figuring it out one day at a time just like her, and that it would be okay. 

Today this is me being transparent. 

I am struggling. I am struggling to balance my emotions and huge life changes while my baby turns two and life seems to still be moving all while everything is on hold. I am struggling with what we had to give up, even though we have been blessed beyond measure this year, the canceled plans have still sucked. 

Not being able to make plans with friends, and celebrate new life, or just have zoo trips like normal has been hard. Having to explain to every invite we get that with a high risk toddler my answer will be no, for a long time. Having to explain that there is no one I care more about on this planet than my daughter, and that means keeping her safe which means saying no. . . I shouldn’t have to explain that. Just a friendly reminder: If you have a friend with young  kids you haven’t seen much of since the beginning of the year, please for the love of God do not question their love or friendship to you. Show grace. Be encouraging that she is doing an amazing job as a mother and employee and spouse. Please. 

I am doing the absolute best I can to make sure I am helping the company I helped build move forward and be successful. I am doing the absolute best I can to make sure I am putting in time to my marriage and my friendship with my husband that it desperately deserves. I am doing the absolute best I can to make sure that my daughter feels loved and worthy of being paid attention to, even if that means I need to sacrifice sleep to make up for hours with work later. 

. . . Honestly. . . I could not accomplish any of what I do without the love and support that my husband shows me daily, the boss and family that his company is to me, and the friends and family who have stepped up and have been there for me like freaking ROCK STARS over the last six months. 

This is me, being transparent, exhausted, but still showing up. Still trying my best. Even if my best one day is less than it was the day before. I am doing the best I can under the circumstance I am in. 

Mama? You are not alone. You are worthy of love. You are ALLOWED TO NOT BE OKAY, and that is okay. You are allowed to have a meltdown. You are allowed to hide in the bathroom and cry. You are allowed to have that LARGE glass of wine and just feel your feelings. You are allowed to struggle through 2020.

Today when I was my third breakdown of the morning she came up to me with a level and was showing me she was like mommy and held the level up to the wall and said “Yes! Mama Help!” She is why I keep going. She is my main reason I dry the tears, fix my mascara, and get back up. She is my Why.

Mama, You are not alone. . . 

My Beautiful Chaos.

I started this blog, and Instagram account back in April, 2020. It has always been something I think I would enjoy doing. Writing, sharing my photography skills and all of my “wisdom”. HAHAHAHAHA.  Maybe wisdom is not the appropriate word here. More like sharing my personal experiences with others with the hope to encourage, make someone laugh, or just to let another young mom know that life is not an Instagram reel and everyone is also losing their shit  little bit, and that is okay. 

Continue reading “My Beautiful Chaos.”

Navigating The Dark and Twisties.

I have survived a trauma. Though I am standing here today, with a beautiful marriage to a man I love more than anything, a perfect little girl who somehow is almost TWO, a gorgeous home we have been so lucky to have just moved into, and a family who has been blessed with good health (for the most part). . . there are days that the traumas I have overcome, still feel like they are overcoming me. 

How do you not let the hard times, the traumatic times, the painful times, or the scary times consume you? How do you pull yourself out of the “dark and twisty” thought trails that so often it runs down? How do you focus on what is going on right now in front of you instead of the fears of hypotheticals and “what if’s” that for someone with anxiety cannot seem to escape?

I don’t have the answers. I am not a professional therapist. I don’t know what you have gone through. I am not giving advice, or telling you this will work for you. 

I am sharing what has worked for me, in the hopes that maybe, just maybe you. . . will feel less alone. Less like you are crazy. Less like you are failing. Less like you aren’t good enough because sometimes your brain runs away with anxiety. 

Photography

I shoot photography. I capture moments that I will look back on and hopefully smile. When I was 16 my husband lost his younger brother after a not so long battle with cancer. He was 14. Our families grew up together and even though at the time my last name was different, it felt as though I lost a sibling too. I have one photo of Kevin and I together. It is actually a photo with myself, my husband, Kevin, and one other friend we grew up with, and to this day are connected with. (He actually helped us move last weekend) 

One photo is not enough to capture the memories, the essence of who someone was, or what they meant to you. So shortly after he passed I made the decision to go into photography as a profession. I got a nice DSLR that I didn’t know how to use but would figure it out, and I started shooting. 

When my head gets dark and twisty, I pick up a camera. I start shooting photos of my daughter. I take her on walks, or some little adventure to try and capture a fraction of her personality and freeze that moment in time for me to go back and look at a million times. (This is why I have literally tens of thousands of photos) I enjoy finding beauty in what is around me, and what matters most to me. 

Music

Another way I try and sort out all of the chaos in my head is through music. I took piano lessons for 12 years and am lucky enough to have the space in our home to now have our keyboard set up and I am playing again. Ugh, re-learning an instrument is aggravating. But slowly, and surely I will get it back. This week Zoe and I have started playing together. And though it probably sounds more like a small dumpster fire while we play and “sing” together it lifts my head a little bit so I can breathe again. Plus watching Zoe try to play and sing with me gives me life. 

Writing

So, I like to write. I am not a professional writer. I am not an author. I have never been paid for my writing. But I enjoy it. Sometimes my brain works too fast and too scattered it is hard for me to verbally articulate what I am trying to say. So taking the time to sit, and let my hands slowly sort it out while writing it down on paper is soothing to me. 

This week I have been struggling with our world. I am an empathetic person. If you are not so lucky to have this “gift” let me help paint you a picture of what it can be like to be an empath. Someone else falls and cuts open their knee…you cry for their pain. Someone else has gone through a trauma…you feel their soul crushed. Someone else have feelings? Yeah…you feel those too. Oh! And you can’t turn it off. So when the world is on fire (both literally and metaphorically) as an empath…you feel the burning in your soul. I saw something this week online about how to be the best empath you can be, by “Care, without Carrying”. I read it out loud about twelve times. Care, without carrying. I need to work on that. 

Encourage 

I have noticed a trend over the last few years. For myself, when I feel my lowest. When I feel the most lost. Or when I just can’t articulate what I am feeling I will go through my contacts, and the first name that jumps out at me I will text. Not asking for help, not dumping any of my emotional baggage on them…I reach out and send encouragement. Because what if they can’t articulate their demons either? What if this one text to let them know someone else is thinking of them could change the trajectory of their day? And no, this doesn’t mean I only ever check in or text friends when I am at my lowest. But I do try to pull the focus off of my issues and focus on encouraging others and lifting them up any chance I get. 

Seek Counsel

I ask for help. Not from a neighbor, family member, friend, or mentor. I got myself back into counseling. Because sometimes you need a third party, who is non biased and a pro-fess-ional who can help sort out that jumbled ball of chaos in your head and help you learn how to rewire your brain and the way you think and see situations. I with all of my heart believe that therapy saved my life after we miscarried. It makes me sad that there is such a negative annotation around the idea of counseling and therapy too. . . like, if your arm was broken you would go see a doctor. If your check engine light was on in your car you would take it to a mechanic! Why would we not take care of the mental check engine light too? 

In conclusion, 

I don’t have it all together. I probably never will. I have struggled with my mental health, but I am doing the work to make sure when that check engine light comes on I DO SOMETHING about it. I avoid social media and friends when I need a break. I take mental health days from work when I am about to lose it. I go on the run in eighty degree heat. I do the work to get myself right on the days I am just not okay. And I started putting my mental health higher on my priority list, and I promised myself that no matter what is going on around me or my family, we will get through it. Because honestly, we have already gone through so much already, and we came out on the other side of that. 

Don’t be ashamed of asking for help. Don’t let the opinions of others stand in the way of finding the best version of yourself! And if you get knocked down, dust yourself off and get back up!

Chalkola – Art Supplies

So a few weeks ago we started using Chalkola chalk markers on our little chalkboard easel and for someone who gets the tingly bugs up their spine when they use a chalkboard, I was skeptical.

After I started playing with them, my daughter quickly showed interest as well and I was pleasantly surprised about how much they were not like chalk. I mean yes, they are chalk markers, and it is liquid chalk, but it doesn’t have that grading grimey feeling when you write with them. Plus, they have so many bright bold colors, it was hard to decide what I would draw first.

I had my (almost 2 year old) daughter come color with me, and she was a little more violent with her coloring than I was, so the liquid chalk did splash over her, the floor, and the table. But that came up with a baby wipe. I am always looking for fun new art projects for not only myself, but for my little one as well. I was so excited to start working with Chalkola and they gave me an affiliate link for you all to use if you want to try them yourself.

There has been a lot going on in the last couple weeks in preparation to move from our apartment, that we have called home for the last four years, to our first home. Oh my gosh we are so excited too. But in the midst of still working from home full time, managing the house, a toddler, the dog, food, and the rest of the random things that come up in the middle of the day, finding fun new art projects was getting rather difficult.

Chalkola sorta came to my rescue, and I am so happy with how they little board and markers have worked for us. So much so I am writing an entire article about it. I highly recommend getting some of your own! They also have many other art supplies, so you should check them out : www.chalkola.com Use code “MEASURABLY10” for a 10% discount or “CHALKOLA10” if you purchase through amazon!

I promised myself when I started this blog that I would not write any article or promote any brand that I didn’t use, enjoy and genuinely want to share. So that is why this made the cut! We have been using this as a daily project where we wipe down our drawings from the day before and make a new one every morning. My daughter loves it, and makes sure I don’t forget every morning.

I hope you are all finding fun, new projects and activities with your little ones this summer! 

Working Mom Guilt – This is Hard

What I thought I wanted

There are more aspects of motherhood that take my breath away and overwhelm my heart with emotions than I can count. I knew I would love being a mother, ever since I was a little girl. I wanted to grow up and be a mom, and travel the world to take photos. In my head motherhood was going to be easy because watching my mother care for seven of us, flawlessly, how hard could it be? Right? *Haha

Continue reading “Working Mom Guilt – This is Hard”

Three Years Ago…

*TRIGGER WARNING*

Three years ago today we went to the hospital for a D&C to help my body heal after our miscarriage. I was risking going into sepsis if we didn’t do surgery as soon as possible. It had been weeks since we confirmed loss of life, but any child of mine, no matter how little they were, are stubborn to their core. Our tiny nugget was refusing to leave. A large part of me was clinging to thin air praying the reason the baby hadn’t passed was because the doctors were wrong, and the baby was still growing. I was naive. I was in denial. I was facing the deepest depression I have ever known. And I didn’t want to admit what was happening.

Here we were, driving to the hospital, because if we didn’t act fast I could be at risk as well. How was this happening? How did my body fail me? Why was this happening? What could I have done to prevent this? Did I kill our baby because I was scared of things changing? What did I do wrong? If this was so common, why does nobody talk about it? 1 in 4 pregnancies end in loss? What the f? Why was I now a part of that group? I didn’t put my name on that sign up sheet. This is bullshit.

We drove to the hospital in silence. Michael had his hand in mine on my lap the entire way there. We said nothing. Tears poured down my face. I didn’t want to be crying. I didn’t want to be scared. I didn’t want to feel broken. But I cried anyway. I couldn’t help it. The tears were overflowing. I felt like I was drowning in the passenger seat. This couldn’t be happening. I will wake up any moment. This had to be a nightmare.

We pulled into the patient parking lot, parked, and sat for a moment more in silence while I tried to gather an ounce of strength to say something, to move, to feel anything other than complete and utter brokenness. Eventually, Michael broke the silence and asked me if I was ready. You could hear the weight of brokenness in his voice. Though it was masked better than mine, he was staying strong for me. It was my turn to be broken, he would take his turn later.

We grabbed our hospital bag, and walked, fingers laced together and his arm around me. We walked through the doors, down the hallway, paid an astronomical amount of money at billing, registered, then continued on to pre-op. Michael waited in the lobby for a moment so they could verify my husband was not abusive. I know this moment in time may be the only moment a beaten women could honestly answer that question and seek safety.  But this question threw me off. I have never been asked that before, and here I sit, completely destroyed by why I am in even here in the first place…terrified of what is about to happen, and all I want in the world is him sitting next to me telling me it’s going to be okay and they need to first verify if I am one of the lucky ones who are not in fact being beaten by their spouse. Ouch. I cannot imagine.

Once I got through the paper work verifying who I was, and why I was there they went and brought Michael back to my pre-op room. I got changed into a gown, and then my IV was placed. I felt my heart rate climbing with every next step that the nurses were checking off down their list. This was routine for them. This was another surgery on the board. This was a “quick” one. This was just another day. To them. To me, this was hell. This was the worst day. This was what despair looked like. This was depression come to life in our little hospital room. This was something I would never recover from. I would recover physically. Not mentally. Not emotionally. 

A chaplin came in to pray with us because this was a loss of life surgery. The kind older man asked if he could pray with us, and he held my hand as he talked to God on our behalf. He was sweet. He was kind. He had soft eyes. You need those requirements to be a chaplin don’t you? Kind, loving, loving grandfather looking? We prayed, I felt numb. I felt like a shell of an existence. We prayed for the little soul that was with us for a few weeks, but has forever changed my world. The chaplin left, and more nurses came. Then I met my doctor that would be doing the surgery. -She ended up being one of the main OB doctors we saw for the duration of my second pregnancy, with Zoe. I will forever remember the look of compassion, and sympathy on her face when she walked into our room. She, to me, looked like the most calm human being on the planet. Thank God for that, because one of us in that room needed to be, and it was sure as hell not me. The first time I saw her for my pregnancy with Zoe she remembered me from this day. She told me she never forgets the faces of her patients on the worst days of their lives. THAT, is a doctor you want on your team. I was lucky to have her on mine.- She explained to Michael and I what was about to unfold and what we should expect over the next few hours. Then she left. 

Next was my anesthesiologist. He was tall and skinny. Oddly, I have no other memory of him in our pre-op room. Just that he asked me if I was ready, I kissed Michael as tears ran down my face, and told him yes. He gave me some meds through the IV that would, in his words, feel like a couple margaritas. Then my husband laughed. HE LAUGHED. He told the man that I was a lightweight and a couple margaritas would hit me hard. Then I laughed and the anesthesiologist laughed. He responded with something like, well I am about to have a pretty nice nap and we would be back in a little bit. Then my team rolled my bed out of the room. Michael walked with me until we hit the doors like what you see on Grey’s when you have to leave your loved one, Michael kissed my forehead and told me he loved me. At this point I was feeling those margs. 

I don’t remember much more than that. I remember the giant OR lights that were terrifying and so damn bright. I remember the team moving me to the OR table. I remember the anesthesiologist cradling my head in his hands as he did something else. I couldn’t tell you what, but I felt safe. He was holding my head, and looked into my eyes and told me these words that will again, forever be burned into my memory. “I’ve got you”. In that moment, where I was drowning in an raging ocean of fear, his greyish blue eyes looking into mine, I felt safe. I believed him, and I was calm. At one point I started choking on something. (Some medical device I don’t know the name of, and won’t guess for fear of being wrong. ) They had to remove it and use a child’s size one. In my groggy state I asked the team in the OR if that meant I got a discount for using a children’s size. I may have been living through the worst day of my life, but I had my sense of humor intact. (I later verified this story with some of my team, because I thought I had dreamed it. I indeed choke, and ask for a discount on medical supplies in the OR.) 

The surgery took only a few minutes. Michael was informed that I was out of surgery in recovery, but would be sleeping for a while and they’d come get him when I was awake. 

I woke up a few hours later in a big room with other groggy and confused humans trying to figure out what century it was. 

A large man was laying in a bed on the other side of the room and was angry that his male nurse was not sexy enough. He was still pretty groggy. 

My doctor came in to check on me. She asked how I was feeling and apparently I responded with “I am hungry”. Good! My epetite was back and that meant I could stop on our way home and get something to eat! The doctor asked me what I wanted to eat. That was a weird question, because obviously I wanted Tomato soup and French Toast. What? I told her tomato soup and french toast? yeah…I did. Those are my comfort foods. But damn, not together. 

I was working my way through the post-op check list of things I needed to do in order to go home. At ever accomplishment I asked for Michael. I asked for him before I was even aware I was asking for him. I needed my person to be by my side. I need him now.  Eventually I got to the point where they were getting my discharge papers which means they got to go get Michael for me. One of my post-op nurses asked me what he looked like so when she went into the waiting room she would easily find him. . . In this moment. . . my HONEST-TO-GOD opinion of what my husband looked like was this. . . “He is my sexy asian!” The nurse giggled, and asked me to repeat myself. “What does he look like?” I was so confused. Did she not hear me? The meds must be messing with my words. I looked at her and said it again. “He is wearing a green shirt, and he is my sexy asian.” She giggled and said she’d go find him. 

As it turns out, he was the only person waiting in the waiting room so he was not hard to find. But nonetheless she told Michael the story of how I described him, and he smiled. Because in that moment he knew that at least my soul was not taken when they took the baby. No matter how dark the next few days, weeks and months were, he knew that I was still in there. Even if it meant spending a lot of time and energy to heal, and go find her. 

On the way home we stopped at iHop, so that I could get my french toast. I decided to skip on the tomato soup for the time being. When we got home, it seemed different. It was empty. Though nothing physically had changed. It felt weird. The neighbors were going on with life as usual. Time was not standing still for anyone else. It was missing the little human we had for the 11 weeks before now. Though that Tiny Nugget never made a physical appearance in our home, they left a forever impression on our hearts. 

I have weird days now. Anniversaries of tragedy and heartache right next to anniversaries of celebration and overwhelming joy. Today is a weird day. I don’t want to forget where I was three years ago, because what we lived through three years ago has forever changed my outlook on life, parenting, pregnancy, children, temper tantrums, positive pregnancy tests, doctors appointments, (especially ultrasounds) and life. This day three years ago I wasn’t sure I would survive. I wasn’t sure I would be able to smile again, let alone laugh or figure out how to climb out of the ocean deep crevasse of depression I was wedged in. Three years ago I was afraid that my pregnancy ending in loss meant I would never have a child. I believed that this meant I was not worthy of being a mother. And I believed that for a long time. It took months of counseling and therapy to help my heart slowly beat again. It took months of my living through triggers, meltdowns, public panic attacks, crippling fear and depression for me to get to the other side of it. The side where you stand up. The side where you refuse to sink. The side where you fight for yourself again. The side where you realize this is not the end of your story, it’s just a dark detour. The side of tragedy where you see the rainbow coming as the storm begins to pass. 

This day is weird. But I am forever grateful for the 11 weeks I had with our first child. I am thankful for the lessons he taught me in the short lifetime he had on earth. I am thankful for the person our baby helped me become. If it wasn’t for our loss, we would not have Zoe. Though I would do anything to get our first child back, or to know them, or to hear their giggle, I cannot imagine life without our Rainbow. She is our rainbow after the darkest storm I have ever faced. 

If you have gone through a similar trauma. If you are apart of the shitty group that is 1 in 4, If you have lost…know that it is okay to talk about it. It is okay to say your baby’s name. It is okay to feel ALL. OF. THE. FEELINGS you have. It is okay to be in that dark place, as long as you get yourself out of it eventually. Don’t set up a permanent residence there. There is life after the storm. If you need help to get out of that depression, find help. Ask someone. Even if you don’t know where to go, ask someone close to you that you trust to help. Know that you are worthy of the family you are longing for. Know that YOU ARE STRONGER than these circumstances. Know that there is more after this part of your story. Sweetie, your story doesn’t end here. Your storm will pass, and that rainbow on the other side is beautiful. Immeasurably More Than you can Imagine. 

Don’t wish the year away.

Do you remember way back when 2019 was ending and we had the biggest dreams and aspirations for our 2020 year to come? Then we started our year and it took just a few weeks into the year to realize that when you wrote down your goals you had for yourself and your family, in reality it sorta feels like you just pissed off and challenged mother nature and mankind as a whole? Remember when you prayed for God to help strengthen your marriage, somehow help guide you to find more time to be with your daughter, and to help focus your heart and soul on the things that matter and to better you as a person? – Yeah that was me, I prayed for those things, and naivety had me thinking change would come easy. Oh silly me. –

So it’s now June 2020. Half of this year has quickly, and ever so slowly passed and is now behind me. But have I spent these last months wisely? Have I aggressively still gone after my goals and focused my heart on God and my family? In spite of a global pandemic, weeks of illness, challenges upon challenges far greater than I anticipated rising, have I let this year be my downfall? Or have I allowed the trials of this year to make me stronger? Have allowed my circumstances to change my perspective for the better? Have I taken advantage of the extra time with my daughter to be a better mom? Have I made the most of the time with my husband and worked on our marriage even though I didn’t think we needed work? Have I taken this time working from home to double down and put in as much effort as possible to be a good employee? Have I taken my extra time that I am no longer spending on my commute to cook more, start a blog, and exercise more instead of being lazy and binge watch The Office for an eleventh time?

Here is my perspective of the last 6 months, and how I have changed – For what I truly believe is for the better –

I Prayed For More Time With My Daughter

Do you know how you pray for things like Patience without realizing the way to get more patient is to be challenged with circumstances in which to practice patience? Yeah… Well at the beginning of the year I prayed for more time with my daughter. I have a full time job as an associate producer for a little production company that I love more than any other job in any other field I have ever worked. I found my dream job, by accident. (That will be a blog post one day. The story of my now boss who said “No way, I am not hiring her” to his wife and now I have worked for him for 4 years and he and his wife are seriously some of my closest friends.) Right, my daughter…more time….I wanted more time with her. Somehow. I felt guilty for working. I still do sometimes, but that feeling quickly fades into pride about what I am accomplishing as a working mom, and what I am teaching her about going after your dreams.

When we were first told by our state governor to stay home for two weeks, a part of me was terrified, but a little spark was ignited because that meant I GET two weeks of around the clock time with my mini me! I got what I was praying for, in the weirdest round about way I would never have imagined. That was months ago. I am still getting around the clock time with her and I am so thankful for every moment of it. Figuring out how to work from home while she is with me has been a little bit of a challenge. Michael works upstairs at his desk, that is in Zoe’s room, and I work downstairs at the kitchen table. Zoe takes turns going upstairs to play in her room, and coming downstairs watching movies, and playing with her toys down here.

Don’t get me wrong. This has been challenging to say the least. I am often walking away from my desk and computer to tend to her needs. Getting more snacks, reading stories, filling her water cup, getting her more snacks, turning frozen 2 on for the seventh time, etc. So working 8 hour days can take 12-16 hours some days. But I have been oddly given the gift of more time with her, that I would NOT trade for anything. She has grown and changed so much in the last six months and I have been given a front row seat to a lot of the things I would have missed if I was not home with her.

Allow yourself to grow

We are creatures of habit. We like routine. Even if your routine is messed up and a little wacky, we like them, and get a little frazzled when they are changed. Especially if the reason is, oh I don’t know, a global pandemic. I don’t thrive in stressful situations, but I am not the one running around screaming frantically. I have a tendency to look at stressful situations in a weird way, that I am learning is a survival skill brought on by trauma. When shit gets hard and life becomes suffocating I look back on my life and sorta compare my current trial to past ones. Because I have been through worse, I have survived, I have lived through trauma, unspeakable pain and loss, and fear, In a weird way I have trained for this. Not exactly Covid-19, but I have trained for the worst case scenario. When life gets hard, you have the opportunity to grow. To become stronger. To be more bad-ass than you already are mama! Don’t hide from the challenges that you are facing today, no matter how severe they are, because you were made for more than your fears to consume you.

I am not suggesting that you run into danger in the name of growth. I am challenging you to accept the trials that come into your life because they are opportunities to make you a better person. A stronger person. A person with experience that you can later share with someone who has not yet faced similar trials. Allow yourself to be knocked down, but only to evaluate how you want to pick yourself back up. Don’t live in the pit that life can throw you into. Get back up and grow!

Am I being the best employee I could be?

This one has been a question that just hovers in my head daily. Am I failing my boss, my team, our company, our audience? Is my job of being a mother screwing up my career? (I know how crazy that sounds, but that’s my head sometimes.) How can I make sure I am putting in my hours that are productive and beneficial to my to do list? How do I let my boss and his partner know that I am struggling, but also doing my very best at the same time without them thinking I don’t care?

I work around the clock. Haha. No, not glued to my computer, and no not with undivided attention, but I am doing my very best to make sure my list of things are getting done, that I am encouraging to my team with the things they are getting done, and now driving out to the studio once a week to shoot the shows I cannot shoot from my living room. We are making it work. I am getting my job done and adapting to the weird hours of working from home.

While working from home we started a new show that I wrote, shot and produced solo from my living room, then sent all of the footage to our editor. That is something I never thought I could do. I never thought I had the skills and patience to do this without my team in the same room. But, I am. Staring fear and doubt in myself dead in the eye and doing it anyway. I am not confident about being in front of a camera. I have been trained to be the one shooting, not the one being shot with a camera. So it has taken me years to not visibly shake when it’s my turn to read the teleprompter. Face your fears, and grow.

Give your marriage the attention it deserves

Oh yeah, we are buying a house!

I have been married to my best friend, my one and only, for just over six years as of May 2020. We dated for six years before we got married, and I have known him since I was four. We only ever dated each other, and for a few years before we started dating, he was my actual best friend. We talked every single day. When we were not yet allowed to date, we would drag my little sister, and his younger brother with us on “not dates”.

We have been doing this whole marriage thing for six years, and doing it pretty well I thought. But is “pretty well” what I want to really be going for? Or do I want my marriage to be filled with Passion, Forgiveness, Communication, Respect, Fun, Growth, Adventure, and LIFE? Yeah, sign me up for that version please! So that’s what we did. We changed from passively co-existing together to passionately experiencing this journey together. Nothing happened to us that made us go stale. We just got comfortable not actively pursuing each other,and if I am being 100% honest, it was even more so me not pursuing him. Yeah, life gets busy, we both work, we are both raising the world’s sassiest human, we are tired. But those were excuses we were comfortable with using.

Date Nights are AMAZING

So we decided that was enough and we were going back to our dating life, but better! We are actively seeking out one another and focusing more on us and it’s been AMAZING. I had no idea that we had allowed our life to get “boring”? Maybe boring is not the right word, but we got complacent and that is not okay with either of us. I love that he has never given up on me. He has held my hand and carried me through trauma. He has been patient with my mental health, and has encouraged me to chase after my goals while supporting and cheering me on every step of the way. He is kind, patient, loving, caring and strong. He works harder than anyone I know. He is always looking for ways to provide for our family. Yet still takes the time to do the things he crazy wife and wild daughter want to do.

I am so lucky and beyond blessed to have the man he is next to me on life’s journey. There is no one I would ever want to share myself with, than him.

Staying Socially Distant…for my daughter. Everyone else can deal. Sorry, NOT Sorry.

Summer time for us is normally filled with family cookouts, friend trips to the zoo, late night bonfires, driving to a nearby weekend getaways, and vacations. Hah. This summer is not going to look like that for us. I am not sure which side of the scale you rest on when it comes to Covid-19 and socializing, but for us we are aggressively leaning on the side of caution, for not only the sake of others, but for our daughter. She was 4 months old the first time she was hospitalized with RSV. Over Christmas that year we spent several days watching her struggling to breathe. Waving in and out of respiratory distress. at FOUR MONTHS OLD. That was one of the hardest things I have ever lived through. Helpless watching her oxygen levels plunge into scary levels, and her breathing became labored. She couldn’t cry. She couldn’t get enough air to cry.

She couldn’t cry, besides when the had to place her IV in the ER. I held her down in the little crib touching my forehead to hers trying to reassure my baby I was right there, and the nurses were helping her. My tears poured from my eyes and landed on her cheeks as they met up with the trail of her own and fell to the crib sheet. I held her down while she screamed her FIRST audible “mom”. Even the nurse looked at me and said “Did you hear that?” as shocked as I was she asked me if she had ever said that before. No. She hadn’t. The nurse gave me the most empathetic look knowing that forever her first audible “mom” was while I was pinning her down for her own good to fight to get her to breathe.

I vowed in that moment I would do everything and anything to prevent us from ever being back in that place. We were never going back to the respiratory distress that I saw her in for those days in the hospital. My heart couldn’t take another one of those visits.

So when we have been asked to join birthday parties, outdoor family events, hanging out with a larger than 10 group of people, or going out “just to get out” with my daughter, my head goes back to her laying in the ER pleading with me to make them stop. To help her breathe. To make it stop. And my chest gets tight, and my eyes fill with tears. I have to respond with a respectful decline. I know that we may be overly cautious. We may be the crazy ones who don’t come out of the house for the rest of the year to party, or socialize. We may be the weirdos who skip her 2nd birthday party because that’s too many people we can’t control the variables with.

We are the ones who aren’t sending her back to daycare for probably the rest of this year, because I vowed to her and myself we would do EVERYTHING in our power to avoid that type of trauma, ever, again. If she gets covid-19, Yes, there is a chance she is asymptomatic, there is a chance she won’t get it, and there is a chance we are way overacting. BUT. What if we aren’t? What if she does get it? What if her already compromised lungs cannot fight off the virus? What id that couple day visit in the hospital with RSV will seem like a cakewalk compared to what Covid-19 could do to her little body? That is not a risk I am willing to take. I am not gambling with her life to see anyone. I don’t care who gets offended about this, because it’s my daughters life on the line.

Don’t wish this year away

I am thankful for the trials we have faced so far this year. They have already made me stronger, more brave, more direct, assertive, confident, empowered, and determined to keep going. I am personally accomplishing goals I had made for myself years ago. All it took was a pandemic to get y butt in gear. So I am thankful. I started standing up for myself, for my family, and for my mental health. I have pissed off some people, and lost some friendships over it too. Has that sucked? Oh my gosh yes. But am I really going to live my life based off of what someone else wants of me instead of my own goals? Hell no! Have I been empowered to find my worth, know who I am, and who I have been called to be? Yes! Am I going to lose that passion? Not if I can help it! So no, I am not wishing this year to go by faster. I am not wishing for anything bit for this new found fire in my soul to keep raging! I like this version of myself! 

Quarantined Toddler

Working from home has brought on some fun challenges to overcome throughout my day. Like, keeping an almost 2 year old entertained for 6-8 hours a day without hurting herself, the dog or destroying the house. She has no fear so I often find her at the top of a piece of furniture I didn’t know she could climb, using our dog as a horse – and our golden is the sweetest girl and just lets her because she is so gentle with Zoe – or  my personal favorite, she has gotten stuck on top of a diaper box and in between the couch and wall. She has a creative energy that is forever burning. So how do I encourage her explorative nature while continuing to work and keep her safe all at the same time? 

I have never been more thankful for my background in Early Childhood Education than I am right now. As we navigate these unknown adventures of both my husband and I working from home full time we have had to get creative with toddler activities. Especially when Ohio’s weather doesn’t cooperate and we are stuck indoors for days at a time due to the rain and cold MAY weather. (Ohio is drunk sometimes) Here are a few of our favorites. 

Sidewalk Chalk 

Over the last couple months I went through a progression of buying sidewalk chalk from the dollar section at Target to Crayola’s heavy duty mega teacher box of buttery smooth chalk. They are not even in the same playing field friends. Crayola’s is just in a league of their own. Something that we have done a few times that has truly saved us some days, is playing chalk indoors. I know, I know, ‘Sarah, Are you insane?’. Well probably a little, but I have never been tested for insanity so we can’t be sure. Chalk is easy to wash off of little hands, most surfaces, the dog, the wall, my table, and my kitchen floors. We have dark, really pretty floors in our apartment and she loves to sit on the floor next to me while I work and just make little doodles. -Full disclosure, she also has drawn on my clothes while I am working and just giggles. It’s washable, And keeps her busy for a while.- We love our sidewalk chalk!

Outdoor Bubble Machine

Sincerely, if you have not spent the $20 on a bubble machine for your toddler yet, hit me up and I will donate to your child’s entertainment and your sanity. This little machine I purchased last summer for a get together with family was mostly enjoyed by our dogs and our older niece at the time. Zoe was too little to truly enjoy the bubbles then, but we are making up for that this year. Almost every single time we are outside on the patio play we have this running. Not only does she love them, but our golden retriever loves playing in the falling bubbles as well. When Maui -the dog- plays and dives for the bubbles before they hit the ground and “chomps” on them our daughter does one of two things..She will either giggle and play with Maui, OR she will get angry that Maui beat her to the bubble she wanted and make THE most adorable grumpy face. Either way, our dependents love them and we love watching them enjoy the bubbles. 

Getting Messy with Painting

Okay, take a deep breath on this one. And now slowly let it out. Friend? Toddlers learn through making messes. They learn through trying things out and getting their hands dirty and seeing what works and doesn’t work. But I get it, Oh believe me I get it. Cleaning up crayons or sidewalk chalk is one thing, but paint? It is a bigger activity and a messier one, but so worth allowing them to explore their creativity this way.

Here are a few ways we do paint time in our house. First, use washable paint. We love the Washable Tempera Paint – For Kids. We have a 30ct variety pack with bright colors, glitter colors, and metallic colors. Sometimes we only need to fill 20 or 30 minutes of time so we do smaller projects, like one page artwork pieces to mail to family. I use white card stock because the paper doesn’t get as soggy with the heavier paper. I take scotch tape and roll four little pieces to place on all four bottom corners and then tape it to the kitchen floor, or to her high chair tray. This keeps the paper from running away from her while she is painting. If you want to do several pieces at once that is cool too, because it gives her a bigger surface to play with. 

We have also done a few canvas paintings as well. I got a square canvas at Target, and it happened to be on clearance so I ended up only paying a few bucks for it. I laid down some garbage bags and let her pick out all of the colors she wanted to use. Then I dabbed a little dot of each color in a few different spots on the canvas and just handed her the brush. 

The second canvas we had her paint was an old piece of art that hung in my class room that I was just sick of staring at, but didn’t want to throw it away. So I used some pearly white, and silver glitter acrylic paint left over from Christmas ornaments, and covered the entire canvas while she was sleeping to give her a fresh slate to work with. Again, we laid down a few garbage bags to protect the floor, and dabbed all of the colors she chose all over the canvas, handed her a brush and let her play. This is my favorite piece of art that we have in the house. I will cherish this forever. My favorite part about this piece is the fact she ended up using her hands towards the end and there are a few little Zoe hand prints frozen in time hanging on my wall! 

Water Painting

Water Painting

This is the less messy version of painting. We have this little water mat that we put out almost every day for her to play with, give her a cup of water, and a paintbrush. Does she end up painting the cabinets, the floor, her feet, my knee and the dog with water as well? Well obviously the answer is yes. But it’s just water. So we let her. Honestly this has been our using hero activity in our house. We use this almost every single day. When she is done we just clean up the water with a hand towel and then drape the mat over my chair to dry. 

Cause and Effect Toys 

These can be anything from shape sorters, to puzzles, to interactive dancing toys when you push their hand or squeeze their belly. We have a few Cause and effect toys where she can sort out shapes and then the toy cheers and sings a song when she gets the proper shape into the corresponding hole. These can keep her busy for hours. We have this little picnic basket, and this hedgehog that are her current favorites. Plus they are teaching her shapes, colors, and fine motor skills all while she is playing. Pro tip, if these are toys that make sound or music and you don’t want to go insane listening to the same three recordings 539,575 times a day, and if they don’t have volume settings, take some scotch tape, or packing tape and put a layer or two over the entire speaker. LIFE. SAVER. She gets to play with the toy and enjoy the music, without you wanting to punt it across the yard. You are welcome friend. 

The Ball Pit

Ball Pit For life!

This not so little toy was a gift from her Aunt Kiki and Uncle Zippy (both amazing nicknames they have received) for her first birthday almost a year ago. This may be the single most played with toy she has. We rotate this toy out every couple weeks and without fail every time we bring it back into circulation you would have though Santa himself brought this into our living room. She LOVES this thing.

Books…On Books…On Books

We do designated story time a few times a week. I know, if you are able to do this daily, and snuggle with your tiny humans and enjoy reading the same three books out loud to your child who tries to force you to read fast enough to keep up with how quickly she wants to turn the page….then…well you are better than me. Haha That’s not what we do here. Don’t get me wrong. I love reading, I love reading to my child, I love watching her daddy read to her.

But here is the thing. And this may sound crass….but I taught early childhood education for four years. Which means I did story time roughly 2, 880 times in the four years I taught. Guys…That is A LOT of Hungry Caterpillar, Brown Bear Brown Bear, Pizza Man, Noah, The Day The Crayons Quit, Goodnight Moon, The Cat in The Hat, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive, Amelia Bedelia, Guess How Much I love you, Madeline, If you Give A Mouse A Cookie…If You Give A Moose A Muffin, If You Give A Pig A Pancake….Can we stop giving people food to animals please? That is insanely unhealthy for them and will most definitely make them sick and teach our children to feed the dog chicken when they are allergic then you will have to spend the next five days following the dog around the house with a bag to make sure you don’t have to clean up their liquid shit one more time…. It’s been a week ya’ll. It’s been a week. Haha ANYWAY…

These are some of our favorites..

Story time. Daily reading is just not my favorite thing to do. All of her books are down at her level so she has access to any of the books she wants to explore anytime of the day. And I know she loves her books and reads them often, because of how many times I have to pick them back up and put them on the bookshelves. I love that she loves books, and I love that she prefers to have Michael read to her, because he does it WAY more enthusiastically than I do. So knowing how important it is to read to her I make sure to sit down a couple times a week and for however long she wants me to read the same book, or every book she owns, we snuggle down, and I make all of the voices, noises, and sound effects to make her giggle. 

Fine Motor Skill Activities

These are some of her favorites as well. She loves coloring on her magna doodle, and uses her crayons to color the same picture of Forky from Toy Story 4 over and over again. As of late she runs into the kitchen where I am working from home and asks to crawl up onto my lap and asks for my pen and colors in my notebook for work. Honestly, having her make little scribbles on my own notes makes me happy. And I know even more so, they will make me happy when we go back to “normal” and I am away from her 40+ hours a week but will have my notebook with me, and will happen upon her little toddler notes for me and will smile. She loves to doodle and create. So I encourage her to explore that avenue of creativity as often as possible. 

Walks / Parks / Bikes

If the weather is permitting we go on family walks after dinner. We load up the stroller with snacks and water and walk to the nearby school / park. Once we get there we get her out of the stroller and let her just run in the empty soccer field. This gets all of us out of the house and moving our bodies. It gives her a new environment to explore instead of the little yard or living room we have for her. It sorta resets all of us and gives us a nice break from the walls of our home. Plus watching her run through a giant empty field makes her look so small and helps my mama heart visualize her young for forever. Recently we acquired a little tricycle for her to play with outside. This is such a good tool to help her with growing those large motor skills and foot-eye coordination. She is not very good at it, but she LOVES this thing. Again, if weather is permitting we make an adventure of walking to the end of our complex parking lot to the mailboxes to get the mail. It takes us a long time,but it is another chance for her to step away from home and explore. We love exploring! 

Bathtime Bubbles

We touched on outside bubbles, but the weather in Ohio is not always the best, and outside time may not be possible. So this is our alternative. We don’t do baths every night, and we don’t do bubble play time every bath either. However, we enjoy when we do, it is always a huge hit. 

Obviously, you need to bathe your children. Haha but I get it, there are some nights that bathtime rolls around and you are SPENT for the day. Days that I really feel like I am running on empty and I just want to go to bed, this is when I do longer bathtimes. Wait what? The days you are counting down the minutes to bedtime are the nights you take longer to get them ready for bed? I’m confused.  It’s okay. I will explain. Think about what calms you down at the end of a long day and helps you relax before you climb into bed? No you can’t give them a glass of wine. I am talking about a long hot shower, or long bubble bath. The same thing helps little ones calm down before bed. 

We use Aveeno Lavender baby wash on these nights and make lots of bubbles before she even gets into the tub, so the bathroom is calming, and soothing. Setting the mood for a calm bathtime. We get her in the bath, wash her hair, and her body, then spend the next 15 – 20 minutes just watching her play. -Sometimes it is not that long before she asks to be “all done”- She is obsessed with Toy Story 4 right now and loves her “Little People” characters, so we bring those with us. She thinks she is having the reward of a lifetime because we are using not-tub toys in the tub, and playing with lots of bubbles. But in reality we are calming her down and preparing her for a nice transition to bedtime. We love lavender baths. 

This is my list. These are things that have worked for us. I am in no way saying these are sure proof activities for your toddler. But if you needed some ideas what to do to keep your little one entertained I hope these ideas helped. And if you try any of them let me know how it went! Most importantly mama, you do what works best for you and your family.

-Sarah