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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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Our House is a Zoo

I can’t imagine a house without pets. I have literally never had to. When I was born, there was my dad’s black lab, Jezebel. Then slowly we added cats. A good many cats, because my mom had to pass the animal shelter on the way home from work and couldn’t turn down giving them a good home. In middle school and high school came less cats and more dogs. And while we were in college my (now) husband and I got our first dog, Kenzie.

By the time my first daughter was born, we had somehow had accumulated three dogs. Three. I say somehow, but I know exactly how it happened. I should have seen it coming. See, we had every intention of breeding Kenzie when she was younger, and try we did, but she was not a fan. After meeting five or so male labs over the years to try and make that happen, we just decided to give up and find a second dog to keep her company. We found what were advertised as “snow white labs” a state over and became obsessed. Kenzie was a yellow lab, and we both remember the day we saw a portly white male lab walking through Bass Pro Shops and wanted to kidnap him, he was so perfect. We drove to pick out our new puppy and arrived in a very rural town in South Carolina. When we pulled up to the house there were two puppies left for us to choose from. Pro move: I hopped out of the car first and didn’t wait for my husband. I walked straight up to the puppy pen and one cute little dog with a cowlick on his nose jumped right up to me. The other literally turned away from me and faced the fence. My husband didn’t stand a chance in helping to choose this dog, it was decided. And that’s how we got Cotton. He was trouble from the start. And before we could get him fixed, right after his “coming of age”, he got our 8 year old lab pregnant. Go. Figure. And that’s how we have Olive, our pick of the litter. Cotton and Olive are less than a year apart in age.

So, my daughter was born into a house with three dogs. And as much as I love my dogs, our house is a zoo. I started to imagine what having a house without dogs was like. Do people without dogs even have to vacuum? What does their dirt even look like if it doesn’t have dog hair in it? Wouldn’t it be nice to leave the house overnight and not have to take the dog? Don’t get me started on keeping up with vet visits and heart medication and 15month well baby check-ups and dentist appointments…my head is a zoo too. I used to get really upset when people had kids and got rid of their dogs. I just didn’t see how they could do that to a member of their family. One of the FIRST members of their family. Because that’s what our dogs were to us, family. But now that I have kids, I do understand. Some days you barely feed and bathe yourself, so that means the dog is getting better care than even you are. But, while I no longer judge that decision, I could never do it. We love our little zoo.

When you see your 1 year old throw the ball for the dog and laugh and laugh and laugh, it’s worth it. When you find your 3 year old giving the dog a check-up with her doctor kit and he’s totally cooperating, it’s worth it. When you’ve had a long day and finally got the kids to bed and plop on the couch and the dog comes to cuddle with you, a soft, SILENT creature that isn’t asking you for anything, it’s worth it. And that may not be the case for everyone, but our house will always have dogs.

About a year ago, when our kids were 2 years old and 5 months old, Kenzie passed away. Our first dog, our fellow adventurer, our kid before kids. Because yes, dog mom is a thing. She passed away suddenly in her sleep. When we found her outside, we had just put the kids to bed. I hugged her and cried. And cried some more. I told her I was sorry over and over. It just poured out of me, because since having kids she hadn’t gotten my attention. I didn’t have as much patience for dog things. She hadn’t been taken to the beach, or in the boat, or anything we used to do. She hadn’t been played with as much in the backyard. She’d slowed down, and so had I. That was a brand new form of mom guilt that hit me like a wave. I know she had a good life, but I feel like I dropped the ball at the end. And I didn’t know it was the end until it was. We called a pet crematorium and sat in the driveway with her under the stars until they arrived. The next morning, when our two year old asked where she was, we told her she was an angel now. My tiny little toddler said “Oh, I wish she would come back.” And it’s worth it. She won’t have memories of Kenzie, just like I have very few of the black lab I was brought home to, but we will remember those things, like how Kenzie sniffed the carseat on that very first Spring day.

Just like kids, dogs teach us so many things about the world around us, and they teach our kids so many things too. Responsibility, compassion, friendship, trust, loyalty. It seems so true of everything in life that there are seasons. Childhood is a great season. Pets are a great season. When they run together, it’s amazing. Seasons may reoccur, with new pets and new babies, but you can never go back. It’s also true that sometimes the hardest things are the most rewarding, and while pets and kids are HARD, I wouldn’t trade it. I love they they have furry best friends to hug and whisper to when we, their parents, make them mad. I love that they can dress them up and involve them in their games. I love that the dogs will sleep at the foot of their bed when we let them, watching over them as they sleep. They are a comfort of childhood, and it warms my heart to watch these seasons. Two very different seasons that go by way too fast.

XOXO, Elizabeth & Kate

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Easy Paper Tunnels

Sometimes we overthink and over plan activities for our little ones. The simplest of activities can result in hours of fun. These super simple paper tunnels were just that and Grayson loved them.

Grayson loves cars, trains, and airplanes, so our road became many different things. “Look Mama a race track!” to “Check out my runway!”. His imagination went wild!

While his little sister was napping, we often try to find quiet activities. The idea of tunnels popped into my head and thus we created his tunnels.

All we needed was some construction paper, tape, and painters tape. Oh, and a hard surface to attach them to. First, we created our road with the painters tape. Then, all we did was grab some construction paper, fold up little tabs on each side, and tape them down to the floor to create our little tunnels.

Easiest activity EVER! Grayson collected some of his automobiles and started playing. It’s still on our floor now, ready to use after nap time.

Because the tunnels are made out of construction paper Grayson had to practice being gentle and slow with his cars. This is not a task that comes naturally to him, so I little practice goes a long way.

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EASY Birthday Cake Cookies

Let me start off by saying, I am by no means a baker, but I do love cookies. When I found this super easy recipe, had to give it a try. It looked pretty fool proof and it turns out it was. The cookies came out so good and stayed soft and chewy for over a week. So, lets get started!

Ingredients

  • Birthday cake mix
  • 3/4 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 2 eggs
  • Rainbow sprinkles

Start by preheating your oven to 350°F.

While your oven is heating up, combine the cake mix, chocolate chunks, oil and eggs. Mix until they are combined.

If you have a melon baller, use that to form the cookie balls. We don’t have one, so we used our hands. Right before the cookies go in, garnish them with sprinkles!

Pop the cookies in the oven for 12-15 minutes.

Toddler approved. He picked off the sprinkles first!

Just like that, you have delicious cookies for everyone to enjoy.

This recipe yielded 24 cookies. I stored mine in a Ziploc bag with a piece of bread to keep them soft!

We hope you enjoy!

XO Kate & Elizabeth

crafts, Motherhood, toddlers, Uncategorized

Color Hunt

Play is the highest form of research.

Albert Einstein

As we came inside to take a break from playing in the rain, I noticed all the colors dancing around our playroom. I realized that the toys we play with day in and day out are, in themselves, a learning tool. So, we went on a treasure hunt, well, a color hunt. You’ll see what I mean.

What you will need:

  • Two toilet paper rolls or one paper towel roll cut in half.
  • Tape
  • A large piece of paper 
  • Markers

Grab your big piece of paper and divide it into equal sections. I did 9 squares, but you can use as many or few based on what is best for your child. Next, write down the names of the colors using the corresponding marker.

While making the grid, have your child color the toilet or paper towel rolls. Once they are done coloring, take some tape and tape the rolls together. Now, you are ready to go on a color hunt!

Place the piece of paper in the middle of the room and let your kiddo go to work. Have them look around and find anything they can that matches the colors in your grid. Gray loved looking through his binoculars to find each new item.

Some colors can be a little tricky, like those teal puzzle pieces. He switched them between the green and the blue a few times, but either would be have been correct. Let your kiddo problem solve and search without interference, unless they ask for help of course!

Gray looked around the playroom for almost an hour, adding and taking away things as the grid filled. This is something that we will do again in the near future.

If you want to add more literacy, this fun art project pairs well with the book, Brown Bear, Brown Bear. It is one of our favorites and a great way to explore color learning.

What are some of your favorite color projects?

Take a look at some more fun activities for your kiddos.

XO Kate & Elizabeth

Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive a small affiliate commission. Regardless, we give our promise that we only recommend products or services we would use personally and believe will add values to our readers.

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I Hide Ice-Cream in My Coffee Cup

A friend of mine recently shared an article on Facebook about moms getting burnt out, and how a self-care moment here and there isn’t enough. And in her status she said, “So what’s the freaking solution?! Tired of feeling like there isn’t one.”

And you know what. Me too. I didn’t know how to give advice to my fellow mom friend because I am that mom too. I don’t know the answer because I also face the problem. I don’t feel like this everyday, but some days, of course I do! Is there anyone that doesn’t? She mentioned just not wanting to get out of bed and do it (aka parent today). My only attempt at advice was that it’s totally okay to let yourself feel that way. We feel like we should’t feel that way for some reason, but it’s 100% okay to FEEL. Sometimes I don’t want to mom either. Sometimes my kids want to read a book or play a game that I just don’t want to. I don’t even want to fake want to. Do you want to wear this necklace? Not really. Want to play doctor with me? Please no, not again, because spoiler alert, I always give the wrong diagnosis to the same exact symptom and have to start over! I think that’s incredibly normal to feel this way. So why do we feel bad about it? What do we do?

I often thank the stars that I went to high school before social media. THANK. GOODNESS. Kids have it so hard today! And in many ways, moms do too. I love sharing photos on Instagram of my children with family and friends who live far away from us. I love following high school and even elementary school friends on Facebook and watching their success. I love following local pages and finding events. I love this blog and hearing from other parents, like you! What I don’t love is seeing other people compare themselves to the homes, children, and mothers online. I don’t love seeing snarky, imposing comments on my friend’s public Instagram accounts. Not to toot my own horn, but I think I have a fair amount of self-confidence and a good filter. It is pretty easy for me to be optimistic and happy for someone, yet tell myself that’s probably not their everyday. I understand Instagram. I understand it’s highlights and collaborations and pretty snippets. If your house is spotless every single day, I’m not even jealous, I don’t even want that much cleaning in my life! I also want the best for people. I really do. I have no desire to say something that would in any way diminish the picture you want the world to see. It’s your life. But some people apparently do! I truly believe that moms are letting STRANGERS get to them, making them think they should do more with their kids, work less, be cleaner, buy more things, not sell things on social media, take trips, be home more. This is adding to the burn out.

When I got hooked on “Girl Wash Your Face,” like many other women out there, it was not in her inspirational stories (of which there are many) that drew me in, but her real life admissions in the very first chapter. Why? Because it reinforces the thought that IT’S NOT JUST ME. I am not the only one. She’s a great mom, and she falters too. I can’t imagine the scrutiny she has faced, the DMs and emails she has had to read, just because people disagree and feel the need to let her know. Why do people have the urge to criticize? A healthy debate is one thing, but making someone feel wrong or less than is completely different. And comparing your life to someone else’s online life is ridiculous. Comparison is the thief of joy, so just plain DON’T!

So, like my friend asked, what’s the freaking solution? I think the solution is truth & a filter, but that’s easier said than done. One of the best things we can do as moms is be ourselves, share our truths, and have the confidence to not care what others think NOR care if their life seems a little shinier. Assume that people feel the same way when they see your life! You would be surprised how many people think the world of your parenting skills and the things you do for your kids. Assume that people are sharing their highlights, their best moments, because who really wants to remember the bad ones? Don’t let what someone else does affect your mood or your parenting for the worse, only for the better. And for goodness sake PLEASE HAVE A FILTER. Not only in what you see, but in what you say to others.

I say all of this because her comment really struck a chord with me. For one, she was not someone I would have believed to be struggling. She is a wonderful mom, a kind and genuine person, and runs her own business. It was refreshing, to see her admit this instead of posting a shiny picture. Like reading that book, it made me feel like I’m not alone on the days I feel like this too. And now I hope you know you aren’t either.

Here are some of our truths, from both Elizabeth & Kate, to let you know we may have clever DIY ideas and take our kids on fun adventures and seem patient AF, but we are often boring and messy and super impatient:

-I hide ice-cream in my coffee cup during the day. If my kids get suspicious I tell them it’s coffee yogurt and get no more questions.
-My kids DO watch TV, and sometimes way “too much,” but they don’t mind, I stay sane on those days, and they won’t be worse off later in life. They really won’t.
-We eat chicken nuggets and frozen pizza and Easy Mac on the reg. Healthy meals that everyone loves make me feel like a supermom, but they don’t happen every day.
-About those healthy meals, sometimes I bribe my kids to eat them. “If you finish your plate, you can have a cookie”, is said probably a few to many times around here.
-I do yell at my kids and only sometimes feel bad about it afterwards. My oldest usually laughs at me, so I don’t think she will be scarred for life. I am an imperfect person, and emotions sometimes get the best of me.
-We go on car rides just for my sanity’s sake. When everyone is having a meltdown, we hop in the car and good ol’ Starbucks drive thru here we come.
-I don’t dust. I just don’t. And sweeping and mopping are rare. Dog hair is a way of life around here and the four of us are okay with it.
-I don’t always want to play with my kids. Sure, building a tower can be fun, but after 10 or so times I’m over it.
-We listen to 90’s rap music and dance around the room. Disney is great, but sometimes you just need to bring back the oldies and skip the kid music.
-I watch trashy TV to wind down instead of being productive. Often. I too see those “supermoms” who raise 5 kids and run a business and sew their matching clothes and then craft on their vinyl machine. Or spend their downtime reading current events. Nope, not me. I don’t have the energy left at the end of the day and just want some mindless “me” time.
-Which brings me to the fact that I BOUGHT a vinyl machine and barely know how to use it. It’s okay to not be crafty.
-I worry about how people will take what I say and I am a classic people-pleaser, but I also try to be true to myself and teach my kids to be respectful, but strong. We are all just doing our best!

Bachelorette and overpriced ice coffee while the kids nap instead of doing ANYTHING ELSE productive. Cheers to mindless me time!

Share one of your mom truths in the comments below. It’s freeing, I promise! And we definitely won’t judge. Thanks for reading!

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