Category Archives: PERSONAL

MOTHER TO MOTHER: 10 THINGS I HAVE LEARNED/AM LEARNING FROM MOTHERHOOD

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WARNING: this post turned out to be far, FAR longer that I anticipated! But it is something close to my heart. There are aspects of motherhood I have struggled with, continue to struggle with, and will always struggle with. Knowing that I am not alone has helped me acknowledge and better understand these aspects of myself. Being a parent is such an incredible journey, filled with emotions that I never realized existed until I actually became a parent. There is so much joy, but there is also doubt and frustration that every mother will feel and has the right to feel along the way. I’ve started this series to share my mistakes, struggles, and thoughts on motherhood to perhaps help other mothers feel less alone through it all. Because it shouldn’t be a lonely process! There are millions of mothers just like you in this world. We’ve been there or are going through it. Instead of judging, criticizing, and scrutinizing each other, why not just talk? Constructively. Positively. Pleasantly. Because in the end, we’re all just trying to do our best.

1. PATIENCE. Dear Lord, so much patience is required! I have to admit, I do lose my cool sometimes, in which case I will walk away for a minute or two, take deep breathes, give myself a little pep talk, and then dive back into the chaos. Freaking out on your child is never a good idea – it simply adds fuel to the fire. Emote calmness and your child will pick up on that…eventually. Maybe? Honestly, my husband is the calming presence that I can only hope to emulate. But the amount of patience that I’ve discovered just sitting there, hiding beneath my skin – it could have come in handy in the past! But there is nothing like motherhood to bring out those parts of you that you never knew existed…and no time like the present.

2. AN OVERWHELMING AMOUNT OF LOVE. I know, so cliche! But the love I feel for this kid really is overwhelming in every sense of the word. I love him so fiercely that I am almost willing to give up my identity to simply be his mother. I say almost because I have learned/am learning that while he is and will always be a huge part of me, it is just as important (for my sanity and his) to retain some autonomy. I am learning, ever so slowly, to love myself just as fiercely so he can grow up knowing a confident and happy mother. And it is overwhelming, discovering this newfound confidence, finding the right balance, and drawing that very fine line. But all of these crazy emotions and mind games I’ve played with myself are totally worth it because, going back to square one, damn do I love that kid.

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3. LET IT GO. I will tell you now, any hopes you had of keeping the house pristine, the sofas white, the sheets clean, and the carpets stain-free – toss them out the window. NOW. It will save you so much stress in the future. I have two dogs, a cat, a toddler, and, well, a grown toddler in the form of a husband, and for far too long I tried to keep the house really, really clean and as adult-like as possible. I still try to keep messes at a minimum by cleaning as I go – picking up little piles and pieces as I move from room to room throughout the day – so nothing seems like a huge, overwhelming task. But honestly, a lot of things go ignored these days. Little peanut butter finger prints can be found on most furniture and appliances, jelly stains give my dining room rug plenty of “character,” and our pretty awesomely painted wood floors are sprinkled with dog prints and God knows what else… but this is exactly what keeps life so genuine. And frankly, I’d rather spend time in the sunshine with my kid than struggle for the impossibly clean house. Heck, those crumbs and stains aren’t going anywhere!

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4. BUT DON’T PROCRASTINATE. Of course, there are times to “let go” and there are times to just dig in and DO. You know how I mentioned cleaning on the go? That is one of the best pieces of advice I can give to a mother. Don’t procrastinate, don’t let things pile up, because it then becomes a huge source of anxiety and one big time-suck. So instead of letting the dishes pile up, clean up after each meal. Instead of taking an entire day to do 50 loads of laundry, spread it out through the week, designate days for sheets, your clothes, spouses clothes, baby clothes, etc. When you walk into a room, take 5 minutes to clean up before you leave it. It makes the day-to-day responsibilities so much less tedious and/or monotonous. Be sure to sprinkle fun things throughout the day and these 5-minute tasks won’t phase you one bit.

5. TRUST YOUR GUT. It’s hard to explain, but when you become a mother, something supernatural seems to happen. Somehow, you gain this six-sense, and those deep, primitive instincts kick in. 17 months ago, I had absolutely no idea what to do with a screaming, squirmy baby. I had been around very few of them, and never felt a huge urge to snuggle or steal someone else’s child. But when you hold your own screaming, squirming child, something changes. Things click, and whether it’s an immediate reaction or a slower evolution, you will feel the shift. From then on, your gut will never be the same. You will know, deep down, what your child needs, how he is feeling and when he is in pain. You will know when he is hungry, or tired, or overwhelmed. And sometimes, you will know when a doctor is wrong, or know when to pry a little further. So, for all of you new and expecting mothers out there that may be on the verge of panic (as we all are at some point!), fear not. As you struggle to breastfeed, or put on a diaper, or get your child to sleep, or to eat anything at all, put aside all that guilt and outside parenting advice you were fed, and let your gut guide you just a little. And then a little more. Do what feels right for you and for your family and things will slowly fall into place.  *Please note: I am not advocating going against doctor’s advice. Listen to your gut, but please be responsible! If you are having doubts about any medical advice you were given, trust your gut and do your research, but please seek a second or even third opinion from a trained professional.

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6. THERE IS A LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL. For the first 8+ months of Greyson’s life, I struggled. He was what I would call a “spirited” baby. He cried. A LOT. To be deemed “colicky” he would have had to cry for 3+ hours straight for multiple days and weeks on end, which he thankfully did not do, but it was pretty damn close. I had numerous meltdowns and I cried. A LOT. For the first few months, I chose to grin and bare it. There were bright moments to stifle the dark ones and I was coping as best I could. But 6 months in, I began to feel hopeless, stuck, and more than once I questioned my ability as a mother, as a wife, and as a HUMAN. Sometimes, I felt the urge to simply run away from it all. Start over. I would make vague comments to friends and family and I would get the “oh, that’s just what babies do!” Or, “he’s such a sweetheart” coupled with an odd look. I began to think I was crazy. But listen carefully Mammas, YOU ARE NOT CRAZY. Little babes tend to act differently with their mothers. You are their lifeline, you are their comfort, you are the one and only thing they need for the first year of their life. They will make demands of you. They will suck everything out of you (literally, if you choose to go that route) and still want more. But they will also love you more than anything in this world, and this will only grow day by day. Just as they reserve their very best cries and shrieks and tantrums for you, you will be the sole proprietor of their brightest smiles, tightest hugs, and sweetest snuggles. So if you feel stuck, less than human, or have a desperate need to flee, know that you are not alone. You have every right to feel as you do, but IT DOES GET BETTER. In fact, it gets GREAT. Cling to that thought through your sleepless nights and endless days. And one day you will see that tiny sparkle of light and each day going forward it will get brighter and brighter and brighter until you suddenly realize that you’re out of the dark and the tunnel is far behind you.

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7. DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF. This kind of goes hand in hand with letting it go, but sometimes kids just gotta be kids, you know? They will eat dirt, they will kiss the dogs (speaking of, here’s a good read on that), they will mash bananas in their hair, and blow snot into their hands if not stick them into every slimy, sticky thing imaginable. It’s messy, it’s gross, but sometimes, if it isn’t harming them, you just have to let them be. On that same note, if you are in desperate need of a 20 minute breather, allowing your kid to watch an episode of Sesame Street or Little Einsteins or whatever does not make you a bad parent. If it makes the difference between a relaxed, happy parent and a stressed, unhappy parent – it actually makes you a good parent! Judging every moment of every day as the make or break difference in your child’s life is enough to drive anyone insane. Be present, be the guiding force, but don’t sweat the small stuff.

8. LET THEM FALL. So much easier said than done, of course, but sometimes a kid just needs to fall in order to learn how to pick himself back up. Success is derived through trial and error, experiences are made and lessons learned through mistakes, and character is built on failure. I have the terrible habit of hovering any time Greyson is working through a new developmental skill. Crawling, walking, using a spoon, climbing the stairs, whatever – I have been at the ready to jump in and help and sometime even do for him what he should be attempting on his own. It’s a mother’s instinct to protect, but there is a very fine line between “helping” and micromanaging. Allow him the space to figure it out.

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9. DON’T JUDGE. Really, I don’t understand why mothers are so hard on each other. Most of us carried that baby around in our belly for 9 months, felt the pains of delivery and the ensuing emotions of post-partum. We have all struggled with the mental stress of sleepless nights, monotonous days, and felt the rising panic of “Oh my God I have no idea what to do why is this baby screaming at me?!” We’ve all been there. And we each deal with it in a way that fits our personality and lifestyle. Whether you’re a breast or bottle feeder, a baby carrier (or Heaven forbid, a Bjorn user instead of an Ergo user), a stroller user, a stay at home mom, or a working mom, etc. etc.…so what? As long as your baby is happy and healthy, do what works for you. What is the point of judging the lives and choices of other mothers when you know all too well the moments you have struggled in your own? No one can deny that motherhood is hard. So why make it harder by throwing judgments around? The best thing we can do for ourselves is BE THERE for others. Mothers, unite!

10. PERFECTION DOESN’T EXIST. “Having it all” is a mind frame. No one truly has it all. OR, we all have it all. We all have our ups and downs, joys and sorrows, and frankly, you never know what goes on behind the scenes in the lives of those around. So when that little green monster pops up and you begin to think to yourself “how does she do it all?!” STOP. Most likely, she doesn’t do it all. She’s had to make sacrifices, just like you. She’s had to struggle with her choices, just like you. We all try to put up a happy facade that doesn’t always relay our reality. So, instead of judging (see #9), or competing, or feeling that constant mommy guilt (see #7), just work on finding the balance that works for YOU. And let the rest go (see #3). THAT sounds like perfection to me!

Obviously, these tidbits have been derived through my own (newish) experiences as a mother. You may disagree with some, you may have some to add of your own – I would love to hear your thoughts! I want to open the doors to communication, but please, keep an open mind and keep it constructive! I look forward to hearing more insights into this thing we call Motherhood 🙂

LIFE LATELY…

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It’s been a doozy of a month folks. Between snow storms, leaking pipes, head colds, and the stomach flu, I’m not sure where the time has gone. I suppose that’s the reality of Winter, but man, I am so happy it’s March! It came in like a lion with this last snow/sleet/ice storm so I am going to be hopeful in saying that it will be going out like a lamb and I now have nothing but sunshine and rainbows to look forward to. Ahhh, how I love you Spring!

I suppose the one good thing that came out of my recent intimacies with the toilet, aka the stomach flu, was my total disregard of the time change. I mean, with the whole family taken down by this bug, I lost days so losing one measly hour didn’t phase me. And since little Grey was the first victim, his sleep routine was already a bit of a mess. So while I can’t say we “lucked out,” we are adjusting better than expected!

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Although, I say adjusting very lightly because really, the kid just doesn’t sleep. He’ll wake up a 2am happy as a clam and ready to party. It’ll take me an hour or more to convince him that really, THERE IS NO PARTY, in which case he’ll begrudgingly agree, fitfully drift off to sleep, and then wake up at 6am ready to party all over again. Where does the energy come from?! And how can I get some?!

Truth be told, I’ve been struggling to find time for myself these days. Not the relax in the tub with a glass of wine kind of time, although that does sound glorious, but the time to get creative and work towards my business ventures kind of time. I’ve tried to piece together tips and suggestions on how other working moms seem to do it all, but I haven’t quite figured it out yet, other than the consistent advice of carving time out in the mornings…do these people not have super early risers and/or non-sleepers?! SO, if you happen to have any tricks up your sleeve to get a kid to sleep in order to carve out this special morning me time, please do tell!

Ok, so now that I’ve vented some of the personal, I actually DO have a little business to share with you…I’ve decided to open a new Etsy shop offering online event and design service! This is a service that offers the best of both worlds: consultation, motivation, and the inspiration to create a space of your dreams, all on your time and budget.

Etsy Shop Screen

I’m still working out the kinks, and I’ll be adding my own furniture and accessory category to the mix soon, but if you are interested in taking a peek, please head on over to the Modage Cottage via Etsy or simply click on my eDesign/Event Services page at the top of the screen. I would love to hear your thoughts, suggestions, and/or constructive criticism!

FIGHTING THE WINTER BLUES: 7 WAYS TO STAY INSPIRED

I know I’m not the only one out there feeling a bit, well, BLAH right now. When the world is so stark and cold and grey, I get some serious seasonal blues and it makes feeling inspired so damn hard. And to top it off, my little peanut seems to be going through his own seasonal blues (aka: his molars are coming in) and has been fighting sleep like a champ – which means little sleep for Mama. Seriously folks, it feels as though my mind has been stuffed with cotton and I’m pretty certain a family of mice has now moved in.

SO, to force myself to feel a little more inspired, or at least a little less cotton-brained, I’ve been trying to think up ways to lift the spirit. Here’s what I have come up with so far:

1. GREENERY. I think having plants in the home is so important to one’s mental health. Even if you have a black thumb like me, there are still plants out there for you! Go for a cactus or anything labeled “plant of steel.” Or have a few herbs sitting in your kitchen window (you’ll remember to water them when they are staring you in the face while doing the dishes). Even one lonely plant will remind you that there are warmer days ahead and instantly lift the spirit.

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2. MILK + TEA. I have recently been substituting tea in place of my coffee. I LOVE me a cup o’ joe, but after having multiple cups on a cold morning, I want to jump out of my skin. Hello caffeine kick! Insert tea. Multiple cups of tea still gives me my caffeine kick but without that that swift kick to the gut. And I feel less guilty (and wired) drinking it ALL. DAY. LONG. Swirl in a little milk and you will almost believe it’s coffee…

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3. MUSIC. Instead of curling up on the couch in front of the TV, as one is want to do in 12 degree weather, turn on the ipod and dance your heart out. Not the swaying or tapping of the feet kind of dancing. I mean full on swirling and twirling and stomping and really rockin’ out kind of dancing. When the Peanut and I hit a wall, I pick him up and we get down. You can’t help but laugh when you willingly look like an idiot. And there is  nothing like a little laughter to brighten the day (and since we rock out in front of multiple street-facing windows, I’m sure the neighbor’s get a good laugh too. It’s a win-win!)

Lovely Lady – Whitney Lundeen

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4. GIVE YOURSELF HOPE. I try to schedule at least one warm weather vacation somewhere between February and the first week in March. Just the act of searching for that perfect destination and then finally hitting the “book it” button…it warms my soul and ignites a little fire in my heart. From that moment on, no matter how cold and miserable the weather, I can remind myself that a respite from it all is right around the corner. If you’re unable to swing a vacation, create one at home. Crank up the thermostat. Surround yourself with warmth. Pick up everything you will need for a weekend at home and then don’t leave the house again until Monday morning. Drink lots of margaritas. Wear that amazing maxi dress you found on sale at the end of last summer. Put a flower in your hair. A little creativity can give you a lot of HOPE.

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5. DON’T HUNKER DOWN. I hunker down in the Winter; it is my go-to defense mechanism. I am loathe to leave the house because it requires way too much work and way too many layers. But I’ve really been trying to amend this and force myself out into that cold air because 1. fresh air is good for you, and 2. loneliness and isolation is not. So pile on the layers and go…somewhere. Take a walk. Run to the gym. Swing by a coffee shop and warm up with a cup o’ joe (or tea). Have lunch with a friend. Go to that happy hour. Whatever. Just get out there and DO. NOT. HUNKER. Remember: a body in motion stays in motion and motion keeps you warm!

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6. LOOK AMAZING. Because I tend to hunker down in the winter, I also tend to soften up around the middle. To top it off, my skin hates the cold as much as I do so my glow goes into hibernation mode and I am left with a pasty, scaly, squishy mess (which makes going out into the world even less enticing). I hate to admit it, but when I feel bad about myself, I get lazy. Instead of putting on a fresh pair of clothes in the morning, I’ll throw on a pair of yoga pants and the sweatshirt I wore the day before and call it a day because really, what’s the point otherwise? It’s a vicious cycle and a hard one to break. But break it you (and I) must! With a little extra effort – like slathering on extra moisturizer and putting on a clean set of clothes – confidence can be had. In fact, why not just go all out? Instead of throwing on those yoga pants, slip on that tulle skirt and your sharpest pair of heels. Of course you can’t wear that old sweatshirt with such an amazing skirt so go ahead and wear that awesome tee with your leather jacket. And really, once you’re dressed to the nines you’ve got to have a face to match, so put on that cream foundation and your blushiest blush and give yourself a little mascara and gloss while you’re at it. And voila! You look amazing. And who would want to sit around the house looking like that? So get out there and show yourself off.

Sweet and sexy – for the perfect middle ground between looking sweet and sexy, try wearing your tulle skirt with something that has an edgy vibe like a leather jacket and maybe a pair of leather boots as well. This look is perfect for fall and winter because it will not just make you look stylish but will also keep you warm. You can also add studs and spikes somewhere in your outfit, perhaps in your accessories, if you want to take the edge up a notch and slightly have your outfit touch into ...

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7. SMILE. I know, it’s cliché and oh-so-simple, but it works. Plaster on that smile and fake it ‘til you make it. Your emotions get all kinds of confused: I feel sad…but why am I smiling? Should I be happy? Maybe things aren’t so bad after all. Maybe I’m not sad. Maybe I am happy. Yes, that’s it. I am happy.

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And there you have it folks.

Tell me, what tips and tricks do you have for fighting the winter blues? I would love to add more to my repertoire!

HELLO 2015…

This will be the best year yet {New years eve printable} - C.R.A.F.T.

(p.s. click on the picture above for a free printable to keep you motivated all year long!)

This year, instead of making a list of resolutions that I am bound to break – yoga and regular runs and healthy cooking and less procrastination and yada, yada, yada – I resolve to experience 2015 with more positivity, gratitude, and courage. Because despite my “glass is half empty” kind of mentality, I actually am a firm believer in positive energy and the laws of attraction. You ARE what you think and you DO attract what you feel. Think positive thoughts and you just may find yourself with luck on your side. Surround yourself with negativity, well girlfriend, prepare yourself for a bumpy ride!

The New Year brings with it such lofty goals and dreams. They start off so shiny and new but, at least in my case, quickly begin to lose their luster. So rather than allowing negativity to creep into my heart with feelings of disappointment for yet again failing in my resolutions, I can simply think positive thoughts, give myself a quick pep talk, feel blessed for the life I do have, and keep putting in the effort to enhance it to the best of my ability. That’s it.

I think that is what the New Year is really all about anyhow: learning from the past and looking toward the future with an open mind and heart. It isn’t about list making, or regret, or ambition, or perfection. It’s about believing in the unknown. And believing in yourself enough to give yourself a break when needed.

So my only wish for myself and all of you for this New Year is…

“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make art – write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.” –Neil Gaiman

Live with gratitude, think positively, and you just may find this to be your best your yet. HAPPY 2015 my friends!

I’d love to hear some of your resolutions, be they big or small – and more importantly, how you plan on implementing them in the New Year. Do you have any tips or strategies for sticking to your resolutions (I may just need to squirrel them away for next year!)?

TODAY…

Today marks the week my son will turn one. I pause as I write this, feeling the full weight of the words. ONE. It’s a pretty incredible feeling, something only a mother can know and otherwise impossible to convey. What I can convey, however, is the pure awe and relief I feel. WE SURVIVED. We survived and conquered, and while a few meltdowns were had along the way, we never lost heart. In fact, my heart has grown such an immeasurable amount that I fear it might explode.

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And watching him explore the world can only be described as magical. I often wonder what it would be like to view life through his eyes – everything so new and wonderful and mysterious. The kid oozes curiosity, his face forever glowing with an expression of sheer amazement. His personality is really something special (as any mother would say). I never knew a baby could have such an impressive sense of humor! But he isn’t such a baby anymore, is he? He’s growing up right before my eyes and it is so, so bittersweet. My little Snugglebug is gaining his independence, finding his confidence, and embarking on this adventure we call Life with zeal.

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What really gets me, though, is the way he looks at me. I asked my husband the other day if he thought Greyson knew what love was. But looking into those eyes, I know the answer: YES, a thousand times. I am his life line, I am his comfort, I am his joy bringer and his laughter maker. I am the one who wipes away his tears, sings him solace, and kisses him goodnight, each and every night. Yes, he knows love, through the insurmountable love I have for him. And I can only hope he knows this love more and more through each passing year.

Happy Birthday Little Man. I love you!

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SLOW BLOGGING AND BLOGGING SLOG

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Before beginning anew in this medium already oversaturated with blogs, I did a lot of research – a lot of browsing and reading and thinking. What draws me to a particular blog? Why makes one so successful over another? What do I want and expect from blogging? I think the answer to all these things is simple, really: an honest voice. I am drawn to blogs with personality, a strong voice, but also an honest one. I love beautiful images and creative tutorials, but there are literally hundreds – thousands – of blogs out there that offer these very things. For me, what makes one truly stand apart is the honesty it imparts, a dose of reality in an idealistic society, the Dolly Parton of blogs, if you will – a pretty package all tied up with bows that also offers depth and wit, humanity and humility, when opened.

I recently read this New York Times article, now making waves across social media, and my first thought was this: who gives a shit? As a blogger (albeit an amateur one) and reader of blogs myself, I’d much prefer quality over quantity, yes? So if a blogger is feeling “burned out” with too much content and not enough heart, shouldn’t we support the decision and just, I don’t know, move on with our lives, happy that the inter webs are gaining a little less mediocrity and a little more merit? What is it that causes a blogger to burn out anyhow? Is it the constant need to “one up” and impress? The desire for perfection?

Frankly, the article shouldn’t have been about the burnout from blogging, it should have been about the unrealistic expectations we place on each other and ourselves, not as bloggers, but as people. I feel like bloggers are no longer writing for themselves or for their readers, but for each other. Somewhere along the line, the stakes became higher, the competition stronger, and somehow, the resolution to this became more. More projects, more content, more photos, more tweets. But MORE really isn’t the answer, is it?

Burnout can apply to any job, particularly a job in which you decide to work harder instead of smarter. Instead of taking the time to clean your desk and organize your files, you spend an extra hour or two a day rummaging through the chaos and pushing papers around. That’s working harder. Or rather than taking the time to clear the head, breathe the fresh air, and find a new perspective, you sit with head down and nose to the grinder, day in and day out. That’s working harder. Any man or machine, if overworked, will burn out. Period. Blogging isn’t any different. Once it becomes a means of financial support, it becomes a job, and every job, whether or not it began with passion and heart, has the potential for burnout.

No, my friends and fellow bloggers, MORE is definitely not the answer.

I like Erin Loechner’s philosophy of slow blogging. Blogging with intent. Imparting the story back into the post. Curating with passion and purpose. And this “less is more” philosophy can be applied to every aspect of life. Instead of slogging through the ranks, slow down and enjoy the process. Sleep in. Treasure your time with family and friends. Instead of capturing that perfect photo or thinking up a witty tweet, or updating your Facebook status, put down the phone (and back away, very, very slowly), the tablet away, and just BE. And find joy in that moment.

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Yes, I think I can get behind this whole slow blogging thing and really enjoy the best of both worlds.

Did you read the New York Times article? What is your opinion? Have you found yourself in a slog lately and how do you hope to resolve it? I would love to hear your thoughts!