Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Three's Company

I just read this article from crazy/silly Mama Katie at Bower Power. She's a stay-at-home Mom and her post was about how she and her husband had just went out for their first date night since becoming parents. She admits that she has only left her son Will a handful of times for a couple of hours a pop and he's now 15 months old. Wow, is all I can say! I have left Elyse a whole lot more than that. I'm not going to deny it made me swallow hard just thinking about it. It is hard not to compare.

People offer all the time to watch Elyse - suggesting we go to dinner, see a movie, etc. I love and appreciate that - I do. But, for the most part, if we can all be together or at least have her with one of us, we try to make that happen. We do get some time alone - we just had pedicures together last week and left her with a friend. We have plans next month for an evening in Seattle. But, for the most part, we incorporate her into our plans. If it is dinner - we don't mind taking her. If it is a party, we'd prefer to take her, but sometimes that doesn't work so often just one of us will attend. Bill has had some guy outings and I have spent time away with the girls, but usually one of us stays home. There are times that we can't take her and we are fine with that, but if there is a way to make it work, we like to have our girl with one or both of us. It works for us - for now.

Everyone is different, but for me - they are only little once. We have plenty of time ahead of us where Elyse will want to spend the night at a friend or family member's house. Over the years as she grows, she will have more and more friends and activities and our time together will become less and less until the day when we turn her over to be on her own. We know it is our job to raise her to be independent so we can let her go. Yet, I can't see that we will ever regret our choices to be with her when we can - particularly now when she is a baby.

Bill and I have both made deliberate choices to work outside the home. That decision means our child is without us for many hours during the week. When we are off work, we would rather be with her than without. People tell us all the time, "You need to have time for your relationship." "You  need time one-on-one." I don't necessarily disagree with that. I also know we had children at a later stage of our lives. We have a pretty mature and healthy relationship. We also have a lot of alone time together. Even when we are with Elyse, she is so young we can have conversations in front of her we couldn't have when she gets older. For us, this works. And honestly, I can tell you this little person that has come into our family has made our relationship even stronger.

I attend a Mom's group on my day off with Elyse. The other Moms had all already left their babies overnight and our kids are all the same age. They seemed surprised and maybe even a little embarrassed when they'd heard I hadn't. I reassured them - it is different. I work and am away from my daughter 40+ hours a week. I have time away - to be myself, to be something other than a Mom. You don't have that. It does make sense to me.

And just know, we'd love to go dinner with you. Mind if we bring our daughter?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Traveling with Kids

I am already thinking of our next trip.  The little one is due at the end of September, by spring we should be ready for our first airplane ride.  Where to?  What will work with a 5 year old and a six month old?  I can't wait!!  I am constantly planning the next trip . . .

We’ve had the opportunity to travel often with Addy.  Her first trip she went on was when she was  4 weeks old.  She’s been on 10 different out of state trips that included airplane rides,  4 of which were across the country and one to Hawaii.  We love to travel and one of our commitments to each other and our family has been to ensure that travel is a part of our lives as a family.
Traveling with kids is not always easy.  For me the keys are plan your packing ahead of time, be flexible, research ahead of time, and travel with people that are comfortable with kids.
Below are some tips I’ve learned in our travels:
Kids schedules – there are two philosophies on this, stick with the schedule or to heck with the schedule.  I am a stick with the schedule kind of girl.  We work to try to coordinate airplane rides, arrivals, car rides, and activities around addy’s schedule.  She is so much more flexible at 4, but in the earlier years we found being thoughtful of her schedule made travels so much easier.  We’d try for plane trips in the morning or middle of day to take advantage of her best time (morning) or rest time(afternoon).  In our early days going to Disney World – we’ve been three times with Addy, we would hit the park early, come home and rest and then go back in the late afternoon evening.  Although this required some planning and strategizing, Addy was a happy girl most of the time.  If you decide to be adventurous and to heck with the schedule just remember that you’ll have to be flexible with your child’s needs.  Also, if traveling with other families talk to them ahead of time about their philosophy on this topic.  It is nice to know what the plan is for everyone before you are standing in an amusement park, blocking traffic, hot and sweaty as 10 of you try to come up with a last minute plan.  Been there, done that . . .  definitely adds to the stress level for all.
Air travel – what I have learned on this topic through trial and error is that you can’t come up with enough diversions on a plane for a little one.  We have a DVD player, but that only lasts so long.  I search all the time at stores (in the clearance and dollar bins) for travel size activities to put back for plane rides.  Nothing with a million tiny pieces, but having a variety really pays off.  If you can rotate through a variety of activities/toys you can avoid the restless fights, crying and screaming I’ve seen so many times from other kids.  Paper or magnet dolls, silly putty, coloring, stickers, books, small collection of larger action figures (nothing like polly pockets that will fall all over, think toddler size), and writing boards are great.  We also practiced being on an airplane with Addy as soon as she was old enough to understand so she felt like a pro and was proud to show us her airplane behavior.  Snacks are also a big help.  I try to pack a lot of dry items and then put in an apple sauce or something like that too.  I’ve never been hassled for any food items as long as I dump the water out before security.  I also pack two essential food items.  One – M&M’s, I learned this watching another mom on a plane, if all else fails and you see a temper tantrum coming use them.  I don’t normally say don’t deal with behavioral issues, but I can tell you that you can get pretty freaked being on a plane when your child is about to launch into a fit.  Two – gummy worms.  Addy is no exception to the sensitive ear pressure problems little ones have on planes.   When she was really little we tried to time bottles around take off and landing to encourage swallowing.  As she got older we found a great idea on line – give them a few gummy worms on take off and landing to get them chewing.  It has worked really well for us.

Packing – there is so much here to talk about it could be another post.  But, I will share a couple of things I have learned.  Once you have everything together, think about how and when you are going to use it.  I’ve learned that if you are flying across the country and you will be arriving at bedtime don’t pack the bed stuff at the bottom of the suitcase, put it on top so you can access it immediately with little trouble.  If you have multiple stops on your trip can you pack accordingly so you don’t have to dump everything out at each stop?  Can you put your first couple of days for each family member in one bag and then not drag around two suitcases or empty both immediately?  My sister-in-law has 4 kids now.  We went to Disneyworld with their family and she packed each kid’s complete outfit in a Ziploc bag.  It was great because she could just pull a bag and go.  I’ve learned the hard way to always anticipate weather changes.  I now always pack one or two items for weather that isn’t anticipated.  You show up in Florida and enjoy multiple days of below 30 degrees and you learn.  All the shorts and tanks in the world don’t help you then.   Beyond clothes consider other things you might need like dishes, sippy cups, toys and DVD’s.  I always think we won’t be in the room, why would I waste space on that stuff and each time I am glad I do because we’ll need to take a slow morning or early evening and a hotel can be boring without any entertainment.
Goals – it is important to communicate well and ensure your whole family discusses goals for the trip.   Are you looking for relaxation, adventure, go until you drop,  visit family?  What are your priorities?  This is so important because when you have limited time and a family to get organized you can so easily lose the priorities in the shuffle.  At the beginning of each trip each of us picks two or three things that are most important to us.  Then when all else fails you can focus on those top items.  It helps ensure everyone is heard and gets to do their thing, but doesn’t leave you with a list that is so long you have no hope of meeting your goals.
Some of our best memories have been created while traveling.  Good, bad and fulfilling – traveling together can be such a special experience.  For me pre-planning and really ensuring we are ready with a  plan is central to having the opportunities to create positive memories. 
Do you have travel tips you’ve learned through trial and error?  What’s worked and what hasn’t for your family?  Where are some family friendly destinations you enjoy (that will be an upcoming post for sure).

P.S. I consider myself pretty well versed on the Disney front at this point, so if you ever want to discuss options or plans let me know.  We have quite a few lessons learned and secrets to help!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

What is the Perfect Family? PART TWO.

You know the drill.

1.      If you are a young, single woman the question is – Do you have a boyfriend?
2.      Now, you’ve met someone and you’ve been together at least four months – When are you getting married?
3.      You happily are engaged – When is the wedding?
4.      You are home from the honeymoon – When are you having babies?
5.      You have your first baby – When are you starting on Baby #2?

Have you asked these questions? I know I have!

I received an incredibly sweet compliment last week – You should have started having children years ago. You should see the way you glow when your daughter is around. No doubt, I love being a parent. But, life doesn’t always turn out the way you planned it. God’s plan is so much sweeter. The truth is – my life evolved in a way that children were not even a possibility until my mid-thirties. I always thought I’d have two kids. Not one, not three – two was my magic number. Yet, here I am - married to my best friend and living life with a little girl sweeter than we’d ever dreamed. It really does feel like my ideal life. Do I really need more than that?

We haven’t ruled out having a second child, but we definitely aren’t planning on it. Adoption is something we are open to, but in the meantime, we have one child and feel blessed for that.

Does the fact that I am a working mother impact our decision? Certainly! I feel like I did everything right the first time. I worked for years and had enough leave time that my entire four months off was paid and I still had a good amount of leave time left over. I don’t love leaving my child to go to work, yet I really wouldn’t want to give up on my career right now, even if I could. I’ve worked out a good balance with my roles between work, wife and motherhood without feeling like I am sacrificing too much time away from my family. Elyse gets to be at her house with her parents four days a week and is with family and friends the other three. I’d like to continue that until she starts school, but I don’t know that all the pieces would work if we had to extend that out another few years if we had a second child.

Then, there are the financial implications. We will likely get Elyse involved in some part-time daycare or preschool when she gets older to help with her socialization and education. These programs aren’t cheap and the thought of doubling the costs sounds a bit overwhelming. We want Elyse to go to college. We also want to ensure we take financial responsibility for ourselves so our daughter doesn’t have the burden of worrying about taking care of us in our retirement. I know many would say “it all works out”, but Bill and I are much too practical for that. We can’t imagine not considering money as an option in our decision.

There is of courses our ages. I’m 36 and Bill is 42. I’m not in a big hurry to do the whole pregnancy thing all over again right away, yet I know we couldn’t wait forever. The risks only multiply the older I get and I don’t even want to think about the possibility of miscarriage, birth defects and all the other health risks. I feel as if I was so fortunate with Elyse – right or wrong – I feel like I don’t want to press my luck.

Of course, we worry about the stereotypes associated with only children. They are said to be destined to be “spoiled, selfish and lonely”. Really? I think of our friends Scott and Karen and their beautiful, respectful, independent and smart daughter, Courtney. I tell them all the time we’d be thrilled if our daughter could grow to be as wonderful as Courtney. Jessica (who writes for this blog) is another amazing exception and I know there are many, many others.

Elyse has cousins and tons of neighborhood buddies. We will always encourage her to make close friendships and likely those friends will be spending a lot of time at our home, coming on trips with us and be connected to our family. This girl will not be alone. I pray for Elyse to be independent, strong, courageous, respectful, loving and bright – whether she has a sibling or not. For right now – she is more than enough.

Please share with us how you made your decisions about what makes your “perfect” family.

Interested in reading more about only children? Read this great article from Time Magazine published last year.

- Courtney

Friday, May 13, 2011

What is the perfect family?

As I mentioned in my last post we really struggled to decide if we wanted to have another child.  To be perfectly honest we struggled with the decision to have children in the first place.  As a career minded person it was hard to know if making room in my life in such a big and fundamental way for family was the right thing for me.  We got pregnant immediately and to be fair we were both kind of freaked out by it.  Like this time, the nausea was bad 24/7 well beyond the first trimester.  But as my pregnancy progressed I grew into the idea and then with Addy’s birth it all became crystal clear – of course this was right.
For the first couple of years we didn’t even discuss another child.  We found a good balance between our jobs and our family and it was working.  As we passed milestones, we got excited for more freedom to travel and do the things we enjoy doing.
It wasn’t until about a year ago we started talking about having another child.  Scott has always been more open to the idea.  He comes from a big family of four boys.  I am an only child.  I can’t really imagine family life beyond 3.  As I type this I start to worry about it.  I don’t tell many this because it sounds odd.  It wasn’t until last summer when my Dad was in the hospital that I realized I was scared to be alone as an only child.  Growing up I don’t ever remember wishing for a sibling or daydreaming about being part of a big family.  I never really felt many downsides to life as an only.  Coming out of my Dad’s health scare led me to really assess what I wanted for my own daughter and opened my heart and mind up to consider a bigger family for us.
And here comes confession number 2:  when I read Courtney’s post about the mom’s mafia I nodded along and said, “they suck”.  But slowly over time I began to realize I sometimes have those thoughts as I pop from blog to blog or talk to my friends.  Her house is amazing, why isn’t mine like that?  Do I do enough with my child?  Shouldn’t I be able to do that?  And although I like to think I am adult enough not to blame others for these thoughts or not be happy for them, it leaves me with a lot of guilt about my ability to mother, be a good employee, be a good wife, keep house,and keep up with family and friends.  This plays into my questions about adding to our family.  If I feel like I can’t keep up, how can I possibly add another child?  Shouldn’t I concentrate on being better at the things I feel guilty about?
After a lot of assessment, and being honest with myself (and I guess you guys too) when it is all stripped away, it is what I make of it. Do I let the guilt lead my decision making?  Do I let my fears of the unknown dictate my decision?  And finally we decided to go for it – perhaps we would be able to get pregnant again and perhaps not.  Maybe that is the ultimate decision.  So, we tried and were blessed to once again get pregnant the first month we tried.
I still harbor fears . . . can I do this?  How will Addy be impacted?  What if it doesn’t work?  As each day of my pregnancy progresses I am thankful its been healthy so far.  I also wonder what the future will bring for me and my family.
How did you and your family decide?  Was work a big factor for you?  Is this decision harder for working mom’s?
xoxo, Jessica

Monday, May 9, 2011

Its About Time

Greetings friends!!  I have been absent for way too long.  I apologize for this extended hiatus, but I can explain.
After a five year journey of trying to decide if we wanted to try to have another baby we finally decided.  Just like the first time around, we didn’t have to try long – first month was the charm again.  Since February I have been battling with ridiculous nausea 24/7.  Its been a long and slow few months for me.  It was all I could do to keep up with the basics.  And even the basics were a challenge at times.  I sat on the couch a lot.  Hours and hours of sitting in misery!
I am very excited to report that the worst of the nausea is behind me now.  I still have moments that rear up, but not the 24/7 constant gagging and nausea.  I am so relieved to be over that stage for the most part.  I had to cancel many engagements, a trip to visit family in Arizona and miss the best pre-royal wedding tea party in the world.  I feel like I have some of my life back.
I am 19 weeks along and next week we find out if we are having a boy or girl.  I don’t have any preference, but I feel like we are having a boy.  Our 4 year old is convinced it is a girl.  We shall see in a week.
I’ve been thinking about some topics for the blog and I am excited to report that I anticipate being much more active in the upcoming months.  Here are some topics I am thinking about . . .
The big decision: to have more children or not?
Traveling with kids
How do you handle being a mom in the workplace?
Lessons learned: surviving reorganizations at work
In addition I really am hoping folks will add their thoughts on these topics.  So, if you get a chance drop us a note and tell us topics you’d like to see this summer.  And how about telling us how you decided on the size of your family – was is planned, unplanned, what where important factors to you?
Hope spring has been inspiring to you (ignoring the weather of course) and that you are ready for a wonderful summer.

xoxo, Jessica

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Pinching Pennies

Here is a reader submission from JONNITA. Jonnita is one talented Mama. She is crafty and resourceful. She shares some of her favorite tips she uses to save her family money:

  • Check books out from the library instead of buying books. My kids are young so I save book purchases for them for really special books. Also, I use the library catalog and hold system online so when we go to the library, we can spend our time in the kids section and when we’re ready to go, I grab my books from the hold area.
  • Rit Dye To freshen up work clothing. Often, my dress slacks don’t “wear” out but the color begins to fade. To keep them fresh and looking new, I’ll spend a couple bucks on Rit Dye and drop them in the dye bath. Basically $3.00 and 45 minutes of my time, I’ve saved a pair of $50 pants.
  • Coupons and rebate offers. This one I’m working on right now. I’m looking for coupon offers and rebates for the stuff I buy. I struggle with buying more than what I need or stuff I wouldn’t normally use. I’m working to plan menus around what is on sale, not necessarily what I crave that day.
  • Bartering. I sew and make bags and other stuff so I want to trade others for their services and goods. So far, I’ve traded sewing projects for artwork and a pair of knitted socks, and pickling cucumbers!
  • Recycling. I’ve used the HazoHouse at our local landfill to get free paint for different projects. You can leave paint and take paint but they ask you to sign a waiver. As a matter of fact, I painted my bedroom accent wall with paint from there! I also visit a local business, Sound Builders Re-Source, that sells used/recycled building supplies. All proceeds go to the Habitat for Humanity. The stock always changes but it is interesting to take a wander through every so often. They have stuff like tile, wood flooring, industrial carpet, doors, windows, hinges, doorknobs and other hardware. I got new globes for the light fixtures in our house for $4.00 each. (I'm sure you have something like this in YOUR neighborhood!).
  • Thrifting. I shop at Value Village and Goodwill looking for clothes and fabric mainly. I got a replacement coffee carafe when I broke mine and salad plates for when we had friends over. We always wander through the whole store, though – just in case!
  • Dining out. We eat out less. I search the Internet for recipes for our favorite restaurant food (Olive Garden’s Toscana soup) and make it at home.
  • Bulk cooking and baking: I make big batches of meals and freeze portions of it for quick meals later. I’ll make up two lasagnas (cook one and freeze one) then write the contents and baking instructions on the one to freeze. Beef stew and soups also freeze really well. This helps with the temptation to eat out for the reason of convenience!
  • Canning and baking: We harvested apples from trees on our property in the fall and made them into apple butter, applesauce and apple pie filling. I canned and froze corn and peaches too. Canning pickles are also a must for our family!
  • Coupons and discount stores: Grocery Outlet offers good bargains on food – you do have to check the expiration dates but this is one of the first places I go, then the next stop is Big Lots. I shop at the Dollar Store for some stuff – some spices, zipper bags, drinking straws, latex gloves.
  • Meal Sharing. I’ve talked to friends about an “entrée swap” but haven’t followed through with organizing one yet. It would work like this: Say you have four friends who participate and each makes five of a selected entrée (set the serving size as no more than four). Then swap them. This way your family gets to try different recipes AND it is convenient, you just have to bake or reheat the entrees. You’d have to agree on the entrees up front to ensure variety – so you don’t get four spaghetti casseroles!
  • Web sellers. If you are looking for something specific to buy or just want to check out what folks are trying to offload – don’t forget Craigs List. We also have a local site called Check it out!
  • Money-Saving Literature. I’ve gotten a bunch of ideas from this booklet I got from the library several years back. It is called the Thurston County Home Waste NOT Guide. Next time I’m at the library,  I need to see if there is a newer edition – mine is dated 2004-2005!
  • Chickens! Yes, we have chickens. We save all of our food scraps for our chickens, plus they provide us with delicious eggs!
  • Laundry Detergent. I make own laundry detergent. It is easier than you think, works great and much cheaper. Here is the recipe!
My Three Money-Saving Goals for This Year Are:
1.      Reduce single use/portion waste.
2.      Reduce paper towels, paper plates, and other disposable items.
3.      Barter more!
What are your tips on how you save time and money?

Great ideas, Jonnita! Do you have a story, suggestion or information to share? E-mail us!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Down With the Mommy Mafia!

This is going to be a tricky post to write. Yet, it is important and I want to get it out somehow. See, there’s this big elephant in the room nobody warned me about before having a baby. Here it is – here’s what no one told me or if they did – I never understood it.
There is a ridiculous amount of judgment, insecurity and guilt that comes with being a Mom. The part I didn’t get was I didn’t realize how much other parents (usually Moms) would compare themselves and that their insecurity could equate to strong feelings and even hurtful judgment.
I have only been a parent for six months. During that time, I have heard the following:
·         I’m so jealous of you.
·         You call that fussing? My baby cries way more than yours does.
·         I don’t want to read your blog and hear about how everything is going so well for you.
·         You have the perfect life.
·         Wow, your nursery is so perfect – I feel bad I didn’t do anything like that for my son/daughter.
·         Really, your baby is sleeping through the night? What am I doing wrong?
·         You have her dressed so nicely – my baby is always in a sleeper.
·         Cloth diapering? Wow, I never even thought of that. Makes me feel like a bad Mom.
·         Now, you’re making your own baby food. C’MON!
First, do people think sharing those things with me makes me feel good? Guess what? It doesn’t! The funny thing is I think half of these people actually think they are paying me a compliment! Now, I do have many supportive people in my life who comment on the same topics, but say it in a different way, “I’m so happy for you, Courtney. She’s a really good baby” or “Great job on the nursery, Courtney. I can tell how much love you put into it.” I didn’t make any of these parenting choices looking for compliments, but I am a little tired of the judgments and comparisons. And unfortunately, it comes from many different directions.
More than anything, it makes me SO SAD. Why, oh why, do we have to compare ourselves? First, I am so not perfect. Oh my, far from it. I am not Supermom. I will say, I have always been responsible - always. I’ve always been one to research things. I love trying new ideas. And loving my baby does come incredibly easy to me. However, I am NOT perfect and I have a ton of insecurities myself. I feel like I am incredibly open about my flaws, fears, and imperfections with those close to me.
Most often, these comments are coming from people who are amazing parents. They have sweet children and they are doing a great job. I am so proud of them and my heart breaks that they are being so hard on themselves. I really don’t get it. Every family is different. Every child is unique. Why can’t parents encourage one another? Let’s celebrate our victories and love one another – and be happy for each another. There has to be this balance between sharing our thoughts and sharing things in a hurtful way.
Really, I never saw this coming. And, I hate it. I'll close with excerpts from this article, written by Jen Klein on
Being a mom is incredibly hard work, and there’s no way to be absolutely sure you are doing it right. Kids don’t come with instruction manuals and checklists. There is no annual performance review with incentive awards for successes and improvement plans for less-than-successes...

Insecurity about our own efforts combined with the appearance (good or less-than-good) of others’ efforts makes conditions ripe for judgment and lashing out. Even among close friends, it’s easy to slide into this not-at-all productive dynamic — whether we want to admit it or not. Best friends or worst enemies — or both — the social dynamic among moms is a complicated, two-faced beast. It’s the “mommy mafia.”
Ah, yes, the mommy mafia. Enforcers of local social structures and norms and judgers of all who dare to do things differently. The mommy mafia can be brutal.

Here’s the thing: We’re all figuring it out as we go along. Every last one of us. There is no single right way to parent and we all parent differently by necessity — and none of us are perfect. We all have a different set of circumstances, different strengths and weaknesses, and a different set of lenses through which we make decisions for ourselves and on behalf of our families. From the ones you have judged to the ones who have judged you, we’re all doing the best we can, imperfections and all.

And if we all did parent exactly the same way? Sure, the noise around parenting issues would be much quieter, but it would also be a much more boring world. But those differences don’t have to slide into mommy mafia turf, either. Learning to accept that we’re all different and imperfect as parents is hard, however, especially when we want so much to do a great job.

It starts with accepting ourselves and the choices we have made. We each make a set of choices based on our life, knowledge, resources, and the information before us. No two sets of circumstances are exactly the same either, even within the same family — and when you are making decisions for your family, the response of the local mommy mafia should be the last thing on your mind...”

- Courtney