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He’ll Never Know

It’s 5:30am. Still dark. My preschooler walks in, to my side of the bed of course. I nudge my husband. “Can you get up with the kids? I had a rough night.”

You can tell them, but they won’t know. They may see the tip of the iceberg that is motherhood, but they don’t see what lies underneath. The feelings behind the tears, the mom guilt, the aching body, the worry you aren’t doing things right, the magic and overwhelming exhaustion of what it means to be the one everyone needs something from. To be mom.

Last night I was rocking my toddler back to sleep. It was 4am. The one who rarely wakes overnight anymore. The one who hardly ever wakes up crying. I heard her fuss, heard discomfort in her cry, and glanced at the clock. For thirty seconds or so I continued to listen without moving. Was she in pain? Was it her teeth? Is she sick? Maybe she’s thirsty. Will she go back to bed? Beside me, my husband sleeps. I roll out of bed and fill a cup of water, grab a new diaper, and head into her room. She giggles. “Great, I’ve been duped,” I think. She sips water while I change her diaper, then I rock with her for a bit. My mind drifts between wishing for my bed and realizing one day I’ll wish for this moment again, when she’s small enough to cuddle and rock in my arms. I hug her a little tighter, stay in her room a little longer, and try to be thankful she’s okay and all is well.

A few hours before this, my preschooler came in. She went to bed at 10pm, pretty much yanking any “me time” right out from under me. My husband and I tried to watch a movie together, and I fell asleep on the couch. So now it’s past midnight, and she’s standing by the bed. My side, of course. She doesn’t want to sleep in her room. She can’t find her bear. She’s thirsty. I rolled out of bed, got her more water, found the missing bear, tucked her in, told her goodnight. I crawl back in bed and wonder if she’s going to go back to an early bedtime? Will she eventually start to sleep in? Today is the first day back at preschool. I hope she doesn’t catch as many viruses as she did last year. Am I giving her enough attention? What can I do today to help her learn? Beside me, my husband sleeps. Eventually I drift back to sleep too. For a bit.

I was unprepared for the constant mental exhaustion that is motherhood. Mom brains run 24/7. A mantra I repeat to myself when I get overwhelmed is “Worry is a prayer for the unwanted.” I know it’s true, but worry is inevitable. Am I strong enough for this? We want another child, can I handle it? Am I patient enough? Who will I ask to help me if one of my kids has to go to the ER and my husband is gone? I hate asking for help. Will I be able to ask for help? I lost my temper today. Will that effect them long term? Are they going to have tempers too? Are they going to be kind to others? Am I kind enough to them? Am I doing my best?

These are thoughts that go through my mind all the time. When I have a quiet moment to myself, when I am trying to fall asleep, when I am holding back tears. I try to self-soothe by reassuring myself I wouldn’t be given more than I can handle. I have great family. My kids are good kids. I have friends who will help if I ask. There are families who deal with so much, we have it so good. I know these things are true, but they don’t erase the words that fill my mind in the silence. Beyond the worries, there’s filling up our mental plates: What is for dinner? When is their next dentist appointment? Did I pay preschool tuition? What can I plan for today to keep these little people active? Are there any bills I forgot about? When should kids know their ABC’s, are we behind? When does my car need an oil change? Stolen sleep. Silent worries. A neverending to-do list. A house that is never as clean as I’d like. A project left incomplete. A book unread. Laundry for days. Mom guilt. Stress. Feeling less than. Waking up feeling this way, before even the sun. Beside me, he sleeps. He’ll never know.

It’s hard, feeling the weight of all this, the weight that is motherhood, before the sun even rises. When you’re exhausted and can’t rest. You can say it, explain it, cry it out, he can even take a shift now and then, but he’ll never know what it’s like all the time. Just like I’ll never know his stresses at work, or what it’s like to leave his babies for months at a time, even half a year. Worrying about providing for his family. Worrying about retirement. Missing holidays and birthdays and milestones while he’s away. I’ll never know.

Motherhood is hard. Fatherhood is hard. Parenting is hard. These are facts.

I have amazing children. I can handle anything thrown my way. I am a great mom. These are also facts.

To anyone who feels like they aren’t enough, or whose emotions go misconstrued, or who cries when you feel you shouldn’t, just know we all feel that way sometimes. It means you are better than you think, braver than you know, and as strong as you need to be. When you are grumpy and short-tempered with your family and worry everyone sees you as a monster, take comfort in this: Your husband knows the real you, he knows you are tired, and is thankful for everything you do. He isn’t thinking badly about you, he just hopes you’re okay. Your kids forgot about it almost as soon as it happened. They are worried about snacks and playtime, and they will still choose you over dad for everything. Your babies love you endlessly, they are loving little blank canvases. They just want to touch you and be near you, no matter what you say or do. The only person upset at you, is you. And you are doing just fine.

XOXO, Elizabeth & Kate

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DIY Watermelon Popsicles

It has been HOT here in North Carolina, so we have been eating a ton of popsicles. As my kids sat there devouring their sugary treat I couldn’t help but wonder how I could make it a bit healthier. I don’t know if its just my two kiddos, but they have a ton of energy all they time. Feeding them basically frozen sugar water wasn’t doing myself any favors.

So, I hopped on good old Amazon and ordered some popsicle molds. Thanks to prime, two days later they arrived on my doorstep. You would have thought I would be googling recipes while I wanted for the molds, but nope I didn’t. Of course, my son was so excited when they arrived we needed to make popsicles immediately or so he told me.

I found a few recipes on Pinterest, but didn’t have nearly enough ingredients for any of them. So, we created our own!

What you will need:

  • Popsicle mold
  • About 4 cups of watermelon
  • Half a lime
  • Blender
  • Sugar (optional)

This is not an exact science and you can add or substract whatever ingredients you may like. We did not add sugar and I think the popsicles came out pretty sweet. Bonus, my kiddos loved them as well.

How to make them:

Chop up some watermelon and throw it into the blender.

Juice about a half of a lime and add that in as well. *This is where you’d add the sugar, if wanted. *

Once everything is smoothly blended together pour it into the molds. Leave about a half inch at the top for the popsicles to expand when freezing.

This was the hardest part for my son, put them in the freezer for at least 4 hours. I am pretty sure I heard the question ” Are they done yet?” at least 20 times that day. So, in retrospect it may be best to make these at night and skip the “Are they done yet?” question.

Once they in fact were done, the verdict was in and they were a success. We can’t wait to try out different flavors this summer.

What are some of your favorite popsicles flavors? I would love some ideas for next time.

XO Kate & Elizabeth

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The Magic of a Normal Day

This month I started a gratitude journal, part of our Mindful March journey to focus on self-care, and I thought about all the things I am grateful for: my kids, my husband, my health, their health, my house, my van that can cart us around, etc….and as that list got longer and less obvious, adding things like, “Learning that my daughter loves when the wind blows her hair when we play outside,” I realized what I am most grateful for is normal days.

It’s really easy to get caught up in things you wish for. And by no means am I saying you shouldn’t dream big. I often think about trips I’d like to take, a future career I’d like to have, or what alternate-universe me would be doing right now, like fighting crime as the world’s most elusive spy. Not possible in this universe, since I can’t cross a room without knocking something over, but you know, maybe in another one! And sometimes, as all mothers surely do, I long for the days before children where I had seemingly endless hours of the day. After navigating life with two kids for about 9 months or so, my husband asked me, “What did you do with your day before kids when we moved here?” because I left my full-time job to follow his. My honest answer, after a LONG pause…”I don’t even know!” Dreaming big and daydreaming are healthy. But what isn’t healthy is comparing yourself to others. Your marriage, your kids, your wardrobe. Comparison is absolutely the thief of joy, because it often robs our confidence in the lives we have built.

Last night I was looking back at my old photos, as I often do, and I realized what an eventful year we have had. We brought a baby into this world a few days before the New Year, so everything in 2018 was her first. We celebrated career achievements, we bought a camper, we traveled to the Outer Banks (a bucket list item for this North Carolina-native who had never been), we took our girls to see mountains for the first time and saw the sun rise on the highest peak east of the Mississippi, we had ALL the holidays together. We had quite the eventful year. Now in 2019, we will see another deployment, we have zero family trips booked, and I am looking wistfully at those past photos filled with adventure.  I see friends decorating nurseries, having babies, running marathons, laying in a hammock on a tropical island, and it’s really easy to let that thief sneak in.  But here’s were I remind myself how very much I LOVE NORMAL DAYS.

On a normal day, no one is sick.  Everyone is mostly happy.  A few tears are shed over sharing a toy or the dog eating our animal cracker.  We have dance parties.  We laugh over a movie.  We walk outside and pick flowers and talk about birds.  We get up on our tippy toes to check the mail.  We eat meals together.  We argue about when to get out of the bath.  We kiss goodnight and read stories.  We may not dip our toes in crystal blue waters or hug Mickey Mouse while watching fireworks, but you know what?  The adventures we grow nostalgic for have shaped who we are today, and the moments we wish for just give us more of an excuse to dream big and make them happen.  But today, normal is amazing.  On days when we end up in the ER, we wish for normal.  The first day of deployment when we wake up and realize we have many more months of waking up alone before he comes back, we wish for normal.  When we hear someone we love has departed this Earth, we wish for normal.   Because normal is comfortingly beautiful.  Normal is under-appreciated.  Normal is spectacular in disguise.  I am extremely, ecstatically thankful for normal days.

XOXO, Elizabeth & Kate

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Car Trips That Won’t Drive You Crazy

Or at least, a little less crazy.

Camping in the Outer Banks!

Traveling with little ones sometimes spurs a sense of dread. No matter how exciting the destination or occasion, there’s always that tiny voice inside your head saying, “this is going to go terribly wrong.” Because, kids. It’s like a dentist visit, a trip to the DMV, cleaning your bathroom…it may not be the worst thing in the world, but lets just say it doesn’t spark excitement. If you’re anything like me, you mentally prepare for screams, vomit, and five million questions over and over again.

Kate and I are both military spouses, which often corresponds with living a good distance away from some (or all) of your family. We are actually pretty lucky, with 8 and 4 hour car rides respectfully. So if you are looking for tips on traveling with toddlers on a plane, you will not find that here. You are a braver mom than us and may the odds be ever in your favor! But car trips? We’ve pretty much got them figured out.

Grayson & Charlie headed to visit the grandparents

Things to Consider:

As parents, we know best what our kids need. We are still human, so we will inevitably forget something, but for the most part we have a handle on it. I know this, but still panic when it comes time to pack for a trip in a hurry. This leads to lack of organization (aka throwing random things in the van) and overpacking. Let’s start out with the most vital piece of advice: Think ahead.

1 week before trip: Start a list. Make a column for each family member. Starting writing down everything you can think you’ll need, and make it readily available throughout the week so you can add things (and also, take things away that you may not really need.) Consider where you are staying. A hotel, a family member’s house, a friend’s house? I know if I am staying with family I may feel a TAD more comfortable going through their pantry and linen closet, just saying! And in a hotel you will likely be confined to one room, so visualize your stay and think about what additions would make you and your family most comfortable. Also consider departure time and routes. The time of day may make a huge difference with traffic, so it may be worthwhile to leave a little earlier than planned.

2-3 days before: Knock out the laundry. I like to do ALL the laundry, so not only do I have all my options for packing, but when I come back there is no dirty laundry to get through. Check the weather forecast and set aside things from the clean laundry you may want to pack. Cross of unnecessary items you may have written on your packing list earlier in the week, see what you can size down on.

1 day before: Clean out the car. It’s always nice to start with a blank slate because you know it’s going to look like a war torn country by the time the trip is over. Pack bags for the kids and yourself, and even load up the car if you can. Charge electronics you’ll be taking. We now have a fancy van with built-in DVD players, but before that I would download kid shows and movies from Netflix to play on our iPad. The day I found out you could download and watch without WiFi was a GREAT day!

Day of trip: Review your list, prepare snacks, and think happy thoughts! Talk to your kids about where you are going, who you are visiting, and what they can expect to see along the way. After all, kids are Chatty Cathys and like feeling involved!

Addie & Ella’s first night in a hotel

What To Actually Pack and How To Pack It

Once you have a few mishaps under your belt, you get pretty good at predicting all kinds of car trip catastrophes (says the mom who has given her child a water bottle shower on the grassy lawn of a gas station). Here’s a few travel tips you MAY not have thought about doing:

  • Instead of having a stack of shirts, stack of pants, etc. in a suitcase, roll up complete outfits together. Especially for your kids. Shirt, pants, socks and all. Not only does this take the guesswork out of dressing them each day and having enough clothing items, but it means anyone around can dress them too.
  • Instead of a large bag or suitcase, give everyone their own small bag. That way if you have a mishap you don’t have to riffle through everyone’s stuff to find an extra pair of princess panties.
  • Have a designated storage tote for toys, and one for non-perishable snacks. And have that bad boy EASY TO ACCESS! You will need to reach for it approximately 800 times.
  • Have a storage tote just for shoes. This one may have some people shaking their heads, but I can’t tell you the number of times we cannot find shoes for one or both children. We don’t wear shoes in the car and we take them off at the front door. Having both kids’ shoes all in one place in the car makes it easy to get out and go, versus finding the one shoe my one year old tossed into deep space.
  • Make an emergency kit. Ours includes a thermometer, pain meds for us and the kids, allergy meds, dramamine, band aids, and a tourniquet. I also like to throw in baby powder, eye drops, and a makeup brush for the summer months because my kids cannot NOT get sand in their eyes. A clean makeup brush is the easiest to knock that stuff right out when a sandy child paw starts rubbing those baby blues.
  • If you are potty training or newly potty trained or just against stopping 5 times at rest stops- a travel potty. We bought this one that has an air freshener, doubles as a step stool, and closes up and it’s been a lifesaver for car trips and camping.
  • Bring a sound machine. If yours isn’t travel-worthy, then download a free app on your iPad or phone (see our recent blog post on our favorite apps for recommended options!) Using this during nap times in the car, hotel, or unfamiliar home can save the day.
  • A designated blanket or mat to sit on. We carry a packable Monkey Mat in the car with us to throw out at a park, use as a changing pad, or even as a picnic blanket in a hotel room. You never know where you might need a clean surface to sit, so this is an easy but extremely useful item to throw in!

Snacks, Snacks, AND MORE SNACKS!

Snacks will be your BEST FRIEND. And they don’t have to be pure garbage. I know I always splurged on car snacks as a kid. Peach rings, potato stix, sour gummy crawlers, soda after soda…good times. And while a treat here and there might be nice, the last thing you want strapped in a carseat for hours is a toddler hopped up on sugar. Remember in Jurassic Park when they tied the dinosaurs down? That’s what you’re stuck in a car with. So here are some of our favorite crowd-pleasers that are yummy and also fairly safe to eat in a carseat. (Definitely watch ALL carseat snacking closely and I highly recommended investing in a mirror to see your back-facing babes if you don’t have one already.)

We like to use Camelbak or Munchkin 360 cups for our kiddos and really stick to water and milk for simplicity (and to avoid mess.) We also find that bowls (or little mugs) with handles help for holding snacks. Vertical snack bags also work well for on the go. In fact, we even got some cute little reusable/machine-washable snack pouches at a Farmer’s Market one time!

Lunch in a hotel room

If nothing else, please takeaway these two things. One we already said: Plan ahead. The other is this: Don’t set your expectations too high. Things will go wrong, meltdowns will occur, and that’s okay. Hopefully planning ahead and being familiar with some things other moms do will be a card you can play when the time arises. If all else fails, you will have a great story to tell your future son or daughter-in-law! That’s something, right? Memories are made in the journey, so take it all in and enjoy the ride!

As always, if you have other tips, please share! We all need some new tricks every now and then.

XOXO, Elizabeth & Kate


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Staying Sane? There’s an App for That

PBS Kids, making us feel better about screen time one Daniel Tiger song at a time.

Every single time the power goes out, I try to use something that requires power. It never fails. After a short (but not short enough) mental delay, I am left feeling like a first world idiot. Last summer we had a huge line of storms come through, of course right as it was time to cook dinner. Pretty normal for summers on the Carolina coast. The heat and humidity just build and build and explodes into pop-up thunder clouds right before the sun goes down. So here I am, chicken in the oven, almost done, and a huge flash…uh oh…thunder…then the power blinks, struggles a bit, and goes out for good. Immediately I think, “Great. Ok. No big deal, it was almost done I can throw it in the microwave!” But no. “Ugh. OK lets turn the light on and just think this through.” But no. It always throws me for a loop!

Nowadays we also feel like this when, for whatever reason, we don’t have our phones. It’s unbelievable how much I have come to rely on that tiny little rectangle in the past seven or so years. This past fall my phone decided to utterly fall apart when I removed the case, and I was without my phone for a week. It was, in a way, a great experience and made me strive to be unplugged more, but it also made me realize just how useful (and sometimes essential) it can be in the mom world. For one, I had to research ways to contact 911 if my kids had an emergency! To save you the trouble, I learned that any old cell phone is required to be able to call 911, even if it’s not connected to a service. Same goes for a plugged-in house phone. Supposedly, not sure how you test that out! Luckily I didn’t have to.

When we started dreaming up this blog, we both agreed that our driving focus was to share tips for staying sane. We wanted to share things that helped us, commiserate with other mothers, and keep our creative sides occupied- all of which contribute to our overall sanity. So we have compiled a small list of our favorite apps. A tiny nod to the technology that has made our lives easier. The ones that come to our aid the most:

  • Amazon– Nothing here that will throw you off your rocker, but we are all about apps that save time and money. Amazon Prime & Amazon Pantry are bonafide lifesavers. We order diapers, paper towels, toilet paper, dog food, laundry detergent, and other monthly essentials, on top of birthday gifts, party decor, books, etc! Also good to know- several stores, including Target, price match Amazon if there is something you want that you just can’t way 2 days for.
  • Walmart Grocery– Another popular app and overall no-brainer. But this was a game changer for me when it came to mindful purchasing and monthly budgeting. I often forget things at the store, and with this system you can continue to add to your order until the night before pick-up. Our local Walmart also started offering delivery, which was well worth the $10 fee when we were all sick a couple weeks ago!
  • InkCards & TouchNote– Both of these apps serve the same purpose. Kate uses one, Elizabeth the other, so we included both! These are a cheap and easy way to send cards to loved ones for any occasion. Custom cards with your own photos, cheaper than Hallmark, and you don’t need a stamp or a trip to the mailbox. They do everything for you. When my friends need a little pick-me-up, this is where I go!
The sweetest response ever from one of Elizabeth’s friends!
  • Lightroom CC– Photoshop and Lightroom are photo editing programs that are not generally free, but the Lightroom CC app for phones is free and is pretty amazing for editing photos on-the-go! Take your Instagram game up a notch by getting this app and playing around. There is even an autocorrect image feature if you don’t feel very photo savvy!
  • Robot Vaccum– If you have a Robot Vacuum, this app is awesome for scheduling cleanings and even finding the dang thing. It just makes things that much easier!
  • TimeHop– If you don’t have this app, GET IT NOW! It takes all of your photos from various photo sharing services (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google Photos) and gives you a daily update of what you shared a year ago, 5 years ago, 9 years ago. It really does make my day to see pictures of my newborn baby from a year ago (insert tears the day THOSE photos started showing up because she turned one) or a sweet picture of me and my husband from our college days. I feel like I am reminded of so many photos and memories I otherwise may have forgotten about.
Newborn baby memories! As if first birthdays weren’t hard enough!
  • DT Parents– That DT is for Daniel Tiger, folks. Ever heard of him? Well our kids LOVE that delightful little PBS show, and while it can wear on the nerves, it really does contain meaningful messages for kids. The DT Parents app organizes the songs from episodes into common issues or feelings your child may experience, like sharing or being sad, so that you can have Daniel Tiger sing them a song about it. It may sound silly, but when your toddler is in a mood, who better to talk to them about it? YOU or an orange tiger cub? Yep, I agree.
  • ToneitUP– I think every mom desires a simple, cheap workout app that is actually practical, when so many promise to be. I can barely use the bathroom alone, how in the world am I supposed to find 30 minutes to myself to complete a workout?? This is a tried and true app by Kate. If you are looking for something to tone up a little for summer, start here!
  • Hatch Baby– This is specifically for newborns and infants. It is a wonderful app for tracking diaper changes, feedings, weight, pumping, etc. There is a stopwatch feature for nursing (and it records which side) so in those early days when you can’t even remember your middle name, you know when you last fed your little one and for how long. Your partner can also have the app on his or her phone with the same login so you can both add in baby-specific details, like logging that middle-of-the-night blowout that dad was lucky enough to change.
  • Chatbooks– Y’all, I cannot say enough good things about Chatbooks. Chatbooks was originally started to make photo series books from your Instagram account, but now allows you to make custom books and pull photos from Facebook and your photo library too. You can keep captions as they were posted or go in and edit. I currently have them printed for my kids from 0-6, 6-12, and 12-18 months. While these treasured books are for me right now, I cannot wait to gift them to my kids when they get older and show them all of the memories they are too young to remember for themselves. Almost a photo a day, with a caption from mom. I may never be able to part with them!
Elizabeth’s Chatbooks collection. So far she has printed 0-6mo, 6-12mo, and 12-18mo for her oldest and 0-6mo for her youngest. She plans to keep it up throughout their preschool years. The greatest memories they may not remember.
  • Baby Coloring– This is what I call my “doctor’s office app.” It’s the perfect calm “game” to keep kids busy without being glued to a show. It’s extremely simple and both of my kids (13 months and almost 3 years) can use it. You pick a coloring tool and use your finger to color a picture, the end. Sounds boring but I swear my husband will color with my kids for an hour if you let him!
  • The Wonder Weeks– Wonder Weeks has been a lifesaver! Every time one of the kiddos is having a hard couple of days, I check this app to see if they are currently in a leap of development. The apps shows what their brains are focusing on during their current stage and what new skills they may be developing in the near future.
  • Dino Puzzle-This app is great for quiet places, like appointments, meetings, or even car rides. Dino puzzles are just that, digital puzzles for your child to do. Our toddlers currently love Dinosaurs, so its a huge hit for them!
  • White Noise & Sleep Pillow– Until I had a 2nd baby, the iPad was our noise machine and Sleep Pillow the weapon of choice. When we had two babies we decided we might want an ACTUAL sound machine, especially since the iPad got taken over with Baby Coloring and PBS Kids! Having these apps are great for playing in the car, staying in a hotel, or even placing in the stroller on a nap time walk.
  • Pandora– Ending with another no-brainer. Pandora has been around for over a decade, I remember logging onto it in college from my computer. But if you aren’t using it to play children’s songs, make workout stations, or have a dance party in you’re living room, you’re doing it wrong!
Dance party in progress. When she asks for a dress and her shoes, she means business!

If you have any other mom-tastic apps that you can share with us, please do!

XOXO, Elizabeth & Kate