Friday, January 29, 2016

mama confessions : why giving up naps was a beautiful thing.

It is funny how sometimes the things we fear most end up being the best things for us.

I think it is the natural human fear of change.  This can be in routine, job, letting go of unhealthy relationships, etc.  Even if we know it might be the best thing for us, we still drag our feet and try to think of reasons to keep it (whatever it is) hanging around.

This is how I was with naps, certainly.

I dreaded the day my kids stopped napping.  I heard mama friends say their kid stopped napping at two (or never napped) and I would inwardly cry for them.

Surely my children would nap until they were at least five!  How else would I survive?  Cormac has never given me too much trouble, and he is 4.5.  Sometimes he'd grumble about his nap, but he is my "rule follower" and it was pretty easy to convince him every day that nap time was non-negotiable.  And he would sleep!  Even at four, he would sleep 1 - 2 hours most days.

Finola, my lover of sleep, is surprisingly the one that started giving me signs that the nap was no longer necessary.  I wrote in this post about the struggle that started a couple months ago.  The resisting sleep.  The endlessly getting out of her bed.  At nap time she would FINALLY settle down around 2pm, then sleep forever.  I'd have to wake her up at 4pm, which I wasn't super motivated to do because I was so stressed out from the hour it took to get her to stay in her bed.  Then at 8 o'clock she was not tired - at all.  She would fight going to bed for about two hours.  I didn't feel like I could relax at all.  Hubby and I would take turns putting her back in bed.  We tried all methods.  It was not fun, for either of us.

Sometimes these things are phases with kids - the sleep issues.  They last a week or so, then you go back to normalcy.  This behavior, however, was lasting months.  I was growing increasingly unhappy and cranky.  I was snapping at the kids and Hubby more.  I felt like each day was a struggle.

I'd lost my happiness as a mama.  I knew something had to change.

One evening, after a particularly rough day, I pretty much broke down at dinner.  The kids and I were at the table, finishing our meal, and I laid my head down on the table and wept.  My kids are pretty sensitive, so immediately Finola was patting my back and asking, "What's wrong, Mama?" in a patient, soothing voice.

"Mama's just tired, love."  I was so tired.  Tired of being cranky.  Where was the happy, content mama I formerly was?  I was beginning to think she was gone for good.

Our meal was done, so I asked Cormac to lead us in prayer.  Normally we do one of our typical meal prayers or songs, but that night I made a special request, ya know, since I was clearly having a breakdown. "Can you pray for me, Cormac?  Mama needs prayers."

So he did.  "Dear Lord, Please be with my mom.  Help her to be happy, and to like her life. We love you, Lord.  Amen."

Yes, he prayed those words.  Of course, this evoked more tears from me.  I was moved...and felt some relief.

The very next day, not coincidentally, an idea randomly popped into my head.  No more naps.  

I don't know why I didn't consider this option before...but there it was.  This was the solution to my problem.  Maybe.

So that day I announced, "No naps today!" which was met by hurrahs and fanfare!  (At least from Cormac.  Finola seemed unimpressed.)

Instead of rushing home after Cormac's pre-school for lunch, a tiny bit of playtime, and then the dreaded nap time routine (ie hellish struggle) we drove to of our favorite outings.   Because I knew we didn't have to get home for naps, I did not rush anything.  We were on no schedule -- for the first time EVER.

I felt like a weight was lifted.  Cormac got to play in the "big kid" play area there, which he loves.  Finola and I strolled leisurely through the showroom.  She jumped on every bed and chair she could find.  I took photos of stuff I liked.  We tried out all the toys in the kiddo area.  We had lunch and the kids played some more after eating.  There was no nagging from me to "Finish up!  We gotta get home for naps!"

With no schedule to keep, I was just plain happier.  It was the oddest thing.

Now, keep in mind, some kids still NEED to nap.  I could not have made this change even six months ago.  I was a bit worried they would have meltdowns due to tiredness or fall asleep in the car on the 40 minute drive home.  But nope, they were fine.

We got home at around 3pm and I thought, "What now?"

So we did "quiet time" and snuggled on the couch and watched a Tinkerbell movie.  Well, they watched, I dozed.  I was pooped.

After that we played a while in their rooms before starting dinner.   Following dinner it was bath time, and then, miraculously, bed time!  (I decided to shoot for an earlier bedtime - seven - since we were skipping naps.)

Hubby put Cormac to bed (always pretty easy) and I did Finola...

...who, for the first time in almost two months, fell asleep within minutes.  Hallelujah!

It all felt very low-key and lovely, like my parenting days of yore, and for the first day in almost two months I enjoyed being a mother again.  I shed a few happy tears that Cormac's prayer was answered so quickly and beautifully.

It's been several weeks and I've stuck with "no naps" and not looked back.  We can go on longer adventures in the afternoons and I am way more relaxed now that my head is wrapped around the new routine.  I feel like I have more time to enjoy my children, instead of fighting them about everything.

Now, let's be real : not every day has been perfect.  Cormac has had a few late afternoon meltdowns that I maybe can attribute to lack of napping.  I've had less time to get things done, since I no longer have those two hours to myself in the afternoon.   Less cleaning, less writing, less personal space.  I thought that would be a really hard adjustment.  But it hasn't been.  I just am forced to be more creative with getting things done...and I think that is a positive thing for me.  I waste less time.  I value the time I do have even more.  Against all odds I feel like I actually have MORE time.
quiet time = snuggle time with a tired mama
This is all I know for sure : 

We have an awesome and loving God.  Who loves us at our hardest times. When we doubt ourselves.  When we want to give up and run away from what we feel called to do.

For anyone, motherhood can be hard - but don't ever doubt the power of an earnest prayer.   

Especially that of a child.
+ + + + + + +

Have a lovely weekend, everyone!  (Naps...or not.)

Friday, January 22, 2016

the renovation : the master bath begins! ('before' photos + inspirations)

The time has finally come.  We have lived in 'the dream home' (a Victorian fixer-upper built in the 1850's) for over three years, and it has always been in our minds to transform the bedroom adjacent to our master bedroom into a big, beautiful bathroom.

When we bought the place the room looked like this:
Both the master and this adjoining bedroom were blue.  The blue was a little depressing for we painted them gray immediately.  Because gray is not depressing.  Obviously.
When we eventually moved in, after selling our previous home, the room became the Cormac's nursery. Well, baby boy is now four, and the room has transformed into a giant toy wonderland!  
this room has had lots of playtime in it!  
We have done nothing but paint the walls in this space - there is a lot that needs to happen cosmetically and structurally to transform it.  It is so dingy and dark!
that is a LOT of toys under that IKEA bed...and do you spy a blondie or two?
I never even put anything on his walls, because I have always had in my mind this was a temporary "boy room."  Three years later...
Now that we have two babes (and they are actually no longer babes but rambunctious kiddos) we are finally mentally ready for him to move to what has been referred to for years as "Cormac's future room" -- currently a guest bedroom.  
It is time!  Time for the master bath reno to start! Ah!  Pretty darn excited. 
We had been struggling with the layout for many months, and finally we brought in professional help.  Thankfully, our designer came up with a layout that made much more sense than any of our ideas, so we are gonna go with that.

In the end, hopefully, we will have a space that is light, bright, functional + stylish.  
Here are a few inspirations that best represent the vibe I am hoping for in the space...
I am clearly a sucker for black and white - and yet I want to keep the historic charm in certain elements. Ceiling medallion, chandelier, ornate clawfoot, original hardwoods are some of the ways I hope to achieve that.  I'm sure we will end up with some sort of subway tile in there.  I am sort of a freak for the subway tile. 
I really love the eclectic vibe of the bathroom below, with the tile,  mismatched wood, mixed metals, and of course the subway tile shower!
Our wishlist:
  • clawfoot soaking tub
  • spacious shower
  • separate toilet room (!!!!)
  • walk-in closet 
  • double vanity
Seems reasonable for the space.

Now the budget is another story.  To have it fully contracted out we were quoted a whopping 50K. OMG.  Now, that may be on the high end for an estimate, but still.  We will not be spending 50K.  

Hubby is going to have to work some serious magic on this one.  (aka do the electric and plumbing and tile work himself. Or everything.)

We'll see what happens.  If there is one thing I have learned throughout this renovation journey is that while everything takes at least three times as long as you expected, patience truly pays off.  You end up with something that you love, that fits your style, and hopefully didn't make you go broke.

I'll keep you updated on the progress of this space as we go along!

What projects are you working on in your home? 
 Anyone who has survived a major bathroom reno, I am open to advice and encouragement! :)

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


Ever think about where your "happy place" is?  I do.  Maybe it is a thing all mamas do, while their kids are fighting and the house is crazy-messy and the you feel like you might burst into tears if you don't squeeze your eyes shut and mentally escape to the aforementioned "happy place." 

(Or just burst into absurd laughter.  Sometimes, if you don't laugh, you'll cry!  Am I right?) 

Anyway, while I certainly appreciate a nice, warm beach in Mexico, ocean waves crashing and adult drink in my hand, if I had to vote for my happy place it would be my parent's farm in Minnesota.
I am happy to still be able to go there, the same eleven acres I grew up on, and walk/run the trail around the property, thinking big thoughts and listening to the silence of the woods.
I do my best dreaming and planning on these walks.
It doesn't matter the weather.  In fact, our recent visit we were blessed with a snowstorm the day after we arrived, which made the jaunts around the farm even more beautiful.

Colbie waited patiently while I snapped most of these shots with my phone.
I tried to run around the trail with Colbie each day...we both need the fresh air!

looking towards the playhouse from the trail.

I'm always amazed at how intricate details of nature can be.
Occasionally I would stop to warm up in the playhouse.  Cormac is a BIG fan of playing in this - which my dad built from scratch a few years ago.  
Hubby is a big fan of napping up in the loft of the playhouse.
I am a big fan of finding old books my parents have kept since we were little.
Colbie was sometimes allowed into the playhouse.
this was our first "snow experience" this year, so the kids were ecstatic!

Finola enjoyed eating the snow whenever possible.  "Don't eat the yellow snow!" she would parrot.
occasionally we stayed cozy inside!
me and my dad.
Cormac would only cooperate with photos if the fireplace could be in them, too.

sunny winter day out the kitchen bay window.
Bottle of peppermint schnapps that my parents brought back from our ancestors farm in Germany.  They are still distilling after many years, and running a large orchard.  My dad had great stories to tell about meeting them and seeing it all!
the window seat is always a favorite spot.

serious snowy selfie.

at my brother's farm hanging with the cousins.
my little animal lover.
One of our traditions - frozen pizza night!  Nothing fancy for us...we prefer it frozen. :D And with wine, of course! (Besides, I'm not sure there is any place that would deliver out there...)
tired mama - on the long drive home.
sleeping babies.
It was another lovely trip, treasured time with the fam.

Wherever your 'happy place' is, I hope you make it a point to get there as often as you can.

Monday, January 4, 2016

2015 : an honest look at the year

This year has been...well...hard.  And beautiful. 
The beauty came in things we did...
I ran my first marathon.  Training and seeing the incredible things my body could endure was really an awesome journey for me.  Hubby and I travelled to London and Holland and explored - an amazing trip I am grateful for.  We also hung out on a beach in Mexico for a week, drinking in the sun and the ocean waves and just being lazy.  Much needed while in the throes of parenting two little ones.   We did various road trips to Minnesota/WI to hang out with family.  I flew to Montana for an awesome long weekend with my big sis, bro-in-law and their twelve children.   Did a clean eating challenge with Hubby and started a whole new relationship with food...and lost six pounds in the process - yay!

My little girl became a talking, bold, spirited, stubborn two-year-old.  (So, if you are keeping track, that makes two loud, spirited, bold, stubborn children in my house!)  That means a lot of noise and stimulation for this mama!  Ah!  Adjusting to all of that has been the hardest stage for me as a parent. Harder than anything during the newborn/infant months.  Learning to filter noises and find my zen place in the midst of commotion is going to take a lot of practice and patience.

Cormac turned from toddler to full-fledged little boy - very independent, thoughtful, and smart.  The first time he told me he needed his "alone time" (basically to escape from his annoying little sister who is always in his biz) I had to laugh heartily...because I can relate so well.
these two keep me on my toes.
The hard part of this year came through self-discovery...

After training for months and running my marathon in early May, I became kinda depressed.  No longer having such a huge, exciting goal to focus on left me with sort of an emptiness and questioning of what I was meant to be doing.  With both kids growing - and Finola becoming older and "easier" in some ways (harder in others) I began looking at outside ways to spend my time. Should I work outside the home again?  What creative outlet can I find?  (You know, besides this tiny blog.)  The fact is, I'm a girl that needs a goal...and suddenly I had no tangible goal.  And I'll be honest, I sometimes feel like I'm the only person I know who "just" stays home to raise their kids.  Most moms I know, even if they stay-at-home, also have some sort of other gainful employment...whether they need to or they just want to.  This year I watched many, many of my friends find their dream job.  Or the right school to teach at.  Or something they were passionate about selling.  Or they decided they wanted to be a fitness instructor (I now currently know about twenty certified yoga instructors!)  Don't get me wrong - I am incredibly happy for my friends - amazed by them, even!  To have such drive and clarity!  But while my joy for these beautiful and smart women was huge, I began to feel like I wasn't doing "enough." I began to question myself : Should I find a "career" or start a business of some sort?   I didn't really feel called to do anything in particular, though I floated some fun ideas around.  Nothing seemed like something I could do at this point, whilst my babes are at home, and alongside our home renovation and my other hobbies.   Still, there was some sort of irrational pressure I was putting on myself to be something that I'm not.
Feeling utterly overwhelmed by that self-induced (or maybe social media-induced) pressure to add "more" combined with my intermittent bouts of depression, led me to seek outside help - so as not to drive my little family, (excuse the term) crazy.  I desired to be happier - for me and for them.  Long story short - I got a surprising diagnosis!  I bawled tears of relief to finally have a name for something I've struggled with since childhood...and because this particular disorder can be overcome through therapy.  I may write about it someday, but for now I am still figuring things out.

My little story, at the very least, shows that even at the age of thirty-four you can learn something brand-new and useful about yourself.

So, this year has been one of testing my physical endurance, personal growth, and many fun adventures, both solo and with the fam.  I am grateful for it all.

I don't know what 2016 will bring...but here are my hopes:
  • more writing
  • more running and outside adventuring
  • lots and lots of getting rid of unnecessary stuff (using Marie Kondo's lovely book, which I am re-reading to get me re-inspired!)
  • backyard hardscaping complete and ready to be landscaped by April 1!
  • master bathroom renovated by Sept. 1 - so excited to design this space and actually have one of those things they call a closet to hang my clothes in.
  • most importantly - more focus on God's word + family + close friendships, less focus on anything that doesn't "spark joy," as Ms. Kondo might say.
our fam in 2015.  crazy, dramatic, driven.
the backyard fence in progress.  yes, this sad, torn-apart mess will hopefully transform into a beautiful backyard in 2016!
my desk nook.  trying to keep it simple and inspiring.
That's it.  Rather, that's a lot!  Phew.

Let's take 2016 one day at a time, the good with the bad, with hopefully some amount of grace.

Happy New Year!

PS : You might notice the badge in my right column.  This is a wonderful website for mamas striving to be healthy, both mentally and physically!   I have become a contributor for the site and recently got to participate in a test-run for their new healthy eating + workout program The 21 Day Shred.  I can tell you that from my experience, the workouts were easy to do, yet effective, and the food delicious!  It kicks off officially today! Various women in our test-run lost 8-10 pounds! What a positive way to start 2016!
Click HERE to check it out!