6 Birth Videos I Used to Prepare My Child for His Sibling’s Entrance

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I’ve written before about preparing your child to attend the birth of a sibling. A big part of preparing my son to see me labor and give birth was watching videos. I got a lot of questions about what videos I watched. There are many readily available on YouTube, and I’m going to share some of the ones I’ve found that do a great job of covering aspects of birth.

It was especially helpful for my son to know what kinds of noises I might make and how I might be concentrating inward. It was also important that he understood where the baby would be coming out and what the baby would look like. Always screen videos before you show a young child. You need to be prepared to answer the questions they’ll have. You’ll need to know if any aspect of the video may be upsetting to them.

That said: I hope these birth videos are a great jumping off point.

1. This is a great first video. The way it’s edited and presented is gorgeous. It’s a peaceful home water birth where two older siblings are in attendance. You can clearly see the baby emerging under the water. There’s a very sweet moment as one of the older sisters meets her new sibling for the first time.

2. This video is also edited with music and is enjoyable to watch. It’s another home water birth. There is a sweet moment with the older siblings before they leave. There is a break in the music when it comes time for the birth, and the mom makes some moaning pushing sounds.

3.  Here is yet another water birth. This one is incredibly peaceful and calm. And mom stays in the birth tub for the delivery of the placenta and there are a lot of great shots of that. My son was really interested in the umbilical cord and the placenta. Added bonus of a lot of great shots of the newborn.

4. This video is also incredibly peaceful. Mom is lying on a pallet on her side when she delivers. There is excellent detail in showing how the baby’s head emerges from the birth canal, and then twists so that the body can be born. It’s absolutely gorgeous and mom is beaming. This one continues during the third stage as well with the delivery of the placenta.

5. An older sibling attends this home water birth. There is a great range of sounds and behaviors from mom as she is in the intense part of labor. There are many times where she is breathing heavily and concentrating, and lots of pushing and grunting and yelling. But between contractions, she’s calm and cheerful and talking to her daughter who is in the room.

6. This last video has some colorful language, so definitely screen this one first. But it shows a mom delivering her baby at home. She’s on the bed in a semi-reclined position. I think it’s important to show the loud labors as well as the quiet ones. This mom is really strong and pushes the baby’s head out really quickly.

Image: Kala Bernier

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BPA-Free and Plant-Based Plastics More Dangerous Than We Thought

plastic is evil. BPA-free plastic still unsafe, pregnant women avoid plastic,

In my house, we only permit BPA-free toys, sippy cups, and other plastics while trying to minimize our use of plastic altogether. Doing so is supposed to spare us from hormone-disrupting chemicals found in  bisphenol-A. But these plastic items still aren’t safe (if by safe we mean products that don’t leach other hormone-disrupting chemicals). Research now indicates that nearly every plastic product (including BPA-free) is made up of chemicals that stimulate estrogenic activity (EA) in human cells.

Estrogen made by our bodies in the right quantities at the right time is a good thing. But chemicals with EA have been linked to a whole slew of frightening problems like increased rates of  asthma, obesity, premature puberty in girls, infertility, reproductive cancers, and a number of neurodevelopmental disorders.

To perform the study, University of Texas researchers purchased 455 widely available plastic products. Although most were labeled “BPA-free” it wasn’t possible to determine exactly what chemicals they contained. Apparently this is proprietary information closely guarded by industry. To determine if the products had estrogenic effects, researchers exposed extracted versions to solvents meant to mimic food and beverage items these plastics were likely to contain. Then, they exposed these extracts to a type of human breast cancer cell that’s highly receptive to estrogen. Cells that multiplied in the presence of plastic extracts indicated that those particular chemicals were estrogenic.

The results? Nearly every plastic product they tested leached EA chemicals. Some BPA-free products actually released more EA than other plastics. That included eco-friendly plastics made from plant products, which apparently released EA due to the additives used.

A more recent study by University of Calgary scientists indicates that bisphenol-S, found in many products with the “BPA-free” label, might actually be more harmful than BPA itself. Researchers exposed zebra fish, a good model to study human brain development, to bisphenol-S (an ingredient found in many products deemed “BPA-free”). The results showed abnormally timed growth of neurons in the embryos, the same growth surges found when embryos are exposed to BPA. The disruption of prenatal cellular activity appeared to result in hyperactive behavior. In fact, early abnormal growth of brain cells was specific to male hormones, perhaps indicating why more boys than girls are diagnosed with certain neurodevelopmental disorders.

Researcher Deborah Kurrasch was surprised by the results, especially since the dose used was “a very, very, very low dose, so I didn’t think using a dose this low could have any effect.” Another researcher in the study, Hamid Habibi, said “Finding the mechanism linking low doses of BPA to adverse brain development and hyperactivity is almost like finding a smoking gun.” They recommend pregnant women limit their exposure to products containing bisphenols and say this and other studies support removing bisphenols and structurally similar chemicals from consumer products.

Ninety percent of Americans show trace amounts of BPA in urine, breast milk, and umbilical cord blood. Why are potentially dangerous plastics used in toys, food packaging, and beverage cups (as well as in healthcare)? The  Food and Drug Administration considers compounds safe until proven otherwise.

Resources & Further Reading on This Topic

image CC by 2.0 from hottholler’s flickr photostream

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We’re Giving Away 27 Prizes from Hyland’s Homeopathy! Enter to Win Now!

happy family

logoWe’re excited to announce that we’ve teamed up with Hyland’s Homeopathy to bring you a huge healthy giveaway to kick off the new year!

Hyland’s is offering some seriously awesome prizes for this giveaway and we can’t wait to share them with you. Find out more about the prizes, get the scoop on how to enter, and read some interesting information about homeopathic remedies below.

The Prizes:

baby gift basket

1 Enormous Baby Health Gift Basket: This gift basket is packed full of some of Hyland’s most popular remedies for your little one. It include Hyland’s Teething Tablets, Baby Colic Tablets, Baby Tiny Cold Tablets, Baby Diaper Ointment, Baby Gas Drops, Baby Cough Syrup, and Baby Vitamin C Tablets! Find out more about these products here.

4 kids gift basket

1 Huge Health Gift Basket for Your Child: You’ll love this basket of remedies just for bigger kids (2+). It includes a 4 Kids Cough Syrup (w/ honey), a 4 Kids Nighttime Cold ‘n Cough, a 4 Kids Sniffles ‘n Sneezes, a 4 Kids Complete Cold ‘n Flu, a 4 Kids Calm ‘n Restful, a 4 Kids Complete Allergy, and a 4 Kids Cold ‘n Cough! Get the scoop on these remedies for children on Hyland’s site.

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25 Memberships to the National Center for Homeopathy: That’s right, 25! These memberships are being provided by Hyland’s as a gift to our readers and include a quarterly print & digital subscription to Homeopathy Today, online access to all of their past issues, free registration to 12 educational webinars a year, and even more great benefits. Get all of the details about what these memberships include right here.

How to Enter:

For the first entry: “Like” Hyland’s and Mothering on Facebook and then leave a comment here on this post to enter.

For a second entry: Share this post with your friends and then leave a second comment letting us know that you did!

We’ll draw 27 winners randomly on Jan 24th from all of the comments. 25 winners will get a membership to the National Center for Homeopathy and 2 lucky mamas will get a gift basket from Hyland’s!

Rules: US and Canadian residents only. 2 entries per person (one for liking/leaving a comment and one for sharing/leaving a second comment). Giveaway ends on Jan 23rd at 11:59 PM PT.

What is Homeopathy?

It seems that everyday we hear about how a certain drug is being pulled off the market because of some adverse effect. In our clinical training we are all taught that as much as possible we should offer treatments that first and foremost do no harm, based on the principles of Hippocrates. However, it appears that our current system of medicine is often unable to live up to this ideal.

Homeopathy is a system of medicine that has been used worldwide safely and successfully for over 200 years, and actually lives up to the Hippocratic principle of doing no harm. Homeopathy recognizes the body’s innate ability to heal, and provides medications that support the body’s own healing capacity. Homeopathy views illness not as an enemy to be suppressed but as the body’s language that needs to be understood. It encourages us to listen to the body, understand what it is asking from us and respond with medications and therapies that are unique to each individual.

Furthermore, homeopathy is grounded in a scientific method and supported by clinical research. An estimated 3.9 million US adults and 900,000 children used homeopathy in the previous year.

Why Should You Consider Using Homeopathic Remedies?

They are cost-effective: Homeopathic medications are highly diluted preparations of naturally occurring plant, mineral and animal substances that are widely available over the counter. They are often affordable and easy to obtain.

They offer safe treatments for common ailments: Homeopathic medications are regulated by the FDA and are unlikely to contain any toxic components. They have been used successfully all over the world for the past 200 years with an excellent safety profile. With the growing concern about conventional over the counter medications for children, homeopathic remedies offer safe alternatives for helping your child.

They can be used with conventional medications without contraindications or drug interactions: They support the body’s own healing capacity and do not interact with other medications, so they can be given alongside conventional medications without any interactions.

Leave your comments below to enter to win! 

Image: David Amsler

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And The Golden Globe Goes to… YOU, Evolving Parent!

xemenia and her mom 218..I realize the Golden Globe telecast isn’t super-high on the priority list for some parents, so I wanted to loop you in on this, in case you missed it: in accepting the award for Best Direction of his extraordinary film Boyhood, Richard Linklater dedicated it to “parents that are evolving everywhere.”

Or as I like to call us, “parents in progress.” We are all ages, and our children range from pre-birth to adult. We are the curious ones, the researchers. We are the parents who have our ears tuned for new information that will enrich our family’s life. We are the status-quo buckers. We are the ones who rarely (if ever) say things like, “Well, my parents spanked me and I turned out okay.”

We are also the ones who can beat ourselves up for falling short of… well… perfection. Some of us occasionally envy the blissfully ignorant. And yet there’s no way of joining that party, because awareness is a powerful engine that insists upon progress. Let’s adopt a mantra, shall we? “Progress, not perfection.”

MotheringAwardFIAs Linklater wisely observed, “We’re all flawed in this world. No one’s perfect.”

Ah, but here’s the award-winning part: Do you know what very powerful and very beautiful process can be ignited when curious awareness meets flawed humanity? Striving.

The Powerful Beauty of Striving

I want to share a few thoughts with you on the power and beauty of striving — including something I learned that was huge for me personally. It solved a mystery that had lived for many years at the center of my mothering heart.

But first, I want to clarify what I mean by striving. Here’s a 2-minute chat with Kathy White of Joyful Parents UK where we suss this out. Hint: striving is NOT meant to be stressful!

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Over the past dozen years, science has revealed that mothers and babies link up, brain-to-brain — kind of like a sci-fi “mind-meld.” This is a fundamental aspect of learning for our children, as they essentially “download” our social-emotional programming. (Crazy, right?!) When I first learned that researchers can “read” a mother’s depression in her baby’s EEG (brainwave) patterns, it was like a kick in the stomach. As the daughter of a bipolar mother, I had inherited a genetic predisposition toward depression.

And when I had my first child, motherhood brought me to my knees: a lot of my own unaddressed early childhood stuff came roiling up, and even the simplest daily things were a struggle. I suffered from what I’ve come to call CCPD — Chronic Covert Postpartum Depression. I had rage leaking out all over. It was really hard for me to be present. Yes, I got stuff done and took pretty good care of my children, but continually felt like things would all fall apart any moment.

So years after all that, I learn about attachment neurobiology and how infants and children take their cues from their parents’ emotional functioning?? Yikes.

Hang On, Here’s The Cool Part

If this brain-to-brain thing were merely a copy-and-paste situation, my son and my daughter wouldn’t have had much hope. But here’s the thing: I never stopped striving — for insight, for healing, for wholeness. And that changed everything. I believe it is why Ian and Eve have both flourished even though I struggled when they were little.

UCLA psychiatrist Jeffrey Schwartz wrote an entire book about it, called Mind and Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force. He developed a successful treatment protocol for severe OCD using only mindfulness practice; patients not only changed their behavior but even their brain structure simply through how they directed their thoughts.

Dr. Schwartz says that striving “carries a level of mental force that changes the brain” — which means our striving can change the download our children are getting!! What we hand down to our children as we parent is not simply a linear, one-for-one duplicate of ourselves. This is where stunning possibilities of parenting for peace lie: through refining our own consciousness we throw the door wide open on our children’s potential.

Consciousness is a powerful force. And by “consciousness” I mean the ways in which you focus your thoughts, attitudes, expectations. How do you think about something your child has done or said? How do you think about yourself as a parent? How you think about a challenge, or a blessing, or a loss? To a great extent, that shapes how successful you will be in responding to those situations.

And because you are human, you will continue to not be “successful” many times. And so you can begin again. Give yourself the gift of beginning again, as many times as it takes. There is beauty and power in those beginnings!

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I’d love to hear about where you think you might need to begin often. Where are the bumpy spots in your daily or weekly parenting life where you (and your child!) will benefit from you beginning again… and again…? And would you be willing to forgive yourself the need to continue beginning again? Ah… welcome to the family of evolving parents everywhere!

 

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25 Most Popular Baby Names of the 1960s

It’s always interesting to see how baby name trends have shifted over the decades. Last week we shared a fascinating look at popular monikers from the 1950s that was created by the family history site Crestleaf.

This week they’ve utilized their Historic Records Database to dig into baby names from the 1960s. Did anyone name their kiddo one of these groovy selections?

Find out more in the associated article here.

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Nostalgia for the Baby Days: Accepting the Impermanence of Childhood

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I’m sitting in a coffee shop, focused on my work, when a woman walks in carrying a baby who can be no more than five months old. This is my long day of work for the week, when my eighteen-month-old son spends the entire day with his aunt, and we’re apart for twelve hours. I feel a pang of longing, not only to be with my son—which is something I feel frequently when I’m away from him for so long—but also to be, once again, with the baby he used to be. To hold him in my arms the way I used to, without the toddler squirminess that now cuts short our snuggling sessions much sooner than I’d like.

Don’t get me wrong, I adore this toddler stage too. The nonstop energy and exploration, his ability to communicate more and more every day. The way he sometimes says “mom” right before he falls asleep, in the softest, sweetest voice imaginable. His obvious delight when he learns something new. And, yes, his ability to occupy himself for brief moments, so that I can sneak away for a bit of solitude.

There was a time when I didn’t understand the nostalgia with which mothers spoke about their children’s infancy. It seemed wrong to wish for the baby that the child used to be. But I get it now. Being nostalgic for my son’s infancy doesn’t mean that I love the person he is now any less. Instead, the more he becomes himself, the more my love seems to grow. But the first year is fleeting, and it was over before I had much chance to appreciate it.

I think of having another child, of once again being the mother with a baby snuggled against her chest in a coffee shop. But then I remember, I have a toddler. So I’d be a mother with a baby snuggled against her chest and a toddler clinging to her leg, vying for her limited time and attention. Never again will it be just me and my baby. Though there will be different kinds of sweetness as our family grows, the (relative) simplicity of those baby days with my first and only will be forever in the past.

The urge to tell the mother in the coffee shop how lucky she is, to advise that she appreciate every moment, is almost irresistible. Until I remember how hard those early months were, how entirely drained I often felt, how I sometimes wondered whether I would make it another day. We’ve since moved onto new struggles; the previous struggles now barely cling to the edges of my memory. But there was a time that, despite the sweetness of newborn snuggles, I felt like I was in the trenches. Maybe she feels that way now. I decide to keep my mouth shut.

Being a mother means accepting the reality of impermanence. When I was childless, I structured my life to create the illusion of permanence, and the feeling of safety that it provides. Not so anymore. I don’t structure my own life these days. Now I just do my best to let go of what I know was always an illusion anyway.

My son looks more like a boy every day. He moves on to tomorrow before I can process what happened yesterday. I take endless photographs in an attempt to capture who he is in each moment, knowing that he’ll be a different person before the shutter can close once again. It’s futile, I know, but having something permanent helps me to accept that life is anything but.

Image: Guillermo Fdez

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30 Hilarious and Inspiring Parenting Quotes to Brighten Your Day

Parenting Quotes to Brighten Your Day

A collection of parenting quotes that made us laugh, smile or nod with approval. Enjoy!

Before I got married I had six theories about raising children; now, I have six children and no theories. - John Wilmot

Everybody knows how to raise children, except the people who have them.  - P. J. O’Rourke

Like all parents, my husband and I just do the best we can, and hold our breath, and hope we’ve set aside enough money to pay for our kids’ therapy. - Michelle Pfeiffer

Encourage and support your kids because children are apt to live up to what you believe of them.  - Lady Bird Johnson

Having a child is liking getting a tattoo…on your face. You better be committed. - Eat Pray Love

The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.  - Peggy O’Mara

A child seldom needs a good talking to as a good listening to.  - Robert Brault

Having children is like living in a frat house – nobody sleeps, everything’s broken, and there’s a lot of throwing up.  - Ray Romano

When a child hits a child, we call it aggression. When a child hits an adult we call it hostility. When an adult hits an adult, we call it assault. When an adult hits a child, we call it discipline.  - Haim G. Ginott

The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.  - Calvin Trillin

The first 40 years of parenthood are always the hardest. - Unknown

Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands. - Anne Frank

A baby’s cry is precisely as serious as it sounds.  - Jean Liedloff

Being a mother is an attitude, not a biological relation.  - Robert A. Heinlein

One thing I had learned from watching chimpanzees with their infants is that having a child should be fun. – Jane Goodall

The trouble with being a parent is that by the time you are experienced, you are unemployed. - Unknown

Your children are not your children. They are sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you. And though they are with you yet they belong not to you. - Kahlil Gibran

Fatherhood is pretending the present you love most is soap-on-a-rope. - Bill Cosby

The best way to keep children at home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant, and let the air out of the tires. - Dorothy Parker

You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance. - Franklin P. Adams

Breast Feeding should not be attempted by fathers with hairy chests, since they can make the baby sneeze and give it wind. - Mike Harding

The quickest way for a parent to get a child’s attention is to sit down and look comfortable. - Lane Olinghouse

When my kids become wild and unruly, I use a nice, safe playpen. When they’re finished, I climb out. - Erma Bombeck

Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them. - James Baldwin

Always be nice to your children because they are the ones who will choose your rest home. - Phyllis Diller

Sweater, n.:garment worn by child when its mother is feeling chilly. - Ambrose Bierce

Mother is a verb. It’s something you do. Not just who you are.  - Cheryl Lacey Donovan

I had to get back to work. NBC has me under contract. The baby and I only have a verbal agreement. - Tina Fey

Say “no” only when it really matters. Wear a bright red shirt with bright orange shorts? Sure. Put water in the toy tea set? Okay. Sleep with your head at the foot of the bed? Fine. Samuel Johnson said, “All severity that does not tend to increase good, or prevent evil, is idle.  - Gretchen Rubin

Insanity is hereditary – you get it from your kids.  - Sam Levenson

Don’t see your fave? Post it in the comments.

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Woman Gives Birth 1 Hour After Discovering She’s Pregnant

Katherine Kropas and Baby Ellie

Katherine Kropas and Baby Ellie

One mama got a massive surprise earlier this week when she headed to a Massachusetts hospital for stomach and back pain and discovered that she was in active labor with a full term baby. Katherine Kropas had no idea she was even pregnant.

Less than an hour later Kropas gave birth to a baby girl she named Ellie after her grandmother.

Kropas said she did not experience any morning sickness or other clues that she was pregnant over the last nine months, other than swollen feet, which she attributed to the 50 hours per week she’d been spending on her feet during the holiday season as a caterer.

She and her long-term boyfriend were shocked by the news. She said she was on birth control, and was even having a pretty regular monthly cycle.

“At the time, I was like, ‘This has got to be a joke,’ but I had no idea what to think,” she said.

South Shore Hospital admitted that this was not the first time they have seen this happen to a young women.

“They’re not perceiving those symptoms, whereas when you’re on the lookout for them, you’re waiting for it to happen,” Dr. Kim Dever said.

Read the rest of the article on NBC Connecticut

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The Value of One-On-One Time With Each Child

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My husband recently took our oldest son to his first Yankees game. They had to see Derek Jeter play in one of his final games! Since we live in Vermont, this meant two overnights at his cousins’ house in Connecticut. As they left for their adventure, I realized that this was the first time our family of four has split up. Don’t get me wrong, I have been away from my kids for overnights (not many though!). But this would be the first time that the brothers would be split up. Owen has never known life without his older brother. Yes, he gets time to himself when Jaxson is at school, but that’s a short period of time. This would be the first time he would sleep in his room alone. The first time he would have a bath alone. The first time he would have mom all to himself. I realized that this would be a really special time for me and Owen and I wanted to embrace it.

When you go from two children down to one, the dynamic completely changes. Owen is normally loud, trying to get his voice heard. He also plays off of Jaxson so much. They are like Pete and Repeat! Jaxson says something, Owen says the same thing, over and over again. Without Jaxson there, he was quiet. I mean, strangely quiet! In the car, usually both boys are shouting over each other. Without Jaxson in the car, Owen just started chatting.

“Mommy, I have to tell you something.”

“What’s that buddy?”

“I see cows, and trees, and poop.”
Laughs hysterically. (I must mention my children are in the middle the potty talk phase. It’s so annoying and we are working on stopping it, but so far, everything is poop.)

Then he proceeded to just ramble on and on. Starting every sentence the same, “Mommy, I have to tell you something.” I hear him say this all the time but today I heard it differently. Now, it was loud and clear and super cute. As well as a little heart wrenching. Have I ignored him to the point that every sentence has to start with a plea to listen? It’s hard when two boys are fighting for your attention and sad but true, often the loudest voice gets heard first. I turned down the radio and quickly flashed him a smile. “Go ahead buddy. What do you have to tell me? I’m listening.”

We spent time reading books, and he got to choose all of them. We got to read them at his pace, which involves pointing to every picture on the page and saying every word. “Horse, barn, cow likes to moo, birdie in the tree.”

Bath time was especially interesting. Owen has always had a playmate in the tub and he has always been relegated to the back of the tub. Jaxson insists on sitting right by the spout. Owen got in the tub and went to the back but then realized, he could take the front! He sprawled out and loved it. Floating in the bubbles, we talked and sang a few songs. He played with his cars. I remember the leisurely baths that I used to give Jaxson before Owen was born. I loved those times and I loved that I was getting this time with Owen. He deserved to have this quality of time with mom. And I deserved this quality time with him.IMG_7874
Bedtime typically goes rather smoothly in our house. The first night though, Owen howled when I closed the door. “No mommy, I don’t want to go to bed.”

He was exhausted and practically half asleep during this protest, but what he was really upset about was being in his room alone. He has always had his brother to fall asleep with. They have been sharing a room since he was 6 months old, and before that he had me to sleep next to. I laid down and cuddled with him until he fell asleep and then got myself ready for bed. I realized that I too haven’t spent many nights alone in my bed since having children, so when he came into my bed to snuggle in the middle of the night, I welcomed him with open arms. I know one day he’ll stop coming in for a snuggle, so I got to take them when I can. Plus, a king size bed is really too big for just one person!

This time really made me realize how important it is for both my husband and I to spend one on one time with each son. They feel how different you parent and they feel how special they are to you. You build a stronger connection and their confidence soars. It is hard to do with busy lives, working parents and all the obligations we have. But carving out the time is worth it. Even if it is just a special trip to the dump with Daddy, or running an errand with Mommy. The amount of time doesn’t matter as much as the quality of the time.

I loved my special time with Owen. I loved how I got to see the sweet little boy that he is, when his brother isn’t stealing his toys or sitting on his head, and he isn’t shouting or crying. I know he loved the extra attention, but he also constantly asked when Jaxson would be home. The time apart made it so clear how wonderful it is to have a sibling. Of course they fight, but they also play really well with each other. They are truly best friends. They have such a bond and I am so proud of this connection that they have. I know they will forever be there for each other. They also gain so much from having each other. That is the gift of a sibling. A friend for life. One that knows you inside and out, and still loves you!

Owen and I really enjoyed our time, but when Jaxson and Daddy walked in the door, we were elated! The boys fell quickly back into their roles, Jaxson wanted to show Owen the cool things he got and tell him all about the Yankees. Owen wanted to hold Jaxson’s new baseball bat but Jaxson wasn’t ready to let it go just yet. So the first fight ensued. Owen’s lungs again erupted in a scream I hadn’t heard in days, and tears poured down both cheeks. The fight was quickly squashed, tears wiped, and normalcy returned. I was back to handling two boys and I couldn’t have been happier. Now to plan my special time with Jaxson and Owen’s special time with Daddy!

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How Motherhood Has Caused Me to Reevaluate My Definition of Success

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Sometimes I get demoralized.  I find myself doing as much as I possibly can do, pushing myself as much as I can before breaking, and yet all I see around me is chaos.

It took me awhile to get used to being a stay-at-home mom.  I had to reconfigure all of my ideas about productivity and worth and self-sufficiency and usefulness.  But once I did, I started to find a lot of meaning and purpose in it.  The way I see it, my job as a stay-at-home mom is to provide the best home I possibly can for my family and to nurture them in a loving and stimulating environment.  Obviously that’s the same mission all mothers have whether they work or they stay at home.  But for me, since I didn’t have to worry about contributing to the finances of the family, I saw that as giving me more time to devote to those other sides of mothering.

And that inspired me.  I had visions of elaborate home cooked meals and slow rising home made bread.  I saw crafts galore and story times and hours spent doing puzzle after puzzle after puzzle and then finally all of us falling into an exhausted and cuddly heap on the couch while I read story after story and tired eyes became droopy.

And somehow through all of that, I believed the nest would flourish.  Everything would have a place so that my children would never have to rush around looking for anything.  Schedules would be rigid in order to provide stability.  Time outs would be handled calmly, in an even tone, out of love and respect.  And my children would have ample opportunity to do whatever it is their little hearts desired because I would have kept all of the parts to all of their toys in neatly organized and labeled containers.  There would be no cat fur on the dress up clothes.  The dog wouldn’t have spread their blocks all over the house.  And when any of those things happened or a mess would be made, I would clean it all up promptly and with a loving and eager heart.

And I desperately believed I could create this life.  And why did I have any reason to doubt?  Up until that point, excellence was a straight shot. It required long hours and endless determination and a whole lot of grit and hard work.  But there was a target that I never really had ever missed.

Excellence in all things.  We only have one life to live.  Let’s live it the absolute best that we can.

But a strange thing happens when you grow up and leave school.  And that strange thing gets even more intense as you leave behind the early striving years of a career and you settle into what you have created and have worked for your entire life.

You realize that life really isn’t a straight shot.  You realize that while those end goals are always there, focusing on them exclusively makes for a single track life.  You realize that all of that time that you spent preparing has lead you to where you wanted to be, and if you don’t start enjoying it now… well then when will you ever enjoy it?

And I find myself thinking of all of this today.  In my messy house.

It’s not the toys that bother me.  Those can be tidied in a couple of minutes before bedtime.  It’s the other stuff.  It’s the gross stove and the nasty microwave.  Its the Christmas tree needles that are still lining the wall of my living room.  It’s the laundry basket of clothes that have to be lugged upstairs and put away.  It’s the multitude of magnets that have been kicked under my refrigerator and need to be rescued.

In short, it’s all that stuff that spells out excellence.  If excellence means succeeding at everything we try.  And I could succeed at most of what I undertake… if I refused to undertake as much.

If I refused to spend time relaxing.  If I devalued time spent creating.  If I put away the laptop and locked my words back up inside my head.  If I forwent friendships.  If I turned down trips to the zoo.

If I lived on a straight line towards excellence, I could achieve excellence.  At least according to my old definition of the word.

Obviously I have made my choice.  I think we all have, one way or the other, for good or for bad.  We make that choice by how we spend our days which ultimately determines how we spend our lives.

But for some of us, or at least for me, it’s still a hard reality to accept.  It’s hard to change my definition of success away from perfection and towards variety.  It’s hard to accept my decision that I decided a life is best lived when it is round and whole and varied and messy than when it is perfect but small.

I love the idea of excellence.  It sounds so noble and worthwhile.  But perhaps it, like everything else, must be sought after in wisdom rather than in rigidness.

Before I had children, I believed I knew so much.  I had a whole lot of confidence in my ability to handle the challenges thrown at me.  But then these three little souls came into my life, and I see those little eyes staring at me watching my every move, and all of a sudden everything means so very much more.  Where once I saw black and white, now I see grey.  I question the choices I make because I see that one day they will be choices they will need to make.  Where once success was so vitally important, now I realize that a pure heart and a grounded soul and a spirit that is allowed to soar are the legacies I want to pass on.

My children make me question everything.  They change my old ideas.  All of this has made me a much better person with a much richer life. But that doesn’t mean the old values fall away.  It doesn’t mean the old me disappears.  Sometimes the old side and tendencies come out.  And I’m just not quite sure always want to do with them.

And I guess that’s okay.  I guess that’s life.  And motherhood is life.  It’s just struggling through it and trying to do the best I can so that the little feet following behind me have a solid path to follow.

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