LAST BABY BLUES - HE'S TURNING TWO
Okay, so he's not turning two for another 6 months but trust me when I say it will come too soon. I. Am. A. Mess.
"When are we going to have another baby?"
My kids often ask me when we're going to have another baby and the younger ones have already placed their orders for another baby brother or a baby sister. Honestly, in our family of eight, we don't know what life is like without a baby around to keep us all on our toes.
It is going to be weird not having a baby around and we will all miss it immensely. Especially, me.
Where did the first year go?! It seems like just yesterday that I was waddling around in my favorite Target maxi dresses (they're sooooo stretchy!), talking to Little Bean in my belly. We'd take long, slow waddles down the baby aisles together, laughing at every graphic onesie, petting every stuffy, and stocking up on diapers, and binkies (you know, the ones with adorable stuffies attached to them. I love those!). Then plopping the fun purchases into the shiny new plastic baby tub I bought for his first year of bath time pics.
I groaned at all the bundles of tiny baby socks displayed, knowing that one of each pair will instantly disappear, forever, within minutes of leaving the store in my sealed shopping bag. Can I get a witness?! Why can't they sell a bundle of 6 pairs of the SAME SOCK... - it would save the sanity of exhausted new mothers everywhere. There is a special place in hades for the designers of baby socks who greenlight sock sets in multiple colors and patterns. Sorry, off topic...
So, back to my severe case of #lastbabyblues.
I am fast approaching my 46th birthday - I think it’s safe to say that Baby#6 is our last baby chick. Now, I know that most people would say that my scotsman and I have had a good run, baby-makin', and it's time to retire the ol' uterus. Confession Time: I thought my baby making days had ended after Baby #5 so when that pregnancy test confirmed Baby #6's imminent arrival, I was stunned beyond words.
Honestly, it's going to be rough for me when J-Dragon says bye-bye to diapers and binkies and takes off running, full-steam ahead, into life as a big-kid preschooler. Slapping on that final diaper on his sweet little bottom, retiring my diaper bag(s), donating his crib, and packing up his baby clothes will be extra hard because I have been mothering babies for the past 16 years and to say that I will miss it is a gross understatement.
Don't get me wrong, I joyfully celebrate milestones as they come. I don't want to hold him back (maybe a little bit...), but I guess what I'm trying to say is that the sixth time around, I have finally learned to enjoy the everyday journey, instead of just checking off the milestones and looking to what's next on the list.
What can I say, I'm a slow learner...
When he was just months old, his siblings and I would prop him up on the couch and try to guess which way he'd topple (left or right) - best out of three would be the winner. I fully enjoyed his adorable crawling phase instead of wondering why he wasn't walking yet. And I am enjoying his baby-speak, immensely, instead of keeping track of how many words he's mastered. I am singing through his diaper changings instead of brushing up on potty training protocols. And I'll often drop whatever I'm doing and laze unhurriedly on my well-worn couch with my sweet baby cuddled on my lap, finally understanding that the laundry and dishes really can wait.
I get it. I finally get it, but what took me so long?! I am the first to admit that I have had a respectable number of babies (never too many, though) and yet here I am, sitting at my kitchen table, writing this post, while my still-a-baby, baby, naps upstairs, and I'm wishing I had more time with all of my kids to relish their baby years one more time and to hold them in my memory just as clear as today.
My oldest baby chick is now taller than me and she'll be taking driver's ed this summer. Next in line is getting braces and possibly an iPhone (his fingers crossed...). The years are indeed flying by at light speed and I am trying my best to keep up and enjoy the ride, grateful to still be a part of my children's daily lives.
My last baby's arrival was an unexpected gift and not a single day goes by that I take his whimsical presence for granted. When his second birthday rolls around, I will be the first to cheerily sing him his birthday song, both in English and Korean, as per our family tradition. And after I have a good cry off in a corner of my house somewhere, suffering from a case of last baby blues, I will hug my baby boy and congratulate him on being "two cakes old".
HERE ARE THE TOP 7 BENEFITS OF HAVING SIBLINGS
The best thing I've ever given my kids is each other.
They may not agree but their friends sure do. They are always telling my kids how much they wish they had lots of siblings to play with. Cue my kids' collective *eye roll*...
The truth is, life in a large family is impressively loud, beautifully messy, and can be complicated... But most of all, it's never boring and crucial life lessons abound around every corner, thanks to siblings.
Here are the Top 7 Benefits of Having Siblings
1. Live Longer. A study found that people who enjoy strong family relationships live longer than those who lack strong family bonds. Adult siblings often support each other emotionally and encourage one another, resulting in improved physical health and overall mental wellness later on in life.
2. Built-In Playmates. My #4 and #5 fight like cats and dogs, every day, and at least one of them will dissolve into tears at least once a day due to some injustice put upon them by their sibling aka arch nemesis. On the flip side, they spend many hours together, every day, building forts, riding their bikes, making up games, building on Minecraft, cracking jokes, cooking, and enjoying their shared favorite mid-morning snack, cheese and grapes.
It isn't all rainbows and unicorns in a house full of siblings but honestly, it's often "unicorny" and "rainbowy" much of the time, thanks to my fabulous daughter who insists that her older brothers sit through episodes of My Little Pony with her (who are they kidding, my boys are HUGE fans of the show).
3. Practical Life Skills. Learning early in life to share things such as your toys, bedroom, food, pets, clothing, and even your parents, makes it easier later in life to master important social skills like compromise, inclusiveness, cooperation, and patience.
If you can nail down regulating your emotions and how to get along with others, starting at a young age, you are ahead of the game. Thank your siblings for the practice.
4. Empathy. No matter how bad a time one (or more) of us is having on any given day, the sight of our youngest baby instantly boosts our mood and brings us out of our own problems and into the happy world of little B. I have seen my older kids instantaneously go from "Cranky Franky" and "Debbie Downer" to "Sibling Super Hero" at the sight of their baby brother or sister in distress.
Even my #4 and #5 will do their best to comfort or encourage the other if they sense they really need it.
The Benefits of Empathy are Far Reaching into Adulthood: Empathy lowers aggressive behaviors; enhances the quality of intimate relationships (marriages), and helps to create and maintain friendships. And countless studies have shown that the practice of empathy fosters the positive and healthy relationships needed to enhance a person's quality of life.
5. Belonging. Having siblings is like belonging to a very exclusive club that you can never get kicked out of.
No matter how quirky and off-beat your sense of humor, your siblings totally get you. No matter how much you geek out on Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Disney Princesses or viral Fortnite dances, your siblings will be your willing (mostly) audience, always. And no matter how epic your tantrum or how serious your sibling infraction, there is always forgiveness.
Sometimes in adulthood, siblings become estranged, but that's not the norm. Siblings are for life. Even if you're not on speaking terms, your sibling will always be family and there is hope for reconciliation.
6. They Make Great Teachers. Older siblings make great teachers.
They can teach the younger siblings "the ropes" of navigating childhood from an older child's fresher, more adventurous, perspective, as opposed to mom's less fun and more cautious approach.
The younger siblings love to emulate their older siblings while the older ones feel good and capable to be leading the younger siblings to greater heights. The older siblings take on mature responsibilities and the younger siblings are exposed to lots of new experiences.
My older brothers often brought me along to places and I learned so much just by observing their interactions with the world. It was a priceless education that I could only have gotten from my older brothers.
7. Friends for Life. When I am gone, my children will have each other to share their collective memories of their shared youth. And I know they will be there for one another as they build new memories with their future families. I hope they will get together with their kids and enjoy being impressively loud and beautifully messy together, once again. And I know that they will have learned enough from one another to handle the "complicated" parts of life with grace, humor, and lots of sibling love.
10 SURPRISING THINGS I GAINED BY LOSING THE POSTPARTUM WEIGHT
Pregnancies made me ravenous. Once the morning sickness passed, it was like a food switch turned on and everything was absolutely mouthwatering and tasted amazing. My poor scotsman would protect his food with one arm while he ate with the other, lest his roaming pregnant wife came a calling...
Needless to say, I gained an ambitious amount of weight throughout many of my pregnancies. 65 pounds was my highest weight gain - I am 5'4" on my tallest day...
Gaining the weight and watching my baby bump grow steadily were some of the happiest days of my life.
Trying and failing epically, countless times, to drop the excess weight were some of the most depressing and unhappiest days of my life.
After many failed weight loss attempts, I tried to resign myself to my new body and pretend that the extra weight didn't bother me. It didn't work. I felt pretty bad about myself and the quality of my life was definitely suffering. My vanity took a beating, too. I poured all of my energies into making my babies absolutely gorgeous from head to toe while I looked like I hadn't glimpsed at myself in a mirror since giving birth. It was bad.
When I finally lost the postpartum weight for the first time, I was surprised to find that it did so much more than boost my vanity.
Here are the 10 Surprising Things I Gained by Losing the Postpartum Pounds
1. More Energy. My knees no longer ached when I climbed the stairs. I could stroll and walk with my kiddos without breaking a sweat or huffing and puffing. I had a bounce in my step that I had lost and it made me feel years younger and energized! I had no idea how much energy I was expending and wasting, every day, just by hauling around all that excess weight from point A to point B.
2. Healthier Skin. I can't say it enough. Drink. More. Water. Girlfriend. And by "water", I don't mean "coffee". Although I drank impressive amounts of coffee in the early years (and still do) since becoming a mama, water is your skin's best friend. My skin absolutely glowed once I started drinking more water! The dullness, red splotches, and large pores decreased as I drank more water, sweated daily, and breathed big gulps of air in my bid for better fitness. In addition, I started taking better care of my skin as I began seeing improvements (facial masks, night creams, gentle scrubs and soothing toners...)
I am fast approaching my 46th birthday (watch for that post, dear friends...) and healthy skin is no longer something to take for granted. At my age, beautiful skin must be conjured using the dark arts, night creams, and water, water, water. Especially if you are a nursing mom. Mercy - all that suckling saps the moisture from your skin and leaves it feeling like a lizard's hide.
Drinking all the extra water helped keep the hunger at bay and gave me something to reach for whenever my hands itched to put something in my mouth. Lemons, limes, blueberries, strawberries, and fresh sliced cucumbers are great additions if you want to jazz up your water.
3. Better Sleep. New moms do not get much sleep and there's really no way to get around that, short of getting a night nurse, but I noticed that my quality of sleep improved drastically once I began losing the baby weight. There are a couple of reasons for this: (1) I was exercising regularly and that simultaneously wore me out and energized me so that I slept like a baby (2) because I almost always worked out at the same time, every day, I was following a more regimented sleep schedule and that helped to regulate my sleeping.
4. Mental Health. I suffered PPD (postpartum depression) after giving birth to all of my babies (that's for another post...). It was devastating and soul-crushing to suffer through it alone and as I struggled in other areas of my life, like weight loss failure, the PPD symptoms were compounded.
The daily routine of exercise, the release of endorphins, and progress towards an important personal goal all helped in alleviating the debilitating effects and symptoms of my PPD to a great extent.
5. Time for Me. Self-care is a much neglected aspect of motherhood and I am as guilty as the next mom of forgetting that I too am a person - worthy of attention and investment. My workout time came to be my quiet time just for me and I looked forward to the prospect of doing something for myself on a regular basis.
It felt good to feel good, again.
My daily exercise time (usually 10pm-12am) was my time and I usually got to do my thing, undisturbed. Afterwards, I would take an unhurried shower and use as much hot water as I wanted! Then I'd lather up in my favorite floral scented lotion and revel in the peace and quiet of a late night. The next morning, I would wake up a little thinner, a little toner, and a little closer to my personal fitness goals. That all made me very happy and a happy me made for a happier wife and mom. What a win-win!
6. Elevated Self-Confidence. Dropping the postpartum pounds for some new mommies "ain't no thing" and, like a boss, they get back to their pre-baby physique fairly quickly. That has never been my weight loss story. My story has always been filled with countless false starts, epic fails, many months and even years before I reached my pre-baby fitness goals.
In other words, dropping the postpartum weight, putting in the work, and being consistent were super challenging for me and there were many times when I thought I could not do it. It was difficult to accept that maybe succeeding in this area of my life was beyond me - I felt defeated...
So when I finally conquered the post pregnancy pounds and regained my healthier, fitter, self, I felt a renewed confidence in what I could accomplish and do. After the first weight loss, it started a chain reaction of many more postpartum weight loss successes after each pregnancy. And with each success, my confidence was boosted and I felt that I could succeed in other areas of my life as well.
7. Greater Mental Clarity. I don't know about you but whenever I start a weight-loss/workout regimen, my senses seem to sharpen and I feel clearer in my ability to think and focus within days of starting a new program. I think it comes from switching to fueling my body with cleaner foods and plain old magic water. I believe that all of the processed unfoods and non-water beverages bog down my ability to think clearly and keep me from enjoying greater levels of happiness, joy, and positivity.
The excess weight caused knee pains, back aches, stiff joints, and depression.
The weight loss alleviated all of those symptoms and gifted me with more energy, joy, and a positive mindset towards a better quality of life.
8, Better Sex. When I am more comfortable in my own skin, happier overall, and better rested, the sex is definitely better. A half dozen babies. That's all I gotta say...
9. New Friends. I am definitely more extroverted when I feel confident about myself and have a higher level of energy. It is easier to reach out to new people when I feel good about myself and it's way easier to get involved in activities when I have greater amounts of energy and fewer physical limitations.
After losing the postpartum weight, I started getting involved in more groups, introducing myself to new people, and I even joined a German speaking club and made new friends! No. 9 was a real bonus that I hadn't expected when I first began my weight loss journey. I've met some awesome people that I'm thankful for.
10. More Freedom. Now that I have conquered losing the baby weight multiple times, I no longer limit my thinking about what I can do. For me and for many moms, the obstacles to losing the baby weight are many. So when I cleared all of my own personal obstacles and accomplished my post baby weight loss and fitness goals, I believed that I could do anything else that I put my mind to. Why not?!
I have greater, more expansive freedom in my thinking about the things that I want to pursue and a greater confidence that I can indeed overcome all of the obstacles and work positively towards reaching my goals.
Successful postpartum weight loss did so much more than I could have imagined when I first started my journey 15 years ago, with baby #1. I made new friends, joined new groups, survived the debilitating effects of PPD, started new projects, had plenty more beautiful babies, began homeschooling, and much more!
With renewed confidence, more energy and bigger thinking, I say, 'YES', more often nowadays instead of, "um, no... I don't think I can do that...."
The most surprising thing I gained from losing the weight after Baby #6 was this cool and very fun blog, themomzoo.
Thanks for stopping by my little mom zoo. Have an awesome day, mama!
PLEASE STOP TELLING ME TO ENJOY MY KIDS
On the days when I am a walking zombie, operating on countless cups of coffee and running on fumes, trying to make it to wherever (everywhere) and whenever (bedtimes, always), I daydream about the future. I dream about a day when all the kids are older - where no one needs help wiping their bottom, finding a shoe, sock, clean pants, permission slip, hairbrush, favorite stuffy, money, their lucky rock, homework, folder or anything else, as we're running late; where I'm not on my hands and knees, bone-tired, scrubbing vomit out of the carpet, for a second time, at 3:00 am and then comforting a little sick one until 4:00 am or where I'm not facing down 60 extra pounds, postpartum.
I think to myself, while driving (because as homeschoolers, we're not home a whole lot), "won't it be nice to have pretty things around the house that won't get broken, freshly painted walls that stay clean, and fancy furniture free of stains, chips and dents? Won't it be nice to go on a leisurely romantic date or wear dry clean only dresses again? And how about some peace and quiet to form engaging thoughts beyond mac & cheese, homemade playdoh, and laundry?" I've forgotten what it's like to spend unhurried time alone, free of mom guilt.
And then I cry (like I am right now), because the immaculate house that I sometimes long for and the peace and quiet that I never get to enjoy and the non-existent unhurried time for personal pursuits are all coming and when that day comes, I will wish for all the glorious chaos and little people madness to return back into to my life so that I may get a second chance to do it right - yell a little less, hug a little more, and play often with my kids, instead of folding more dang laundry or whatever else I foolishly thought took priority over playing dress-up with my children.
I realize that this beautiful life is God-ordained and that what I have with my big young family is unabashedly wonderful, blessed, magical, joyful, amazing, hilarious, and hands down the best part of living.
But you know what?
It is insanely loud at my house most of the time, and sometimes chaotic, physically exhausting, mentally draining, unspeakably messy, shatteringly hard, and at times, daunting and discouraging as I wonder if I'm messing them all up or doing a good job. Honestly, sometimes it's hard to tell.
The pressures to meet the impossible perfectionstic standards of motherhood are so high in 2018 that it is hard to be a mother and wife without having deep regrets no matter which way you go and no matter how fantastic a job you are doing.
So, yes - although I love my family and appreciate my husband and adore my 6 kids, somedays I do not enjoy motherhood. There, I said it. That isn't to say that I don't enjoy being a mother or that I regret having kids. Of course not.
It's just that motherhood isn't all unicorns and rainbows, homebaked cupcakes, pretty bedtime lullabies, and Ikea-organized kids' rooms with wall-to-wall Pottery Barn decor. That, my friends, is social-media motherhood, not real motherhood.
There are many things that I enjoy about motherhood that are actually enjoyable, like: a day at the park with my kids and our friends; baking a simple recipe with my little ones who always love to put food coloring in absolutely everything; reading a favorite bedtime story for the 100th time and making it sound just as fun as the very first time; throwing a birthday party for one of my six(!) amazing children who are indeed growing up too fast; watching the Super Bowl Halftime show together over bad food and loud jokes; slipping in quietly to watch my kids sleep and tuck them in gently while they sleep; watching their viral Fortnite dance that they’ve mastered, and watching them walk down an aisle to proudly accept a certificate or give a performance. These are just a few of the countless things that I enjoy with my kids and about my kids. With six unique, smart, talented, funny and wildly spontaneous kids, the list of things to enjoy about them is endless.
However, more often than not, motherhood also includes a mountain of dirty laundry, scratches on the expensive new furniture and stains on the curtains. Motherhood on any given day, can mean managing the blood curdling scream of your child's tantrum (in public) or, my favorite - incessant whining, sibling fighting and a messy house full of broken things. I don't enjoy this side of motherhood. I'll say it again, I don't enjoy some parts of motherhood and I don't think I ever will. Honestly, who 'enjoys' a child's tantrum or the smell of vomit or a sink full of dirty dishes or sitting in a doctor's waiting room for hours with a sick infant, toddler, or preK child who is ready to climb the walls?
By day's end, sometimes I am the one ready to climb the walls. I don't enjoy that. And that's ok.
So when a sweet older woman or grandfatherly gentleman looks fondly at my family and smiles at me and says, "Enjoy your family. They grow up so fast..." I feel thankful for their collective wisdom but I also feel a little angry and a whole lot guilty. Why? Because the moment they tell me to enjoy my family, my mind goes to all those moments that I don't enjoy and I feel 100 times guiltier. Guilty for not seeing the joy and blessing in middle-of-the-night vomit fests and guilty for missing the"enjoyment" of doing 16 loads of laundry at the laundromat (every Saturday while I save up for a new washer) and guilty for badly wishing my crying sick baby would sleep in his crib, like right now(!) because I am dead on my feet from rocking him and my alarm is about to go off in 45 minutes. Some things are not "fun", "enjoyable", or "happiness"-invoking. Some things in motherhood are just "hard" and "unenjoyable".
So, here is my homeschooling mom's confession of the day: I don't enjoy every aspect of motherhood.
But please, don't tell me to enjoy my kids, because I already do.
HOW I ORGANIZE LEARNING TOOLS ON A TIGHT BUDGET
I love a bargain as much as the next mom and as a mother of 6, FRUGALITY is my spirit animal. That's why when it comes to organizing and storing curriculums and supplies, I tend to pinch each penny until it whimpers. The plastic bins above are from the Dollar Tree (DO NOT PURCHASE THEM if you want them to last more than a day in your house with kids!) They seemed like a bargain at a dollar a piece and they were the perfect size but it turns out they were very brittle and easily cracked and chipped under minimal pressure. In addition, the thin and weakly made lids cracked like peanut brittle, so then I was left with bottoms without tops. Kinda hard to stack like that...
So, I went hunting at Target, expecting to pay more for better quality storage bins and was shocked to find something way better at a slightly lower price. You can buy the brand name Sterilite version of the dollar store bins for the same price! Actually, I think they're .99 each, at Target. They are advertised as shoe bins but they are truly perfect for organizing school manipulatives and they hold together well. The Sterilite construction is much sturdier and they stack beautifully with no worrisome leaning (I confidently stack them as high as 8 or 9 with the heavier weighted bins on the bottom, naturally) and the clear bins allow for easy finding without having to unstack and open each bin to see what's inside. Also, the lids are strong and hard to crack and chip, unlike the dollar store brand. They can withstand being dropped and even stepped on but they will crack if they are jumped on on a hard floor, tripped over and sat on (yup...) or if a bin is overstuffed with sharp objects (like Tangrams) and forcefully shut (don't ask...)
So, if you have a school supply closet cluttered with odd sized shoeboxes full of manipulatives or giant bins that look like cauldrons of tiny counting dinosaurs and seasonal erasers and wooden puzzle pieces gone amok, try out the Sterilite shoe bin system. It's worked great for us!
I am always on the lookout for tips, tricks, and hacks for organizing on a budget so please share your ideas in the comments and have an awesome day, mama!
*The items pictured above are from amazon, the Dollar Spot at Target, and the Dollar Tree. You can go to My Favorites Shop page for more details on where to find them.
TASTY AND EASY TO MAKE KOREAN DONUT RECIPE
I enjoyed eating this treat soooo much as a kid and I love that I now get to make them with my own children! This recipe requires only 7 simple ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry. It is a traditional Korean dessert, pronounced Kwaa-bae-gi. It is crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside with the perfect level of sweetness. It goes great with a mug of coffee, a hot cup of tea or a cold glass of milk. What it doesn't go great with is your favorite pair of skinny jeans, if you indulge in too many!
2 tbsp of unsalted butter
1 cup of milk (whole milk is best but low fat works, too)
8 tbsp of sugar (set aside half of that)
1/2 tsp of salt
1 package of yeast
3 cups of flour (plus set aside 2 tbsp of flour for dusting)
**if you have cinnamon, add 1 tsp to the set-aside tbsps of sugar to sprinkle on the donuts. Ignore this extra step if you don't like the taste of cinnamon.**
Heat a large pot of oil (about 5 cups of canola oil) to 350 degrees. Nervous Mom Tip: *Keep pot handles facing in and away from the edge of the stove when working with little ones in the kitchen.
In a medium size pot, over medium heat, melt the unsalted butter. Remove from the stove and add the milk, 4 tbsp of sugar, the salt and whisk together. Then crack in the egg and whisk. Then add the yeast and whisk. Let it sit for 5 minutes. Add the flour and mix and knead by hand until it looks doughy and starts to stick to your hands.
In a bowl, set it aside (covered) and let it rise for 1.5 hours. When the time is up, knew some more, cover it again and this time let it sit for about 45 minutes. Knead it again, gently, and then begin dividing the big block of dough into even halves until you have 16 small balls. My kids added food dye to some of them!
Now it's time to make them into the twisty donuts! Sprinkle lightly some flour onto counter surface to keep the dough balls from sticking. Then roll out each ball into a line, resembling a breadstick. Take the palms of your hands and roll them each in opposite directions as you knead the ball into a rod-like line about 12" long. Then pick it up by the tips of each end and fold up (it will automatically twist the donut as you bring the two ends together). When the two ends meet as you fold the long donut twist in half, pinch the ends together to secure that the twist doesn't unravel.
Once the oil reaches 350 degrees, turn the heat down to medium heat so as not to burn the donuts. Place the first batch of donuts into the oil and watch them float! About 2 to 3 minutes into the frying, flip the donuts and cook for another 2 minutes until the outside is hard and crispy and the donuts have a golden brown coloring. Remove them and place onto a plate lined with a paper towel to catch any excess oil. Do not use a plastic ziplock baggy (the heat from the donuts can melt the plastic).
Once the donuts are all cooked to a golden brown, place them, one by one, into a brown paper bag or simply roll them on parchment paper that contains the 4 tbsps of sugar (and cinnamon, if you want to add it). Gently shake the donuts in the bag or roll them on the parchment paper and coat them thoroughly.
From my family to yours,