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Tag: Moms

7 Slideshow Moments That Sent My Mom-Hormones Over The Edge

I think us mommy bloggers need a support group.  “Hi I’m Mama and it’s been four years since I wasn’t someone’s mom.”  It defines who we are and what we do every. single. day.  Some of you may be wondering, what happened to 365Outside?  Don’t worry, I’m still here, and we’re still outside every day.  I’ll get right back to blogging all about it as soon as I’m done with this.  But sometimes our outdoor time is drowned out by mommy moments.

Mommy moments.

Mommy moments.

That’s what happened last week when Junior turned four.  He was sick, and he’s also been really moody.  Which of course makes me moody too.  I sometimes tell my friends that pregnancy hormones don’t go away.  They just get worse.  From the moment you get pregnant, you are doomed to a lifetime of watching your heart grow and pull away from you. Before kids, I was emotionally balanced.  Now, I’m constantly walking around on the verge of tears and just about anything can send me over the edge:  a son rubbing noses with me, a sappy ad for diapers, a reality TV reunion.  Heck, even those Youtube videos of dogs welcoming their soldiers home.  I’m telling you, it’s BAD.

So there we were, on his birthday, and of course I was teetering on the edge ALL DAY just thinking about it.  He needed help tying his shoes, and as I knelt in front of him, he leaned into me and wrapped his arms around me, holding me tightly against him.  Oh god, here come the tears.  And in that moment, all the other moments came rushing back to me, like a slideshow of sloppy mom-tears.  I couldn’t help it.

Brand new.

Brand new.

1.  The room is too bright and he has just arrived, all warm and moist, whisked away by a nurse to the stainless NICU station where they check that he’s alright.  I am euphoric and don’t understand their distress, or his.  I am telling them that my husband was supposed to cut the cord.  After they’ve taken him, I am calling after them, telling them his name.  We’d kept it a secret until he was born, and I can’t wait any longer.  Soon he is back, rooting on my chest, eyes closed.  I think that he looks like the baby squirrel I found when I was little, fallen from its nest after a storm, blindly pawing for anything warm.  I am pressing my nose against his head, against the wet swirl of dark hair, breathing through him.  Trying to inhale this moment.  Trying to keep it. My eyes well with tears.

Big brother?!

Big brother?!

2.  Fast forward and we are all in the tiny downstairs bathroom, the three of us, our perfect little family.  I am holding the stick, and the lines come up immediately bright.  I toss it on the counter.  Maybe too hard.  My husband is smiling.  Maybe too hard.  I am scared, and excited, and shocked.  I am looking down at the baby on the floor, who is staring up at me with wide eyes, pulling on my pants, trying to stand.  He is still a baby, I am thinking.  And soon there will be another.  Two babies.  Then I think the words, “big brother.”  My eyes well with tears.

Best friends.

Best friends.

3.  Fast forward and we are back in the too bright room, but this time we are here after a blissful blur, a baby born in the bathtub, just a couple hours after I’d put big brother to bed.  There is a messy mop of blond hair hanging over the edge of the plastic bassinet, his little feet scaling its shelves below.  He is wearing a shirt that says “Best Bro Ever.”  He doesn’t understand what we’re all doing here, with this little baby.  He doesn’t know that this little baby will grow to be his best friend.  My eyes well with tears.

Two babies.

Two babies.

4.  Fast forward.  We are home, and I am covered in babies.  The little one is on my breast.  The bigger one is crawling up my legs and snuggling into the softness of my stomach.  He needs reminders to be gentle, to be slow.  He is sticky and smells like soap.  He pats the baby’s head, rubs his back.  He says, “I love you, brother.”  It is the first time.  My eyes well with tears.

First day of school.

First day of school.

5.  Fast forward and it’s the first day of preschool.  He is running ahead of me, his backpack dragging along the sidewalk behind him.  I have to run to catch his hand, so that I can hold it while we walk through the doors.  It is me who wants to hold his hand this time.  He barrels into his classroom, not a second glance.  There are two kids crying, grasping at their mommies’ legs, begging them to stay.  I have to call him back to give him a kiss goodbye.  As I’m leaving, I peek through the window and see him playing trucks.  Behind him, his teacher is prying another toddler away from her mom.  I’m not sure which is worse.  My eyes well with tears.

An epic meltdown.

An epic meltdown.

6.  Fast forward and we’re in the locker room at the gym.  His face is smeared with snot and tears, and he is almost purple as he shrieks that he wants to go swimming NOW.  But I tell him, it’s too late.  His lesson is over, and he refused to get in the water, stubbornly planting himself on the wall of the pool for 20 minutes.  We cannot go swimming now.  He throws his body on the floor and wails.  I open the door to our changing stall because I’m worried someone will think that something terrible is happening here.  I have to carry him to the car.  He is kicking and screaming, his head is flailing.  I am worried I may drop him.  There are other moms in the lobby on our way out, who sadly smile knowingly.  One of them pauses to tell me, “You’re doing a good job.”  And my eyes well with tears.

Still three, one last time.

Still three, one last time.

7.  Fast forward, too fast, and we’re here.  He is turning four tomorrow and I’ve found his beloved satin blue Lovey downstairs long after he’s gone to sleep.  Up until just recently he wouldn’t go to bed without it.  Tonight, he didn’t even notice it was missing.  I sneak into his room to check on him before I go to bed. He’s asleep, and I tuck his Lovey in behind his head, where he will find it right away when he rolls over and reaches for it in his sleep.  He might not need it anymore, but I need to know it’s there.  It’s the last time I will see him while he’s still three. My wild, thoughtful, funny, perceptive little boy who is no longer a toddler. I cannot believe we are here.  My eyes well with tears.

The Only Two Places You Should Bring Your Sick Kid

Look out, I’m going to get preachy here in a little bit.  There’s not much that I feel justified in really crying from the rooftops, but when it comes to my kids and their health, you can bet I’m up there.

Junior has been sick this week.  I should have known it was coming.

Lending Little Bear a helping hand, and some germs.

Lending Little Bear a helping hand, and some germs.

Four days ago, after playing outside for the morning, we went to open gym hours at our local YMCA.  We had already spent the morning outside but decided to meet some friends for some indoor exercise.  If you are looking for a way to run your kids ragged without being outside all the time, this is it.  Basically, they open the gymnastics area and let the kids go nuts on all sorts of trampolines, gym mats, balance beams, rings, swings, etc. It’s probably also a breeding ground for every child ailment known to man.  Including the one that Junior unknowingly left behind.  Sorry.

In any case, the kids love it.  Except for this time.

This time, Junior wanted to play with Little Bear for the first half an hour.  Awwww, I thought this was really, really cute.  He usually takes off like a rocket with the big kids, leaving his little bro to fend for himself.  But this time he was all about following Little Bear, helping him climb things, and taking things slow.  In retrospect, first warning sign.  Then, he jumped into a pit filled with foam blocks and asked if he could go to sleep.  That’s when the alarm bells really started ringing.  This is not my wild child.

The moment I knew he was getting sick!

The moment I knew he was getting sick!

By the time it was time to go, we had a full-blown tantrum of exhaustion on our hands and it took previously unseen levels of bribery to get this kid to the car.

At home, he took a long nap, and woke up with a fever.  Things generally progressed from there, and a trip to the doctor revealed nothing significant so we left with the typical, “It’s probably a virus. We’ll have to let it run its course.”

Yesterday, Junior and Little Bear were supposed to go to Legoland.  It was a trip planned weeks in advance, courtesy of Omi and Opi, but of course with Junior feeling sick, we decided to put it off until a later date.

Which brings me to my soapbox.  Hold on a sec while I get on it. . .  Okay, there we go.

A double-decker of under the weather kids last winter.

A double-decker of under the weather kids last winter.

There are only two places where it’s okay to bring your sick kid.  

Yeah, I’m going to repeat that a little louder this time.

THERE ARE ONLY TWO PLACES WHERE IT’S OKAY TO BRING YOUR SICK KID.

It’s not okay to bring your sick kid to the mall to stretch his legs.  It’s not okay to dose him up on Tylenol and drop him at the kiddycare while you work out at the gym.  It’s not okay to get him dressed and head to your local indoor play space where you try to wipe the river of green snot from his nose as discreetly as possible.  It’s definitely not okay to bring him to Legoland.

 1. The Doctor.  

This is the only crowded, public space where you should bring your sick kid.  And keep in mind he will probably pick up just as many germs here as he’s dropping off.

Most daycares and schools have clear definitions of a child who is too sick to attend.  Even though the same may not be posted at the mall, or the gym, or the play center, please don’t bring your contagious kids out in crowded, public places where they’re going to come into contact with countless others, including those like Little Bear who pick up every germ in the room.  Your week of sleepless nights and endless kleenex shortages doesn’t need to turn into someone else’s.

There’s a limit to sharing is caring.

And this is just the common courtesy side of things. There’s a whole other angle when we start to talk about health risks.  For some kids with suppressed immune systems or immunodeficiencies, your child’s cold or flu could snowball into something much more serious.  You don’t want to be responsible for that.  It’s not worth the risk.

The good news is, there is someplace aside from the doctor’s, where you can bring your sick kid.

2.  Outside!

It’s an old wives’ tale that going outside while sick is bad for you. As long as baby is bundled appropriately for the weather, the fresh air can be a relief.  In fact, some common kid ailments like croup even improve with exposure to cooler air.

Feeling well enough for a little stroll.

Feeling well enough for a little stroll.

When Junior is just a little sick, he still relishes time outside in small doses.  He will go for short walks.  He will ride his bike down the street, or push dump trucks around the backyard.  He doesn’t have the same energy as when he’s well, but as long as he’s wearing plenty of layers and keeping warm, he will usually still enjoy himself outside.

This time around, he’s feeling more tired so he’s not up for his usual outdoor play.  This time it isn’t sniffles and a tickle in his throat.  The kid is 103-fever, no-energy, no-appetite, not-himself SICK.  So, for some fresh air and a change of scene, we spread some blankets on the ground, put a cozy fleece jacket on over his Batman jammies, and did some puzzles in the sunshine.  When he felt tired and wanted to snuggle, we pulled some chairs together and had a little snack, all cozied up.  The fresh air and sunshine felt great.  And we didn’t have to worry about spreading his germs.

Running a 103 fever, but content to be cozy and soak up some sunshine in the backyard.

Running a 103 fever, but content to be cozy and soak up some sunshine in the backyard.

Sometimes it’s just a nice change of scene. It’s all about reading your kids’ cues and keeping the activities appropriate to their energy levels.  Just because you’re outside doesn’t mean you need to be playing a raucous game of dodgeball.  Take it slow and let your kiddo set the pace.

I have done a lot of research into the health benefits of getting outside while sick, because I know it can be a divisive issue.  Tradition tells me that sick kids should be kept in bed to rest and recover.  And these myths seem to be perpetuated all over the internet without any research to support them.

Quiet games and puzzles on a blanket while he gets a little fresh air.

Quiet games and puzzles on a blanket while he gets a little fresh air.

As early as 1890, an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association was extolling the healing benefits of fresh air excursions for sick women and children (sorry, guys!).  They even write about a floating hospital moored in the lower bay near Manhattan, where ailing patients could spend time in the summer to receive fresh ocean air and “salt water baths.”  Additionally, “health resorts” in the Adirondacks were attributed to healing pulmonary diseases.  Of course, there is a lot of medicine from history that we shouldn’t subscribe to today (can you say lobotomy?) but I think they were on to something here.

More recently, studies have agreed that fresh air and exposure to natural light can actually speed up healing times, reduce stress levels, and diminish pain levels.  Amazing right?  And if that’s not enough evidence for you, here is a blog written by a pediatrician who also agrees!

So next time you see me lying in our backyard on a blanket with a sick kid curled under my arm, rest assured that we’re just partaking in a little bit of nature therapy!  And don’t worry, you won’t be seeing us sneaking down Motrin in the bathroom stalls at Legoland anytime soon.

Junior Turns Four!

I cannot believe that this little boy is four years old today!

10 Things I Learned From Camping with the Kids

I will admit it.  About 12 hours into our camping trip, I was already fantasizing about bailing.  I was lying in our tent’s predawn glow, essentially on the ground (because my circa-1985 Thermarest had slowly deflated over the course of the last 6 hours) and I was trying to stay as still as possible so that I wouldn’t wake Little Bear who was about 18 inches away.

I had it all planned out.  The Captain and Junior, sound asleep in their own tent, could stay the course and I would bring Little Bear back to my parents’ house, not far away, where I would sleep on a real bed, in complete silence and darkness, and wake to espresso.  It would be decadent.

Our campsite, finally all set up!

Our campsite, finally all set up!

You have probably already figured out that our family is not one to dabble.  We do not in general lightly sample but instead tend to dive headfirst into whatever adventure is next (after The Captain checks the water, that is.)  This is how we came to spend four years living on sailboats, how we came to buy a house sight-unseen, and how we came to have two little boys in the span of 19 months.  So it should not come as a surprise that when we decided to take the boys camping for the first time, we booked an off-grid site for the middle of September in New England.

Truthfully, the site books up six months in advance so, having not come up with the idea until March, September was the earliest availability.  But timing aside, we did purposefully choose a campground that had no running water, no electricity, and no street access.  There would be no retreating to the car for a morning coffee run, no asking our neighbors if we could borrow some dish soap, no packing the car full of supplies for every possible what-if scenario.  We would have to arrive, with all commodities, by boat and rely only on what we had packed.

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Sunrise on the first morning (aka what convinced me not to pack my bags and head for the hills!)

But, I did not end up leaving early.  I ended up lying perfectly still for another hour, until Little Bear began to stir, and I dared to unzip the tent and step into the dewy morning.  After my morning coffee and a sunrise swim, the world was right again.

We only spent two nights out there with the boys, but it was long enough to know that we wished we could stay much longer and that next time, we will.  The learning curve was steep, and I’m sure there will be plenty more to learn next time.

To get started, here are ten things I learned this time along the way:

1. Never underestimate the power of simple comforts from home.  

My children are creatures of habit and nothing says comfort to them like a cup of warm milk and a snuggle with their lovies.  This was one area in which we didn’t skimp.  If you have a comfort routine at home, stick with it on-the-go.  Along these lines, I left my pillow at home, and missed it all weekend.  If you have the space, pack the things from home that bring you the greatest and most basic comfort.  A pillow and a steaming mug of hot coffee in the morning are pretty much all I need.

2.  Surrender the schedule

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Early morning beach romping for Little Bear

Before I had kids, I was one of those extra-annoying people who talked about how, when I did have children, they would be super flexible and “just along for the ride.”  HA! I’m officially sorry to everyone who had to listen to that bull.  My kids are the opposite of “along for the ride.”  In fact, sometimes I feel like it’s me who’s being taken for a ride!

We have a pretty rigid schedule that we usually stick to in  order to make sure that the kids are getting enough rest and eating healthily.  When we can’t stick to the schedule, they tend to transform from adorable, affectionate little munchkins into holy terrors.  Have you seen what happens when you feed a Gremlin after midnight?  Very similar experience.

In any case, when camping, it went out the window.  The kids were up late with the campfire.  They were up early with the sun.  They rested multiple times during the day, sometimes napping, sometimes not.  They did a lot of snacking.  A LOT.  But since the entire day was pretty open without any commitments, we were able to make it work.  They were still mostly well-rested and well-fed, so this laissez-faire approach worked better for our schedule while camping.  It was not easy for me to let go of our usual schedule, but things were SO MUCH easier once I waved the white flag.

3.  Good company is key!

Our private beach!

Our private beach!

Since The Captain and I already spend enough time staring into each other’s eyes (just kidding . . . kind of!) we brought along some good friends and their daughter.  It was awesome to have our friends along, and not just because they brought all the things we forgot.  Friends also bring a fresh perspective and, when needed, a different voice to tell your kids to quit it.  These friends in particular were a huge help because they had spent a lot of time on the island in the past, and could show us around!  Plus their daughter playing with our boys is just about the cutest thing ever.

4.  Coffee.  As much as possible.  As soon as possible.  

Enough said.  But really, this is no different from my daily life.

5.  No shame in plan B.

Even though I didn’t end up taking Little Bear to seek refuge with Nana and Poppy, if he had not started sleeping better and had the weather not been as good as it was, we would have.  It was comforting to even know that was an option.  And there is no sense in making everyone miserable just to say you finished what you started.  Remember, 365Outside is not a competition – it is supposed to be fun.

6.  The greater the risk, the greater the reward.

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Sunrise swim for Junior and The Captain

Though it would have been a lot easier to drive up to a campsite, pull the tent out of the car, and set it up right there, it wouldn’t have been as fun.  We are adventurers, after all! We didn’t want to be in a cramped campsite, wedged between strangers and tripping over each other. Instead we chose a campground accessible only by personal boat, with only 10 campsites total.  It was quiet and there was a ton of space to spread out.  Our campsite even had its own private beach.  We spent most of the weekend blinking at each other, repeating how we couldn’t believe how amazing the place was.

7.  Pray to the weather gods

We seriously lucked out!  When we booked this back in March, we knew that September could be a gamble.  It could have been 50 degrees and rainy.  There could have been a hurricane.  It could have been completely miserable.  Instead, it was 77 degrees and sunny.  There is no way we’d have been able to stick it out if it had been horrible weather.  We are all for enjoying the outdoors regardless of the weather, but with nowhere to truly dry off and warm up, the kids would have been a wreck within a few hours.  We were so grateful to enjoy this last gasp of summer!

8.  It gets easier the longer you’re there.

We wished we could stay longer not only because we were having so much fun, but also because it takes a while to settle in and get the hang of things.  The second night was much easier (as in, we actually slept) and the kids were really getting the hang of things.  It only took a full 36 hours of repeating “Do not wear your shoes in the tent,” before they began to listen.  Imagine the possibilities if we’d stayed a week!  They would have probably achieved world peace . . . or world domination.  Hmmmmmmm.

9.  Children are primal, wild beasts.  

The kids, going berserk.

The kids, going berserk.

As soon as we got off the boat and unloaded what was, literally, a boatload of gear, the kids went nuts. It was like returning a wild animal to its natural habitat.  They sniffed around for maybe two minutes and then were immediately running in circles, kicking up dirt, making crazy little hooting sounds.  Our friends’ daughter was literally picking up handfuls of dirt and rubbing them into her scalp.  Little Bear found an old half-burnt log and smeared the ashes on his face before he tried to take a bite of it.  And you know what?  That’s ok.  No, I’m not going to let him eat things he finds lying around in the woods, but it’s ok for them to get filthy.  It’s ok for them to let loose.  That’s why we’re here.  It’s nothing a dip in the ocean won’t take care of.

10.  It’s all about the memories.

Our kids had their first s’mores.  They watched their first sunrise over the water, in their jammies, before stripping down for a morning swim.  They built sand castles, dug rivers, foraged for firewood, and went “bear-hunting.”  They went to sleep when it got dark and woke when it got light again.  For a few days, they lived a simpler, happier life.  And that makes me happy too.  We will definitely be back.

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How Playing Outside Makes Me a Better Mom

Outside, we operate at kid-speed.

Outside, we operate at kid-speed.

My kids are too young to really explain to me why they are happiest outside, but I know that they are.  Outside, they aren’t bored.  They aren’t fussy or needy.  They aren’t tantrum-throwing tyrants who have led our parenting motto to the international policy of not negotiating with terrorists. Outside they are the leaders, and they thrive in their own time.

A Hurried Life

During our normal day-to-day, I feel like I’m always rushing.  And I feel like everyone around me is always rushing too.  It is a rushed world.  For me, one of the hardest parts of parenting is slowing down for my kids.

Little Bear, determined to do everything in his own time.

Little Bear, determined to do everything in his own time.

Sometimes I’m not patient with them when it happens.  I mean, I’m trying to get two toddlers into shoes and jackets, out the door, and into the car before we’re late for school which leads to being late for swimming which leads to being late for grocery shopping which leads to forgetting milk, bread, and toilet paper, and/or being late for school pick up.  And either way, that leads to a tired, hangry kid who wants to flail on the floor by the door instead of taking off his shoes.

Nope, that’s not a typo.  He’s hungry-angry.  It’s the worst kind of toddler that there is.

But I know that if I push more now, that if I get loud and put on my teacher-voice and demand that he take off his shoes IMMEDIATELY (which is exactly what I want to do more than anything), he will crumble.  See, beyond his hangry gnashing teeth and rigid arched back, I can still see those scared eyes, begging me to please slow down.  He just doesn’t know how to tell me yet.

An exhausted, unshowered, hurried Mama, doing what Mamas do.

An exhausted, unshowered, hurried Mama, doing what Mamas do.

Slowing Down

He needs me to pause.  To talk quietly with him.  To touch him gently.  He needs me to wait until he is ready to take off his shoes because it’s the only thing he can control right now.  AND IT IS NOT EASY.  Honestly, I want to pry them off his little feet.  But instead, we are sitting on the cold tiles in the entryway, him sniffling quietly and me just sitting there with a hand on his back.  This is motherhood.

Playing outside daily has helped me to reconnect.  Playing outside is slow time.  It is kid time.  The minutes may fly by, but in my role as facilitator and then spectator, I am slow.  Even when the boys are running past in a blur of raincoats and muddy boots, I am watching them carefully, slowly, trying to memorize these moments.

Sometimes outdoor play is just a blur of toddler energy steaming past.

Sometimes outdoor play is a blur of toddler energy steaming past.

“I Live You.”

The Captain was offshore last week and I sent him a picture of the boys.  He wrote back, “I love them,” and I wrote to him, “I love them too.”  Only, when I was typing it, in my rush, I wrote, “I live them too.”  I quickly corrected it and sent my response, but I thought about it for a long time after.  It was even more true than what I had meant to say.

I do love them.  I love them so deeply and so intensely that my core aches when I pause to feel it.  But even more so, I live them.  From the moment I wake up, they are my world.

I live to hear their little feet padding down the stairs in the morning.  I live to snuggle them while they cozy up with their morning cup of milk.  I live to press my nose into the spot on their heads where the hair spirals and I breathe them in.  I live to check on them before I go to sleep at night, gently tucking the corners of the sheets back in, putting away books left in their beds, kissing their sticky sweet foreheads.  And in other ways too, I live them. I live to feed them, to bathe them, to teach them, and to raise them.  I live every moment of them, even when they are writhing around on the floor with dog hair stuck to their teary faces.

Other times, outdoor play just means lounging on the back deck with your brother, checking out the clouds.

Other times, outdoor play just means lounging on the back deck with your brother, checking out the clouds.

So when we are outside, I live that time with them.  I try to notice what they are noticing.  I try to let them lead our adventures.  They become the trailblazers, the chiefs, the innovators.  Sometimes I offer activities or ideas, which they sometimes accept and sometimes choose otherwise.  Our time outdoors is just as much about letting my kids be kids at their own speed as it is about reconnecting with nature.

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