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Slow Down, Mama. Enjoy Yourself.

I’m the one standing there frustrated.  I’m trying to herd my little crew and move them along to get to the rainbow tunnel.  Let’s go.  Come on, boys.  Why am I in such a rush? Where do we have to be?  By the time we get there, we’ll need to leave for lunch and nap time, then they’ll be mad they have to go so soon, I’ll have crying and screaming kids, I’ll be picking them up from the ground…

I finally clued in the other day and realized something about myself.  I get so focused on an end result or goal, that I just push myself to get there.  In doing this, I’m not always being present and enjoying myself.  The best part of this rainbow tunnel adventure is our experience getting there.  It’s about being curious, being playful, and just s-l-o-w-i-n-g  d-o-w-n. My husband is so much better at that than I am.  I’m all about the end goal.  But I’m learning.

I’m starting to pay more attention to the different kinds of leaves growing along the path.  There are so many different shapes and textures; they are actually really pretty. I’m noticing how beautiful the wildflowers are.  I’ve been pointing them out to the kids. We smell them.  We talk about them.  We pick them and hold onto them like precious treasure.

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How cool is this!?! It was enormous!

 

The path along the way is beautiful.  There’s a wall of stacked rocks.  It has little ledges that are perfect for trucks and cars to drive on.  There’s a steep hill with tall trees and a little stream that runs along the path.  You can hear the water quietly moving over the rocks.  It’s hidden behind trees and brush, and can only be seen if you lean up against the wooden fence.  Different wildflowers and plants frame both sides of the walkway. There’s even a bridge you can cross and see the water flow beneath your feet.

 

 

 

Lately I have been watching Tate.  He reminds me of me and I worry.  He’s so wrapped up in what he’s doing.  He’s pushing his monster truck along and trying to get to where he wants to go.  He seems totally oblivious to everything that’s around him.  I could have brought him anywhere and I don’t think he’d notice. And then there’s Thatcher.  He’s the total opposite.

He takes it all in.  He dawdles along.  He hears the water rushing and leans against the fence to take a peek.  He tries to wander off the path to explore (little bum).  He gathers leaves and finds sticks.  He spots little burrs and sticks them to his shirt.  How fun is that!? He’s 18 months old and is able to appreciate his surroundings better than I can.

Now I join Thatcher at the fence.  Tate does too.  The other day it was Tate who had us stop to look at a leaf that was turning red.  We are all starting to see the rainbow tunnel as a place where we might end up, with lots of fun detours along the way.

I’m so thankful for my kids and what they are teaching me about life.  Slow down, mama.   Enjoy yourself.

 

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“The Rainbow Tunnel” is a magical place to our kids.  The boys love to yell just to hear their voices echo.  They like to push their trucks and cars along the walls and on the ground. They run around in random directions – just because they can.  I love watching them let loose.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Really, Lainie, Let Yourself Off the Hook

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One of those photos where you realize, oh man.  I’m a Mom!  (photo credit: E. Holmes)

 

You spend five days a week with three kids under three years of age (by yourself).  Each day you pack them up and take them somewhere they’ll enjoy.  The beach. The big park with too many toys.  To the sandbox.  To the farmer’s market.  To the Rainbow Tunnel.  To… Each day is planned around them.

You lie on the floor with them and play with trucks and cars.  You bake with them.  You make homemade popsicles with them. You paint with them.  You crawl around on all fours as they ride on you like a horse.  You watch for crafts and activities to do with them.   You took three small children to story hour at the library last week (people asked, Are they all yours!?!)

And you teach an online course.  You are creating an online quilting course with and for your mom.  You are trying to do things you enjoy.  You’ve taken a pottery class.  You’ve taken classes through Skillshare.  You took that Brene Brown course you’ve been meaning to do.  You are getting back to reading fiction again.  You’re reading another non-fiction book to do some reflecting about yourself – you want to be better for the kids. You volunteer with the local community group.  You write a blog series for them called, Humans of Danforth East.  You’ve been sewing for the kids.  You’ve been sewing for others.  You’ve been catching up with friends.

You are also getting migraines again.  Every day you beat yourself up for not doing or being enough for the kids.  I should be playing with them now instead of trying to send an email or posting to Instagram.  Where are your priorities?!  I should be playing  with Tate instead of letting him watch TV.  I should be spending quality time with Eric instead of being on the computer.  I shouldn’t feel frustrated when the kids wake up from their naps (because I want more alone time).  I should put my phone away when they are awake.  I don’t want them growing up with a mom behind her phone or on her computer.

I just can’t seem to keep myself under control.  I want to do more and more and more. Why is that?  I’ve never had so much time to do what I want (ah, the irony).  I could do anything I want and I want to do everything.  But in wanting to do everything and be everything, I’m totally not in alignment with what matters.  Being the best mom I can be. This is what I care about most.

As someone whose family members once called her a career woman who would never have kids, I am now a stay-at-home mom to three small children and I’m happier than I ever was in my career.  Exhausted and often without clean clothes, but happy.  I’ve actually just extended my maternity leave for another year to be home with the kids. And yet I feel like I’m doing things that don’t align with what I truly care about.

If I truly put them first, I wouldn’t have a million projects on the go.  I would be excited when I hear them wake up after napping.  I would play whenever they asked and would be totally present.  But I think I also need to be a bit gracious and kind with myself.

I am a human who has little people wanting her attention from the moment she gets up in the morning to when they go to bed at night (and still feedings in the night for Charlie).  I can’t just get up and go where I want, when I want.  My days are filled with changing diapers, finding snacks, prepping meals, play, play, play, going on adventures, books before bed, trying to find our house again beneath couch cushion forts and the toys strewn the entire length of our main floor…

I am doing the best that I can for right now.  I have a creative mind that loves ideas.  I love to think and make things.  It’s just trying to manage my own expectations. I am enough.  I am doing enough.  I always think that things could be better.  I am a perfectionist.  And perfectionism and being a mom do not go well together.  I am learning this the hard way.  I’m constantly in battle with myself over my decisions and what I’m doing and not doing.

My kids will be fine despite me (I hope).  I need to tell myself, let yourself off the hook, Lainie Beth.  Just be the mom you are.

 

I love this book by Nick Bland.  My mom had it up at the cabin this summer.  It was a message I needed to hear (thanks, Mom!)  We are all different and have our quirks. That’s what makes our kids lucky to have us.

 

My Mom Manifesto

 

Let them jump in puddles with their shoes on, clothes, whatever.  I can strip them down before we get in the car.  Their clothes will dry.  It’s part of being a kid.  They’ll remember that day we jumped in puddles together and got so messy.

Let them jump on the couch and slide down ramps made of cushions.  There will come a time when they will be too old and I won’t let them (I’m not for trashing our furniture). Right now they are little and it hurts nothing.  It fills our house with giggles and they enjoy playing together. Well worth the hundred times I put the cushions back on the couch each day.

 

We will eat chocolate in the morning.  If I’m baking with the kids and there’s a mixer to be licked, they can go to town.  Get that chocolate smeared across your cheeks and nose. You might probably remember getting to lick the mixer when you were little too.  I’m creating a memory for them to talk about when they’re older.

 

We do messy things like bring snow into the house in the winter – on purpose!  They play in a big bin with measuring cups, spoons, and whatever odds and ends I can find in the drawer.  To me, they are learning and experimenting.  They are trying things out to see what will happen.  And after, I just wipe the tile floor with a towel.  I’m fine with that.

 

On hot days, we play on the front porch in our diapers (them, not me). I don’t care how it might look.  They are carefree and happy.

 

We play outside when it rains.  They have little yellow rain coats and pants for the occasion.  Rubber boots too.  They push toys through puddles and I watch with my umbrella.  They need to get out of the house and so do I.

 

They can do their part to help out.  I want our kids to be responsible and independent. They know to take their shoes off on the tile and to tuck them under the bench.  Hats go in the basket.

 

I want our kids to have an amazing childhood filled with great stories.  This is why I write to them in their notebooks.  Why I take photos of sweet and funny moments for their photo books.  Why I’m five months into a 1 second video every day project.  It matters to me that I capture these childhood moments for them.

 

I don’t want my worries to be theirs.  Kids shouldn’t worry about anything.

 

Let them be little.

 

 

The Lainie List

 

  1. What!?! I’ve never heard of this before. Poor baby bunnies.
  2. A look inside a designer treehouse
  3. A free online course I just took
  4. Why Your Kids Just Need You
  5. My Gram, the meaning behind my Writing Acts of Kindness: 30 Day Challenge
  6. Sweetery: Canada’s Largest Sweets Festival in Toronto
  7. The Dough
  8. My anaconda don’t…
  9. Yay! A friend just opened her new ice cream shop.
  10. I need to stop eating this. So good.
  11. Take the Quiz.  Which one are you?
  12. Cook this Page: Parchment Recipes.  Those sneaky Nordic geniuses at Ikea.  
  13. Raspberry Sangria Recipe
  14. Figuring out my word for this year

 

Hope you’re having a great weekend!  If you’d like to see more of my everyday life, follow me on Instagram.

The Lainie List


 

This week I came across a blog I loved. Like, I have a girl crush on this woman. She is

super creative, real and funny. Check out Tracy at www.shutterbean.com

 

Each week, she posts a list of what she’s been reading, watching, and checking out online.

I was inspired to give it a try.  It’s weird to share without any context, but a bit liberating

at the same time.  I’m a wild woman.

Temptation of the Night

Each day I say
I won’t do it
I won’t get suckered in again
And as the night begins to creep
Hello again my friend

The house is beautifully calm
No chaos or screaming to be
The soft glow of the lamp
My notebook
and just me

Writing is a joy
Something just for me
So as they all sleep soundly
I’m happy as can be

Eventually I start to fade
The night approaching morn
I try to sneak into our bed
To avoid a bit of scorn

So although I say
I won’t do it
We all know it’s true
Staying up waaay too late
Is something I’ll likely do.

~Poem written my a mom with three busy little ones, who loves her late night quiet time.

5 Signs You Have Two Toddlers in the House

Your curtains are tied up each morning so the curtain rod isn’t pulled out of the wall.

Your bathtub is basically a glorified toy box, complete with a pair of water wings.

 

You’ve become that house with kiddie crafts EVERYWHERE.

The reading selection on your nightstand has changed dramatically.

 

 

A daily morning routine is unplugging your lamp and putting it up as high as possible so it doesn’t get broken.

 

It’s funny how your house changes once you have kids. The more mobile they get, the more table tops become bare and the breakables move higher. It’s like going minimalist but with a ridiculous number of toys and books everywhere and Cheerios all over the floor.

But I take these photos because I want to remember it.

I want to remember that our son was so excited when he got his first pair of water wings that he wore them most of the afternoon and into the tub that night. Or the reason why we had to tie the curtains up was because the boys loved playing peekaboo a little too much and almost took down the curtains one day.

When you come into our house, there’s no question that toddlers live here.

I just want to remember the fun.

Birds on the Brain: Spring Activities for Toddlers

I’m not a fan of birds and yet here I am…building nests, watching YouTube videos of eggs hatching, and looking for robins outside.  I’ve become the Martha Stewart of bird crafts and activities.  The things we do for our kids.

Below are a few photos of things we’ve been trying…

Our oldest was SO excited by this YouTube video: Baby Bird Hatching. He was so surprised when the baby broke out of its’ shell. The smile on his face was priceless. This was a win.
I was on my own in my excitement with this one. Mom fail. His little brother is a fan though. He yells out, “Buuuah!” while pointing at the magnets and scrambling over to grab them off the wall. Our oldest now refers to the magnets by their names, “Mama, where cardinal?” “Here, wren!” So it seems like he took something away from it.
We made bird nest cookies. The kids’ idea of ‘baking’ is eating the ingredients while I quickly put everything together. They prefer to be passive observers who continually request “mo-chocolate, peeze mama”.
He was very excited to make a bird feeder. Paper towel roll, peanut butter, and bird seed. “Sprinkle food, mama.” As I carried the feeder towards the front door, he ran back and forth around me yelling out, “Food birdies!!” He stood at our front picture window for the longest time repeating, “eat birdies. Come eat food, birdies.” It’s been hours and we haven’t seen one yet. Here’s to hoping.

I look forward to the little activities and crafts I have planned for them each day. I’m curious to see how they’ll react and whether they’ll find it interesting.

I started planning them as something fun to do with our oldest (while his brother and sister nap in the mornings). I’ve noticed he’s been looking for more attention lately, so it was something special we could do, just the two of us.

Some days he’s really into it. “Craft! Craft!” Other days we’ll be in the middle of watching a YouTube video of birds hatching and he’ll request videos of trucks or trains. Shiny object! Squirrel! I don’t push it. It’s supposed to be fun, not forced.

I have a few more ideas of things that we could do but I think it’s time to try something different. The kid loves puddles. Slapping his hand in the dirtiest of them all, jumping in them, stomping…I think we’ll start doing a few things with puddles. Plus, it’s supposed to rain all week so there will be lots of opportunities to explore.

I’m very lucky to have met some amazing early years educators. Their voices are the reminders I need when the kids don’t seem interested in what we’re doing. It’s not about planning structured, themed activities that children must do despite their interest levels. It’s about seeing children as the naturally curious creatures they are and letting them lead the way.

I need to observe my boys, watch to see what interests them, and then go there. I have much to learn but I’m having a lot of fun.

Writer’s Note: Who Inspired Me and How I Got Started

A few weeks ago, I took my boys to a free story time program at a nearby arts studio. The lady who facilitated it was phenomenal.

She grabbed a picture book and had the children following her around the room like Mother Goose. They skipped, danced, and quickly came in close as she drew them in with the next portion of the book. Then off they’d go again!

She carefully held a wind chime and quietly called each child up by name to touch it and listen to its’ sound. She made a simple wind chime from a dollar store seem like a magical object. I even found myself thinking it was pretty cool (I told you she was phenomenal).

The kids tilted rain sticks, danced around the room pulling coloured scarves through the air, and stomped their feet to mimic thunder. Needless to say, I was not only impressed but inspired. I should be doing things like this for my boys. I started my planning that night.

I opened up a Google doc and began brainstorming some possible themes for spring…

Rain
Puddles
Birds
Flowers
Seeds
Frogs

With each, I listed ideas for different learning experiences, crafts, and activities. Flowers and seeds…I’ll wait until we plant our flower beds and garden. Rain and puddles, I’m sure there will be a lot of that in April. Let’s start with birds because soon we’ll put our bird feeders out.

A few days later, I snuck out of the house at 8 p.m. and left our newborn with my hubby. I went to the library …I am a wild woman these days! I scoured the shelves looking for books that could fit in with any of the themes — snapping photos of ones I might borrow later so I could easily find them. I came home with two great books…

I thought we could read this book and then look at YouTube videos of birds in nests, birds hatching, etc. This book is beautifully illustrated and short and sweet. Our oldest loved it. He’s almost 2 1/2.
“Some birds soar high, while some birds just walk. Some birds waddle, some birds hop…” I thought we could move around and dance like the lady in the storytime program. Although we weren’t as graceful, we had fun stretching our arms and moving around the kitchen like soaring birds. It’s official — I have now reached a whole new level of silly.

I’m so glad that we went to the storytime program that day. Sometimes we need someone to show us what’s possible and to give us the inspiration we need to get started. I hope that maybe this post has done the same for you — given you a little idea that you might want to try with little ones too.

Starting a Toddler Book Club

I love the concept behind monthly book subscriptions for kids. My boys love getting mail and would be excited to have new books sent to them each month. I just didn’t want to pay hundreds of dollars for it. There had to be another option besides the pricey subscription services I found online. I decided to start my own.

I sent out a message to a group of moms I know…


Would anyone be interested in a Toddler Book Club? It could be a fun and affordable way for our little ones to have great new board books delivered to their door!

  • each interested parent would buy three new board books (to create a group book collection that would rotate to different homes)

  • we could add the titles we buy/plan to buy to a Google doc (so we don’t end up buying the same books)

  • sometime during the first week of each month, we would drop off the three books to the next family’s mailbox (we live quite close to each other and we can do a mailbox drop off at any hour that’s convenient for us)

  • we’d always drop off to the same family (I could set up a little rotation)

  • if any books are damaged / lost, we would be responsible for replacing it (if our kid was the one who did a number to it)

If you’re interested, let me know! We’d likely want / need at least five people to make it work.


Within a few hours, I heard back from six women who loved the idea and were interested. We’ve decided to start in April, and our kids will now have new books delivered to them for the next six months (for around $25).

I set up a Google doc to help us get organized. Along with sharing the book titles we’ve bought, it’s been a way to share our addresses to figure out who is dropping off books to who. I also posted a few links to blogs and sites with recommended titles for toddlers. I thought it might help us find some great new books.

I’ve never done this before so I’m not sure how it will go. There might be some bumps along the way, but we’ll figure it out. I’ll give an update with a blog post in May!

If you’re interested in starting something similar, here’s a copy of our Google doc in case it’s helpful. Whether you have a toddler, a tween, or a teen, it would be neat to start a book club with a group of friends or within a neighbourhood.

If you decide to give it a go or already do something similar, please share!

Give Your Kids Great Stories to Tell

There’s a sing song timer on our new stove. Every time the music plays, our little one year old throws his arms up in the air (his version of dancing). It’s so cute.

Last weekend, my husband decided to pick up dinner for him and I.  We were cleaning up before the kids’ bedtime when I heard our toddler say, “Bracelet, Mama.” I turned around to find him with a cold onion ring dangling on his wrist. Perhaps it’s a good thing he doesn’t realize what it is?

We all have great little stories about our childhood that have been passed on by family or friends.  This is the reason why I love writing to my kids.

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They each have notebooks filled with stories of silly things they’ve done and memories I want to share with them.  After I wrote, “Why I Write to My Boys,” I heard from other parents.  They wanted to start writing to their kids.  So for those of you out there who want to give your kids great stories to tell about their childhood, here are a few quick tips that will help you get pen to paper by next week!

 

Go Shopping!

Buy a notebook for each of your children.  Choose something with a great design or colour – not an old school, thin Hilroy notebook that will remind you of third grade.  You’re creating something special here!

I like going to Chapters to find my notebooks.  They have a range of colours, textures, and prints.  Choose something where you won’t feel overwhelmed by the number of pages or the size of the page.

Gather your Inspiration

For one week, make note of funny or memorable things that have happened with your kids during the week (usually it’s something I look forward to telling my husband at the end of the day).  You can make a mental note or jot them down somewhere.  For me, I like to write down a few things in my phone so I don’t forget. By the end of the week, I have an abbreviated list of ideas in my Notes app.

To help gather ideas, here are a few prompts…

  • Was there something funny that your kid did / said?  
  • Was there something you did together that you enjoyed?  
  • Did they have a first this week? (First time saying a certain word?  Doing/accomplishing something new?)
  • Was there something they did that gave you a weepy mommy/daddy moment?  

 


Get it Down on Paper

By the end of the week, grab your notebook(s) and get out of the house.  Go to your favourite coffee shop or a place where you enjoy spending time alone.  Get a coffee or tea, and enjoy!  Pull out your notes to help get started or maybe you’d prefer to just free write. Both work.

I like to date my entries and include the time I’m writing.  It may sound weird, but then my kids can see that Mom snuck out of the house at 6 a.m. to a coffee shop near the house to write to them while they were still sleeping or that it was 11 a.m. and they were at the park with Daddy while Mom wrote down some stories for them.  To me, it gives another little snapshot of our life – another story to share.  It’s completely up to you.


Set Some Goals

When writing to your kids, don’t feel like you need to document every great moment or you’re a bad parent.  You should enjoy the process.  Each time you write, you’ve given them something they didn’t have before.  Keep it casual and don’t put a lot of pressure on yourself – but just enough that you’ll actually write to them regularly.

I’d suggest that you decide how often you’d like to write.  Maybe once a month is do-able for you or you’d like to write every two weeks.  Either way, it gives you something to work towards.  Otherwise, we’ll keep saying that we’ll do it and we won’t.


Capture the Good Stuff

The main thing is to write when you have great things to share – when there’s something you don’t want to forget or something that was so funny they have to know the story when they’re older.  If we just write for the sake of writing, our kids will get notebooks filled with boring retells of their day-to-day.

We want to give them great stories to laugh about, to get a little emotional from, and to share with others.   We want to give them great stories to tell.

Happy Writing!