Partner vs Spouse

When I lived in Costa Rica, the first place I stayed was an eco village. I loved the sense of community I felt there when we visited and I thought it would be the best place to start as newcomers to the country and culture. I noticed when I met new people they would say, “You’ll have to come to my home some time and meet my partner”. At first I wondered if everyone in the village was gay.

The word choice here is no accident. It’s a cultural difference I love.

First, let’s acknowledge the use of the word “home”. Very few people said, “house” unless they were referring to the structure. For example, when we were touring houses to rent or stay in, people would talk about the walls, the windows, the doors of the house. But, when referring to an event or gathering, it was happening in the “home”. I love this because a house is worthless without people inside it to make it a home. We, as Americans, put too much importance on the house we live in and how its decorated, but really, the focus should be on how you make the people inside it feel.

Second, the fact that people would invite me, a total stranger, and my two wild jungle babies into their home without first learning what I do (assessing my status), and what my hobbies are (assessing common ground) was shocking. In this culture, people were valued for their character, not what they wore, how much money they make, or where they like to hang out. And, it was generally assumed that you were a good person because if you weren’t a good person, they’d know about you. Criminals in Costa Rica are gossiped about and chased out of town. It’s highly disrespected to hurt others and the system works.

Third, the term “partner”. Now, I don’t remember meeting any gay couples, but everyone referred to their spouse as a partner. Some of them were legally married, some common law, and some lived together and shared children together. What all of these couples had in common was their view of this other person as a partner, and they actually were PARTNERS.

Some of my readers may feel they have a partner in their life, regardless of the cultural title assigned that person (friend, boyfriend, lover, husband) and this post may not apply to you, but I also know many friends of mine don’t feel they have a partner in their spouse and after several conversations we agree that part of the problem is the cultural view of the institution of marriage and the defined gender roles commonly associated with husband and wife.

I’m not bitter about marriage, and I have no judgement on anyone who chooses to get married or chooses to stay single. I celebrate and respect love in all forms. I have people in my life that I love and I tell them I love them; however, if I am fortunate enough to fall IN LOVE again, it will be with someone I feel will be my partner.

After much self-reflection I realized when I got married, my spouse seemed to develop a sense of ownership over me almost instantly. This feeling caused a heap of unhealthy habits on his part that led to our eventual demise. I won’t go into details, because it doesn’t deserve much more of my energy, but the expectations of me as a “wife” and  his views of me as a woman prevented him from viewing me as a partner and treating me as such. That’s not how marriage was designed to be, but unfortunately it is that way in many homes.

Here’s how a partner is different. 

  • A partner hears you and validates your feelings and needs
  • A partner laughs with you, not at you
  • A partner assists you with caring for the house AND the home
  • A partner stands up for you & never inflicts harm
  • A partner cares for you when you’re sick & protects your health
  • A partner shares your dreams and visions…even if they think they’re silly
  • A partner cares for children with you; the good, the bad, the ugly are shared
  • A partner challenges you to be better, but accepts you for all that you are
  • A partner supports you living the life you want and enjoys the ride with you.

When I find this person my promise to them will be that I will never hold them back from living the life they want. I will never ask them to “settle down” or compromise their dreams for me. Their journey is their own. I may like to be a part of it and I’d like them to be a part of mine, but I believe, I can love you and you can love me and we can share a life together but there are no rules for what that life looks like. I do not need a title to know I’m loved, nor do I need a lifelong legal commitment. The hope is to find someone I love being with more than anyone else and that they feel the same. Each day we wake up wanting to spend more time together and take each day as it comes enjoying evey beautiful moment.

This time around, I’m not accepting anything less than a partner to love.

Fighting the Good Fight: Raising Kids on Faith

“That’s my brother. My Mom calls him Captain Crazy.” Oops. Guilty mom alert and pretty sure I didn’t mean for the oldest to repeat that. But sometimes it’s not just one kid that’s crazy, it’s all three…and therefore I am crazy too.  Every now and then it is truly insane around here. And by insane I mean the most unpredictable, unthinkable, and what-on-earth-are-we-doing kinds of days.

But we’re fighting a good fight here. A really, really good one. It’s a fight to raise men of faith with character, ambition, courage, and (one of my favs) a healthy sense of humor.

Have you ever just watched a little boy play? Maybe a three year old captivated in his own little world of dragons and swords (squirrels and sticks) with an uncontainable zeal for life and enough energy to run a marathon. Always on the move; jumping, spinning, and throwing himself on the ground. On multiple occasions I’ve questioned my children’s hearing because I literally must shout their names 3 times before they snap out of dragon world with a, “me?” Yes sweet child, you. I am trying so terribly hard to help you tame that wild little spirit.

It feels like a lost cause to correct every single thing that my children do in the course of a day. Why? Because it is a lost cause.  In my mind, constant correction doesn’t tame the spirit, it crushes it. I love, love, love the wild little side of my boys so in these young years! The day to day is tough (understatement of my life) but my husband and I try to focus our efforts on a few broad categories and expect to focus more on specifics as the boys get older (check back in about 7 years for that post). And before friends and family laugh at these, remember that I said we’re working on these; we certainly have not mastered them.

LISTENING: My sweet boys have the biggest and brownest eyes you have literally ever seen. 

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I’ve learned that they have a certain stare that can be translated, “Mommy, I see your mouth moving but I’m not hearing any of your words.” My new approach is to make eye contact, give short and concise instructions, then have them repeat what I said. It works a solid 60% of the time. In my mind, listening and following through will be appreciated by future teachers, will get us closer to being out the door on time (I once heard myself say “put on your shoes” 12 times), and will certainly save my sanity.

RESPECT FOR STUFF: Literally everything falls into this category…toys, utensils, cups, papers, books, trees, flowers, chairs, shoes, floors, cars, etc… Little boys must touch everything…EVERYTHING!! I tell myself that it’s part of learning, which is true. However, breaking things is not ok. One of my pet peeves is things being ruined or broken just because “he breaks everything.” Don’t get me wrong here, my kids have broken, spilled, torn, and squished plenty of things but I try to stay a step ahead of them or at least use teachable moments to constantly encourage respect for ‘stuff.’

ADVENTURE: One look at kid entertainment and you’ll see superheroes, explorers, discoveries, and a whole host of action packed adventure. My sweet boys seem to be “adventurous” in quite scary ways; jumping off couches, scaling high furniture, climbing the door frames like monkeys, or sword fighting using any and every object that is remotely long or skinny. 

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It is truly a case by case basis to figure out what we will and will not approve of for the boys. Some of their suggestions are an immediate ‘no.’ But other suggestions have me coming back to a couple of thoughts; we are raising men and men love adventure and adventure is ideally both fun and safe. Will they possibly get hurt? Yep. Will they possibly build confidence? Yep. Will I possibly regret this? Yep. Will I possibly be overcome with pride? Yep. Is parenting a whole host of difficult questions? Yep.

CAMARADERIE: I am not competitive; never have been, and never will be. But these boys? I can’t even count how many meltdowns per day we have over who is the ‘winner,’ the first, best, fastest, tallest, loudest (my middle child always win this one), and the list goes on. The only real loser of these conversations is me! So we started to focus on brotherhood, teamwork, camaraderie, and we made a shift to encouragement over competition. 

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And let me tell you, it has been GLORIOUS. Good attitudes make winners and bad sports make losers. Talk about a good fight! Fingers crossed that this one pays off when high school sports begin.

Don’t misunderstand me here, we do a whole lot more parenting than these four things. But life with boys can quickly become a crazy house full of little minions that don’t listen, break everything they touch (which is going to be everything), run wild in dangerous ways, and allow natural competition to break one another down. We certainly don’t get it right every time but we’re trying and we’re fighting the good fights.

From the battlefield,

Mommy Pigg

 

 

 

5 Reasons My Kids Have an Amazing Dad

My husband Eric and I have two little girls, Kinley, 4, and Khloe, 3.  Since the moment our first daughter was born, I saw a change in my husband that I could have never anticipated. As the years have passed with our daughters, he has transformed into the most incredible father I could have imagined for our children.

Father’s Day is fast approaching and I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge all the ways that he is forever impacting our daughters and their image of a truly great dad.

1. He fills our home and their little hearts with laughter and fun.

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Laughter is the number one sound our household is bursting with.  During playtime, my husband is willing to be silly and crazy and the ladies think he is the funniest guy on Earth.

Eric teaches the girls knock-knock jokes and they practice them each night before bed.  They blow bubbles, draw silly pictures with sidewalk chalk, name bugs, pretend they are hunting for monsters, chase each other around the house, and build forts,  all while giggling and having fun.

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2. He shows patience and kindness.

Any time one of the girls gets fussy or throws a tantrum, my husband exudes the patience of Job.  While I instantly want to jump in and I get frustrated, Eric stays calm, relaxed and discusses the situation with them in a way that deescalates their tantrum and solves whatever problem caused the fussiness.  He is truly the toddler whisperer.

He shows our children how to be kind to one another, not only by how he treats them and myself, but when they are arguing he steps in and mediates the situation and teaches them that they will both feel better if they can be kind.

3. He gives them his time and is there for them daily.

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My husband is always there for our children.  It doesn’t matter what he is doing, if they ask him to play or they tell him they are hungry, he will drop what he’s doing in order to give them the attention they are craving.  I have seen him come home from work exhausted, and he still makes time to play and laugh with the girls.  He shows them each day that they are the most important aspect of his life, and that spending time with them is what he values.

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Eric takes turns taking each girl on a daddy-daughter date each weekend.  They will go see a movie, grab ice cream, go to the pet store to look at animals, sit on the town square and listen to music, go to the library, or whatever else the girls can think of that they’d like to do with him.  This time is truly special to the girls, where they get his full attention, and in turn he has developed stronger relationships with each of them, and this aspect of their relationship has made them fall even more in love with their daddy.

4. He educates our children.

Our children are always asking questions.  ALWAYS.  Eric and I are both educators, and from day one my husband has turned each experience he has with the girls into learning experiences.

He teaches them that every good thing is from God, and shows them how incredible life can be.

He shares music with them by playing guitar and singing with them, or turning on music so they can all let loose and dance.

He teaches them how to be kind to animals, and which animals are nice to look at but not touch.  Eric has investigated the wonders of insects with them by catching bugs, holding them, feeding them and discussing how they contribute to the world around us.

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He reads books and teaches them lessons and morals through stories he tells.

He has them eat different foods and has taught them how to get creative with food and make cooking fun,

5. The most important factor of a good dad – HE SHOWS THEM LOVE.

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My children are growing up understanding exactly what love is, and what true love looks like.  Eric shows the girls how a man is supposed to treat a woman through his relationship with me.  He shows the girls how a man should treat them by his interactions with them.

He hugs and snuggles with them each day and tells them how much he loves them. I’m not sure they will ever understand the depth of his love for them, but I think they have a good grasp on it even as toddlers.

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Each day I find myself falling more and more in love with my husband as I watch him raise our children with me.  I know that I am truly blessed to have married a man with such a big heart, and I am so pleased with the way he is with our daughters.

I know that having such a great father will mold them into great women, and I can’t wait to watch all the new adventures they will have with him as they grow older.

xoxoxo

thatKelligirl

 

Do you also have someone in your life that’s an amazing dad? What are some other qualities you see that make a father truly great?

How Dad Can Help with the New Baby

I am extremely lucky! My husband has been “all hands on deck” since the minute Caden was born (and my entire pregnancy too). He asks questions, listens to my research findings over and over again, and finds things he can to do help while I was busy doing something else. I don’t know how I would have survived the newborn stage without him…I have a new respect for moms doing it alone (you ROCK!). Those first few weeks are hard for dads because they’re left thinking, “What CAN I do?”. Babies NEED and want their mamas so dad is left feeling like he can’t do too much.

Here are some perfect ways for Daddy to get involved from the get-go:

LET DAD IN THE DELIVERY ROOM

The majority of people do plan on having dad in the delivery room for the birth of their child. However, I have, on occasion, heard women say they DON’T want their husband/partner in the delivery room with them and my jaw drops! I totally understand if you don’t want him see your lady-bits in that “situation”…Nate wasn’t allowed anywhere near the area, I made him stay by my head the whole time! But, please don’t rob them of the moment their son or daughter first comes into the world! Nate never ever cries, but when Caden was born and looked right up at him and mad eye-contact with his daddy for the first time…the dam broke! It would have been so selfish of me to have that moment all to myself…let him enjoy the birth of the miracle you both created!IMG_7552

TAKE TIME OFF

I know this isn’t possible for everyone, but if you can, take advantage of paternity leave! Nate took off work to be with us for a month after Caden was born…a whole month! I cannot even being to explain how helpful this was! We really got to work as a team and went through the learning experience together. We both got to know Caden’s cues and we developed a “routine” together. Even when I was the most frustrated, I knew he was there to help in any way I needed. Whether it was so I could shower or nap, or when I just needed him to vacuum when I felt like I was going to go crazy because the house seemed so messy! As a first time dad, being there with us built up his confidence too. Newborns change daily and I’m glad he got to be there to witness the changes and the milestones with me!

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SKIN TO SKIN TIME

You always hear about how important it is for baby to get skin-to-skin time with mom after they’re born, but don’t forget about dad!! Your newborn will learn that daddy is a safe place too, deepening your relationship from the beginning. When mom is napping after the exhaustion that is childbirth, dads should take that as an opportunity for some skin-to-skin contact with their little one instead of laying him/her in a bassinet. Your baby will immediately feel calm and comforted. Baby will grow up happy and healthy when receiving regular affection from both parents!

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CHANGING DIAPERS

Y’all, I literally did not change a SINGLE diaper while we were in the hospital. That’s right, I was spared from dealing with the tarry, black, goo that works it’s way out of sweet baby’s body. Nate, who had never changed a diaper before in his life, jumped right in and took this job seriously. While I relaxed in the hospital bed, Nate changed every single diaper, and handed Caden to me for snuggles when he was done. Once we got home, he didn’t stop. He was a diaper-changing machine. I was especially cautious when dealing with Caden’s circumcision so I was so thankful Nate took charge! He could see that I was exhausted from nursing around the clock so he would take Caden, without me having to ask (ah, that’s the best), whenever it was diaper duty time.

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Whether you’re feeding your newborn formula or breastmilk, Dad can definitely be involved in the feedings! We introduced the bottle when Caden was three weeks old. We waited until he had the hang of nursing so we wouldn’t confuse him…we didn’t want to wait TOO long so he wouldn’t deny the bottle all together. The first time Caden took the bottle, I left the room and let Daddy and Caden have their time together. He never had any issues switching from bottle to breast and it was AMAZING! I finally had a little freedom and could get out of the house for more than a couple hours knowing he would be fine and fed! I like that Caden knows that Daddy can give him what he needs too; not just mama! I also think that helped Nate form another type of bond with Caden…he finally felt like he could DO something!

BATH TIME

Bath time is a perfect opportunity for daddies to bond with their babies. I know my little newborn was super squirmy at bath time and HATED being cold during the sponge bath days. It broke my heart to hear those new-baby cries and I was so scared he was going to wiggle right out of my hands. Nate would hold Caden steady while we sponged him off and worked as a team to get it done as fast as possible. Even now, Caden is 7 months old and Nate runs the bath time show. Caden loves to play in the tub for as long as we’ll let him. Nate supervises while I take a shower, wash bottles/pump parts and get things ready for the next day. I head up when bath time is over for our bedtime routine (nurse, books, goodnight songs, bed)! I would be sad to miss bath time EVERY night, but Nate works 2-3 nights a week so I get my bath time fix with Caden on those nights. 🙂

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Side note: If you have an Emler Swim School nearby, they offer a Bathtime Babies Class starting when your baby is two months old and it is FREE!! We started going as soon as we could and alternate every other week getting in the pool with Caden. This is another super fun way for dad to have some special time with baby!

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BOOKS BEFORE BED

When Nate is home, he is the bedtime story reader! I read to Caden as often as I can…I LOVE books…but I love hearing Nate read to him and seeing Caden staring and listening so intently to his voice. After I finish nursing, Nate comes up to pick up where we left off in whatever chapter book we’re reading at the time (babies don’t just need picture books!). I think it’s important for Caden to see us both sharing our love for reading with him. When Nate’s at work, I choose different books. Our chapter book is for us to read together as a family!

LET HIM DO HIS THANG

My last bit of “advice” would be to let him do stuff his way. He may rock baby a different way than you would, sing a different night-time lullaby, hold the bottle at a different angle, or swaddle him in some crazy way but IT’S OKAY!! I am totally guilty of trying to “correct” or give my hubby “helpful pointers” at times. I’ve tried to get better about this! If you are always giving him reminders or pointing out things he’s doing “wrong”, it is just going to leave him feeling less-than-confident about his daddy abilities! Trust him to take care of your little one and remember to tell him he’s doing an amazing job EVERY day…not just on Father’s Day! 🙂

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How did you involve your husband with care?

The Three AM Wake-Ups…Keep ‘Em Coming

It’s funny, one of the first things people ask me (even people I don’t know) when we talk about Caden is, “Is he sleeping through the night yet?”. When I tell them no, I always get a sympathetic look or an “I’m so sorry” or “Don’t worry, he’ll get there soon”. I don’t think anyone ever considers this…I don’t want him to sleep through the night yet! Judge me if you will, but I’m NOT ready for that milestone!

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Caden is actually a really good sleeper, we are very lucky! He LOVES to nap and goes down easy at night, putting himself to sleep. As long as he has a few pacis thrown in the crib where he can always find one, he is good to go (the boy is a pacifier collector, it’s pretty hilarious). Now, he is down to just one middle of the night wake-up…one. Every night I go to bed worried that this will be the night he sleeps until morning. This will be the night he doesn’t “need” me anymore. And that thought brings on the tears ugly cry (you know the one).

My little, independent boy already hates to be rocked to sleep now. He wants to be put down in his crib and drift off on his own. Sometimes I force him to let me rock and snuggle him while he wriggles around in my arms, just so I can hold him for a little longer. Being a working mommy, I don’t get to spend as much time holding, cuddling, chatting or playing with him as I’d like, so every moment is precious. The middle of the night moments are some of my favorites.

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Before my maternity leave was over, I used to cringe when I’d hear that cry on the baby monitor, thinking, “Not again, I just want to sleep”. When it was time to go back to work, I suddenly starting looking at those wake-ups from a new perspective. He is crying because he needs ME…he wants ME…no one else…just ME! That thought has not only gotten me through the many middle of the night feedings, it has left me wanting them to continue. When I go upstairs and scoop my little boy into my arms, he immediately settles, his whimpers slow down and he takes a few deep breaths before I lay him down to nurse. His eyes are still closed and his breaths are steady. It is quiet and dark and all I can do is stare at his perfect little profile.

Soon, he starts to make the sweetest coos and noises…this is his “sleepy talk”; he will be ready for me to lay him back down soon. I sometimes tear up just thinking about how lucky and grateful I am to have been given this perfect angel. I cherish every moment of this time together, because soon the sun will come up, another beautiful day will start, and my baby will be another day older. Another day closer to the day I won’t get that sacred time with him anymore…Slow.Down.Time.

I know this isn’t the only time in his life that he will need me, but these are his only baby-months, I don’t want to rush them. I’d rather enjoy the slow-motion like stillness that happens at 3am…just my baby and me. “Sleep tight, my angel, mommy loves you…to the moon and back”.

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Sisters By Heart, Not By Blood

There’s a line in To Kill a Mockingbird; “You can choose your friends, but you sho’ can’t choose your family.” For me, this line tells the story of why I am the person I am today and it is because of God’s plan that I have been blessed with both.

Without them even knowing it, I became my parents “miracle baby”. Being a difficult pregnancy for my mom was the start of my stubbornness. Three months into my mother carrying me, she began dilating, had her cervix stitched closed and was placed on bed rest until the 8th month. My parents wanted multiple children, the picture perfect family, but unbeknown to them; they would never get pregnant again.

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Growing up, I also wanted the dream my parents envisioned. I always wanted an older brother. My parents, shot down that dream and told me it wasn’t possible! Darn! Even so, I wanted siblings. Being an only child wasn’t always easy and didn’t give me the advantage of making friends easily. I didn’t have many friends who lived closed by, and I was certainly never good at playing by myself!

I never would have imagined that many of my 7th grade cheerleading teammates would become people I now call sisters. Growing up as an only child, it is easy to fit into the “stereotypical” mold that only children are selfish, spoiled, and not maternal. It was for that reason, that up until about a year and a half ago, I was confident in my decision that I didn’t want my own children.  I didn’t have the experience that most get with having younger siblings. The lack of experience, and being the perfectionist that I am, feeling that I wasn’t maternal enough to be good at it, created a desire to not pursue that path. I was perfectly happy with my school “kids” and my fur babies!

Having friends that you can pour your heart out to, share your deepest insecurities with, and have them be your unbiased sounding board is a gift I will forever be grateful for.  I’m less selfish and I’m less stubborn because they never sugar coat whether I’m being unreasonable and unrealistic and in a lot of ways they know me better than I know myself.  They hold me accountable to loving myself, to being a better person, and their unwavering love and support reminds me every day that they are more than friends, they are sisters.

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Each of them are unique, all strong minded, and together we are a family. As we have grown from teenagers to adults, our differences have allowed us to grow closer together, to learn from each other, and I am blessed for that rarity.

One of the biggest things I am grateful for is them challenging me on my decision to not have children, questioning if that would be something I would regret looking back, and sharing with me all the reasons it was worth it.  Seeing my best friends go through the experience of carrying and raising their children, and having them embrace me as their Aunt, opened my view to a different sense of purpose…the concept of loving someone more than I love myself.

It was this love that allowed me the ability to open my heart more than I ever thought I could and embrace my husband’s children. It certainly wasn’t easy at first, and I continue to grow and learn everyday as a step-mom, but I’m better for it… for this has shown me that I am maternal and I am deserving of being a mom.

It’s funny how God’s plan is better than the one you have for yourself and how it comes full circle.  My parents are now grandparents, embracing a large family, I’m a mother to an amazing son and two bonus kids, and most importantly, I have what I always wanted…sisters!

Do you have lifelong friends that are more like brothers/sisters?

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