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

The Unexpected Blessings of Quarantine.

Like many of you, this pandemic has rocked our world in ways we didn’t know were even possible. And in no way am I trying to make light of a very serious crisis that our entire planet is currently facing. I truly understand the sacrifice and commitment countless humans have made for the lives and safety of others. Especially those in the medical field, first responders, military personnel, linemen, construction workers, truck drivers, grocery store employees and the men and women in government who are doing their very best under the circumstances.

My husband and I have been very fortunate to continue to have steady paychecks and work from the safety of our home. There have been moments we both wanted to kill each other because we live in a small apartment. Workspace is limited, cramped and shared with countless toddler toys and messes. We are healthy and realize there are many who are not, and there are many who have lost their lives, or a loved one because of this awful virus.

We both have family who work on the front line, in the medical field, as a police officer, fireman, and serving others where their place of employment has remained open during this time.

I share all of that just to help you understand that we are in no way living in a world of rainbows and butterflies over here. We are not living under a rock ignoring what is going on so we can remain in a state of ignorant bliss. But oh doesn’t that kinda sound amazing right now? If I close my eyes and really really try I can pretend that while I am sitting on my patio swing in the sunlight while my daughter naps, that I am really laying on a hammock of my beach house backyard listening to the waves crash against the shore and the seagulls squawking off in the distance. The salty air filling my lungs with a zest of calmness that only the beach can bring. . . *Sigh* Wouldn’t that be amazing right now? If you are fortunate enough to live in a world that is your backyard, can we be friends? And do you have a guest house that accommodates three?

I could run down a very lengthy list of negative aspects and extra stresses covid -19 has brought to my mental health, and my family, but I feel like the world is doing a good enough job filling social media feeds with fear, anxiety, panic, negativity, and hate. There doesn’t need to be one more from me.

For the last couple weeks I have seriously struggled with irrational fears.

– how long will this take? – what if we try to return to normal too soon and our daughter gets it with her compromised little lungs? – what if she gets it and she dies? – how could I possibly live with myself if she suffers from a choice that I made as a mother? – what if I never get to work with my team again? – will I get to celebrate my daughter’s second birthday with family this year? – what if my boss figures out he is doing well without me on the team of three and he doesn’t need me anymore? will I ever get to see my only two remaining grandparents again? what if my father who has survived cancer, legionnaires disease in the past gets this and he is taken away from me and my family and we won’t even get the chance to tell him goodbye? – what if, what if, what if, what….the bloody if?

You know what? That list right there are some of the fears and possibilities that have run through my head in the middle of the night, and in the middle of my work day that have crippled me. I have called my boss and had to apologize because my productivity for that day was trash because I spent three hours trying to get my head out of that tailspin of fear and anxiety.

If you have done that tailspin and you got out of it, I am standing up and cheering for you like the loudest most obnoxious cheerleader you have ever had! If you are in the middle of that tailspin and have no idea how to make it stop, GIRL, I am standing up and cheering for you to keep going, to force yourself to get up, to get dressed, to show up, to fight for your mental health and get yourself out of it. I encourage you that if you have those thoughts of “what if…” that you follow them through to the reality of how you would deal with that worst case scenario. You know what? If that “what if” happens, you will get through it. Because you were made for more than this circumstance. I also encourage you to look at the world you are living in and seek out the random blessings you never would have had without this pandemic.

I wanted to share the biggest blessings this 2020 giant global pandemic has brought to me personally and my family.

(There are more than this, but these are my big ones)

1. I have been with my daughter 24/7 since this has started. I have watched her really start to use her words and not just signs. I have been able to take breaks during my work day to snuggle and read a few books before going back to “work”. I have been able to really focus on helping her work through emotions because mama toddlers can feel the stress of this world too. They may not know what it is called or how to fix it, but they feel the stress too. Being a working mom sometimes can be filled with so many tears, guilt, comparisons, failed expectations, and worry that you are screwing everything up with your child. I know all of those are present if you are a SAHM too, but that is not a world I am familiar with personally. For me? Working from home, and having THE hands down, most amazing boss / company ever to work for has allowed me to continue my job from home, take the time I need to in order to be present for meals, impromptu story time with mommy, extra snuggles, nap-times, and so much growth that I would have missed so, much, of, if life was “normal”. This is time with her I will never get again and I am so thankful that I realized it before we return to normal so that I can cherish every moment I am getting and do my very best not to take it for granted.

2. Fighting with my husband. Haha, I know that is a weird blessing to list. But the truth is, we are human. – shocking I know – and sometimes we get off our axis, and are no longer on the same page. We get into a routine of drop offs, pick ups, passing conversations that are the exact same every single day but you feel like that is all you can give because you are just spent. We have been spending so much “quality” time together because we too have been together 24/7 since this has started. That means that we have had opportunities to work through some issues we have ignored and some we didn’t know we even had, and therefore ignored. You know what? We fought. And I don’t mean that cute five minute fight like the movies where you quickly make up and make out. No, this was days of me working on my heart and not talking to him unless it was out of absolute necessity because I was so upset I was afraid if I tried to say what I felt I was going to punch him in the face….that kind of fight. Four days of literally I think the same amount of sentences shared between us. Now, we have known each other for 25 years ladies. Twenty-five years. I know this man. He knows me. We have been together for 12 years and our 6 year wedding anniversary is tomorrow, May 10th! (Praise Jesus, that is no small feat) We have never fought like this. And I don’t think we ever would have if it were not for being “trapped in the house together”. But I am so happy we did because our marriage became stronger, we became closer, and better spouses because of that. We were able to work through it and refocus our hearts on our marriage, our family, our goals for the future, and priorities as Team Lee has been absolutely amazing. So I am thankful.

3. Taking control of my own life! THIS ONE IS HUGE, well for me anyway. Hopefully you have not had to fight for control of your own life, and I don’t mean be enslaved to another human’s control physically, I mean mentally allowing yourself to believe the lie that you are not worthy of respect. Believing the lie that you are not worthy of love. You are not worthy of better. You are not worthy of genuine friendship. You are not worthy of the goals you have. I believed the lies that I am not worthy of more….for too damn long. I freed myself from that during quarantine.

AND IT’S BEEN AMAZING. Not easy, but amazing nonetheless. I started this blog and my IG for Immeasurably A Mom. I have made friends all over the world, and hopefully one day I will get to meet many of them in person. I set new goals to explore my love of writing. I have a goal to one day become an author and to hold my book in my hands. A book on what topic you ask? Oh Who knows? But one day I will get there and I am sure I will tell you all about it.

In conclusion….

I love this life I have been given, with the crazy family we have and friends that God has blessed me with. We only get today once. So I am making the most of them. Covid-19 and all. I wouldn’t trade my little world for anything! Right now I am excited to celebrate this weekend as we cross the 6 year mark for our marriage, and my 3rd mother’s day together. (Our first little one was still alive on my first mother’s day three years ago, and even though they weren’t with me much longer, I count it!)

TODAY I CHOOSE JOY! I CHOOSE TO SEE THE GOOD! I CHOOSE TO COUNT MY BLESSINGS! And I choose to take the time to write it all down to hopefully encourage you to shift perspective from fear, anxiety and stress to the blessings and the good you wouldn’t necessarily have expected.

 How was this 6 years ago already? (Also we look like babies) My Always & Forever! May 10th, 2014

Adulting and Friendships Are Hard.

Talking about this subject and being able to adequately put my thoughts onto paper is difficult. I have talked to a lot of my mom friends, and several friends who are married but do not yet have children and sorta reached out for as many perspectives on this subject as I could within my little network. This is what we talked about, what we brainstormed together and the conclusion that my heart eventually came to in order to move forward. 

The Magic Of Childhood Friendships. 

Oh how nice it was to be so free and innocent, to be friends with everyone with the only concern being were we all going to wear matching colors the next time we got together and did we have enough sidewalk chalk. Those days have long passed and one by one each friend grew up and went to different colleges, took different jobs, moved to follow their future spouses or just went their separate ways. Slowly but surely there was less texting, less communication, and eventually people who I spent all of my spare time with became just “Someone I used to know.”. 

If you are lucky this transition will happen gradually. Each step you take away from each other is filled with celebrations and cheers for the next big achievement you’ve both been waiting for. There may be a bittersweet feeling knowing you are growing apart, but you will always be friends. Time will pass and it will be years since you’ve talked. Families grow, homes are made, careers change and just like that you’ve all moved on. You all grew up. If you have lost friends in your lifetime I hope with all of my soul you lost them this gracefully. 

Not All Friendships Are Forever

Not all friendships end that way. Sometimes they end leaving behind a trail of confusion, anger, and so much that was left unsaid. Regardless of the memories made or the adventures you planned that will only ever be hypothetical, there is a part of you that is just broken and confused. How did we end up here? We used to do everything together. How much time and energy are you supposed to put into maintaining a relationship that only drains you? When is enough enough? 

It takes two to make a friendship work. It takes two to put in effort. It takes grace, understanding, and forgiveness. But sometimes…It’s just time to call it. Is that fair? Not always. Is it going to hurt like hell? Yep. But there comes a point in life where you need to truly find the self respect you deserve, know your worth and stand up for yourself and your mental health. 

I encourage you to fight for that. Fight for your mental health. Fight for the goals you have set out to achieve. Fight for your family. Fight for children. 

No, not all friendships will last forever. That’s okay. I truly believe that the people that come into your life are there for a reason. Every relationship you have, no matter how small, will shape you into the person that makes you who you are. Set out to be the best possible version of yourself. Sometimes that means outgrowing people. Sometimes that means that your life is going a completely different direction than where your friend’s life is going. GIRL, THAT IS OKAY! 

Accepting New Seasons and New Friendships

I have noticed that for me it is easier to maintain friendships with people who are walking a similar lifestyle to mine. When my husband and I were first married he worked second shift so that he could continue college courses full time. So we never saw each other. I had a LOT of free time and it was easy for me to drop everything to meet for coffee, have an impromptu dinner date and babysit. I did so much babysitting. Though I thoroughly enjoyed that season of my life I was desperate to get into the season where I actually saw my husband during the week. When that season came for us my free time shifted towards my spouse. So, I changed the status quo, and I lost a couple friends. But I gained my husband. 

I would like to think I have not changed much over the years, but I know that is not true. Now that I am thinking about it, Oh my gosh I am so happy I have changed. Huge events in life seem to be where the most change takes place. Cancer took a family member and threatened another, my perspective on what is important changed and I started my interest in photography. I got married and started my happily ever after, my focus shifted towards being a wife and supporting my husband through finishing college. We got pregnant and then suffered a miscarriage, I fell into a pretty deep depression that took months for me to come out of, while I was recovering depression my father almost died from legionella. Time passed and we got pregnant with our rainbow baby, my entire world changed. 

From the moment our daughter was placed in my arms I vowed to myself and to my family that I would always put my mental health at the forefront of my priorities, for a couple reasons. I never wanted to return to the darkness that is depression. I am so fortunate to have made it to the other side, but I don’t ever want to go back. I have a husband and daughter who need me in their lives and I want to be there for all of the things with them! 

You Don’t Owe Anyone Else an Explanation For Your Priorities. 

Another mom I follow on Instagram with the handle @HonestlyMommy shared a post this week that resonated with my soul and I had to share with you. You do not have to explain or defend your choices to anyone. You do what is best for your family, for your kids, for yourself. Honestly, everyone else will deal. Or they won’t. That is not on you. You are not responsible for anyone else’s sunshine. It is not on you to fix anyone else’s demons that they are fighting. Their story is not your story. 

One song that comes to mind and is played on the regular in my home is Kacey Musgraves “Biscuits”. If you’ve never heard it I encourage you to do so now. But the lyric that I run through my head on repeat is this:

Pouring salt in my sugar won’t make yours any sweeter
Pissing in my yard ain’t gonna make yours any greener
And I wouldn’t know about the rocks in your shoes
So I’ll just do me and, honey, you can just do you
So hoe your own row, yeah raise your own babies
Smoke your own smoke and grow your own daisies
Mend your own fences and own your own crazy
Mind your own biscuits and life will be gravy

You Won’t Be Everyone’s Cup of Tea.

The sooner you realize that even with the best intentions there will always be someone who just doesn’t like you, the better off you will be. Accept that you cannot change anyone else’s opinion of you but you can control how you see yourself. Remember that they are just that, opinions. They do not define you. Accept that you are not everyone’s cup of tea, and keep striving to be the sexy shot of whiskey you are! Or whatever type of drink you prefer. 

The point is, you do you. Know that you are not alone even though momming can sometimes be the loneliest thing you do. Friends come and go. But the impression that you leave on your children will last a lifetime. Choose who you want to invest your time in wisely. 

Personally, I have struggled with friendships. But there has been a pattern that only recently I have seen. When my personal or professional life moves closure to my goal a friendship falls apart. That doesn’t mean that that person failed me. That doesn’t mean they are wrong and I am right. It means that a season of my life has ended and a new one is beginning. Some friendships have ended when I changed jobs, others ended when I got married, and a few more fell apart after I miscarried and then had my daughter. Every single one of them has added to the person I am today and I will be forever grateful for the memories. 

Why Should I Choose Joy?

I am a relatively happy individual. I have a very bubbly personality and even though I am introverted by nature I can easily make friends and find common ground with a stranger pretty quickly. It gives my husband anxiety when we go out and the random person sitting next to me and I become besties because we are wearing the same shoes. Or the day the female sheriff and I had a twenty minute conversation about how women need to be more uplifting to each other while we were in line at Chic Fil A. When I walked away and rejoined my family I was asked, “Did you know her?” to my response, “No, but I liked the way she did her makeup so I compliment her on it. Now we are best friends.” Even though I can be outgoing and happy I am not always joyful. What’s the difference?

I am not an expert by any means on this topic, nor do I believe that my advice is perfect for everyone, but my goal here is to be transparent about how life’s struggles and situations can truly affect your inner peace and joy, how i have navigated through and why I believe that actively choosing joy can not only change my life, but the lives of those in my home and who I come in contact with.

Why is it important to choose joy?

You have been given one life, one go ’round on this earth so why not do your very best to make the most of it and truly live life to the fullest? This does not mean hardships, trials or even tragedy will not touch your life, but what it means is that in spite of all of those things you are doing your very best to rise above them because you know your life is more than the hardships, more than the bad day, or week, or month, or year. If you are a wife or mother or if becoming a wife or mother are things you want in the future you have a responsibility not only for yourself but for them to be the best you can possibly be. 

Who are you choosing to be joyful for?

Choose to have a joyful soul for yourself first. I know, I know putting yourself first in anything is so much easier said than done. Especially if you have kids. We’ve been taught from a young age to put others before yourself, take care of them like you want to be taken care of, give, give, give of yourself for others. Yes, I want you to continue to serve others, check on your neighbor, volunteer, give to the poor, and obviously take care of your family. But you truly cannot be a servant to others if you are beyond empty and your soul is weary. It is so hard to serve when your heart feels like it is being crushed by depression, anxiety, fear, worry and stress. Girl you have to get your head and heart right in order to be there for others when they need you most. 

When you get yourself right and joyful, (notice I didn’t say happy, because happiness and joyfulness are actually not the same thing.) You can start to pour out that joyfulness to your husband, to your children, to your neighbor and to your friends. When your heart is joyful you are creating an environment for your family to also be joyful! When you have a family unit that practices choosing joy together, oh, that is a beautiful thing! 

What does that look like for you?

Choosing joy is going to look different to everyone. Everyone is living different lives in different homes and in different environments so choosing joy will also be different. This is a glimpse of what it looks like for me. It may be similar for you, or this may seem hooky duke, and that’s okay. Choosing joy is me daily actually writing down at least five things I am grateful for, every single day. Today my five things were 1. Warmer weather in Ohio 2. Sunshine 3.My Daughter waking up in a happy mood 4.My husband and I getting some alone time together 5. I get the privilege of having a weekend even during quarantine. Write them down, share them with your husband and kids, be vocal about the things in your life that you are excited about and grateful that they are there. No matter how small. I write mine down in my Rachel Hollis Start Today Journal, but seriously you could use any notebook, or wipe off board. 

Another way I actively practice “choosing joy” is when life gets hard, I get anxious, or my patience is running thin. Take a step back. Either physically and or mentally walk away from life and take 5. Give yourself five minutes to refocus, adjust your mental state, and take some deep breaths. Remember, Happiness and Joy are not the same thing. You can have a joyful heart and now be somersaulting through your house with happiness. Take the time you need to focus on what is important, what your goals are for the day or the next five minutes even and adjust your mindset. 

Why comparing lives is ruining your joy.

If you read this post, this point is the most important to take to heart. STOP COMPARING. Stop comparing your job, your home, your kids, your spouse, your yard, your clothes, your skin, your hair, your body….to anyone else’s. You my dear are the only one living your life in your body. No one else will live the experiences you will live through. Your kid is not going to be like anyone else’s kid. Will you find similarities and relatable topics between your life and your friends? Yes. Can you celebrate their accomplishments without boasting your own? Can you look at the bigger house your cousin has or the better job  your brother has and celebrate them without belittling your own? Comparing will only bring jealousy, boastfulness, misery, discontent, or arrogance. None of which are healthy or productive attitudes to have. You are the only one living your story and living your life. Celebrate and be grateful for where you are right now, and be motivated to set goals for where you want to go, without comparing yourself to someone else’s goals or life. 

Does location help or hinder a joyful soul?

For me? Yes! I am someone who thrives when the sun is shining and I can spend time outside. I love hiking, biking, running, or just sitting on the patio with some lemonade and the sun beating down on me. It is easier for me to be positive and joyful when my environment reflects joyfulness. When the weather is cold and overcast and I am forced to stay inside I feel a little bit trapped and my heart can quickly grow anxious and find discontentment with where I am and where I am going. So to counteract that I have slowly been making my home one that brings me joy. We are currently house hunting and living in an apartment with our daughter, 80lb dog, and the two of us. We often feel like we are on top of each other’s space. When you feel physically cramped it can be easy to let that feeling of discontentment creep into your mind and heart. Since I love outdoors, I have brought plants into my home, I have added some of my photos to the walls, and made my environment one that genuinely brings me joy. Sometimes that just means making sure the laundry is off the floor and put away, or the kitchen is clean and organized. Simple changes like that to your environment can make it easy to be joyful and not so stressed out. 

What do you do when you just don’t want to?

I feel this question in my soul. What if you just need to cry it out? What if you have held it together but that last bill that just arrived in the mail is the final straw to tip you over the edge? You lived through the tragedy now you need reminders of the whole thing with a bill? What if you just cannot handle one more parent teacher conference where you feel shamed that you worked 60 hours this week instead of giving every moment you had to him. What do you do when you just cannot handle one more person announcing their pregnancy when it is month 13 for you to get a negative test? What do you do when for the love of God how this is happening to you and you have been handed more than you can take and you just don’t understand how you can choose joy let alone find a glimpse of it in your life right now? 

Girl…First of all…You are not alone here. This life is so damn hard sometimes. Like, cancer, miscarriage, infertility, abuse, loss, abandoned, lonely, depressing, overwhelimgly hard. How do you choose joy in the face of trauma? How do you carry on for your family when you are fighting demons in your head? How do you choose joy when you just can’t?

You give yourself grace. You pour, dump, throw your life into God’s hands and pray that you can learn to trust that His story for you has meaning and is going to be okay. You give yourself the space you need from toxic relationships, from verbally abusive friends or family, from judgemental people who seem to have it all together even though you know deep down they are just as messed up as you.

Give yourself time. Time to heal, to fight, to grow, to learn and to accept that you may never know why the hell you are walking through is happening to you, but you know it will eventually end you are stronger than this circumstance. You, are not alone.  

Forgive yourself of the past. You cannot change what you did when you were 16, 21, or 33. You can change who you are and what you do today. You can learn from your past and if you need to promise yourself never to go back to that. Aggressively go after your goals. Encourage those who are where you once were and forgive often. 

In conclusion…

The phrase “Choosing Joy” sounds like an adventure that will be filled with rainbows and waterfalls and content toddlers when in reality choosing joy can be more like a warzone accompanied with ugly crying, hiding in your bathroom eating ice cream in the tub and so many tears. Honestly, that is all part of the journey friend. Those days will happen. Hopefully they come in a rarity but they will happen. And that’s okay. Give yourself grace. Take time when you need it. Ask for help, and fight for the things that mean the most to you. Hunt for the things you are grateful for every day and actively embrace the moments where you find joy. 

-Sarah

Her Name Means “Life”

(Trigger Warning)
Today I am mourning, and celebrating my child’s next milestone like a crazy person who should probably be sedated. These are moments that I wasn’t sure I would ever get the chance to have, and now I am here and praying they slow down. Or at the very least that I never take them for granted. My baby is growing, and learning, and changing, and truly finding her voice. And growls, and squeals, and animal noises that we have not figured out what animal they belong to quite yet.

This is a weird time of year for me. It has been weird for the last three years. Three years ago, almost to the day I found out that I was pregnant with our first child. We were terrified. We were ecstatic. We were pregnant. We were going to have the first grandchild on both sides of our families and we could not wait to tell everyone.

We decided since mother’s day was just around the corner we were going to surprise both of our mothers with “Grandma” themed gifts. No one has ever called them that before and we got to give them that gift. I had three gifts picked out, and waiting in my cart to purchase. I had seen my family twice before our appointment and almost burst trying to keep it a secret. But it was just a few weeks away so it would be worth it. Side note, hiding daily vomiting from family and friends is a lot harder than it sounds. My boss knew about the pregnancy before almost anyone else. Then life took us down the hardest road we have ever been on together.

We went to our first ultrasound appointment. The technician was so calm, so sweet, so excited for us. Then she started asking us so many questions. Then she left the room. We have never done this before. We didn’t think anything of how she handled herself as warning signs as to what was coming next. Our doctor came in and sat down on the other side of the very yellow room with photos of perfect families, and babies all over the walls. She folded her hands on her lap and said the sentence that forever changed my life. “There is no heartbeat”.

My heart stopped. My head started spinning. The room was all of a sudden a suffocating box. She was wrong. She had to be wrong. This was not happening. Michael slid is arm around my back and rested his hand on my hands that were now white knuckled on my lap. He saw me crumbling before I even realized I was in pieces.

We were given hope that I was just earlier than we expected and I had to wait one week to come back and do blood work and another ultrasound. But after waiting the longest 7 days of my life we returned. Our doctor did the ultrasound this time. She was somber. She was quiet. She was warning of the outcome. Then she told us what deep down we already knew to be true. We were losing the baby.

We did eventually tell our families what was going on. We chose to be open about what was happening to us and what we were going through. We had an outpouring of love, shared tears, and support. We also had crass comments that were meant in the best intentions but fell oh so short. Unfortunately we waited weeks for the baby to leave on their own but they were definitely filled with my stubborn genes and refused to leave. So we had a D&C scheduled, because you know, losing a baby wasn’t bad enough now we got to be temporarily hospitalized with a surgical team that just looked at you with sad eyes and came and prayed over you and everyone just kept apologizing for your loss. Over the next three weeks five people in my life shared their news and announced that they were pregnant. Two of which were family members. One on my side of the family. One on his side of the family.

So much was taken away from us three years ago. And as our daughter grows we are learning more and more of what we truly lost in 2017. If we had not lost our first baby we wouldn’t have our Zoe. The little spitfire that is the zest of our lives. We choose joy. Always. But regardless, this time of the year is hard for me. It always will be. My emotions are all over the place, and I still miss the tiny nugget we only had for a couple months.

All of that back story to say this. . . when our daughter reaches new milestones we celebrate. We cheer. We rejoice that she is happy, healthy and full of joy. We also mourn the life we lost and the milestones we never got the chance to celebrate. When I look at Zoe I truly see the rainbow that from the moment there were two pink lines with her life, she started healing my heart in a way I never thought would be possible. I never thought I would find joy again. Not like this. Zoe’s name means “life”. She truly brought life back into our world. Life that is loud, and messy, and full of new achievements and milestones.

Through it all. I wouldn’t trade this life for anything.

Toddler In A Box…

In an earlier life of mine I used to teach Early Childhood Education. I ran a classroom of children who were 18 months old to 24 months old for a few years, and then spent the rest of my years in education in a classroom with 14 toddlers ranging in age from 2 years to 3 years old. I LOVED IT. I loved the none stop movement that happened all day both physically and mentally. I loved learning how kids learned and how their brains were developing and why they were in the stage of behavior they were in. During those years of helping other parents learn how their child’s brain worked, and why they were acting out, or why they are constantly licking the wall really prepared me for motherhood. But in some situations there are still no explanation why your child does what they do, and sometimes they just like to lick the wall. Yes that was an actual situation that the parents and I spent over a month trying to get their child to stop licking walls. It was only ever walls though.

My Husband and I got a sound bar and I turned the box into a school bus for my class.

How has this helped me in parenting my own child? Does my background mean I know all the answers and never struggle? Does this mean my kid does all of the arts and crafts and has every sensory toy in the world and I am the most patient when it comes to handling a tantrum? Haha. Oh man. I made myself laugh there for a moment. Truth be told, yes. My background does help me understand my child better than if I never taught her current age group. Do I still struggle? YES. Do we do art time? Sometimes, but not every day or even every week. Does she have the proper learning toys like I had in my classroom? Some of them, but oh gosh not anywhere close to what my kids in my classroom had. Am I a mom boss when it comes to dealing with behavioral issues like tantrums? *sighs* no. Because I am human. But I do have some tips and advice to help get you through the tantrums, and the days where you just want to pull every last hair from your head, and scream on the top of your lungs on the back porch. (I do recommend that at least one time in your life. It is so soothing, and the neighbors will get a good laugh. Plus,who cares what they think anyway!)

Your child will never fit into a box.

Okay well not literally speaking because of course your child can fit into an actual box. Speaking of actual boxes, save that thought we will come back to that. Your kiddo is not going to be like Amy’s kids. They are not going to be like your sisters kid, your neighbors kid, or even like your other kids. Each and every child is truly unique and has their own ways of learning, growing, understanding the world around them and how they need to be loved. Just like you are not 100% like anyone else. That didn’t start when you were in high school, that starts right now. When they are tiny little humans discovering the huge world that they are pretty new to. This is hard advice to follow and I often find myself trapped by this one. Stop comparing your child to someone else’s. Just stop. Comparing will only bring on questions and worry or boasting and none of that is good. But Timmy in his class can say full and clear sentences already! Cool for Timmy! Is Timmy your kid? No? Than all you need to do is move on. If you are bff’s with his mom and she gets excited about his new milestone, be excited with her, and move on. It does not need to go any further than that.

Well, she fits into some boxes!

My mini me has always and will always do things on her own terms and in her own timing. Heck she came into the world that way. Two weeks early to the day and oh my gosh in her own way. It’s a long story that I will share at another time, but my point is that she is her own person. For the longest time she was in the 80th percentile on all of the charts at each doctors visit. Then one day she was in the 20th. She took longer to roll over, to crawl, to walk, to “untuck” her thumbs and to speak. Around the time she was six months old I started signing to her. Sign language is an amazing way to teach your kids how to communicate what they want and need at an early age. Their little brains can do sign language long before speech is in the picture for communicating. And isn’t that half the battle when they are so young? That you are just trying to figure out what they want or need?

Communicating with a Tiny Dictator.

“JUST TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT!” Have you ever said that to one of your kids? No? Yeah, cool, cool, cool, me neither. I am totally cool, calm and collected all of the time and never get frustrated that I don’t understand what “dat dat dat” and pointing means. So in all seriousness yeah, I get a little crazy sometimes trying to decipher what she wants from me. She is trying so hard to talk to me, but does not have the sign, or the words to communicate it properly for me to understand. If my frustration grows so does hers. So how do we solve this before it becomes a problem?

Teaching Zoe signs became so much more important to us after she was diagnosed with asthma. We immediately started working with her for signs for her inhaler and when she needed help breathing. Believe me though, the first time she came up to me and signed “Help – Inhaler” my heart just broke. It was the saddest thing I had ever seen, but I was able to help her better, faster, because she could communicate with me that something was wrong.

If your little one is under a year old I strongly, strongly, STRONGLY recommend you start simple sign language in your home. Like I said, I started signing “More”, “Help”, “Please”, Thank You”, “Milk”, “Eat”, and a handful of others when our daughter was six months old. I had a couple people in my life that witnessed me signing words to my baby looking at me like I had lost my gourd and probably should be admitted for a psych evaluation, but a few months later, when my little human started asking me for things with her hands and I understood her needs there was more amazement than judgment. “She can sign what she wants?” Uhm, Yes. Because I have been working for months teaching her these things. It does take time, but the payout it so worth it.

Update Toys Regularly.

No, I do not mean go buy new toys all of the time. I mean rotate the toys you already have. If you are anything like me your little human now has more possessions than you do, and they are like what? 3 years old?

This is something I did every week while I was teaching. Granted I had an entire walk in closet with toys, puzzles, are supplies, motor skill activities, etc. But you can rotate out toys even if you don’t have a lot of toys to rotate. There are some key groups of toys and activities you should try to keep at their reach, if they want to play with it that is up to them. These are the groups I have Zoe’s toys sorted into. 1- Books. 2 – Cars / Transportation toys. 3 – Stuffed Animals / baby Dolls. 4 – Puzzles / activity boards. 5 – Art Supplies (Paint is not in this group that is at her reach on the regular. We use crayons, stickers and markers. Painting is for special art with mommy or daddy supervision.) 6 – Counting / Color activities.

I switch out her books seasonally. Her larger motor skill toys like her fisher price ride on scooter, ball pit, or tunnel I switch out every couple weeks. Her other activities I try to switch out every month.

Every time I switch out toys I wait until she is down for a nap, so when she comes downstairs it is like a new world to discover. If she new I took toys away and hid them in the closet she may not be super happy with me, and if that is a battle you can avoid, do that! 🙂 Make life easier on yourself mama!

Let Them Get Messy.

I know. You just bathed them, cleaned the house, finally finished laundry, got their toys cleaned up for the 100th time today…Now I am asking you to let them get messy? I promise you I am not crazy.

There is a time for playing messy, and this may not be every day, or every week for you. We do a messy day once a week. Let me explain what I mean by “messy”. We do messy art, messy crafts, messy activities like playing in mud, or painting, or playing with shaving cream and food coloring, or “helping mommy bake”.

This has nothing to do with her toys in the living room. This is when we choose the activity, prepare her by either stripping down to a diaper ( If it is warm enough ) and let her learn. Some kids don’t get messy at all and hate this. I had a few students that I really had to encourage to touch something slimy, or use their fingers to paint. Don’t ever force a child to get messy if they aren’t feeling it, but encourage them by showing them it won’t hurt them.

Easy Entertainment.

You do not need rooms filled with brand new toys to entertain little minds. Have you had an amazon delivery in the past week? Of course you have. Save that box. One afternoon set it on the floor of the play room with a handful of markers, crayons and stickers and walk away. That box will be a rocket ship, or a cave, or a jungle gym.

Grab items from your kitchen and let them play with them for the day. Every now and then the most prized possessions of my child is a spatula and a giant mixing bowl from Ikea. Throw in some measuring cups and you have hours of entertainment that you can just wash later.

Mommy Time Outs.

This is the bit of advice I will leave you with today. Give yourself a break. When you feel your blood pressure rising, or your patience really really slipping. Walk away. Make a better choice. For yourself, and for your kids.

While teaching I could not obviously leave my classroom to give myself a break because well, then the children would build some robot that destroys the building while left unattended. If I couldn’t have a sub come in for a minute I would go sit in the corner by the door where time out was for my classroom. I could still see every inch of my room and what was going on, but I would put myself in timeout. I will never forget a student once asked me what I was doing there, and I told him “Miss Sarah needs a time out”. With the most confused look on his face he continued with “Did you bite someone?”. No, as it turns out I didn’t bite anyone, but I needed a mental break.

Know that what you are doing, raising little humans that will one day be contributing adults to their communities, you are doing good work. You are doing HARD work. Give yourself grace. Know that you are not alone, and when you need a break, and if you are able to “tap out”, take the time you need to catch your breath before going back into the chaos!

The Chaos Is So Entirely Worth It!