The Mommy Wars are Over!

If there has ever been a buzz word of the last 10 years, in the parenting world, Mommy Wars would be it!  Whether you breast feed, bottle feed, co-sleep or sleep train, becoming a parent in the last decade means gearing up in your armour and entering a pretty epic battle!Screen Shot 2018-10-03 at 9.00.22 AM.png

Basically the idea is that if anyone does things differently on their parenting journey than you, well, obviously they are wrong….and it’s your job to tell them!  Easy! Anyone can do it… and some days, it feels like everyone has.

But today, I want to talk about how I put down my (metaphoric) gun and found peace in the midst of the Mommy Wars!

First off, a little back ground.  I have LOVED babies since, well probably, I was a baby myself!  I grew up babysitting, and volunteering in the church nursery.  I worked as a nanny and then studied Early Childhood Education in college.  There was a long time, I was pretty convinced there was nothing I didn’t know about taking care of babies.   I WAS THAT PERSON.  You know, childless woman, with loads of ideas and advice for someone currently in the trenches of parenthood.  Yeah, them!  Now listen.  I will never discredit that advice.  Sometimes the perspective of somebody not currently struggling with the same challenges is refreshing and helpful.  Often it is not. I’m so very sorry for those times.

Fast forward to my positive pregnancy test.  I was bound and determined that I was going to do everything for MY baby “right”.  It started with giving birth “right”, then feeding baby “right” and getting baby to sleep “right”.  It went on and on and on. It became an obsession.  Without even realizing it, I spiraled into an anxious ball of stress. Angry, tired, obsessed stress!

Screen Shot 2018-10-03 at 10.33.35 AM.png  I was so focused on what everyone around me was doing “wrong”…”Pffft, not cloth diapering your baby…. do you EVEN CARE about your child, or the environment?”.  As if by some stretch, love was measured in the soft piece of minky fabric your baby shits in!  It seems ridiculous, and honestly, it was agonizing to live this way.  I didn’t understand why I felt the need to be so aggressive about what other parents did, it just spilled out of me. I felt personally attacked whenever someone chose a different path, or method!  I couldn’t rationalize the idea that none of it had to do with me! Not even a little.

Then, one day it all hit me like a ton of bricks.  I felt sad, and lonely.  I didn’t have close friendships with other parents and I was exhausted (remember, I had a non-sleeper).  Being so critical of other people did NOT make me feel better about myself, it did not improve my self esteem, it was all just a reflection of my own severe insecurity! And the worst revelation for me, it was sucking the precious time and energy I could have been focusing on my family.

I had been terrified about what other people thought of me, as a person and most importantly, as a mom.  If I didn’t live up to my own, completely unrealistic standards of what a “good” mom was, others must think I’m a huge failure too!  I was caught up in feeling judged by others, whether I was or not, so I fought fire with fire, and everything just burned.    Being “right” was more important than finding joy.  It didn’t take long before I became desperate to find joy!

I made the conscious decision to look at myself and my parenting choices differently.  No longer allowing the pressure to be perfect and “right” to overwhelm me.  I realized what I did for my family did not hurt anyone else. If it worked for us, there was no downside to letting criticism or judgement (real or perceived) just roll off my back.  In the exact same way, I realized that it added ZERO benefit to anybody to waste time and energy on offering criticism or judgement to others.  It actually kind of made me a huge jerk. I didn’t want to be that person anymore. So I took a page from Elsa’s book and “Let it Go!”

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I’m far from perfect, I have had many moments since this realization where I catch myself having judgemental thoughts, or saying unkind things.  But the more I focus my attention inward, to my own family and myself, the less time and energy there has been to focus outwards on others.  In the past when I would read or hear someone shaming any of the parenting choices that I had made, I took it personally, and it bothered me for a long time.  Since making this change, when I hear something negative, I sit on it for a moment, and then decide, is this information, or it’s source, worth any more of my time or attention?  99.9% of the time, the answer is no! Letting it go is a conscious choice, but one that I have learned to make time and time again!  Practice makes perfect!

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I feel like it is important to note that I DO NOT have it all together. Not even a little bit. At 5 years old my child, drives me absolutely batty on a very regular basis.  I’m still very unsure of what I’m doing, but that is normal.  Most parents, feel this way!  I’m the mum online that tries to keep things real, (a quick look at my Instagram Stories will reveal this truth!) and I hope to be there for anyone who needs a gentle chuckle, and a “I’ve been there too!”, because likely, I have!  Parenthood does not require perfection, and the first steps I’ve taken to lifting some of that pressure is to recognize that I’m never going to get it totally “right!”  There is right for me, and right for you, but never one kind of “right” that works for everyone!  Keep on trudging through the trenches of parenthood, but know you can leave the “Mommy War” at any time!  There is a wonderful peace to be found outside the battle!

 

Love ya,

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Top 5 Road Trip Tips for Traveling with Toddlers

For many parents, the definition of “Hell on Wheels” is a road trip with their toddler, or sometimes worse, multiple children.  I have to say that despite the challenges, road trips are still my favourite way to travel, even with kids!  After few trips with the littles spanning East and West across our great country, I have gained some experience and have collected my top 5 tips to take the first exit off the Highway to Hell!

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1. Sanity Saving Snacks!

Everyone knows that a Hangry child is not a fun travel companion.  Keep in mind when planning for snacks that a Hangry parent is not going to enjoy the trip very much either (pssst.  That’s you!) Choose a couple of snacks you will enjoy as well.  If you don’t plan on sharing, may I recommend stealthily opening all packaging before returning to the vehicle at a pit stop!  The last thing you want here is the conspicuous crinkle of a chip bag heard by tiny, bat-like sonar ears in the back seat!

Pinterest is filled with snacking ideas on the road, from tackle boxes filled with varieties of trail mix and crackers.  There are also so many ideas for healthy snacks, but remember to plan accordingly.  If your trip takes you back or forth across the Canada/USA border, you will be prohibited from packing most fresh fruit and veggies. A quick stop at a grocery store in either country, once you’ve cleared customs will be your best bet for this kind of travel.

2. Be a Back Seat Buddy!

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If traveling with an only child, as we did our first couple of family road trips, we found it extra helpful to have one adult sitting in the back seat in arms reach.  Bear was under 2 on our first 13 hour road trip. I don’t know if that makes us brave or certifiably insane?!  We traveled from Home to Wainwright Alberta on a Friday, attended a wedding on Saturday and drove all the way home on the Sunday.  Roughly 2500km, in a weekend, later that summer, we drove all the way to the East Coast something like 9800km round trip! Nuts I say!!!

Sitting in the back seat often, helped keep Bear calm and entertained.  We sang, chatted, and I was able to hand him activities and snacks easily, especially because he was rear facing.  On other trips, having an older child sitting near younger children can help in the same way! It takes a team effort to survive a trip like that!

3. Plan Travel Time Strategically

I don’t know about you, but Arthur was a GREAT sleeper in the car.  That was about the only place.  When he was a newborn, my cluster feeding, non napper, would rack out for the full 3 hours it took to regularly drive to my parent’s house at the time.  It wasn’t a surprise then, to discover the best part of road tripping with a toddler was how well he slept in the car!

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We used this to our advantage, and in an aim to exploit this super power, we embarked on our first trip at 4 in the morning!  We eeked out FIVE hours of sleepy silence from the kid that morning!  On a journey that took us 14 hours that day, it was a great start!   He went on to have periods of being awake and then a couple of naps through the day.  If making a shorter trip, plan on leaving at or around nap time.  If doing the long haul, like we typically do, a very early morning might be your best bet!

4. Boredom Busters

Being prepared to keep your little(s) occupied in the car is critical to avoid meltdowns caused by boredom!  Many ideas I came across online were geared towards older children.  At just under 2 years old, Arthur wasn’t able to play traditional road games (I spy, licence plate game, road scavenger hunts etc) So we got creative to keep him busy.

First, music was a life saver!  We chose some of his favourite CD’s and just embraced his taste in music.  Anne Murray’s Hippo in the Bathtub, has been a throw back favourite in our family.  My parents love to regale me with tales of my own first long haul trip, at 11 months old, listening to this album on cassette tape!  Arthur was also partial to the song Bi-Plane Evermore by the Irish Rovers. (He’s a bit of a weirdo… we love him for it!) When he started to get cranky, the first few notes seemed to calm him almost immediately.  Let’s just say we listened to it a lot, and in the end I’m so grateful for the song’s ability to ease the stress of our trip, I’ll forgive the fact that it is, many years later, stuck in my head from time to time!

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I also planned for some table top activities.  I laminated a plain sheet of paper before we left home, and bought a pack of dry erase markers at the dollar store.  Bear “coloured” to his heart’s content and then could wipe the sheet clean and start again!

Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do.  Arthur’s first time on the iPad, was thanks to road tripping!  We strictly limited screen time normally, but for the sanity of all involved, we relaxed our rules and I was shocked at the speed in which he mastered using a tablet at <2!  I downloaded a couple of educational games that did not require wifi, and let him at it.  So far it hasn’t caused him to suffer cognitively or to display any violent tendencies, so no major regrets there.

5. Make the Breaks Count!

My final suggestion today is to make the most out of stops!  You will hear from lots of parents that you need to make frequent stops!  You will discover VERY early on in your first trip, what works best for your kids!  In our experience, Arthur did not need to take many breaks that first long haul trip.  When traveling with children, being flexible is key!  We focused on making the most out of all planned and unplanned stops! This meant splitting up duties to get the most done in the shortest time.

Fuelling up is an opportunity to stretch those legs! While one person takes care of pumping gas, or paying, the other can find a grassy spot near the parking lot and RUN!  Quick games of chase, or guided stretching will help loosen up those stiff joints!  It’s a great mental break for everyone too!

Especially if traveling in the summer months, your ideal pit stop location with kids…… a SCHOOL!  Typically school yards will have both a play structure and a lot of open space to run and play!  They are also a lot easier to find in unfamiliar communities than a park, but any open space will do in a pinch!

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DO NOT EAT IN!!!  After sitting in the vehicle for such a long time, it was unreasonable to have any expectation of sitting at a table to eat a meal!  I would suggest ordering all food to go, and eating on the road if possible, or picnic style at the local school/park! Screen Shot 2018-10-01 at 11.44.44 AM.png I think it is important to keep our expectations in check through situations like these.  Road travel can be as stressful for children as it is adults.  Choosing to have a positive attitude will go a long way in building up everyone’s tolerance to the hard moments.  Being flexible and accepting that you can’t plan for every little moment may help a little too!  It will all be ok!  Bon Voyage!

I hope you enjoyed this post and found some helpful ideas!  If you have any thoughts or other suggestions I’d LOVE if you share them with our community below!

 

Love ya,

Kalynn

Why I Regret Putting My Son in Pre-School.

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In the journey of parenthood there are some things I feel like I’ve done right, and by that I mean, right for my family!  You are all intelligent and mature people and parents, so you understand that it goes without saying, what is right and works for my family is not for all. No judgement, dudes!  Many times since becoming pregnant 6 years ago, I’ve had to stick up for my choices and stand firm in doing what I felt was best for myself and my child.  I’m proud of those “accomplishments”, but like every parent out there, I’ve struggled with self-doubt and carried bucket loads of guilt over some decisions that did not work for us and today, I wanted to  share one of those choices.

I regret putting our 3-year-old into Pre-School.

In our small community, the only licensed childcare is the local nursery school.  They have 15 spaces for children either 3 or 4 years old and are open every other morning for 3 hours during the school year.  Here is the thing.  I was a stay at home mum.  I didn’t require childcare.  With two more years until he started Kindergarten, at 3 years old, my very attached, barely out of the toddler stage child did not stand to benefit from this separation.   We would wait another year, and consider Nursery School when he was 4.

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Then, things changed for me over that summer.  An opportunity came up to apply for the Director’s position at the Nursery School.  With a history in early childhood education, I was confident I could make improvements the program needed.  This meant teaching in the classroom I had been avoiding putting my child in.  I bet you see where I’m going with this.

Lo and behold, I was hired.  So off we went to school, together.  Getting to be my child’s first teacher, at home, and now at school, was a blessing and could only go swimmingly…..right?  I was thrilled for the chance to have employment outside the home, while also keeping my one and only precious baby boy close and under my watchfu…..oh, ok I’m starting to think the problem here was me.  That couldn’t be!   You get it.

From day one I anticipated a challenging transition, hopeful in time it would calm down.  I can easily chalk our challenges up to early mornings, Bear’s first introduction to some (loose) structure, over stimulation from a large group of energetic children, and most definitely big emotions about “sharing” his mama!  But the truth of the matter is that, at 3 years old, he was NOT ready for Pre-School.

I spent months in denial.  Oh he’s just struggling because he is tired.  When he is used to the environment, things will get easier.  It’s hard to not have mum’s undivided attention when it’s all he’s used to, he’ll adjust.  I was so stuck in “making it work” mode, I missed what my child was clearly telling me all along.  I’m. Not. Ready.

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I didn’t see it clearly until the following September.  My second year teaching, and his second year in Nursery School.  Now, at age 4, I saw a change in his behaviour.  Just looking at his first day of school photos, I’m floored by the physical change he went through over that year.  I knew then, that the difficult time he was having the year before was not just an adjustment period.  He was still struggling with early mornings, loud kids and sharing mum’s attention.  But at 4 years old he was able to

cope with these big feelings that were developmentally impossible for him to handle at 3.

Our situation was unique, but I feel terrible that he struggled so hard and that I didn’t recognize why.  And you may be thinking, “that’s lovely lady, but it is unreasonable to cater to my child because the option of staying home with them doesn’t exist for me.”  Oh I feel you!  I can’t say that I would have even changed our situation even if I did realize at the time, it was important to me that I take this job.   I’m also not meaning to imply there is anything wrong with putting your child in Nursery School, or other childcare at any age.  I certainly understand the need or desire to do so, due to employment, or to meet other needs.

My intended take away from today is:  For those, like me, who felt, for whatever reason, that you HAVE to enrol your young child into school, but your mommy heart wasn’t settled about it.  Don’t push it beyond your comfort level.  If your child is currently enrolled in a program similar to this, and it is not a good fit, or you feel like this “adjustment” is taking too long, (but trust me, there is a healthy, and natural adjustment period for all these things) you are not wrong for making a change.  Follow your instincts! Do what is right for you, despite what others may be telling you!  I regret not doing that.

Many a time I’ve followed my “mommy gut”, (my intuition as well as the protruding belly I’m still making excuses for 5+ years after giving birth).  Never has it steered me wrong.  Every single regret that I’ve had, has been entirely wrapped up in NOT following it.  Nursery School, negative doctors visits and passing on one of the delicious looking tacos from the food truck in downtown L.A. this summer… all regrets of not following that gut… and a pretty valid suspicion of street meat!

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I am grateful in a way for that the difficult season, our first year getting our “school legs” (like sea legs, but with a lot more germs, and only slightly less water) because it helped shine a light on the wonderful moments of 4-year-old Nursery School.   The biggest difference, I believe was that HE was finally ready!

Here are my 3 “I’d do that differently” lessons:

1st:  If it was an option, I wouldn’t have let anyone (myself included) shame or pressure me into choosing something I wasn’t originally comfortable with, for him.  What might be right for one child, just wasn’t for mine. I would encourage any parent to stand strong in what you feel is best!  That gut has gotten me through so much, it won’t let you down now!

2nd: I would have put in more of an effort to ease Bear’s stress and anxieties at home, and give him more grace in the classroom.  He really got a bum deal there. To avoid the appearance of favouritism, I swung to the other extreme, I was super hard on my kid.  I had significantly higher expectations for him than the other three-year olds.  The poor guy barely stood a chance.  As the Nursery School teacher, I would make some changes to how I balanced that role, with my mum role. It was tough, and I could have done better.

and finally,

3rd: I would give myself a whole lot more grace!  It was a TOUGH year for us all!  I went into survival mode, dealt with plenty of challenging situations, and came out on the other side a stronger person, but not without suffering a lot through the process.  I’m grateful all the time for the wise words of Ms. Maya Angelou (2 posts in, and I’m already breaking out the “inspo quotes”… but this one is SO worth it… and I can apply it to almost any situation) “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” -M.A.   I would remind myself that this too shall pass, and nobody expects perfection!

Screen Shot 2018-09-27 at 10.59.11 PMIn the end Bear promises me he is a happy, self-assured, well-adjusted weirdo who doesn’t seem to remember much of his first experiences in school. I on the other hand will struggle to forget some of those “shining moments” in both our lives!  All in all, he continues to grow and is now tolerating Kindergarten for the sake of the bus ride! He “graduated” from my Nursery School class ready to take on the world…. or start his own hipster accounting firm.  It’s ok. I’ll support his dreams, no matter what he chooses.

If you have had a parenting struggle related to starting school, I’d love to hear about it!  Leave a comment to share your experiences, and if you have any tricks that made things easier for you, I know our community would love to read it!

Love ya,

Kalynn

 

The Next Chapter!

Ahoy friends!  I am so glad you’ve taken some time out of your day to hang with me, here… on the interwebs!  It has been a while since I’ve created content for a blog or vlog, but after a little soul searching, I feel that it’s time to get back to doing something I really love to do!  Posting content online is NOTHING new to me, various times over the years I’ve made videos or written blog posts about my life or things that were important to me.  I’ve come to realize I miss this format for connecting with others, so I’m looking at this as a fresh start, the next chapter!

First, an introduction!

Hi, I’m Kalynn.  I live in rural Manitoba, Canada, with my *chokes back tears* kindergartener, Arthur (affectionately known as Arthurbear or Bear) and my husband, Taylor (affectionately known as…. Taylor).  I love funky glasses and comfy clothes.  Traveling is my favourite, and road trips are the best!  I am also the Director of the local Nursery School, so you may occasionally get a behind the scenes look at what I’m planning for my class!  I’ve been on a long journey to accept myself and love my body, as it is!  In this process I have agreed to do just about anything “for the ‘gram”!  and can say that it is very freeing experience to be willing to fall on my face on a public platform! So far, luckily, no scaring has occurred. 😉

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As for the why and what I’m planning for this space on the world wide web… I am creating community!   Through lots of experiences in the past 2.5 years, I’ve discovered a deep love for social media and connecting with others, even from a distance.  By sharing my experiences and dreams, I’ve built connections with so many people, including those, I have only ever “met” online.  Living in such a sparsely populated area, I have to get creative in order to find my “village”.  Life can get messy, parenting is hard and hilarious, throw in: working, traveling, and otherwise existing it all is much more fun and we feel much more supported when it’s done in community!

That’s what I want from this blog.  I want to share my stories and experiences with you, and in turn, hear your stories and experiences, learning from one another.  I’m certainly no expert in any area, I wouldn’t claim to be!  That said, I have learned so much from trial and error, and even more from my friends and family, that I hope that one day, when you’re making that kick ass bowl of guacamole or feeling confident enough to try a bold lipstick colour for the first time, you can say, “Kalynn told me to do it!” and you won’t regret a thing!

Love ya,

Kalynn