Terrible things happened at a high school in South Florida on February 14, 2018. There was a young man in extreme pain who felt he had no better options than to murder. Many in his life had failed him, and yet he had also failed himself. He chose to make others pay a horrible price for his pain.
And yet - as it needs to be pointed out - something wonderful happened a few hours later. A four year-old girl named Heidi Todd, who was kidnapped from her home here in Charleston the day before after her abductor had beaten her mother, was found alive and well several states away. The unthinkable had happened to this family, and yet their daughter's return surpassed the odds, thanks to strangers who were alert, aware, and ready to help.
I cannot tell you why some people live or some people die. I cannot tell parents why they bore children and worked hard to raise and protect them their whole lives, only to have them gunned down in a classroom, at a concert, or at their church. As a parent myself, I feel like I am now in this pool of potential grief sufferers who must play the odds every time they send their child out into the world.
Many cite tragic occurrences as proof of the absence of God, while many tout miracles as proof of God's favor and interference. I'd like to offer a different narrative.
What I do know for sure is that this is complex world we live in full of dualities. While unspeakable tragedies happen in one place, miracles occur someplace else. Good and evil is found everywhere at at the same time. Parents lose children, children lose their parents, divorce happens, job loss, abuse, conflicts, fires consume homes, the list goes on; and at the same time, families reconcile, addicts live another day sober, new life enters into the world, a business succeeds, friends laugh together, and families hold each other close at the end of the day. The sun rises, and the sun sets, full of beauty and renewed faithfulness every time. Life can be horrible, brutal and callous, and yet beautiful and full of mystery all at the same time. That is a part of what it means to be human.
Are there things we can do to improve something that has failed us? Are there hard discussions that might be upsetting to some people that need to be had? Are there ways that we can wake up to the injustices found in our own lives and use that pain to help heal others? Absolutely. We are all required to do our part in the ongoing healing of the world. It was said once that it is not our job to finish the work, however neither is it our place to ignore it.
And that process, let us mourn for those who are grieving, let us tell those who are suffering that they are seen and are not alone, and let us have gratitude and joy in all of the goodness that we have been given to experience in this moment, during this day. Tomorrow, the next hour, the next minute has never been guaranteed to anyone.
In the face of it all, here is my prayer:
Help me to stand firm in the fullness of life, - rejoicing for the good, mourning the bad, and all that lies in between - and to continue to do my part in the work for the continual reconciliation and healing of this world.
Wishing you grace and peace, my friends -
For me - walking in Gratitude first begins with the things that I no longer carry.
It begins with the broken childhood I had.
It begins with having a body that fails me in many ways.
It begins with many other hardships I have faced.
It begins with all of the mistakes I've made in my life.
It begins with the old, bad habits I've had to break.
It begins with persons I once was, and decided I no longer wanted to be.
All of these things that have gone wrong in my life and things I've had to walk away from - are the very things that allow me to root myself in Gratitude.
I'm grateful for all of these things I've formed with my life because I've seen the other side.
I know what it is to be abused by my parents, so I am grateful for the parent I've grown to be and the partner I have to parent with.
I know what it's like to feel very sick - so any moment I feel well and alive, I am so grateful.
I know what it is like to feel immense sadness in a way that leads to despair - so when I am vibrating with joy, I am grateful.
I know what it feels like to feel like the whole world is against me and that I will never catch a break - so when doors open, I am grateful.
I know what it feels like to be run so ragged that it feels like it is killing my soul - so when I take the time to be still and quiet, I am grateful.
I know what it feels like to be fooled - so when I encounter a genuine soul, I am grateful.
I know what it is to really fuck up - so when I can right my course and make amends, I am grateful.
But hard times will come again. Difficulties will arise once more. There are plenty more mistakes to be made. Pain will find me again, in both little and big ways.
And I will do my best to face it all with Gratitude, by realizing that this season too will pass - and it will leave its transformative lesson with me.
Because if I've learned anything in my life, it is that each new hardship will teach me something - something I don't know now that I've yet to learn. It will transform me in a way that not much else can. In fact, it might unlock my greatest potential.
Life is funny like that - just when you think you know everything or learned every lesson - wham! - a new one hits you.
And the choice I choose to make over and over again, is to be grateful, to be present. In this moment, even with all of its trouble and worry.
I choose to be grateful.
Grace and peace, friends,
Hi friends! I'm so excited to share with you an old friend of mine who is now a food writer, blogger, chef, and social media brand strategist. Renee Frojo is the creator and chef-in-charge of the website Laurel Street Kitchen: California Cooking with a Touch of Spice, which she runs out of her kitchen (which is on, you guessed it, Laurel Street) in San Francisco. Renee and I grew up together in Auburn, Alabama, and even though our lives took us in very different directions, it has been so great to reconnect through our passions for food and our businesses!
As a part of her work with Laurel Street Kitchen (LSK), she maintains an Instagram account of her latest culinary creations that she is constantly cooking up for friends, her family and clients, and it is by far one of the best foodie accounts out there. Her website is always my first stop whenever I'm in a food rut and I have absolutely no idea what I'm cooking for dinner - and it never disappoints! Plus she regularly hosts other established food personalities in Facebook Live events for cooking demos and live chats.
Recently Renee was kind enough to chat with me about her journey to starting her website, life as a mom of one (and soon-to-be two!), her favorite meals to cook for her family, and a look behind the scenes of running one of the hottest food blogs. I'm sure you'll love her and find her as inspiring as I do!
Tell us a bit about you, where you’re from and your early years.
Right now, I’m lots of things. I’m a mother, a wife, a writer, a cook, a blogger, an amateur photographer and a social media consultant. (Not necessarily in that order). While I was born in Auburn, Alabama, I lived in Cancun, Mexico for the first 8 years of my life. My mother and I returned to the South after my father passed away. She remarried and I got a very lovable little brother (who’s now a towering 6”2 doctor!).
How do you think your upbringing has shaped you?
In countless ways. I have conflicting desires to put down roots and constantly travel from being brought up in a pretty international place that was so different from the place I ended up spending my remaining formative years. I also don’t take life for granted or too seriously, knowing that’s it short and goodbyes are inevitable.
What was it about the food and beverage industry that called you to make it your career?
Before attending culinary school, I was a reporter working for a local newspaper. I loved my job. I got to report on restaurants, retail, nonprofits and entrepreneurs of all sorts doing interesting things and following their passion. It inspired me to try pursue my own passions, which, at the time, was a mixed bag of creative endeavors that included cooking, photography and big idea generation. While I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do, I knew that I didn’t want to be stuck in an office in front of a computer all day. I wanted to be on my feet, doing something creative with my hands. So, culinary school called me!
What let you to start your food blog, Laurel Street Kitchen?
I wanted a space where I could showcase all the things that I was experimenting with in my kitchen and with my time. It’s a place where I could talk about life, family and discovery around the theme of food. I also wanted to see firsthand what it takes to build and grow a brand in this new social media digital age, and how I could apply those learnings to help other emerging brands reach new audiences.
What does a typical day in your life look like? And what have become your best tools in balancing work, life and motherhood?
Oh girl, there is no typical day. As hard as I try to keep a schedule, it just doesn’t work out for me. While it can drive me crazy, I think part of me thrives on that unpredictability. On any given day, I could be cooking and shooting three recipes in my kitchen. Then, I’ll switch gears and sit down to do an interview for a story I’m working on. Then I’ll take my daugher to music class. Then I’ll drop her off with my husband and rush to finish up some editing work and cook dinner. Then we put her to bed and I get back on my computer to answer emails, engage with folks on instagram, chat with my husband a bit, drink some sleepytime tea and try to get a good night’s sleep. Best tools: My iPhone calendar and Instacart for grocery shopping.
How has your husband’s Indian heritage influenced your work?
Well, it has significantly shaped the theme of my blog, which is “California cooking with a touch of spice.” I wanted to work with Indian spices partially because I want to be able to cook more of that kind of food for him, but also because they’re super interesting flavors that could be used in so many creative ways. The challenge is not making the recipes too complicated or unattainable. Also, the food I feel most comfortable cooking is super simple Mexican, Italian and Californian-type stuff that’s light, healthy and full of veggies. The hard part is really in trying to be creative and challenging myself, while staying true to what I really love to make.
What is the best marriage advice you’ve ever received?
Be sympathetic. Even when you’re convinced the other person is crazy, always try understand where they might be coming from.
How has becoming a mom changed you?
Oh man. I don’t even know. I’m still a little lost here!
What is the best parenting advice you’ve ever received?
Practice the pause. If your baby or kid is whining or crying or vying for your attention, just wait a minute before you respond. For me, teaching patience is everything! Also, don’t forget to take care of yourself (seriously, it’s good for everyone!).
And you and your husband are preparing to welcome Baby #2! That is so exciting! Any advice for families who are preparing to welcome another child?
Um, none whatsoever. I have no idea what we’re in for!
What is your favorite meal to prepare for your family?
Fish tacos. They’re fast, healthy and always a hit.
What are your go-to weeknight meals?
Lentils and rice. Veggie and meat-packed chilis. A root vegetable soup of sorts and salad. Roast chicken with some sort of delicious sauce and roasted vegetables. You know, the basics :)
Is there a special meal that you like to share with your daughter?
Does ice cream count?
What do you love to cook for a date night in with your spouse?
We like to go out for date nights! But if I were to cook something just for him, it would be some sort of Asian noodle soup thing. He loves noodle soups.
Who are your favorite chefs and why?
Stuart Brioza of State Bird Provisions here in San Francisco is the first one that comes to mind. He’s just so brilliant and so passionate and so incredibly good at what he does.
What are your favorite cookbooks?
Plenty, Plenty More and the Food Lover’s Cleanse. Also, not a cookbook, but my favorite resource: The Flavor Bible.
This is not meant to be a morbid question – but say you only had one more meal left on this earth. What would you eat and drink, where would you dine and who would you share it with?
I’d have pizza and some good beers on the beach in Mexico with all of my best girlfriends, my family, my daughters and husband.
I'm having a big week this week: I have taken the first steps towards two big new projects that I've been incubating in my mind for the past few months. Both are small steps down a path that I've felt called to walk. Both will require that I put myself out there in ways that I've never done before.
And once again, I'm faced with the gut-wrenching fear of jumping into the unknown that I've become more and more familiar with over the last year. And while whenever it pops up I greet it like an old friend, it is just as scary each time it pays me a visit as it was the first time.
Oddly enough, with all of the ways that I’ve boldly gone into the unknowns of my life, this is a rather new feeling for me. Going away to boarding school – as much as it felt like total liberation – felt as natural as going to any other school on the first day. Or moving to New York after college at the beginning of the Great Recession with no job and my entire life’s savings, and then later moving from NYC to Los Angeles in pursuit of better work opportunities was just something I had to do to move forward in my career. Changing professions – that was no problem. Even moving years later from my home in Los Angeles, newly pregnant, to be with my fiancée (now husband) in South Carolina felt just as natural as moving a few doors down the street. There was no second guessing. No nervous jitters. Definitely no cold feet. I wanted it. It needed to be done. It was time to move forward. End of discussion.
So it has become very interesting to me now that as I forge and accept new opportunities with my business that I become immediately flustered with nervous energy after making the decisions to accept both big and small opportunities that lie behind the door of Risk. What if I fail? What if I don’t sell this large inventory that I just ordered from my manufacturer? What if the audience of this Podcast or those in attendance at this event don’t like what I have to say? What if being open and honest about my life and advocating for those who have been in my shoes only opens me up to further pain? What if it negatively affects my family?
Author Elizabeth Gilbert talks a lot about fear in her recent book Big Magic - in which she explains that fear is not an emotion that will ever go away. Instead of letting fear control your thoughts and your actions, she encourages us to recognize that fear is and always will be a part of the the human experience and to accept that it will always be present. Taking her advice, I do my best to acknowledge fear when it makes itself shown, give it the due acceptance that it craves, and then move forward with what I feel called to do. In doing so I recognize that fear is along for the ride, however it is not (under any circumstances) allowed to drive!
Taking it one step further, in his book How to be Here minister/author/speaker Rob Bell writes that this kind of fear - the one that shows up when we're about to step outside our comfort zones and really put ourselves out there - is one that we should seek out. To paraphrase, this kind of fear is what reminds us that we are alive and present in our lives; if we are not faced with these types of gut-wrenching butterflies regularly, he argues, then we are not fully alive.
Whoa. Well, at least I know I'm really living!
So after processing all of my fears and anxieties, studying them from every possible angle, I've come to realize that the only thing more scary than what I’m about to do - is to not do it at all. So I have to begin. One step at a time, one deep breath at a time, on meeting at a time, one social media post at a time, one blog post at a time, one speaking engagement at a time. Taking each step, even with a tremor of fear, I know will gradually escort me down the path that I know I must travel to fulfill what it is that I was put on this Earth to do.
So to conclude, I leave you with a little saying (author unknown) that has been my mantra as I go boldly into this next phase of my life. May it also speak to you, whatever it is that you must start, and meet you where you are now in your journey.
“Start now. Start where you are. Start with fear. Start with pain. Start with doubt. Start with hands shaking. Start with voice trembling. But start. Start and don’t stop. Start where you are, with what you have. Just… Start.”
Grace and peace, friends.
Hey there friends - I have a very special person to introduce you to that I've had the pleasure of getting to know since launching ModaBaby in 2015: the awe-inspiring Nikki Fitzgerald Wood.
Aside from owning Charleston-based company Templeton Silver, which makes timeless pacifier clips that convert into a bracelet for mom once baby outgrows the pacifier stage, Nikki is a TWO-time survivor of uterine cancer, and she has been nominated as the Woman of the Year by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS). To celebrate her nomination and to help raise awareness of the cause of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, I sat down with Nikki recently and asked her to share her story with us. Inspirational, heart-breaking and full of humor, I guarantee her story is one you won't forget.
To donate to the LLS on Nikki's behalf, or to learn more about her story and the organization, click here.
So give us the Nikki 101 – A few basics about yourself: where are you from originally and where did you grow up? Was entrepreneurship a part of your life as a child?
I was actually born and raised right here in Charleston, SC. My dad grew up downtown and never left. After my parents met, they moved to Mt. Pleasant (back in the day when it was tiny). You can say I’m just “slightly” obsessed with all things Charleston. It’s in my blood. We are so lucky to live somewhere that truly is amazing.
How did you and your husband come to live in Charleston, South Carolina?
Funny enough, we both went to the same high school and didn’t know each other. Well, he knew who I was, but he was a couple of years younger so I had no clue who he was lol! After the night we “met” again, we were pretty much inseparable and got engaged before we had even been dating 8 months and married about 6 ½ months later. We both already lived in Charleston (he moved here when he was 8), never left (except when I attended USC – Go Cocks!) and don’t plan on going anywhere.
What led you to Templeton Silver?
I owned my own jewelry company for years. It was called It Fitz Jewelry (a play on my maiden name Fitzgerald) and I was in boutiques all over the southeast. I loved it and had a blast doing it but there were so many amazing and talented artists in the Charleston area already making jewelry. A childhood friend, Rhett Templeton (also from Charleston) had started a little pacifier clip company called Templeton Silver. She had kids and couldn’t give the time she wanted to both her kids and the business, so she approached me about taking it over. At first I was extremely hesitant because I thought, what am I going to do with a pacifier clip company since I’d already built up my own business? But, she thought of a genius concept (that was patent pending) that after the baby outgrows the pacifier stage, the pacifier clip would become a keepsake bracelet for mom. I thought it was so awesome and like nothing else on the market. They had a few designs with pearls and a few with crosses. I took their idea and expanded it to what it is today. I came up with all new styles and had them CPSC AND CPSCIA tested which is basically just a fancy way to say that I had them all child safety tested. And, since the clips are sterling silver, they have 85% less bacteria than the cloth or plastic ones that are on the market today. Such a great concept and I’m so thankful they thought of me.
You’re very open about your struggles with Uterine Cancer – can you give us a glance into what led to your diagnosis?
My husband and I had major trouble trying to have a baby. When we finally went to see a fertility doctor, they found a fibroid blocking 90% off my uterus. When they went in to cut the fibroid out, they found cancer on my uterus. After cutting out the cancer, they thought they got it all. I still had some pre-cancerous cells so they put me on some meds for about a year and all of the cancer finally went away! We were pumped. We were about to start the IVF treatments and then they came back and said I needed a donor egg because my eggs were bad. After I finally wrapped my mind around that, we were good to go to start everything. I’ve never ever been one that is super “in tune” with my body or anything like that. But it was weird… I felt like I needed one more biopsy before we did anything because it had been about three months since my last one. My fertility nurse was actually not very nice about me asking for another one since I had just had a biopsy three months beforehand. She was kind of rude and told me to take it up with my OBGYN. And, you better believe I did. I’ll never be happier that I listened to myself and did because unfortunately the cancer had come back and it came back more aggressively and very fast. So, I had to get a full hysterectomy (ovaries and all) about three weeks later which sent me into surgical menopause. Gotta love some hot flashes at a young age and gaining 50 pounds because of it! But, I’ll be a little chubby to not have cancer. I’m so VERY fortunate that they got all of the cancer and that nothing spread. It’s a miracle. Wherever this little baby is, he or she has saved my life. Had we not been trying to have a baby, I would never had known that I had cancer. I know how lucky I am, I really do, but some days can suck (as you can imagine)!
Based on your experiences, are there any signs and symptoms that other women who might be reading this should be aware of?
I always tell everyone to, of course, go to your yearly exams. I know they aren’t that much fun and we’d all probably rather claw our eyes out, but they are a must. Early detection is key. If you notice bloating, or very (I’m talking VERY) heavy bleeding, let your doctor know. I look back now and know that the fibroid blocking my uterus was causing a lot of the heavy bleeding but it was also probably the cancer. Even if you feel like you are going to get on your doctor’s nerves (which I know no one wants to do) let them know your concerns. It’s your body and only you know if something just doesn’t feel right. Had I not done that before we were about to start our second round of fertility treatment, I honestly don’t want to think about what would be today.
How has your diagnosis and recovery changed your life? And how has it impacted the way you do business?
Such a great question! I’ve always been a very happy and positive person. The couple of years struggling with infertility and dealing with a uterine cancer diagnosis was a sad and depressing time, but I truly tried to roll with it, trust my doctors, and remain very positive knowing that I would NOT let cancer win. I’m lucky to have such an amazing husband, supportive friends and faith in God…. and let’s not forget every girl’s best friend – wine! I never gave up hope that I would beat cancer and still have a baby. Unfortunately, the cancer did return resulting in a full hysterectomy and no biological baby, but that’s okay. There are many other ways for us to become parents and I am cancer free. There are the days I catch myself being negative or complaining about something super trivial and I always try and check myself and remember how lucky I am. Not everyone gets my outcome.
As you well know, running a small business can be brutal at times. But, there are so many upsides to it as well, like meeting other small businesses and the amazing people that run them…. like Moda Baby and YOU! If I feel myself getting discouraged about something in business or it’s not turning out the way I thought it would or would have liked it to, I try and regroup and figure out a different solution. There is a solution to everything…like having a baby…. I still want one, it’s just going to be in a different way.
This may be too personal, but do you and your husband still hope for a child?
Oh my gosh yes! I love kids and always have! I was a nanny for a while and have three God kids and own a baby based business…so, yes, absolutely!
What are your hopes for the future? Where do you see yourself in ten years?
I’d love to have a couple of children with a successful business in ten years. But, most importantly, I want my entire family to be healthy and know that we are all very lucky. My husband always tells me that he loves me and he’s happy I’m here and alive, and that a child would just be the gravy on top. He is fine with it just being us.
I would definitely like to have a little more free time on my hands, though. I work all the time and would love to be able to really enjoy other things besides work.
What have you found to be your “tools” in balancing work, friends, family and personal time? Do you find it difficult to find balance it all?
Oh yes! The struggle is definitely real! I am EXTREMELY social and owning your own business can be very very lonely at times. It’s been a little tougher lately bc I also became a Beautycounter consultant (I'm obsessed with their products because they are screened for safety and harsh chemicals) and started waiting tables. That goes back to my “there is a solution for everything”. Do I want to wait tables? ABSOLUTELY NOT!!! But, I know I want a child and unfortunately adoption is crazy expensive. I have to do what I have to do and I’m lucky enough to work for an awesome place on Shem Creek called The Wreck. I try and use the time I do have in my car to call a friend and catch up. My husband and I are very cognizant of the time we do have, and make a point in spending time together and talking. Even if I’m so freaking tired and just want to go to bed, we make it a point to sit on the couch and catch up. I have to make a point to set aside and do these things bc they are the most important. And, my trusty to-do notebook and Evernote (which is an awesome app) help keep me on track.
Describe what would be a typical day for you:
Everyone looks at me like I have ten heads when I tell them this but I get up every day at 4am. I’m not saying it’s any fun but I know I have to do it to give everything the attention it needs. I start out trying to do as much as I can with Templeton Silver whether that’s answering emails, filling orders, social media, etc. If I have a Beautycounter basket drop off or need to touch base with a customer I usually do that next. Now that the Leukemia Lymphoma Society campaign is in the fold, it has become more about doing what needs to be done for that as well. The few days I have to work at the restaurant, I have to be there at 4:30 so it makes me extremely purposeful with my time. I find I get more done on those days bc I know I have to. I try and get in bed around 9:00pm because I definitely need my sleep. It’s been a lot of work work work lately. If anyone finds a money tree, will you let me know and share?
What are some of your other personal interests and hobbies?
I love anything outdoors, being with Jay and spending time with my friends. Being from here, it’s tough to not look around and want to enjoy and soak up Charleston. Every corner is filled with something inspirational and there’s always something fun to do. Have always loved the beach and any water activity. Once I can shed a few of these menopausal pounds, I really would love to learn how to Stand Up Paddleboard and would love to give kiteboarding a whirl. Something tells me that the kiteboarding thing might need more than just a whirl, though. And, if I ever have any kind of spare time, there nothing like diving into a book. I can get lost in one. But, I don’t think I’ve had the chance to crack one open in at least two years.
What do you like to do when you have a day to yourself?
Honestly, I haven’t had one to myself in so long I’m not sure I would even know what to do!!! But, something tells me I could figure it out. It would be awesome to start a day with a massage, find an awesome book, and head to Sullivan’s and enjoy the beach. Then head somewhere downtown for an awesome dinner. Couldn’t imagine anything better!
What are the top five things that you cannot live without?
Phone (I know I know….sad)
My two cats
Oooh…can I make it six? Wine!
Where are your favorite places to eat, drink, and shop in Charleston?
Can we just say anywhere in Charleston is a great place to eat lol? I love The Wreck on Shem Creek, Obstinate Daughter, Page's Okra Grill, High Cotton and Home Team Barbeque has never done me wrong!
If I want to have a few drinks out, Shem Creek is by far my fave. You can’t beat the view of water and sun, happy people and dolphins just doing their thing. Growing up it was definitely a working creek full of shrimp boats. I remember having to weave in and out of all of the boats to get to the harbor for a fun day out on the boat. For some reason, Shem Creek has always been very special to me.
Since I haven’t felt the greatest in a while about my weight, I’ve not been on a fun shopping spree, but, if I was feeling a little skinnier, favorite places are definitely Gwynn’s and Copper Penny. A girl can dream, right?
If you could give one piece of advice to someone who is thinking about starting their own business, what would that be?
Don’t let fear hold you back. Fear can be so crippling at times that I think it keeps us from going for something and just staying in our comfort zone because that feels safest. And, you have to try and remain positive. It’s so freaking cliché, but it does help to try and be positive (not Pollyanna living in la-la-land positive, but just having some faith can go a long way)! My favorite quote is, “She believed she could, so she did”. I think that sums it up right there.
Photo courtesy of Emily Meeks Photo of Charleston, SC.
*Disclaimer - this article was written for Modababy.com and is based on the experiences I had when my son Reese was an infant, which were firmly grounded in his doctor's recommendations for tummy time and other kinds of physical activity. This is not meant to replace any advice or directions given to you by your child's physician. Always follow your doctor's instructions, and let your parental intuition be your guide!
1. TUMMY TIME:
In a day in age when the importance of baby sleeping on his/her back is so imperative (as it has been proven to dramatically reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome - commonly known as SIDS), making sure that your baby gets adequate practice moving around on their tummy is a crucial step to helping them begin to lead active lives.
At first when my son was born, I wasn't sure when to begin the tummy time practice, but as it turns out many physicians recommend starting tummy time beginning at just a few days old. Practicing "tummy time" to strengthen the neck and head muscles and assists with motor skill development. To get the full benefit, make sure that your baby practices tummy time a few times a day while supervised for several minutes at a time, or until you sense that your baby has reached her limit. Once baby is a bit older and stronger, they will begin to explore crawling movements, scooting, and rolling.
Baby not enjoying tummy time? Get on the floor with them! It gets lonely down there on the floor! By joining them, you give them company and help them enjoy their time on tummy all the more.
2. SET THE STAGE
This might go without saying, but baby proofing your home in a thoughtful manner is an essential component to setting the stage for a physically active baby. When you feel comfortable that your home is a safe place for your baby to explore (supervised, of course), you will feel more peace of mind in letting your baby wander. Set up a specific room(s) to be a dedicated play space or "family area." Cover outlets, pad fireplaces, put up baby gates, and secure heavy furniture and televisions to the wall.
BUT, don't eliminate everything that makes your home yours - a child has to learn about hearing "no" sometime! – but you’re going to want to make sure that you remove and/or cover obvious safety hazards. A nice potted floor plant? That stays. A fragile glass vase sitting on top of a side table? Get it outta there!
3. ENCOURAGE UNLIMITED MOVEMENT
So now that you've set the stage for baby to have a safe environment to play, let them get to it! Include a variety of textures, pillows, books and toys to keep things interesting. Perhaps even play music that you both enjoy.
Encourage independence by letting them move around on their own with minimal help from mom and dad. For me, I would do a few things in the kitchen or catch up on a book while Reese played nearby, always keeping my eyes and ears on alert for Reese in case he was getting into more mischief than necessary. I believe that taking this approach helped him to learn self-directed play and to develop a sense of independence away from his dad and I.
Now when it comes to stairs, don't say "no" to crawling up and down stairs, but make sure baby is well supervised for this activity and that you have a baby gate in place for when it shouldn’t be used. Above all else – please avoid putting baby in the pack-and-play for extended periods of time! Yes we all have those moments when they just need to stay put for a moment, but it needs to be temporary. It always makes me cringe when I see a parent keeping their child in a playpen for a whole afternoon!
4. A LITTLE FRUSTRATION IS A GOOD THING
A little frustration is a good thing! Don't rush to your baby's side at the first sign of angst or frustration. This sort of delayed assistance teaches baby much-needed problem solving skills and it allows them to test the limits and powers of their own strength. Plus, letting baby experience frustrations helps to fight against the concept of instant gratification and encourages the virtue of patience, which you will be happy baby began to get a taste for once they're a little older!
5. DRESS FOR SUCCESS When baby is starting to be mobile, be mindful of the clothing you're dressing him or her in. Make sure their clothing supports and does not hinder playtime activities by outfitting them in clothes that allow for free movement and are not restrictive. Save things like denim or dresses for another time. Also, avoid faulty crawling "assist" products like kneepads made for babies, as the padding actually impedes a child's crawling efforts. Instead, give our GripStart Leggings™ a try. The gripper fabric integrated into the knee and seat area of the leggings gives baby just the right amount of "grip" on all those potentially slippery crawling and climbing surfaces we have in homes these days (think hardwood floors, tile, etc.), and the quality fabrics that we use will hold up to pretty much anything your babe will put them through. Win - win!
6. MONKEY SEE, MONKEY DO
Babies learn by example, so if you want your child to live an healthy, active life, get moving yourself! Let baby see you take care of yourself by eating right, exercising, getting enough sleep (well, maybe trying to at least), and speaking positively about yourself. Make exercise a bonding experience for baby by participating in local mommy/daddy and me classes at your local yoga outpost or Barre Evolution studio. And, pretty please, try to limit time in front of the TV and the smart phone, and seek quality time spent outdoors to explore new textures, sights and smells. The possibilities are endless, so get moving!
I penned this blog post originally for my company website, ModaBaby.com as one of the first for the site. I didn't plan on having this as the topic of discussion for my first for the company, but nonetheless inspiration struck and here we are. I wrote it a when Reese was two years-old after a particularly frustrating day of plane travel, and I love that I took the time to commemorate my thoughts and emotions of navigating the highs and lows of parenting a small child. Enjoy!
I'm just going to cut to the chase: today, I want to discuss my feelings on plane travel with a small child around the age of two. Or more specifically, how recently traveling long distances on a plane with my two year old (with my husband in tow) made me, a mom and former frequent business flyer, feel.
If you've been following along via Insta-Stories lately, then you know that we recently got back from our annual family surf trip to Barbados, which required a fairly typical one-day travel affair to return home: a 3.5 hour flight from Barbados to Miami, and then after a four hour layover (thanks, Customs), an hour-long flight from Miami to Charleston.
For the most part, our son Reese was a good sport during our long first flight, thanks in part to the early hour and to his recent obsession with dinosaur movies, however it was once we deplaned that his toddler temperament came out in full force. We survived going through Customs well enough, where there were thankfully no long lines, and then we had to walk about a mile to our gate. After we ate lunch we had about two and a half hours to entertain our Reese, and thankfully there was enough take-off activity to keep him somewhat subdued and occupied during that time. But there were new developments in his behavior that left me stunned and frazzled: trying to bite me and my husband when we denied his requests, purposefully falling every few feet while we trekked through a very crowded airport terminal, moping the floor with this beloved stuffed moose, howling like a dog at a volume that caused even the most well-trained security hound to chime in (my personal favorite), and a near finger-crushing incident on the escalators that almost gave me a panic attack. Ugh. And yes, he caused enough of a disturbance to cause several people to leave their seats and seek refuge in a more quiet area where there wasn't a howling toddler with ineffective parents. Double ugh. Looks we are getting from people range from knowing smiles of "you are so blessed - enjoy these moments" to pure irritation and judgement.
These are all pretty typical two-year old behaviors, now that I'm reflecting on it, especially considering the circumstances. Yet I found myself without much patience for any of it, and I could feel myself becoming increasingly more like "Mean Mommy". After two weeks straight of taking care of him when he is usually at preschool, not having the typical playmates and entertainment that school usually provides plus new environments and new routines, I think that both of us were feeling run-down and craving the familiarities of home. And it was this last day of our trip, our travel day home, that left me feeling increasingly like a failing parent, frustrated with my ill-minding child, embarrassed by the looks of other travelers at my ineffectiveness, and feeling haggard.
As we waited for our flight to board and my husband and I alternated "Reese-duty" by the minute to keep one another form going insane and getting hauled off by the TSA, I began noticing other women traveling by themselves. They looked light, unburdened, elegant and refreshed - and I longed to be one of them again. I hate myself a little for saying that - thanks mom-guilt - but I did. It reminded me of the days as recent as a little over three years ago when that was me. A young woman taking on the world, frequently traveling across the country for work or pleasure, not a care in the world but for herself, a good book to read and her plans that evening. Aaaah - I began to crave the days of the single, childless life!
Just when my comparison pity-party was at its peak, our flight began to board and in front of us in line was a group of six girls about my age taking a girls trip together to Charleston for a bachelorette party. Seeing them felt like I had been punched in the gut, as it reminded me how much I miss my close girlfriends, and how much fun it would be if we could all get together and take a trip like that again. Ironically enough we were seated right behind them, where I had to listen to all of their light hearted conversations and watch as they took as many group selfies as their iCloud storages would allow. And just when I thought my heart might explode from envy and longing for a different life, I remembered something my husband said to me a few months ago:
It was a week night and a typical day full of rushed activity when we had all sat down to dinner. Reese was insisting on sitting in my lap to eat his dinner, which meant I couldn't peacefully enjoy mine. Sensing my frustration and hunger, my husband feeds me a bite of food, looks at me and says:
"Baby, you will have plenty of years to eat alone with nobody bothering you. Trust me."
Frank had reminded me that life comes in seasons, and that this is my current season of life - feeling frazzled, over-stimulated and worn-thin, yet loved in a way that I will never be loved again. And as I sat in my seat on that plane flight and looked at my son who had just drifted off to sleep on his moose with the sound of gossip and photo snaps in the background, I realized that just as all of the other seasons of my life had come to an end, this one will too. And one day I will be sitting on a plane all by myself and I will look over across the aisle and see a mother or father traveling with their young child, and I know that I will long for these days again. I know that I will instantly wish I was with my young boy again, feeling so unglued that I almost can't stand it.
So in the meantime, bring on the judgmental stares, wrinkled and frumpy travel clothes, bad airplane hair, cookie crumbs and temper tantrums. This is what this season of my life looks like. I'm taking a good look at it and I am swimming in its depths, because I know that in its own time it will end, and another one will take its place. The seemingly footloose and fancy free, fabulous party-of-one days and girls vacations will be here again soon enough.
And as Glennon Doyle Melton would say, I'm gonna "Carpe a couple of Kairoses a day" until then.