10 Simple, Fun Fall Activities with a Toddler

Fall is in the air! Well, if you live in Southern California, it is in the air only in the crisp mornings and as the day goes on, it suddenly reverts back to summer weather.  But hey, I can pretend that we actually live in a place that experiences the magic of autumn.  Even though the weather is not quite allowing for me to pull out all my scarves and sweaters, all the pumpkins in our house and the smell of Trader Joe’s pumpkin bread baking in our oven are definitely helping me feel like it is in fact October, not July.  

Along with pumpkins everywhere, it feels more like fall when we fill our calendar with fun, fall activities and events!  From visiting pumpkin patches to costume parties to art projects, there are so many fun ways you can spend your fall days with little ones to help get you in the mood of the fall season, even when you are still sweating in a tank top.  

There are a lot of lists out there in the Pinterest world of round-ups full of fall crafts and activities for toddlers.  Those are great, but this is not that type of list. I am just not that type of mom, maybe one day, but I just can’t seem to find the time to create those elaborate sensory bins and messy craft projects.  This is more of a simple, everyday list that is budget-friendly and accessible to the everyday mama, like me!

1. Decorate Your Home 

Our pumpkin collection throughout our home is growing, largely thanks to my mother-in-law, whose love for pumpkins is contagious.  Our friends were over Sunday evening and they counted 27 pumpkins! I took some pictures just to prove it. We love pumpkins over here at the Capel home.

I know some people don’t even bother with putting out the pumpkins and scarecrows because it feels like a lot of extra effort and work for a season that often feels very fleeting. And let’s just be honest, it does not quite compare to the magic of Christmas, but I am here to tell you that I think you should put up a few fall decorations to help make your home reflect the change of season. It does not need to be super expensive or extravagant, you can keep it real simple. You can make it into one of the first fall activities you do with your toddler to help expose them to the colors and shapes of this fun season. 

toddler boy decorating window with fall window stickers

Fall-themed window stickers is a great and easy way to make the home feel more autumn-like, while giving your toddler a fun activity.  Especially if you have large windows, this is a great way to easily make a room feel transformed for fall.

As I mentioned, we have pumpkins everywhere. Some really nice and fragile ones that are high up, but we also have little ones that I don’t care much about.  These have become the perfect toys for Hudson to play with. His pumpkin obsession is real, wonder where he gets that from? These fake foam pumpkins are the perfect decor to put out that you won’t need to worry about if your toddler decides to throw them across the room or chew on them. Just speaking from experience.

2. Take Fall Porch Pictures

You don’t need a crazy porch set-up to make this one happen.  All you really need is just a couple pumpkins and maybe a fun fall-themed sign.  A wreath might also be a nice touch. I love the one I bought at HomeGoods this season! Wreaths are one of those things that can be a bit expensive, but I think of wreaths as good home investments.  I plan to use this wreath every year for a long, long time. Like we are talking great-grandchildren long, if I am so blessed to be around that long. Anyways, a wreath goes a long way and I think it really pulls a porch together.  

We had our little photoshoot last week.  It was one of the first colder mornings so I took full advantage of it.  I was actually able to dress Hudson in pants and a vest! This is a big deal if you live in Southern California. These photos are a great way to capture the amount of changes that happen in a year.  Try to make it a tradition to have these fall porch photoshoots. It will be a great collection to look back on as you see how your kiddos and home-decor style changes over the years!  Hopefully that expensive wreath you bought will be that one unchanging element.

3. Visit a Pumpkin Patch 

toddler boy with halloween dinosaur skeleton shirt from Target smiling in a  pumpkin patch

Well of course. Yes I know this is an obvious thing to do in the fall season, but this is such a fun tradition, I can’t just not include it.  I briefly told this story on Instagram a couple weeks on my pumpkin patch post, but I am going to tell it again here.

We have gone to the same pumpkin patch for the past three years.  It is a farm in Irvine, CA called Tanaka Farms.  Two years ago, we found out we were pregnant the very same day we visited the pumpkin patch with my mother-in-law.  I got the positive test result the morning before we left. We kept it a secret that day just between the two of us, but I can still remember that giddy feeling I had in my heart as we rode the wagon ride.

Last year, we were again at Tanaka. This time with a little, 4-month old baby in a pumpkin hat and overalls. It was so fun to pose him by the pumpkins and place him in the wheelbarrow.  We got some really precious pictures from that trip.

This year, we went again at the same early October time. We had a blast and it was such a different experience from even a year ago. He was running all about, pointing out things that looked interesting, and laughing and enjoying the time with his cousins.  The point in all of this, is to encourage you to find a pumpkin patch that is either local or a bit of a drive and stick with it. Go there each year. Make special memories. Before you know it, that very pumpkin patch will be a place that is extra close to your heart because it is a beautiful reminder of the amazing changes a year brings.

4. Attend Local & Free Halloween Events 

I am all about free events in the community! It is even more fun when they are themed for the fall season or for Halloween.  One of the best ways to be in the know of some fun, family-friendly events happening in your city, is to notice the flyers when you are out and about.  I try to be really observant over these types of things and then jot it down in my calendar, so I don’t forget. You can also visit your city’s website and check out their calendar of events.  Mommy Poppins is also a great resource for events and things happening in your local city.  Facebook can also be super helpful in suggesting events near me and also showing me what some of my other mommy friends are planning on doing! 

This week, Hudson and I are excited to attend an event called “Mummy” and Me that is held in El Segundo at The Point shopping center.  Do some research, find some free events in your area, and actually go to them (and plan ahead because often times free events like these get SUPER crowded). 

5. Attend a Trunk-Or-Treat 

Is your church hosting a trunk-or-treat? Get involved and have your kiddos help you decorate your trunk.  We are planning on doing a Toy Story-themed trunk to match our little Buzz Lightyear. If you are in the South Bay area, you should attend our church’s Falloween Fest!  Lots of churches host these free and fun events, so you should research and find out if a local church to you is having a trunk-or-treat.  There might even be a free dinner served and games and even a movie shown (ours will!).

6. Go to the Library and Check Out Fall-Themed Books 

mother reading Stumpkin book to her toddler boy at the local library

If you are already part of the tmng community, you know I am a fan of the library. Go to your local library and check out a few books that are fall or Halloween-themed.  Most libraries will have a seasonal section displaying some of the librarians favorite books of fall!  At the library we go to, their display is behind the counter, so if this is the case, just ask the librarian and they likely will be happy to check them out for you! If for some reason you do not see a lot of seasonal-themed books out, ask your librarian! Our sweet librarian brought us out out about 20 books that they had in the back room. So just because you don’t see a large selection does not mean they don’t have ample supply of pumpkin books!

selection of fall and halloween themed books for toddlers and children at the library
  • EEK! Halloween
  • “Hallo-What?”
  • Spookie Pookie
  • Trick or Treat, Marley!
  • It’s Pumpkin Day, Mouse! THIS IS Hudson’s FAV! He literally gets spooked and laughs out loud all at the same time! Now that is a good story. I am all about the library, but this is such a hit for Hudson, I might just need to buy it to have a copy for our at-home library!
  • Ollie’s Halloween
  • You Are My Pumpkin
  • Pumpkin Orange, Pumpkin Round
  • Penguin and Pumpkin
  • Boo! Haiku
  • Stumpkin
  • In the Middle of Fall

7. Pick 1 or 2 SIMPLE Pinterest Fall Crafts 

simple fall and halloween craft projects completed at home with a toddler

Pinterest and blog posts about a bunch of fall crafts to do with your toddler REALLY stresses me out.  For one, I am not very creative and also, it just feels very overwhelming and messy. Hudson is still not quite at the age where he is fully into arts and crafts, but I still think it is fun to plan ahead and choose one or two fall-themed crafts to do with your little ones at home.  Why do I think this is a good idea? It is an activity that fills time, it feels festive, it acts as unique decoration to put on your walls, and it is a great memory keeper. For the really special crafts, I would even recommend laminating it to help preserve it throughout the years. 

Especially at the baby and toddler age, it is always fun to find a craft that uses hand or foot prints to help remind you how little they used to be! We did this REALLY simple, “itsy bitsy spider” handprint craft with some ladies from my MOMS Club.  All you really need is orange paper, googly eyes, black paint, and a marker to draw the web.  You also should try to do a pumpkin-type craft, whether that is with actual physical pumpkins or paper pumpkins.  Here are some fun pumpkin craft ideas.

8. Bake Fall Recipes 

Trader Joe's pumpkin bread on decorative pumpkin platter

This is a fun one to get your toddler more involved in the kitchen with you.  Not only will they love “helping” out, they will most definitely love being a taste tester.  I started to let Hudson help a bit more in the kitchen as he started showing interest. I am thinking about getting a kitchen step stool to help make our kitchen time a bit safer!  Anyways, choose a simple fall recipe that your toddler can help get involved in on. 

I keep it real simple and usually get the boxed pumpkin bread from Trader Joe’s, which I linked to at the very beginning of this post. Try to choose something like this that takes only 10-minutes to whip up together.  His attention span is very short these days! Allow them to hold the spoon and mix batter. Talk through the different ingredients you are pouring in. Show them how you crack the egg.  The egg crack is always the most fascinating to Hudson. I have a pumpkin bread pan that I love. This is a fun way to visually make the outcome even more fun for your toddler.  Give them a slice of the bread as their reward for helping out! Hudson literally gobbles this stuff up.

9. Walk Through a Neighborhood that is Well-Decorated 

toddler boy in blue push car pointing out to Halloween decorations on a house

Find a neighborhood that is especially well-decorated with fall and Halloween decor and take a walk through it.  This is one of Hudson’s favorite fall activities. He literally points out every single pumpkin. He is also a fan of scarecrows and spiders.  You can even use the walk as a way to help expand vocabulary and make a game out of it. “Can you show me where the big, purple spider is?” “How many pumpkins are outside of their house? Let’s count together.  1, 2, 3…” And so on. This is a totally free activity and if your toddler is anything like mine, they will LOVE it.  

10. Organize a Costume Parade with Friends 

toddler boy dressed in Buzzlightyear costume for Halloween with a buzzlightyear toy from Disneyland

This fall we are in a couple Mommy and Me class that will have costume parades the week of Halloween.  If you are not enrolled in any classes that are doing something similar, create your own costume parade!  You could make it super simple. Reach out to a few close friends with little ones. If you are in a mom’s group, maybe host a whole event for your group.  Either meet at a home or a park and bring Halloween-themed music, treats for the little ones, and be sure to take lots of pictures as they march around in their costumes!  

I hope you liked some of my toddler fall/Halloween ideas!  I tried to keep them really simple and manageable.  Do not get overwhelmed with Pinterest! There are so many fun, fall-themed things you can do to keep your little ones entertained that are budget and time friendly!  I would love to hear what you are doing with your kiddos this fall season! Leave a comment below.

5 Tips for Finding Routine as a Stay-at-Home Mom

I love structure, routines, and schedules. I love doing the same type of thing every week.  For some this might seem super boring, but for me, it is absolutely necessary.  I struggle with decisions. I am incredibly indecisive, so the fewer decisions I need to make within the week, the better.  There is something incredibly refreshing about establishing weekly rhythms in your life.  I believe these small patterns in our lives have the power to impact so much more than just how we choose to spend our days.  It impacts our attitudes, our characters, and ultimately our entire lives. So, if you ask me, this routine stuff is essential!

You might be reading this and thinking yes, I am all about schedules and routines too, but right now the season of life I am in makes consistent routines super difficult.  I get it! This is one of the many reasons I struggled so much early on when Hudson was born. I lost all sense of routine and control and if I am honest, it really had an affect on me in an emotional, spiritual, and physical way. I believe that even in a season with a bunch of little ones running about, you can develop a sense of routine.  And you should! Because it will not only help keep you more sane, it will allow for you to ultimately be more productive.  

daily routine for stay at home moms that will actually allow for rest, productivity, and quality family time.

So mama, if you are in a place where you want more steadiness in your life, but you don’t even know where to start, here are 5 simple things you can start doing today to get routines into your days. Just because you are a stay-at-home mom, that does not mean you cannot build in some of the structure and schedules you used to have in the pre-kids life.

green coffee mug for mom starting her morning routine

1. Wake Up Before the Kids

I have written a lot about my morning routine. You can read more about it, here. There are a few things I try to do every morning. The reality is that it is really hard to get the time to read my Bible, journal, and pray if I don’t get up at least 30 minutes before Hudson rises. I know this can be a real challenge, especially if you have really little ones that are not sleeping throughout the night. It can also be tough if your little ones are not consistently waking up at the same time. In particular seasons like that, allow for grace.

I would recommend setting a timer for you to get up at the same time every morning. Maybe for you right now, it is not realistic to wake up at 5 am. Try 6 am or 6:30 am. The reality is that you cannot control when the rest of the house is going to get up, but you can control when you get up. Consistently, waking up at the same time every morning is such an important rhythm that really sets the tone for the rest of the day. 

mom weekly cleaning routine

2. Set a Cleaning Task for Each Day of Week

As a stay-at-home mom, I put an excessive amount of pressure on myself to have the house in order. I know I am not alone in this. But here is the thing, solely taking care of a baby/multiple children is a full-time job in itself. There is not always time to have the baseboards shiny and the linen closet organized. Time and energy is limited. How can we have a relatively tidy house without feeling completely overwhelmed and burnt out?  Set small tasks for specific rooms of the house every week. Create a cleaning schedule that works best for you and stick to it.

Before you know it, you will be changing the bed sheets every Wednesday without even thinking about it. This is not a revolutionary concept, but having small cleaning tasks that are assigned for specific days of the week really helps me to not feel as overwhelmed. There are certain tasks like making the bed, emptying the dishwasher, sweeping and wiping down counters that happen on a daily basis, but here are the specific tasks I do for every day of the week, minus Sundays because those are for resting:

  • Monday: Frontload laundry (try to do as many loads as I can) + focused floor clean (baseboards on a bi-monthly basis)
  • Tuesday: Focused kitchen clean  
  • Wednesday: Change bed sheets + vacuum bedroom
  • Thursday: Change Hudson’s crib sheets + vacuum nursery
  • Friday: Focused bathroom clean 
  • Saturday: Mop floors, so floors feel nice and fresh going into our Sabbath (day of rest). Saturdays are often nice days for us as a couple to tackle any bigger projects, like a garage tidy or refrigerator clean. 
things to do with young children

3. Set an Activity with your Kids for Each Day of Week

Similarly, to the way I clean, I like to do similar types of activities for each day of the week. For this fall season, we are taking a couple mommy and me classes, so this built-in structure makes Monday and Tuesday activities already planned. Below is an example of a typical week activitiy schedule for us:

  • Monday: Mommy & Me hour length class + Trader Joe’s run post-nap 
  • Tuesday: Mommy & Me 2.5 hour length class + play in backyard post-nap
  • Wednesday: Trip to library + park before or after if time permits 
  • Thursday: Free Day! It really depends on the week, but I try to do something out of the normal routine with him on Thursdays.  This might mean hosting a fun playdate at our house, having lunch with a grandparent or attending a local kid’s event.  
  • Friday: Park, beach, or errands/appointments with mommy.  Our weekends are typically pretty full, so I try to keep Fridays more mellow.  

I have found that this rhythm of having an outing at the same time every day during the week is essential.  This time of the outing is going to likely change a lot as the nap schedule changes, but now that he is 16-months old, he has only one long afternoon nap.  This allows for a longer chunk of morning time to have an outing.  

One of the beautiful things that happen when we establish these park and library routines is that we are indirectly developing community.  You will find that other moms, nannies, and children also love routines. As a new mom where every day seems to be different, I have found a tremendous amount of comfort in seeing the same familiar faces every Wednesday at the library or every Thursday morning at the park. It reminds me I am not alone. It gives me a sense of connection that my days otherwise lack when I stay at home.

If you are feeling stuck with not knowing the best activities to do with your little ones that are home, here are a few suggestions that have helped me get out of the house:

Ways to Get Out the Door with Little Ones

  • Sign-up for classes! There are so many amazing baby and toddler classes offered by the city.  Signing up for classes is not only a great way to help with the development of your little one, but also a great way to build structure and routine into your unpredictable days of motherhood. 
  • Find your favorite local parks.  Not all parks are equal! Do some research (this might mean actually going to a handful of parks) and find the ones that you and your kids like the most.  And go out to them on a consistent basis.
  • Utilize your library! I cannot emphasize this one enough.  The library is one of the most untapped resources our cities offer.  Get to know the library staff. Grab their calendar of events and actually go to them.  The library we attend has great resources for both babies and parents.  
  • Make mom friends.  I am a part of a local MOMS Club and I am a big fan.  Joining this club over a year ago was one of the best decisions I made in those early months as a mom.  It has given me friends and has helped get me out of the door. Whether it is MOMS Club, MOPS, or any other local mom’s group, join something! Not only will this get fun events on your calendar, it will allow you to find community with other moms.
woman exercising in the early morning by herself as part of her routine

4. Exercise Consistently at Same Time 

I think people assume that for people that “love” running, it comes naturally for them to go out for a run.  Not true! At least not for me. Getting out the door, especially recently, has been such an internal battle. My whole mind and body often fights against it.  I know I am not alone in this.  

This is only further evidence of the importance of establishing exercise routines.  Without a consistent routine, it will simply not happen. You need to treat your times of exercise like important work meetings, even if it just a you.  Schedule the times you will run or go out to exercise and actually follow through.  You won’t always feel like it, but you will eventually hit your stride.

As I wrote about a few weeks ago, I am on a bit of an off-season for running, but I am trying to still exercise 6 days a week.  These days it is much less mileage and more group workout classes. This is what a typical week looks like for me currently: 

  • Monday: 6 mile run.  This is a really important run!  I am a huge believer of front-loading and starting your week with hard things.  This sets the precedence for the rest of the week. Last Monday, going out for a run was literally the last thing I wanted to do.  I felt pretty terrible and tired, but since this is part of my established routine, I did it. Even in those moments of not wanting to do something, I can think back to the past of how running on a Monday makes me feel, and from this, I am motivated to stick with it.  
  • Tuesday: 6:15 pm Yogaworks class.  For over the past month, I have been going to the same yoga class with the same teacher, Petra.  I used to pop from different classes with different teachers throughout the week, but for me personally, it is so important to go to the same classes every week.  This routine allows for me to start building a relationship with the teacher and build community with the other ladies that I see every Tuesday and Thursday.  I love how Petra knows me by name, chats with me, and compliments my yoga pants. This sense of belonging and community does not happen if you never consistently go to the same class or instructor.
  • Wednesday: 6 mile run
  • Thursday: 4 mile run + 6:15 pm Yogaworks class
  • Friday: 4-6 mile run (usually with Lance)  This is the end of the week run where I really listen to my body.  Last Friday, I felt terrible so it was just 4 miles. Two Fridays ago, I felt awesome so it was closer to 6.  It really depends. I am not super concerned about this particular run. I usually run this with Lance, so it is a nice run to connect with him and not need to push the jogger!
  • Saturday: Long run in Palos Verdes (right now this is usually around 10 miles) OR 7 am Yogaworks class with Petra
  • Sunday: OFF
woman preparing meal for dinner for her family

5. Start Dinner at the Same Time 

Set a time to start dinner and stick with this as much as you can.  For me, it is 4 pm. I know this is early, but we are early dinner people.  This rhythm of starting dinner at the same time is essential for us in our evening routine.  This allows us to eat at about the same time every night. This rhythm allows for a chunk of evening time that is not spent worrying about dinner prep and dirty dishes.

Like most of what I have written here, it is such a small choice, but this daily pattern of 4 pm dinner making allows things to get started when I often don’t feel like it.  This is usually the time where I am more tired from the day; however, this pattern I have set in our lives, allows me to grab the ingredients and turn on the oven at 4 pm without even really thinking about my feelings. Just another example of the importance of routine! 

Mama with the Crazy Child: You Are Not Alone!

This one is for you mama. 

The one who feels like she most certainly has the craziest, loudest, and messiest child in the world.  You are not alone. I am right there with you.

I know I cannot be alone in this feeling that my son seems to be the only one that is quite as loud or makes quite as much of a mess compared to all the other babies.  It is so easy to fall into this trap of comparison and feel like there must be something wrong with the way we are raising our kids. Here is the thing, sometimes children, especially really little ones, have bad days and it is NO indicator of how good or bad of a parent we are.  

In full transparency, Hudson and I have been having a rough past few days.  Like hitting other babies and throwing sippy cups off gondola rides rough. I can’t make this stuff up.  This is our life. Hudson is not even 16-months old yet and these past few days have felt like we are already in those terrible twos.

It is amazing how I can already see very large glimpses of the type of boy and man I can see him becoming.  And these glimpses are beautiful! I already can see that he is going to be incredibly passionate in whatever he chooses to pursue in his life. This makes me super excited for his future; however, this passionate personality feels a bit overwhelming right now. 

toddler boy with converse shoes standing by tree outside
Look closely! You can see some of the green paint remnants on right side of shirt.

The Green Paint Incident

Last Tuesday, we were at our mommy and me class when the teacher put out paint for the babies to use.  None of the other babies even went near the paint, except for my sweet Hudson. And let’s just say, there was green everywhere.  In his hair, on his shirt, on his shorts, on my shirt, and on my jacket. Then, he started running away with the green paint brush in hand and decided it was time to make other things turn green as well, like the soccer ball and the toy car.  So here I am, chasing this wild baby and wondering, why is he is the messiest and craziest one in this whole class?

The other babies seems to be neatly playing with the play-dough and water tank. They are not covered in green.  The thing with this mindset is that I am zeroing in on particularly tough moments and failing to remember the million, little sweet things he did on that very same day.  In that moment, Hudson was the messy, paint boy, but in the very next, it will be a different little one and I am guessing that mama or dad will feel just the way I did. Let’s give our kids and ourselves a little bit more grace. We all have our green paint kind of days. 

toddler boy waiting for the doctor at the doctor's office
Waiting for the doctor, post-poop everywhere…

The Poop Incident

The story does not end here.  Two days after the paint incident, there was the poop incident.  Hudson had his 15-month doctor appointment. As I took him out of his carseat and started walking up to Dr. Berman’s office, I felt something warm on my arm.  I also smelled something awful. Hudson pooped, but we are not just talking about a normal poop. Something went very wrong and this poop, like the green paint, was everywhere.  On the wall, on my shirt, on his shorts, and on his socks. For the entirety of his appointment, I smelled like poop.  I did not have a change of clothes for either one of us, so Hudson went home in a diaper and I went home in a poopy shirt. Again, here is a moment of feeling like I must be the most unprepared mother with a baby that has the craziest poops. All lies.

The Bus Incident

And the story continues.  On Monday, we went back to the San Diego Zoo. We went to the San Diego Zoo when we visited my sister about a month and a half ago. You can read about that first zoo visit here. This time we went with friends. These friends also have a baby that is a similar age to Hudson.  She is super calm and mellow. And this does not help my head case of feeling like Hudson is the craziest and messiest baby alive.  But here is the thing, they have such different personalities, I simply cannot compare. Hudson will never be the quiet one that can sit still and not say a word, and I am perfectly okay with this.  Again, I love how passionate he is about the world and all the little things in it; however, right now, it feels a tad overwhelming.

Hudson is obsessed with the animals.  It doesn’t matter what type, if it is moving and he sees it, he immediately signs “please” and wants to touch them.  He wants to be up close and personal. He wants to chat with them and see how they are doing. Again, I love this about him, but right now this manifests in him shrieking and screaming when the bus tour we are on drives away from said animal exhibit.  The amount of noises he made on that 40-minute bus ride was rather impressive. And again as I am bouncing him and exerting all the energy I can muster to get him to quiet down, that comparative voice again starts running in my head. I look around at all the quiet and calm babies sitting on their parents’ laps.  Why is my baby the loudest and most active on this whole bus?  

The Gondola Ride Incident

Then, there was the gondola ride, where he threw his sippy cup off the ride.  Thankfully, it landed on a building and it was just his green sippy cup. It could have been much worse; however, this was just another thing that added to my feelings of insecurity at this whole parenthood thing.  Why can’t I seem to control my child?

In between these moments on the bus and the gondola ride, there were also moments where he was super fun and independent.  In the Reptile Walk, he would run from glass exhibit to glass exhibit, with such excitement and enthusiasm. He would point at each animal, smile, and run to say hi to the next one.  These are the moments that I need to hold on to more. These are the times I should be asking: Do I have the cutest, most passionate baby in the whole wide world? Yes, yes I think I do.

Then, there was the dinner, after a long day at the zoo. This exhausted boy who was running and screaming all over the place at the zoo, was sensory overloaded by the time dinner hit.  As I write this, everything is beginning to make sense to me. The amount of energy he exerts throughout the day, often leads to him being a complete nightmare in restaurant settings. As his mom, I need to understand this better and make sure that after a full day I don’t push him beyond his limits. While the other baby could handle it, he is different and it was just too much for him.  

This sums up our past few days pretty well!

The Hitting Baby Incident

I will end with my final example.  This one happened yesterday at this week’s mommy and me class.  It involved a toy lemon and a plastic pan from the toy kitchen. I am not going to even sugar coat it, Hudson used this pan to hit another baby on the arm.  I could type up a bunch of excuses here, but I am owning it instead.

He hit her and he absolutely shouldn’t have; however, it was the reaction of the mom that again put me back in the spiraling head case I have been fighting for over a week. She simply said one word: “wow!”  With that one word and her telling her baby that they should head over to the kitchen, far away from this crazy child and his mother, I felt alone. This is really a story for another post, but as mothers, can we respond to situations in ways that create bridges, instead of further divide?

We Are in this Together

This is a lot of little stories to point to this one fact: we all have bad days, especially little ones, but don’t let the bad days take away from the good ones.  Don’t let the bad, misbehaved moments, take away from the really amazing ones. And this is especially for the mom that has a baby or child with a similar personality trait to sweet Hudson. 

Embrace this passionate side of your child. Yes, it may feel like he is the messiest, craziest, and loudest one on the whole bus, but he or she has a lot of good that they can offer. Learn to tame the wild and put all this energy and passion into good.  Ultimately, the point of all these very honest and raw stories are to be my open hand out to you. We are in this together. You are not alone, mama. If you think you have the craziest, loudest, messiest baby; come over and meet mine.

Alive in Your Calling

Have you ever had a day or a week where you were struck with a deep feeling in your bones that you were doing exactly what you were made to do? Trust me, I have a lot of days of doubt.  A lot of days where I question if the Lord wants more from me.  If he wants me to do this mothering thing, alongside a full-time career.  There are definitely moments, days, conversations that make me wonder. Amidst this doubt, I am occasionally hit with the unshakeable feeling that I am exactly where I am meant to be.

There was no big event that happened last week that woke me up to my calling, but it was the stringing along of ordinary moments, like singing at mommy and me class and hosting fun baby play dates at our house that made me realize: I was made for this.

Mother and baby at the beach
“What do you do for work?” This. This is what I do.

Oh, I Just Stay At Home

Being a stay-at-home mom is a tricky subject.  It is tricky because I am fully aware that it is a privilege.  Not everyone has a choice. I know there are plenty of mamas that would love to stay at home, but the extra income is a necessity.  Or, they are a single mama and their job is the sole income providing for their family.  Even as I type this, I sense myself holding back and overthinking the words to say.  I really don’t want to step on toes. The main point here is that I am fully aware that we all are living our own stories with our own sets of pressures.  I can only really write from where I currently am and that is at home. I feel thankful to be in a position that it is possible for me to stay at home. This is a big deal, and I do my best to not take it for granted. 

There is a lot of unspoken misunderstandings between the two camps: working mamas and at home mamas.  This makes me sad, but I think there is a lot of internal judgement and comparison. And I think it is absolutely felt on both sides.  Again, I can only speak from my perspective, but I feel pretty certain that working mamas struggle with not being able to have the same type of experiences or involvement as those that are at home. 

Baby and smiling mother outside
Thankful.

Own Your Story; No Need to Fabricate

On the flip side, SAHMs can feel like they are not doing enough. I have had countless conversations with people (all with good intent) that ask me when or if I plan on going back to work. I know it is unintentional, but this question often feels like a judgement.  It often feels like all the work I am doing within the home is somehow not enough. I have found myself in this past year making up stories of intentions of returning to work soon. I find myself telling them about how I had a few substitute teaching jobs last school year, as if they need to know that I am doing more than just staying home.

Especially when I talk to other working moms, I have felt this pressure to communicate my heart of eventually returning to my teaching job.  But here is the thing, I am not certain this is where I feel called. I really wish I could own my story better and not feel like I need to fabricate things to connect better to the woman I am speaking to.

Staying At Home IS a Full-Time Job!

Most people can acknowledge that staying at home with kids is a lot of work.  While I think a lot of people can recognize the tremendous amount of work and value that comes with being at home with your kiddos, I believe there is still a lot of underlying assumptions.  Since we don’t have a typical 9-5, people can easily assume that we are the perfect people to take on x, y, and z.

A stay-at-home mom works many job throughout the day. She’s a nurse, chauffeur, chef, teacher, playmate, housekeeper, laundry attendant, accountant, and babysitter all rolled into one.

What Does a Stay-At-Home Mom Do All Day, Apryl Duncan, VeryWellFamily

Again, I am writing this with hesitation because I don’t want to step on toes, but I think there is a lot of truth in this.  And it is not a bad thing per se. I feel happy to be in a more flexible position that I can do some extra things I probably would not have been able to do if I was still working outside of the home. The problem is when people assume that we must have the time.  This is where I think there is confusion. In a lot of ways, I feel busier than when I was teaching. I feel more on for my one, little toddler, than I did for 100 something students. 

I Should…

A lot of the things that I let slip when I was working, I have fully taken on.  When the floors are messy, I feel a lot of responsibility and guilt for not being on it.  Since my work is within the home, I feel so guilty when the house feels like a chaotic mess.  This is my one job! I should have spotless floors, a fridge fully stocked, and gourmet meals on the table every night.  I should be doing all the extra things. I should be on the board of my MOMS Club. I should be the one volunteering to be in charge of the email list for our year-long mommy and me class.  I should have a foot in every single ministry at church. I should be reaching out to friends more often and sending them letters of encouragement. I should do more for my husband, I mean he is the one fully providing for us.  I should, I should, I should.  

Mother kissing baby at the top of Inspiration Point hike at Will Rogers State Park
These baby days already feel like they are drifting away!

Sweet Daughter,

Man, typing up the above actually made me really sad.  It made me sad because all those things are truly weighing on my heart.  Being a SAHM often feels like it is not enough for the world around me and if I’m honest, sometimes I get caught up in believing this lie.  But here is the truth the Lord reminded me this week: it is enough and I am exactly where He wants me. 

Back to my original question that started off this post: Are you ever struck with a deep sense that you are exactly where you were meant to be?  This past week, I felt like I was living out my calling. It was not glamorous and it did not involve fancy meetings or important conferences. Instead, it involved lots of “the wheels on the bus go round and round.”  I sang a lot of songs last week with Hudson and I read a lot of the same book over and over and I made lots of snacks. And in this place of singing, reading, and making, I felt alive in my calling. I felt the Lord whispering to me all week: Sweet daughter, you are right where I want you.


Find Beauty in the Ordinary & Have a Great Weekend!

After especially busy seasons, slow weekends are best friends.  This past weekend was similarly sweet and mellow like the past weekend I wrote about. I want to put this into words so I don’t forget. I am feeling just so thankful right now.  Life feels simple and peaceful and quiet, and I know this won’t last forever, but I am really loving this particular season of life.

Hudson is at a stage that I am absolutely adoring.  If you have read even just a handful of my past posts, you should have the idea that the newborn stage was a struggle to say the least for me. I feel much more comfortable in this stage of making snacks, taking him to mommy and me classes, and chasing him about the house. I was unprepared for the very early stages. Not to say that that time is not precious and sweet and special, but I am really loving this toddler season.

Toddler boy wearing Hurley T-shirt with leather sandals at the park
There are those adorable leather sandals that he sported the next day at the…park!

The Leather Sandal Incident

Just yesterday, Hudson came up to me holding a pair of sandals he has yet to wear.  These sandals gathered dust because I assumed they were still too big for his little feet. Yesterday, he decided he was ready for them. He showed me them and tapped his foot with them.  Such a simple thing, but this moment struck me. I thought it was one of the most darling things.  He has desires and grand ideas, like wearing his cool leather sandals in the house just because. I love watching his brain churn.  I love watching his little quirks develop. And I love the fact that he can communicate with me.

Along with the sandal tapping, Hudson has been signing “please,” “more,” and “all done.”  I can now tell him, “say please” or “how do we ask for something we want?”. Hudson greets me with a smile and a hand over his chest. This melts my heart in a certain type of way. I love that he can ask politely for things without even a word.  I love that he can tell us when he is all done and ready to get out of his high chair. This early stage of communication is a lot of fun and I eagerly await for the words to begin to flow. So far the vocabulary looks something like this: “mom,” (which is always said in association with something he wants) “dada,” (which is usually said when he is happy and having fun) “ba” = ball, “na”=Nala, our dog.

Journal to Find Beauty in the Ordinary

I have become obsessed with a journaling concept I recently heard about on Emily P. Freeman’s podcast “The Next Right Thing.”  I am linking to that particular episode here. She talks about how when she is feeling overwhelmed with the demands of everyday life, she grounds herself by writing down lists called “These Are The Days Of.”  Under this title she lists the things that are currently happening in her life. This is such a simple, little exercise, but I think it is genius. It is genius in the sense that it gives us space to actually name what is going on in our life.

It is amazing how the most beautiful, yet ordinary things of our days so easily slip by us if we don’t take the time to intentionally jot it down.  This scares me! I don’t want to forget the beautifully ordinary elements of my days. This is why writing is such an important part of my days. It is why I journal in the mornings and persist in keeping up this little blog. Your perspective, your story, the ordinary elements of your day are sacred.  They are strung together by the greatest storyteller of all time, the Lord, and He wants us to share it. He wants us to tell about the seemingly ordinary, yet holy, beautiful, and sacred aspects of our days. So, I am sharing. I am logging them down for you to read because I believe it is important, no matter how small.

These Are The Days Of…

  1. Beach days
  2. Chasing Hudson as he runs toward the ocean, completely fearless
  3. Baby friends and mom friends
  4. The park 
  5. Homestate lunch dates with daddy 
  6. Farmer’s Markets
  7. Cinnamon rolls on Sundays
  8. 15-months 
  9. Planting plumeria in a blue planter
  10. Water diapers and sprinklers in the backyard
  11. Watching the grass grow, literally 
  12. Trying new things 
  13. Finding confidence in motherhood
  14. Fighting hard against comparison, daily
  15. Wondering if Hudson will be the crazy, misbehaved one in school
  16. Also wondering, if he will be drafted to the MLB before college; he has an arm!
  17. Leather sandals
  18. The park, again
  19. Capturing milestones with signs
  20. Registering for The Boston Marathon!
  21. Checking out 11 library books 

Poetic, right?  I love this exercise because it gets me to literally just list out what is going on in my life.  When I read that list back, I am amazed by the beauty in it. This is just our life right now. This is literally what is going on.  And if I am honest, most days, I don’t stop to let the beauty of it all sink in. Instead I spend a lot of time wondering if I am doing enough, as I mindlessly clean the baseboards and compare my mom life to the lives of the busy, important friends I see all around me.  I need to stop. I need to make my “These Are The Days Of…” list. I need to give space to the abundant blessings in my life, even though there are days where I feel pretty small and unimportant.

Toddler boy play with water sprinklers in the backyard
These are the days of backyard sprinklers & water diapers.

Your Story Matters- Own It!

This post is a little all over the place, but this is just what is on my heart, currently. I hope you can find encouragement in it.  I hope you can remember that your ordinary days of the park, library, and sprinklers in the backyard matter. It is easy to get lost in the stacks of laundry, sticky floors, and that feeling that you are always at a park.  It is easy to forget these ordinary days of correcting, feeding, cleaning, creating, and loving are in fact poetry. If you are overwhelmed and exhausted, do me a favor. Take 5 minutes. Write down the ordinary elements of yours days. Then, read it slowly and thoughtfully back to yourself. Let it set in. Let the ordinary moments hold space in your heart and let gratitude take over.

Each of our lists are likely going to vary quite a bit, but this variance does not change our status as moms or wives or sisters.  The Lord has a unique list and story mapped out for us, it might not look like the mom who is seemingly doing it all, but it is ours.  Let’s own it, more.


Long Weekends Are Friends

While most weekends seem to literally just fly by and escape me, last weekend in particular seemed to hang around for a while and it was just what I needed. It actually felt long in the best possible way. Most weekends for us always seem to have a pretty lengthy agenda. Things to do, places to go, people to see. This weekend definitely still had some of that, but for some reason or another, there also felt like there was a ton of white space. There was a lot of down time, rest, breathing, dreaming, no agenda. And let me tell you, that is some of my favorite types of time. I even went to a spa by MYSELF! Yes, alone, just me and the steam room. If I were to say it was naturally just lovely, I would actually be lying because the truth is, it was uncomfortable for me. I truly had to push myself out the door to go and when I got there, I literally almost left. Little to my knowledge, bathing suits were not allowed in this particular spa. I am assuming this is a thing for most, if not all Korean spas. I was unaware. I went in with my securely tied pink and black suit, with zero intentions of needing to take it off. Here’s the thing, I am incredibly private. This is part of the reason I had SO much trouble breastfeeding in public. I like my privacy. I like bathing suits in spas. This really could be an entire story on its own, but here is the mildly shortened version. I did not leave the spa, even though every part of me wanted to. I felt incredibly out of my comfort zone. I walked into a spa that felt culturally unfamiliar to me. But, I took a deep breath, held the towel tightly around me, and tried to get into the hot tub as discreetly as possible. It was almost like that hot tub warmed me up, and I eventually got over my fears and was able to actually relax. I made a little circuit from the hot tub to the cold pool to the steam room and then back to the cold pool. I did this circuit over and over again, occasionally switching out steam room for the sauna.

Toddler boy in swim trunks throwing tennis ball in pool
Late Saturday afternoon pool time. Hudson loves throwing the ball to Nala Girl.

Will I go back to this bathing suit-less spa? No, probably not. Not my thing. I prefer having a secure suit around me, but here’s the thing that is important: I made the best of this situation that felt uncomfortable to me. I am quite aware of the privilege in this story. Oh no, poor thing, what a hard life, she had to endure a spa day without a bathing suit. I get it. This may sound silly to you, and it kind of is, but I still think there is value to it. It is not always going to manifest itself in the form of a Korean Spa, but daily I am faced with situations where I need to push myself out of comfort zones. If I am honest, I am pretty comfortable just at home, not needing to interact with people, or put myself out there through an email, an ask or a proposal. Lets just be real honest, life is so much easier in our comfort zones. It is so much easier to just type and type, but never hit publish. It is so much easier to complain about how I never get time to myself, but then not do anything about it, even when I have a kind husband that encourages me to take time. It is so much easier to pull out all the toys at home and not venture out on that playdate to the park you have never been and the moms you have never met. Especially for someone like me that craves safety, routine, and control, life is just easier in the comfort zone. I am very aware that the Lord wants more for me. He wants me to push myself. He wants me to get more comfortable with being uncomfortable. He wants to refine me. And the best way He will do this is if I am willing to get more uncomfortable. All this to say, I am proud of my spa day and thankful for my husband that gave me this gift of time alone. I needed it. Once I finally got into my little rhythm of the circuit I created, I ended up enjoying myself. I even laughed with other women about plunging into the cold pool. I let go and I was able to relax. I even got some writing in, as I headed up to the second floor, that was co-ed, so thankfully required a baggy orange and gray outfit. So in my orange gym shorts that went past my knees, I wrote. I munched on Sour Patch Kids and I wrote from a heart of gratitude. Even when I step away by myself for a couple hours, I can see with clear vision the incredible amount of blessings the Lord has surrounded me with. I am so grateful.

Toddler eating doughnut at Randy's Doughnuts
Sundays are for Randy’s Doughnuts

On a very different note, the rest of the weekend was filled with time with family, Sunday morning doughnut trips, BBQs, walks and runs along the beach, long drives and good podcasts, and a little bit of dreaming of things to come with my sweet husband. This weekend actually did feel long. It felt restful and fun and carefree. It felt simple and good. It is amazing how just one extra day off can really make a world of a difference. That extra Monday was very much needed after what felt like an entire summer of non-stop hustle. I loved our summer. It was a ton of fun. We did a lot, saw a lot, traveled a lot. My extra tanned skin and Hudson’s bleached and highlighted hair is our proof. We lived this summer well. We took in lots of sun and had numerous ocean dunks. As much as I have loved this summer, I am ready for slower fall days. I am ready for staying inside more. I am ready for less travel and more time at home. Our fall is still relatively full as we are starting a couple mommy and me classes next week, but I actually really look forward to this routine. I look forward to steady schedules and cooler weather and of course, more sweaters and nitro cold brews with pumpkin cream.

Father and father sitting next to son
So thankful for this family of ours

Disneyland with a Toddler: 5 Things They Will Love

On Monday, Hudson had his second trip to Disneyland!  He had a blast, slept for a total of 30-minutes, and was on a sugar rush for most of the day.  I wrote about our first trip to Disneyland with Hudson when he was almost 11-months, which you can read here.  That first trip was still a lot of fun, but now Disneyland is way more fun.  A lot has changed with Hudson in those 4 months.  Since our last time at Disneyland, he is now walking, using sign language to communicate his needs, and honestly just a whole lot more fun.  His level of excitement and interest over rides and especially the characters was so fun to watch. Hudson would literally cry every time it was time to say goodbye to the character we were visiting.  He loved Eeyore, Tiger, Buzz, Goofy, Pluto, Minnie, and the Chipmunks. He literally would attempt to walk back up to them and break up their time with the other little kids. As a parent, it was so fun to see the pure awe and joy of the Disneyland experience through the eyes of our crazy, little toddler.  I am pretty sure I had a similar line in my previous Disney post, but now at almost 15-months, the awe and joy and amazement is in full-force. If you are a parent with a baby and are debating the right time to take your little one to Disney, I think this toddler time is the perfect time. If your baby is younger than a year, I would wait even just a few months.  So much will happen in the matter of 4-5 months. It is worth the wait. Of course you can take your little, little baby, but if you are looking to really see them get super excited and into the rides and characters, I think that 15-month mark is the perfect time. We had such a fun time with Hudson’s Nanny and Poppy, even though we definitely missed daddy as he was away on a work trip. Last post on Disney, I gave tips on traveling to Disney with a baby.  Today, I want to give you my top 5 things to do in Disneyland + California Adventures with a toddler. Side note, this is through the experience of what Hudson (15-months) really loved and enjoyed. Obviously all babies are different and what really appealed to little H, might not be your little one’s thing. Adjust accordingly! 

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One of the many sugar-filled things Hudson ate on our Disneyland trip!

1. Meal with Characters

We went to Goofy’s Kitchen and Hudson had the very best time.  These character meals are super expensive, but it is the perfect setting for your toddler to get in some really special moments with the characters.  Hudson’s Nanny and Poppy were with us and it was their idea to go. Initially I was worried that after barely napping all day, Hudson would have a meltdown, but it was actually the opposite. He loved all the food, which is very much tailored with the taste buds of kids in mind. His favs were probably the Mac n Cheese, PB & J pizza (yes, pizza), and the raspberry cream puffs.  Let’s just say, Hudson had a cheat day. Not only did he love munching on all the yummy options, he loved all the characters coming up to greet him. He was waving and clapping all over the place. At one point, he got so excited when all the characters were doing a dance in the middle of the restaurant that I put him down and he literally walked right up to one of the chipmunks (Chip or Dale, not sure which) and started clapping and dancing. Of course I didn’t have my phone to capture the moment, but the cuteness of that memory will never fade.  

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Hudson loved his time hanging out with the characters at Goofy’s Kitchen!

2. The Tiki Room + Dole Whip

Of course, Hudson loved all the moving rides we went on (some of his favs of the day included: the rockets, Dumbo, Nemo, Alice in Wonderland, and Winnie the Pooh); however, no ride captured his enthusiasm quite as much as the Tiki Room.  Hudson is currently obsessed with birds and points them out anytime we are out, so that was probably a large reason he loved it. This little 15-minute show really is the perfect thing to do with a toddler. The color, the music, the lights, and of course the talking birds and plants make this a toddler’s dream.  As you wait to enter the show or on your way out, you should grab a dole whip and let your little one have a few bites. This was a huge hit for Hudson. 

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Waiting for his dole whip and talking birds with his nanny!

3. Jessie’s Critter Carousel (DCA)

While California Adventures is very much limited on baby rides, there is one that was a huge hit for little H: Jessie’s Critter Carousel.  This ride is literally just a merry-go-round, but instead of the typical horses there are fun animals like turtles, bunnies, and skunks. The funny thing is Hudson typically hates riding on merry-go-rounds, but for some reason he loved this one. I have a few theories.  It is much slower than a typical merry-go-round and the music is more Wild, Wild West-like. Whatever it was, Hudson loved this ride. So much so that immediately when it stopped he signed “more” and then began to cry as I had to pull him off his little, green turtle. We then went immediately back through the line and popped him back on and the happiness was restored.  As I am learning daily, it is often the simplest things that satisfy and entertain Hudson. If you are over in California Adventures, I would definitely take your little one on this ride.

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Of course the simple merry-go-round was one of Hudson’s very favorite rides!

4. Redwood Creek Challenge Trail (DCA)

This one is a bit unexpected, but this challenge trail is actually the perfect setting for your energy-filled toddler.  Obviously parts of this course are not suited for toddlers, (the tire zip-line, rock wall, and netted bridges) but Hudson thoroughly enjoyed running around, sliding, and exploring in the cave.  We spent a good amount of time here and Hudson was so happy. He was giggling and running all about. As a parent, this is the perfect setting to take a break. There are picnic benches and rocks that make good seats.  It is also a beautiful setting and you actually feel like you are in a Redwood forest. This is the perfect place to break up the day and give your little one some time out of the stroller.

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Hudson loved his free time roaming through caves and crawling through tunnels.

5. Toddler Meals

Who knew this was a thing?  I am not sure how many places within the parks offer it, but Rancho Del Zocalo, in Frontierland, offers the regular kid’s meals, but they also have a toddler meal option.  This is 2 dollars less than a kid’s meal and is the perfect size for a picky toddler. Right now, kid’s meals are too big for Hudson, so this toddler meal option was the perfect alternative.  It came with a small serving of beans and rice, a Go-Go Squeeze pack, and a milk or apple juice. The perfect meal size for our little guy.  

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Hudson was extra shy around his very favorite character, Buzz!

Disneyland is a blast, but the magic really does increase when you get to experience it all through the eyes of your toddler.  This is such a fun age that Hudson is entering. Yes, there are some challenges, the tantrums and food throwing are at an all-time high right now, but it mostly is fun.  The world really is opening up to Hudson and as his mom, it is so fun to watch him delight in it all. Hudson will definitely not remember this trip, but I can’t wait to show him the pictures and tell him about how he walked up to Chip or Dale and clapped and danced and basically had his best day ever.

5 Things I Wish I Knew About Weaning

Mamas, let’s talk about weaning. 

Weaning is something that seems to not be as talked about.  There seems to be an abundance of information surrounding the early days of breastfeeding; however, I have found that there seems to be less out there when it comes to weaning.  Why? Not totally sure, but I have a few guesses. The weaning experience is felt very differently depending on when you choose to wean. Weaning your baby at 8-months is very different from weaning your baby at 14-months.  The experience is also going to be different based on how regularly you nursed. Weaning a baby that is already used to occasionally drinking bottles is very different from the baby that exclusively breastfed 6-8 times a day.  This large variety in experience when it comes to weaning could be the reason some of the challenges are not regularly discussed. Just like our individual relationship with breastfeeding is unique, how we experience weaning is too. 

I am coming from the perspective of weaning after a year.  I am also coming from the perspective of having a baby that only nursed (Hudson refused bottles).  Not only was Hudson exclusively breastfed, I would nurse him really whenever he wanted. Fell and hit his head? Nurse. Can’t fall asleep? Nurse.  Teething? Nurse. Fussy on the airplane? Nurse. Nursing was the answer to most of our troubles. It really did feel like a superpower. While breastfeeding was initially the source of a lot of anxiety and doubt, it eventually became this thing that gave me a lot of confidence.  It was this power that only I had to instantly calm and comfort him. Little did I know how much of a loss it would be for the both of us when it came time to give it up.

Weaning has brought a sense of freedom and independence that I have been missing for over a year. I feel like I have my body back, even though it feels changed and slightly depleted.  With this sense of freedom, there is also a great deal of loss and change I am still adjusting to. This season of weaning is proving to be much more challenging than I expected. A year ago, I looked forward to being done with the woes of breastfeeding, but now I have a deep-pitted sadness for a bond and season that has fleeted away.  If I am being fully honest, I am still mourning this loss. If you are rolling your eyes right now and think I am being dramatic, I get it. That is how I felt a year ago when I heard people talk about breastfeeding with such affection and longing. It did not make sense to me why mothers missed this season of bloody nipples, 2 am nursing sessions, and leaky boobs.  Was I missing something? I was in the very early stages of breastfeeding and the idea of not needing to nurse, seemed like the best life. I could drink wine again. I could eat ice cream and cheese again. I could make my food as spicy as I wanted. I could be gone for more than a few hours. I could wear buttons and all my dresses again. My July self a year ago dreamed about this season.  Now that I have my hands full of wine and Brie cheese, I can’t shake this feeling of wanting to go back to those 2 am nursing sessions. Isn’t that funny how life works?   

So, if you are beginning to wean your baby or are currently in the process of weaning, here are a few things to know, that I really wish I was more prepared for.

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  1. Post-weaning Depression is Real 

Unfortunately, there is not a ton of research out on post-weaning depression, but it is very much a thing.  When you stop nursing, there is a decrease in levels of prolactin and oxytocin.  Both of these hormones are largely responsible for feelings of happiness and well-being.  It only makes sense that when you stop nursing, you will feel some of the effects. This is just the scientific reason behind the sadness.  There is so much more going on than just a shift in hormones. For me, it had a lot to do with suddenly feeling not as needed. Especially as a stay-at-home mom, who nursed like it was her full-time job (it was!), stopping, felt like losing my purpose.  Think about how people feel when they lose a job. For me personally, and I think this is true for other women as well, the end of nursing felt like being fired from that all-important job you once held. When you break it down like this, it is no wonder that some women have such a difficult time in the post-weaning season.  It is a big change to your body, not only physically, but emotionally as well. Just like with all big life changes, you need to allow for God grace in this season of adjustment

    2. Engorgement Can Happen Again (even if you wean gradually)

This was another surprise for me.  I wrongly assumed that since I was weaning after a year-old and I weaned relatively gradually for a month before stopping cold turkey that I would not experience any painful engorgement.  Turns out, I was wrong. Even though I slowly removed feedings for an entire month, the week after the last time I nursed, I was painfully engorged. Especially if you were someone that was still nursing relatively frequently past a year, it is more likely that your milk supply will still be in good measures.  So, if you plan on weaning, try to plan it during a time that you don’t have as much going on. I made the rookie move of weaning the week before I ran my first marathon. This was not the smartest move, and thankfully the engorgement mostly went away by the marathon with the help of hot showers and expression.  You never really know how your body is going to react to this big change, so don’t be like me. Try to wean during a time that is more low key, aka not the week before a marathon! 

      3. You Will Question Yourself

This one seems to be true for me for just about every stage of motherhood, but I was not expecting to question my decision to wean as much as I did.  I had previously made up my mind months previously that I would have Hudson weaned by the end of July, just before he turned 14-months. I had this date set in my mind for a while.  There were clear, logistical reasons I needed to have him weaned. We would be traveling to San Francisco for the race without him, so I wanted to be sure he was fully weaned before we left.  Even though, on paper the timing to wean made sense; I questioned my decision. I had daily battles of wondering if I made the right decision. If this is the right time, why does this feel so hard and unnatural for the both of us.  I wondered if maybe I should go back to nursing, I still had milk once we had returned from our trip. Ultimately, I am happy I stuck with my original decision. Currently, we both are well-adjusted, but through the process of weaning, I desperately wanted to return to our old ways.  For you, maybe it was easy to stick to your guns, but if you also are struggling and questioning if you are making the right decision; trust your instincts and don’t compare. You deep down know what is best for the both of you.  

     4. Your Baby Might Take it Hard 

How your baby responds to the weaning process is again going to vary based on timing and if it is mom’s choice or baby’s.  I know some babies quickly lose interest in nursing. Some; however, seem to cling to the comforts of nursing even more so as they get older.  Hudson is for sure a clinger and weaning for him was difficult and sad. This is largely why #3 was so true for me. The way he cried and tugged on my shirt broke my heart.  I felt so bad to be refusing him something he desperately wanted. Especially if you are weaning after a year, it is more likely that your baby will be more aware of the great loss that has occurred.  I wish I was better prepared to handle the extra tears and increased clinginess that weaning caused in Hudson. There were a stretch of days where he was just having an extra hard time with it. Change is so hard, especially for a little one! The other surprise was that it took him a while to adjust.  It has been nearly a month since I weaned him and when he gets hurt or tired, he still will pull at my shirt. He has not forgotten about our nursing time. He still craves it. I wrongly assumed he would quickly forget and move on. Just like you need to give your body and heart time to adjust, you must also give time to your little one.

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     5. You Are Still A Source of Comfort

This is the one I need to still tell myself.  It felt like I lost my superpower. It felt like I could no longer provide him with the comfort he so desperately wanted. This is not true.  You might not be milky mama anymore, but you will always be mama. I might not nurse anymore, but I am still Hudson’s source for snuggles and hugs and comfort.  For me, it has been helpful to replace all of our nursing time with other activities that still show him I am near and love him. We still spend a lot of time in the glider; it just looks different.  Instead of milk, I am nurturing him with words and songs and laughter. Your nursing relationship might be over, but in reality this is just the beginning of your sweet bond.

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!