Raising Readers

It’s no secret that I am a massive reader. I devour books the way people devour food. I spend most of my time reading and it is my dream that my kids read books as well. I don’t expect them to read like I do, but I would hope that they turn into little bookworms in their own ways. I’ve noticed over the past year, they both have been turning to books more and more and it is something that I’ve gotten comments on in the past when others see that.

First, the importance of reading.

Reading has such an impact on our lives in ways that we don’t even realize. Reading is a form education and escapism, a way of gaining new insight and knowledge on a vast amount of topics from a vast amount of voices. As human beings we read in some form every single day, whether that is reading a book, a news article, a blog post (are you reading this post?), or even a caption on social media. And with those words, knowledge is conveyed to us. Knowledge about the person who wrote them, knowledge from the words themselves, knowledge in our reaction and understanding of them.

Basically, reading is important beyond just being able to actually read signs, directions, and other things. Even if the only reading you do is reading directions, or Instagram captions, it still has an effect on your life.

Of course, I prefer to read books. For me personally reading is a form of education and escapism. I learn from everything that I read (even just the light and fluffy novel, even if I’ve just learned that I don’t like what I just read, there is always something to be gained) and I truly love to just curl up with a good book in the afternoon and read till the late evening.

Anyways, all that aside now, let’s talk about how my little boys are starting to turn into little readers. Now, they are too young to actually be able to read the words on the pages (that’s coming though), but they love to a)be read to and b) flip through the books they have themselves and tell us what is on the pages. We’ve started to slowly introduce the longer chapter books to Colton (our older son, a few months shy of 4 years old), starting with Winnie the Pooh.

One of the top reasons why I think they are starting to get much more interested in books is that they see Mommy reading. Kids watch the adults that are around them, especially parents, for cues. They pay attention to what we do and what we say and they model some of their behaviors off of ours. For some reason, when I am sitting and reading a book, the boys are reasonably well behaved (allowing me to actually read the book) and often times they will pick up a book and sit with it as well.

Another reason I think they are starting to get more into it, is that if they want to read, we will stop everything and read. Everything stops if they want to pick up a book and read it. We will read whatever, whenever and always give it our full attention.

There are two reasons in regards to buying books that I think has helped. The first being that if we are out and about at the library or at a store that carries books, the boys can each pick one book out for themselves. We will usually always buy them a book if they want it (as long as we don’t already have it at home, at which point I will usually see if they want a different book). This may not have always worked our in our personal favor (those noisy sound books are obnoxious), but it still encourages them to continue reading and shows them how great books can be. The second reason is they have full control over the books that they want (again as long as we don’t already have it). If it is age appropriate, then they can pick the book that they want. I find that just by simply encouraging them to read what they want, makes them more likely to pick a book up. I’m sure this will play a much larger role later on in their lives when they are actually reading. At the present though, it means we have a lot of Paw Patrol and Dinosaur books in our home.

Honestly, what it comes down to is just offering books to your children. Showing them that reading is enjoyable and allowing them to explore books and reading in their own little ways. If they are given the freedom to read what and when they want (aside from bedtime, but that’s going to be a later battle I feel like- Colton is already trying that), it encourages them to want to read.

Motherhood and You

Motherhood is all consuming, a never-ending cycle of care, but don’t let it consume you. Don’t simply become “mom”, don’t lose yourself, who you are, in caring for your children. Don’t cling to them as they start to grow up and grow away. Being a mom may be the most important hat you wear, or title you receive, (however you want to think of that), but it is not solely who/what you are.

All too often, starting almost immediately after birth, we become consumed by being a mom. By taking care of a little human being that depends solely on us for EVERYTHING (daunting, so daunting), by trying to be everything for this little being, and all too often we lose who we are in the process. We become so wrapped up in that “mom” role that we don’t take care of ourselves (a post for another day), we don’t take care of our significant other, we don’t take care of our friendships.

These things start to fall to the wayside, and it isn’t until we are a couple years in (or longer for some) that we realize that we don’t know who we are anymore. We have become a mom, the greatest blessing of all, but we’ve lost who we are in the process.

This is a normal thing that just about everyone experiences to varying levels. That isn’t to say that we can’t get back to who we are, or avoid this entirely, I’m just saying that this is a normal thing to go through. In fact, even the most prepared parents (the ones who swear that parenthood won’t change them) go through a level of this. It’s a natural instinct when we have a child that our world changes to revolve around this baby and it’s a very sweet time in our lives (postpartum depression/anxiety/and other issues aside). That doesn’t mean that it lasts forever. Our children will grow, they will mature, they will become independent and need us as parents less and less. That change is why it is important not to lose who you are when you become a parent.

How do we handle this? How do we allow motherhood/parenthood to take over our lives, and still maintain who we are?

Little things. What do you like to do in your free time? What did you like to do before you became a parent to relax?

Did you like to exercise? Find a gym that has childcare. Have your significant other take over the parenting duties for a few hours while you hit up a workout.

Did you like to read, write, watch TV, YouTube, etc.? Great! Naptime and after Bedtime are great opportunities to do these! (In fact, I squeeze a lot of my reading time during naptime and after the kids go to bed).

Did you like to shop or explore new areas? Perfect, you can do that with baby OR if you want baby free time, have your significant other or family watch the baby while you get a little break.

The main takeaway from this is not to have time away from your child, although that is needed too, but to find time within your day to do what works for YOU. What makes YOU happy. So much of motherhood is spent tending to others (and not just your own children, being a mom turns you into everyone’s mom) and it is easy to lose ourselves in that. So so easy to be swept away taking care of everyone and everything else.

If that is what fills you up and makes you happy, perfect! Do more of that. BUT don’t forget to take a little breath for yourself.

Big things. Find time for you and your significant other to have a little time together at the very least once a month. Take care of that relationship or it will fall to the wayside. Check in with each other throughout the day, send that sweet little text. Have a moment while the baby is napping. Hire a babysitter when baby is a little older to get much needed date nights in (no matter what those actually look like).

Everyone says that one day your children will go up and leave and then what will be left is you and your significant other. This is true, but what is more important is the example that you are setting for your children. From the get-go, our children learn from us. They see what a stable relationship and family looks like from us, so water your own marriage and your children will see how to water their own (when that time comes).

Make sure that you and your spouse are on the same page as situations arise so that you can be a cohesive unit. Parenthood can help your marriage thrive and grow into new heights, or it can fall to the wayside. More than likely it will ebb and flow between both (again, completely natural), but the continual watering will help everything stay on a balance to continue to go towards success and happiness.

Ultimately, motherhood is a phase of life. For those of us who are mom’s (in any form) it is an all-encompassing blessing. It never ends and takes a lot of who we are. BUT it doesn’t have to be solely who we are. We were somebody before we were “mom” and while being mom takes precedence, don’t say goodbye to who you are. She is still there, and she should be able to shine as well.

Hotel Living With Two Toddlers

Today I wanted to talk a little bit about something that I’ve referenced before, but felt deserved it’s own blog post and that is living in a hotel with two {very active} toddlers.

One of the things that we knew ahead of our move was that we were going to be in a hotel for quite some time. This wasn’t a breaker for us, just something that we tried to prepare for ahead of time as best we can. Knowledge is power and preparation is key for this type of situation. We weren’t really able to prepare the boys though and honestly we didn’t know what we were actually walking into with our room set up.

I’ll start by saying that we are lucky. At this point we actually have a little one bedroom/one bath apartment style set up, with separate living room and bedroom areas. This allows us to have our own “space” separate from everything else when we need a little breather (which does happen). I don’t want to trivialize what this has been like at this point, but I do feel like it is important to acknowledge that we have had a better option than some of the other families.

We have two very active, very loud little boys. They love to run, wrestle, and create as much noise as possible. We’ve never had a problem with this and have generally let them explore and create and play as they want to (realistically, within reason so no one gets hurt or anything). They thrive on being able to have the room to run in circles or sing a song or heck, even just play with their own toys.

We packed several of their toys in their luggage and have purchased a couple of items, but the vast majority of their toys are still in transit with the rest of our household goods and we wont get any of them until we get a house. So they get a little bored playing with the same games and toys (which I realize may make them sound incredibly spoiled which they are not, but boredom is a factor at times here).

I think the hardest thing for the boys has been that they can’t just play as they please. We are trying very hard to keep our noise level down as best we can (considering we are at the top floor of our little building) and while I know that at times kids will just kids and others will be understanding, I also want to be understanding towards them. I know that not everyone wants to hear the pitter patter (or elephant thuds) of feet across their ceiling during the day. When they will, I encourage the boys to sit and draw/color, read a book (sort of), or watch a movie/tv show that they like to watch. They do get to wander around and be active, just in a quieter way.

The biggest help has been getting out as much as we can. We try to leave the apartment 3-4 weekdays in the mornings, whether its just going to a café or shops or going to a play group, and then we are out and about on the weekends. I try to leave one day to have a cosy day at home just to break up all the out and about stuff and to give them a bit of a break. I find that by doing this, they aren’t as “hyped up” on the days that we are in the hotel apartment and are more likely to take it easy.

Our boys are quite resilient and aside from a few rough days here and there have been doing remarkably well, but it’s not all sunshine and daisies. They do fight (A LOT), we do run into issues of noise (although most of that is just us being extra aware that we share walls) and sleep and there have been a couple of moments that we have just needed a little 10 minute break. I’m not going to lie and say that I haven’t just wanted to scream at moments. It hasn’t been “easy”, but with everything that we are experiencing, the memories that we are making, and this opportunity that we’ve been given has made it all worthwhile.

Friday Morning Cups

This picture may seem simple. May seem harmless. Just a book and a cup of tea. Nothing more to see, right? Wrong. Now I don’t expect you to infer what I am about to say, nobody could just from this picture. But that is why I’m saying it. That is why it’s just a simple picture, with a much more powerful caption. Often times this isn’t something that is spoken about beyond the “shtick” that many moms have started to claim. There is nothing wrong with that, but it can be a dangerous line between what is normal and a funny “just a mom thing” and what is needing a little more attention

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Here sits my now cold cup of tea untouched along with my unopened book (that I started a night or two ago and haven’t touched since). If you know me, you know that either of these things being untouched is unheard of. Instead, I have been sitting here in my chair, staring out the window, utterly spent. Trying to recoup what little I have left.

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Motherhood is the most incredible gift that I have ever experienced but it is also a uniquely exhausting and trying time. It is a constant, overwhelming, role and there comes a time (for all of us), when we are just spent. When we have nothing left. When the simplest of things (like drinking a cup of tea or reading) can just sit for hours without being touched. We are not good at asking for help, we are not good at saying that we are overwhelmed, we just keep trying to hold everything together, while seemingly pulling our own selves apart. There is a level of exhaustion that is normal and then there is a level where you may need to talk to someone or need to ask for help.

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Don’t do what I did for a long time. Don’t try and hide how you’re feeling, or pretend like you’ve got it all together. Don’t always put yourself last. Every once in a while (preferably before you feel that last fraying string snap), tell someone. Reach out. Say I need a minute, 5 minutes, an hour (he’ll be ambitious and go for a couple hours if you can). You’ll be better for it. Your spouse will be better for it. Your children will be better for it.

A Mother’s Take on Toddlerhood (While In The Thick of It)

As of writing this post, our boys are aged 2 months shy of 3 years old and 16 months. So, right smack in the middle of what Toddlerhood is. While each age comes with unique challenges, I think toddlerhood can sometimes get an especially bad rep. When you hear from other parents talking about their experience, I’ve heard toddler and teenage years can be some of the hardest years. Personally, I think toddlerhood is just very mis understood. Not in a bad way, it can be so hard for us to understand as it has been years since we went through it and we don’t remember it. I think this may have been one of the most important shifts in thinking when it comes to parenting.

***I’ve touched slightly on an outline of what I will be saying, which can be viewed HERE***

As parents when our kids are acting out, misbehaving, throwing temper tantrum after temper tantrum, it is very easy to become flustered. Happens to the best of us, and it is completely normal to just want to throw your hands in the air and walk away. AND sometimes that is the best thing to do. Sometimes that can be the key to diffusing whatever the situation is.  It can be easy to lose our patience as we ask for the toys to be picked up for the fourteenth time, or to not play with the food, or to not touch something. It can be so draining to feel like you are just repeating yourself with no action or apparent listening. I think this is why people say toddler hood is tough.

And it is.I am not disputing the fact that parenting one toddler, let alone two, or three is tough. It is draining. (Make sure that you take care of yourself during this time, otherwise everything I say after this point will not work)

BUT(gotta love those buts right?!)…

If we think it is hard on us as parents, think about how hard it is on our children. They are being thrust into a whole new level of mental development, they are growing physically, they are trying to figure out how to navigate the world that just seems to be getting bigger and scarier. They are trying to figure out what are boundary lines, what they can and can’t do. How to articulate their feelings, hell what they are feeling. They are working on developing better communication skills and most of the time are bursting with things to say, things to do, places to see, parents/grandparents/relatives/friends to remember. ALL AT THE AGE OF 2.

Can you blame them for getting frustrated with not being able to say something, or talk about something that they really want to tell you, but they just don’t have all the words? Can you blame them when all they want to do is find the toy that they hid from themselves in a game? Or try to put the train tracks together a certain way and it’s just not working?

Imagine feeling angry about something, not being able to understand first that you are feeling angry and then second how to tell someone what you are feeling angry about? That is frustrating. Then imagine, as you are getting frustrated and angry, you see your parent, loved one, person you look up to, start to get frustrated. It escalates quickly (and again, it happens to all of us from time to time, no doubt about it).

Our children get thrust into this world and it is our responsibility as parents to help them, to guide them, as they learn. We cannot do that if we don’t at least try to understand what they must be going through. What we see as well, he’s angry about x, y, or z, is not what they see. They just have all of these things building up inside with no way to let them out. We only know that because we’ve learned that as we’ve grown up.

So, before you talk about the terrible two’s or the threenagers, try and think about what your children are experiencing. Sure, parenting is hard work. It is tough and draining. BUT think about what it is like through your child’s eyes, without having all of the knowledge that we as parents (or adults) now have.

Friday Morning Cups – A Super Important Motherhood One

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“Toddlers are not giving us a hard time, they are having a hard time”. Saw this quote a little while ago and it really just put me back in the right mindset. Figured I would share it as well as it may remind someone else of what toddlers go through. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that it ISN’T hard to be a parent (it is at times and I will be the FIRST PERSON to acknowledge that, I actually just recently did), but I am going to try and say that sometimes we need to rethink our thought process when it comes to “terrible two’s”, “threenagers”, etc (which I totally do say those things, so I’m not perfect with this by any means.

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It’s hard for us to truly understand (as we as adults now possess the abilities our youngsters are learning), but imagine having all the feelings, feelings which you’ve never experienced before, learning all of these new things you’ve never known before, trying to understand the vastness and complexity of the world you live in, without having the words to express yourself. Without having the ability to truly make sense of what is going on around you. Sounds frustrating, right?

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So, when you are dealing with the 5th temper tantrum over your first morning cup, try to remember, they don’t understand. They are trying to learn about their world. Their rules. Their role. And it is up to us, as their parents to calmly riddle it out for them. To show them the way. To speak to them and help them understand. It is hard for them, just as it  can be draining for you. AND if you are feeling drained, say something. Take a little breather and do some self care. 

A Different Kind of Tired

If you follow me on any of my Social Media you may have already picked up on this, but the past few weeks have been no joke. They’ve been rough. It hasn’t been anything inherently bad, just routine life, but it’s just been a constant of life that’s stretched me thin.

Before we get too far into this, I did take a little “break” and did some self care that I haven’t really been able to get in, so I will not be so stretched thin and can “recuperate” a little. I am doing so much better now, which is referenced at the end of the post.

 I was talking with my husband one night and I found myself saying “I’m just so tired”. This was a pretty good sign to me as to where I was at. How I was feeling and what was going on. His response though? “Why don’t you go to bed then” A logical response to what I had actually said, but I knew that going to bed wasn’t really the answer, just like being physically tired wasn’t what was wrong. Yes, I was physically tired, and yes, going to bed would have probably helped, but it wasn’t the larger issue.

There is a different kind of “tired” when you are a mom. The feeling of just being so worn out emotionally and mentally. We say tired because with this feeling we can feel physically tired, but the root of that is really just our mental and emotional state. It usually comes at a point when we just simply need a break from “being a mom”. We need to have an adult conversation, an adult beverage, or -honestly- an adult only restroom break.

Being a mom (and a parent) means being constantly there when your kids are there. Yes, there are times when we step away and do dishes, or write, or read, or make food, but honestly there is always a part of us that is paying attention to our children. Keeping an ear out for what they are doing, keeping a side eye on what toys they are playing with, making sure that they aren’t destroying the house or hurting each other or getting into things they shouldn’t be into.

That alone, that divided attention, trying to do two things at once (keep the kids happy, and maybe cook some food, do some dishes) is exhausting by itself. And sometimes, being a mom is not the only thing we do. It may be the most important, but often times we are also wives, employees, business owners, or have some other commitment going on that we need to do.

Not only do we balance motherhood, partnership, work, we are also actively maintaining a living space and trying to take care of ourselves. Even with the help of our respective partners, it all adds up. And, at some point, we get tired. Not just physically tired, but emotionally and mentally worn out. We collapse in a pile in bed or on the couch and just lay there. We revel in the peace that is the house after the kids go to bed, the nightly chores are done, and there is a quiet that we haven’t heard all day long.

So yes, I was tired when I said that and yes, I did go to bed, but it wasn’t (and isn’t ever) a simple fix. It took a couple days for me to get out that “tired” feeling. A couple days of easy weekend-ing, having my whole little family together, and getting a blissful few hours kid free. That was what I really needed and when we started a new week, it felt as if I was back in action.