Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Momma and me

On Friday, I put on some lipstick, braided Ella's hair, and we bid the boys a farewell as we went off to our first-ever momma/daughter date night. The last time I went somewhere by myself with Ella, I was pregnant with Archie and it was the first time I had driven with her post-agoraphobia. A particularly triumphant day, but it was nothing spectacular as we scooted on down the street to the local target for some groceries. But this this was date night. We were dressed up and ready to celebrate one of my best friends (and one of Ella's favorite people) at her bridal shower.

Both Ella and Archie are in a deep current of a growth spurt and the ebb and flow has been hard to manage, to say the least. Ella wants to be able to sit quietly and practice her numbers, letters, and writing her name, and Archie—sweet, rowdy, little Arch—wants to scribble on any space Ella touches. Needless to say, waves are crashing and I'm trying to stay afloat. But in observing this behavior, I realized how important one-on-one time is with the kids.

Leading up to last Friday, I would talk about our "special night" with her. What dress do you want to wear? Would you like me to braid your hair? Are you excited to see Katie, Beth and Susie? Yes, there will be treats. The night came, she stayed up past her bedtime and she came home happy. I don't know if it's connected; I have no evidence to suggest so, but after I noticed she was a little lighter with Archie. She was more willing to share and began playing well with Archie, the best since I started staying at home with them.

Ella is at a super fun age. I've been looking forward to this age since she was born. There's just something about having a conversation with a three year old...so I'm glad that I've kicked anxiety in the butt enough that I'm able to go out and share these special moments with her. 'Cause they are certainly just getting started. 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Why I went back to being a stay-at-home mom

A couple weeks ago, after three (quite agonizing) months of internally going back and forth on my decision, I quit my job.

My job demanded a lot of me, and, often times, those demands fell on a weekend or week night. I handled it well for a good 10 months or so, but as I came up to my year mark, the responsibilities of work, family, and caring for a household began to fight for my best self, and I wasn't able to deliver even a semi-present version of myself. Without the caffeine intake of a coffee addict, you'd find me dozing everywhere. Even the car. And it was when my foot began to slip off the pedal while driving home from daycare that I realized something had to give.

But what to some would seem like an easy decision was not easy for me. A job gave me structure. It meant that no matter what, I had to be out of the house clothes pressed, face applied by 7:25 am. For someone who suffers from chronic anxiety and is prone to depression, this structure and routine was everything. Since I've been a full-time stay-at-home mom before, I know this path is mentally the harder one for me, and in the weeks leading up to me quitting work, I was not convinced about choosing the route that, previously, has led me to therapy—3 times.

But things will be different this time. And those factors ultimately helped me to decide that being at home was the right decision. I'm in Michigan now. I can go to my best friends' parents' house for The Bachelorette on Monday night (Go Peter). And can ask someone to watch the kids for a day if I need the mental break. And Tim and I have the opportunity to go out, just the 2 of us, every once in a while. I'm not isolated, even a little bit, and I'm able to drive beyond my city limits without having a panic attack. A lot has changed.

Am I going to comment on the whole idea of women being able to have it all? Lord help me. Moms can work full-time if they so choose. I think we do need to realize, however, it is a simple fact that we mere mortals cannot be in three different places at a single moment in time, so one aspect of life somewhere somehow will feel your time being allocated in so many different ways. And that is perfectly fine and okay to an extent. Like, for instance, I had no problem having my kids in daycare. We had a near ideal setup and the woman who watched the kids was truly great. They loved going there. (And they will still occasionally go there.) They learned, and I saw growth in them that I was happy to see. However, for me and my family the schedule we were trying to pull off got to be too much. On a good week, when I had been particularly on top of meal planning, budgeting, and grocery shopping, the kids and I would pile into the apartment at 5:30, I'd get them settled, rush to make dinner, and get the kids ready for bed a short hour and a half later. The cycle was grueling on both Tim and me, and we soon became intolerant of the laundry piled high, the fridge screaming to be cleaned, and our finances demanding a little more attention. Maybe if we had someone to clean the house, or if Tim still worked from home, or his commute wasn't an hour, or I wasn't in a managerial position, etc., etc., etc. Who knows? Each family has its own unique set of circumstances, and we all try to do our best.

Don't let me fool you into thinking I'm devastated over quitting, and I'm just dreading being at home with my kids 8 hours a day. While I will miss the people in my department, I'm excited to transition back into this role. Even when Ella was a newborn, I looked forward to the days when she would start talking and say the cutest, strangest, most hilarious little sentences. Now she does. And Archie is at a fun (albeit testy) age. I'm happy summer is winding down, and me and the kids will be able to put together a Fall Bucket List that, I think, will allow us to reset as a family.

So, another change has begun. Not surprising in the least for us Lochners. But not long after I came to my decision, my mom got sick, so I can't help but think Divine Providence has been guiding me toward the right decision all along. At this point in time, my life is calling me to focus on my family. And so focus on my family I will.

Monday, July 10, 2017

The tale of an (attempted) vacation

Farewell, Joe.

My boo. My man.

Have you ever seen camels pose for pictures?

"I want to see the cats!" Zoo Day!

Celebrating a belated Father's Day.

Vacation is the perfect time to...take up running?

Look out! We got clubs.

For the last week and a day, both Tim and I have been off from work. For months, we had been looking forward to our vacation during the week of the 4th of July, so much so that maybe I had had unrealistically high expectations. Day trips! Husband-wife get away! We'll get stuff done around the apartment! Organize! Hang stuff!

I mean, really—unrealistically high expectations.

I'm not about to sit here and complain about having the last six days off from work, because everyone loves some time away from 'the grind'. But I will say these last six days were nothing that we expected and, at a time or two, it was especially disappointing. Our husband/wife anniversary getaway fell through. (Look out, 5 year anniversary plans!) Archer's two-year-old molars decided to start popping through, which meant near all-nighters and a feverish baby. And I ended up having to work at various points throughout the week.

Though our time together did not go as planned, we still had a zoo day, a beach day (which was so fun I don't have one picture from the day). We had a family movie night, we went out for ice cream. Tim and I had a date day. And I was able to catch some 'me-time' with my best friends.

Sometimes vacation is about jam-packed itineraries, day trips, and getaways. Other times, vacation is about seeing how many days in row you can go without showering or how many episodes of Scandal you can watch in one night (a lot) or how many ice cream outings you can fit into six days. And that's totally okay with me.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

5 things I said I'd never do as a parent

These balloons have been my nemesis since their arrival. The kids walk in the door and get distracted by these things. I've been known to use bribery a time or 2 in this hallway. 
It doesn't matter if you choose to have kids at 55 or 25, there are some universal truths to parenting. Your kid will teethe, possibly poop in the bathtub, lose him/herself over you peeling a banana the wrong way, bang on the door while you're in the bathroom. You'll be tired at all hours of the day—3 pm will at times feel like 3 am. And, on more than one occasion, you'll question your sanity.

Because of these inevitable realities, you may find yourself sinking into a few habits that you swore you'd never do before you had kids. Today, I'm here to admit 5 things I said I'd never do as a parent before I had kids.

1) Bribe. Let me just say, I don't think bribery is the healthiest way to get a kid to do something. (Duh?) I'm a big advocate of the ideas in the Parenting With Love and Logic series, which promotes talking your kids through tough situations or when they're upset, etc. But after the fifth "no" to "let's get your pants on" I've been known to say, "I'll give you M&Ms in the car if you put your pants on."

2) Give a pouch for dinner. Ah, food. It's the hot topic of 21st century parenting. Making funny faces out of your kids' veggies and getting 2-year-olds to eat kale chips are all the rage these days. Power to those parents who try to get their kids to eat healthy under any and every circumstance. I put an effort into getting my kid to eat green stuff, too, but after having one easy eater and one picky eater (both born and bred the same way) I've learned to pick and choose my battles. And, from time to time, I'm okay losing a battle over dinner. My kids have had a pouch (little nutritious packs of goo created from the baby gods themselves) for dinner on more than one occasion. Either they were too tired to eat, or they had a snack too close to dinner, or they just didn't want the dinner I made. Fine. I've learned the world will not end if they have pouches for dinner three times in their youth.   

3) Use phrases your parents said to you like "because I said so" or "just do it". This one makes me cringe. I can't count how many times my mom said this to my indignant, rebellious youthful self. It's usually when you're trying to tend to 25 things at once and a toddler is refusing to do a simple task. I haven't said either of these phrases many times, but I have said one of them a time or two. And, man, you never really understand the Circle of Life until you utter something that you were told as a kid. 

4) Use the TV as a babysitter. Alright. Let's be real, people. I wouldn't believe it for a second if a parent said, "I've never used the T.V. as a babysitter. Pah-lease. On some days, I wouldn't get out the door with pants on if it weren't for ABC Mouse. And I only have two kids. A majority of the time, my kids stay occupied with toys, books, and playing with each other, but there are days when the little ones are antsy or irritated and the only thing that will keep them peaceful in one room is a little TV. I watched a ton of TV as a kid. And I'm perfectly fine with how I turned out.

5) Snap at your kids. This one is touchy. Like I mentioned before, I'm a big advocate in the practices laid out in Parenting With Love and Logic, and one of the practices that is encouraged is "no yelling". And I'm proud to say nine times out of ten, I take that route. If a meltdown is in full force, I typically take the little one to my rocking chair in the bedroom and hold them. Once they're quieted down, I'll talk to them and this practice works. But I'm a working mom of 2 toddlers. I get tired easily, and I'm not perfect. I've raised my voice at my 3-year-old. If it was unwarranted, I've also sat her down and told her Mommy was wrong and apologized.

When I was a (really) new parent, I questioned every little thing, and it gave me serious anxiety (see early parenting posts). But I've come to learn that parenting is a dance with being kind to yourself and persevering. Not every day will unfold like Parenting magazine thinks it should, but that doesn't mean my kids will turn into selfish terrors. After seeing some habits we've worked to instill in Ella come to fruition, I've become more confident in my abilities as a parent. I'm confident with how I'm raising my kids and the choices I've made. These 5 human things don't make me or any other mom out there less of a parent, they make us human.

Happy parenting, friends. Be kind to yourself. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Hometown stuck

A few weeks ago, a couple of my co-workers and I were talking about our favorite coffee shops. Both born and raised outside of Michigan, one of them was describing his favorite shop he recently had found in the revitalized part of downtown Detroit.

I looked at the Starbucks cup on my desk and said, "Tim and I haven't found that place since moving East.  We definitely had our places out West." (Shout out to Nutmeg and Thatchers!)

And from there, I started thinking. Tim and I always, always explored when we lived in Southern California and Washington. We kind of had to. We didn't have connections (or if we did, they were minimal) leading us to this new place or that perfect lookout. We Googled, we searched, we drove and boy, did we find some gems.

Since moving to Michigan, we haven't explored, because we haven't needed to. I know where the grocery store is and where to get good gluten-free muffins and which neighborhoods have killer Christmas lights. There are 300 Starbucks around, so we aren't desperate for coffee and our weekends are occupied by errands and chores and being with friends and family. The itch to explore and get out has lessened, because we are comfortable, content.

Being content is good and a blessing in its own right, but exploring your surroundings can be magical. It sure was when we got out in Oregon and Washington. We found some of our favorite spots, beaches, ice cream shops because we 'Googled' "best beach", "best ice cream", "what to do in Seaside, Oregon." We once drove 40 minutes on a Tuesday night for gluten-free Italian take-out. (Their GF tiramisu was worth the drive.) We'd often drive into Portland and spend a Sunday morning there or drive to our local downtown and try a new restaurant. We once piled in the car and drive two hours to Mt. St. Helens. We found parks and trails and lookouts. Since the place we called home was foreign to us, every outing was a mini-adventure.

This isn't meant to be a somber farewell to a life we once lived. Life in Michigan is, dare I say it, pretty perfect. But as we approach the one-year mark of us moving here, I will be tapping into my exploration side a little more. I will be more eager to pop our bubble and drive beyond what we know. Summer is upon us, so the time for exploration and discovery is now. There is a whole part of Detroit that has had new life breathed into it, and I haven't eaten there, gotten coffee there, walked around there. Driving 2-3 hours North will take us into an untapped world of greenery, beaches, and clear water. I vacationed "Up North" as a kid, but in one condo in one location. Have you seen those Pure Michigan ads? We're not short "perfect destinations."

Yeah, my family now lives in the state (and practically the city) where I grew up, but that doesn't mean we have to fall into a restrictive and blinding routine.

To Summer, exploring, and being a tourist in your hometown.

(Stay tuned for a Summer bucket list!)

Thursday, June 1, 2017

A mama's heart

A mama's heart is many things - fierce, protective, resilient, ever-loving. In my few years of holding the title, I've come to learn a mama's heart is also fragile. It's not constant and it's not crushed just for anything, a mama's heart is tough, strong. Only when we see our kids subject to pain, hurt, rejection does the fragility devour all other qualities and we fight to tap into that resilience, fierceness as we try to stay standing tall. 

The other day at the park, there was a little girl about Ella's age with her Grandma. She was running from little play structure to little play structure in the "Tot Lot" when she arrived at the one Ella and Archie were playing at. Immediately, Ella went from "Mommy, stand on this" to inching toward this little girl giggling - the universal "You wanna build a snowman?" in toddler girl code. 

Tim was now at the play structure, I on the bench in the shade, and the little girl ran from the slide to the teeter totter, Ella running after her. When the girl noticed Ella had followed, she stuck out her arms looking as if she was signaling Ella to go away and her Grandma, in an effort to be inclusive, patted her shoulder with what I only could assume was a, "be nice." 

The Grandma got on the teeter totter with the girl, bounced, and asked Ella if she wanted to get on. Ella ran over to the bench, "Mommy, I need to get on the seat." Fragile, oh so fragile, I said, "Okay, sweetie. Run and ask Daddy. He'll put you on." In these moments, Tim is the strong one. Ella did, but by the time they got over there, the girl ran away. Ella watched her get on a swing and continued to play with Archie. 

Ella is only 3, she is tiny, but her heart is the size of Everest. She's shy around adults, but she isn't the least bit shy around kids her size. She goes out of her way to make a friend and plays with anyone who shares the same taste in slides. 

These are qualities I'm in awe of and that I love to see in my daughter,  but they are qualities that can result in a little girl saying, "go away" or "I don't want to play with you." And while, yes, they're silly 3-year-olds, witnessing that sort of rejection is what breaks my fierce, protective, resilient mama heart into a thousand little pieces. 

I know, I know Ella is just 3. Some might even be laughing as they read this thinking, oh just wait. She'll fail, she'll fall, she'll face 300 things that hurt. I'm not old and gray but I'm not naive to life; these realities won't make facing any amount of hurt Ella may endure any easier.

Almost a year ago, I wrote a little something on Instagram:

Tonight I watched 2 little girls on a tire swing yell, "Get away from us! Leave us alone!" to a littler boy who was simply watching them have their fun. My mama heart immediately broke into a thousand little pieces and I thought, "should I say something?" Neither parent was around, the girls were wanting their sister time and the boy wanted his adventure boy time. There wasn't name calling or bullying, so there really wasn't an urgent need to step in. But as I continued to swing next to Ella I couldn't help but think about my kids being on the line where the little boy stood, or across from it where the little girls sat on the swing. How would they handle that rejection? Would they ever willingly and boldly reject someone else? My tired parenting brain was already fried from the hectic day, so I pressed "pause" on the thought and watched my 2-year-old learn how to pump on the big girl swing. And then, I plopped my 2 babies on the grass and covered their eyes with Target sunglasses in an effort to get a celebratory Archie's-nine-months-old-today photo. As I snapped the picture, I reveled in the sight before me and prayed for the grace to raise each of them as the kid who walks up to the little boy and says, "wanna play?"

Thanks be to God, Ella is that kid who goes to others and extends an invitation to play, boldly and without fear. My new prayer is to be granted the grace to accept whatever lies on the other side of the invitation, that one "I don't want to play with you" won't shatter her boldness, her kindness, her confidence, and that I'll be able to walk Ella through come what may. In the meantime, I am learning from her to be kind, to extend an invitation, to smile.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Sunshine and family time

After backaches and migraines, spending the weekend with my little family was all I wanted and needed. We went to the park more than once, we got treats more than once, and everyone stayed up past their bedtime...more than once. As I type, my in-laws are making the long trek from Alaska and will be arriving before the weekend hits, so we have yet another family-filled weekend ahead. Stay tuned!

Flyin' a kite!
I live for these kids. These kids live for chocolate milk.
Blue-eyed girl, blue tongue.