Alone Time

Fellow moms of young children will understand me when I say that alone time is a rare commodity for me. I am almost never alone. Like, ever. Even when I’m taking care of business in the bathroom, I usually have at least one child following me around. If I do manage to steal away some truly private time, it’s not usually quality private time, as I can still hear my kids yelling across the house … and more often than not, they STILL manage to find me in under 5 minutes and bam, private time is donezo. It’s like they have a built-in Mommy GPS or something!

Anyway, I’ve been really struggling to find a new time to do my QTs lately. Well, I say lately but if I’m being honest, I’ve been struggling with this for almost a year now. Back when D used to take 2 daily naps, it was easy for me to designate the first nap for QT/Bible reading and the second nap for lunch/mommy relaxation. When he transitioned down to one nap last year I suddenly found myself trying to cram everything into half the amount of time. Not very practical, to say the least. I’ve struggled with prioritizing Bible reading since then and as much as I’d love to give the first fruits of sacred nap time to the Lord, nap time generally coincides with lunch time and the truth is I am starving by that time. So then I will eat first, thinking I’ll read after eating, but then I get caught up in some article I was reading or a show I DVR’ed the night before .. and soon enough, nap time is over.

I am a morning person so I considered waking up first thing in the morning to do my QTs but I already wake up at 5:20 AM everyday to hit the gym and unless I start going to bed at the same time my kids do, I don’t think I could manage waking up any earlier than that. For awhile I tried reading my Bible as soon as I got back from the gym but sometimes the kids are already awake and it’s noisy -or- I find myself lulled back to bed by the quiet and peaceful house and cuddle with Hubby for a bit.

Doing Bible reading at night before bed works for some people but because I do wake up so early, I am usually exhausted by the time my own bedtime rolls around. That, and I didn’t like feeling like Bible reading was a chore at the end of the day when all I wanted to do was sleep. I like being able to read first thing in the morning because I feel like it helps start my day on the right foot but how would I fit that in with my current schedule?

I had an aha moment the other day when I was pulling into my driveway post-workout. Why not just stay in my car and do my Bible reading in there? It’s the perfect environment because it’s toasty and COMPLETELY free of distractions. I know my kids are either asleep or being watched by daddy; nobody really need me to be at home until close to 8 am when it’s almost school drop-off time… Why NOT?!

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SO! That’s what I’ve been doing! When I leave for the gym, I make sure to grab my Bible and leave it in the car while I work out. It doubly works out because after I’ve exercised I’m pretty alert and ready to face my day; I feel like I’m giving my best attention and focus to the Lord and not the leftovers of a long day. I’ve been doing this for about a week and absolutely loving it! I love that my kids can’t find me and pull me away from what I’m reading and I love that I have a consistent and regular time & location to spend some quality time at the Lord’s feet. Maybe I should start a #CarQT movement ;) Let me know where your go-to spot for some quiet Bible time is and how you manage it if you have little kids around. And if you haven’t figured out an answer to that conundrum yet, give my CarQT solution a try!

 

Frozen On Ice

Last month I took E to see the Frozen On Ice show that’s touring around the US currently. We had a special mommy & daughter date and I actually thoroughly enjoyed the show! I was worried it’d be boring, and while it is predictable (it’s basically the entire movie played out on ice skates) I still thought it was a beautiful performance. I found myself getting goosebumps and tearing up at certain points throughout it! Hahaha, oh the mommy hormones; they developed during pregnancy and never went away.

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So I had originally purchased tickets myself when they first started advertising the show last year. The tickets are unbelievably expensive, especially if you’re trying to sit close to the rink so your child can actually see the performance. But! A few weeks before the show date, E’s ABA therapist told me that her boyfriend’s company has a suite at our local arena and that he got us two suite tickets to see Frozen On Ice! Say whaaattt?? We didn’t even ask for them; he was so sweet to just go ahead and provide them to us! And luckily, I was able to sell the tickets I purchased for myself and recoup the money we spent on those. Win/win!

Thanks to them, we were able to not only sit in a super cushy suite with its own private bathroom (so crucial) but also were given parking passes to the VIP parking lot that led to its own private entrance to the arena!!! We felt like superstars … Or at least, I know I felt like one. Dizzang!

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I honestly hadn’t wanted to buy any of the Frozen merchandise that was being peddled inside the arena but E saw the rows and rows of Elsa & Anna dolls and was the on the verge of a complete meltdown if I didn’t buy her one. Like, we’re talking tantrum-in-the-driveway status, full on meltdown alert; she didn’t even want to step into the suite without having a doll. Since we hadn’t paid for the tickets at all, I figured I could splurge a bit on buying her some souvenirs. Not that she doesn’t have enough Frozen junk at home …

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She was GREAT inside the show. I think it helped that we were in a suite so she could get up and walk around without a problem but even if we were in regular seats, she would have been content to sit and watch. Popcorn definitely helps in these kinds of situations ;) I was texting J throughout the show and told him that I thought she was big enough now for a real movie theater experience.

The entire show was 2 hours long and it was around dinner time when we got home. I offered to take her out for some pizza and continue our mommy/daughter date but she wanted to go home and eat with her brother and daddy. What a cutie patootie. All in all, we had a great time and I’m glad I had the opportunity to create some special memories with E. I don’t know if she’ll remember it when she gets bigger but I know I’ll never forget it!

Marriage Negotations

Me: Look at how big our kids are getting. Seeing them like that makes me not want to have another baby and start all over again.

Hubby: Really? ….

Me: Yea ….

*awkward pause*

Hubby: Ok, on a scale of 1-10. 10 being you absolutely must have another baby or you’ll die & 1 being you absolutely must NOT have anymore babies or you’ll die, where do you fall?

Me: A 3.

Hubby: Great, I’m a 7. That evens us out to a 5.

Me: Which means we’re right back at square 1 and it could go either way. Hahaha.

Apparently, this is how big decisions get made in our family ;)

A Toddler & His Lollipop

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I have a “dirty little secret” that I want to share with you: I’m not shy about using sugar as a bribing mechanism with D. To be fair, I don’t rely on bribery that often but there are definitely moments when I need/want him to cooperate and in those instances, I do not hesitate to whip out the candy.

The thing is, most of these times are when we are out in public. I don’t mean regularly planned errands to the grocery store and what not, but “special times” when I just want to do some fun shopping or meet some friends and have adult talk. Those are the times when my lollipops (and his affection for them!) come in handy.

I’ve had a few comments here and there from strangers … “Oh, wow! You have .. a lollipop?? …” and “Lucky you, you get lollipops at 10 am??” and the like. Some of it might be innocently spoken and some of it might be thinly veiled criticism. Here’s the thing – I don’t really care.

Little known fact but D is actually obsessed with green juice aka vegetable smoothies. I started giving them to him a year ago because he doesn’t like to eat raw vegetables otherwise and he surprisingly took to them and always wants to drink them. Like, I don’t even want to have green juice everyday but he’s constantly pestering me for it . And when I make green juice, it’s super green because I only put vegetables and -MAYBE- half an apple in there.

Also, he only gets water and almond milk at home … I’ve tried giving him juice boxes when we’re out at birthday parties and he doesn’t know what to do with them. He’s not one of those kids who’s constantly drinking fruit juice (even if it’s watered down, it’s STILL SUGAR WATER) all the time. He never has it!

Third, he loves brushing his teeth; obediently opening his mouth so that we can floss in between his little baby teeth each and every night. I am kind of a stickler about oral hygiene so it’s a non-negotiable for me and he’s so far cooperated beautifully.

And overall, he’s just a kid and I remember when I was growing up my parents had a garage full of candy (like, really – they had an entire wall shelf lined with boxes of all our favorite candies) and I was always allowed to have one as a treat after dinner or maybe as a “just because” on a warm summer night. I don’t think that the occasional (or more than occasional) lollipop while his mommy is out shopping and trying to have her own social life is going to ruin D. And if you’ve never tried lollipops for your toddler when you just want them to sit still while you grab lunch with a friend or browse the latest shoes at Nordstrom … go ahead and give it a try. It might work and I promise I won’t judge you! :)

Little

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E loves to come into our bed first thing in the morning and cuddle next to us. Sometimes if I’m still at the gym when she wakes up, I’ll come home to find her quietly snuggled next to her daddy; she’s so small and silent that it takes me a moment before I even notice that she’s squished in there.

I really cherish this quiet time with her in the morning before the hustle & bustle of the day beckons to us. Her little head fits so perfectly in the crook of my elbow and I love burrowing my nose into her sweet head of hair, freshly washed from the night before. She feels so safe there, tucked into the folds of my body; other than being in my womb, sometimes I think it’s the safest place she can be.

I treasure her smallness these days. She’s so little. Yes, she’s a big girl and almost 5 and wow, so much bigger compared to Darren … but in the big picture, she’s little. So little, so innocent, and so much possibility ahead of her. I want to keep her there and protect her from everything that can and will come towards her as she grows up. Right now, the future is sunny and wide open. No doors have been closed off to her. Will that always be the case? I don’t know for sure but probably not. I see her quietly laying next to me in our big king-sized bed and feel such peace knowing that I am still capable of ensuring her happiness. At this age, that’s still something doable for me. I dread the day that she outgrows that power I have.

Someday, she won’t be so little anymore. I won’t go to school to pick her up and see her smiling face running towards me, so full of joy and energy. Maybe she won’t like school or maybe kids will be mean to her. Maybe she’ll understand the differences between her and others and feel frustrated that she can’t make the connections and friends she longs to have. Maybe she’ll be laughed at or left out; excluded in a world where fitting in means everything. Maybe, maybe. And if that maybe happens, I can’t do anything to change it for her. I can only equip her with the skills and resources necessary to navigate all that “fluff”. Maybe as her mother, all I can do is prepare her as best I can and wish her the best of luck as she attempts to fly on her own. As a parent, I think that’s the scariest maybe of all, right?

But for now, she’s still so little. And she still wants to cuddle with her mommy and daddy first thing every morning. And I am going to squeeze every last drop of little out of her that I can get. <3

Girl

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Last week, E drew her very first girl all by herself! I’m so proud of her, I could frame this and hang it on a wall in our house. It probably looks like messy scribbles to you but it looks like Picasso to me! :)

Mommy

Mama. Mommy. Umma.

Have two sweeter syllables ever been uttered from a baby’s mouth? I think not!

Because of E’s language delays, I didn’t get to hear her call me mommy until she was well past 3 years old. And even then, it was a stiff, rehearsed, “mommy” that was usually accompanied by some kind of command like, “mommy, do” or “mommy, stay”. She’s able to use the word pretty naturally now but she’s almost five years old… for me, it felt like I really missed out on hearing the baby-talk of mommy, mama, etc.

So when D started learning how to speak and learned that I was “mama” I was absolutely over the moon. And more recently, he’s transitioned from mama to a more traditional “mommy” in his adorable, high-pitched, baby boy voice and I can’t soak it up enough. He calls for me over and over – if he loses sight of me even though we’re both just hanging out at home; when he wakes up from his nap; if he’s bored and wants me to play with him…

Actually, to be honest, it can sometimes become a little too much. A little annoying. I find myself sometimes purposefully not responding back to his calls because my goodness, I’m just in the bathroom and can he please just give me 5 minutes alone? Or when he screams mommy and feels the need to constantly be touching some part of my body, even if all he’s doing is standing next to my knee while I shoot off a quick email on the computer. Oof, that’s another time when I wish he’d call for daddy or his sister or someone other than mommy. How about when I’m trying to cook dinner but he’s so attached, he yells “mommy!” and tries to stand in between me and the hot stove; and then when I try to extract him from said position he screams like a wild banshee at the top of his lungs until his dad comes and scoops him up or something? Yea, that’s another good example of when I don’t particularly like being mommy.

But then … but then, I remember. I remember the years I spent yearning to hear just those two simple syllables from E’s mouth. I remember waiting and waiting for her to say it and realizing that she wasn’t going to say it and then learning that the reason why she wouldn’t say it was because she was on the autism spectrum. I remember being pregnant with D, with a non-verbal E sitting at my feet, and being scared out of my mind that the baby-on-the-way would have the same developmental delays that she did. I remember all these things and then I’m so so so profoundly thankful that D is clingy and attached and annoying and won’t stop yelling for me “mommy, mommy, mommy!” Because at least he knows what he wants and he knows how to verbalize and he’s using the correct language to get his point across.

And not to mention, that this sweet 2-year old half-little boy/half-baby that is constantly searching for me is one day going to think that I’m not cool anymore. His smooth baby cheeks will be replaced with teenage pimples (*maybe – actually, neither J or I ever suffered from teenage acne). His chubby toddler feet will become hairy and stinky and definitely not kissable anymore, at least not by his mom. And his sweet tuft of fluffy baby hair will be sweaty and quite possibly too tall for me to lean over and sniff into.

So… I remember all these things and cherish this chaotic season of my life, when I’m the sun & moon to one little boy and all he ever wants is his mommy.

Independent Play Time

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Have I ever talked to you about independent play time? No? Well, if we’ve ever had face-to-face interaction before, and not just through the computer screen on this blog, chances are that I’ve raved about independent play time to you before.

If you’re not familiar with the term or never heard of it before, independent play time is basically the concept that toddlers (and even babies!) are capable of playing by themselves for certain chunks of time. Many people have suggested that it’s good for little ones to learn how to play solo without the assistance of an adult and that oftentimes play can actually be inhibited by grown ups who unintentionally stifle a child’s creativity and imagination. If you do more research, I’m pretty sure you can find loads of resources that explain the concept better than I ever could so feel free to Google away if you’re curious for more information.

As for me, the first time I’d ever heard of independent play time was when E was not even 1 years old yet. The idea was very intriguing to me and I liked that it involved solo play time since it was exhausting for me to constantly entertain her. As it turns out, E never really needed much interaction with me and she was fantastic with solo play but that, we discovered, was more due to her autism and lack of social skills than my awesome training with independent play (LOL). The value of independent play time stood out more to me when D came along because I oftentimes needed him to be self-occupied so that I could tend to his sister.

I started independent play with D when he was almost 1, maybe around 10 months? For me, I wanted to be sure that he was big enough to explore and be curious about his surroundings. I started in really small time increments .. maybe 15 minutes or so? I’d put a few books or a favorite plastic cup (empty) into his crib and plop him in there to explore and play by himself. I won’t lie, he cried fiercely the first few times. He didn’t like being left in there alone! But I stuck to my guns and he learned pretty quickly to just occupy himself for the short amount of time he was in there alone.

Once he mastered 15 minutes alone, I tried pushing it to 25 minutes. Then 35. Then 45, and now almost an hour. Yes, you read that correctly. My 2-year will happily and willingly play alone in his crib for up to an hour. At the moment I’m writing this blog post, D has been playing his crib for almost 4o minutes and is still happily babbling to himself and playing with his toys. In that time, I’ve been able to do my Bible study homework and pen this blog post real quick. I love it! I’m not shy about plopping my toddler in front of the TV to keep him occupied so I can get some stuff done but I feel like independent play time in his crib is better for his development (no zoned out TV eyes) and a better use of time for me because I don’t have him running back and forth between the TV and myself; he’s confined to a safe but limited space.

These days, D enjoys his independent play time for the most part. I don’t do it every day but I do have him do it pretty regularly. He knows the routine now, too; when he sees me start to put a few toys into his crib, he actually eagerly assists me in handing me his favorite things he wants to play with. He makes sure his blocks are in there, his favorite car, his blankies … and then when it’s time to go in, he doesn’t fight me at all. He wants me to pick him up and then he plops down in his crib and doesn’t even look at me. Haha, isn’t that crazy!? It’s not because I’m an amazing parent or he’s a perfect child. It’s simply because I taught him the discipline of sitting and playing by himself; anyone can do it!

If it sounds like something that you would want to try, too, I say go for it! Here are some tips from me to you in case you do want to give it a go:

  • If your child has never done this before, start in small time increments. Don’t do it for the first time and expect your child to play for a full hour alone like mine does.
  • Use age-appropriate time chunks. I would never have left D to play by himself in his crib for an hour (even if capable) when he was only 10 or 11 months old. It’s too long for a little baby! If you have a young baby, make sure to remember not to leave him for too long.
  • Leave toys that you know are safe but engaging – no sharp objects or tiny pieces that he could swallow. Also, this is a personal preference, but I generally don’t leave any snacks or milk with him (sometimes I leave water). I don’t want him to associate that time with snacking; it’s time to explore and play!
  • I’ve noticed that if D hears my voice at all while he’s playing, he immediately wants to come out and join me. I could have the TV going or be doing dishes or other equally noisy things that don’t bother him but once he hears my voice, it’s game-over.
  • I make sure to keep his bedroom door half-way open so he doesn’t feel like I’ve just abandoned him. I open all his windows so he can look outside, too. And I rarely check on him unless he’s crying – if he sees me, it’s also game over.
  • I am always within earshot of his room. I can fully hear what he’s doing and feel comfortable with the fact that I can’t actually see what he’s doing because I know he’s confined to his crib and I can hear him talking and playing happily.

 

Weekend Recap

Over the long weekend, we took a trip to Southern California to celebrate my mother-in-law’s 60th birthday. My in-laws absolutely adore my kids and E, especially, LOVES her SoCal grandparents.

J’s side of the family has no girls so E is the only princess that family has seen for 30 years. To say she gets spoiled rotten (particularly by a certain grandpa of hers) is an understatement.

We didn’t do very much while we were with them … Just a lot of eating delicious Korean food and shopping :) My kids both seem to come back with brand new wardrobes every time we visit J’s parents. I got a chance to shop some Korean makeup, too, which I am really excited about. Maybe I’ll do a post about what I bought hehe.

Other than a special birthday dinner on Saturday night to celebrate my MIL, the only other signicant thing we did was visit downtown Disney. The kids both got some new toys and E got a new Sleeping Beauty dress. Like, I said .. spoiled.


  

Greener Grass

Yesterday being President’s Day, we got to have a rare day when E was free from both school and therapy. There are no winter breaks and the like from our therapy schedule; it continues year round, so even if she has a break from school there is usually still some kind of schedule happening in the afternoon for her.

Yesterday was interesting, though, because even though it was a holiday it sort of felt like a normal Monday .. maybe the kind of Monday that would be normal for us if E were a neurotypical child instead of on the spectrum. J did have the day off from work but took the opportunity to go golfing with his friends and thus was not home for most of the day, leaving me home with two littles just like if it were a regular non-holiday weekday.

Can I tell you? I absolutely relished it.

It felt so nice to not be rushing around to prepare for the therapist to arrive at 2 pm. Both kids got to take lazy naps until past 3pm and I got to sit on the couch and relax with lunch and my phone. If I’d wanted to, I could have used the quiet time to do some other productive things too but hey, it was still a holiday so I chose to chill instead ;)

When the kids woke up from their nap, there was no stressful “Ok, you have 5 minutes before the therapist arrives; get up, wash your hands, go to the bathroom” nonsense. I didn’t have to fight to wrangle D and keep him occupied apart from his sister so that she could focus on her therapy session. They got to play together the whole afternoon and since D absolutely adores his big sister, there was less for me to do to keep him busy. The afternoon felt like a giant time block of opportunity – I could do this or that and just stop to check on the kids once in awhile to make sure nobody was crying or fighting. I managed to clean out both kids’ closets and reorganize their wardrobes for the upcoming spring & summer months. I didn’t feel rushed or stressed; it was actually quite nice to sort through their clothes to the background noise of their playing.

By the time J came back from golfing around 5:30 pm (which is about the time he would return from work on a normal day) I didn’t feel burnt out or harried. There was no feeling of “The therapist just left the house 10 minutes ago, I literally haven’t been alone all afternoon, I NEED A BREAK.” I prepared dinner and felt leisurely about it. In fact, I even had the thought that if I’d planned it ahead better, I could have cooked a full-on gourmet-ish dinner like I used to before D was born instead of the half-thought-out mish mash that I threw together last minute. The whole vibe of the house felt peaceful even though it was filled with little kid mess everywhere.

I couldn’t help but think … wow, this is probably what it’s like e v e r y day for other parents who don’t have a daily therapy schedule to stick to. They probably get to go out to the park or run errands or even stay at home and clean every afternoon! The day must feel so filled with time and productivity for them! And I felt Mr. Compare Bear start creeping back into my heart along with his best friend, Miss Discontentment.

It took me a moment to step back and think about what I was actually saying. Do I really believe that other parents don’t feel exhausted by the time 5:30 pm rolls around simply because they haven’t had a therapist in their home all afternoon? Do I honestly think other parents of typically developing children daily feel the desire to get up and cook a gourmet dinner for their spouse? Seriously, do I believe that if E weren’t on the spectrum and this intense therapy weren’t a part of our reality that I’d be spending every afternoon being Mary Poppins with my kids or cleaning out their closets and redoing their wardrobes?

Uh, no. Girl, let’s get real here.

This was a really severe case of thinking the grass is greener on the other side. First of all, I can’t deny that the intense therapy we’ve been giving E has been helping her – a lot. She enjoys it and loves waking up from her nap to find her therapist already here and waiting. She has no complaints about it and she’s the one having the therapy. I’m just on the sidelines cheering her on and trying to hold her little brother back from running into her groove. Hah, and I’m the complaining about feeling burnt out because of therapy? She’s the super star handling it all like a champ and she’s not even 5 years old yet! My goodness.

In all reality, we probably only have another year or so of this intense therapy left and then it will all just be a distant memory. I honestly just want to take this season for what it is and enjoy it and be content through it because the Bible promises that contentment doesn’t lie in circumstances – it’s found in Christ. I want to live this season of my life knowing that God placed it in us for a purpose and I want to live it well, not complaining or side-eyeing my neighbor. Please, Mr. Compare Bear & Miss Discontentment, you’re not welcome here anymore. I don’t meant to be rude but if I find you around these parts again, I will firmly ask you to leave and not come back.