Discovering: I Am Not Less of a Mom

There’s something I have been wanting to write about, but have been putting off. I think I have been avoiding it because I know some feelings are sure to arise. I am not a big fan of being publicly vulnerable, but I am a person who processes feelings through writing. My intention for this blog, has always been to be relatable to others, and to keep it honest. Which brings us to this post–a touchy subject for some folks.

not less of a mom

A funny thing happens when you start dating someone–people start asking you if or when you plan to get engaged. Then you get engaged, and people demand to know if you have set a wedding date. You set a date and get married, and then everyone wants to know when you will be having kids. (Ok, in my case we didn’t go in this exact order, but stay with me here). Then you become pregnant, and people want to know the baby’s gender and name. Baby is born. Life changes–you cross over in to the parenting world. And then people start asking when you are having another, since your first is so cute and all.

It is actually a bit exhausting, and if you don’t have some solid internal boundaries, it can add up to a lot of pressure. I blame human nature and our desire to inquire. (I am most definitely guilty of some of these inquiries.) But with that being said, I am going to tell you what may (or may not) be going on, on the other side of these questions.

After Mike and I had Ayden, our world was rocked, (and that is putting it mildly). No one was getting much sleep at night, Ayden was a difficult feeder, she liked to party at night and  only wanted to be held. Mike was working full-time and in school full-time. Money was tight. Emotions (hormones) were wacky. Life was hectic. That aside, Ayden was also an incredibly happy and smiley baby, who hit all of her fun milestones crazy-early. One thing was for sure, life was in session in the McAllister home.

A couple of months in to parenthood, we started getting the inevitable questions about when we would be having more kids. Most people had an opinion about the matter telling us things like, ‘You don’t want them too far apart’, or ‘You don’t want her to be an only child–then she won’t have anyone’, or ‘Don’t wait too long!’ To be honest, these comments felt intrusive and presumptuous, though I didn’t fully realize it at the time.

And then there were the comments from other moms (of two or more children), ‘One is so easy’, or ‘You only have one?’ Granted, this was not my interaction with all moms of multiples, but there were a few and it caught me off guard. I don’t believe that these comments were meant to be malicious, and I have learned to try not to take others personally (operative word being ‘try’), but if I am being honest, (I am), it felt a little passive aggressive.

Once upon a time, when being parents was just pillow-talk between Mike and I late at night, we planned on having two children. We each grew up with a sibling, and it seemed the natural thing to do. We also had very strong beliefs about exactly how we wold raise our hypothetical children. We were strong in or convictions. We would never raise our voices, never let our baby ‘cry it out’, never allow our child to throw tantrums in public, would allow for only minimal TV watching, never use modern technology (iPhones / iPads) as a means of child supervision, make all of our own baby food, etc, etc. We were so sure. And we were so wrong. If I have learned one thing from becoming a mother, it is that plans change quickly after a baby is born.

Cut to: Ayden’s 2nd Birthday, (the time of year we had planned to begin trying for baby #2.) We sat at or dining room table, us two. The conversation began. And then it happened; Mike had changed his mind. I couldn’t believe what he was saying; was he allowed to do this? Was he allowed to change his mind mid-game? I won’t go in to too many details about why, because this is my story to tell. I am speaking from my own experience, and it would be unfair to my husband if I attempted to write his story.

I will say this; that conversation led to more conversations, arguments, tears, praying, debates, soul-searching, a counseling session (with a not-so-great shrink), lots and lots of writing, weighing of options and eventually over time, acceptance. For the sake of my marriage and family, I had to come to a few conclusions:

  1. If I believe in a higher power (which I do, and choose to call it God ), than I am not really in charge of the whole game-plan. I cannot impose my will on anyone else; even my husband. If we are meant to have another child, then it will happen. If we are not meant to have another child, then we won’t. God is either everything or nothing. So in a sense, this situation was forcing me to dig deeper, spiritually.
  2. I was not willing to deceive or trick my husband in order to become pregnant again, and I was not willing to leave the marriage over it. This meant I needed to find a way to be ok with his change of heart. I didn’t have to like it, I just had to find a way to be ok (for now), with it.
  3. In order to become ok, I needed to find a deep sense of gratitude for the blessings that I already had in my life. I had to focus on all of the beautiful things, people and experiences that I am lucky enough to be afforded. I had to recognize that Mike and I are jackpot winners, when it comes to Ayden. I had to remember that not everyone who wants children get children, that some people lose hildren and that I have been blessed beyond measure in becoming a mother. I found that when I stay busy focusing on loving and appreciating what I have, I spend less time worrying about what I don’t have.

This doesn’t mean that some days I don’t drift in to the worrisome head space where I compare myself to or feel envious of others. And on those days, when I feel extra sensitive about it all, I do my best to be gentle with myself. I write a gratitude list about my life, I write down 5 things that I love and appreciate about my husband, I forgive him all over again for not always being perfectly in line with my desires and I remember that nothing is set in stone.

And some days, I am so content with our little trio, that I could explode with joy. I feel a deep sense of closeness between the three of us that is more fulfilling than I am capable of putting in to words.  I feel lucky. I feel full.

Sometimes I feel like the only person in the world that has experienced this with their spouse, which makes it even more daunting to write about. But the chance that someone may read this and relate, forces me to write my truth. Also, I have learned that when my feelings are fear-based, they’re usually off-base.

At the end of the day we really don’t know what other families are going through; whether it be fertility issues, losing a child or situations like mine. What I do know, is that it is never safe to assume. What I have decided to learn from this is that I can be happy. I can be happy if our parenting journey begins and ends with Ayden, or if we go on to have more children. And quite possibly the most important thing that I have learned is that either way, I am not less of a mom.

xo, Em

Orange Picking in Orange County

orange Picking in Orange County

Growing up on the East Coast, I have many fond memories of going apple picking every Autumn. I especially loved climbing the tall, wooden ladders (reserved only for ‘big kids’), to pluck my desired apples from the tree. Once our bags were full, we would wander through the orchard’s shop, where everything smelled like fresh apple cider and musty wood.

Living in Southern Orange County affords us many luxuries; sunny weather year-round, beautiful sandy beaches, but no apple picking, (unless you want to drive a few hours). So you can imagine my excitement when my Mother-in-law, Loretta, suggested we go orange picking!

If you didn’t know, we are currently staying with my in-laws, as our home is undergoing some repairs. Their community hosts orange groves, and a little birdie (their community news letter), told us that the trees were full of ripe oranges. We made a girls-day adventure of it, loaded the wagon with Ayden, her scooter, picnic goodies and a few other odds and ends, and we three were off to the orange colony. Orange Grove Adventre

Have you ever smelled citrus fruit straight from the tree? If I could, I would make this a scratch-and-sniff blog post, so you could experience the fragrant freshness firsthand. But since I can’t, I will do my best to translate it in to words. (For starters, Ayden and Loretta peeled open one of our oranges, and from about 30 feet away, it smelled as if someone had peeled it right under my nose.) When we reached the grove, we were a bit set back by how picked over most of the trees were, but we were quick to find a silver lining–the fruit at the very tops of the trees were not only untouched, but perfectly ripe as well. fresh oranges

You may be saying, “But Emily, you are only 5’3″, how did you reach those oranges?” Ahh fear not grasshopper, when there’s a will, there’s a way. (Also, it doesn’t hurt that my Mother in-law is 5’9″). We McGyvered the heck out of those trees, and made out like orange-bandits.

McGyver 1

That’s me. With a shovel. Standing in the wagon.

That's Ayden crashing my Real Housewives of Orange County, moment.

That’s Ayden crashing my Real Housewives of Orange County, moment.

Below are some photos from our orangey-adventure. If you have never picked fresh produce before, I highly recommend trying it. There is something instinctive about picking fruit. It makes me feel of the earth, and connected to nature.   Ayden picking orange picking orange close up

Loretta and Ayden

Ayden picking flowers for Loretta

picking flowers ayden orange wagon

lemons

Lemons!

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Digging for gold… obviously. #CaliforniaGoldRsh2015

orange24.jpg  orange20.jpg orange13.jpg   xo, Em

How To Throw a Surprise Party

HOW TO THROW A

When I was 4 years old, I threw my Grandma Roslyn a one-man surprise party; me being the one man. I hid under our dining room table, and used marbles as confetti. I actually have a very vivid memory of crouching underneath that table, excitedly anticipating her arrival. When she walked in the door, I jumped out from under the table, and yelled ‘SURPRISE!’ I hit my head pretty hard on the underside of the table, as I pounced up, but quickly forgot the pain when I saw her genuine reaction of amazement and joy.

Then and there began my love-affair with surprise parties. Maybe it is all of the secret plotting, maybe it is the look of shock on the person’s face satisfying my inner practical jokester, or maybe I just really enjoy the production aspect of it all. Either way, I’m pretty obsessed with the whole process.

The month of November is a pretty festive month, for my family, We have lots of birthdays and reasons to celebrate. I was lucky enough to plan a surprise birthday party for my big sis Julie, (who turned the big 4-0), and my incredible hubby Mike, who celebrated 5 years of sobriety.

Could he be any more handsome?!

Could he be any more handsome?!

The process of planning got me thinking though, that maybe there are folks out there who would like to plan a surprise party for someone they love, but don’t know how or where to start. I thought I would share my process, and what has worked for me.

That Art of Planning a Surprise Party:

1. T/L/S: Theme, Location, Party Size

Start with the basics. Pick your theme, (if you are having one), choose where the party will be and decide how many people you will invite. Some people, (me), feel obligated to include everyone. While others, (my husband), get overwhelmed with big crowds.

Julie and Mikes parties were exact opposites. Julie’s party was in her own home, while Mike’s was at a friends home. Julie’s party had a 40th sparkle theme, while Mike’s had no theme and was more food-centered.

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Glitter banners courtesy of my girl, Gilit over at The Bannerie.

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2. Gather Cohorts

At this point, you should know where the surprise will be taking place. If you are going to have the party at the person’s own home, you will need to recruit some cohorts to help pull it off and get the subject out of the house. If you plan to use a friend’s home or even a restaurant, you will still need some outside help to have everything in place for when you arrive with the guest of honor. Make sure you pick people who won’t blow the surprise, and who are reliable. Relinquishing some of the creative control to others is  necessary.

3. Write the Story

You don’t have to actually write a story. What I mean is, what are you going to tell the surprisee, to get them to the party without suspicion? For example, with Mike, I made fake dinner plans ahead of time for the night of his party. The couple hosting the party had the same story-guise, in case it came up in conversation. So the plan for that night was, we were going to their home for dinner to celebrate his milestone. It was a simple and believable story, and didn’t draw too much attention to itself.

Julie’s  party was in her own home, which made things a bit more complicated. She is also a planner, and we had to really ‘write’ a believable story. After many drafts via email between myself and her boyfriend Heath, we decided that he would stage surprise car troubles. This would get her out of the house, and his job was to stall her long enough for us to set up the house.

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This is the actual moment when Heath called Julie to alert her of his 'car troubles'. (Muahaha)

This is the actual moment when Heath called Julie to alert her of his ‘car troubles’. (Muahaha)

4. Delegate

As much as I wish I could, it is impossible to do it all. Employ loved ones to help with the set up, the food, the deco–something. For me, my favorite part of creating a party, is making everything look pretty. Maybe for you, your favorite part is doing the cooking. Do what you do best, (even if you do a lot of things best), and let others help with the rest, especially if you are on a time-crunch.

For Julie’s party, my dad did the cooking, my mom helped a bit with the deco, but her main duty was to occupy the kids. (Thank goodness she was able to do that.) For Mike’s party, the hosts handled all the food, (God bless them), a friend picked up the deco and my main job was to get Mike to his party.

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One of my favorite ways to personalize party deco, is to print photos from the person's Facebook, and display them in different ways.

One of my favorite ways to personalize party deco, is to print photos from the person’s Facebook, and display them in different ways.

5. Communication is Key

You will need someone to be the point of contact. It can be you, or another party-goer, but communication about the guest’s arrival can really make or break the surprise.

For Julie’s party, I was the point of contact. They were in separate cars, so I was getting arrival updates from both Julie and Heath. I made sure Heath alerted me when they were about to turn on to their street.

With Mike’s party, my friend Brittney was my point of contact. We arranged this ahead of time. I alerted her of our arrival, so she could corral everyone inside.

Be prepared and keep it simple.

6. Make Like Elsa, and ‘Let It Go’

I have a funny habit of noticing what I should or could have done differently / better, right before party-time. This serves no one. So when it is party time, it is best to make like Elsa, and let it go. You have done all you can, and it is time to relax, enjoy, celebrate and EAT.

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No party is complete without a chocolate-faced Ayden.

No party is complete without a chocolate-faced Ayden.

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For more tips on party planning, see my post about tips on planning a party on a budget.

xo, Emily

7 Moms That I Love

7MOMS THATI LOVE

                                                   (Photo source: Babble.com)

I recently read a hilarious blog post from Scary Mommy, called ‘7 Moms That Drive Me Crazy’. The article was not only funny, but had some real truths in it. I also related to some of the moms that she poked fun at, and she even admitting to the same. The article was clearly written in good fun.

When I went to comment on the post, I noticed a comment-war going on. There was a lot of criticism about not being supportive of other women/moms, and some people felt personally attacked. I found this strange since it was written in such a general way. I have learned that I have to be able to laugh at myself, otherwise I will become miserable. But this also got me thinking about the flip-side of this article–it got me thinking of the kinds of moms that I love and appreciate. And since I am really in to the whole law of attraction thing, I figured I would write a response article about the kind of moms I adore.

1. The Supportive Stranger

When Ayden was around 4 weeks old, we started venturing out in to the world, and by venturing out I mean taking trips to Costco or Target. (Trust me, this was no small feat for a brand new, first-time mommy). Inevitably, she would cry at some point. Being that she had a dry diaper and had just been fed, I was at a loss. I was also bursting at the seams with hormones, and felt über self-conscious about having that baby–you know, the one that cries in public. It was at these times that I experienced the kindness of The Supportive Stranger.

Sometimes it was a simple nod of understanding. Other times it was small talk about how babies just cry sometimes. Regardless, it helped me to not feel so alone in my scary new role as someones mom. I love these women. It may seem like a small act of kindness, but it carried me through many a day.

2. The Sharer

You’re at the park, the petting zoo, the trampoline place–wherever. You suddenly realize that you forgot to pack a snack for your little, who is eye-balling (if not actually attempting to swipe) another kid’s stash. It’s embarrassing. You swear you feed your kid. You swear you usually pack snacks. And then it happens. The nicest, most prepared mom in the world pulls out a spare pack of fruit snacks or pirate’s booty or raisins or goldfish, and offers it up.

She doesn’t look down her nose at you, she simply smiles and says “I’ve been there”. Thank you sweet supplier of toddler snacks! Crisis averted, all because this mommy was taught to share.

3. The Truth Teller

One thing I have learned as a mom is, things are not always as the seem, (especially on Facebook). Social media would have you believe that having kids is a breeze. In fact, social media would have you believe that babies and kids are always having fun, always smiling and always dressed well. Not true.

What I really appreciate, (possibly the most), are the moms who tell the truth. I appreciate the moms who are honest about the stresses of having kids, the pressures of being a wife and mom and the realities of perfectly imperfect kids.

As moms, I think we tend look at other moms and compare ourselves. In the past I always came up short, in my mind. Knowing that the other seemingly ‘perfect’ moms have the same struggles as I do, has really helped me to be kinder to myself. Plus, you never know who is looking at you, and admiring your own mom-skillz. So I say, pass on the honesty, and help other moms let themselves off the hook!

4. The Hand-me-downer

The hand-me-downer rules so hard. These are the amazing mamas who generously provide you with entire wardrobes at any given time. I love these women! I love the unexpected Christmas in July, when a giant trash bag of cute (often times brand name) clothes appear on our front step. And it feels just as good to return the favor to other families. This is one of those unspoken exchanges that go on in the mom world, and I am ever so grateful for this.

5. The Back-patter

Let’s time travel again for a bit, back to when I was a brand new mom. I vividly remember talking to other moms purely for moral support and hearing the words, “You’re doing a great job”. Simple words, right? Those words literally stopped me dead in my tracks. They were the best words I had ever heard. Those words allowed me to breath for a minute. I needed those words, and didn’t even realize it. Those words are our code.

Most likely those moms had heard those exact words just at the time they needed to hear them, too. Those moms knew I needed a verbal pat on the back, and provided just that at just the right moment. I am thankful that I was taught that early on. It helped me pat myself on the back, when no one else was there to do it.

6. The Baby Holder

I love the moms who want to hold your baby for you. I love them. A few minutes to go pee by yourself, to eat a sandwich, to do the dishes, etc can be life-changing in that moment. So thank you, moms, who have ever offered to occupy my child for me for any amount of time.

7. The Mama in Need

The mama in need is the mama who saves my sanity. You know what feels even better than being helped? Helping someone else. At least that has been my experience.

When I get to utilize all of the wonderful things that other moms have taught me along the way, I feel a part of this incredible mama community. I feel useful. I feel like a real mom.

It is a give-and-take system. And while we may not always see eye-to-eye on hot-button topics, we are all just trying to do the best we can with what we have. I appreciate all of the mamas out there, whether you vaccinate or don’t, cloth diaper or don’t, breast feed or don’t, co-sleep or don’t, spank or don’t, etc, etc. At the end of the day, you are doing a great job.

xo, Emily

Chatbooks

Ok. So if you haven’t yet heard of Chatbooks, (maybe you live in a cave?), let me be the first to fill you in on the best thing to happen to Instagram since filters.

First of all, I have a confession. My name is Emily, and I am a mamarazzi. That’s right. I follow my child around relentlessly, with iPhone in hand, attempting to capture every cute move she makes. I can’t help myself, she is stinkin’ adorable. So the first step is admitting I have a problem, right? Right. That means the second step is finding ways to justify and fuel said addiction.

Enter Chatbooks.

When Ayden was born, I took a million pictures, kept up with her baby-book (for the most part), and created albums of Costco-printed photos. Then she turned 2 months. I continued to take pictures, but found myself slacking in the printing department. I began to feel stressed out about all of these photos just floating in the infinite abyss that is my hard drive,  and my sleep-deprived brain could not remember what order they went in.

This has been an ongoing issue for almost 3 years now. And then… it happened. Chatbooks. What is it they do exactly?

1. Chatbooks prints out your entire Instagram feed, in to adorable, 60-page, 6″x6″ album books.

2. Chatbooks allows you to edit said content, excluding photos you may not want in your album. (In my case these were photos of food pics and treadmill workouts.)

3. Chatbooks only cost $6 a book. That’s right, $6. A book.

4. Once you order your Chatbooks series, they will notify you by email when your next 60-page book is ready for review. If you are an over-poster like me, you will obviously reach 60 photos before someone who only posts occasionally. But once again, you can exclude any photos that you don’t want in your series.

5. Chatbooks offers free shipping.

Anyway, have yourself a little look-see at my series; ‘The Instagram Files’.

xo, Emily