Tag: Relationships

Keeping Your Toddler in Bed – The SECRET!!!

Keeping your toddler in bed is no easy feat. I am no expert. In fact, as I sit here and type this out, I am literally sitting in my daughter’s room waiting for sleep to overcome her while she repeatedly asks me, “wha-doin’?” I have been doing bedtime battles since we moved the baby monitor out of her room. Unfortunately, baby brother needed more monitoring for safety reasons and now Siena thinks she rules the roost.

 

But, WE FIGURED IT OUT! I mean, I hesitate to even say such a thing, for fear of jinxing ourselves, but I really think we know how keeping your toddler in bed can be the easiest thing ever.

*You should know… this worked for about a month.

Our First Mistake

Our bedtime battles began when we thought, “we must be genius parents. We’re going to transition our daughter into a twin bed at the age of 18 months. That way we don’t have to pay for a toddler bed and our son can have the crib.”

Well, we ended up buying another crib anyways, because Siena’s was a piece of junk. Needless to say, she was a big girl now in a big bed.

And for the first 6 months, this was working out great. Not a problem at all. In fact, we still would pat ourselves on the back every now and again. “Geniuses I say!!”

Our Second Mistake

At some point, Grayson finally transitioned to his own room. Along with Grayson into his room went the video baby monitor. We loved the monitor for Siena and now that she was a big girl, we could use it for Grayson.

She had other plans. We underestimated her intelligence. She was very quickly aware that the monitor was gone and now we did not have eyes on her at all times. Within a matter of days, she was getting out of bed constantly, repeatedly, every night without fail.

 

Our First Attempt

Keeping your toddler in bed with threats perhaps? We decided to take away some of the toys that she insisted sleeping with every time she got out of bed. It worked for a couple of months. Again, we patted ourselves on the back. GENIUSES!

Of course there was always tears when we would take the toys away, but then that was the consequence, right?

Unfortunately, she must have started emotionally detaching herself from her stuffed animals. Inside of her little toddler brain, she must have been smart enough to realize, ‘if I don’t care about my baby, or the animals or my blankie, my parents have no power over me anymore’.

I would not have believed that such advanced rationale was possible for a toddler, until she really stopped caring about her toys. We’d take one away and she’d get right back up again. We could strip her whole room of happiness (we did on many occasions) and she would still get out of bed until we wanted to throw our own heads against the wall in frustration.

Something had stopped working.

Our Second Attempt

Maybe a combination of bribery and a threat to keeping your toddler in bed? Perhaps she needs some incentive?

Our next tactic was to tell her we would be doing something fun the next day and if she got out of bed we wouldn’t be able to do it. But if she stayed in bed, we would.

We thought we were geniuses with this one, until we tried it. She didn’t care at all. She acted like she cared when we told her but two minutes later she was up and at it again.

Broken

I didn’t know what to do at this point. Our toddler had broken us. We were pathetic shells of parents who had been defeated by a two and a half year old. We would just let her play in her room until she collapsed and then deal with the collateral the next day.

Obviously my husband liked this idea because he got to leave in the morning and I handled the aftermath.

It was at this rock bottom of keeping your toddler in bed battle that I had my breakthrough. And maybe not all toddlers are alike, and maybe this won’t work for all, but I thought, just maybe… this will work for Siena.

 

The Secret to Keeping Your Toddler in Bed

I tried putting myself in Siena’s shoes. If I kept getting out of bed again and again and again, there had to be a reason, right?

keeping your toddler in bed when they have a twin

 

The Problem

Then I realized how frustrating and depressing it would be to constantly be in trouble at bed time. At the beginning, toddler is not in trouble, but she is probably sad because she has to stop playing with mom and dad.

If your family is like ours, dad just got home from work not too long ago and now he gets to stay up with mommy.

So, what does she do? She gets out of bed. Playing sounds way more fun then sleeping at this point. Unfortunately, as she is getting out of bed, or playing in her room Mom and dad are upset and scolding her. She still wants to play, but now maybe she wants some validation too. The need to feel love is compounded with the want to play.

Suddenly it becomes this vicious cycle of mom and dad are getting more and more frustrated, toddler is feeling less and less love and no one is getting any sleep!

How to Fix it

I added a new phase to our bedtime routine. Prior to this discovery, the routine ended after prayers, lights out, kiss goodnight and toddler was safe in bed. But, the magical key to success for us was the first ten minutes after the toddler was in bed.

Step 1

Wait outside the door for about 30 seconds to a minute. It can be a little longer, but ideally you want things to be just the same as when you put them to bed.

Step 2

Open the door and peak in. Hopefully your toddler is still in bed. If they are, praise them for staying in bed. Ours usually sounds like this:

“Wow! Siena, you stayed in bed! Thank you so much for staying in your bed. You are so obedient and well behaved. I love you. Night-night, Sweetheart.”

If she did not stay in bed

“Uh-oh. You need to get back in bed. It’s time to go night-night.”

It is very important to catch your toddler IN bed. Even if keeping your toddler in bed was not successful for 30 seconds, wait another 30 seconds (or less, depending on your child), open the door again and try again. Do this until your child has done what you asked successfully for any length of time.

Step 3

After the first successful praising. Wait a little longer. We usually give it a couple of minutes and open the door again. Since we started doing this we have not had her get out of bed after the first praising. Every time, she has been laying in bed, sometimes playing, reading or just laying there. And we lay on the praise again.

“Wow! You are still in your bed. Thank you so much for staying in bed. You are so great! Night-night, Siena.”

Step 4

You are welcome to repeat step 3 if you are worried about the stickability of it. We’ve tried it up to 5 times and every time, she has been laying in bed.

keeping your toddler in bed until they fall asleep

Keeping Your Toddler in Bed

Maybe our child is an anomaly. Maybe this won’t work for you. But if keeping your toddler in bed is one of your battles, start where I started and try and put yourself in their shoes. Ask yourself, why does he keep getting out of bed?

If this does work for your child, you can literally do it at any time. Sometimes we forget to show love or it’s the middle of the night and you are just now finding this article while you are in the throes of a bedtime battle. But, just give it a try. Show your child some encouragement.

After all, they are just learning these things. Maybe she really just knew what was a wrong thing to do, but didn’t know what was a right thing to do. This method also gives some clarity to what bedtime is all about.

 

Good luck Mamas!

When your child is just having a hard night…

When your toddler wakes up from bad dreams…

When your baby won’t sleep through the night…

Rough Night – Healing Your Child’s Soul

I sat on the uncomfortable rocking chair around 3 in the morning after the rough night. My son arched his back as if he couldn’t get comfortable. His head lifted away from my chest. Occasionally it would bounce back, and the cool tears on his face would wet my skin. After just a minute or two, the gas slipped up out of his stomach and his neck slowly relaxed as he rested his weary head on my chest. It got heavier and heavier and so did his eyelids.

rough night with an infant, mom cradling

After 4 hours of trying to help him, he finally succumbed to sleep, trapping me with 24 lbs of squishy baby weight. And in spite of my exhaustion, I sat unmoving and just held him. My cheek pressed against his fuzzy warm head. His breathing, remnants of sobs abandoned. My precious boy nuzzled against me. It was my reward for my toil, so I enjoyed every special second. Thirty minutes of quiet snuggles on a squeaky, unyielding rocker. I watched the shadows and breathed deeply. There aren’t many moments like this. It was just me and my boy.

At 3:30 in the morning I finally slipped between my sheets and my eyelids slammed shut.

My Rough Night

The Likely Cause

That day, we had gone to his six month appointment. We found out he was off the charts for weight and pretty big in all other growth aspects. And to top it off, he has got a giant head that comes from my side of the family. If you ever wonder why some hats are so big, it’s for people like me and my son.

grayson at the doctor, cause of the rough night

He got two shots. I didn’t think anything of it. With his first couple of rounds he had been fussy, but nothing I couldn’t handle. My daughter had never had many ill effects from the shots.

I put him to bed around 7 just like any other night. He fussed a little more before he fell asleep, but soon he was breathing out Zs.

 

I just had to…

As a matter of safety, I usually take the sound machine out of his room at night after the loud noises in the house have disappeared. He has a bad habit of putting a blanket on top of his face and if I’m asleep and he’s having a hard time breathing, I want to be able to hear immediately.

beginning of the rough night, he wakes up

My daughter was in bed, my company had left and I was about to sleep as well. So, like every night, I snuck into his room and took it out. Usually he moves and then goes right back to sleep.

On this particular rough night, he moved and then woke up.

Quick Fix

All right, this wouldn’t be a problem. I’d just give him a bottle, top him off for the night and that way I made sure we all got a good night sleep.

He drank about half of it and I thought that he probably wasn’t hungry because he’s been sleeping through the night for a couple of days now.

 

The 4 Hours

The rest of the four hours that made up my rough night are a little hazy. It all blurs together now. I know that some things happened during that time. Here is a list of all courses of action in no particular order:

  • Gave him Tylenol.
  • Rocked him.
  • Held him.
  • Sang “I am a child of God”
  • Left his room about 15 times.
  • Entered his room about 15 times.
  • Sang “I like to look for Rainbows”
  • Sat on the floor by his crib and held his hand while he tried to settle down.

  • Let him play with my face.
  • Sat on the couch and the living room while he looked at the lights.
  • Let him lay in mommy’s bed. (Austin was out of town.)
  • Burped him. And again and again and again. So many burps.
  • So much spit up.
  • Bottle attempts 1, 2 and 3.
  • Wrapped him in a semi-swaddle

  • Pacifier.
  • Reached under the bed for all of the pacifiers he had chucked by the wall.
  • Wiped his tears.
  • Gave him Ibuprofen.
  • Caressed his head.
  • Tried to let him ‘cry it out’. (I can only last about 15 minutes at the most.)
  • Bounced him.
  • Sang “Down in the River” over and over and over again.
  • Prayed for any possible relief about every 10 minutes.

There might be more. I don’t know. It was a rough night.

 

The Unexpected Reward

I know I am not alone in the ‘rough night’ department. Most parents get to experience this joy at some point or another. Most of the time, you are only rewarded with an hour or two of much needed sleep.

But sometimes, the world stands still and all is quiet as your little one finally falls asleep in your arms. The whimpers subside and you get a small glimpse at how much your baby must love you. His face is pressed against you, cheek smashed against your skin. The deeper he falls into sleep, the more his breathing levels out.

Only you could heal his whole soul. Not only have you labored to help his little body feel better, but you also kept his spirit full. He knows that you are there for him and that you love him and have taken the time to understand him.

You heal his whole soul regardless of whether or not he falls asleep on you. But if you are lucky enough to feel your trusting little one nuzzle in, you can take the time to pat yourself on the back. Because you did it. Even if it took you until 3 or 6 in the morning, you did it. You healed your baby’s soul.

 

More Rough Nights to Come

So I hope I can remember when I have another rough night and many more, that every time I choose their needs over mine I heal their soul. I heal their physical hurts and I show them for the rest of their life, that they are worth me climbing out of my bed.

And in the quiet moments when I have evidence in my arms of how much my children appreciate it, I hope I can remember that I am doing okay. I healed my baby’s soul and I think I healed mine too.

 

I’ve had many a rough night with my toddler too.

Completely Broke in Italy, Best Time of Our Life

Birds fluttered to the ground by our feet. They could see us eating bread and the little crumbs that were falling in between the cobblestones below. Normally, I would have loved to throw a couple of pieces of bread at the birds. But as my feet dangled off the bench in the courtyard of the church, I clutched my bread in my hands and didn’t share a morsel. Because, if you can believe it, this piece of bread was my food ration for the day. We were so completely broke, that we couldn’t even share some of our bread with the birds.

We were in Padova, Italy, had just gone through a beautiful church and were eating before our next leg of the journey. I will never forget sitting next to my love, eating bread and denying the birds of any of our limited food.

Completely broke and traveling everywhere

 

How it Happened

Austin and I had been saving up money all year so that he could do an internship in Italy. That sounds amazing, right? We had it all planned out, to see as much as possible while we were there. After all, how often do you get to live in Italy?

He got an internship with the Monte dei Paschi bank in Siena. And with the $1000 they would be paying him, we had just enough money to fund the remainder of our trip. We were excited.

We flew across the world and landed in Torino, Italy. From there we went to a number of different cities in the North. The day before we went to Padova, we were in Verona, the setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet.

completely broke and completely in love
Leaving our mark on the wall of Love by Juliet’s balcony.

Right before we left for an opera, Austin checked his email. During the week that we had been in Italy, the bank had gone bankrupt and was obviously not going to be having any interns whatsoever. His internship was gone and our $1000 was gone.

Fortunately, our school was able to find him a new one. But this one was an unpaid internship and suddenly we found ourselves completely broke in Italy.

 

Completely Broke in Italy

If there’s one place that you don’t want to be completely broke, it’s Italy. The food is incredible, the sites are amazing, the history is rich and everything is expensive. Suddenly we had no money in one of the places where you want to spend money.

completely broke but can still see the sunset
You don’t need money for sunsets!

 

Spending Habits

We did the math. The amount of available money we had for our meals for the rest of the trip was $5 (3 euro) per day for both of us. Meaning we had 1.5 euro per person for the ENTIRE day (breakfast and lunch were already covered in our living expenses during the school week, but on days when we were away from Siena, we were all on our own). Our habits changed drastically:

completely broke in Verona
In Verona; we had just become aware of our financial situation. It took some time to look this happy again.

Grocery Stores instead of Going Out

We went to grocery stores to buy all of our meals. These meals frequently were things like rolls, cans of tuna, tomatoes & mozzarella cheese. There, the cheese was much less expensive than it is in the United States, and much better.

Non-Glutinous Gelato

If we ever treated ourselves to gelato, we got the smallest size and we shared it.

Towel Tale

In Milano, it was 90 degrees at night. We were sweating in our room. Our clothes were sticking to us. It was 10 euro for air conditioning. Do you think we got it? Nope. Instead we got the towels wet and slept with them on top of us to cool us down. That was my husband’s ingenious idea and I couldn’t believe it worked as well as it did.

Halvsies

We shared every meal except two. One was an incredible panzerotti place in Milano (Luini’s by the duomo, in case you are ever there) – Austin said this was one time we could not share. And on my birthday, I got my own gelato, which was my only request.

eating my only gelato that was completely mine when we were completely broke
Happy Birthday to me!

Feeding Frenzy

If a hotel ever had a breakfast (which was rare because we were staying in hostels), we ate as much as we possibly could and took whatever we could with us. We didn’t care who looked at us sideways. It was take the food or starve.

No Rest for the Weary

We walked EVERYWHERE. In Rome, at the very end of our trip, we had been walking forever. My feet were so sore I could barely put one foot in front of the other. Suddenly, Austin pointed at the metro. “Want to take the metro?” I think I started crying.

feet in a fountain to help the blisters
The day when I wore the wrong shoes to walk around. Blisters for days!

Rare Remembrances

Our souvenirs were extremely limited and we only bought what we had planned on buying. Because on top of being broke, we were also carrying everything on our backs everywhere we went.

completely broke with our only possessions in Italy
This is all we had for 3 months and we carried it everywhere we went.

We were literally, the epitome of starving college students.

Yep, that’s us with all of our stuff as we began our adventure.

 

Miracles

When you are in dire straits, you tend to see more miracles. We, of course, said many prayers pleading for help and we saw so many miracles that helped us make it through. Even if they weren’t critical to our well-being, they were all a reminder that God was watching us and He cared about his completely broke children.

walking to the nearest town because we were completely broke
When I say we walked everywhere, I mean EVERYWHERE. This was a 5 mile walk I believe.

Advance Payday

One of our photography clients offered to pay us early for an upcoming wedding. We graciously accepted. (Unfortunately, on our way to the wedding, our cameras were stolen in the airport right after we got home from Italy. Gratefully, we had emptied our memory cards onto our computer just a half an hour before.)

Blessed Bracelets

There are people everywhere who are trying to get you to buy their products or souvenirs. In one such situation, the men were trying to get us to buy their bracelets. In an act of desperation, they pleaded, “One euro. Just one euro.”

Little did they know that one euro was 1/3 of our combined meal rations for the day. We both declined again and again.

Finally they said, “You can just have them. For free.” I don’t know why they both changed their mind. Maybe they could sense that they may have met a couple of tourists who quite literally did not have one euro to spare.

 

Whatever the reason, we kept the bracelets on the rest of the trip as a reminder that God was looking out for us.

Extra Tickets

Someone had extra tickets for a tour and they singled us out of a group of tourists and asked if we would like them. The tickets were only 2.5 euros each, but we could not have gone inside without that blessing.

Hop on, Hop off

A couple was going home a day early and had one more day of a Hop on, Hop off bus ticket in Rome. Guess who they asked to take it? We rode that bus, seeing a lot more of Rome than we would have otherwise and saved our feet some serious damage. Which, really could have changed the outcome of the story above when I could barely make it to the metro.

Vatican Visual

There is only one Sunday every month when visiting the Vatican is completely free. It’s the last Sunday of the month and guess what Sunday we were there. Yep, after standing in the pouring rain, we made it in and saw everything. It was incredible!

Dripping wet by St. Peter’s Basilica right before standing in line.

Christmas Present

An already planned, but a miracle nevertheless was a Christmas present we had received. Austin’s parents had used their points to get us two nights at the Waldorf Astoria in Rome. It was, in a word, exquisite. Basically, it was a good thing we had already seen everything we wanted to see in Rome because once we went into that hotel, we did not leave until we were forced out.

Marriage Magic

Being completely broke was one of the most stressful things we had done together up until that point in our marriage. We hadn’t even had our one year anniversary. But because we were going through it together, we leaned on each other and became stronger together because of the trials we faced.

completely broke and in love in Venice

We survived.

Three months later, our trip to Italy was over. We were exhausted, hungry and excited about hamburgers, but also devastated that we would be leaving. We had had so much fun. There were so many adventures, so many stories and so many moments where I grew to love my husband even more.

Didn’t cost anything to act like touristy fools in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa!

We worked through being completely broke and came out on the other side, albeit a total of 35 lbs lighter for both of us. (I lost 15. Austin lost 20.) It was hard going back to America and finding jobs again and ending our adventure, but after that I knew that Austin and I could get through anything together. We had endured a lot and relied on each other.

Dealing with the struggle of being completely broke in Italy, enabled us to travel to China later with a 6 week old baby. I couldn’t have made it through without knowing what I learned when we were in Italy. We may have been completely broke, but it was the best time of my life. My husband and I are imperfect, but we can get through anything together.

My best friend for-literally-ever. He’s stuck with me.

Love Everyone – Knocking Down Pedestals is Essential

Pedestal PicThere has been a lot of talk about stopping the hate. I hear all the time about how I need to love everyone and I absolutely agree. We do need to learn how to interact with more love. My only hope with this article, is to break down one of the stumbling blocks to the admonition to love everyone. What is holding us back?

My theory is that people are having a hard time with the idea to love everyone, because they don’t recognize how many pedestals they have set up in their minds. Everyone has heard the phrase “being put on a pedestal”. This is usually applied to people who are admired or looked up to. We set them up to be our idols, for better or worse.

 

Putting Yourself on a Pedestal

It should be obvious why this one can make it hard for you to love everyone. But, let’s go over it. If you are placing yourself on a pedestal, it really makes it impossible to love anyone. You are so much better than everyone.

Maybe you think you are better because you have more money. Maybe you are more in shape than everyone else. Are you lifting yourself up because you are a superior writer. Perhaps you’re smarter. Maybe you are a more beautiful specimen. Perhaps you think you are a better parent. Maybe you are willing to forgive someone who isn’t willing to forgive you back.Perhaps someone has offended you, hurt you or disappointed you and you would never do that.

Whatever the reason, you are putting distance between yourself and someone else.

 

Putting Someone Else on a Pedestal

Wedding pic of us on a pedestal
Austin & I literally on a pedestal.

This is something that most people will not immediately view as a hinderance towards the mandate to love everyone. After all, if you are looking at someone’s great attributes you must love, respect and admire them.

And while you may respect and admire them, the love you have for them is more of your idea of them. You assume that they are above or are more talented at something. There is the conjecture that if they are talented at one thing, or have more money than you or thinner than you, their life must be better than yours. There is no way they can possibly understand how you are feeling.

An even more dangerous strain of thought is when you start hypothesizing about how they got there. They must be naturally good at that. He probably inherited all of his money. She must have great genetics. We frequently assume that if someone has something we do not, they don’t have to work for it.

By putting someone else on a pedestal, we choose to distance ourselves from them and believe that they are different from us. We usually assume they don’t have to work as hard, don’t have as many troubles as we do and the next logical conclusion to draw is that they also view themselves on the pedestal. They must think they are better than everyone else.

 

How to Love Everyone without Pedestals

One of the hardest things to do is to love everyone and the one thing that will single handedly help the most is to knock down all of the pedestals you have built up in your mind. Knock down the one you are standing on. Knock down the ones that you have placed your friends or acquaintances on.

And when you’re standing in a field of broken pedestals with everyone else, you will start to see the most amazing thing.

We are all human, we all struggle, we all want to be better. At times we all doubt ourselves and are scared of being alone. We want to make connections with those around us. You will suddenly see everyone as they really are and not as you imagine them.

Try knocking down a pedestal and watch what happens to your relationship with that person. It might not be immediate, but I promise it will be different. (Also, you may have to knock down the pedestal many times. Sometimes we struggle to remember.)

 

I’ve even put myself on a pedestal over my daughter before.

My Husband, Perfect for Us

Prescriptive World

I read so many articles telling men and women what their roles should be in relationships. Women should be working, men should be helping more with the kids, women should be happy at home and men should be content providing for their family. We live in a prescriptive world where people feel the need to tell my husband and I how we should think, how we should behave and how we should raise our kids.

But, I don’t really care what other people think my relationship and my family life should be like. My family is amazing. We may not be the trendiest idea of a family right now, but who cares? It’s what works for us. My husband is the breadwinner and he is so good at it. He is also an incredible father and the love of my life. I am a Stay at Home Mom right now and I love it! (I don’t love it every day… nap time today was a monster.)

So, keep writing your articles, telling me how to live my life and how I am supposed to think and act. From now on though, I’m going to try and ignore them. So, ignoring the trends and the social norms, my husband, this is why I love you and us, just the way we are.

 

Dear Husband,

You may not see this post for a little while because I know how busy you are. I am so grateful that you come home and immediately play with the kids instead of perusing social media. That is amazing. I know that work is exhausting and that all you want to do when you come home is relax. But somehow, you make the time anyways. You are amazing to me.

Every single day, I may not always see it. I may complain, I may be grumpy or I may just not be looking for it, but wish that I could always see it. Because I know some of just how amazing you are. You are my husband and I hope to see all of your greatness one day, but for now let me tell you some of the little things that I know.

The Things You Do

I’m impressed by the things you do. You listen to your scriptures on the way to work. Sometimes you make dinner for us. There are so many times when you help get the kids ready or help me tidy up the house. I know you don’t have to. No one HAS to. But you do it anyway, because you love us. You ask me how I’m feeling and you really want to know. When you ask for my opinion, you really want it. You see me as an equal and you value my input.

When I talk with you about things that bother me, you infrequently argue with me. Instead, you discuss it with me and we work together to make it better.

You always drive when we’re together. It might seem silly to some. But I don’t like driving and much prefer to dork on my phone and talk to you while you cruise the streets.

You stop by the store on your way home from work even though you hate going to the store. That really means you must love me because you don’t want me to leave after you come home from work.

You go to work Monday through Friday. You provide for our family. I see you clinging to your pillow in the mornings and know that you would much rather sleep. I notice when you are so excited that it’s Friday so that you can have a break. You love your job, but it’s not always fun to work. I get that. But every single day, you go anyways even though you might rather stay in bed and snuggle with the kids.

The Things You Don’t Do

I’m impressed even more by the things you don’t do. You don’t criticize the house when it’s messy. There is never blame placed when something has gone wrong. In the mornings, when you have to go to work early, you don’t wake me up. You shut the doors so the noise and the lights will not interrupt my sleep.

my husband with our newborn sonYou don’t interrupt me when I’m talking or crush my dreams. I never question whether you think I am competent because you don’t do everything for me. You don’t expect meals to be ready. Sometimes, you don’t do the things that you want to do because you know there is something important to me that I want to do.

You don’t lie to me. You don’t keep things from me. There is never any reason for me to wonder if there are secrets I don’t know about. You don’t do things that would compromise your health.

My favorite thing that you don’t do though, is you don’t allow me to talk about your favorite person negatively. You want me to treat your favorite person with as much love as you have for her. You want me to be nice to her. And I try to do that even when my self doubt and insecurities would tempt me to not be nice to myself.

All that You are

Austin, I love all that you are. I love your strengths. You lift me up when I am weak and are seeing me struggle. When we got married, your strengths and my strengths became our strengths and now we are so much stronger together.

I love your weaknesses, because after we got married, they became our weaknesses and we can become better together and through Jesus Christ. Now we have each other to lean on as we work to become more like Him.

I love who you were. I love learning about where you came from and why you are the way that you are now. You have such a rich history and it has shaped who you are today.

I love seeing who you will become. The amount of potential you have sometimes astounds me. You are truly going to become something great one day and I can’t wait to see it.

I love who you are now. I get to see you right in the middle of your journey. You’ve come so far and I get to see the evidences of that character building every day in our home. You’ve got so far to go and I am ecstatic that I get to go with you. We are a team and get to be together forever. Thank you for being my partner. We are going to do such great things!

You are My Husband

But the reason I love you the most, is because you are my husband. I chose you. You chose me. We chose each other and the fact that we are committed to each other is why I love you no matter what. We promised to make this work and I plan on keeping my promise. I love you forever.

Love,

The Love of Your Life

 

My husband, me and my daughterYour Family

So, for those of you who are constantly measuring your family against the opinions of everyone else: stop. Your family works because you are the ones making it work. You are trying your best. Don’t worry that it might not be the way everyone else describes as the ideal. If you are happy, you are right.

I love my husband. My husband is right. I love myself. I am right. I love my family. My family is right.

We work to make it right every day.

Grandpa’s Last Words and how they Changed my Life

It is not very often that you get to hear someone’s last words. This experience, though special, is not something most people want to experience. Because inevitably, it means someone has died. I never really got to hear a ‘last words’ speech with either of my Grandmas and my other Grandpa is still alive.

Me and my Grandpa before he died and gave me his last words
Being with my Grandpa Haroldsen one last time before he passed away.

Getting to Know my Grandpa

My Grandpa sitting on the couch before his last words
I was impressed at his flexibility at 80 years old!

My Grandpa Haroldsen was a stern man. He always liked to be on time and he frequently didn’t have patience for the crazy antics of me and my four siblings. And to his credit, we were rambunctious kids.

He worked an egg farm and had spent much of his life working hard. Every morning he had a hearty breakfast of bacon, eggs and toast. He read the paper and when we would come and visit, he would wake us up way too early in the morning by rubbing his unshaven, prickly whiskers on our faces. If you think an alarm clock is bad, you should try that.

One of My Memories

Because we grew up in Alaska, he and my Grandma would frequently fly up to visit us. This allowed us to spend some time with our grandparents without my parents having to drag all of us to the Lower 48. (And yes, that is what we call the continental US. My husband makes fun of me and says that we must refer to ourselves as the Upper 1)

One Christmas, when my grandparents were visiting, I woke up early to go sneak a peak at what Santa had brought for us. It was around 3 in the morning. And to my surprise, and honestly, disappointment, my Grandpa was sitting at the kitchen table with my sister’s globe that she had gotten for Christmas. He spun it on the table, obviously caught in some distant memory.

I said, “hi Grandpa.” Hoping that that would be my only required discussion with him, I anxiously looked around him to the couch where my presents were hiding.

“Good morning, Jennifer.” He then asked me if I knew where he and my Grandma had traveled.

I shook my head. And for the next 3 hours, he regaled me with all of his journeyings throughout the world. He pointed all of them out on the map. At some point I had to sit down on the floor, because I had gotten tired.

At 6 am I was rescued by my brother who emerged and distracted my Grandpa long enough for me to FINALLY see what presents I had. I will never forget that lecture of his world travel, at least the fact that we had it.

When My Grandpa was Dying

I was a sophomore in college. Right before I was about to go back home for the summer, I decided I would drive up to Idaho and keep my Grandma company for a couple of weeks. I wanted to be there for her and help her out.

Spending time with my grandma while i received my grandpa's last words

I also wanted to spend time with my Grandpa who had been diagnosed with cancer a year and a half ago. He had been put on hospice, and I knew it was probably the last time I would see him. That trip holds some of my most tender moments with both of my Grandparents.

Aside from my Grandpa’s last words, I remember being by the dining room and kitchen when my Grandma got off the phone with someone. She held the phone and let her hand fall to her side before looking at me. “I wish people would quit asking me how I’m doing.” She started crying and I held her while I cried too.

She gave me that. That impossible urge to cry when someone else does was her doing. My mom has that curse too.

My Grandpa’s Unofficial Last Words

My Grandpa right before he passed away and gave me his last wordsTo me, they are his last words, because it was the last time he tried to impart wisdom to me. He said them to me in full awareness that he wouldn’t be seeing me again once I left and I wouldn’t be seeing him until I died.

He had just let me win a game of Twenty Thousand with him… I know, because I tried to let him win and was finding it extremely difficult to do so. And he was lying on his hospice bed and I was lying on my Grandma’s daybed that they had put in there for her. We were mindlessly watching some TV show. And while we’re both laying there, he says, “Honor your Marriage Covenants. That is the most important thing.”

Kissing my grandpa on the head before he died and gave me his last words“Okay, Grandpa.”

And that was it. His last words were short. I wasn’t even looking at him when he had said them, but they stuck. I guess that’s the thing about last words. They are impactful enough to stick.

Understanding His Last Words

If you are unfamiliar with my religion, I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. This is important, because it will help you to understand the impact of what my Grandpa’s last words were when he said, Marriage Covenants.

my grandpa following his own last wordsWhen we are married, we get married in the temple. We believe that as Husband and Wife, we are sealed together as a family unit for Time (life on earth) and all Eternity (life after earth). This means that we are bound together, our children will be bound to us and nothing will be able to separate us, unless we break our covenants.

That means at the end of my Grandpa’s life, the last words that he felt were essential to share with me was his over arching wisdom that when all is said and done, our family is the most important. Family is the most crucial thing to fight for. If you honor your Marriage Covenants, you will get to be with your family FOREVER. And my poor Grandpa, knew that that is what he wanted after he passed.

He was going to be separated from my Grandma for a time. But he loved her so much and his children so much, that fighting to keep that bond in place was the most crucial thing he could have imparted to me, even though at the time, I was not married.

Keeping My Promise

My husband and I adhering to his last wordsHis last words still pop into my mind from time to time. Keeping your marriage covenants includes commandments such as being faithful to each other, loving God and loving our fellow man. The best part about these covenants is the more we adhere to them, the closer we grow to each other, the more we want to be together and the stronger our bond on earth becomes.

I love my husband so much. He is my strength and my support. There are many times when I feel like I am weak and he is there to lift me back up again and cheer me on.

My grandpa’s last words were not just important for the eternities, they are essential for me now. They remind me of my love for Austin. And by adhering to them, we become better friends every day.

A Note to My Grandpa

I know you’re not physically here now. I’m so happy that now you get to be with Grandma. But I hope you know that by having the courage to share some last words with me, you have impacted my life for the better. I know it was probably scary to share them with me, acknowledging the fact that we weren’t going to be together that much longer. You broke the unspoken rule and brought attention to the fact that this was temporary. I am so grateful that you did. It probably didn’t seem like it made much difference to me, but it did. I heard you and I’m trying to do as you instructed. I love you Grandpa. Save a spot for my family next to yours.

To read about one of the ways we are trying to honor our marriage covenants, you can visit: My Imperfect Husband & His Imperfect Wife

My Daughter – Ambassador of Light

I’m sure most people feel the way about their kids that I do about my daughter. She lights up my world. My son does too. This post however, is about my daughter. It is over the last two years of having her in our home that I have come to realize just how special she is. Let me share with you what little I know about my daughter’s potential.

When I First Met My Daughter

My daughter was born in the afternoon after a grueling labor. Twenty hours of labor and three and a half hours of pushing. As I finally got her out of me, I collapsed in a kind of exhaustion that I think few have experienced. My body and spirit felt broken and I didn’t know if I would ever be the same again.

I was right in being worried; I never was the same again. But it wasn’t because of my delivery experience. It was because of the big, beautiful eyes looking up at me when they placed her in my arms. She made me a mommy. Her eyes were wide and it seemed like she was seeing more of me than I have ever seen of me. My baby girl was perfect.

my daughter-at-6-months-old-looking-up
Looking-at-my daughter-right-after-she-is-born

The First Sign

The first sign of just how special my daughter really is, was the complication with the umbilical cord. We found out after I had delivered that the cord was small and that it had a knot in it. If she had somehow managed to tighten the cord during her 9 month stay in my womb, she would have died. If it had pulled tight during delivery, she could have died. But somehow, through all of that, she survived.

Survival

She survived during a very rough postpartum for me. Our challenging stay in China would have been enough to rattle the calmest of babies, yet she survived.

I got really sick when she was just two and a half months old (bronchitis, tonsillitis, a viral infection and the flu). My temperature was 104 and I finally had to an IV with antibiotics to knock out the infection. Yet somehow, she never got sick. Not one time during the China trip did she get sick.

We rode in taxis without seat belts or car seats (because they didn’t have them) on what looked like some of the most dangerous roads we’ve ever had the pleasure of taking. Granted, we were observing with our Western eyes.

She has shown her resiliency time and time again, proving to me that she is here on earth to bring light to those in darkness.

waiting-at-a-bus-stop-with-my daughter

Helping her Brother

Grayson, has not been as easy-going as his sister was. Perhaps it is because he was not forced into a life of nomadic venturing from the very beginning. He gets very upset when he cannot go to sleep on his bed, our bed or someone else’s bed.

If we are out and about and he is having a hard time, Siena will grab his hand and say, “It’s okay.” She’ll give him her favorite blanket and her favorite baby. If I need her to, she will run and grab his pacifier so that he will have something to suck on. She wants to help her baby brother to be happy.

my daughter-holding-her-brothers-hand

Helping her Mommy

About a month ago, I got the flu after she did. She had thrown up, been miserable and then of course, it was my turn.

I was laying on the couch, perpetually letting Daniel Tiger occupy the screen so that I would have to get up as little as possible.

At some point, Siena came over and patted my hand and then climbed up with me. She snuggled next to me, grabbed my arm, put it on herself and held my hand to make me feel better.

my daughter-holding-her-mommy's-hand
My daughter-at-6-months-old

What I See

Every day she is learning. She creates new things, comes up with new words, or impresses me with her actions as she learns to be a good person.

One of the things she absolutely loves to do, is be a mama. She tries to do everything I do, so I have to watch what I do sometimes. I have to send her out of the room before I trim my bangs… because we all know what could happen if she found scissors and decided she wanted to be like mama.

She puts her baby and bunnies to bed. She tries to feed Grayson. Her favorite thing to wear when mama wears boots, is her boots that match. She likes to sit in the sink while I get ready and pretend to put lotion on her face while I’m getting ready. She loves to wear a backpack and get ready to go because I have a diaper bag backpack that goes everywhere with us. Our baby girl is a Mama in training.

Siena loves music. She dances, tries to play the piano and sings along when her mama is singing at the top of her lungs. She laughs when she tries new things at the thrill of doing something new. My daughter is the sweetest.

She is Human

She gets angry, throws tantrums and tries to kick the cat. My daughter is imperfect, but her human nature is not ever going dissolve her worth.

my daughter-sleeping-as-a-newborn

Rarity in Vision

It is rare that someone gets the opportunity to see just how special someone is. I think that is the role of a parent. I doubt anyone will see as much as I, her intrinsic value. She has overcome so much already and she is only two years old.

I can already see her doing so much. One day she’ll light the world. She is going to accomplish so much and become so much. I can't wait to be a witness to it. Even now, there are so many people who want to talk to her because she is lighting up their day. My daughter is an ambassador of light and one day, everyone else will see it too.

My Imperfect Husband & His Imperfect Wife

I have seen many articles that my friends have shared about love. Five things your man will do if he’s the one! How a real man treats women, etc. And then of course various articles about what to do better in relationships. Each of these serve their purpose. Of course, a man should treat a woman well (see here). The couple should naturally return each other’s bid (see here).  But I wanted to focus on something that is often overlooked. The fact of the matter is that I am married to an imperfect husband. 

Social Media Praise Danger

My imperfect husband is amazing in so many ways. I often heap on the praise when I wish to publicly wish him Happy Birthday, or really when I mention anything about him on social media. Because I sincerely want people to know how incredible he is, I make sure they see his best side. And I wouldn’t be surprised if most people do this.

There is a danger to this, however, for those who take in these public displays of social media affection at face value. It’s very easy to look around at all of the people portraying these perfect relationships and assume that everyone else gets what love is about. Then you might look at your own situation with despair, whether you are single or are in an imperfect relationship of your own. I am sure we can all see the imperfections in our spouse, in our relationship and perhaps in ourselves. But it is very rare to see an honest depiction of a real relationship from other people.

imperfect husband-&-wife-kissing-in-front-of-temple

The Beginning

I married my imperfect husband, Austin in 2012. We were in our mid-twenties and a little dazed with love. Our relationship hadn’t been all sunshine and roses though. We had had our fair share of disagreements, heartbreak and moments when it seemed like it was never going to work.

A couple of months after we started dating, I sat on a little bench with him outside of my apartment and broke up with him. And the exact phrase I used was that I didn’t feel like this was a fairytale. Isn’t it supposed to be a fairytale? Wasn’t I supposed to get swept away? My poor boyfriend left broken and bewildered.

Words can’t convey the despair that followed that decision for me. I felt like a black hole was sucking me in and I would never emerge again. Happiness had been sucked from my being and I broke down into a sobbing mess. I was having an anxiety attack, which was not completely unusual; I have had them before. In fact, anxiety was part of the reason I had decided to break up with him in the first place. But this attack felt different and I soon realized that I had made the wrong decision.

imperfect husband-and-wife-on-opposite-ends-of-a-bench
imperfect husband-in-the-forefront-of-the-picture

Let’s Get Real

Three days later, I all but got down on my knees to beg him to go out with me again. He said he needed some time to think about it. I backed off and he later came around and said he wanted to go on a drive. We drove up to the top of a mountain and talked.

We had the first half of the talk that I was always terrified I would one day have to have with someone that I intended on marrying. This is the “Let’s Get Real” talk. In an act of bravery unrivaled by any suitors who had come before, my imperfect husband shed light on his weaknesses and flaws. He kicked down the wall of his dating persona and let me see who he is even when he was at his worst.

I didn’t say much. The process of him sharing his imperfections had bristled my own conscience to the memory of my own weaknesses and flaws. But, that night I wasn’t ready to share those with him. I was merely in a state of shock, because I hadn’t expected this kind of sincerity and honesty. When he dropped me off at my apartment, he explained, “I want to get back together with you, but I need you to know the good and the bad of me so you can choose whether you want to be together.”

Let’s Get Real Forever

That night I did a lot of processing and basically came to the conclusion that if he was willing to share with me, I could share with him. The next day we went on another drive and I took my turn.

Over the next few months we began shedding the secrets we had been hiding for years by sharing them with each other. And for the rest of our lives we will continue to share the secrets of the present that would poison our marriage if we let them linger in the shadows.

Imperfect-Wife-standing-in-front-of-imperfect husband

The Most Significant Night of My Life

I will be forever grateful for the courage that my imperfect husband demonstrated that night. He set our relationship on a course of honesty and openness. It has taken so much practice to stay that way, and we are still working at it today but I cannot express the significance of that night enough.

My husband frequently attributes our communicative success to my honesty. And while he is correct in saying that I don’t hesitate to share, that has not always been the case. Austin is the one who took the first step into the dark and let me see all of himself without having any idea of what the repercussion would be. He risked everything and that was the only way the was able to gain everything.

Imperfect husband-and-wife-coming-out-of-the-temple

The Continual Journey of Overcoming

As aware as we are of our own imperfections and shortcomings, that does not stop us from having them. I am frequently quick to judge and my husband can be quick to anger. Those two things do not go well together. I can be a bit careless in my actions and my husband can be a bit regimented. We often butt heads on those issues and just cannot see how the other can think or act so differently.

We have some imperfections that are similar and are therefore magnified because we both have the tendency to act the same way. Austin and I like to have nice things and it is hard to tell each other no when an expensive nicety presents itself to us. Sometimes we like to be lazy and the last thing we want to do is work, clean the house or socialize. So, of course we are lazy together!

imperfect husband-kissing-his-imperfect-wife-on-bench

Our Imperfections Make Us Perfect Together

I have an imperfect husband and he has an imperfect wife. And here is the point that we like to try and forget. I am going to have an imperfect husband for the rest of my life! He will not be constantly doting on me. He won’t always remember to help with the dishes. The sweaty socks that he kicks off after work will probably find their way into the living room in the future. There will probably still be times where he snaps because he is so HANGRY. And that is so great! It is really a relief, because it means that he or she will not hold you to a perfect standard.

An even harder point to remember is that he is going to have an imperfect wife for the rest of his life! I will not always keep the house clean. There will be times when I jump to conclusions about his intentions and rant and rave inside my head. I won’t remember to put the camera away when I’m done or I’ll leave my disgusting hair in the corner of the shower until he can’t stand it anymore and cleans it up. And there will probably still be times when I angrily throw the covers towards him when I get up to go feed the baby, even though I know he is unconscious and unaware of the cyclone surrounding him.

My imperfect husband and his imperfect wife are perfectly suited to be together forever. He makes me a better person every day and I hope I do the same for him.

Love is an Equation

Sacrifice + Gratitude = Love. It’s that simple. Perhaps it is easier to think about how this works with your children.

I was pregnant for 9 months for each child I have. So, so far that means I have been pregnant for 18 months. Bleh. I hate being pregnant. I get so big, I feel nauseous most of the time, I feel pain, I’m so uncomfortable and then my reward is that I get to push a human out of me at the end? That’s the sacrifice part.

But I didn’t feel the love until I realized how grateful I was for my baby.

And then I see my little angel baby and I can’t believe that it belongs to me. I can’t believe that I get to be his or her mommy. What a blessing! What a miracle!

I am so in love.

The sacrifice doesn’t stop. I keep cleaning up after them, getting spit up on, pooped on and basically providing all of their needs and wants. I keep working.

Which is why the next part is eternally important.

I don’t always feel the love when I am doing that.

Then I hold them close, think about the dangers that are out there and I am so grateful that they are still my babies. I’m so amazed that they are in my life.

I am still so in love.

Possessing BOTH is Essential

Sacrifice + Gratitude = Love

I try to do things that I know will make Austin happy, even if they are not things that I want to do. Every day I do the dishes, literally the worst job in the whole world, fold the laundry, stay home with the kids, make food, and plan trips. I sacrificed a career.

I can forget love when I am only sacrificing all the time.

So, I am grateful for the times when I get to snuggle him at night, when I see him come home safely from another very busy day of work. He is such a great daddy and I am grateful that as soon as he gets home, he spends time with our kids. I am forever grateful that he is mine and that he asked me to marry him.

I will always feel love, no matter the sacrifices I have made.

The Importance of Gratitude

All I have to do when I am sacrificing and not feeling gratitude is remember that I am lucky just to have the people for whom I am sacrificing. There are some people who never get married. There are those who have been divorced. My kids are miracles because I know some people don’t get to experience that. Three of my four grandparents have passed on already and it makes me that much more grateful for the one who is still living and for the two new ones I have inherited from Austin.

imperfect husband-and-wife-standing-in-front-of-the-temple

Strive for an Imperfect Marriage

I love my imperfect husband. I love my imperfect kids. The best thing about imperfection is I know that my husband loves his imperfect wife and my kids love their imperfect mom.

We are the most amazing imperfect family I could ever ask for.

Share how Amazing your Imperfect Husband is in the Comments Below!

For more info on how we make it work, you can read about the best advice I received from my Grandpa before he died. 

Our amazing wedding photographer can be visited here!

 

5 Mom Moments That Were NOT Funny at the Time

Mom Moments = Memories

Mom Moments may find us as soon as we see that we are going to become mommies. Three of the ones I will share with you today occurred while I was pregnant with my first child. The other two are ones that happened within her first 4 months of life. You cannot have too many Mom Moments because those are the memories you talk about until you die.

Passed Out

I was only four months pregnant when I had one of my first Mom Moments. We had spent all day shooting a wedding, that night I had walked a midnight 5K with my two sisters and then we had had to spend the whole night packing up our apartment to move. The next day, we had somehow managed to get everything out of our apartment.

I had ended up without a car, stuck at the apartment with just me, the cat and the litterbox. All the furniture was gone and I was exhausted. Finally, I laid on the ground and immediately fell asleep. Less than ten minutes later, my cat let out these long mournful cries like I had never heard before. I got the distinct impression that he had literally thought that I had died. As soon as I moved and called to him he came over and plopped next to me and demanded to be comforted.

Me&My-Sisters-before-the-5K-during-one-of-my-Mom Moments
Selfie-on-My-Birthday-to-Get-Oil-Changed-Before- the road trip of one of My-Mom Moments

Pit Stop in the Canyon

The second of my Mom Moments: The day after my birthday, we were driving and I was pregnant. I had had some bad sushi (all cooked fish) that morning and was already prone to morning sickness. We were driving out in the middle of nowhere to get to a family reunion. The road was on the side of the mountain and on the left side of the narrow road there was a cliff and on the right side of the road, a wall.

My nausea kept building and building. I told Austin that I had to throw up, I couldn’t hold it in. I looked for something, anything to catch the vomit and found a grocery bag. Barely opening the bag in time, vomit spewed from my mouth.

I quickly realized that my grocery bag had holes in it. “Austin, there’re holes in this thing!”

He was already pulling over in the first tiny alcove he could see in the canyon wall. I hadn’t even noticed that he had already rolled the windows down. Apparently the fumes from the vomit had been immediate and it was all Austin could do to keep driving and not throw up himself. “Get that out of the car!”

I am not proud of us that day. We definitely littered. We left that grocery bag full of vomit on the side of the road and I still hope that no one has found it.

A Memory Lapse

Mom Moments #3 - I was driving and Austin was giving me directions on how to get somewhere. He said, “K, now turn left at the next stop sign.”

I nodded and silently took note. I pulled up to the intersection, stopped at the stop sign and went straight.

Austin stared at me in shock. “You didn’t hear me?”

“What?”

“I literally just told you to turn left at the next stop sign.”

I started laughing. “I’m so sorry. I seriously forgot.” I could suddenly remember him telling me, but not a second after he told me to turn, I had already forgotten. He was in disbelief.

Jennifer-at-the-Steering-Wheel,-representing-one-of-her-Mom Moments
hotel-room-in-china-location-of-one-of-my-mom moments

No Boundaries

Mom Moments like this are ones that few people in America will get to experience this viscerally. Six weeks after Siena was born, we moved to China for the next 5 months. During our stay there, our parents came out to visit and we stayed in a hotel. One evening, I was inside of our room breastfeeding and a maid comes in to prepare it for the nighttime.

She puts the candies, adds the towels, oh and makes sure to peak down my cover at my nursing baby. That’s right, she walked all the way around the bed, came over to me, grabbed the top of my cover and looked down at my naked breast and my hungry child.

Although she was more assertive than other Chinese women, she was definitely not the first or the last to attempt such a thing so while shocked, I was not surprised.

The Great Wall Disaster

The Great Wall Disaster

My Mom Moments will make you feel better about any Mom Moment you may have, especially this one. We obviously had to see the Great Wall when we were in China with our parents. We put little Siena in our “Joey” (front pack) and went off on our grand adventure. The Wall was quite a ways from our hotel and we realized as we got off the Wall that Siena had pooped.

I looked in my backpack for a diaper and with crippling fear realized I did not have another one. It would be at least a couple of hours before we would be able to get back to the hotel and that included a miserable, hot bus ride.

We pulled out what we did have in the diaper bag and realized we had a “cloth diaper” that we had been using as spit up cloths.

Then I spotted a Subway. I wasn’t sure how I was going to communicate with the server there as no one speaks English. I walk in and play a game of pantomime and charades until she finally hands me a plastic bag, big enough for a 6 inch sub.

We took Siena to the main reception area for people wanting to go on the wall where there were some chairs. I tore holes in the corners of the bag and we made a makeshift diaper for her. She hated it at first, but you know what? It held up. She peed on the way back and her clothes stayed dry.

My-poor-trusting-baby-during-one-of-my-mom moments
My-poor-trusting-baby-during-one-of-my-mom moments

Share Your Mom Moments!

Do you have a Mom Moment that can stand the test of time? Please share it in the comments below. It will make the rest of us feel better about our own Mom Moments. 

If you want to read about an epic FAIL of many Mom Moments about potty training, check out my blog post: Potty Training, Poop Everywhere Edition

Want to see more embarrassing Mom Moments? Check out Embarrassing Mom Stories

One Way to Spend Time with Your Toddler & Still Get Things Done Around the House

I will be explaining to you how to spend time with your toddler, but first a little preface to what the events typically look like leading up to it. It's hard to know how to keep a toddler engaged. It's even more taxing trying to figure out how to spend time with your toddler when their interest level peaks after just a couple of minutes and all you want to be doing is something else.

The Go-To Entertainer

When we are bored in the winter, it is a constant battle of 'how much television am I going to let my kids watch today?' I go back and forth with myself. I have all this stuff I need to get done. We're trying to save money, so I need to cook more meals so we don't go out to eat. The whole house is a disaster and I have students coming over for piano lessons. The laundry has literally not been done in weeks. The clean clothes are wrinkling in piles in and around the laundry baskets that have been tucked at the foot of our bed. Showering is a must... And it's too cold to go outside! If I am going to get stuff done, I've got to find a way to keep my kid engaged.

The easiest solution is, of course, television. If my daughter has her eyes locked on the TV, she won't chuck a doll at Grayson's head. And let's be honest, we watch TV at our house all the time. Every day. I would be lying if I said that I did not just let Netflix of Amazon prime run through episodes like a perpetually energetic hamster on a wheel. It's fine if you judge me.

Most of the time, at some point during the day, I decide, okay, we've watched too much TV. Jennifer, it's time to spend time with your toddler and baby... or at least de-zombify your children.

spend-time-with-your-toddler-doing-something-new-and-exciting

The Meltdown.

Tantrum. The end of the world. Life is over as we know it because Wa-Wa (Sofia the First) and Grr (Daniel Tiger) are no longer welcome in our home. After the initial earwax curdling screaming, the negotiations begin. "Mama, wa-wa?"

"No. Mommy said no."

"Grr?" she asks.

"No, sorry."

"Choo choo? (nursery rhymes set to music)" Now she's getting more desperate.

"Siena, no more show."

Another crying session. "Show!"

I finish up whatever task I was working on while she tries to figure out what to do with herself. Then, the inevitable happens. If she can't be watching her show, then mama can't be doing whatever she wants to be doing. Mama is now my daughter's new favorite toy.

The Point of Decision – Mommy Leash vs. Ignoring Your Kids

Siena has now learned that in order to get what she want, she needs to communicate it. This is great, most of the time... One of the not so great aspects is what I call 'the Mommy Leash". The Mommy Leash is when your child grabs your hand in an attempt to do whatever it is that they want you to do. This is aggravating for Mommy and Toddler.

I now have to decide if I'm going to engage with 'the Mommy Leash' or if I am going to pull my hand away from her and say something like, "Mama's busy right now."

I hate both options. On the one hand, I don't really like being forced to do something, even if it is by my toddler. I have watched her try and do this to other toddlers too and they don't like it either. So, I should at least resist for their benefit so she learns that that is not an effective way to get what she wants. But if I don't come, she will continue to pull and pull until we go back to the last phase and start all over again at tantrum.

The second option of brushing her off, makes me feel like I am ignoring my child or not being attentive enough. Should I be playing with her as frequently as she wants me to? Does it make me a bad mom if I don't? I don't think so.

So, I'm stuck.

spend-time-with-your-toddler-doing-what-she-wants-to-do-sometimes

Secret Option #3

So, while you are caught in the dilemma of Mommy Leash or Ignoring Kids, instead I like to try and remember the alternate dilemma. This dilemma is Mommy Leash vs Mommy Led. I remove my hand from my daughter's sticky grip and ask her if she would like to do something with me. This can be anything. It could be helping me unload the dishwasher, pick up toys, color in her coloring book, play with bubbles, build a block, read a book, sweep up the crumbs, help me vacuum, give her brother a kiss or cook a meal. LITERALLY ANYTHING.

If your toddler is trying the Mommy Leash on you, they probably are trying to communicate that they just want to do what you are doing. They want to be with Mama. Sometimes, though, they just want mama to entertain them. The distinction is easy to determine for my daughter. I usually know if she actually wants to spend time with me by asking, "Do you want to cuddle with me?"

If she says yes, I know she really wants her mama.

"No," is usually the response I get, which means, she just wants someone to play with and she wants them to do her idea. Now I can choose whether I want to do what she wants me to do or not.

Spend Time with Your Toddler – Siena Style

If I agree to her idea, I know what I am in for. My daughter's favorite thing to do, is pretend to be the mommy. Frequently, she will announce, "Night-night!" Then she will take my hand and try to force me to bed. (Which is funny, because that is never how we get her into bed.) She pulls and pulls and if I acquiesce, she will 'read' me a book, put me in her bed, give me her baby and blankie, turn on the 'shishis' (the projector fish night light), shut the door and leave me in her room.

If I try to get out of bed, she puts me back in bed and closes the door. Typically not the best way to spend time with your toddler when you are not even in the same room.

Regardless, sometimes I play her games with her, especially if I want to just lazily play on my phone in her bed after she closes the door. But a lot of times, I don't want to be put to bed multiple times throughout the day.

It is okay to say no and still spend time with your toddler. It is also okay to say "no, thank you. I really need to finish this right now". Or "No thank you. I don't want to do that."

I am no expert, because my kids are still young, but I think being honest with them will pay off later.

The Most Common Responses

I am learning more and more that my daughter is very opinionated about what she does and does not want to do. But, she is also very open to new ideas. Sometimes I will suggest a long list of things and she will say, "no... no... no... no..." and I am flabbergasted when she says no to the one thing I thought she would certainly say yes to.

But more often than not, when I suggest something she will get excited about a new idea or a new experience and say "okay!" It could be work, but she has seen me do it and so she wants to give it a try.

My toddler will try anything, except different foods sometimes. But if she has seen mama do it, she wants in! And if she has seen dada do it, even better!

I have learned that just by asking your toddler if wants he to do what you are doing, you get to spend time with your toddler AND get stuff done.

My daughter really likes to help. And even if it takes me twice as long, it's a lot more fun... or memorable... doing it with her.

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The Result

The best thing when you spend time with your toddler this way, is that even though they may only stay engaged for a couple of minutes, they learn that mama is doing something important. If I let my daughter help me with chores, she may lose interest, or I may have to ask her to let mommy finish. But even when she disengages a couple of minutes later, she doesn't try to take me with her. Now she understands that I need to finish what I am doing before I can hang out with her.

It's almost like she has been let in on the secret. Now she is a part of the task and understands its significance. Spend time with your toddler, even just for a couple of minutes or explain to them why you can't, because they're smart. They know your sincere intentions.

Spend Time with Your Toddler and Love it!

Taking a little bit of time to change the situation from Mommy Leash to Mommy Led will help you relax, have open communication with your toddler and will help you to spend time with your toddler.

We still watch a lot of TV. It's hard to find stuff to do in the winter, but I treasure the times when I am brave enough to push the big red power button on my remote and really BE with my kids.

I love spending time with Siena. She is getting to the age where she does or says things that catch me by surprise and have me laughing more every day. She knows how to help me unload the dishwasher, she will sit on the stools by the counter and snack while I cook, she tries to entice me away to one of her fun games on a daily basis and on the rare occasion, she will let me snuggle with her if I put on her show. My baby girl is my buddy and I love it!

For fun indoor ideas that require more preparation than I am usually willing to do, check out this Stay at Home Mom's sweet blog!

Toddler Activities