Saturday, April 27, 2013

Being the Best Mom I Can Be on the Worst Days

I'm sure I'm not the only mom out there who has rolled out of bed thinking something along the lines of "I can't do this. There is no way I can make it through the day. I can't handle this mom thing today." That was me this morning. Last night I pulled my third almost-all-nighter in a row. Emerald has a cough/cold, and last night was the third night I laid next to her nursing her, holding her, rocking her, trying desperately to keep her asleep while she thrashed around sniffing and snorting and hacking her head off. Last night she woke up coughing then crying about every 15 minutes all night long. I dozed off a few times, but mostly I sat there propped up on a bean bag holding her, nursing her, rocking her while she coughed and cried. When she woke up for good at 8:00 (after not falling asleep until almost midnight last night) I knew I had already failed for the day. Before I even got out of bed (or got up off the floor, because we slept in the playroom last night to keep Mercedes from hearing all the coughing) the thought "I can't be a good mom today" ran through my head about 15 times.

My dad passed away recently. The week in between when he passed and funeral, I was grieving at home alone with my two girls and it was hard. At the funeral, I admitted to a friend that "I was not a very good mom this past week". She replied with, "You were the best mom you could be." I love that. Even on the days when I don't measure up, when I am a total failure as a mom, when I'm sick, when I'm exhausted, when I'm grieving, even when I feel like the worst mom ever, I'm still the best mom I can be.

Today I can't think straight. I can barely walk in a straight line. My muscles are so sore from holding Emerald all night that I can barely lift her today. I have zero patience for meltdowns and tantrums. We're definitely not doing any fun messy projects or having any dance parties or playing tag or hide and seek around the house. It's raining today, but even if it wasn't I wouldn't be outside pushing them in the stroller, playing at the park or chasing them around the yard. Emerald has been fussing and crying constantly. Mercedes has watched hours too much TV.

On days like today, I tend to lose my patience and send Mercedes to her chill spot for something I normally would just give her a warning about. I might be a little slower to pick up Emerald when she cries. I might even say something rude to Mercedes or raise my voice, forgetting that she is a tiny person who deserves my respect, and have to apologize to her for my attitude.

I definitely am not being a "good mom" today. But I'm being the best mom I can be. And I think that's okay. I think it's okay for my kids to see me not happy sometimes. To see me have to work a little harder to achieve simple tasks. It's okay for my kids to not have a super fun day filled with exciting activities. It's even okay for them to see me screw up and to hear me apologize. Not only is it okay, but it may even be good for them to know that Mommy makes mistakes and fails and has bad days too. Sometimes, Mommy even has a meltdown and bursts out crying, just like they do.

I do my best to be honest with Mercedes. I definitely make sure to apologize if I overreact or say something disrespectful. And I try to explain to her why I'm acting differently than normal. I'll tell her, "I'm sorry for raising my voice. Mommy got frustrated too easily because I'm tired and didn't sleep well last night. It's not your fault and I shouldn't have yelled", or "No, Mommy can't play hide and seek right now because I have a headache and a tummy ache and I need to sit down. Can you please read me a story instead?"

There are a million ways to be the best mom I can be even when I'm practically walking in my sleep. I can cuddle my baby. I can let Mercedes read me stories, play with my hair, or let her use her doctor kit to pretend to make me feel better. I can remind myself a million times that I don't have as much patience as normal and choose to ignore a few problem behaviors until I get a good night sleep and can handle the situations without overreacting. I can give both my kids all the hugs and kisses they want. I can be honest with them about why I'm having a hard time, so they know there's no shame in having a hard time and they can be honest with me on their hard days too. I can show my kids that I'm not perfect, that life is not happy all the time and set an example on how to apologize when we are out of line. I can choose not to let one bad day (or in our case, 3 bad days in a row) define me as a mom by remembering that loving my kids and being the best mom I can be on the worst days IS being a good mom.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Outdoor Water Table

 Today I created a super simple outdoor water table just by using a shallow plastic storage bin filled with water and placing it on top of a taller plastic bin. It is the perfect height for toddlers and super cheap to put together, especially if you already have these random bins in your house like I did. 

First I just filled it with plastic floaty toys and a few cups and a funnel for pouring.

After a while, we added purple food coloring to make the water even prettier and more fun.

A while later, we added some ice cubes. 

There are a million ways to play with this simple water table. I can't wait to see how our water table play progresses throughout this spring and summer!

Sugar Sensory

This morning I filled a casserole dish half with brown sugar and half with white sugar and let the girls play. They loved it! I did too...the brown sugar was especially fun to play with because it's so soft and fluffy yet also molds and can be packed down, almost like wet sand.

As usually when we do sensory activities, Mercedes pretended to cook and bake and requested extra cooking dishes and utensils to use.

Eventually we added milk.

I was surprised that neither girl tried to taste this sensory material. =-) Huge success!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Apple Candy Bites

A few weeks ago we made banana candy, a gooey, sweet, healthy treat. Mercedes was asking for something sweet today so we created apple candy bites! These were every bit as successful and delicious as the banana candy. They were sweet, chewy with a little bit of a crunch in the middle and a perfectly healthy way to satisfy my sweet tooth. They lasted less than 10 minutes between the 3 of us girls. =-)

Step 1: Cut your apples into thin slices (we used 2 apples for a snack for one adult and two toddlers).

 Step 2: Cut the apple slices into bite sized pieces.

Step 3: Transfer pieces to a small bowl.

Step 4: Sprinkle with cinnamon (or cinnamon sugar).

Step 5: Mix until all the apples are coated in cinnamon or cinnamon sugar.

 Step 6: Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and spread apple bites in a single layer on the cookie sheet.

Step 7: Bake at 200 degrees for 1 hour (less if you want them crunchy, more if you want them super soft and chewy. I liked them chewy with a slight crunch in the middle). 

That's all! Prep takes about 5 minutes. Another bonus: While they are baking in the oven the house smells amazing!

Counting Tray

 I created a super simple "counting tray" for Mercedes by numbering the compartments of an ice cube tray 1-16 with a permanent marker. I gave her a handful of dried beans and helped her count the correct number of beans to put in each tray.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

How My Body Was Transformed Before My Baby's First Birthday

 First of all, I'd like to make it clear that this post is not meant to make anyone feel bad if they have not reached their goal weight by their baby's first birthday. I recently wrote a post called Finding Beauty in the Baby Weight and I truly believe that even if your body is never the same after you give birth, the extra weight and body changes are 100% worth it when you consider what you've earned from that weight and those body changes. This is really not a post specifically about weight loss and trying to look better at all. What's important is feeling better. As shown above, when I came home from the hospital after giving birth to Emerald, I weighed almost 200 lbs (I am 5'2") and I felt just awful. My joints hurt, I felt lethargic, I had no energy to run around with my toddler and I was in a pretty miserable mood most of the time. Yes, some of this was due to giving birth and having a new baby and the hormone changes involved in that, but I have found that throughout my daughter's first year, the healthier my lifestyle is and the better in shape I get, the more energy I have and the happier I am. It is so much more fun for both me and my girls when I am in a good mood, when I have plenty of energy for them, when I get sick less because my immune system is out the roof, when I am strong enough to dance with them and toss them around...I feel amazing. So, I repeat, this is not a post to rub in people's faces that I lost 74 lbs in a year and make everyone feel guilty if they have not been able to do the same. No, this post is meant to encourage and motivate women (especially mommies who are struggling with their baby weight) to take steps towards living a healthier lifestyle. Our kids deserve for us to give them the best of us...the healthy, strong, energetic versions of ourselves. And I know for me, being a mom is sooo much easier not lugging around that extra 74 lbs. The more muscle mass I gain, the more weight I lose, the better my immune system is and therefore the less I get sick, the more fun I have being a mom. My hope is that this post would encourage and motivate anyone who has given up on losing weight or feeling good simply because they are busy or have kids. In less than a year, with a baby and a toddler, I have managed to whip my body into shape with only a 20 minute break from the kids a day (and all of us mommies deserve a 20 minute break every day). If I can do it, you can do it. I promise.

So here's what happened. I was 128 lbs when I got pregnant with baby #2. I gained a whopping 60 lbs during pregnancy. Partly because that's just what my body does when I'm pregnant (I gained 44 lbs with baby #1), partly because I didn't really eat right, and partly because since I also had a toddler I did not feel like I had enough time or energy to exercise daily like I did during my first pregnancy. In labor with baby #2, I weighed 188 lbs. Somehow I lost NO weight giving birth to her even though she weighed 9 lbs 4 oz, and when I came home from the hospital I still weighed 188 lbs.

Honestly, the first 40 or 50 lbs melted right off. I used this amazing weight loss plan called "Being a Mom". Nursing constantly WHILE chasing a toddler around all day and never having two hands free to fix myself food. And on the rare occasions when I did fix myself a meal I usually ate standing up and ended up throwing half of it away because it went bad before I had a chance to finish eating it. Not the healthiest weight loss method and I'm not saying to try this, it's just what ended up happening. I also realize that breastfeeding burns TONS of calories so moms who formula feed their babies do not have this easy peasy weight loss technique. 

Even though I was approaching my pre-baby weight, I felt awful. I was not eating the right kinds of food or the right amount of food. I also had zero muscle mass and had gobs and gobs of flab. Eventually I got tired of feeling sick and tired all the time and I made some changes.

These are the three changes I made, not just to lose weight but to feel great and be healthy.

1. I started drinking TONS of water. About 12-14 (8 oz) glasses a day (I feel like I need that much to stay hydrated while breastfeeding...for a non-breastfeeder, probably 8-10 glasses is plenty). This helps flush the body of toxins and prevents bloating as well as avoiding dehydration which causes headaches and other health issues that us mommies do not have time for.

2. I started eating Caveman Style. It's called the Paleo Diet. It's not so much of a weight loss diet as it is a healthy eating lifestyle. You can read more about it by clicking on the link above, but basically it's loading up on meat, fruits and veggies with some nuts and a little dairy and eliminating all grains, sugar, starches (like rice and white potatoes) and processed foods. Oh my goodness. This diet/lifestyle change is AMAZING. I mean it makes me feel INCREDIBLE. It gives me tons of energy, and everything I eat just makes me feel so HEALTHY. I cannot say enough good things about it. Every time I get lazy and have "cheat days" and start eating gluten free peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and gluten free frozen pizzas I get bloated and cranky and lethargic. Then when I switch back to hardcore Paleo I feel amazing again. Also, I lost 18 lbs the first month I started eating this way. The great thing about this too is that there's no calorie counting. You can literally eat meat, fruit and veggies until you are stuffed full and you are still going to lose weight (or maintain weight if you're already at a healthy weight) as long as you are not eating the sugar, grains, starches and processed foods and especially if you are drinking tons and tons of water.This diet also works wonders for boosting the immune system because all the fruits and veggies are loaded with vitamins that your body uses to help fight diseases.

3. I started using Jillian Michaels: 30 Day Shred workout DVD. I recommend this workout DVD above all others because a) it is intense and effective and b) it is only 20 minutes long, the only 20 minute long workout DVD I have seen in stores or online...most of them are 40-50 minutes and as a mom of a baby and a toddler I'm lucky if I can take a 10 minute shower every day let alone set aside almost an hour to workout on top of that. My husband agreed to watch the girls for me in the evenings (usually while they are having their before bed chill out TV time) so I can do my 20 minute workout and take a 10 minute shower. The way the workout program is set up, there are 3 different levels which get progressively harder and you are suppose to do each one for 10 days until you have worked out for 30 days straight. I think I got about 6 days into it before I realized that there were days I simply COULD NOT workout...either because we were out too late, one of the girls was sick and clinging to me, I was not feeling well, etc. so I just did each level every day that I possibly could (usually 4 or 5 days a week) until I felt like I could move on to the next level. I still do Jillian Michael's 30 Day Shred every day that I can, usually either level 2 or 3 depending on how challenging I want my workout to be that day. I lost probably 5-10 lbs within 30 days of starting this workout, but the important thing is that I started gaining muscle mass which means I am much stronger and have more energy. Also, since exercise releases endorphins that improve a person's mood, the more consistant I am with my workouts the happier I am.

If you find yourself lethargic much of the time, get sick a lot, suffer from mood swings or just crankiness in general and/or have a few pounds to shed, I encourage you to try a 30 day challenge. For 30 days, make a point to drink at least 8 (8 oz) glasses of water (more if you are breastfeeding), eat only what is approved on the Paleo diet, and workout daily (Again, I highly recommend Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred since it is only 20 minutes but intense enough to be effective). At the end of the 30 days, my guess is that you will feel healthier, stronger, be in an overall better mood, have more energy for your kids and you'll love the feeling so much that it will become your new lifestyle. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Colored Water Droplet Art

I am OBSESSED with this project! I mean, it is really, really incredibly AMAZING! I think water is just awesome and beautiful. I discovered this by accident. Mercedes received a tiny water color set from her Great-Grandma for Easter, and I was using a medicine dropper to get each color wet when I discovered that the water from the medicine dropper stayed in droplets. The droplets looked so cool sitting on top of the paint colors that I decided to dye some water with different colors of food coloring and see if the droplets would stay on a piece of parchment paper. It worked great! Wax paper may work even better but I haven't tested it yet.

I gave Mercedes a bunch of colored water and a medicine dropper and she went to work! Seriously, I can't say enough good things about this project. It is just really so incredible!

 I could not resist making a bunch of my own art while Mercedes was working on hers.

Seriously...these tiny droplets are just gorgeous and making art with them is so fun!

Easter Egg Sensory (Shaky Eggs Nest)

This is a simple sensory bin I put together for Emerald after Easter. I just used some crinkle paper shreds that you use for Easter baskets, and a few Easter eggs filled with dried beans to make a "shaky eggs nest".

Emerald LOVED the "shaky eggs".

I thought this would be too simple for Mercedes, but she had fun with it too!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

"Cooking" with Sand

Mercedes brought some of her kitchen stuff outside the other day and pretended to be a "baker", whipping up all sorts of delicious pies, cupcakes, breads, soups, milkshakes, hot chocolate and tea out of nothing but sand and marbles. She is so talented. =-)

Monday, April 1, 2013

Scrambled Easter Eggs

 I made "Scrambled Easter Eggs" for Easter breakfast by beating a few eggs, pouring the beaten eggs into 3 different bowls and adding  food coloring to each of them. Yes, I scrambled each color separately and washed the pan in between each color and it was a pain. Still, it probably took only about 15 minutes to prepare and my kids adored them. Perfect Easter breakfast!