Alone Moments

Being alone in your house when you’re a parent is… indescribably amazing.

The silence. The stillness. Not being touched. No one’s talking or fussing. Even the mess doesn’t cry out when you’re alone.

It’s just so damn peaceful.

Today, my husband took our son out of the house for a daddy-and-son playdate for two hours and left me alone.

In the house. 

For two hours.

Neither of us is ever alone in the house.

This house is rarely silent, and it’s never still. There’s constant movement. There’s always talking or fussing. The mess is chaotic as it gets made, and cleaned up, and remade, and left for tomorrow.

The cycle isn’t terrible — but it certainly isn’t peaceful.

Unscripted alone moments are rare. Sure, when I drive to and from work, I’m alone in my car — but that’s not a moment. When I’m rushing through a seven-minute shower, I’m alone — but that’s not a moment. When I’m running errands or grocery shopping, I’m alone (with other people) — and those are not moments.

True alone moments are when you don’t have to think about what happened or what’s next or what’s happening now. When your body can take a break from doing, and your brain can take a break from considering.

Thought and action are natural during alone moments. No reason. No consequence.

Just nothing.

I showered, exfoliated, used moisturizer. I let my hair air dry. I ate apple slices with peanut butter without little bites taken out of the best parts.

how toddlers eat apple slices

Finding — and obtaining — truly alone moments as a parent feels impossible, and I can’t remember being alone for any amount of time when I felt I could allow my brain to turn off and my body to relax its tension.

And my kid is 2.

We’re both overdue, and I plan to pay that amazing man back for those two hours with two of his own.

BABR: December Update

December wasn’t quite as busy as November.

Thankfully.

Our days were still full. Coffee. Work. Toddler nonsense. Family time. And a very merry Christmas.

Let’s start with coffee.

easy to shop for coffee mugs

I’m wicked easy to shop for. I will never not need coffee.

Of course, one cup of hot tea cracked the beautiful blue mug at the end, which is what I get for cheating on coffee with tea. Anyone know if this milk trick actually works? Well, I’ll try it and let you know.

The office was filled with holiday cheer this month with nearly two weeks of merry activities and a nice Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day holiday break.

First, we filled ourselves with sweets.

christmas donuts from the donut whole in wichita kansas

“First” like we didn’t do this the entire two weeks. I certainly did.

Took fun holiday photos.

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Shhh! I’m Santa.

And we played elves by giving the office a good cleaning.

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The toddler developed a couple less desirable talents. The pterodactyl scream is making a comeback, and fit-throwing is our go-to to get our way. He also can now get himself into these…

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“Time to eat, people.”

He had another pretty cute “Time to eat, people” situation before Christmas lunch.

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toddler climbs himself into stroller

“Don’t talk to me. Don’t read to me. Don’t touch me. Don’t even look at me. Just let me sit in my stroller and watch Peppa. …Mom. Stop taking pictures of me.”

He was pretty pooped (read: cranky) after two play days in a row with his cousins and surviving on a car nap alone.

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Never again.

My husband was able to spend Christmas Eve, Christmas and the two days after the holiday with us before returning to work, so we had plenty of family time this month.

We wrapped presents and watched A Christmas Carol on Christmas Eve. Christmas morning, we headed over to my in-laws’ to celebrate the season.

My toddler had a good haul. Cleaning supplies (so he stays out of mine). A hammer-ball-bonk toy that he’s real into. A boatload of lego duplos for mommy to build and him to destroy. And a car.

His Shocker hat stays on his head for hours at a time — thank you, Grandma — and his Spiderman helmet was only annoying to him for a little bit — thank you, Aunt and Uncle.

Santa brought us a handmade busy book (sewn by the busy little elves at twobusylittlebees.com) and, by the time he opened it, he was too pooped to play with it.

twobusylittlebees busy books

My husband and I gifted each other kitchen things, as we do nearly every holiday. This year, we replaced our nine-year-old blender and found a better way to store knives. The blender is awesome, but we haven’t installed our under-the-cabinet knife storage unit yet.

Mostly because the house was a disaster.

We didn’t even host. Just normal, day-to-day destruction on top of special, holiday destruction.

Our family gifted us experiences this year, too. A renewed membership to the Sedgwick County Zoo and a new membership to Botanica Wichita.

Speaking of Botanica…

We went to see the lights. Alongside the entire state of Kansas. Illuminations was a crowded Christmas Eve Eve holiday adventure — and we’re definitely going on a Tuesday next year — but it was beautiful.

And I got my Santa picture in the knick of time! (Before he went back to the North Pole to prepare for Christmas Eve, of course.)

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Hope your holidays were merry and bright. Except today, of course. I hope today the lights are dimmed.

Happy New Year.

Working Mom

I’m a working mom.

On weekdays, I spend maybe two hours with my son.

Imagine Monday morning.

I wake up, have coffee immediately, and then get ready for work — all before 7 a.m. Because at 7 a.m., my son wakes up, and we have half an hour together that consists of a diaper change, morning milk, getting him dressed and chasing him around the house to get his shoes, gloves and jacket on.

I mean, it’s time for my son to wake up 7 a.m. But sometimes he doesn’t want to wake up at 7, so he sleeps until 7:15 or 7:30.

Then we’re hurrying. And our half hour is crammed into five minutes.

Of course, sometimes he wakes up at 6:30 because he wants mommy to have gross hair and wear the same pair of pants for the second (or third) day in a row.

Hey, I’m working mom.

Now, imagine Monday evening.

After an 8-hour workday, I come home to my son… and immediately distract him, so I can make dinner, which takes 30 to 45 minutes depending on what I’m cooking.

We’re a one-pan, one-pot kind of dinner family days daddy works.

Dinner he’s of course not going to eat. Dinner is a 15 to 20 minute fight. Now, when I say “fight,” I mean I try to get him to eat the food, and he tries to feed it to me instead.

You know, unless it’s chips. He doesn’t share chips.

Hey, I’m a working mom.

Dinner is a messy, uphill, mommy-always fails kind of battle.

Here, kid, have a yogurt pouch.

After dinner, it’s time to clean up — and time for another toddler fight. I try to clean his hands and face, and he tries to cover me and his hair in whatever I failed to feed him.

Finally, somewhat fed and somewhat less sticky, it’s quality-time time. Daddy usually gets home from work around this time, so we get to spend quality-time time together as a family.

It’s lovely, but it last about half an hour — and we’ve got to shove a toddler shower and 300 bedtime stories into that half hour. Because then it’s bedtime, and the bedtime fight begins. Mommy and daddy nearly always win the bedtime fight (knock on wood), and kiddo is sleeping like a baby by 8 p.m.

Repeat on weekdays that end in “y,” and there you have it. The household routine. Maybe two hours a day I spend with my son, and at least an hour of toddler arguments about the things we’re doing when we’re spending time together.

Weekends are better. Breakfasts and lunches are easier. Naptimes are less of a fight than bedtimes, if you could believe it.

But weekdays are trying. Weekdays are exhausting. They’re sometimes sad and sometimes painful.

People call it “mom guilt.” Being away from your child for any extended period of time. I don’t feel guilt. I’m not doing anything to feel guilty about.

I do feel loss.

I lose hours, or I lose moments. Time necessary to build a bond with my growing, changing child.

He doesn’t remember the nine months he spent in-womb or the 13 months I was his main source of nutrition. He’s a toddler. His brain is making connections, and one of the connections it’s making is that I’m not with him for eight hours a day, five days a week.

When he’s upset and wants comfort, he doesn’t always find it in me.

When he wants a story or to play, he doesn’t often turn to me.

When he wakes up in the middle of the night because he’s lost his binky or his lovey or he had a bad dream, I’m not as good a fixer as I used to be.

And sometimes it breaks me.

I love working, and I love being a working mom. I love my job. I couldn’t do a weekday that ends in “y” any other way.

I’d lose my mind.

But on some weekdays that end in “y,” I want nothing more to be at home with my son.

To the working moms out there, I feel your loss.

I don’t know how to repair it. I don’t know how to fill up the potholes along your week-long journey to Saturday. I do know you cherish every snuggle. Every tiny finger reaching to be picked up. Every cry for comfort — even when you’re elbow deep in the mop water the floors that get less attention than your hair and unshaved legs so desperately need.

Every moment you can find and take and hold forever.

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BABR: November Update

First, BABR stands for Biceps and Belly Rolls. Now I don’t have to spell it out again.

Next, wow. It’s been a minute.

Life has a pretty fantastic way of getting in the way, which is why I’ve abandoned boxing, dieting and taking care of myself.

Yay, life.

Life also throws happy days, great opportunities to educate, learn and participate in the community and thankful moments in the way, too.

So, thanks, life.

Let’s focus on the good.

Happy Days

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We dressed the toddler up as a puppy for Halloween.

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He was literally a little puppy running around with his puppy lovey. (Thank you to my sister-in-law and her sweet boys for hand-me-downing this ADORABLE costume.)

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I die.

I realize Halloween happened in October, not November, but this. kid. is. too cute.

Opportunities to Educate…

The Junior League of Wichita Child Advocacy Committee conducted a child abuse information panel with representatives from the Wichita Children’s Home (WCH), the Kansas Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the Exploited and Missing Children’s Unit (EMCU) and two foster parents to discuss the League’s focus area, child abuse prevention and intervention.

The goal was to inform the League about available resources in the community and their needs to assist with child abuse prevention and intervention.

EMCU detectives said the greatest need they see in the community is education. Other panel members agreed. Education not only on how to be a parent — one detective brought up the number of parents who don’t know safe sleep needs for infants — but also education in knowing what support is available to young parents in the Wichita community as well as what programs do for children and families.

Education is an area with which the League is familiar.

The League’s puppet show teaches elementary students about physical and sexual abuse, reaching 23,000 third and fourth graders so far.

In 2013, childabusewichita.org launched as a website designed to be a resource for Wichita to learn more about preventing child abuse and community programs.

In 2014, the League gifted $300,000 to the Child Advocacy Center of Sedgwick County for its education and training wing.

And last year, the League took on a three-year project with the Wichita Children’s Home, granting $150,000 to help build up young mothers and their children through volunteering to mentor, providing necessary care items, such as diapers and formula, and encouraging healthy relationships and secondary education opportunities.

The Two Lives at a Time project is where my heart is, if not where my time is right now.

Top the contributions of the League with the individual contributions of its members, and this group of women shows itself as a force for change within Wichita.

…to Learn…

Junior League of Wichita gets together for a General Membership Meeting (GMM) every (or every other) month for League announcements, project updates and some education of our own.

In November, Kaye Monk-Morgan, assistant vice president for academic affairs at Wichita State University, presented Living Our Values: Respect to the League.

Kaye Monk-Morgan presents to the Junior League of Wichita at the November GMM

I can’t speak for the rows behind me, but from the third row forward, she had women on the edge of their seats. Her insights were heartfelt. Her stories were full of heart — and hilarious.

How do we live our values? When the League comes to serve, Kaye Monk-Morgan charges us to do it with unconditional regard — respect — for ourselves, each other and the people we serve.

At the November meeting, hosted in the Child Advocacy Center’s education and training wing, League members also donated new and gently used professional clothing items to the Two Lives at a Time project with the Wichita Children’s Home for upcoming mock interviews aimed at preparing participating mothers for job and secondary education applications.

Professional attire donations for the Wichita Children's Home Two Live at a Time project with Junior League of Wichita.

Special shoutout to some friends at work who helped grow this donation. Thanks, ladies.

…to Participate

I had a unique opportunity to participate on a panel with KMUW’s Engage ICT’s Democracy On Tap in November, too. The topic was #Activism, or social activism. Thanks to my boss who passed the recommendation to me.

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You can watch the video of our discussion at http://www.kmuw.org/post/democracy-tap-activism. I hope I don’t sound dumb. There’s no way I can verify that I don’t sound dumb because there’s no way I can confidently listen to myself speak during this video…

…without it being awkward for me. I will not be taking one for the team here. My boss did. She said I didn’t sound dumb 🙂

Thankful Moments

November was a busy month for me personally and professionally. A true highlight of my month was spending time with family and friends.

First, a dear friend from high school travelled to Wichita for early Thanksgiving celebrations. It’d been three years since we’d seen each other, and it felt like we’d talked just days before getting together to catch up.

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I failed to take a picture of our high school reunion with two other dear friends Friday night, but it was good to spend time with them and talk about our recent or current rewatchings of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

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And he met my toddler AND BECAME BEST FRIENDS IMMEDIATELY. **heart eyes**

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Our formerly yearly Christmas-time get together happened at my mother’s house, where we played six rounds over two nights of cutthroat Pitch. Pitch is a traditional card game of ours. Cutthroat means we didn’t have partners.

He won three rounds. My mother one two rounds. I won only one.

Hey, I was tired.

We played with my great grandmother’s cards, a 50-year-old set I dug out of the junk drawer in my house. They still smell like her house. Smell, I hear, is the strongest trigger for memory.

It’s true.

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My husband and I spent Thanksgiving afternoon enjoying family time and a trip to the park, and then went to bed early for the first time in NIGHTS.

Black Friday had a trip to his parents for an amazing lunch — of which my son ate rolls and cake, if you needed more proof that he is my son.

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One of my favorite days of the season, Small Business Saturday, found me running up and down Douglas to work in some Christmas shopping.

I picked up a few books for the nephews at Watermark books.

Watermark Books and Cafe on Small Business Saturday

Stops two and three on my #SBSICT run picked up some fun gifts at The Workroom and gift wrap at Love of Character.

Love of Character and the Workroom on Small Business Saturday

Not to be excluded, I also got a cup of coffee outside The Workroom from Sunflower Expresso. It’s a coffee truck. **additional heart eyes**

I cut my shopping trip in half for lunch with girlfriends…

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and we talked for like three hours, so I quit shopping and headed home to spend more time with my nugget.

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I’m not usually this busy with the real-world. Usually, I’m just busy with toddler world. December isn’t looking any less busy.

Get ready for the next BABR update.

 

#mealprep: Food for the fam, vol. 5

Before becoming parents, my husband and I were pretty good about cooking at home, trying new recipes and having fun with food, in general.

And then, along came this baby.

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My meal planning and preparation attention focused solely on him for… like… a year.

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Breastfeeding and pumping.

baby food ice cubes

Homemade baby food.

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Ain’t nobody got time for homemade baby food.

Now, he’s a walking-running-climbing toddler with molars who can eat nearly all the foods we eat, so I can plan food for the whole family again. Instead of just for him.

I say, he can eat the food we eat.

He sometimes just won’t.

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What I need now — that I didn’t need before bringing this needy little life form into the world — are tools. Meal planning tools.

Because I no longer have the leisure time to organize a weekly meal plan, put together a grocery list, hunt for sales, cut coupons, go grocery shopping, forget three things, go back to the grocery store, lug all the groceries inside, neatly place items in the pantry, quarter and freeze the poultry, cut and store the produce, put together make-ahead breakfast sandwiches and individual smoothie ingredients…

I have exactly enough time to preheat the oven to 375 (or is in 350? I can never remember) and throw in a few chicken thighs we hope I seasoned while my kid screams at me for MORE SNACKS OMG MOM.

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Hence, tools — and I have a smorgasbord.

Evernote used to hold all the recipes I used regularly. There’s still dozens in there. Now, I don’t have time to test a recipe, make the adjustments I like, and then add it to Evernote for later use.

Tool #1: Bookmarks. 

Internet bookmarks are an under appreciated tool.

Recently, I went through all the recipes I had saved looking for something new to try while the toddler napped.

I deleted half I’m sure I saved because of hanger, and then I deleted another quarter I’m sure I saved thinking I’d have so much more time once my son was older to make complicated recipes.

Ha!

Tool #2: A dry-erase board. 

It’s sticky-tacked to the freezer door, and it dictates our lives.

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Tool #3: The Dillon’s store app.

I used to shop sales at different stores. I used to go to farmers markets, local shops and speciality stores to get the obscure ingredient I needed to complete an equally obscure recipe I dug out from the depths of some random cookbook.

Now, I shop at Dillon’s.

Sometimes, I still go to Wichita’s weekly downtown farmers market to get the flavorful asparagus, cucumbers and tomatoes you just can’t get at the grocery store.

I nearly always buy my coffee from the Spice Merchant because there. is. no. better.

But the bulk of my groceries come from Dillon’s. The store app lets me download coupons to my store card, add items to a shopping list and make use of ClickList, which is a grocery pickup service I use every other week.

Confession: I do not like ClickList. I’m picky about my coupons and sales, and the substitutions offered for out-of-stock items I know are in-stock (just hard to find) make my blood boil. Baby food is the worst. Not all of those pouches are created equal, and if you need to substitute baby food, don’t substitute the SAME ONE FOUR TIMES.

Variety is the spice of getting calories into my kid.

End mini-rant I’m not actually that upset about.

Tool #4: Mealime. 

Mealime is a meal planning app with recipes you can add to your weekly meal plan that also automatically creates a grocery list based on the recipes you selected.

 

mealime recipe

I subscribed to the Pro version, so I could get Pro-only recipes (not that big of a deal) and other functionality. It’s $2.99 per month, and I cancelled my subscription because I wasn’t convinced it was worth it.

While I enjoy the meal planning, grocery shopping and recipe storage all in one app, Mealime’s recipes aren’t too much to get excited about. The app does allow you to add your own grocery items but not personalized recipes, which makes it hard to incorporate the tried and tested dinners we’ve come to rely on using the app.

So I still need to use bookmarks, three-ring binders, cookbooks and Evernote to organize non-Mealime recipes.

Plus, nearly all recipes in Mealime instruct you to use coconut oil — no — and a lot ask you to wash the meat bits out of a pan before you make the sauce… like the meat bits aren’t the best part of the sauce? Because they are. (There’s a fancy French word I’m not looking up for “meat bits.”)

Maybe that’s how meal planning is, but I’d continue to pay $2.99 per month for an app that did what I need meal planning to be.

I’m open to suggestions.

Honey Mustard Chicken adult food

Honey Mustard Chicken baby food

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He ate like two bites.

Bonus Tool: Ibotta. Because rebates.