Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Baby Raising Competition: A third baby celebration

There are lots of things my third baby won't get that her siblings did:  lots of new clothes (we love handmedowns!), parents that aren't shared with two other kids, a crib that doesn't already have bite marks all over it, board books with clean, unchewed corners and no pages missing....

==Although there are lots of things she will get that her sibling didn't too:  a big brother and big sister who can't wait to meet her, parents that are far better experienced in parenting, a mother who has watched two other children grow too fast and will hold a little longer and cherish all the small moments a little more consciously. ==

Knowing all this makes me feel both a little bad for her (on all the things she won't get) but also grateful for her (for all the things she will get) and as I was filling in the initial pages of her baby book, I flipped to the page that announced at the top "My parents had a party in honor of me" and I thought, 'No, somehow she will not miss out on this one thing.'

We definitely don't need any more baby 'things' to prepare for this girl - we have bins and bins of girls clothes until she and Gem are about 7 (thank you Kate & Tausha!) and all the blankies, swaddles, bottles, slings, and strollers a new mom can care to dream about.  But I did want to have a party in which we could celebrate her impending arrival.  A way to bring our family together, include our young kids and her future cousins, and for it to be fun!! (and funny if possible).

The inspiration for the party came from 'practicing' with our kids about baby related activities (diaper changing, swaddling) and the thought (hope!!) that we will be experts this time around with our third.  Plus, we love competitions and making grown-ups play funny games - thus was born our Baby Raising Competition party to celebrate our newest addition.

Our Baby Raising Competition:

We invited our close friends and family to our house on a Sunday afternoon - boys and kids too! to spend the day together in honor of our new girl.

Our Baby Raising Competition included a delicious spread offered from our amazing guests.  (thank you, all!)  That's what happens in our family - you tell everyone not to bring gifts and they all show up with food, dessert, and diapers!  (we are so, so blessed).

We all lounged around and ate and completed a few little activities at the start of the party.  I had a  Guess how many M&M jar set up (simplest game ever), and some fill-in-the-blanks for our new girl (inspired by this pin) for her to read someday when she's a teenager and needs a reminder how much she is loved.

And then it was time for the Baby Raising Competition to Begin!  We had our guests pair up with a partner to complete a set of Baby Raising related activities to earn points (tallied on our poster size scoreboard).

Our first game was Blindfolded Pudding Feeding:  Feeders were blindfolded and knelt in front of their partners who had to sit on their hands.  The top three teams were selected for having the least amount of pudding on their faces and/or bodies (we supplied napkin bibs to protect shirts).

Our next event was Baby Food Taste Tasting:  the partners each had a chance to test five different baby foods and give a guess as to which fruit/vegetable it was made of.  We didn't blindfold them so they were able to see the color & texture which actually didn't seem to offer much help (hah!)  Teams were given +2 points for each correct baby food guess.

Then we had partners Fill in the Missing Words to our Favorite Nursery Rhymes.  I selected four of my personal favorite songs/rhymes I sing to the kids and we had the partners complete the papers to earn points for each correct word.  Greyson and his partner cousin Ariel were the only ones to get a perfect score!  Way to go Booboo!  (hahha, he had a little bit of an advantage obviously).

Afterwards, I had all the teams watch as I slowly went through the steps to swaddle one of Gemma's babydolls.  Afterwards I asked if anyone had any questions, (no one did), and then I announced that our next event would be Grown Up Swaddling using a moving blanket to which laughter erupted from the crowd.  Partners needed to decide who would be the 'baby' and who would be the Swaddler and the event was timed.  Teams had to follow the exact steps of swaddling for it to count as a complete swaddling.  It was absolutely hysterical.  (Brandon and his partner Aunt Pam won this event!  Yay Daddy!)

Finally, we finished out the competition with a relay-style Baby Raising Obstacle Course:  At the start of the timer, the first partner was asked to diaper a baby doll, put the baby in a carseat, run a set of hula hoops, and then crawl under the trampoline.  The second partner then had to remove the baby from the car seat, change the baby's diaper again, place the baby in a front carrier, and push our play vacuum along a long line.  The obstacle was completed with a 'family' photo finish!

After a close competition, our winners of the Baby Raising Competition were Aunt Uch and Kevin!  (ahem.)

The day was a fun (and hilarious) way to celebrate our third baby's upcoming arrival.  I am so grateful to have family and friends willing to spend a beautiful summer afternoon playing silly games that make me giggle.  I can't wait to show this baby girl how her favorite people in the world spent a day swaddling each other and tasting baby food in her honor someday.  Oh how she will laugh and also think her family is a bunch of weirdos.

We closed out the evening with more lounging, chatting, and laughing.  We are so lucky to have family and friends that help clean up and take extra food home (thank you!!) So as always, parties are easy to manage when people show up early to help and leave late to help.  (honestly so blessed).  And we had very sleepy kids that night after so much fun and playing all day.

Dear baby girl,
We love you, darling, so much.
We just can not wait for you to be here with us.
love you already
and then forever and ever after that,
your family

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Mom Next Door Series: Jessica S

Our Mom Next Door Interview this week comes from Jessica, a 'sorta'-stay at home mom to her three boys living in Western PA.  I was introduced to Jessica through a mutual friend that we have who was singing her praises in the love and perseverance that Jessica has in raising her family.  After learning more about Jessica and her family, I am so honored to have her voice and story included in the interview series (thank you, Carli for the introduction!)  

Jessica and her husband were informed that their third son had suffered an in-utero stroke and the initial prognosis was very grim; but now - over a year since receiving the terrifying news; Jessica and her family continue to dance, laugh, and cherish each day as a family celebrating the small joys and spreading awareness along the way.


Who are you? I am Jessica Sims. I am 33 years old and live in the mountains of Western Pennsylvania. While I love the amazing view from our deck my husband took it a little too far when he moved us into a log home. Talk about endless dusting!!

Who is in your family? My husband and truly my best friend and biggest fan is K.C. Our three sons are Ike, Carter and Quincy.

What do you do for work? Mostly I am a "stay at home" mom that doesn't ever get to stay at home between running my youngest to therapies/doctor appointments and my older two to soccer and baseball games. I do work for Credo, an online tutoring service, as an english/social studies teacher. I'm so thankful for Credo because I can have a flexible schedule but still be "in the classroom."

What has become (at least for now) you're parenting mantra or guiding principle?  Nothing is better than this day! With the birth of Quincy, our lives were changed when doctors told us that he had suffered an in-utero stroke and at best we would have four months with him.

What was the most difficult Mom moment you've had (so far)? The first six months with Q when we held our breath each day hoping that it wasn't the day that something happened that would take him away from us. Also having each doctors appointment when they would tell us over and over again the grim prognosis that we should expect. Thankfully Q is a fighter, we just celebrated 13 months and he is amazing us each day!

What would your pre-mom self be surprised to know about motherhood? It's not all giggles and refrigerator art to be proud of. It is disappointment - when you watch your child try so hard but not be able to achieve something. It is gut-wrenching when you have to watch your child being sick or in pain and there is nothing that you can do. 

What would your pre-mom self be proud to know about you in motherhood? I know every family or situation is different but I like my kids with me all the time. They tag along to every thing from grocery shopping to doctor appointments. We have fun doing the everyday things and KC and I never miss a moment of their growing up. (My family actually jokes about how "selfish" we are with our kids because we don't let them stay over all the time, etc)

Which chore is your least favorite?  LAUNDRY - the gathering, sorting, treating, washing, drying, folding, and then you have to put it all away just to be gotten out again! Thankfully I have a hubby that is willing to do our laundry! Bonus he is able to keep the whites staying white!

What keeps you up at night? We don't have the time for that long list.

What big projects, worries, or events have you busy right now? Aside from Q's therapy four times a week and monthly doctor's appointment things are slowly down for the Sims family. On Mother's Day we hosted Quincy's Quest, a 5k to raise pediatric stroke awareness  (Quincy's Quest website). Plus we had a family wedding and all three boys' birthday parties recently so I'm thankful for a little down time.

Dropping off supplies to Ronald McDonald House
How do you unwind ore re-charge? I adore early morning walks by a local lake, when there are few people out and the dew is still on the grass. The freshness of it all charges me for the day ahead. 

What are the small joys of being a Mom that you treasure most right now? When all three boys are snuggling with me in the morning, either reading our devotions or just talking about what we are going to do that day. I will really miss that day when Ike feels he is too old to snuggle.

What do you miss most from Mom days already gone by? While I miss Ike and Carter being toddlers it is also so much fun to see their excitement for life. How excited they are when they learn something new at school or read a new book that they can't wait for me to read so we can talk about it.

What do you feel like you wish you were better at being a mom? Patience! I get so upset with myself when I lose my patience with the boys. It is such a thin line sometimes. I don't want them to grow up too fast but I want them to be responsible.

What do you feel like you are really good at as a mom? I asked my boys what they thought and they confirmed my answer...silliness and fun. I have dance parties in the kitchen with them after a hard day at school. And birthday parties:  we have awesome birthday parties at our house.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Lasts Weeks of Two

We're in the home stretch now for meeting our new baby girl.  We've made it to the six week countdown and I've passed the inevitable bridge that all pregnant women are required to reach; the i'd-rather-get-this-baby-out-even-though-it-requires-what-it-requires and i-choose-minimal-sleep-and-newborn-care instead of being this pregnant.  It's just a fact of life, friends and a necessary step to continue to populate the human race - let's be honest.

At this point, my pregnant body just feels foreign to me.  It no longer reacts the way I expect it too, I have aches and pains and constant heartburn (oh, Lord, the heartburn).  I need at least a 10 second warning a sneeze is coming on to tighten up, or know what I'm talking about if you've been pregnant.  I'm deliriously happy about our new girl and so grateful that my body can do what it does (ie. grow humans!?) but I'm also ready to meet her and gain control back over my own self.

Coming to the end of this pregnancy has also been a stark reminder that we are also coming to the end of having only two.  These two:

These have been our only two kids for the past two years and now we're getting a new little person.  A new personality that will give our current two kids a new layer of themselves.  Our family will become more complete and with it we will all learn how to work together differently to allow for this new person to be with us.  We will go from equal parts parents and kids to an imbalance in favor of the young.

Currently, Grey and Gem are best friends; honestly.  They can hardly stand to be apart from each other.  The first words out of Gemma's mouth when she wakes up is "Where's Booboo?" and Grey makes it his mission to be his sister's protector.  He gives hell to the big kids at the playground, "It's my sister's turn!  Let her have a turn next!" and tells her frequently, "I would never let anything happen to you, Gem."

What will a new sibling do to them?  I don't say this in panic, but in curiosity.  I was one of three and having two siblings allowed for a mediator, an impartial listener, an ally, a conspirator, another best friend.  I can't wait to see how this plays out for our three too.

While at the playground the other day, my Mum was listening to a 'big boy' talk to the kids by the slide.  When Grey told him, "This is my sister Gemma and we're getting a new baby girl too."  The big boy said, "Another girl baby?  No one is going to pay attention to you guys anymore!" and Greyson announced to Gemma, "Let's get out of here, Gem." and they slid down the slide together and left that big kid up there alone with his rude warning.  HAH!

After I had my complications with Gemma's birth and was put back in the hospital for a few days, I remember sobbing to my sister that I felt like I was neglecting my first baby; Greyson; that I wasn't being a good mom to him anymore now with the new baby and (more so than that) restricted to the hospital bed.

I am feeling the same tinges of that now in my final weeks of pregnancy for baby #3.  I know I am slower and more tired these days.  I can't carry babies up the steps anymore or chase down 100 fly baseballs.  And after our new girl arrives, I know my Mummahood will be stretched a little thinner in both energy and patience.

Somehow though, isn't it funny and wonderful that being a Mum becomes thicker in Love with the addition of new family members.

I have been trying to take in all the little changes in our kids right now to hopefully keep a snapshot of them in my mind of what it was like when they were only two.

Grey has been growing at weed speed these days; both physically and mentally.  He came downstairs this morning and I knew right away that he had grown - and I was right: a full half inch since last month(!)  He has been trying out several phrases he hears from tv shows or bigger kids; things like "You started it," and "I'm going to scare the heck out of you!"

Yesterday at the zoo, he was acting like a spooky animal in the meerkat tunnels and sort of blocking the entrance for other kids.  I called him out of the tunnel and told him that even though it was funny to him, other kids weren't able to play too and maybe they were scared.  That I knew he wasn't a bully but he looked like one by not letting other kids in the tunnel.  He apologized and looked visibly saddened.  About a half hour later when we were leaving the zoo, he said, "Mum, I'm feeling nervous."  I asked why and he said, "I'm feeling worried about the other kids when I was being a bully."  He has my tendencies about holding onto that ping of worry in my heart when I know I made a choice that may have made someone else feel unhappy.

Gemma has turned on the little girl light switch and all the baby has nearly dissipated from her entirely.  She has made the drastically obvious leap from talking so that only her parents understand to full blown conversations that other people understand.  It's both scary and dazzling to see our girl, who has been the baby for so long, turn into a real life little girl.

When I was feeling particularly sick and tired the other night, I came upstairs and took a bath and then put on my flowered robe to lay down to read (thank you, Brandon for the peace & quiet!) and Gemma came upstairs to tell me it was time for dinner.  The moment she walked into our room and saw me in the flowered robe she lit up and whispered, "You are beautiful, Mumma!"  I could have cried.  She can be the sweetest, most loyal little thing in the world.  When we are playing monsters/bad guys and I pretend to be afraid; she runs to me, throws her little arms around my neck and whispers, "I'll be-tect you, mumma!"

We have been talking, practicing, role playing, and doing more talking about having our new baby around.  Every time I go to a doctor appointment, the kids ask enthusiastically, "Is she coming today!?"  We have been trying our best to make our new baby's arrival like waiting for a package in the mail;  we are all just anxiously checking the mailbox everyday in anticipation.

It's such a mix of emotions in these last few weeks.  Slightly grieving the end of two kids and the exact feeling of how our life is today in all it's wild, moving, chaos.  Hardly standing the anticipation to meet our new girl; to become more whole as our family - it so painfully obvious that she is missing from us.  And knowing that I don't want to feel so huge and out of control of my own self, but also knowing the alternative to that lies the zombie like state of the rotten eight first weeks of having a newborn.

And so we all wait to bring our girl home.  Until then, we'll be relishing in just how our life feels during these final weeks of two.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Mom Next Door Series: Jennifer C

Our Mom Next Door this week is someone that I am grateful to know both personally and formerly as a coworker.  We both taught in Brooklyn, NY with Teach for America and then we both joined up to work for the same company following our time in the classroom.  Besides her dedication to education for all kids - Jen is also one awesome momma.  She is a full time working, school board leading, boho-chic traveling, single momma to her munchkin-queen daughter Honora.  

It is my pleasure to bring you some of Jen's inspiring insight and voice to the Mom Next Door Series today.  Please take a minute to read her witty and meaningful thoughts on being a momma and balancing it all.


Who are you? Jen C.; 33 years old living in Washington D.C.

Who is in your family?  Honora Junebug Jones, age 7 and a half (the half is very, very important)

What do you do for work?  mom with a paycheck I work on one of those big, scary college readiness tests as it tries to join the digital age

Which chore is your least favorite? Cleaning, especially dishes, vacuuming, mopping, changing sheets, and scrubbing the bathtub. Um, is everything an option? Blech. Whoever said money doesn't buy happiness never heard of Handybook: the money I pay a cleaning lady twice a month is worth (almost) as much as the money I earmark for the Anthropologie sale rack.

What has become (at least for now) your parenting mantra or guiding principle? Let it go. Oh, wait. That’s just my daughter’s mantra. I suppose my personal one is 'Relish the details': the sweet smell of detangler as we comb Honora's crazy curls; the apropos of nothing compliments she bestows on me; when she grabs my hand to cross the street.

What was the most difficult Mom moment you've had (so far)? Probably the first milestone of (pre) momhood: finding out I was going to have a baby. I had just moved to NYC as part of Teach for America’s corps, was in graduate school, and casually dating after a bad break up. I lived with two other girls who were trying to make it a la 'Laverne and Shirley' in Brooklyn; my apartment was above a Chinese restaurant (I am pretty sure was Mafia-run). I could barely get my laundry together for send out (even then I didn't like chores!)  I was attending happy hour regularly (read: every day) after going hoarse from wrangling middle school kids. I was not prepared and not planning (for a long time anyways) the munchkin queen (one of Honora Schmonora’s gazillion nicknames). But I have found that most of the things I don’t anticipate end up being the best. Honora is definitely the crazy amazing best thing I never planned; now, I cannot really remember life before her.

What keeps you up at night? That my choices – which I have agonized over with Excel spreadsheet lists and pros/cons docs tormenting me as I lather my hair (and get more lathered about executing a decision) – aren't right for Honora; that I am letting her down. That being a single mom isn't fair or right or good enough for her.

What would your pre-mom self be surprised to know about motherhood? How much you worry about someone other than yourself. Like constant worry. Did she brush her teeth? Do I travel too much for work, and she thinks I am abandoning her? Does this place have a kid’s menu, and will she eat food at this restaurant? Is that cup BPA free (and what is BPA and will it kill us if this cup does, indeed, have it)?

What would your pre-mom self be proud to know about you in motherhood? That I am killing it. Just kidding. Kind of ;) No really, I think 24-year old Jen would be happy to know I still can rock high heels, make an amazing pitcher of guava daiquiris, and prepare Annie’s mac ‘n’ cheese, all at the same time. Motherhood has definitely helped me step up my multitasking game.

What big projects, worries, or events have you busy right now?  I am on Honora’s school board. It’s so much work (but you should totally do it). It’s seriously my second job, after raising Honni and before my 9-to-5’er (no, for real – I Google drive and Doodle the heck out of the academic committee, which I lead). Education is a personal and professional passion of mine. When the opportunity to participate on the board of first year charter in D.C. presented itself, I was like, hey, sounds fun...? 

I should probably share now that I have history of over committing myself (Tab- sound familiar? ;) ) and also being a crazy perfectionist (although I would argue I hide my Type A pretty well; I appear to look laid back, but I am dying inside to do it right and my way every time). The school is moving into its second year, and we are replacing our Head of School. I am leading the search and hiring committee, and it’s pretty much consumed my life. But if not me, then who? And I would be losing a heck of a lot more sleep if I sent her to a school that didn't meet my (very) high expectations; this is important “stuff”, and I am 110% committed to making the school an amazing place for all our kids.

How do you unwind ore re-charge? In the past year, I have realized that as much as I love my daughter, as often as I am away from her for work, I need “me” time, too, and that doesn't make me a horrible, out-of-touch, hands-off mom. I like to get a babysitter and hit up Target or Whole Foods (Bougie Mom meccas), attend a meet-up of my foodie group (lots of recipe and restaurant trying out –yum), or going out with grown ups as we finish sentences with no interruptions lubricated with white wine spritzers.

What do you feel like you are really good at as a mom? My daughter is amazingly confident. I have tried to set up a home where “you can’t do that” is only saved for activities that will stain my white couch (and even then...), a place where she feels valued and acknowledged and fearless. She should have no boundaries on her dreams and encouraged to think even bigger. I am really proud of how she is so willing to take anything on, always gets back up if she falters, and has a real gusto for adventure and new experiences. I am so ridiculously proud of her, I feel like my heart will explode sometimes. For seriousness.

What do you feel like you wish you were better at being a mom? Stopping and really paying attention. My life and mind generally are going 1k/miles an hr. I feel like I miss so much with all that multitasking mentioned above and just generally being distracted with work, bills, driving here and there, etc.  

What is the one "Mom Tip or Trip" that you can share that has made your life easier somehow? Let it go. No, this is not another Frozen reference. When I am stressed or busy with 15 things (that darn multitasking), I tend to lose my patience over small stuff. Then I feel terrible and either a) apologize to the point of craziness (i.e., give in to chicken nugget dinner because I feel bad) or b) sulk in my room/ kitchen/ nook I can be alone and ruin my night (and her’s). In the moment, I try to count to five – no really, I do – and sometimes just walk away. It helps quell freak outs (mine, not her’s); if I flip, I just let it go. It happened. Moving on (in a positive way).

family vacation in Bosnia
What are the small joys of being a Mom that you treasure most right now? She is like a mini-BFF (or BFFFFFFF as she says). We always say “Mom first, friend second”, but she is becoming a little lady in such a fun way. On most days, she’s my first choice for a girl's day out (currently a good meal on a patio, some Target browsing, Super hero movie-watchin', and perhaps a gelato to cap it off). She’s a little Big kid rather than a big Little kid these days. I hope this sweetness and enthusiasm for chilling with me lingers through her preteen/ teen days.

What do you miss most from Mom days already gone by? I cry (a lot and in the privacy of my bedroom) about how big she is, and really, I am so afraid I don’t remember everything. I tried to not live behind a camera so I could really experience all the moments with her, but then I worry I don’t have enough pictures of the “fun times.” So, I guess, I worry that I might not even know how to answer this question! 

I will say I miss how she used to say French fry ("prench pry"), and how when we lived in NYC, she told everyone she was the queen of the forest (or the Brooklyn Bridge – depended on the day) as she wore this cute green tutu and curtsied around the living room with her halo of blonde curls. Ack, tearing up as I write this.