Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What is it that you do all day?

My conscience lately has been sounding a lot like The Bobs from the movie Office Space.

Perhaps it's my Type A personality. Perhaps it's the elementary teacher in me.  Or perhaps it's just my neurotic need for every minute of the day to have a "purpose" or plan. Any of those reasons may be describing my need for a schedule now that it's just Mommy and baby home alone...from 7:30 a.m. to about 5:30 when Nick comes through that door. People, that's a lot of open time for a mother who is used to having every minute filled with "something".  Stay-at-home mothering is not always a cakewalk (in case anyone thinks it is).  There are times in the day that just fly by (naptime) and others that seem like they have taken hours, but really only 10 minutes have gone by when you look at your watch (go down the slide again?).  I also think I am still trying to convince any naysayers that stay-at-home moms don't just sit watching hours of TV eating bon-bons while their child plays with toys for six hours a day.  There is work involved that perhaps doesn't provide a paycheck or daily recognition, but serves a purpose just the same.

Day two of staying home with Noah has been filled with activity...but I continue to have the nagging feeling of "what are we going to do next?" I am sure not every mother feels this way if they have a 16 month old that plays independently for hours at a time or is content playing with the same toys for four hour stretches. If you are that mom...well, congratulations! Your child is also most likely the one that carefully turns book pages, stops immediately what they are doing when mom quietly says "no, no", or even begins to pick up after themselves when they scatter building blocks all over the floor.  My child, on the other hand, is "100% boy" as many people describe (actually my kind, elderly neighbor Mary said "150% boy"...still letting that sink in as a positive comment). Noah is just active and enjoys hands on interaction at most if not all times of the day aside from eating, sleeping, or watching his daily Baby Einstein video (God Bless the creators of those masterpieces!!!).  So, my day and week is stacked with activities in order to tire my little one out for a long afternoon nap (still working on getting down to one long nap instead of 2 small ones). 

Things that Noah and I enjoy to fill up our day~

Visit a spray park.

Weekly visit with our friends Ray...

and Amelia...

Walk to the playground in our subdivision (a 5 minute walk that Noah already knows the route to) or visit the big playground in downtown Grand Blanc.

Other popular hangouts...our driveway pushing garage sale toys, The Flint Children's Museum (wonderful!), the mall play area, Target, the library, and Kroger (yes, Kroger, where I get to buy groceries and Noah gets to see balloons and ride in the car cart.  It's really a win-win).

Some wise advice I heard through the grapevine is that it's not good to schedule too much in your day...and I think that makes a lot of sense. Babies and toddlers need a good balance of downtime and stimulation. Scheduling event after event after event will not only burn the child out but also the mom.  Also, I have things to do during the day that Noah can't or doesn't need to be part of (like laundry, making dinner, cleaning the house) so I have been incorporating lots of opportunities throughout the day for him to be independent with his toys in the living room. Although his favorite activity in the living room is opening and shutting the baby gate...he can do this for about 20 minutes at a time :-)

Some reading this may still be asking, "Michelle...you only have one child to watch, so what is it you exactly DO during nap time for instance?"  Well, right now I'm updating my blog.  Other things I enjoy are reading, scrapbooking, or baking.  I may load the dishwasher or take care of something small around the house...but right now I am using his nap time as MY TIME to enjoy something.   My day begins at 6:30 really (I'll write about THAT later...) and ends around 8 p.m. when Noah goes to bed. I know once baby #2 comes...there will be no more MY time to speak of for the next 25 years, so I am going to cherish it while I can.

In closing, while I stress about filling our days with activities to keep Noah happy and me sane, I am posting this quote from Pulitzer Prize winning author Anna Quindlan in my journal and on my fridge.  This quote was at end of Melissa Stanton's book The Stay-At-Home Survival Guide. It really sums up why I am staying home this year...and perhaps longer.  I also think it is a helpful quote for ANY parent, working or staying home.  Noah is only going to be small once.  That is it.  There is no rewind button in life and we are not young forever.  There is an end to everything...even childhood as we all know too well.  Anna Quindlan, with three children now grown, wrote this in a column from Newsweek in 2007 for Mother's Day:

"The biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this.  I did not live in the moment enough.  This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs.  There is one picture of the three of them, sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4, and 1.  And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept at night.  I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing:  dinner, bath, book, bed.  I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less."
(excerpt from Stay-At-Home Survival Guide: field tested strategies for staying smart, sane, and connected while caring for your kids by Melissa Stanton.  Seal Press: 2008.)

So while Noah and I have the time to do fun things like go to museums, playdates, and malls (and I'm around now for the diaper changing, temper tantrums, and messes)...I am going to pay attention to the little things as well a bit more just like Noah does when I am distracted.  Just the other day he was amazed at a leaf blowing by and scraping the driveway, picking it up carefully and inspecting it.  He also will stop whatever he is doing if he spots a rock or group of rocks and makes a surprised sound as if he just won the lottery.  Another simple pleasure I get while at home...eating lunch with him every day :-)

Sunday, August 28, 2011


Every summer I have a "summer to-do" list that Nick and I write in June. It's almost like a resolution list in a way because we write down short term projects and habits we would like to accomplish in the two and a half months before school begins again. This summer was no different and amidst my list of 9 tasks written...I completed #7 just the other day...painting our front door.  (#8 and #9 on my list...scrapbooking trips we've taken and painting/decorating Noah's new room will have to be pushed until the fall...Think I bit off more than I can chew with this summer's list :-)

BEFORE:  Our door was a dull light blue/gray color

AFTER:  Plum is totally me...and I think very welcoming!  :-)

It's always amazing to me what a little paint, elbow grease, and time can do to a home.  I kept putting this off and putting this off...but in only a matter of three hours I had a new front door with updated white trim as well.  And the best feeling of all...crossing this off the list.

Wilkommen to the Hagewood home!

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Perhaps it's the looming knowledge that next week I'm really...on...my...own. While I have been what I would call a "stay-at-home-mom" (or SAHM as many hip, trendy mothers now refer to themselves) for two months now that school has let out, I don't think I would be completely genuine if I didn't fully realize how good I have had it this summer as opposed to other full time moms. Being a teacher married to a teacher has always meant that Nick and I's summers were all ours. Pre-Noah, summer was the time for us to travel, complete home renovations, or find a friends pool to waste away an afternoon in the sun. Just the other day, as I finally dropped onto the couch after putting Noah down for his afternoon nap, I asked Nick, "what exactly did we DO during the summers before Noah?" We both chuckled and agreed that we were either extremely bored or found other ways to keep us busy. Which, to some degree, was true. We had three childless summers in our marriage, one of which we married and honeymooned in, one I finished student teaching for 8 weeks at a summer school, and the other...well, we had plenty to do around the house as well as visited places like Mexico, California, Spain. We were THAT couple...the couple that saved their pennies to really enjoy their vacation time knowing full well that once children came, the opportunity to travel would be limited (not absent).
Honeymoon in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico~ July 2007

San Francisco, CA~ July 2008

Barcelona, Spain~ August 2009

Even last summer, with a small newborn in tow, we ventured to San Antonio, Texas and Orlando, Florida to visit family. Traveling has always been something we enjoy...but we have always been realistic knowing that once children arrive the places we go will depend solely on our growing family. Let's face it, an on-a-whim trip to the Meditterranean for a few weeks is not realistically in the cards for us right now considering our extra baggage which I like to refer to as a "toddler".

But back to the point of this post is that this new role for me, being home full time with a toddler, is still a bit scary and unknown to me. I have had plenty of days this summer that Nick has gone into work, golfed, or hung out with friends and it was just Noah and I for the majority of the day. But truthfully, I have not yet been home a full week alone with my boy since maternity leave. It's a huge help to have another adult in the house in order to do things you take for granted like shower daily or go anywhere kid-free. And while a large, large part of me is so grateful, at peace, and excited to be able to be around Noah more than I would if I was working...another small part of me fears the boredom, monotony, and challenges that staying home alone all day with a child can bring. Along with that sentence, let me also pour on a side order of "guilt gravy" for even thinking that way...

The book I'm reading right now, "The Stay-At-Home-Mom's Survival Guide" by Melissa Stanton is resonating with me for sure. The author's point of view as a stay-home-mom (and former editor of People and LIFE magazine) with three children is realistic and candid. Basically she's the type of mom I would want to be friends with...real, humorous, lovable, and sarcastic. In her book she provides suggestions for stay at home moms to balance the demands of the day and still find time for themselves and their marriage. She realizes the choice she made to give up her career for a while to be home with her kids and doesn't ALWAYS love that choice but knows it was the right choice for her. What??? Blasphemy!!! Well...quite honestly, that's me right now too. While I am very, very happy I'm not setting up a classroom or worrying about Open House night or sending Noah to daycare, I do worry about what I am becoming. Am I really now just a...mom? Why does that rub me the wrong way?

In all honestly, I have been struggling with the decision to stay-at-home or work full time for about two years now...ever since I was pregnant with Noah. And I know I am not the only woman to struggle with such a personal choice. I think what frustrates me even more than having to "struggle" or feel "guilt" about this decision are the condescending points of view from multiple sides of the aisle...working moms, present day stay-at-home-moms, stay-at-home-moms from the 60s and 70s, and part-time moms. Every woman has an opinion on what is BEST for children...and no one is really coming to the same conclusion. Studies show that daycare does provide cognitive benefits and socialization however studies also show that a child flourishes the most in their first three of life with their mother.

So what is a mother to do? Well, this mother at least is going to do what she feels is best for her family for NOW. I have so many circumstances that make my choice easy to make like a supportive husband who would be ok with me working or staying home (quite honestly, though, he is very happy I'm staying home this year with Noah) as long as I'm happy, a beautiful child who is funny, smart, and adorable, and the financial comfort to live on one income for a bit. I realize these blessings and know that not all women have these circumstances in their favor. Another thing I need to remember is that I am not deciding to stay home FOREVER...but FOR NOW. That's hard for me and my Type A personality to digest sometimes when I tend to plan things well in advance (so please don't ask me what I will do next year...that just makes me more anxious because I don't know for now...).

So next week I start my journey of being a full time stay-at-home parent to one lovable, active, and intelligent little toddler keeping in mind that while every minute of every day may not be spent with rainbows and giggles, the experience of this year being with just Noah for half the year and raising two small children after the New Year will be a special time for me that I will always recall, never regret, and most likely want back when I'm sending Noah off to college. :-)

Regrets? No.
Realistic worries? Sure.
Reasons to be thankful every day for this time in my life? Absolutely...and here are two of them:

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Summer is winding down...

August. Usually it's a bittersweet month for me. The excitement and dread of returning to work after a summer spent enjoying the sunshine, Lake Michigan, traveling, and time to do what I want. This year not returning to work has truly been a brand new feeling for me. I don't have to spend my weekends at Staples or Office Max hunting the penny deals for school supplies so my students have paper, glue, and pencils. I am not spending 12 hour days fixing up my classroom. My computer searches are not focused on great lesson plans or bulletin board ideas.  And best of all, I am not spending this month, like last year, crying throughout the day knowing that I will have to send my little one to daycare.

Now don't get me wrong...I would not be honest if I didn't say a small part of me is missing work. I do miss some things like my awesome work friends to chat with in the morning, the 20 minute drive in the morning listening to the radio as my only real "alone" time during the day, meeting new students, and teaching...especially writing...to an eager group of learners. However, I know that this year will be one of the most memorable for me because it is so different from any year I have had before. Since the age of 15, I have worked outside of school...and since I have been 5 I have been IN school in some capacity...as a student, student teacher, sub, or full time teacher. And another fact is that I have had Nick with me all this summer to help raise Noah with days here and there when he's gone. I have not truly "jumped" into the new schedule of staying home full time with just Noah...but that will end after this week. Nick returns to work next week so a new routine for all of us will be necessary.

Here are some highlights from August as a wrap up of our summer fun! I think one of the biggest challenges for me this year will be when winter strikes and we won't have the option to just "go outside" when we feel like it...so for now we are enjoying every bit of sunshine and nice weather we can...as well as all the fresh fruit we can get our hands on. :-)

Blueberries...his second favorite fruit (after raspberries).

A visit to the Berrien County Youth Fair...Noah loved petting the animals.

Noah's great-grandparents at the fair with us.
               Petting a baby calf, only a day and half old!


Enjoying the new slide...compliments of the neighborhood garage sale for $10...holla!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Halfway Mark

It's so hard to believe, but the 20 week mark is here! With this pregnancy, I have commented on how "different" I have felt compared to Noah. I just can not believe how quickly this has all has gone. I'm over halfway there considering my C-section will be around 39 weeks. According to The Bump.com my little bundle of joy is now the size of a cantaloupe...and I believe it! Sleeping in certain positions has become uncomfortable and when he or she moves from side to side it feels like an actual cantaloupe is turning inside me.

I have had many people ask me..."will you find out the gender?" We didn't with Noah and don't plan to with this one either. It was so special to continue guessing throughout the nine months if we were to be blessed with a boy or a girl. I truly just want a healthy child to love.  Two boys would be so adorable...and a girl, well, a girl (surprise, surprise to me who had always wanted all boys) would be special for sure. Don't get me wrong...I am not going to type here and lie saying it's "easy" with this one to not know. There is a larger part of me this time that would love to run to Carter's tomorrow after the ultrasound and stock up on more blue outfits...or whip out the credit card and buy all the pink and purple I can get my hands on. :-) But...when all is said and done it's refreshing to know that I don't know it all. I truly can not relate to mothers who know the gender beforehand. From there the baby is no longer baby but "Sophia", "Brandon", or "Avery" even before meeting their parents. With this one, the surprise date is taken out since my C-section will be scheduled...so I want to leave a little mystery in there. We have the names picked out...but I already can't wait to hear Nick or the doctor tell me, "it's another boy" or "it's a girl." :-)

But let me also add this disclaimer as I'm rereading this post. I am not by any means judging (at least I don't mean to) those that want to know the gender and plan earlier. I just can't relate. With motherhood I have never felt so much "judgement" from other mothers, young and old, on how to raise your child, why you should or shouldn't work, why daycare is the devil or a godsend, why breastfeeding should be the only way to feed your child until they are one, what type of diapers you should use, when to vaccinate...the list goes on. Outside of a heated political debate...the dialogue of mothers between mothers can be downright mean at times. So any of you reading this while being 6 months pregnant and knitting your little "Emma" her first pair of pink baby booties...I am not judging you. If you are happy knowing that you have a daughter on the way...then good for you! And if it makes you feel better...while I'm shopping at Kohl's in the girls section holding adorable dresses and putting them all back on the rack because I can't buy them for my androgynous bundle of joy, I will think of you and be slightly jealous that you get to shop in the girls section months prior to her arrival filling her closet with sassy dresses, whimsical leggings, and fun tights. :-) 

So, is it a girl or a boy? Well...my guess is a girl based on feeling so different during this one, but who knows? My favorite words tomorrow on the ultrasound table will be "Michelle, your baby is developing normally" That is truly all I need to know until December...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

DIY Growth Chart

Amidst my failed "summer projects" list...I got one crafty piece accomplished. While Googling ideas for Noah's big boy bedroom, I came across and adorable website called "Land of Nod" http://www.landofnod.com/ which is connected to Crate & Barrel. Enough said, right? While browsing all the nick-nacks and room decor, I found a link for growth charts. They were priced actually pretty reasonable (around $59 withouth s/h) but I thought why not make my own?

From there, my search took me to a do-it-yourself page by another stay at home mom who made a growth chart out of a piece of lumber and a few materials from her local Michael's. From there, it was a 2 day cinch to gather materials, paint, and use my Cricut to create Noah's growth chart for his room. Here are some of the step by step instructions if interested. Total cost (with lots of paint leftover to make more of these) was around $50. I was really efficient and made a growth chart for my friend's 2 year old birthday gift.

Materials needed:

  • good lumber that is 1 inch x 5 in x 4 feet (the other site recommended 3 feet) I found some red oak at Lowe's for around $16
  • wood letters for their name (found at JoAnn's around $1-2 a piece depending on size)
  • primer
  • paint color (I chose white for the base)
  • acrylic paint for the letters (super cheap...around 60 cents a bottle!)
  • vinyl for the Cricut to cut out numbers
  • wooden figurines for decor if you (thought I would have to paint my own animals...but JoAnn's had these animal cut outs painted and ready to go for around $1.29 a piece!)
  • picture hanger (large zig-zag size) to install on back
First step, sand, prime and paint the wood base color with 2 coats. In this photo, I have 2 growth charts going at once...

Second step, paint the letters with the acrylic paint. I chose blue to match the lizard figurines I found. I primed the wooden letters too so the paint would stick better. 
 Third step, let the wood dry overnight. Use the Cricut to cut out vinyl numbers and hyphens to mark your chart.  I chose to start at 2 feet and go up to 6 feet with my 4 foot piece of lumber. You may also start at 2 feet and go to 5 feet if you only have a 3 foot piece.  Place vinyl at marks. It stuck on really well and was so much easier than hand painting!  After that, glue on your letters and animal figurines. I use glue bought at Lowe's called "Gorilla" glue for wood, plastic, and metal. Worked very well and dried clear.

*Sidenote:  don't forget to install the picture hanger on back

Don't have it up in Noah's room yet...it won't be done until the fall. I'm very pleased and am already thinking about birthday parties coming up to create as gifts!

Monday, August 8, 2011

I'm pregnant?

I've noticed some differences with this pregnancy than with Noah. For starters, in the first trimester instead of breaking out like a 13 year old, wanting (but failing) to vomit 23 hours out of the day, and only drinking apple juice and eating Club crackers, I have been eating as if I'm training for the summer Olympics! :-) I'm still amazed that at almost 19 weeks, I have only gained about 14 pounds. My skin...not perfect, but not bad either!

Second, this pregnancy wiped me out for the first 12 weeks or so. I have never in my life felt so exhausted by 9:30a.m. than I did in the beginning. I believe a lot was due to the fact I was working with 6th grade special ed students in May (can I fill out another referral?) and also raising an extremely mobile and active toddler. Taking a mandatory nap of 1-2 hours (okay...maybe 3 when I could get away with it) was non-negotiable, especially after downing my daily "snack" of a Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich and fry at 3 in the afternoon.

Third, with this particular pregnancy...I'm forgetting I am even pregnant! Perhaps with your first child, you are just so excited at this new feeling and the nine months to meet your little boy or girl seem like nine years at times. You are just so thrilled to see what little person God has given you...it also doesn't help that you are constantly watching TLC or Discovery Health for baby shows like "Baby Story", "Baby's First Day", or "Mystery Diagnosis" (ATTENTION ANY PREGNANT MOMS OUT THERE: Avoid the last show if at all possible. You'll begin to think that you have a mystery illness or that for sure your baby will...I realize it's not a "baby show" per say, but there are plenty of things that could go wrong with your new little one after watching a half hour of that program!). I'm not saying I'm not excited and thrilled just as much with baby #2...but I truly feel that this pregnancy is moving super fast! Next week I will be at 20 weeks...halfway there and getting my ultrasound. I just can't believe it and feel like I blinked at 12 weeks and now I'm at 20. I am wondering if I am in the minority here. Do other expectant mothers with toddlers or small children feel that after the first...the rest just arrive like a UPS delivery overnight? Noah quite honestly takes up most of my day, so I don't get a lot of time to just "be" with my little bump like I did while pregnant with Noah. Craving a glass of wine...and then hitting myself in the head when I remember that my pants barely fit my middle and that I have another 4 months to go, are the moments right now where I am reminded that I am not just caring for one anymore.

I'm thinking that I already need to Google some articles on the "middle child" syndrome. I want baby #2 to get as much attention as Noah did...even while in my tummy. Overthinking? Perhaps. But I think I have figured out that is my style. We had a family friend tell us once that with the first, you'll take 10,000 pictures...the second baby, around 5,000, and by the time you have at third...you're lucky to take about 10 with them. How much of an overexaggeration is that I wonder? Any advice from experienced mothers would be appreciated... :-)

In the mean time, while the house is quiet and I'm in bed, I'm going to enjoy the flutters my little one is making. He or she knows they have their mom's full attention right now :-)
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