When Luigi joined Mario

Yesterday, we found out we are having another little boy! This came over six weeks later in my pregnancy than it did with Dayen. At my first gender ultrasound, we were told 99% chance the baby was a girl. We were both kind of in shock, because we both have 3 brothers and have always felt like a girl for us might be as rare as giving birth to a unicorn. (Which sounds painful.) Then the next angle of the ultrasound she said, "Actually... it might be a boy." So for the next 6 weeks we went back and forth, but leaned toward the baby being a girl because it was so hard to tell, and with Dayen we knew right away and easily.
So yesterday, when the ultrasound technician told us with confidence that we were having a boy, we were both in shock for a second. And I will admit, there was a tiny bit of disappointment, which I instantly felt guilty about. Having one of each just seemed like the perfect way to do it. I had a girl name all picked out. I had even secretly bought some girly onesies and hid them from Caleb because he was afraid I would jinx it. So hearing we were having another boy made us feel slightly deflated at first. It was like, Oh. Another boy? This is like traveling back in time. And as weird as it sounds, it was almost a loss. Like one second we were having a daughter, and the next we realized she never even existed at all. 
But then the ultrasound got a good shot of his sweet little face, and we both commented on how much he already looks like Dayen. And I realized how many times in my pregnancy groups I have seen people be genuinely upset about their babies gender, and for the most part, it is always because they are having a boy.
Why is that? Boys are the best! Don't get me wrong, a little girl would be fun and different. But the more I think about it, the more excited I am for Dayen to have a little buddy to play trucks with. And it made me realize some reasons I am so grateful to be having another boy.

Boys don't need as much
Before our last ultrasound, I had a bunch of stuff in a bunch of carts on the internet ready to buy once we confirmed that we were having a girl. Things like pink swaddlers and floral car seat covers, stuff that we actually had but not in "girl prints". I hadn't even gotten around to thinking about clothes and bows and all the other girly stuff. Now, I can honestly say we don't need much of anything. Not only do we already have a bunch of boy clothes, but somehow even when they are tiny, boys just don't need as much. Buying the floral and the frilly is fun, but I'll stick to being the high maintenance one in the family for now.
Surrounded by Strength
Sure, in a few months I am going to be the only female in a very testosterone-filled house. (Even our DOG is a boy. I'm completely surrounded.) But I've lived with girls before... I had 9 female roommates at one point. And all I can say is, there's something to be said for living with people who use a lot less toilet paper and can open pickle jars for you.
He can be King
Sure, it's 2017 and being a girl is pretty great, but back in the day, I would have been put to death if I couldn't produce a son. Now that I'm having my second boy? I probably would have been the favorite wife who got to live in the biggest castle and have my own maid. You know... if I survived the birth. And the plague.
Luigi is all-around better than Peach
Dayen thinks Mario is pretty much the coolest thing ever, just after trucks and treats. Let's face it, his little brother Luigi joining the team was a great addition to the game. But Princess Peach? She is just the worst. Her voice is like nails on a chalkboard, she has some serious damsel-in-distress problems, and even after Mario saves her from Bowser OVER AND OVER, she still leads both Mario and Bowser on rather than just shutting Bowser down like she should have done back in the 80's.
The world needs more tiny Caleb's
Let's face it, from his looks to his personality, Dayen is just a tiny Caleb. Only on rare occasions where he throws a loud tantrum or cries over nothing does anyone say, "Oh, I see the resemblance to Anndee now." Usually, he is mellow, easy going, and fun. The world needs more little Caleb's, and I'm not sure how many Anndee's it can hold.
Being a boy mom 
Overall, the thought of carrying another baby boy makes me smile because for the last two and a half years, being a boy mom has been pretty great. From holding sticky hands to impromptu cuddles, little boys are just about the sweetest thing out there. Watching him look up to his dad and want to be more like him (even though I swear they are already the same person) and seeing him learn and grow have been nothing short of a privilege for me. Every time he smiles and says, "Hi, Mom!" or randomly asks if I want a hug, I fall even more in love with this sweet little boy, and he has definitely paved the way in both our hearts for another baby boy to join our family!

The Terrible Twos

Can we have some real talk about 2 year olds for a second?

I don't feel like I can complain, because the truth is, everybody warns you.
Like, repeatedly. They don't call them the Terrible Twos for nothin.
We've all rolled our eyes in restaurants as some kid a few tables down throws a tantrum. Or left a friends house with a sigh of relief because their child was destroying everything and the parent seemed too tired to care.
But you can never be fully prepared to actually parent a two year old.





First of all, you love them so much. Like, there are times I look at Dayen and want to eat his face off because he's the cutest freakin' thing I have ever seen. There are times my heart melts into a puddle on the floor because something he is doing is so sweet and adorable. And every day, he says or does something so funny that I'm not exactly sure how I ever survived a day without a much-needed Dayen joke. And when he comes up and asks for a hug or tells me he loves me (or, as he's taken to doing lately, says, "Hi Cutie!" when I walk by) my heart is so full of joy that my life suddenly feels whole and perfect and complete.




























But then. But then.



Inevitably, the two year old in him comes out. If we are all here to put off the natural man, then two year olds must have a natural toddler, and I have seen it, and it is not pretty. In fact, it is scarier than anything I've ever seen in a so-called scary movie. (Which, ok, I used to cheat and put my knees up and not watch them because I hate scary movies, but still.) In an instant, he can totally flip from my sweet angel child into a crazy monster I have never seen before. (Except now. Cause I see him way. too. often.)

It catches me off guard every single time. It's like somehow, this tiny person that I love so much is both my best friend...and my worst enemy.
I feel horrible even saying that. And that's exactly the problem: I love him SO much. I realize that he's only 2, and not really capable of expressing himself in an, ahem, healthy fashion. But lately it seems like all day every day, he is driving me to want to pull all my hair out. Where did he learn that banshee scream from and how do his lungs handle screaming like that all day? Why can't he just tell me when he's hungry instead of rolling around on the ground and throwing a tantrum until I guess?
And the real important question: is he enjoying torturing me as much as I think he is?

Two is just this weird transition stage. One minute they are your sweet, chubby, helpless baby, and the next they are a tiny, sticky-fingered human who can destroy a room in ten seconds flat and steals food off your plate like you are a peasant and he is King of the Universe.

So now, I would like to issue a formal apology to any parent I ever privately judged for having a screaming toddler in a public place, or a kid shouting NO at their parents fifty times in a row, or for ever assuming that meant your kid was a "bad seed" who behaved this way all the time.

I see now.

I see that the moment I became a mother, I entered a terrifying and dangerous relationship with a sweet little person who would one day poke me in the eye in the store and then laugh maniacally. I see that even the most seemingly difficult children are probably like sour patch kids. (Sweet on the inside, but definitely going to cut your hair while you're sleeping if they ever get the chance.) I see that I was just cocky to ever think I could raise a perfectly well behaved toddler, or to ever believe that I was actually doing it, because the moment I got too comfortable, the beast in him was unleashed.

I have been humbled. I am more than willing to hear any and all suggestions to help me get through the day, or to help this pregnant mom and her crazy toddler deal with our overly-large emotions.

But I am also grateful, despite the many times a day that I completely lose it and find myself bargaining for some peace and quiet with cookies and toy trucks, that I get to spend my days with this kid.

He is nuts, but I think he gets it from me. So we might as well be nuts together.



Cleaning (I know, exciting, right?)

Warning: this post is less exciting and more... informational. I know you usually stop by for the thrills, but this post is titled "Cleaning", so I guess if you've made it this far, you might as well carry on.
I don't know if it's just in my blood, if it comes from living with messy roommates for years, or if my professional-cleaning mother finally rubbed off on me, but I've realized since owning my own home that I tend to get a tad  OCD organized when it comes to cleaning.
My problem is, the way I clean generally looks like this. (From the scary perspective of inside my mind:)

The kitchen is dirty. I need to clean that.
No sense cleaning the kitchen until Dayen has a snack.
Shoot, this pantry is a mess. How old are these goldfish? I better clean this out while I'm at it.
Now I filled up the garbage. Better take that out.
Garbage day tomorrow. Take it alllll the way out to the curb.
Come back in. Forgot to empty the bathroom garbage. Might as well take that, and the office garbage out.
To the curb. Dang it.
I have passed this random fuzzy thing on the ground 50 times now but I'm just scared enough that it's a spider that I don't want to pick it up. Or get too close. Guess I'll just vacuum.
Everything. I'll vacuum everything since it's out.
Dayen finished his snack now.
And by finished, I mean he threw it on the ground. So out comes the vacuum again. I get him situated in his room, which I'm just now noticing needs to be dusted, and his toys need to be picked up for the thousandth time.
Do all that. Head to the kitchen because I'm starving, and realize it's a mess.
I should probably clean that.

Now I realize I'm probably a little crazier about this than your average bear. I know a lot of people just don't care about cleaning. But if you can empathize with me at all, then I have good news: I'm here to help.

A few months ago I was at a training with the wonderful photographers I work with. We were talking about goals, and one of the girls mentioned that she used to spend her entire weekends cleaning instead of with her family, so she started following a cleaning chart so that she could have weekends off.

After that, every Saturday that I found myself cleaning instead of hanging out with this cute family of mine, I thought of that. So I finally sat down and wrote out a cleaning chart, and made myself follow it.

Guys, I know how pathetic this is going to sound, but it seriously changed my life. Here's what my chart looks like:

I know it looks like a lot, but this was basically everything I was doing during the week anyway (only usually all at once, or more than once) PLUS all those things like pesky baseboards that I never got around to, because ain't nobody got time fo' that.

After the first week, I noticed a huge improvement. My house was all around a lot cleaner. When I did clean, I spent a lot less time every day. I finally got weekends all to myself. And best of all, whenever I noticed something was dirty, I just let it go. Because I knew I would end up cleaning whatever it was within a week. So I could keep focusing on whatever I was doing, rather than wondering how long it had been since I cleaned the toilet and worrying about it until it happened.

And it gets better: I don't follow it perfectly anymore. But because I've gotten good at doing almost everything on my list every day, I can skip a day here and there and not really notice. Like last week, we were on vacation Tuesday-Thursday. Rather than trying to do all those chores when we got back, I just left them for this week. No big deal, because they were all done the week before.

Go ahead and make fun of the cleaning nerd in me, but I have loved it. When I am struggling to want to clean that day, I just do my daily chore and then know I can be done for the day and still feel accomplished. Plus, did you notice? Those months with a 5th week, you don't have to do a monthly chore.

I know, it's the little things.

I finally got around to typing up my list, so I made a blank one for those of you who have been reading this post with rapt attention, because you can deny it, but I know you're out there. It took me awhile to get my schedule down in a way that worked for me, so feel free to steal things off my list or completely disregard it and find what works for you. I doubt anyone else out there has a booth in their kitchen with handmade pad covers that have to be washed monthly thanks to their messy two year old. (It doesn't take him an entire month to get them insanely messy, but that's when the magic of turning them over to the clean side comes into play!)



Feel free to steal this photo and print it off for yourself- it fits all on one page, or you can shrink it for 2 to a page and give one as a Father's Day gift this week. They will love it.

Just kidding. Don't take my advice on that.

How to be a PERFECT Mom

First things first, Imma say all the words inside my head,
I'm fired up and tired of the way that things have been.
-Imagine Dragons
-Anndee Fonnesbeck

Oh, ooh. But really.

One of my best friends just had a baby. She is a lot like me, and spent the last 9 months researching everything from what car seats are best, to how to best organize your infant's closet. She has wanted a baby for a long time, and spent what I'm sure felt like an eternity trying to get pregnant. She, like most of us (let's go ahead and blame the hormones) cried like a baby when she finally saw that big blue plus sign.

She went through nine months of pregnancy, and then gave birth to a perfect, healthy little boy. But after their first night at home, she called me in tears. "I didn't realize this was going to be so hard! I love him so much, but he won't sleep! He won't stop crying! I feel like the worst mom and I don't know what to do for my baby!"

This completely broke my heart for my cute friend. I have been in the background the last nine months, excitedly waiting with her for this cute baby to make his appearance. I have fielded every birth and parenting question I could, and watched her excitedly prepare to become a mother. But within days, it knocked her down.

And I realized, I completely forgot about this part.

Dayen will be two this month, which means it was only two short years ago I was in this same boat. But when I think of having a newborn again, all I can think about is how tiny they are, and how huge my adorable two year old is. I think about how he would fall asleep in my arms, and all the cute clothes he outgrew ages ago. (Not to mention the newborn clothes he never fit into, stinkin' 9 pounder that he was.)

Just like everyone told me I would, I forgot almost completely about the sleep deprivation. I forgot about the insane amount of stress that comes from a baby who won't stop crying. I forgot how hard it is to heal from childbirth, learn to breastfeed, and be solely responsible for the care of another human all at once. Now that we've had two years to find our footing, I forgot that for awhile there, our world was turned completely upside down.

I think the craziness is to be expected. I think crying about it to your friends and family is totally normal. I don't think there is any amount of researching you can do that will really prepare you for parenthood.

And it must work out, right? Because if I really search my mind, I know those rough nights were there. I know there were plenty of times I felt stressed beyond what I could handle. But now, I look back and all I remember are those sweet, chubby cheeks, how I could stare at him while he slept and just soak it all in, and how every single second was worth it.
I would do it all over again, absolutely.

All of it is normal. We can't control the hormones or stop babies from just crying for no reason sometimes. But one thing that sticks with me still, one thing that has been nearly impossible to shake, is wondering whether I am a good enough mother.

Now, I realize this has probably been a problem for a lot of mothers since the dawn of time. But I don't think I'm mistaken in saying that, emotionally at least, this has got to be one of the hardest times to try to mother in.

As my friend talked to me, her voice shaking, she told me, "I caved and finally gave him a binky. The nurse at the hospital told me to never give him a binky or he wouldn't latch, but I just had to get him to stop crying! And it worked, he went right to sleep after that."

The problem with trying to parent today is that we are constantly bombarded with information about what is the best for everyone's baby, all the time. Combine that with our need to judge everyone's lives over social media, and you've got a recipe for a stressed out new mom who is feeling actual, real-life guilt over something people used to do easily, like give her child a binky.

I gave her the best advice I can think of, "Listen to the advice people give you. But when it comes to actually parenting your child, you make the decisions. You are the only person who knows this baby this closely. You are his mother. You know what is best for him, and you are going to make every single decision in his best interest. You are enough for him."

The problem is, we all know it takes a village. And I am so grateful for the seasoned, experienced moms (and dads) who gave us advice along the way. Without a friendship made in church, I never would have discovered the gas drops that saved our lives a few months in. But there were things no one could help us with, like the fact that Dayen spit up all day, every day for the first year of his life. Every time it happened, I felt like a failure. One person told me to give up dairy, while another told me to take him to a specialist. No matter what we tried, nothing helped. But yet, he was healthy. He grew. My baby was always comfortable, happy, and taken care of, because his well being has been on my mind every second of every day since the moment I found out I was pregnant.

And as his parents, I know that Caleb and I are enough for him. We are doing enough. We are trying enough. We are good parents.

It kills me, but it's something I have found I have to remind myself of constantly. Every time I see another article on Facebook telling me I've been doing something wrong (Kids need constant milk! No milk! Broccoli will rot their teeth! Air conditioning stunts their growth!) I have to remind myself that this easy, constant access to "knowledge" is not always a blessing.

No matter what you do as a mother, you are failing in the eyes of someone. Do you vaccinate or don't you? Do you cosleep or not? When do you start potty training? Or giving time outs? Am I a horrible parent for letting him cry it out, or is that the exact perfect way to sleep train?

It is so incredibly overwhelming trying to please everyone and be a perfect parent, because it's impossible. You're fighting a losing battle. And yet, that other mom on Facebook has it all together, so it must be possible if only you try harder!

We beat ourselves up about every little failure or shortcoming in parenting because it's the one job we really, really want to be perfect at.

My two brief years in parenting have taught me a lot. Don't ever leave your child unattended without a diaper on, even for ten seconds. Don't compare them to anyone else's kid, because they are all so different. I think I have even decided I am a great mom. But there are some things I had to do to get here.

1) Stop reading scary articles
Whether your friends post them on Facebook, or you can't help it and you look them up yourself, stop reading all those rare, worst-case-scenario stories. Bad things happen all the time. For the most part, that kind of stuff is unavoidable, and only serves to make you crazy. Just don't read it. Next time you see an article about something horrible happening to a child because her mother used bargain brand laundry detergent, click that handy button that says "Show less posts like this" and guess what? You will start seeing less posts like that.

2)Base your decisions off your child
The answer to basically any question you've ever had? It's out there. Either on the internet, or from some handy friend who knew a friend of a friend who had something similar happen. It's ok to ask questions, and it's ok to learn. If you don't know something, look it up. Ask for opinions. But don't base your decisions off what anyone else tells you happened to their kid, or what they wish they had done differently. Base your decisions off YOUR child and their needs. If you always make your decision the best one you can for your kid, then those voices telling you you're wrong slowly start to fade away. (Or, you go deaf to it.)

3) Lovingly ignore your Village
It sounds great to repeat the mantra, "I am my child's parent, I know what's best for them." day in and day out, and it's certainly easier to ignore the strangers who try to give you advice, but it doesn't always work that way. The fact is, besides it's parents, any child has at least a small number of people around it who love it too, and often feel at least somewhat entitled to a slice of the decision making. These are usually the people telling you you're doing something wrong, and you'll know you respect their opinion when it makes you want to punch a wall whenever they have the slightest criticism. These are usually the people who have had more kids, or had kids sooner, or who just read a lot more books than you. These are the people that I still find myself thinking, "Well, they probably know better than I do," and I almost always end up regretting it.

I've learned to love and respect these people. I love that they love my baby. I love that I have help and guidance when I need it. But I've also learned to trust my gut. I've learned to say no, and stand by it. I've learned that someone else could have raised eleven perfect, well-behaved children into adulthood, but they still don't know what's best for my child the way I do.

So to my sweet, new mom friend, who gets to spend her days alternating between dirty diapers and sobbing in wonder and love at the little baby she just met, I want you to know you are enough for him. You don't need years of experience. You can't earn a degree in motherhood. You won't be perfect. But from the minute he was made, you were absolutely, completely, 100% perfect for him.

You two were quite literally made for each other.

You've got this.


What Tantrums Teach Us

Dayen, who is almost 22 months (although, I'm normal, so I prefer to refer to it as "almost 2") is at the funnest age right now. I know, I've said that through every age of his life, but I think so far, this is my favorite.

He's learning to talk, and every day he surprises me with the funny things he will say that I didn't even know he knew. (His latest favorite is to tell me "I pooped." every morning when I get him out of his crib. He's usually lying.)

He loves to sing, and his little off-key voice is the cutest thing I've ever heard.

He will sit and play with you for hours, and when you build a tower out of his blocks he's really encouraging and says, "good job!" or dramatically yells "oh noooo!" when they fall down.

He's still obsessed with letters and numbers. He likes to count on his fingers, and he always says, "one, two, three, four, HIGH FIVE!, six, seven..."

He loves to pick out his own clothes, and his favorite thing in the world is shoes. If I don't put shoes on him in the morning he asks about them all day. "Shoes? Shoes? Socks and shoes?"

He's not very adventurous (he doesn't even like to go down the slide on my lap) but he's very observant. Today we were at the park when a little girl and her mom were going down the slide. Dayen, watching them carefully while eating his sandwich, whispered, "Ready? Set? Go!" and when they didn't go he said a little louder, "Go. GO!" As they went down he said "wheee" and when they got to the bottom he smiled and said, "Fun." We were cracking up.

Everything he does is either adorable, hilarious, or adorably hilarious. This age is so, SO much fun.
BUT

(of course there's a but. You think I would write a blog post just to brag? No, I'm here to complain, as always.)

This age is also famous for it's tantrums.

You know what I'm talking about. They don't call them the "terrible twos" for nothing. I have watched a lot of kids over the years, all who possessed varying degrees of naughtiness, but no one, and I mean NO ONE, escapes the terrible twos.

And I will admit it: I have not been known to have the most patience with it. As a nanny, it was easy. I loved the kids I nannied, but it was my job to help them be well-behaved and fun to be with. Then I went home at 5:00 and who knows what they did. For the most part, because I wasn't their parent, the kids would listen to me. But, oh, those terrible twos.

And now, just a little early, Dayen has entered this same wonderful time frame that I was naive enough to believe he might just skip. He's always been such a sweet, easy kid. But just the last week or so, he has been so whiny. Everything pushes him over the edge. And I mean everything.

For example: say we're playing with blocks. He is having a great time stacking them up and watching them fall, when suddenly a tower falls and it is just the end of the world. He can't handle it. We stack it back up, and he gets even madder. There is just no consoling him.

So me, being the fantastic mother that I am, I just get more and more short tempered. Soon, every time he starts to cry I get frustrated. Because it is so unnecessary! Because the things he is upset about don't matter, or don't exist! And because it is just never ending.

Which brings us to this morning.

Caleb works from home twice a week, so he was on the laptop working and I had some things I needed to get done for my job. So I was on the computer in Dayen's room for probably half an hour or so. Dayen was playing by himself for awhile when he started to get frustrated with his toys for no apparent reason. Then he came over to me and whined for a second, and when I told him to stop, he threw some toys behind the computer, like he knows he's not supposed to. I thought, I know how to handle this, I'm a good mom. So I calmly grabbed his hand and said, "Dayen, no no."

I could not have picked a worse thing to say. He threw himself on the ground in complete hysterics. Knowing where this was heading, I moved him to his crib. I let him cry in there for about a minute, then let him out and asked if he could be happy now. Again, he threw himself on the ground. That's about the time Caleb came in, and we both tried to gently calm him down and distract him, while also letting him know it wasn't ok to be screaming like that. (This is a super effective form of parenting that always works. Not.)

I finally put him in the rarely used time-out corner and let him cry. He sobbed for another few minutes, and would occasionally look back at me, but with his eyes squeezed tightly shut because he didn't want me to see him.

Finally, finally, I knelt down a few feet away and reached my arms out to him. Instantly, he crawled over and climbed onto my lap. He buried his face in my shoulder and within seconds he had calmed down.

And my little mommy heart completely shattered.

Because I finally understood what the tantrum was about. He wasn't just being grumpy. He wasn't just being two. He wasn't even really being unreasonable.

He just wanted some attention. He wanted me to play with him, and he didn't know how to ask.

He had played quietly all morning while I took care of the house and got ready. Then, when I finally came in his room, I was completely distracted staring at a screen and still making him play all alone.

He doesn't understand that I have to work. He doesn't understand why I would tell him to go play when I'm here, perfectly capable of playing. And he doesn't know how to express it when he gets upset.

He's not even two yet. He will learn to be more patient. He will even learn the heartbreaking truth that sometimes, mom and dad can't entertain him. But for now, he just needs to know that I am here for him when he needs or even just wants me. He needs to know that no matter what he does, his mom will always be here, always loving him, always ready for a hug when he is.

So, we're working on it. I am trying to teach him to say, "Play, please?" instead of crying or throwing a fit. But more important, I am trying to teach myself that toddlers are not adults. (Duh, right?) They aren't going to be perfect. They are going to cry, that is going to happen. But next time, I am going to be a lot quicker to be the open arms to comfort him, rather than the scolding hand trying to force him to grow up.

He is the smartest, sweetest kid I know. But just like his dad, he sure has to exercise a lot of patience with me.


Ellie & Awesome

Just hours ago, I shared this photo of Dayen with his favorite stuffed elephant. Tragically, not long after this picture was taken, Dayen went through a bout of toddler madness and stuffed Ellie, in quite a violent manner, in the dog's water dish. Dayen's mother, who shall remain nameless, was fixing dinner and did not see the event take place. Ellie was discovered some time later by the Master of the House (please burst into Les Mis tunes now), shoved grotesquely in the water dish, arms and legs all twisted about.
Dayen, at the moment, appears to be showing no remorse. However, knowing him as we do, we fear this will not be the case at bedtime.
I am no nurse. And I am certainly not an expert in Pachyderms. But I did my best bathing Ellie with a soft cloth (this is not the first time I've done this. My life has gotten so, so weird.) and then spent at least 15 minutes drying her with my hair dryer, and thinking about all the other fantastic things I could have been doing with that time. She is currently in the ICU (Intensive Counter Unit, Bathroom Division) drying the rest of the way. Our only hope for her now is that she will be ready to go home (to her crib) by bedtime. Things aren't looking good. 
Always the cynic, I have been waiting for this day to come. The day when Ellie would fall apart for good. I remember well the day my favorite baby blanket came out of the wash in ruins. I cannot bear to see my child go through the same heartache. 
Ellie has been with us for so long... since the beginning, really. Always just sort of there, the silent, ivory-toothed spectator.

Through long nights of teething and sickness, through giving up his binky, through bumps and bruises, tantrums and timeouts, Ellie has been Dayen's one constant source of comfort.
Every morning when he wakes up, every other animal and blanket has been tossed carelessly on the floor, but not Ellie. Ellie is squeezed, harshly but securely, in the chubby fingers of my toddler whose love and slobber knows no bounds. Ellie is covered in just about every germ Dayen has ever come in contact with. And she takes it like the strong, majestic mammoth that she is.

I know what you're thinking... "Why not just buy a back up Ellie if she means so much to you?" DON'T YOU THINK I'VE TRIED? (Sorry, emotions are high over here. I just spent 15 minutes drying a stuffed elephant with a hair dryer.) As soon as it became clear that Ellie was "the" toy, I tried to find her online. I was disappointed to find that she was out of stock.
Weeks went by. Then months. The pages of the calendar flew off one by one as Ellie grew slowly more and more grimy. (He thinks her trunk is a binky. Need I say more?)
And still, she is out of stock. 
Today, as I felt Ellie's impending demise upon us, I grew more desperate. And, I was in luck! There she was for sale on Ebay, "slightly used"... for only $42.99!
Some sadistic person out there knew they had the only backup Ellie in the world and they are really trying to get every penny out of her. What kind of person tries to get rich off a stuffed elephant I ask you?!
But today also brought about a new discovery in Ellieland. I read her reviews on Carters.com, and they are nothing short of glowing.

"5 Stars! Please Restock! We have 2 of these elephants, one for home and one for daycare. My son cannot sleep without it and we need a backup! Please restock this item!!!"

"5 Stars! PLEASE RESTOCK!!! Just so happened to find this elephant at Burlington Coat Factory and my little guy fell IN LOVE with it. He is 4 months and has had it for 1 month now. He will NOT sleep without it. It is the perfect size for him! Went back to buy a second one the next day, we thankfully have two JUST IN CASE. But, we would love to have a 3rd one to keep at his daycare. Unfortunately, Burlington no longer has any in stock. PLEASE restock! We will but 3 more (2 to give as gifts for any future baby showers & 1 to keep)."

"5 Stars! This is my baby's favorite! This is my daughter's special elephant. She takes elephant with her for naps and bedtime. She is comforted by the elephant if she wakes in the night. We want to buy more! Please re stock!"


No, I am not making this up, and no, I did not write any of these reviews. (Although I was dying laughing reading them.) And that's when it occurred to me... this was an opportunity for my blog to do what I always intended for it to do... make a difference.

To all those fellow parents out there who are hand-washing their one and only Ellie's (or whatever you call her. If you named her anything other than Ellie you're putting way too much thought into this.) To the children, like Dayen, who can't imagine a world without her... this one is for you.

Carter's, I am reaching out. I am here, on bended, graham-cracker crumb coated knee begging you to restock this item wonderful, beloved creature. We parents need you, we implore you, to consider the children. No, not the starving ones in other parts of the world. The spoiled ones in our homes who are going to make us crazy if anything ever happens to these toys.

I don't know why or how children pick their favorites. Maybe you've laced these things with the scent of cookies. Maybe they are the only toys that Toy Story was right about. I don't know and I don't want to know. What I want, is for Ellie to be back in stock. I want to go to sleep at night without the constant, nagging fear that tomorrow may be her last day with all her stuffing inside her.

Sincerely,

The League of Parents Whose Children Love Only One Of Their 10,000 Stuffed Animals (TLOPWCLOOOT1SA) ... or maybe it's just me.

P.S. If, by some unlikely chance, Carter's doesn't read my blog, do you think I can get away with buying him this Koala and, like, reattaching his tail as a nose...?





Enjoying Life + Baking Cookies

...Yes, they are the same thing.

Recently, I've been feeling really anxious and overwhelmed. I've been blaming it on this crummy weather, but it probably also has a little something to do with the new furry addition to our family, who effectively brought the number of little people I have to take care of on the daily up to THREE.

Now I know, all of you with 3+ kids would love to take this opportunity to tell me to just wait, it gets even harder, I don't know how easy I have it, etc., but I beg of you... don't. My little heart can't take it. I have to do this thing gradually and in ignorant bliss, or I swear, Dayen is going to stay an only child.

All that being said, I just haven't been that fun to be around. As a mom, as a wife, or even as myself. When you find yourself needing a break from yourself... well, something has got to change.

And I just kept telling myself, "If I could just get out of here for awhile, just go somewhere where the sun is shining and I don't have to wade through 5 feet of snow to get anywhere, I would feel better!" But, that isn't true. Ok, it kind of is, and if I have any secretly rich family out there who would like to pay for me to take a trip to Hawaii like, this weekend, now would be the time to reveal yourself.

But, since that probably isn't going to happen, I decided to make my own happy here. In my same old house, with two fur balls and a runny-nosed kid at my feet 24/7, and with the snow STILL piling up outside.

To all of you out there feeling the same, never fear: I have your solution! The recipe to happiness. (Is that too on the nose? Should I try not to be too cliche with this? Sorry, I probably don't care.)

The Recipe to Happiness (which ironically also results in cookies):

Step One: gather all the ingredients for your favorite recipe. Actually scratch that, your favorite treat. I don't want to see any of you out there making ribs. There needs to be at least an entire cup of sugar in whatever you're making, or this won't work.

Step Two: gather all the tiny humans in your house (please note, the fur babies should NOT take part in this activity. If they've recently pooped in the house like mine did, it would actually be better to ignore them altogether.)




Step Three: now this is a biggie! If you are a woman, let go of all obsessive, controlling impulses you have. I'm serious, do it. If you're a man, just keep bein' yourself. You weirdos never seem to have this problem.

Step Four: Make said treat with said tiny human(s). Have an internal struggle where you try not to worry about the mess their making, while still hurriedly cleaning up behind them. Oh, and if you're making Crisco cookies like we were, do the Crisco first. I rarely even let Dayen eat with a spoon because it makes such a mess, I'm not crazy enough to unleash him with Crisco.


Step Five: eat treats along the way. Because there is never enough sugar or enough time in the day to eat it all. (That's what you jerks are going to write on my headstone, isn't it?)


Step Six: soak it all in. I'm serious, this is the important part. The mess is still going to be there. And if you make a double batch like we did (always do. I have a problem.) then you're going to be cooking these suckers all day. So, take a moment to enjoy the moment. 

And really, this is the point. The work is never going to be finished. Ever. And you can look around and be overwhelmed by that fact, or you can decide to be happy during the work. If you don't, then when do you ever get to be happy?

Step Seven: Enjoy the fruits of your labors. In this case, eat the cookies. In life, eat the hypothetical cookies. Whenever you can. They don't have calories or gluten or anything.

Saving this recipe for later. I'm going to need it again.






Facebook, the POTUS, and my Sunday rant

I, like most of you reading this, grew up in a small town. There wasn't a whole lot of diversity in Brigham City, Utah. My schools were always nearly 100% white, middle class families. And, being in Utah, a good percentage was LDS as well. As a result, I didn't grow up with a lot of diversity. The problem with that is now, with social media, we have access to nearly every race, religion, and political party you can imagine. We can be connected to over 1 billion people everyday on Facebook alone. And, surprisingly, not every person on there agrees with everything I think. Even if I am absolutely, for sure, without a doubt, right. Right?

Let's face it, we are spoiled. We are one of the first generations of humans who haven't had to work in the fields all day just to make sure our family is fed. We have access to all of the knowledge mankind has ever attained and it's at our fingertips. So, maybe all this arguing on Facebook is out of pure boredom. But, I can't be the only one who is tired of it, right?

I mean, I can't be wrong in assuming this is the worst it's ever been. Everyone has an opinion. Everyone seems to want to argue their opinion to death with random people we went to high school with.

But I think we can all agree that there is no chance we're ever going to all agree. And that's ok! If we all had the same opinions about everything, we would be a pretty boring race of people. Nothing would ever change, we would never progress. It's ok that we disagree. It's the way that we go about it that isn't right.

In the last week, I can think of two posts in particular that stood out to me. One was from a liberal, millenial female. She posted a long rant about how, basically, Republicans are bad, horrible people who do bad, horrible things. The second post was from a conservative, middle aged male. His post was about how Democrats are bad, horrible people who do bad, horrible things.

And the thing is, they may stand on completely different sides on every issue you can imagine, but their messages accomplished the same thing: absolutely nothing. Conservatives, in agreement with the conservative man, liked his post. They felt a little better about their own thoughts and beliefs being verified. Same thing happened with the liberal female.

I, in the mean time, just felt sort of sick reading both of the posts. For one thing, both posts contained references to articles and news that was misleading at best. (But we'll get to that.) But worst of all, both posts were just dripping with anger and hatred at an entire group of people.

Come on, everybody. How many wars do we have to go through as a civilization before we realize this gets us nowhere? Anger and hate only leads to more anger and hate. There is no light there. There is no forgiveness, no understanding. Are we really so naive as to believe our thoughts and opinions are the only truth out there? Do we really think all these people we argue with on Facebook are just the bad guys sent to star in our movie?

Who wins there?

I'll be honest, I didn't vote for either major party candidate. I am certainly not happy about Trump becoming our new POTUS. But, I feel like I was set up for this kind of let down a year ago. There was never, for me, really an option of a great outcome in this election.

And because of that, I have felt angry too. But I've felt more angry and involved in this election than ever before. And that isn't because I suddenly found that I have a deep sense of patriotism that cannot be quenched. It's because of social media.

It's because I am bombarded by it day after day after day.

It's because the world is becoming increasingly black and white, and there is no room or acceptance for people who live in areas of gray.

This morning, I read a post where a lady posted letters her children had written to Trump. Her young children, who apparently were sobbing and screaming after election day, were so upset that they felt they had to write Trump a letter telling him they didn't like him.

I'm not passing any judgment on this family. My point is, emotions are running high. Even among children. I think we all need to acknowledge that, well, we are all kind of acting like children. The problem is, we should know better.

The one thing I am so happy about in this election is that we are all so conscious and aware of our government now. Yes, we are deeply divided on all the major issues. Yes, it's caused riots and murders and horrible, horrible things. But as someone who was apathetic about these topics only years ago, I will say that I am grateful it seems that almost no one is sitting back, ignoring politics and just letting things happen anymore.

Our awareness is the most important tool we have. One voter can't change the outcome of an election. But is there a single person in this country who doesn't have one careful eye on the President right now, waiting for him to screw up? That is an amazing thing, and that is why I don't feel it's necessary to march for women's rights or whatever just to oppose the new POTUS. You can bet if he does one thing to hurt women's rights, he will be fought the whole way down. We are all aware and ready to fight. So, do it. Keep your boxing gloves on. Just stop using them to fight down friends who disagree with you.

And, on that note, I have to plead with you all: please, please be responsible about what kinds of posts you share on Facebook. It may seem so small and inconsequential, but it isn't. I hope we are all aware by now that the media is biased at best and should be taken at face value. But so often I see articles posted, from "legitimate" news sites, that are full of misleading arguments, facts that haven't been proven, and even outright lies.

So before you share something political, ask yourself if the information is really correct. It may reaffirm what you believe, but that doesn't make it true. Read the entire article, at least some of the comments, and then research it from another angle. Fact check. Read the opposing arguments. Form your own opinion, don't just adopt one from some BuzzFeed writer who is paid to entertain, not inform.

It takes two extra minutes to search Snopes and see if the information you are sharing is true.

It takes even less time to ask yourself, "Is this logical? Would this really happen? Could this be false information?"

I am happy to see you all share. I read posts from both sides all the time, and I am certainly far from perfect when it comes to politics. I am so glad that we are all involved. But I think we need to acknowledge that becoming involved and interested in politics comes with a responsibility. (A Spiderman quote belongs here, doesn't it?) So, let's all take a collective deep breath. Let's all realize that one person in Washington DC is not going to ruin our entire lives. And let's all acknowledge that we may not have all the right answers all the time.

Birthday Parties and a Guest Post by Melissa!

Awhile back my cute friend Melissa asked me to write a guest post for her blog, The Frolics of Mama Llama. I immediately asked her to write one for my blog, and then... totally forgot about it like the unorganized disaster that I am.


It's ok guys, I bought a new planner today. I've got it under control, really.


Anyway, today on her blog she posted this hilarious tidbit and I just had to share!


Last year around this time I started stressing about Dayen's first birthday party and what theme to do. Seriously, I spent way too much time pinning ideas for a kid who had no clue what was going on the entire day. Oh, and then it rained. Because the weather is always against me.


Hop on over to her blog and follow her, she is so hilarious and fun, I promise you won't regret it.


And now, without further ado...




Once upon a time, we just had birthday parties. There were no themes. Just plain ol' music, cake, ice cream, and junk food. We had basic decorations, like helium balloons and streamers. We played games like "Pin The Tail on The Donkey," "Heavy, Heavy Hangover," hit piƱatas with baseball bats, and did a "Cake Walk," if we were feeling fancy enough. We opened presents, sang "Happy birthday to you, you live in a zoo, you look like a monkey, and you smell like one too." Everyone went home sugar high and happy.


Ah, those were the days. I yearn for the same simplicity. Nowadays, you have to have a theme for your party and it has to be big. Points if it has to do with whatever your child is currently obsessed with. Extra extra points if it's good enough to pin on Pinterest. The food has to be organic, gluten free, soy free, with no GMO's or high fructose corn syrup in it. And the thing is, after all the time and money you spend on DIY-ing everything for the big event, your kids won't even remember you threw the party in the first place. Unless they look on Pinterest years later and see that you pinned every detail.


Don't worry-- I, too, have fallen into this trap. That's why, this year for Lil Spits' first birthday, I'm throwing a Mom-themed birthday party.


You heard me right. I have pooled my resources and realized that she doesn't like watching tv, she likes toys, but not any particular character, and I'm still figuring out her little personality. I do know that she likes me and binkies, though. And if I have to choose between throwing a binkie birthday party or a mom party, you know what I'm going to pick.

We shall start out by sending the invitations. They're going to be evites. We'll pretend that I'm trying to reduce my carbon footprint, but we all know the real reason behind sending an evite: They're free and I don't have to stand in line at the post office.


The evite will probably say something like this:

You are cordially invited to Lil Spits' first birthday party!


Date: on her birthday, unless that's a weekday, then we're going to ruin your weekend by throwing it on a Saturday.


Time: not too early and it won't go for too long, because, you know, naps. Not only for the kids, but for the mom throwing the party (aka me).


Location: Somewhere that doesn't require a deposit, doesn't mind screaming kids, allows me to bring my own food, and has a bathroom that can handle an army of toddlers. Bonus if I don't have to clean up after.


Attire: Sweatpants and no makeup. I'm talking to you, super moms.


Please bring: Cash, diapers, and wipes. That's it. We already have enough toys to pick up.

The evite will have a picture of me on it.


We will have cupcakes, because I've gotten really good at making them, but they take a while, which means I won't have time to cook anything else... so we're also going to have leftovers. Hope you don't mind.


We will play music that I like, but it'll spontaneously be interrupted by ads and we'll have to switch songs mid-play because somebody isn't going to like it.


We'll play games like, "Sorting the Laundry," and "the Quiet Game," and "Sleep Training."


We will end the party by sending everyone home with a goodie bag! It will be full of their own garbage from the party to throw away so that I don't have to do it.  

I, for one, am super excited about this birthday party! It'll be a blast. If anyone wants an evite, hit me up.


Thanks for reading, and we'll see ya on the flip-flop.


Melissa

New Years Momsolutions

Does that work? Momsolutions? Should I have gone with Resolumoms?

Well, January 4th. The internet and, let's face it, my brain, are officially bursting with resolutions and newfound determination to actually accomplish them this year. It's funny to me that we always insist on making resolutions, and then we forget half of them by the second week of January.
I usually make a few resolutions in my mind and then ruin them all by making a batch of delicious cookies that night, but last year I actually wrote a list in the back of my planner and then... well, completely forgot about it until I stumbled across it like a week ago. The funny thing is, most of the resolutions I had written down actually seemed pretty impossible a year ago. But as I read through them, I realized most of them came true!

Caleb able to quit Maddox by Christmas This was the best one- he quit in April, and every day I am so grateful for his new job and how hard he works!

Me- do Photography full-time January is definitely my slowest month, but I would say 2016 was by far my busiest year with Photography. I also started trying out videography (also on my resolution list) and started working for one of the best photographers I know!

Learn Sign Language This is cool because the only reason I made the resolution was because I was watching Switched at Birth at the time. I downloaded a few apps and tried to teach myself, but gave it up fairly quickly. Then, when I started school this Fall, I ended up taking an ASL course. I love it- it is so much harder than I thought, but this is one of the resolutions I accomplished that I am most proud of!

Start working on the basement Ok I'm not even ashamed to admit that this is never going to happen. But thanks for pretending, 2016 Anndee. Our house was built in 1930 and our basement is terrifying and full of spiders and basically beyond hope. That's ok. Some dreams are ok to let go.

School loans PAID OFF This is another one to be proud of- those things have been hanging over my head for years, and even though we "share" finances, I really wanted to be the one to pay them off. It took until November, but that still counts!!

So after finding that list, I thought maybe there is some secret magic to writing down your goals and I should do it again this year. The thing is, we have a lot of big goals we want to accomplish this year, but I can also think of ten thousand little ones. And I am the kind of person that if I need to do something, I want to do it right now so it's not haunting me forever. So for example, if I notice that I need to vacuum, I will do it within twelve seconds of noticing it. (That's my vacuum guarantee!) Or, if I make a resolution to, say, floss more, I will go floss right that second and then forget for the rest of the year.

That's gross but still mostly true.

Anyway, a lot of these little things I keep thinking of have to do with motherhood. But they feel less like little pushes to do or be better, and more like anvils of guilt falling on my head when I realize I'm not doing something absolutely perfect.

For example: I should start taking Dayen to story time at the library because I think he would really enjoy it. Turns into: I am a horrible mother for not taking him to story time in months, I never take him anywhere or do anything he would enjoy because I am selfish and horrible.

Or, just barely, I put Dayen in his pj's after dinner and he went straight over to his books, and I thought, "I should really make it a point to read him a story every night before bed." And instead of thinking what a fun tradition that will be, I suddenly feel the weight of the next several years worth of nights and I start thinking how it's impossible to read to him every night so I'm going to wind up failing and I feel the guilt of the failure before it's even happened.

But let me ask you something. Does this look like the face of a kid whose family is failing him on a daily basis?

I only share my craziness because I have this feeling I'm not alone. We all do it to ourselves, and we do it to each other. We demand perfection in motherhood, and it just isn't possible. So instead of just enjoying all these fun stages, every day I question if I am doing everything I can to help him grow up to be smart and strong and healthy and somehow still make him love me enough to visit all the time and never put me in a nursing home.

You want to know what's amazing? This sweet little boy loves to learn. I don't even have to try. He knows all his letters and their sounds, and he loves to sound out words in books. He knows colors and numbers and shapes, and even the silly things like animal sounds. And two seconds ago, I heard him standing up on his rocking chair (because the kid also loves danger) and without even turning around I told him to sit and he did. Cause we get each other. We spend all day every day together, and I'm over here still questioning if it's enough. I'm still making a mental list of all the ways I need to improve and do better.

Resolutions are great. I think we should always be improving. But sometimes, I think we need to cut ourselves some slack. Sometimes we need to give ourselves a pat on the back and say, "You have done enough. You have done all that is necessary and more. Sit down, play with some legos, and enjoy the reward."

Just promise me something? Don't let your resolutions be an excuse to beat yourself up.
You are enough. You're doing great. Just keep truckin' along.