family, motherhood

Santa is Bringing My Daughter 1 Toy for Christmas… And I’m Not Sorry

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My family has excess. I don’t mean that in a we-have-a-ton-of-money way (because we don’t) or a we-take-elaborate-vacations-and-own-a-vacation-home-in-Tahiti way (uh, because dream on).

What I mean is that our needs are met, as are many of our wants. We have more food than we need, more clothes than we need, and our only child certainly has more toys than any one child needs. We simply have excess in our home.

Our 2-year-old daughter is mostly sweet, charming, and a delight to be around. While she has her toddler temper moments as all little ones do, she fills our lives with joy and fun daily. I am 100% certain her name is on Santa’s “Nice” list. And yet, I heard from Santa’s head elf (her name is Mama) that she is getting exactly one toy for Christmas.

Santa won’t be a total Grinch to our daughter. There will be a few other presents to unwrap. I heard she’s getting a bath towel and plate, bowl, and cup set (practical things that she needed anyway) and a sticker activity book to keep in the diaper bag while we’re on the go. But as for shiny, new toys to add to her collection? There won’t be a pile for her waiting under the tree; there will be one. And I’m not sorry.

Why is a Good Girl Getting Just 1 Toy for Christmas?

I, oops, I mean Santa made this decision after her second birthday. We didn’t have a big party this year – just little family gatherings on each side of the family with cake and snacks. And a massive pile of gifts. It was during the first of these family parties that she learned the word “present,” then quickly learned to string the phrase, “more presents.” After tearing open each gift, she would ask for “more presents.” And I knew that something needed to change.

That is why Santa is only bringing my child one toy for Christmas.

I want to teach my daughter to be grateful for what she has. I understand this is ambitious at the age of 2. But heck, this is a lesson that I am still trying to drill into my own head. So maybe if we start early enough, it will stick. We have more than we need. Let’s give thanks for the blessings we have, not ask for more. 

Enough is Enough: We Don’t Need More

Does my daughter need dress-up clothes for every Disney princess? No. Do I need to make a trip to Target for shampoo and walk out $50 (okay $75) poorer but with super cute clothes? Also no.

Our culture tells us that we deserve to have the things we want. Ads come at us from all sides for the newest, tripped out cars, the latest tech gadgets, the most refreshing sodas, you name it. If it’s for sale, marketers want to persuade you to buy it (I’m in marketing – this is a fact). And heck, we work hard to earn money – shouldn’t we get to spend it in ways that make us happy?

I would like to say yes. Go for it. Buy all the things you want (and can afford) if that is what makes you happy. But I know it won’t. Not really. You may have been groomed to THINK that your life will be made complete with a cell phone that can film in super slow mo (looking at you, new iPhone), but it won’t. There will always be something new, something better. You will never be satisfied is you try to find contentment by acquiring physical things.

Modeling Gratitude

Gratitude is a tricky business but I want to model it for my daughter because she is watching me. What I want her to see when she looks at me is a mother who is content because of the people in her life and a relationship with a the One who saved her life, not the stuff in it. This is something that I want my daughter to see throughout the year, not just in the Christmas season. And the way that she will learn it is if I truly live it.

To the family who may be reading this, I want you to know that we deeply appreciate the thoughtful gifts you’ve given our daughter. Thanks to you, she has a playroom full of toys that provide hours of entertainment and fun. But this year, I would ask that you slow down the flow of new things before we overflow.  Instead, come hang out with us for a day. Gift our daughter your presence, not your presents. Show her you love her with your time. It may not be store-bought (or elf-made), but it is surely more meaningful.

family

12 Questions to Ask When Searching for Child Care

bright-horizons-1200We did it. We registered our baby for preschool. Through this process I learned several things about myself, about the child care industry, and about finances.

I have high standards.

I kind of knew this ahead of time. But looking at child care facilities made it very clear to me that I don’t tolerate a lot of things: any amount of dirt, overcrowded classrooms, and unprofessional employees are at the top of that list.

If I want my standards met, I have to pay for them.

This point deserves a “duh” but it I’m still putting it here. In the beginning of this process, I thought I knew how much daycare would cost when truly, I had no idea. Most child care centers don’t advertise their tuition rates; you have to call to find out rates and availability.

In one case, a preschool refused to share the rate altogether, insisting that I had to see the facility first. (I coerced that preschool into telling me the rate over the phone because I was a previous employee and knew what they had to offer.) But man, once we got to those cold, hard numbers, my jaw hit the floor.

I learned what I didn’t want through the process of daycare visits.

I started out the search unprepared; I didn’t have a list of questions and I wasn’t really sure what I was looking for. It turned out that didn’t matter. As we visited centers, I quickly honed in on what I didn’t want: I didn’t want a school that crammed 16 babies and 4 caregivers in a tight space. I didn’t want to leave my baby in a school that had a funny mildew smell and looked like it needed a very thorough cleaning.

Eventually, I got a clearer picture of what I did want: a clean and comfortable center with professional employees who welcomed us from the moment we walked through the door. A school with a curriculum where my child can learn and grow throughout the years to come. We found that place, but first we had to trudge through many daycare visits that checked all the wrong boxes.

I decided that paying more than what I wanted or expected will be worth it in order to leave my child in a setting that will make both of us comfortable.

In the end, I determined that I don’t even care what it costs (within reason). I am willing to pay an arm and a leg in order to leave my baby in a facility where I am 100 percent confident that she will be well cared for, loved on, and safe.

We may have to trim our budget. There will be fewer Chinese takeout nights and spontaneous Chick-fil-A stops. But when I leave my baby with her teachers and go to work, I will have peace of mind that we chose the right center for our family. And it turns out that feeling is priceless.

Extra help for parents seeking child care:

12 Questions to Ask about a Child Care Center, Preschool, or Home Care Facility:

  1. Is the facility licensed through the state? Many states publish all licensed child care centers in an online public record. I recommend looking up the center to ensure that it is free of any state licensing violations.
  2. Is the facility clean? You can ask the center if the space is cleaned by a professional service and how often.
  3. How many children and teachers will be in the classroom? Look up your state’s regulations for licensing.
  4. Are all adults in the facility certified in CPR and First Aid?
  5. Does the classroom follow a curriculum? Can I get a copy of the curriculum?
  6. What qualifications were used to hire teachers or child care providers?
  7. How will my child’s progress be measured in the classroom? Are parents kept up to date with what children are learning?
  8. How do teachers or child care providers interact with parents? Is there an app where I can stay updated with my child’s daily progress?
  9. What will my child eat every day? Ask for a copy of the weekly menu if it is available.
  10. Where and when will my child sleep?
  11. What is the parent responsible for? (i.e. Will the center wash bottles at the end of the day? Do I provide diapers and wipes for my child?)
  12. In the event of an emergency, how will I be notified? What if you cannot reach me?

It’s best to be prepared with these questions when you enter a child care facility for a tour (even if it does make you sound a bit picky). After all, the one you choose will be the caring for the most precious thing in your life – your baby.

family, motherhood

What I Didn’t Expect about Working from Home

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Working from home with my baby wasn’t how I pictured it.

When I got the go-ahead to work from home two days a week with my daughter, I thought I had found the best of both worlds: I’d still be stimulating my mind and keeping my professional skills sharp, while getting to spend time with my baby.

I had always heard that working moms envied stay at home moms because they missed out on milestones while their precious babes were in the care of someone else. Meanwhile, stay at home moms daydream about a whole day in which a tiny human does not rely on them to deal with every bodily secretion.

Working at home was the holy grail. I had found the greenest grass; no other situation could possibly be better than this.

Or so I thought.

It turns out that working from home with a baby is a challenge. Some of the biggest struggles that I faced:

  1. Taking a “lunch break” meant multiple breastfeeding sessions throughout the day.
  2. Nap time was necessary if I wanted to get anything done during normal working hours.
  3. Most of all, my attention was never fully on my daughter and I felt guilty about that.

That last one came as a surprise.

My sweet girl loves interacting with others. And as she grew and gained mobility, she took to crawling over to my laptop and trying to sit on it to gain my attention. I apologetically pushed her aside every time, all while worrying that she would start to believe the screen in front of me was more important than her.

It wasn’t, of course. I was just trying to do my job so I could financially support her. I would be able to explain this to her one day, but you can’t explain this to a 1-year-old… no matter how many times I said, “I’m so sorry, baby. Mama has to work right now.”

What I learned is that ALL moms struggle.

Working moms are separated from their babies. Stay-at-home moms never get a break. And as a working from home mom, much of the time I was overwhelmed with conflicting priorities.

We would all do well to give each other more grace. 

Moms and dads alike struggle with balancing the demands on their time. No matter what your working situation may be, it is hard to be a parent. In fact, parenting is a full time 24/7/365 job in and of itself.

It’s also the best job in the world. But that doesn’t make it easy.

Encourage the parents around you. Lift them up with your spoken words, with an uplifting note, with your actions, and in prayer.

You never know which mom or dad in the office might have just spent their morning cleaning vomit out of the carpet. Trust me; they can appreciate a simple, “Your kid is lucky to have you.”

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”(1 Thessalonians 5:11)

Photo credit: Pexels.com/energepic.com
family, motherhood

48 People Came to My Daughter’s 1st Birthday Party. Here is What I Learned.

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The week leading up to my daughter’s 1st birthday party was like preparing to go to battle. I had planned something party-related to do every single evening.

  1. Order balloons? Check.
  2. Order Chick-fil-A catering? Check.
  3. Order cake from Costco? Check.
  4. Go to the grocery store and buy pumpkins? Check. (Bonus check for spending an hour sorting through moldy pumpkins to find 25 that were mold-free.)
  5. Draw and paint poster boards of a cow and pig for a “feed the cow” and “feed the pig” cornhole game? Check.
  6. Draw and paint a John Deere tractor on a poster for Pin the Wheel on the Tractor (that wouldn’t even be played). Check.

And on and on it went.

During this process, I knew that I was going too far. But I had a picture in my mind of what I wanted my daughter’s birthday party to look like and would stop at nothing to make that picture a reality.

Bless my own heart.

Why did I work so hard and stay up late night after night to throw the perfect 1st birthday party? After all, my kid is one year old. She won’t remember it. Other kids at the party won’t remember it.

I’ll be honest. I wanted the pictures.

Pictures like this:

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And this:

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Oh, and this:

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I worked myself until the party almost wasn’t fun anymore to make these picture-perfect moments happen.

By the time our 48 guests arrived, I had a killer headache that almost ruined the party for me. Thank goodness my wonderful mother practically carries a CVS pharmacy in her purse. She was able to supply me with medicine, but the first hour of the party was tainted by nearly dizzying stress-induced pain in my temple.

Mamas. There has to be a better way. 

We’re doing too much. I didn’t have to invite our whole church to the party. I didn’t have to label each item of food with witty farm-themed names. I didn’t have to spend a lot of money (don’t ask me to add it all up) on pumpkin patch decorations. I didn’t have to do any of it, really.

But I felt like I did. 

For months leading up to my daughter’s birthday, friends and family members said that they couldn’t wait to see what I would come up with for her 1st birthday party. They knew my tendency to go all out and had high expectations.

Based on past experiences, I understand why they would think that. I truly do. But maybe we should all lower our expectations a little. After all, I have a child now. She requires a lot of time and energy, and there is only so much left for extras like party prep.

It comes down to this: there is too much pressure on moms today to be perfect. Pinterest perfect. We need to tone it down. Otherwise, we get tired, stressed, anxious, and generally become worse versions of ourselves.

That is not what our children or spouses deserve. After all, they probably didn’t ask us to do any of it in the first place.

My daughter’s birthday party ended up being a blast. She loved being in the spotlight and I don’t regret gifting her the experience.

But maybe, just maybe, it should have been pared down to the essentials. No guest would have missed the cute food labels because they wouldn’t have known about them at all. 

Stop worrying about doing less than what others expect of you. Start focusing on what your sweet babies need from you. I suspect that your littles would rather have your undivided attention than a Pinterest perfect birthday party anyway.

family

Emmanuella’s First Birthday: What I Want to Remember about the Past 12 Months

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Today has been marked on my calendar for a year. My baby is one. One! On October 24, 2017 at 10:15 am, Emmanuella Joy Dedrick came into the world and forever changed my life. Now 12 months have passed and I have a spunky, active toddler in my life who is learning to walk (5 steps so far!) and is happiest when she is destroying something.

In a way, the year has whizzed by; it seems that she simply can’t be a year old already. But at the same time, I can’t imagine life without my daughter. It seems so long ago, like she has always been a piece of my heart. From that perspective, of course she’s a year old.

Regardless of how long or short it feels, this past year has been the best I have ever experienced. 

 

Here are some things from this year I want to hang onto forever: 

  • Emmanuella falling asleep on my chest as a newborn. It’s a rare occurrence if she falls asleep in our laps today. And I never know when will be the last time, so I soak up every one.
  • Dustin dancing her to sleep every night for months.
  • How often we watched Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy during my maternity leave. Dustin and I would watch and Emmanuella would have her hour of PURPLE crying.
  • The way that Emmanuella adores attention. This past Sunday in church, she stood up, leaned on the pew, and waved and said, “Hi!” to everyone behind her. We have no sign of stranger danger or shyness.
  • How delighted I feel when she says “Mama.” “Dada” is far more common, so each time is a thrill.
  • Those perfect baby giggles. Right now she thinks it’s the funniest thing ever if I pretend to eat her food.
  • That yummy baby smell Emmanuella has after bath time.
  • What flawless baby skin feels like.
  • The struggle of making it through our hip dysplasia journey but how much strength we gained along the way.
  • How fun it is to go to the grocery store with a baby riding in the cart.
  • How strangers come up to me and tell me that my baby has my eyes.
  • The precious rolls Emmanuella has on her arms and legs. You just want to eat them up!
  • All of the firsts we’ve experienced this year: big ones like the first Christmas and first steps, and little ones like the first time in a swing or in the pool. Everything is new and exciting.
  • People who ask, “Is she like this all the time?” as she smiles at everyone she meets. Yes, she really is. Emmanuella is the most easygoing baby in the world.
  • The fun places we’ve gone: many Flying Squirrels baseball games, an Orioles game, Busch Gardens Christmas Town, the National Zoo, camping, the pumpkin patch… this girl doesn’t slow us down. She just makes going places all the more fun.
  • How Dustin and Emmanuella go outside to wave every morning when I leave for work and are waiting on the porch when I come home.
  • All I’ve learned about God’s perfect timing and love for us. Emmanuella is our perfect gift from God and I am so grateful.

October 24 is going to be a special day in our house for the rest of our lives. We celebrate our dramatic, beautiful, happy-go-lucky Emmanuella and remember the day she was born – 7 pounds, 8.3 ounces of perfection. She has changed and grown so much since that day, but no matter how big she gets, the love I have for my daughter grows along with her.

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Photo courtesy: Missy Brown Photography

 

family, motherhood, pregnancy

8 Reasons Why a Scheduled C-Section is Not the End of the World

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When my OB/GYN laid out the possibilities for the delivery of my breech baby, I was devastated. A planned C-section was the safest option. And absolutely not what I wanted.

I had my plan. Visions of calmly laboring in the tub while soothing music played in the background had danced in my head for months. I wanted the room to be dimly lit and relaxing with Christmas lights aglow. I did not want my baby to come into this world in an OR.

I originally thought a scheduled C-section was the end of the world. I broke down and cried and felt all the hormonal emotions when I found out that my dream of laboring in that hospital tub with Christmas lights all around me would not become a reality.

But much to my surprise, I became the loudest cheerleader for C-sections after experiencing my own. Here’s why:

1. No Labor

I have a low pain tolerance. In fact, I found pregnancy itself painful. But what is more pain than general pregnancy discomfort? Contractions. Or so I’ve heard. The worst that I had to deal with were mild Braxton Hicks contractions. But childbirth has a reputation for being painful for good reason. And with a planned C-section, you get to avoid that.

2. No Tearing

When a baby arrives via a Cesarean incision, that means there will be no vaginal tearing. My daughter didn’t take the usual “path” and that was A-okay. Why? It turns out that she was born with a head in the 99th percentile for circumference. There would have been tearing if she had taken the usual way out. Personally, I’m glad she didn’t.

3. Recovery is (Sometimes) a Snap.

Of course, all recoveries are different because all women are different and have gone through different pregnancies. But with a little help from the pain meds I received at the hospital, I felt ready to be active again after about a week. I ran a 8K race just five weeks postpartum. Family members regularly told me that I should slow down, but I was listening to my body. I felt fine, almost completely normal. And I have a little scar below my belly button to thank for that.

4. You Get to Plan Everything

Type A mamas rejoice! Knowing exactly when you will have your baby means that you can plan ahead. This means you can have your house clean, your hospital bag fully packed, dog-sitters arranged, and even know the schedule of who is visiting the new baby the first few weeks. This was a huge benefit for me personally. Once we knew when the finish line was coming, all the arrangements could be made with a firm timeline. No more waiting and wondering.

5. No Rush to the Hospital

It’s a surreal feeling to park in the hospital parking deck knowing that you will leave with a baby, but not being at all in a hurry. I casually walked inside and even had time for photos along the way. It’s stress free. There were certainly no worries of having the baby in the car on the ride to the hospital when I wasn’t in labor.

6. Relaxed Atmosphere in Surgery

This is not the case for all planned Cesareans, but in many cases the surgery will be fairly routine. My OB/GYN chatted throughout the process, keeping me relaxed and at ease. In my experience, the explanation of a C-section sounds much scarier than it actually is.

7. It’s Faster

I have friends who suffered through labor for days and pushed for hours. But the C-section process took about an hour from getting a spinal at the start to being sewn up and wheeled back to the recovery room with a sleepy, pink newborn in my arms. After nine long months of waiting, it’s like you get an express lane for a baby. No harm in that.

8. The Result is the Same.

This is the main point: at the end, you still have a baby. On October 24, 2017, I became a mother. And on that day, I learned it doesn’t matter how your baby enters the world. What matters are the moments to come.

A C-section isn’t the end of the world. It’s the start of a little life who becomes your whole world.

family, fatherhood

A Thank You Note to Daddy

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Every so often, I like to tease Dustin about the fact that he wasn’t ready for kids when I got pregnant with Emmanuella (it’s not a secret that she was a surprise). Why do I tease him? Because he is an incredibly devoted father and simply obsessed with our baby girl. Now he likes to claim that I am the one who wasn’t ready – ha!

Emmanuella is one lucky little girl to have Dustin as her daddy. For the past seven and a half months, I have had the privilege of watching him be loving, sweet, silly, and generous with our daughter. He is so involved with every aspect of fatherhood; Dustin was made to be a dad.

Our daughter can’t yet express gratitude, but if she could, she would thank her daddy for so selflessly doing the following things:

  1. Thank you daddy for all the diaper changes. When we were in the hospital and mama wasn’t allowed to get out of bed, you stepped right up and changed my diaper. You had never done that before, but learned how to do it just for me. And you’ve done it a LOT since.
  2. Thank you for dancing with me. It was really fun when you used to dance with me until I fell asleep. Now that I’m older, I don’t fall asleep that easily, but I still love to dance with you (and always will).
  3. Thank you playing with me. My new favorite game is knocking over the block towers you build for me. And you even get in my baby pool with me. You’re silly and I like it!
  4. Thank you for staying home with me while you work. It has been a lot of fun to roll and crawl around the room while you are at the computer doing your job. I know that you have a lot of work to do, and so I try not to be needy while you do it. But I know you’ll always stop to feed me a bottle whenever I want.
  5. Speaking of bottles, thank you for washing them all the time. You’ve washed them (and the breast pump parts) a lot more often than mama has, and that hasn’t gone unnoticed.
  6. Thank you for treating mama so nicely. You help her out with all kinds of things. I usually want to eat right after you and mama do, and you always clear the table and start the dishes so she can nurse me.
  7. Thank you for being patient with me. When I was brand new, I was still learning what the world was. I had never seen anything like it before and it was a little scary. Sometimes I cried for no good reason, usually during Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. You like those shows, but you never got upset if you couldn’t hear them over me.
  8. Thank you for being a good role model. I like to watch and learn from you; you have a lot to teach me.
  9. Thank you for being there to put me to bed every night. I always look forward to my goodnight kiss.
  10. Thank you for loving me every day. I’m usually good, but some days I’m fussy, and you love me just the same. And I love you too.

Happy first Father’s Day, Daddy! Thank you for being mine!