Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Fred Howard Park Beach Day

We're slowly making our way through all the great beaches in the Tampa Bay area. Saturday we visited Fred Howard Park in Tarpon Springs, and it was a perfect day!

We were going to go back to Sand Key Park in Clearwater, where we have gone twice already and loved. But Zane wanted to try something new, so we scanned the map of the gulf coast and chose this park. 

It was only a little over an hour to drive there from Brandon, which is basically the same time it takes to get to any beach from Brandon. 

It costs $5.00 for the day. I like beaches that cost a little something, because the bath houses are usually better maintained, and the parks are usually a little less crowded, because many people don't want to pay to go to the beach. 

We set up camp under the shade of a palm tree (didn't have to set up our umbrella), and Zane and Daisy explored the small island while I ate snacks and played with Amy. 

Soon Amy and I joined Zane and Daisy to see some of the cool spots they found. There was almost no one on the north side of the beach on the other side of a little walkway. It was a beautiful little secluded part of the island that reminded me of parts of Maui that felt very secluded. 

The water was also very clear and shallow, and we enjoyed walking around the rocks. However, we all came out with scrapes and cuts on our feet from the shells and rocks. If you choose to wade through this part of the beach, I recommend water shoes. 

One problem we've had with our six month old and beach trips is that she doesn't like to sleep on the blanket. I saw a couple other families bring their carseats onto the beach (I don't know why I didn't think of that). When it was time for her to nap, we tried the carseat, and she fell asleep almost immediately. 

While Amy napped, Zane and Daisy explored and played in the water some more. I lay down with Amy and rested. It was so relaxing under the shade of the palm with the sounds of the ocean and this beautiful view: 

We had arrived around 10:00 AM, and by noon there were lots of people and a full parking lot. We decided to head out around 12:30 PM and get lunch on the way home. Someday, when our kids don't need naps everyday, we'll enjoy longer beach days, but for now, a morning is sufficient fun.

Another successful beach day!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Mom of Two: Six Months In

I'm on an emotional roller coaster 24/7. Some moments I feel like I've got this thing down, and other moments I feel like I'm trudging through mud, and please, someone come save me from this thing called "motherhood."

However, because of my dear husband watching the kids, I got two naps in two days, so I'm feeling pretty alright this very moment.

This month Amy dropped a feeding (from six to five nursings per day), started solids, cut her two bottom teeth, and moved into Daisy's room at night. We went through a lot of change.

She's almost crawling and almost sitting up on her own. I feel like she crossed a threshold in terms of personality. She came alive this month even more than before. She interacts with all of us more. She makes different noises for different emotions, her own little baby grunting language. She LOVES her big sister and is happy when Daisy is in her presence.

I had a couple monumental mom moments. I dared to pick up the dog from the groomer with both kids and no husband. That was very stressful, and at the end of it all, I wanted to either kick my dog or my toddler. Don't worry, I didn't do either one. I haven't snapped yet. Having children has unlocked in me a new level of self-control. It's amazing how much stress can overcome a mom in the few moments it takes to walk everyone from the car to the apartment.

This month I also went to the chiropractor with both kids. It wasn't actually that difficult. I just had to slow my expectations down. Amy was delightful the entire time in the waiting room, then cried through my adjustment, but that didn't actually stress me out that much. Afterwards I even spontaneously took us out to lunch at the Corner Bakery and was very proud of myself. Daisy (2.5 years) and I talked about Octonauts (PBS show) over a large chocolate ship cookie.

The biggest struggle for me right now is not being a mom of two, but being an adequate wife. I have so much less mind space and time for Zane. It's an exhausting season of life, even in it all of its happiness. Everything I've read about marriage during the little years is it's hard, so I guess we're normal.

When I find myself at empty in the wife department - that's about the time we go on a date and get a break from the kids long enough to remember that we chose this life, and it's good. Last night was pedis and dinner. It was so relaxing and fun. I especially enjoyed the strawberry shortcake without a toddler asking me to share with her.

It's been a whole six months now. We're getting into a better groove. Every month is easier than the last.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Child Death and the Horrible Mother

Confession: I lay my babies on their bellies to sleep. I have never posted about this publicly because I've always been afraid of being shamed by other people for it. I have two super healthy kids who loved tummy time and didn't have flat heads. They always slept better on their tummies, so I put them like that with their heads to the side and a paci in their mouths to ensure that their noses were exposed to air. I also kept them in my room in a bassinet until they could roll on their own. 

When my oldest was four months old or so, she started sucking her thumb, which was another safety net in my mind, since she would always make room for her thumb. One day I was walking by her room during her nap, and she was fussing because she had a stuffed animal blocking her thumb from her mouth. I rushed in and grabbed it. 

Yes, I feared that she would have suffocated herself. But you know what I feared more? Being a terrible mother. Being verbally stoned by the populace as an idiot for laying her baby on her tummy, for putting a toy in the crib. Is she just stupid? She should never have been allowed to have kids. 

Look. When a child [or anyone] dies, there are always places to point fingers and lay blame, but the mother is suffering enough without the WORLD discussing how brainless she is. 

I constantly see posts online of kids who almost died or did die written as a caution to us moms, but they're rarely just cautionary. Most of these posts include extremely condescending things about these kids' poor moms, usually in the comments, but sometimes in the text too. 

Example stories include: Bookshelf fell on a toddler when he was climbing it during nap time - anchor your furniture, dummy!! Child twisted her arm in an amber necklace during nap - take off the necklace, you moron! Good Samaritan saves kid from drowning at public pool - MOMS, for God's sake, watch your kids while swimming, you negligent good-for-nothing ninnies!!! 

None of these are stories of negligent or "bad" moms. They're stories of accidents, and accidents happen. No one ever wants it to happen to their kids, so please, let's collectively STOP blaming moms. It's a prideful, heartless, holier-than-thou attitude.

Sometimes we can take precautions, but we can't foresee every danger our kids could possibly encounter. 

Last summer at a pool party I turned around to see my two year-old face down swimming out into the deep end of the pool. My aunt screamed for my brother in law to grab her, and he turned around and did just that. My daughter was just fine. She probably had only been swimming for a few seconds, but I didn't know how long her face had been under. That night as I lay in bed, every time I closed my eyes I saw her body face down in the water. I scared myself to tears. I felt like a bad mom. Nothing happened, and I still felt like a terrible mom. If something had happened, I would have fallen apart.  

The horror of losing a child is just that: a horror. Let us mourn with those who mourn and comfort those in distress, instead of ridiculing and slandering, even if it's a stranger. 

**I'm writing about targeting moms, but this obviously applies to dads or the caregiver present too. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Mom of Two: Five Months In

That cute little chunker is five months old today! Every day is a little easier with her, since every day she becomes a little more independent. 

She's starting to be able to sit up on her own. I haven't started solid food yet, but it'll probably happen in the next couple weeks. I'm not as on top of things with her as I was with her sister.

No teeth yet, but lots of drool!

She's still sleeping in our room, but she's getting pretty good at finding her pacifier on her own and sticking it in her own mouth. As soon as we buy a few more of her favorite kind, I'm going to try to have her sleep in Daisy's room. I want to get extra paci's (since she has rejected her thumb) to spread around the crib in case one or two fall through the slats.

This past month was a struggle against the mundane. 

Before Daisy, during my season of infertility, I scowled (online) at mothers who (I thought) complained about their lives being mundane. What I would give for the mundane life of a stay at home mother! With that in mind, I will always be grateful and downright GLAD for my life and the blessing that I can do what I'm doing right now by staying at home. 

However, those things that wear mothers down exist in my home too: no mommy breaks from dawn to dusk, endless toddler chatter and questions, toddler discipline, constant maintenance of my household. Much of it is boiled down to poor perspective or sleep deprivation. Usually these frustrating things are blown out of proportion, because, for instance, I am obviously getting a mommy break as I write this. 

It seems like now that I'm in a groove with both girls, I am noticing the day-to-day struggle a little bit more. The best moment of the day is definitely when Daddy comes home. I do not know how single moms do it. 

Amidst the mundane of maintaining life with a toddler and baby, we had lots of fun and achieved new goals. Good things that happened this month include:

1. Several play dates with friends, which helps tire my toddler out, gives me a chance to develop new friendships and cultivate existing ones, and it breaks up my day.

2. Amy rolling over both ways! I didn't even see it happen for several days. I'd just lay her down one way and look over to see her the other way. Now I'll look over, and she's on the other side of the room.

3. Daisy beginning to read sight words. She knows her name, "dog," and "mommy." Pretty impressive for a 2.5 year old. Today she told me "S starts with 'school'!" She might have said it backwards, but I was still impressed by her knowledge of letter sounds.

4. Family trips to the Renaissance Faire, Strawberry Festival, splash pad, and beach. All were fun and memorable. There was a time when I would have blogged about each one. This is not that time.

5. Zane gave me a morning all to myself. It was wonderful. My creative brain came up with tons of creative projects and ideas. As soon as I got home, my creative brain shrunk back down to its usual walnut size, and I said to it, "Seasons of life, okay? One day you will do all those projects and cry that your girls aren't around as much." The good thing is that Zane said we could make "mom's morning out" a more regular thing. 

Life is good right now. I don't need time for creativity, because I have time with two daughters, which are more valuable to me than sewing projects. Everyone says it goes fast. I believe them. It's going fast before my very eyes. Another month is gone, and Amy's one step closer to growing up!

What doesn't go fast are those two hours between nap time and dinner time.

Monday, February 23, 2015

A Renaissance Fair Birthday

Sunday was my birthday and highland games weekend at the Renaissance Fair in Tampa. We went four years ago with Zane's parents, and this year we thought it'd be fun to do it again. I thought it was much more fun with kids! 

We had a GRAND welcome to the festival. First there were a bunch of fairies, so we encouraged Daisy to say hi. Daisy was kind of overwhelmed by all of it, but it didn't take too long for her to adjust and start interacting with the actors.

Next up, we saw the queen. One of her ladies in waiting brought Daisy over and introduced her to the queen. The queen knelt down, spoke to Daisy, and gave her a little ring. Then she called over "the Merry's" who were a group of girls dressed in different colors.

The girls asked if Daisy knew a song, so I suggested that Daisy sing "BaBa Black Sheep." Daisy sang it very quietly, so the queen sang it with her. They girls clapped and praised her afterwards. Each of them were named whatever flower was on their heads: Rose, Morning Glory, Sunflower, etc. Daisy kind of fit right in. They had Daisy sing her song to the sheep herder later.

Apparently every hour on the hour, the girls do a maypole dance, but we didn't get to participate this year. Maybe next time.

Somewhere between the ring-giving and the song-singing, the queen met Amy, who was riding in the Ergo baby enjoying the sights. The queen asked if she could give a special blessing to Amy, so I said yes. She said the sweetest blessing while holding Amy's head, and it seriously almost started crying. It was really sweet, but I can't remember everything she said. Something like, "I pray you have a long life. I pray you have a healthy life....(more of this)...but most of all I pray you have a happy life." 

That was the closest I came to getting lost in the magic of it all. Usually as an adult, I just see people in costumes, but when the queen was blessing Amy, I was so honored by her words that I didn't wonder whether or not her blessing was part of her queen act or if she was speaking from her heart. It doesn't really matter, because it was very sweet. 

I brought these flower crowns for Daisy and her cousin that I had made years ago, but never sold on Etsy. They were perfect. Actually, this festival would be a great venue for selling floral headbands. I didn't see any vendors with crowns like mine, but there are vendors for just about everything medieval and/or mythological that you would want. It's possible we didn't walk past the floral crown booth if there was one. 

They also have man-powered rides for kiddies. The girls wanted to ride this seahorse swing, so I went with them. You can kind of see the guy pushing us. He reminded me of Rollo from Vikings. The ride went on for a long time, much longer than any Disney ride. I'd say we got our money's worth. 

I did have a "bad parent" moment and let Daisy ride when she was already wiggling from having to go potty. By the time the ride was over, it was too late for a successful potty trip. Potty first next time. No renaissance fair trip with kids is complete without a potty fiasco, right? 

Possibly my favorite part was the elephant ride. I think I might have ridden an elephant in childhood, but I don't remember it at all (I just have a vague memory of seeing a photo), so as far as I'm concerned, this was a first for me! It was a really short lap, but it was fun, especially with Daisy. 

My parents were laughing about the lack of historical continuity of a man in a kilt leading an elephant at a medieval times festival. The other girl helping with the elephant rides was dressed like a gypsy. I say just go with it. 

You can kind of see from that picture that I'm wearing my little crown that we got last time we were here. 

As usual, Amy was the best behaved baby ever. She ate right before we got there, so was happy and sleepy the entire time. 

This is princess Cinderella fawning over Amy. Amy even giggled at her, which she has only done about three times in her life. 

We had a great day. It would be fun to dress up a little more in the future, but it's so hot and dusty, that I'd have to really think through my costume. Light and airy is the way to go, even in February! Saturday was a nice, cool day, but Sunday was already hot again. Oh, Florida.