Summer Activities with a 1-Year Old

It is officially summer! Summer has a different meaning for everyone. For some of you, it might not feel that different because you still have to work. For the teachers, it is a glorious time off, but if you have little ones, it is an adjustment of figuring out a new routine. For stay-at-home moms, summers can become more work as you adjust to having your older kids at home more often. Regardless of your feelings towards summer, my hope is that wherever you find yourself, whether that be a house packed with little children, moving out your last child to college and about to be empty nesters, or hands full with a 1-year old who is in that awkward in-between phase of desiring independence, but still being wobbly and out of control; you can enjoy it and soak in as much sunshine as possible. I can only write from where I am and that currently is being at home with that wobbly and out of control 1-year old. I am finding this phase to be a lot of fun as he is becoming a little person, but it also has been a challenge because he is still at a place where he is not quite that active toddler that can do more things on his own. He thinks he is, but he is not quite there. He is not yet walking, so wants to crawl when we are out, which often results in very dirty hands. I have been struggling with finding the right activities to occupy him with. When I search for summer activities with a toddler, I have found that a lot of the ideas seem to be a few months ahead of him. So, if you are with me, and also find yourself in this awkward in-between phase of baby-toddler, I want to give you a list of 5 ideas of things to do this summer. Most of these things are not revolutionary, but hopefully it can give you some inspiration if you are feeling stuck. I am finding especially as he is getting older, the best for both of us often involve getting out of the house. While especially as a new mom, getting out the door can be a real challenge. So, if you are in a place where getting out of the house a ton just doesn’t feel possible, that is absolutely okay. Give yourself grace. Take baby steps. I just had a great conversation with another mom this past week about the pressure the sun brings. The weather doesn’t always match our mood. For me, I am in a season where I am welcoming the sun. I want to soak it all in and be outside, but it is very likely that you are reading this and the sun coming out feels like more pressure to get out. Maybe for you winters are easier because there are more excuses to stay inside. Wherever you are, I hope you can try one of these ideas and if not, give yourself a lot of grace. There is a whole lot of fun to be had at home too!

5 Fun Summer Activities with a 1-Year Old

1. Go to a baseball game

I get it, MLB games can be expensive, especially when your little one might not be the most focused on the game. But, the nice thing about going with a little one is they won’t mind if you don’t get the best seats; it is more about the experience. They will love the people, the lights, the colors. I would also take advantage of going to the ball park before they turn 2, so you don’t need to buy them a ticket! We recently took Hudson to his first game at Yankee Stadium. He had a blast. A major tip if you choose to take young kids to a game is to check and see if they give out “first game” certificates. Someone informed us about this at the game. We went to the guest services office and within seconds Hudson had a personalized certificate. This was an amazing souvenir that was totally free! I believe a lot of stadiums give out these certificates, so be sure to ask or research it for the specific stadium you will be attending. We are located in Los Angeles, so I am linking here Dodger Stadium’s policy. Based on the website, it looks like you need to email a request for the certificate beforehand!

2. Picnic at the Park

Take advantage of the nice weather and instead of the same old lunch routine with food flying from the high chair, take it out to a park. Some of you reading this may be thinking I am so sick of the park! And I get that feeling too, so maybe this summer you could try some new and exciting parks that you have not been to. You can make an outing and adventure out of it. Parks that have wildlife and ponds are always a plus because it adds an extra layer of interest. If you are local to the South Bay Area, Wilderness Park in Redondo Beach and Polliwog Park in Manhattan Beach are two parks we recently went to. Both of these parks have a pond with turtles, ducks and coy fish.

3. Visit a Farmer’s Market

Here in Southern California there are tons of farmer’s markets. This is a great outing with a one-year old. Hudson loves sampling the fruit with me! This can be a fun way to get your kids excited about trying different kinds of foods they might not be used to. Take a look at the different markets in your area and try to find one that is especially kid-friendly. I love going to the farmer’s market in Manhattan Beach because it very much catered to little ones. There is a train ride that runs every week at the market. It is just $2 and it is a fun activity for Hudson. There is also a balloon man and face painting!

4. Beach, Pool, Splash Pad

The beach with a newborn was not always the most enjoyable experience for me, but this summer, the beach is much more relaxing and fun. Hudson is so happy when we are at the beach. Sand toys are already a huge hit with him. He doesn’t really use them correctly, but he loves holding the shovel and different tools. The pool and splash pad are two other fun water activities. You can sign your toddler up for a swim lesson or you can find a pool and just spend some time getting them used to the water. At this age, I am not even sure it is worth spending money on swim lessons. We have a pool, so I am planning on spending some time with him in the pool getting him to enjoy the water. We just went into the pool for the first time this summer and we used the Swimways Baby Spring Float. It worked well and he seemed to really enjoy it. Taking a visit to a splash pad is another fun way to get your little one enjoying water. For us, Hudson is still not walking, but the splash pad will be especially fun when he can walk on his own.

5. Try a Local Class with Kid Pass

When you get tired of the typical park days, it can be fun to give your toddler a new experience. I recently discovered Kid Pass, which is very similar to the Class Pass model, but geared specifically towards kids and families. You can do a free month trial and get 5 credits to use at the different classes and facilities they offer. I just tried it for the first time yesterday and it was awesome. We went to a Gymboree class and Hudson had the best time. Not to mention, it was totally free! He got to interact with babies his age and he got to release lots of energy. Not to mention, it was fun for me and he was entirely entertained and happy for a full hour. Kid Pass is a great way to try classes out without a huge investment or risk. It is a great resource to get tangible ideas of things to do to get out of the house.

And if that doesn’t satisfy, here are a few other things we plan to do this summer: visit daddy at work, visit other family members we don’t typically see as much, take a train ride to San Diego, Knott’s Berry Farm (AAA has a discounted rate and kids are free under three), visit the zoo, visit the aquarium, visit a children’s museum, make ice cream at home, take a nature hike, attend free summer concerts, and play dates with our MOMS Club (check out my post this coming Saturday for more about MOMS Club).

Like I said, I know, nothing revolutionary, but if you are feeling overwhelmed with how to occupy a very active and energized one-year old this summer, I hope this can give you a little inspiration. Also, remember, you are not a camp counselor. Don’t feel crazy pressure to have every second of every day planned. Part of the fun of summer is freedom and rest. Make sure there is also a lot of free and restful days. Happy summer!

Staying Motivated For an Audience of One

Last night I went to bed feeling absolutely exhausted, discouraged and unmotivated. I was exhausted because I am running 60 miles per week. I am basically at the same mileage I was at in college, except I no longer live a life revolved around running. 60 miles plus a one-year old that still wakes up multiple times at night is not the best combination. I was discouraged because I spend a lot of thought and time pouring into my blog posts, but I still feel like only my husband and mom and a few very kind people read it. It has been months of writing and writing and writing, but the numbers are just not where I thought they would be. These two places of exhaustion and discouragement lead to the ultimate feeling of lacking motivation. Let’s just be real honest here. It is so much easier to be motivated to work hard when you know people are watching and are invested in you. It can be a real challenge to have this same type of motivation when it feels like no one really cares or no one is watching. Thinking back, I had it pretty easy in college. I had a team, coaches, a university that were all watching, all supporting, all expecting something from me. At the time, I hated the pressure, hated being told exactly what to do, but now I realize how helpful this can be. However, there is also something when these things are stripped away. I have never loved running as much as I do now. And no one is watching, no one is telling me what workout I should do on the track, no one cares how fast I go. I could not run today and no one would even know. The same goes with writing. No one truly cares if I keep posting (or at least I don’t think so). I am pretty sure if I stopped tomorrow, I wouldn’t get any emails or complaints or pleas to keep on writing.

All this leads to my point: regardless of the audience you have, all that you do should be to please the only audience that matters, God. He is my audience of one. The only audience that truly matters. Again, if I am being fully honest, I so easily lose sight of this. It is so easy to get caught up in caring about the followers, the likes, the page views. It is so easy to have your motivation be tied to external praise. I often care way too much about what other people think of me and way too little of how God views me. I hate admitting this, but this is the place I often find myself in. The problem here is that when our motivation comes from the approval and applause of people, our work will ebb and flow. When everyone is watching and clapping their hands, we will work super hard; however, when they all get distracted by the next new thing, our work will decline or even full on stop. The people can’t be our motivation or even our barometer of success. They aren’t reliable. They simply don’t matter nearly as much. They have no say in our salvation. They don’t know our hearts. Even when no one is watching, the Lord is. I know He sees me. He knows my heart. He reads every blog post before I even write it. While I can get so easily distracted and focused on the wrong things, I am thankful to be reminded that there is only one audience that is motivating everything I do. Strip away the crowds, the team, the readers. What do you do when no one is watching? Do you still go out and run as hard as you can? Do you push yourself to uncomfortable places when there is no one else to chase down? Do you keep writing even when no one is reading? It is in these places and these seasons that I think the Lord shapes within us a character that is built on Him, not people. This is what my heart has desperately needed for a very long time. And for most of my life, I have had an audience, specifically with running. I was in the front of the pack. I was being watched, recruited, wanted. Now, it is just me and the road and God. And like I said, I have never loved running more. There is something to getting down to the raw and simple elements, that allow your love and passion for something to become authentic and real. It is easy to love something and pour yourself into something when you are being praised, but it becomes an entirely different thing when you still pursue it, still return to it day after day, with no feelings of need to prove or please, but simply because you want to work hard for the Lord.

After going to bed with these feelings of discouragement, I woke up to verses reminding me of where my true identity lies.

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” Isaiah 40:31

Where does your hope lie? Is it tied to people? Approval? Money? Popularity? Or is it tied to the only one that truly matters? The Lord. Who are you working for? People or your Heavenly Father? I ask these questions because my own heart desperately needs to hear them. I will very quickly grow weary if my hope is in people. I will very quickly stop running the race if my hope and motivation lies in their applause. This is no way to live. I am so thankful that even when it can feel like no one really cares that much that the Lord is my constant audience that cheers and loves me regardless. So, even when no one seems to care, no one seems to be watching, I will keeping running, I will keep writing, I will keeping trying as hard as I would as if the whole world were watching. The whole world might not be watching, but the One who made the whole world is, and what better of an audience is that?

If you can relate and also struggle in this area. I hope you can be encouraged wherever you are at. Remember that God has placed you exactly where he wants you. Whether you are an executive or in the midst of changing diapers, your work matters and the Lord wants you do it with your whole heart, working for his glory, not the approval of humans.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24

5 Tips for Planning the First Year Birthday Party

Before I was ever even pregnant, I would dream about being a mom. These dreams always consisted of two things: snacks and parties. I thought about making fun snacks for my kids when they got home from school. I thought about the snacks I would bring after their soccer games for the whole team that would be tied together with cute ribbon that matched the colors of their jerseys. And I thought about the elaborate, themed parties I would plan. I thought about the organic, homemade cake I would make for our babies. I thought about the different games I would make up that would go along with the theme. I thought about the millions of little crafts I would do to make the party unique. This is my brain. I know some of you reading this probably think I’m nuts, but this is truly the things I would dream about and get excited for. Then, reality hits. The fun snacks become squeeze packs you quickly grab as you rush out the door. The organic cake becomes boxed funfetti cake. The truth is, it is so much easier to be the “perfect” mom from a distance. I think this is part of the reason it is so easy for us to judge others when we aren’t living through their experiences. It is so easy to say, when I am a mom, I will do it this way. I won’t do x, y, and z. And I will absolutely do all these things. And I can’t believe she chooses to do that! Everything becomes different when you are actually in it. I never understood parents letting their kids co-sleep with them. Now, I totally do. When you are exhausted and they are again waking up for the 5th time and its 2 am, you do what you need to do to get sleep for everyone. I never understood allowing your kid to use the iPad at a restaurant. While I am still trying to not do this one, I totally understand now why parents do this. You have to choose your battles. There are worse things.

I always want to be the best mom I can be, but some of the expectations and goals my 13-year old self dreamed up is much harder to follow through on then I expected. It just is not always going to happen the way I dreamed up in my head. That is just life. I tell this story to remind you it is okay if the first year birthday party is not perfect. It is okay if you used boxed cake. It is okay if you are scrambling to put all the decorations up as people are arriving. It is okay. I think the thing I forgot about when I dreamed up these mom expectations is that I will have my hands already full with babies and responsibilities. Sure, I could pull off a really great party with all the stops if I had unlimited time and wasn’t tied to nap schedules and feedings, but obviously that is not my reality, and I am assuming it is not yours either. So, when it comes to that big first year birthday party, no matter how you choose to celebrate, I hope you can give yourself some grace and really enjoy this big milestone, rather than stress out about that organic cake.

For those of you in the middle of party planning or beginning to think about it, I have compiled a list of five tips I learned along the way.

1. Keep It Simple

Some of you reading this, might be thinking, obviously, but if you are anything like me, you will find a way to make even the simplest things overcomplicated. I am pretty sure I chose Hudson’s party theme, which was “Hudson’s Rookie Year” when he was 6-months old. This gave me tons of time to overthink and make everything far more complicated than it needed to be. The reality is that this is just a first year birthday party. In the whole scheme of things that should be occupying head and heart space, this should not rank super high. There is nothing wrong with desiring to create a well thought out and creative party, but the danger is when you overcomplicate something that is meant to be light and fun. I really wish I kept things a little simpler for myself. You don’t need to do everything DIY. There is no need to make mason jars look like baseballs to hold the utensils. You can just put utensils out in the box. The simpler the better. Choose maybe one or two things that are especially important to you. Spend time crafting and investing into those things, and then make everything else easy and simple. For example, maybe to you, a homemade banner for the high chair is a special piece to you. Invest time, energy, and care into that banner and then buy a few other decorations that you don’t need to make.

Besides feeling the need to make a craft out of everything, I also tried to do way too much. There were the 4 banners, one of which I cut out a picture of him from every month. There were the cupcakes and the smash cake, which my amazing friend Hannah helped make look like a baseball. There was a time capsule for people to write notes for him when he turns 18. There was the party favor cookies. There was a guess how many peanuts in the jar game, which I made my poor husband count out for me. You know something is wrong when the night before the party you spend over an hour at FedEx printing and cutting out time capsule cards, and other random printables I found on Pinterest. This was too much. I made things too complicated. Don’t be like me. Keep it simple.

2. Setup as Early as Possible

This is a tricky one when you are having the party at another location outside of your home. As much as I wish I could of gone over to the park 2 hours earlier, it was just not fully possible since I had Hudson and that was during his nap time. I probably should of planned ahead and had my parents bring him to the party as I set up even earlier. It all was fine, but it felt more rushed and chaotic setting up, so I didn’t get time to take photos of how everything looked before people began to come. I wish I got more photos of how everything came together. If you also plan on having the party at a park or different location, I definitely recommend having a plan for someone to watch your little one so you can fully focus on getting everything together.

3. Limit Pinterest Intake

I love Pinterest just as much as the next person, but just like Instagram for me, it can quickly become unhealthy. I remember when I was initially planning Hudson’s party and beginning to pin things to the “H Turns 1” board, I would walk away feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and not enough. Maybe for you there is no issue with Pinterest, but if I am being fully honest, my people-pleasing, comparative heart can’t take Pinterest in large doses. Know yourself. Limit Pinterest when needed. I think I was on it a bit too much, and I tried a bit too many pins for the party. Pinterest is an amazing resource for inspiration and initial ideas, but be careful not to get too carried away with it all. The thing is, we see all these amazing displays and DIY crafts everywhere, but it is just ONE pin. They did one pin very well. I am sure their whole party was lovely, but I doubt they also did every pin they had on their party board. We can’t do it all! Don’t get weirdly comparative or overwhelmed, like me. Like my first point, choose 1-2 pins to recreate. There is no need to go Pinterest crazy. Use it as a start part for inspiration and then just focus on your party, not theirs.

4. Designate People to Help in Specific Ways

Our families are the best. They are so helpful in everything. They helped out so much by bringing food, setting up, and cleaning up. If you don’t live close to family, seek out a friend or two that could help give you a hand. I also would recommend being very specific with what you need help with. Ask them to bring a specific food type so you don’t even need to occupy headspace for that area. I would also have a set plan for day of setting up. This is one thing I wish I had done. I was so focused on all the little crafts I was doing for the party that some of the bigger concepts, like where everything will actually go, was not as thought through. Make a plan that includes exactly where you want everything. Then designate each of those tasks with the people that are helping you out. This way there is a clear plan and everyone has a thing to do.

5. Let Go of Perfection & Have Fun

You survived the first year! You have changed hundreds of diapers, endured sleepless nights, and poured out endless amounts of love. If you are anything like me, you have also cried a ton this past year. You have been down, exhausted, unsure. But if you also are anything like me, you have never smiled so hard, laughed as often, or been filled with as much joy as you have built an unbreakable bond over the course of this year with your little one. This bond did not happen over night. Like with any good thing, it takes time, patience, love. And you did it. You endured. You got up off that bathroom floor. And you have this amazing little baby that seems more like a kid than a newborn. Isn’t it amazing what type of change a year brings? All this is reason to celebrate! So whether you choose to throw a massive party or would rather just gather close family and sing over cake, celebrate and enjoy this huge milestone. It does not need to be perfect. It does not need to resemble Pinterest. Of all that I learned this year, the biggest thing is that I need to let go of all those expectations in my head. I need to let go of that organic, sugar-free carrot cake I was planning on making from scratch for Hudson. Boxed funfetti is just fine. The reality is, they don’t even eat much of the cake. So don’t make things too hard for yourself. Perfection is not possible. Let go of it. Have fun and celebrate your sweet little one who has changed your world in the very best possible way.

New York City with a 1-Year Old

It was around when Hudson was just a little over a month old that Lance and I booked tickets for New York. At this point we were still relatively idealistic when it came to the demands of life with a baby (and maybe we still are), but we felt this longing to take Hudson to see a city that means so much to the both of us. While I would not say we named Hudson after the river, the connection the name has with New York made the name for our first son feel even more right. New York is an important part of our story, I don’t want to go into the details, but New York changed things for us. God moved in that city for us, he brought renewal and forgiveness and hope. The summer going into our junior year, I made the decision with my friend Lyndsey to live on the campus at NYU. You are probably assuming I had a job or an internship in New York. You would think, but it wasn’t the case. No job, no internship, no true reason, but a feeling. I write this with a thankfulness that I was able to make this type of decision without logic or reason, I fully understand the privilege in this. I am grateful for loving parents that allowed for this to happen. So, I booked a ticket, arranged my living situation in a dorm at NYU and trusted God that there was a reason this city was placed on my heart. While I never ended up landing a dream internship or a job that made my resume look extra impressive, I did spend quite a lot of time on the Upper Westside with a little girl named Shira. For some reason or another, this is where the Lord wanted me. He didn’t want me in an important office. He wanted me in an apartment playing with all the dolls that Shira lovingly called her “sisters.” He wanted me in the Barnes & Noble on Broadway where we spent hours reading books. He wanted me in Riverside Park to help show Shira what kindness and sharing looks like. Looking back, I am so thankful for this time, but I would be absolutely lying if I were to say at the time I wasn’t insecure or embarrassed about it. Where are you working? What impressive internship do you have? Those questions were the common ones asked to someone who is living at NYU for the summer. It is hard to not feel disappointed when my answer to that question was being a babysitter. It just didn’t seem to stack up to everyone around me. But here’s the thing. When I think back to that summer, I was exactly where God wanted me. While what He handed me did not look nearly as fancy or impressive as those around me, it was what I needed in that season. With the flexible schedule of my role as nanny, I got to have much more adventure. That summer created a heart within me that is so fond to this bustling city. New York is much more than pizza, the Empire State Building, and the Statue of Liberty. To me, New York is getting out of comfort zones. It is the steps at the MET. It is Yankee games. It is black dresses and rainstorms. It is being truthful at Washington Square Park. It is lobster rolls and soda. It is 10 mile runs at 9 pm. It is baguettes in Central Park. It is new friends and the Brooklyn Bridge on the 4th of July. And it also is a lot of soft-serve ice cream.

All this to say, I love this city. And now I love it even more because it is filled with all the memories listed above plus all the new ones we made with Hudson. On the surface, a trip to New York might not seem extremely baby friendly, but we had a great time in the city with a baby. To be fully honest, it was absolutely exhausting, but if you are strategic with the things you choose to do, see, and eat, New York City with a baby can be a blast. Like with a lot of what I write, babies change things, but that doesn’t mean a trip to New York cannot still be busy and fun. Here are 5 tips for a New York City Trip with a 1-Year Old:

1. The Baby Carrier is Your Friend

While you can definitely use a stroller throughout the city, we found the baby carrier was the better option. We only took out the stroller for our runs, every other outing we used our Ergo baby carrier. The carrier makes navigating around all the people so much easier and it also makes traveling by subway smoother. We also found the carrier a great way to get Hudson to nap on the go. We were always out in the afternoons during his typical nap time.

2. Parks, Parks, Parks

While New York is more known for their main parks, the city is filled with tiny parks that are perfect for little ones. We literally went to a new park every single day. We had specific plans to go to Central Park and Washington Square Park, but all the other parks we visited were ones we organically stumbled upon. We found that Brooklyn Bridge Park was extremely kid-friendly. This should definitely be on your list if you are traveling to the city with little ones. Not only does this park offer beautiful waterfront views of Manhattan, there is a nice boardwalk to walk along, plus great little playgrounds. There is also Jane’s Carousel, which is a fun attraction for kids that only cost $2. Riverside Park was another favorite of ours. This park is in the Upper Westside. If you are in this area, this is another great park for walking or running, and there are a variety of playgrounds scattered throughout. We went to Dinosaur Park. This is a fun one to visit especially if you have a dinosaur lover in the family. There is a triceratops and hadrosaur sculpture. We got some pictures with Hudson on top of the dinosaurs, which was fun. Along with a playground and swing set, there is also a splash pad that a fair amount of kids were playing on. A lot of parks have splash pads, which is one thing I wish I planned for. If you plan on visiting New York in the summer, definitely pack swimsuits for the kids. Central Park, Washington Square Park, Hudson River Park are also great options that are filled with playgrounds. While we didn’t visit any of the play areas in Hudson River Park, we ran through it nearly everyday and there were always tons of kids and babies out. This is another very kid-friendly location. We found that when Hudson was beginning to get antsy from being in Ergo or stroller for extended amount of time, stopping by at a park was a great break for all of us. The amazing part of this city is how wherever you are in the city, it is likely a park is very close to you. Take advantage of all the amazing park options New York City has to offer.

3. Picnic, Picnic, Picnic

While you might be tempted by all the amazing restaurants the city has to offer, the reality is that they are not always the most kid-friendly. We literally only went to one sit-down restaurant on our entire trip. There are so many great markets, food hauls, and take-out places. Our favorite spot was Chelsea Market. Not only is it in a pretty central location (and right off the high line), it offers a large variety of food options. This is great, especially if you have a family with different taste preferences. One of the nights, we got Korean noodles from Mokbar and took them to eat on the high line. We ate yummy noodles, while having a clear view of the Statue of Liberty. Grabbing food to go and eating at all the various parks I mentioned above is really the perfect option for little ones. You will be so much less stressed because you don’t need to contain their noise level. We also found that Hudson was in the carrier a lot during the day, so picnics gave him some much needed time to crawl and explore. If you are visiting during the summer, I would highly recommend Smorgasburg in Williamsburg. This happens every Saturday in the summer. There are so many amazing food options. Again, great variety for the whole family. It is also in a beautiful waterfront location with grassy picnic spots. It is a really pretty place to get some family photos in. If you are in the mood for lobster rolls, I highly recommend Luke’s Lobster. This is definitely one of my very favorite meals in the whole city. There are various locations. We went to the Union Square location and had a nice picnic in the beautiful Washington Square Park. On our last full day, we visited Columbia University. After walking around campus, we stumbled upon Milano Market. This was an amazing spot. The food was so fresh and the overall feel of market felt very New York to me, from the strong accents of the men behind the deli counter to the beautiful display of cheesecakes. This is a great spot to grab picnic things and take to either Central or Riverside Park.

4. Take Hotel Breaks

New York is not the most restful city to visit. Part of what makes the trip fun is squeezing in lots of things; however, if you are traveling with a baby, it is important to schedule in rest for both the parents and the little ones. While we were not in our hotel much, we made sure to have at least an hour at the hotel before dinner to recharge and give Hudson some time to roam free and play with toys in the Pack ‘N Play. Not only was this needed for Hudson, it was very much needed for us as well.

5. Skip the MET

The MET is one of my very favorite places in the whole city. I love it. We bought our tickets ahead of time and planned to go before we went to the Yankee game. We barely had any time before the game and visited the museum for literally 10 minutes. Thankfully, the tickets lasted for three days, so we were able to return on Sunday. While it was still nice to get to visit one of my favorite places, it did feel a bit forced with a baby. Hudson had zero interest in the Degas paintings I usually admire when visiting. The one amazing part of the MET is the rooftop garden, which I highly recommend for amazing views and photos. If you do have kids, this can be a nice place for them to roam around and for the parents to sip something bubbly. However, if you do have babies, it might be better to just skip the MET. Instead, I would visit somewhere a bit more kid and baby-friendly. There are children’s museums and zoos throughout the city, which I think might make a better family outing. Here is a list of more kid-friendly things to do in New York.

Hopefully you found this helpful! I would love to hear if you have any good suggestions or tips when it comes to New York and little ones!

6 More Lessons in the First Year of Motherhood

Happy 1st Birthday to our sweet Hudson Boy! I cannot believe a whole year has gone by! These past couple days I have been very sentimental as I have thought back to what we were doing exactly a year ago. We were waiting. And waiting and waiting. We went into the hospital Wednesday evening after my water broke. We literally walked up to the check-in counter, and I was crying. I felt so overwhelmed and nervous and no one seemed to care that I literally was standing in a puddle of amniotic fluid! Was this normal? I was expecting to be rushed to a hospital bed. I was expecting urgency. This is important people. I am about to have a baby! But, it was quite the opposite. No rushing, no urgency. Just me, crying, as I stood in a puddle. After eventually being situated into our room, the real waiting began. Like 43 hours of waiting. Those long hours were filled with pocking and prodding, lots of jello and bone broth, prayers, and an epidural that finally allowed for sleep. There were some anxious moments in those hours, especially when we were getting close to the second day of waiting and Hudson’s heart rate began to drop. I can still hear the nurse’s voice when she shakily said my name. My heart has never dropped so low. She delivered the news that I needed a C-section in the most heart-stopping, terrifying way. I literally thought the worst case scenario was happening the way she looked at me and said my name. I could handle a C-section. At that point, it didn’t even matter. Did we type it up into our neat and tidy birth plan? Nope, but most of what we had in there didn’t happen. The C was the least of my worries, all I wanted was my Hudson Boy. Finally, Friday at 4:11 pm, Hudson was born. And let me tell you, our world shifted in the best possible way. As I type this, I literally am crying because when I think about this moment it truly brings me to my knees in thankfulness to God. What a good, good Father. I remember lying numb in that OR just praying. I remember hearing his first cries and the warmth of my own tears flowing down my face. It no longer mattered that things didn’t go as planned or that my tummy will forever have a scar, none of it mattered because our sweet boy was finally here.

I tell this story because as I wrote about when Hudson turned 6-months, one of my first lessons was learning to be okay when things do not go as planned. You can read those first 6 lessons here. This lesson is only more true now. I am daily reminded that I am not the one in control. While this is a really hard lesson for someone like me that has a heart gripped to control and self-reliance, I am beginning, emphasis on beginning here, to not only let go of control, but develop the ability to laugh when things don’t go the way we planned. I immediately think about the Proverbs 31 woman.

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.

-Proverbs 31:25

Before becoming a mother, I read that verse and thought it sounded nice, but it didn’t fully sink in or connect with me. It makes so much more sense to me now. I picture her house being a mess, her toddler throwing a tantrum, her clothes stained in spit up; and despite it all, I picture her laughing with a confidence and peace that can only be explained through the presence of the Holy Spirit. I am not there yet, but I desire to be and I do believe the Lord is continuing to do a work in my heart to eventually get me to this point. While I am not there, I think back to the way I handled situations in the first few months. My heart rate probably stayed at 110 all day long. The littlest peep or cry from Hudson put me into a downward spiral. Man, was I gripped by an anxiety I have never felt before. There was definitely not a lot of laughing happening, but there certainly were a lot of tears and fear. Just yesterday, in Costco, as we were shopping for food for his birthday party, I was reminded of the work the Lord is doing within me. Hudson spilled half of his water all over himself and on the floor beneath the cart. His pants were soaked and he slowly began to get more fussy as he wanted to be out of that cart. Kelli 9-months ago would have lost it! She would of panicked and made up lies about how the cashier probably thinks I am not a very good mom. But instead, it didn’t affect me. Wet pants? Who cares, we will change it when we get home. A little fussing? Who cares, babies make noise. A bit of a mess on the floor? A casual sorry will be enough. It will be okay. The world is not ending. This may seem like a small thing to you, but let me tell you, this is huge. This confidence, this growth, it amazes me. So, if you were anything like me and are currently in those early months where everything is new and scary and anxiety-inducing, I really hope these words can encourage you. It is incredible what the Lord can do in a year. Hold on. It gets better.

Okay that was a lot, but I think all of that is important. Here are 6 more lessons I have learned as mother to sweet Hudson.

1. Don’t Sweat the Small Things

As I have already alluded to, the small things, like water spilled everywhere and crying, do not grip me in the same way they used to. One of the biggest lessons I have learned in this past year is to let go of all the little things. I will drive myself crazy if I try to control everything: naps, floors, attitudes. There are so many things that could go wrong in life, a little sand eaten by Hudson or a spill in a restaurant, are minor concerns. The world will keep spinning. I will still be a good mother.

2. Time Goes Quickly

It is easy to eagerly look ahead and think I can’t wait until fill-in-the-blank. I can’t wait until he doesn’t wake up multiple times in a night. I can’t wait until he can crawl and walk. I can’t wait until he can talk. I can’t wait until he eats solid foods. And the list goes on. Those are all exciting milestones and it is easy to dream about the next stage where things seem easier, but I have learned that things change so quickly and it is so much better to be present and grateful in the season you are in. Things are already moving way too fast. I would love to go back to myself a year ago and tell her: “These next few months are going to be hard, but stay in it, soak it up, watch him sleep as often as you can, and it will get better.” I had too many days where I dreamed of easier times, when I wish I had just accepted the season for what it was.

3. Trust Instincts

I had a lot of my doubts in the first few months. I questioned everything I did. I was too easily swayed by the opinions and advice of others. I would watch one YouTube video and implement one strategy and the next day I would read something completely opposite and try that instead. Early on, external factors were the driving force behind how I mothered. For example, if we were out and Hudson was crying and someone would say “oh, he must be hungry!” I would immediately feel this pressure to nurse him, even though, deep down, I knew hunger wasn’t the issue. I just fed him. My internal mother instinct knew his needs, but I didn’t trust it yet. Now I do, and we are both so much happier because of it.

4. Breastfeeding Can Become a Dear Friend

My relationship with breastfeeding over the course of this year has changed drastically. I used to hate it. I know hate is a strong word, but I really did. I dreaded every couple hours when it was time to nurse again. It felt like rejection and failure all in one. It felt incredibly weird and uncomfortable to me. I am a slow learner. Change is hard for me, it takes me a while to adjust and learn. Those first few months I could not even fathom the possibility of making it to a year of breastfeeding. But here I am, a year later, unsure if I want to give it up quite yet. While I would not gush about it in the same way others have talked about it, it has become part of who I am. It is like sleeping, breathing, running. It is how I start and end my days. While it used to feel weird and uncomfortable, it now only feels natural and familiar. Side note here: while I was able and chose to exclusively breastfeed, this is not for everyone, nor is it always possible for everyone. Fed is always best. This is another thing I really wish I could tell myself a year ago. I was so hard on myself. Every night was a meltdown. I wish I could have told myself that it would be okay. That I would make it, but I also wish I could tell myself breastfeeding is not the goal. I put way too much emphasis on it, and that created a lot of stress for the both of us. Just like any relationship, it can’t be forced. Take it slow. Trust the process. And you might break up and move on, or you might just find a dear, reliable friend.

5. Don’t Compare

It’s the thief of joy. It really is. You will find so much joy especially in those early months if you just focus on your baby and family. I really wish I deleted Instagram in this season. It was more harmful than helpful. My heart could not handle it. Your baby is different. You are different. Don’t compare.

6. Let God Take Over

Let the Lord enter your sleepless nights. Let him enter with you at the grocery store. Let him enter when you don’t have the energy or the words or wisdom. He can fill in all the holes, all the areas of weakness. Let Him takeover. Give him the reigns. Say Lord I can’t do this on my own. Help me! And He will.

When You Don’t Feel Like It

All day I have been planning on sitting down to get some writing in. It is now nearly 9 pm and these are the first words I am creating all day, minus the numerous text messages I sent out. The thing is I could of easily squeezed in an hour of solid writing, but instead I dilly-dallied, I mindlessly scrolled and consumed social media, and I watched unnecessary drama on the Bachelorette. The task of writing has been in the back of my head all day, but I seemed to put everything ahead of it. The 9 miles, the loads and loads of laundry, the dirty dishes, the grocery list, the dinner, the banana bread, the party planning. I think what I really needed today was to write. I needed quiet. I needed time alone, time to string words together. I needed the steady rhythm of finger tips tapping away. I needed to sort things in my head through. I needed reflection and revision. This is what I needed. But instead, I avoided it. I clicked on Facebook, Instagram, Gmail, Netflix. Anything, but write. I did not feel like it today. I did not want to write another post that only my husband, mother, and a few kind people will read. I did not want to write today, but here I am, at 8:50 pm, writing. And with each passing word, I feel better. That is what I want to talk about today. How do we do the things that are good for us, even on the days or weeks or years when we simply don’t feel like it? That is a loaded question. And to be honest, I don’t really have an answer, but I have a few thoughts.

Right now you could probably name a handful of things you don’t feel like doing. I sure can. Going on a run. Making the bed. Folding all those loads of laundry I previously mentioned. Emptying the dishwasher. Waking up early. Eating healthy. Being kind. Reading a book. Writing. And the list could go on. Those last three might be the most surprising, but if I’m being honest, right now, kindness does not feel natural to me, nor does reading or writing. Here’s the thing, if I lived my days off of my current feelings, not much would get accomplished. I would eat a lot of sugar, watch Grey’s Anatomy, and be alone in my room. That’s the truth. Clearly, my feelings can’t be trusted. Watching endless hours of hospital drama and consuming lots and lots of sugar is not a recipe to a fulfilled life. This is why I have such a problem with the phrase “follow your heart.” Follow my heart? Really? My heart can’t be trusted. It’s broken, sinful, selfish. My heart will lead me astray. Every. Single. Time. Sure, it might feel right in the moment, but long term, the feelings of my heart won’t satisfy. Only Jesus will. I need to follow Him, not my heart. And the thing with Jesus is that He is in the business of people and serving. So following Him, naturally revolves around these two things. For an introvert, this is not always easy. Following Jesus is not always the easy thing to do, it actually rarely is, but it is always the right thing. My heart can’t be trusted, but He certainly can.

So, returning back to that question. How do we do the good things, the things our soul longs for, even when that is not our natural inclination? I think the first part to answering this question, is learning how to differentiate between what our human heart longs for and the calling of Jesus in our lives. This is a good time to mention that I do believe that these two things can and should line up at times. This is the mark of a mature faith that is immersed in the Word. However, I am coming more from a post-vacation mindset. We just got back from a trip to NYC. We had the best time, but I fell completely out of normal rhythms. We squeezed a ton into our few days into the city. We even made a relatively detailed itinerary to ensure we got all the things we wanted to eat, see, and do in. We had full, fun days. We stuffed our faces with lobster rolls and cookies the size of our faces. We rode the subway back and forth, all over the city. We ran along the Hudson River, did loops in Central Park, and walked all over. My Fitbit has never hit such high numbers. We did all the things, but there was a sacrifice. My quiet, morning devotional time. That vanished. We forgot to include that in the itinerary. And if I’m honest, it put me into a bit of a slump. I forget how important some of my daily patterns I place into my life are. I need time alone with God. I need to be in the Word daily. My heart gets weird without this. I become lazy. I desire tv over discipline. Especially as I recover from this post-vacation hangover, my daily patterns and routines become even more important. I need to get back into these rhythms. I need to wake up early, even though I definitely do not feel like it. I need to open my Bible, not Instagram. I need to write, even when the words seems to not be there. I need to run hard, even when I want to just stay in a comfortable pace. And most importantly I need to love. I need to love and serve the people in my life, even though what my heart really desires is to retreat and be alone. There are seasons where everything I listed above comes so much more naturally. I leap out of bed. I enthusiastically open my Bible. The words come easily. The miles do too. And kindness is my attitude of choice. However, again, if I’m honest, there are more days where this is not the case. This is where patterns of discipline become so important. I write a lot about routines and daily rhythms, and the reason is because they keep me on track. They help me to do the good things I need in my life, even when I don’t feel like it.

I know I began by saying I didn’t fully have an answer to the question, but I think this is my answer. Establish daily, weekly, monthly, yearly patterns in your life and stick with them. Do them with a no matter what-ness attitude. The thing that I love about routine is that it takes away some of the thinking and decision making. This could be why I thrived in high school. A lot of my days were determined by a pre-existing bell schedule. The bells have faded away. Now, it is up to me to create the bells, the rhythms, the patterns. All this to say, vacation and stepping away from normal life is a good thing, but if you’re anything like me, it can be harmful to step away from the patterns that keep you grounded and rooted. So, when you don’t feel like doing all the things, check the patterns in your life, check what is taking up your minutes, check what it is you are consuming. Are you taking in Truth or bad television drama? It may seem like a small choice, but it is these little choices that make all the difference. It could be that you need to make just a few small adjustments to get back on track. Or, it could be that you just need to do the thing even when every fiber of your body and mind is fighting against it. This morning, I had a long tempo run I was supposed to do. I have done this tempo run for the past three Wednesday’s, except I missed it this past Wednesday due to travel. This small break in routine, made me really not want to run it today. And along with that deep, internal feeling of dreading something, there were things that happened along the way that made me want to choose the easy thing: skip the tempo. I was very close to choosing this option, but something kept tugging me along. And I did it. I did it even though I lost a contact in one of my eyes, the route I normally do was completely closed off, and my breathing was much harder than normal. And here’s the thing: my pace was slower than previous weeks, my focus was slightly fuzzy (probably due to the fact I had clear vision in only one eye), and I wanted to just stop basically every mile. But, I did it. To me, this tempo was my best so far in training. Again, it was not the fastest one. I actually felt the worst on this one, but I pushed through. I did not let go of my no matter attitude. Outwardly, not the best performance, but inwardly, it required way more focus and discipline than the days where the miles and pace were effortless. The thing I kept thinking about when I was running this morning was about how a lot of people can do the things when it comes easily, but what really allows you to stand out from the crowds is when you do it on the days where every part of you is fighting against it. This is where true character is built.

So, if you’re with me, and don’t feel like doing all the things, especially the things you technically don’t need to do, you should. Run when it’s the last thing you want to. Write even when the words flow as slow as molasses. Just start, and you will find your rhythm, it might just take until mile 9 or the 1,000th word.