Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Mom Next Door Series: Chablee J

Our Mom Next Door interview today comes from Chablee, a Mum of two young boys that both arrived after years of waiting and praying for them.  Chablee is a coworker and friend to one of my favorite friends; Taryn.  As a first time expectant Mum herself, Taryn has found inspiration from Chablee's dedication to motherhood, faith, and love.  I am so glad that I have a chance to share her voice here in our series thanks to the suggestion from our mutual friend.

Please read on to learn more about Chablee, her boys, and taking life as it comes one faithful step after another.


Who are you?  My name is Chablee Johnson, I am 37 years young :) I am a native of Atlanta, Georgia but relocated to Pittsburgh 16 ½ years ago when I married my husband (who is a Pittsburgh native). 

Who is in your family?  My husband Joel and I have been married 16 ½ years and we have two little men ~ Breylon; 8 years old and Braxton; 2 years old. Yes, one baby after 8 years of marriage and another after 14 years of marriage!  

Breylon was a beautiful long awaited surprise! Six years later, out of the clear blue sky, we got another surprise! What a blessing he was for us, because 9 days after the birth of Braxton, my dear mother-in-law passed suddenly. What joy and happiness he brought to the family at such a devastating time. 

What do you do for a living?  I am a Business Account Analyst for a Sales & Marketing Agency in Pittsburgh and I also have an event planning business that I run with a partner.

What would your pre-mom self be surprised to know about motherhood? My pre-mom self would be surprised to know, how little sleep you could function “well” on in motherhood. Ha! Also, she would be surprised to know just how much these little perfect gifts from God bring character, fiber, and meaning to your life. You will never understand unconditional love, true sacrifice and genuine patience until you become a mother.

What would your pre-mom self be proud to know about you in motherhood?  My pre-mom self would be proud that I make my babies my priority and never complain about it.

What has become (at least for now) your parenting mantra or guiding principle?  Our first parenting mantra is to continue to lay a solid spiritual foundation for our boys and lead by example, Our second mantra is to raise them as our parents did us ~ “I brought you in this world and I’ll take you out!” – Cliff Huxtable

What big projects, worries, or events have you busy right now?  I am an event planner and love to be involved in Christian ministry activities (www.jw.org), so that keeps me very busy.

What chore is your least favorite? My least favorite chore is cleaning the bathroom. I have boys and they are not the most sanitary! Hubby helps with laundry and cooking, so I have it made!

How do you unwind or recharge?  I re-charge by sleeping, eating a great dinner, and shopping. Not necessarily in that order either!

What keeps you up at night?  Wondering how to continually protect my children from the inevitable, harsh, and cruel world they are going to face and having to train them on how to deal with what they will face is what keeps me up at night.

What do you feel like you are really good at as a mom? The one thing I think I am good at with being a mom is trying to get them to know ALL of their family. Our families are all spread out in the U.S. and I make a serious effort for them to get to visit and know everyone on both sides of their family. 

What do you feel like you wish you were better at being a mom?  I wish I were better at “letting things go” when it comes to my boys, but I use EVERYTHING as a teaching example. My mother calls me “school” (Lol!)  Friends may say, “that’s how boys are” or “that’s what boys do” and while it may be true, Joel and I try not to let that be an excuse for certain behaviors.

Who are the moms you look up to?  I look up to the moms who are complete “Mama Bears”. The moms that teach their children to love God and follow the example Jesus set. I look up to moms that love unapologetically, that become advocates for their babies, that believe in letting their children have a childhood, that believe you can provide for your family and be a good mother! You don’t necessarily have to choose, that one isn’t better than the other. I look up to moms that teach their girls how to be ladies and their boys how to be gentlemen. I look up to mamas like mine!

What was the most difficult Mom moment you've had (so far)? The most difficult mom moments I have are when my children get sick (both have been hospitalized for respiratory issues) or when we have to comfort our older son because of the death of his grandparents.

What is the one "Mom Tip or Trick" that you can share that has made your life easier somehow? The one mom tip or trick that I have come to appreciate that has made my life easier is that nobody’s house is perfect and Rome wasn't built in a day ~ after my second baby, I used to drive myself crazy trying to work full-time and keep up with everything in my house, make a schedule, etc.  I had to learn that it’s okay to yelp for help & it’s okay to sit and enjoy the kids. The dishes and laundry will be there...I was fortunate enough to have my mama stay with me for 3 months after the birth of my boys and what a true blessing that was. It gave me time to heal, enjoy the baby and get my sea legs.

What are the small joys of being a Mom that you treasure most right now? The small joys I treasure now are the love & compassion my boys display. Hearing their conversations & interaction with each other at such a young age and having them run and jump to hug and kiss us when we walk in the door or first wake up in the morning. PRICELESS.

What do you miss most from Mom days already gone by? The thing I miss most from Mom days already gone by is not capturing enough photos and videos of crawls, hugs, kisses, laughs, etc. It goes by so extremely fast, I wish I would have taken more… I was too busy soaking it all in! I also miss the smell of a new baby, nothing like it!!!

Monday, October 13, 2014

our two week third baby staycation

Three years ago, Brandon and I took a two week vacation to travel to Thailand.  It was amazing; we traveled through unfamiliar territory, tried new things, and spent time with interesting people. We ate food that was deliciously prepared for us, made memories, and took lots of pictures.

It also didn't take very long during our two week Thailand vacation to realize some important things.  First, being a parent changes everything - even though we were having the time of our lives; that didn't stop us from missing our kid with an ache in our heart that was physically painful.  Secondly, we genuinely enjoy spending time together; we are friends.  And despite all the other things that crowd our regular days; work, bills, household, etc - we get through it because we are friends.

Our two week Thailand vacation was one we still daydream about; two full weeks in a paradise that we hope we will get to visit again.

For the first time since that Thailand trip of our dreams, Brandon saved up two of his weeks for a vacation again this year.

Our two week third baby staycation was....well, sort of like our Thailand vacation....

We certainly traveled through unfamiliar territory while becoming a family of five.  So much of the past two weeks have been doing things we've done before, but laced with a thick newness.  Re-learning how to sponge bath a baby, use a breast pump, get lost in the smell of a baby's head, fall asleep while in the middle of a sentence, and at the very least feign alertness after a night of only three hours of sleep.

We have tried these past two weeks to navigate cautiously the balancing act of giving due attention to all the things that look to us for it.  Making sure each kid gets quality time with us despite the obvious drop in quantity.  We quickly realized that we also need to manage attention for all the other grown up things in life too; our pets, our home, doctor appointments, vehicle needs, meals....and, oh yeah, each other.

We also tried lots of new things; after B shot an eight-point buck on the first day of archery, he tried his hand at making deer jerky for the first time.  Grey spent his first ever morning in the tree stand with Brandon scouting buck for his Pappy.  We drove with a back seat full of car seats for the first time carting around all three kids to Violet's 2day check up.  Brandon and I learned more about the difference between a blocked tear duct and an infected one when Violet showed signs of the latter and we needed to apply antibiotics to get her cleared up (she's all better now!)  The kids learned about how to hold a new baby and what Tummy Time means (which they love, hahhaha).  Violet learned how to be a human out in the world (she's awesome at it).

infected tear duct:  4 days old

We joyfully spent time with interesting people.  We had plenty of visitors during our two week staycation; everyone looking to meet our little Lettie bug and to also (thankfully!!) help burn some preschooler energy from our bigger two.  I will never be able to say it enough; but we are so very, very blessed.

Mimi's 11th grandchild!
We ate food that was deliciously prepared for us; bless our family and friends.  We shared and received dinners that were delivered with love.  Take-out pizza, homemade roasts, chicken & potatoes, pumpkin and apples pies and three freezer meals (!) ready to be thrown in the crockpot for another day (like today!)  We even celebrated Greyson's half birthday with the Rummels while they visited with a whipped together birthday cake!

And truly, if nothing else, we made memories and took lots of pictures.  If Violet is holding these first moments somewhere inside of her subconscious about how the world works, she has firmly learned theses things in the past two weeks:
1. the sounds of her brother's and sister's voices in whispers, yells, sing-song and every volume between.
2. the smell of her Dad's neck (her mother's favorite smell of all)
3. the sight of her Mumma's smile
4. maybe not yet what the phrase 'I love you' means, but that it sure gets said a lot. and by everyone.

And over the course of these two weeks, with the limited parental sleep yet abundant child energy; I have been able to look across the room and see the face of my favorite friend and partner in adventure* who mirrored back the face I knew I was carrying too; a weary, exhausted smile with heavily bagged but grateful eyes.

The thing that makes this staycation most different from our first two week vacation is that maybe someday we'll be able to travel back to Thailand to re-live our days in paradise; but we'll never be able to go back and re-do this third baby staycation.

Thailand is a destination; a place we'll always be able to travel.  But our kids right now at four and a half, two and a half, and 2 weeks old is a time; a now or never kind of a place.

I imagine someday when we're old and gray, lounging on beach chairs on some far off adventure, Brandon and I will think back to our two week third baby staycation and daydream about when our preschool kids asked us to dance to the little red cd player blaring in their room.  When we would fight off sleep while on the couch with the weight of a newborn on our chest.  The days when we had two full weeks in a different kind of paradise; the chaotic sort of blur that makes your heart feel full because amid all the messes, sleepiness, movement, and spit-up there hides some sort of a fleeting magic.

I'm so grateful that we saved up on time for this third baby staycation of a lifetime.

*Dear Bud,
I don't have to say it because I know you know.
but I will anyway.
There is no one on this Earth I'd rather have adventures with
(both those at far off destinations or the staying in kind)
i love you.
we are so lucky you are ours.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Mom Next Door Series: Ellie C

Our Mom Next Door Interview today comes from Ellie C. from central PA.  She is a mom of two boys, one pup and she's incredibly inspiring in the way she approaches happy parenting.  As a mom raising mixed race kids, she finds support and an outlet for her own thoughts within the online blogging community.  I personally find her posts about raising her sons as always thought-provoking and insightful.  Ellie's writing style and topics have become one of my favorites in my blog list and I'm always eager to hear her perspective- I'm so glad to include her voice in this series.

Please take a moment today to read from about Ellie and how she is ever learning, growing, and trying new things as a mom to two boys.


Who are you?  I’m Ellie and I blog at Musing Momma, where I share inspiration for happy parenting as well as resources and reflections on raising mixed race kids. I live in central Pennsylvania with my husband, our two boys (“Zippy” is 7 and “Bee” is 4), and our first baby, an arthritic dog that we rescued when he was a puppy.

My background is in clinical psychology, but I gave up working as a child therapist when my youngest was born so that I could focus more time and energy on my family. Currently, I work part-time as a consultant helping mental health agencies and communities that want to implement effective, research-based treatment programs. Earlier this year I also joined the on-line magazine BonBon Break as the Family Room Editor. My job is to find wonderful writers to contribute to our magazine, connect with bloggers, and do some writing myself. I love it!

I work half-time and mostly from home, which means I am home with my preschooler the rest of the week and able to get my older son off of the bus most days. It is a perfect balance for us! My husband is a university professor, so during the summer we get to spend a lot of time together as a family. We are extremely blessed in this respect!

Which chore is your least favorite?  Brushing teeth! I try to avoid it by disappearing to do “urgent” tasks like put away laundry or getting the mail.

What has become (at least for now) your parenting mantra or guiding principle?  Just “pause.” I chose this as my word for 2014. I was feeling pulled in too many directions and I really wanted to be more deliberate and thoughtful in how I choose to spend my time and how I relate to my family. I keep coming back to this word – “pause.” It has been such a valuable and meaningful reminder for me, in so many ways. Pause and notice the moment. Pause and look my kids in the eye when they are talking to me. Pause and really think about how I want to respond to a situation, rather than reacting impulsively.

What would your pre-mom self be surprised to know about motherhood?  That being mom to two biracial boys (African-American/white) would make race a part of my life in a way I never anticipated. I've become much more aware of issues of race, from thinking about how best to raise my boys to have a healthy identity to the lack of diversity in children’s books to the ways that racism
continues to rear its ugly head – these things touch me so personally now. I never would have expected I would be writing publicly about these things or that I would learn so much by connecting on-line with other parents in mixed families.

I also didn't anticipate just how hard motherhood would be at times. I love my boys more than I ever
could have imagined, but day to day parenting can be so exhausting! I especially struggle with not having enough time for myself.

What would your pre-mom self be proud to know about you in motherhood?  That I push past my own comfort zone to let my boys pursue what interests them and nurture their own curiosity. My boys have introduced me to so many new things, partly through their own curiosity but also because I’ll do what I can to nurture that curiosity. We've gone fossil hunting, rotted down deer skulls in our backyard (yep, that’s gross!), and figured out geo-caching. Right now there is a stinky dead snake in my garage – I’m not sure what the boys plan to do with that!

My oldest is passionate about nature and although I never considered myself an outdoorsy girl, I’m doing a pretty good job raising outdoorsy kids.  I’m really proud of that, especially in today’s age of screen and technology overload.

How do you unwind or re-charge?  Time with friends, definitely! When my youngest was born, I met three other moms who ended up becoming some of my best friends. We get together periodically for dinner and drinks, which usually turns into hours of talking and laughing. It is definitely good for my soul! I also find that Saturday morning yoga class – that hour of peace and movement – really helps me rejuvenate at the end of the week.

What was the most difficult Mom moment you've had (so far)?  Can I pick a time period? The fours were (are!) tough. My oldest was a really easy toddler and then the fours came along and I was thrown. At four, kids are much more capable of having their own ideas about things, but they still don’t have great control over their emotions or their impulses. For me, that made for a tough combination. In hindsight, I probably had unfair expectations of my son, too. Preschoolers’ ability to converse and their desire to be more independent can trick us into forgetting they are still so young!

Now my youngest is four and we are going through the same thing. Fortunately, this time around I have the benefit of knowing that this is a phase. I remind myself that the things that concern me will pass and instead try to focus on the things that make him an amazing kid!

What do you feel like you are really good at as a mom?  I make sure my boys know how much I love them. I tell them that, if I could choose any children in the whole world to be mine, I would pick them, and I never let a day go by without hugs (usually lots of hugs). I think I also do a good job of being playful with my kids. I love making up silly songs or cranking up the radio and dancing in the car when we’re out running errands. I hope that when they are all grown up, that is the way they will remember me as a mom.

What are the small joys of being a Mom that you treasure most right now?  Holding hands with my little one. The way he reaches for my hand while we walk and the way his hand fits into mine just right melts my heart. My 7-year-old is much less likely to hold hands with me these days. Knowing these hand-holding days will eventually come to an end (and sooner than I’d like!) makes me cherish them that much more!

What do you miss most from Mom days already gone by?  Breastfeeding, especially at bedtime. There was something so special about snuggling close in a dimly lit nursery, and the way my babies would gaze up at me, so content. It meant there was always a little time each day to just be quiet and soak each other in.

It also seems like parenthood is about constantly letting of who our kids were and falling in love with who they are now. I wouldn't trade my boys – just as they are right this moment – for anything, but when I watch old home videos I find my heart aching a bit for those sweet toddlers that they once were.