Spending One on One Time with Your Children

My oldest daughter was an only child for 6 years before her baby sister came along. My husband and I referred to her as “the baby” up until that point, and we’d probably still refer to her that way if she was an only child. I am happy about the age difference between them. I feel that Isabella had a lot of time as “the baby” and got my undivided attention most of the time. So when I got pregnant with Emilia, I was very worried about Isabella getting jealous of her baby sister. I remember talking to other moms who had more than one child and the one thing they all told me was to make time for her once her sister came. That having one on one time with her is important so she doesn’t feel jealous or feels that she has to compete for my attention.

Then Emilia was born. Fast-forward to now.

I was recently scrolling through old photos and videos on my phone and I came across a video I took of Isabella meeting Emilia for the first time. I made it a point to record this moment because I knew how special it would be. And it was special. And then Isabella looks at her dad and says “Daddy, Daddy, you were holding me when I was a baby too.” I didn’t notice when she said it but watching the video recently, I realized there have been so many more moments like this since her sister was born.

Isabella does compete for my attention. I’ve noticed it a lot more lately with her baby sister getting older. Emilia is doing new things, adorable things like talking and being silly. And when we all dote over Emilia for being cute, Isabella will rush to do the same thing.

So even though my goal was to make sure I spent one on one time with Isabella, I’ve been failing at keeping up with that promise.

It’s difficult to get one on one time with Isabella. My day usually consists of making sure Isabella gets to school, cooking, cleaning, work out, getting Isabella from school, grocery shopping, then home to complete homework (which gives me the most anxiety), then cook dinner, hubbs comes home, eat dinner, bath time and then bedtime. And when both of the girls are together, I yell A LOT. A lot more than I would like to but I’m working on it. Anyway, during my weekday, there really isn’t much opportunity for actual one on one time. And admittedly, I need to try harder.

I make it a point to have one on one time with my husband by going on date nights. I should be doing the same for my daughter.

She needs to have me to herself sometimes and her dad to herself as well. Emilia is almost 2 years old and during these last 2 years, we’ve probably had less than 5 planned one on one outings. And she still talks about them. She loves the time when the two of us went to get our nails done. I had a great time too. So yesterday I made sure to take her out to lunch, and it was great. Smoothies and quesadillas.

I want to continue having one on one time with Isabella. It won’t always be lunch or getting our nails done, it might just be the two of us jumping on the trampoline together. But my goal is to have one planned outing a month with Isabella, and her dad and I will trade months.

First Daddy daughter dance!

Its important to make her feel special and try to keep her from competing for our attention. My hope is that spending more one on one time, not just monthly, but even 10-15 minutes each day will help strengthen our bond. And not only Isabella’s bond with my husband and I, but also her sister. She might be less resentful towards her sister if she feels that she doesn’t have to fight her sister for our love.

Isabella and I have a good relationship. But my hope is that our bond only grows stronger, and that when she’s a teenager and an adult, she will still want to spend time with me. And I’m realizing more and more that I need to lay that foundation now. To make and effort to spend time with just her so she knows without a doubt that she is loved and she is special in her own way. I know that I love her, but she needs to know that by me showing her. And I’m promising myself to be better at spending one on one time with my daughter.

-Toniann

I’m Vegan and my Children ARE NOT

Yes folks, you read that right. My daughters are not vegan and that’s ok. My household is not a vegan one. My husband eats meat and my girls eat… a varied diet. I mean, they’re kids. They go through phases of foods they like and then hate, willing to try and not try. It’s all trial and error, and they each have their own preferences just like anyone else does. I’ll admit it took me a while to accept my girls eating dairy, and rarely eating meat, and sometimes it’s still a struggle but in the end, they will make their own choices when it comes to food.

The girls eat a mostly plant-based diet since that’s what I cook at home. They love tofu and almost every fruit they’ve tried. There is the rare occasion where I’ll make pizza and get regular cheese for them and the hubbs. Because, honestly, vegan cheese is nothing like dairy cheese. And there are probably a few times a year that the girls will eat meat, and that’ll usually happen at a family barbeque or some special event at school. There are many birthday parties they will be going to and the last thing I want is to tell them they can’t have any treats or cake because they’re not vegan. Their diet doesn’t need to be so strict.

Like I said before, my kids go through phases with food. When my oldest was 2 years old, she never ate meat, even though she was offered at every meal. Her favorite food for almost a year was a peanut butter sandwich. But she’ll try meat now when she sees her father eating it, the same with my toddler. I forgot how tricky toddlers are with meals. One day she’ll love oatmeal and literally the next day will not eat it. But she loves fruits, both of my girls do. Since I’ve become vegan, there are lots of foods that we’ve tried that we wouldn’t have otherwise. We love to try new vegan restaurants and go to vegan food festivals as often as we can. My husband even went vegetarian for a year and vegan for 3 months (something he claimed he would never do. Love you baby!) So when I actually think about what my girls eat, I would say they have a healthy diet.

I have been vegan for almost 6 years now, a decision I made happily on my own. The last thing that I want is to force a vegan diet on my daughters and they, in turn, never want to be vegans when they get older. I have had many talks with my oldest daughter about where meat, cheese and eggs come from and she knows I went vegan because I love animals so much. In my opinion, being vegan seems like the most natural and logical way to live. And it was hard for me to accept that I had to let my daughters choose for themselves, the same way I did. It’s only fair. What you eat is a very personal choice. And while I can guide my children with what I serve them at home, in the end, they will be making their own food choices. I’ll love them no matter what.

-Toniann

The Reality of Parenting Failures

Being a parent is hard work: you’re in charge of raising a tiny human being into a functional, hopefully self-sufficient, adult. And if you have more than one kid, that makes it a lot harder. Especially if they have totally different personalities like my daughters do. It’s an adventure to say the least.

I feel like more parents nowadays worry about EVERYTHING! Well, I know I sure as hell do. Sometimes, the tiniest mistake I make as a mom crushes me, and it shouldn’t.

Living in this online age, where information is so readily available is a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, I can check to see if my daughter’s wart is indeed a wart (which it is), and on the other hand find out that I’m probably scarring my children by yelling at them so much.

And then you have social media.

We all have that one friend that makes motherhood look like a fucking breeze. They’ve got an amazing outfit on, their hair is done, house is immaculate and their kids look just perfect. They also work and still have time to make these fancy individualized little lunches for their kids. I mean, how the fuck? I haven’t cooked dinner since Thursday and last month, one of our dinners was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And bless my husbands heart because he was so excited that night. But to be honest, I feel bad when I don’t cook for my family. I’m a stay-at-home mom, so I should no fucking excuse, right?

I know that most of what those moms post is just a façade. I’ve also been guilty of posting gorgeous pictures of myself and my kids, but for the most part I try to keep shit real. I’m not afraid to open up about some of my struggles as a mother. Mostly, I hope not to isolate other mothers who might be facing the same problems as I am.

There was more of a village mentality back in the day when it came to raising kids. There were many family members and trusted friends who would help and ease the burden. But that seems like a rarity now. And I know in a lot of cases, that’s for good reason.

But can we just stop with all the judgement? Being a parent is hard enough without people offering unsolicited advice and criticism. I beat myself up enough on my own, I definitely don’t need anyone else doing it too. I have so much anxiety now, wondering if I’m doing right by daughters. I want to make sure I don’t yell too much, feed them healthy meals, raise them to be strong and stand up for themselves, to come to us whenever they need help, to love themselves and each other. Most of all I want my children to be happy and to feel loved by my husband and I.

There is the rare day where I feel like a bad ass mom, but most days I feel like an epic failure. My daughters mean the world to me, and I go to bed every night and I hope that I haven’t fucked them up in some way. And I promise myself that the next day I’ll do better, but sometimes it’s difficult. I’m not perfect. But the shit of it is, no matter how horribly I think I’m doing as a mom, my kids still love me. They give me the biggest hugs and make me feel like the best mom in the world. I hope one day soon, I can see myself the way they see me.

-Toniann


A Letter to My First Daughter

My darling baby girl,

I love you so much. I know that I don’t always show it and I’m sorry for that. Mommy is not perfect, no matter how hard I might try. But never forget how much I love you.

You are growing up so fast. It’s such a wonder to see all that you can do now but it also fills me with a lot of sadness and fear. You are strong and brave, energetic and silly, and best of all, you are so loving and kind, just like daddy.

I remember the day I found out I was going to have you. Daddy and I were home at our first apartment when I took the pregnancy test. The second pink line was faint but undeniable. I was gonna be a mommy. And while I couldn’t believe it at first, I was so incredibly happy.

I couldn’t wait to meet you, to hold you and give you kisses. I would have dreams about you almost every night. You had such dark hair in my dreams, and I remember hoping that you would be born with lots of hair, especially because I had so much heartburn! But most of all, I just hoped you would be born happy and healthy.

And after all that waiting, the time came to give birth to you. It was finally happening.

I remember Daddy, Grandma and I going to my last doctors appointment on May 26th. I was 40 weeks pregnant and the doctor told me she wanted us to go to the hospital that night so I could give birth to you. So later that day we went to the hospital, and they gave me medicine to start labor. When the morning came, you still hadn’t come, you were so comfy inside me, you didn’t want to leave. My doctor came in and told me that she wanted to send me to the operating room and have a C-section to get you out. After waiting all this time, I was finally going to meet you.

Daddy held my hand the whole time, there was a curtain under my chest so I couldn’t see anything. The doctor got your head out first and you started crying right away. And I cried too, I cried this huge sigh of relief because you were finally here. I asked Daddy if you had a lot of hair, he said yes. Every time you cried, I cried along with you. And when the nurse put you in my arms, I couldn’t believe how beautiful you were. I was amazed that Daddy and I made you, this wonderful little baby. And I still feel that way, each day you get older.

The day we came home from the hospital. Look at all that hair!

I just want to share a few things I want you to remember as you get older:

Stay kind. This world can be a very dark place but please don’t let it harden you. You always look on the bright side of things and see the good in everything. It’s a quality I wish I had, so please don’t ever lose it.

Don’t ever settle, for anything or anyone. You deserve the best.

Mistakes are important. I know sometimes its difficult to fail, but it really is the best teacher. Don’t be afraid to fail, just make sure you get back up and try again.

Most of all, I want you to be happy. Life is short, and it’s easy to think you have time to do things later on, but time still goes on. So do what makes you happy.

Baby girl, life will be difficult sometimes, and it may feel overwhelming, but know that I am here for you. You are a strong, kind, brave, intelligent and beautiful girl. You have taught me so much since you were born and I thank you for that. You gave me the greatest gift, you made me a mommy. The day you were born was one of the happiest days of my life. I know sometimes I’m not the best mommy, but I hope you know that I am trying everyday. I hope you grow up to be a better woman than I could ever be.

I love you.

Love, Mommy

-Toniann

6 Things I’ve Learned Since Becoming a Mom

This week I want to talk about a few things I’ve learned since I’ve become a mother. I usually write my blogs early on Monday but, better late than never. My brother is in town for a few days so I’ve been trying to spend some quality time with him. With that being said I’m going to try to make this a short one, so let’s get to it.

I’ve been a mom for almost 8 years now but I still feel like I’m scrambling to get my shit together. My daughters mean the whole world to me and I try my best, but I constantly think about what I could be doing better. And while there’s so much I need to work on as a mom, I’d like to share some things I’ve learned so far.

What works for one child won’t necessarily work for the other. Before I had my second daughter, I was sure that certain things I had done with my first would automatically work for her. How foolish I was. For example, when my oldest would hurt herself, she would look at me, and I made it a point to laugh so she wouldn’t think it was a big deal. And soon, if she had cried after falling or bumping into something, I knew that she was really hurt and was not just crying for attention. But I tried this same “trick” with my second daughter, but she cried even worse when I laughed! So when I saw that she had hurt herself, I tried not making eye-contact with her and that seemed to work. My daughters have their own personalities and their own individual needs. I mean, my pregnancies with each of them were so different, so why wouldn’t that be the case with raising them.

Take other moms advice with a grain of salt. This is similar to my first point. Every child is different, so what works for one mom and her kid might not work for you and yours. I’m no stranger to asking someone for help when I need it, so I appreciate the advice that I’ve asked for. Sometimes its frustrating to deal with the constant advice being hurled your way by other moms, especially when you don’t ask for it. But sometimes it can be wonderful when that advice works. At the end of the day, I have to be comfortable with how I’m raising my children, no matter what anyone else says.

Sometimes, Mommy needs a time-out. It’s difficult for me to be at home with the girls all day so I try and make it a point to give myself a time-out. Sometimes, its a nap on the weekend (which is my favorite), sometimes it’s just taking some deep breaths while I do the dishes, and when I used to smoke, it was the daily cigarette on the back patio. It varies depending on the day, but it’s important for me to check in with myself and make sure I’m okay so I can be a better mom to my girls.

Date nights are very important. The hubbs and I didn’t go on our first date night as parents until our first daughter was 6 months old. Honestly, it wasn’t even a thought for us at the time. We were so busy in our new roles that we forgot to take care of ourselves as a couple. But it is so important. We get a chance to reconnect during our dates which I feel makes us a stronger couple, and better parents.

Patience. Yes, the most important thing I’ve learned is patience. When people see me with my girls, they always say how patient I am, and I am so surprised every time I hear it because I honestly feel like I’m such an impatient person. It really doesn’t help anyone when I lose my shit. So, whenever my daughters aren’t behaving after I’ve told them something for the millionth time, I try to take a breath before reacting. And the times that I’m able to take a step back, the outcome is so much better.

Stop beating yourself up. This is one thing I probably struggle the most with. I am always making myself feel like shit for not doing better by my girls. ALWAYS! I shouldn’t have given them so much junk food today, I shouldn’t have yelled so much, I should have spent more time playing with them, I should hug and kiss them more. These are just some of the things I think about when I put my girls to bed and finally have some time to myself. I make myself feel guilty. But my husband always tells me that that just means I care so much about them. And it’s true, if I didn’t care about being a good mom to them, I wouldn’t worry about all this stuff. All I can do is try and be better the next day.

I’ve learned so much since becoming a mom, its definitely a fascinating experience. I never knew I could love two little humans so much. And because I love them so much, I so desperately want to be the best mom I could be for them. But I’m not perfect, so there are good days and there are bad days. There is always a way I can do better but it also doesn’t help me to dwell on what I should have done. I promise myself everyday that I will do better and I hope my girls can see that I’m trying. And I hope everyone knows that even with all my flaws, I’m still one bad ass mother.

Toniann

Remembering my Father on his Birthday

This passed weekend, the hubbs and I went on another hike, this time on Superstition Mountain, and I really enjoyed it. A six-mile hike with steep elevation, a climb up a ten-foot stone wall and a stunning view from the top. Every time we do a challenging hike, I can’t help but think of my father. He would have loved hiking up a mountain, the views are fucking gorgeous. So when I get to the top, I feel accomplished, and then I feel sad that I can’t call him and tell him I’m at the top of a mountain and how I wish he was with me. To be honest, there aren’t many moments in my day where I don’t think of my father. But today especially, as it’s his birthday. He would have been 57 years old.

As some of you know, I’m the youngest of three, and the only girl. And I was daddy’s little girl completely. We didn’t always get along, as we are both very stubborn, but there was never a moment in my life when I doubted my dads love for me. My dad was everything to me. He was so funny and he made friends with everyone he met. I remember as a kid, walking down the street with him and people would stop him “Hey Ray!! How’s it going? You look good! Send my love to the wife.” My dad would reciprocate and when we kept walking and I would ask my dad who that was, and he would look at me and say “I haven’t the foggiest idea.” I have so many great memories with my dad. I could probably write a whole book on my dad and it still wouldn’t do his life justice.

My father on the left, then my brother Chris, my brother Raymond and then me on the shoulders of my dads friend Rich.

My father was an alcoholic, he struggled with alcoholism for as long as I can remember. And it seems unfair for me to simplify his life down to being an alcoholic, because he was so much more than that. But I mention it because his addiction to alcohol is what killed him. I imagine everyday what his life would be like today if he had been strong enough to overcome alcoholism. And even though it’s foolish to think about, I can’t help but feel that I should have done more to help him.

I remember many times in my life when my father would stop drinking. He would check himself into the hospital so he could detox, since his withdrawals would be so bad. But it wouldn’t be long before he was drinking again. And I remember the last time he checked himself into the hospital to quit drinking. It was after he met my first daughter, his first grandchild. He was in awe of her, and how much she looked like me when I was a baby. And it seemed to me that he tried to stop drinking this time so he could be apart of her life and watch her grow up. My dad wanted to be around for my daughter, and this time seemed liked it would stick. But maybe that was wishful thinking, we’ll never know.

My dad on the day he met Isabella

My father was diagnosed with cancer not long after he stopped drinking.

He had tumors in his pancreas and liver. His doctor was talking of surgery to remove the tumors and seemed confident that he could get them all. I traveled back to New York from Florida to be with him. I drove him to his surgery and I was hopeful that he would be okay.

But he wasn’t.

My parents, a week after my dads surgery

Over a year after his surgery, my father passed away from sepsis, which is a deadly infection that shuts down the body’s organs. He got an infection from a stent he had gotten in his pancreas that was supposed to be removed. But he had skipped that procedure because he had been too afraid to have another surgery.

I remember getting a phone call from my oldest brother. He was crying. He told me that my father was dying and that I needed to get to the Bronx right away. The first thing I told him was that dad was going to be fine. He’s been through so much in his life, he’s not gonna die now.

“No, the doctors said he might not make it through the weekend.”

He put my grandmother on the phone, my father’s mother. And she explained everything to me. I remember turning to my husband after getting off the phone and telling him we needed to get to New York right away. We packed up my SUV and drove through the night. We got to the hospital the next morning and we were greeted by my uncle as soon as we parked. I felt like I was in a fog the whole time, this couldn’t be happening. And we went upstairs to his room and I went in. He seemed so small in that hospital bed, even though he was 6’1″. I shook my dad awake and told him I was here. He opened his eyes and looked at me, “Hey, Jubes,” he smiled. And I pointed to my daughter outside the room with my husband. She said hi to him and he waved to her.

And he never woke up after that.

He passed away three days later. I held his hand while he took his last breath but I still hoped that he would wake up. But he didn’t. I’d like to think he waited for me to get there before passing away. I was able to say goodbye, and I feel lucky that I was able to. My husband came back to the hospital and we both cried as he held me outside of my fathers room.

My father was gone.

His funeral was a few days later, and that final goodbye was the most painful for me. I would never see my father again.

This April will be 4 years since my dad passed away. My father would always quote the Billy Joel song, “Only the good die young,” and I had always believed he said that to tell us that he would be around for a long time. But he was only 53 when he passed away. So my dad was good, I knew it all along, and I hope he knew it too.

My heart shattered the day my father passed away. And even though I’ve gotten better at dealing with him being gone, the pain never goes away. Even though I got to say goodbye to him, I still feel cheated out of not having more time with him. I still have moments when I want to call him and see him. I wish I could ask him questions. And when I had my second daughter, I was so sad thinking that she would never meet him, she will never experience how much he would have loved her. All I can do is tell my daughters about him. He was an amazing man.

I’m sitting at my desk, writing this. The wall above has a frame with two pictures of my dad along with one of the last letters my father wrote me. The last line before his signature says “I will love you forever.”

I will love you forever too Dad.

My parents and I with my daughter Isabella
May 2013

-Toniann

Take a Damn Social Media Break!

The first month of 2019 is almost at a close and I’m trying to think which of my goals for this year I’ve been working on. And I’m sad to admit I haven’t been putting in as much work as I had hoped. The only consistent thing is my blog here, and I am very proud of that. Now there are many excuses I can make as to why I haven’t been working out more, eating better and being more present with my family. But one of the biggest culprits is social media. It’s so addicting!

There are so many benefits to social media, but constantly scrolling is tiring. I’ll have days where I post multiple times a day and then I won’t post anything but I’m always scrolling on Facebook and Instagram. There are mornings where I spend at least 20 minutes scrolling social media before I even get out of bed, then checking throughout the day. And it wears on my mental health. I start comparing myself to everyone I see. Why don’t I have as great a body as that mom? I’d love to go on vacation there. I need to try that new vegan restaurant, that food looks amazing. Fuck, that moms house is immaculate, how does she do it? And I fall down this rabbit hole, and I start to feel bad about myself.

But the truth is, social media isn’t reality.

It’s something I have to remind myself of constantly. We are all in control of what we post and how we post it. Editing pictures to look better, posting about how amazing things are when they’re actually in the shit. I try to be real with shit I post on social media, but I’m guilty of trying to make things seem better than they are. If I post a gorgeous picture of my girls, know that I took at least 10 and I yelled at them to look at me. “SAY CHEESE FOR GOD SAKE!!!!” It’s exhausting.

I’ve taken a social media cleanse before. I never even tried before then, but I always thought to myself it would be a good idea. And there were many times were I used social media less, but I was never completely off. But last year, I had a little breakdown, where many friend and family relationships were deteriorating. People were showing their true colors and it all happened within a short period of time. And I remember deleting Facebook and Instagram from my phone and I told my husband, “if people want to know what the fuck is going on with me, they can call me or text me, fuck this.” And I was off social media for over a month, no posting and no checking at all.

And it was so fucking liberating!

My husbands birthday was during that month, his 30th, a big milestone. I was able to completely be present for that time, no social media distractions. I started working on my Plant-Based nutrition certificate. That was my most successful social media cleanse. I’ve tried to do more cleanses recently but I keep convincing myself that I might miss something. Or that people really want to see what’s going on with me. But its all bullshit isn’t it? The people who truly care about you will make time for you, will take time out of their day to check on you. And when I took my social media cleanse last year, there were only a handful of people that did that.

So the time has come for me to take another social media cleanse. I need to start taking better care of myself. I need to be more present with my daughters and my husband. I need to start working on my goals for this year without the distraction of social media. I think everyone would be better off if they took breaks from social media. I’m going to be off of Facebook and Instagram for the whole month of February, maybe longer. But I will still be posting weekly on my blog since this is more of an online journal right now than it is a social media page since I only have about 10 followers. And I’m excited to focus on the more important things in my life.

I’ll leave you all with this: don’t let social media steal your joy, it has for me countless times. Unfriend, unfollow or mute any people or accounts that bring negativity into your life. No one needs that shit. I’ll post a picture below with 7 steps to doing a social media cleanse. And I challenge you all to disconnect from social media and reconnect with the people in your life who matter most.

-Toniann