Cherishing Time with Your Kids

I remember the day we brought Isabella home from the hospital and I had her in my arms. I was doting over her and in complete awe of how beautiful she was. And my mother said “Enjoy it, soon she’ll be starting kindergarten.” I looked at her like she was crazy, “Ma, she’s a newborn, kindergarten is a long way off.” That was almost 8 years ago. Isabella will be 8 years old and four days after, Emilia will be turning 2. And ever since I became a mom, I keep asking myself:

“Where has the time gone?”

2 month old Isabella

When my daughter first started kindergarten, I knew exactly what my mom meant that day four years previous. She warned me about this, time going by so quickly. It’s unbelievable how fast time can go by once you have kids. I cry every year on my girls birthdays, the start of a new school year, and any significant milestone. But I’m realizing just how important it is to cherish the day-to-day as well.

In her big girl bed

Throughout the day I find myself waiting for the day to be over. “I can’t wait to put the girls to bed and relax” is the usual thought in my head most days. But I don’t want to be like that anymore. I want to appreciate all the moments I have with my girls, even the not-so-great ones.

Sisters

I know that one day from now, honestly not that far into the future, my girls will be grown and out of the house. There won’t be toys for me to trip over, messes to clean up, or the sound of them screaming and laughing as they play. And honestly, the thought of that breaks my heart.

They get along… mostly

So I’m going to play with them more, hug them more, kiss them and memorize how they look at this age. I’ll gladly read another story, change the poopy diapers, and cuddle my girls as much as they’ll let me. They will never be this little again.

Now, if you need me, I’ll be with my girls.

-Toniann

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

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

Our Journey to Arizona

As a kid growing up, I knew I didn’t want to stay in the Bronx. I wanted to live somewhere else, even if I wasn’t sure exactly where that might be. But I never imagined I would be living here in Arizona, a place I grew up thinking was just a desert, so hot the soles of your shoes would melt (one of my elementary school teachers told me that happened to her when she visited, although she probably just exaggerated). Yet, I moved to the desert and I’m so glad we did. And I wanted to share just how we got here.

It all started with a trip to Las Vegas to visit my brother. Our first real vacation while I was pregnant with my second daughter. Our plane flew over the Grand Canyon, so cool!

My brother and I at the top of the Stratosphere Hotel

Las Vegas was fun, I grew up in the city so the bright lights and crowded streets didn’t impress me. I fell in love with the mountains. Every direction you looked in, there were gorgeous mountains to look at. We went to Red Rock Canyon and that’s what sealed the deal for me. I remember the drive through the mountains and telling my husband how wonderful it would be to see this everyday. And I told him that I wanted to move there.

Visiting Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas

Before that trip was over, my husband was doing his research to see if moving to Las Vegas would actually make sense for us. Then he remembered that he had cousins in Arizona and factored that into his research too. It turns out that Arizona made more sense financially. So we agreed that we would move in a years time since I was pregnant.

But plans changed.

The hubbs went to visit his cousin for a week and went on interviews with dealerships in Arizona. And he got offers from almost every dealership he interviewed with. But the best offer he got was from a dealership that wanted him to start right away.

And we talked about it. Was there any chance that this offer would still be good a year from now? If we really want to move to Arizona, we have to take advantage of this opportunity now and we’ll figure things out as we go. The only stipulation I had was that he be back in time for the birth of our daughter. So the hubbs told them he could start in a month.

One month.

And my daughter and I wouldn’t be going with him.

The health insurance I had for my pregnancy wasn’t valid in Arizona. I needed to keep up with my appointments and the health insurance from his new job would take too long to kick in. It was just too risky for us to tag along. We also needed to sell our house (the house we just moved into a year and a half before).

In the month before he left, he fixed whatever he could around the house. We told close friends and family that we were planning on moving to Arizona and they were all shocked. Most reacted with “what the fuck?” and “why Arizona?” And we definitely got shit for making such a big move while I was pregnant. But we were making the best choice for our family.

Jon left the second week in April and he wouldn’t be back until the end of May for my scheduled C-section. In the time he was gone, I had to pack up my whole house. I was pregnant and I also had sciatica and symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) which felt like my pelvis was ripping apart. Safe to say I was in a lot of fucking pain. So I couldn’t do as much as I needed to around the house. I had to pack boxes sitting down and of course couldn’t lift anything heavy, including my 5 year old daughter. I had my sister-in-law and my friend come over and help me pack many times. But it seemed like we hadn’t even made a dent. The house had sold, and I needed everything packed before I gave birth.

But that didn’t happen.

Jon came back a day before our first daughters birthday. We had a small party and spent the rest of the time he was home packing up the house. We were scheduled to go to the hospital only a few days later and we rented a moving truck the day before we went to the hospital. We stayed up late, the hubbs packing up the truck while I packed up more boxes (yes, we still weren’t finished!) But the next morning all the packing would have to wait.

We paused on all the chaos at home to welcome our wonderful baby girl. It was a short break, but boy was it great.

Welcoming our new bundle of joy ❤️

Later that night, the hubbs went back home to pack up the house while I was at the hospital with the baby. The day I would be going “home” from the hospital was the day Jon would be leaving back to Arizona. He would be driving back that Friday with his brother in the moving truck. He was only with us a week and it went by so fast.

Friday came and Jon went.

For the next six weeks, I lived with my two daughters in my brother-in-laws house. I had so much help with the girls, it made things a lot easier. And we had bought a new house in Arizona, a house I had only seen through pictures and FaceTime calls from the hubbs. But my anxiety was very bad during this time. I was hormonal as fuck, and I just wanted to be with my husband already. This was the hardest time of my life. I remember calling Jon, crying, telling him I just wanted to fly over to Arizona to be with him already. But he hadn’t been able to move the furniture into the new house yet, and it would cost a lot of money to fly us over.

So we waited.

We drove over to Arizona July 8th. A 3-day journey hauling-ass from Florida. I couldn’t drive since I was still recovering from my C-section, so it became a family road trip. My brother-in-law, his wife and their four kids, along with my two kids and I loaded ourselves in a passenger van and made our way over.

On the road to AZ

And we finally made it.

I remember pulling into our new driveway late that Sunday night. We were met by my husband and I remember how happy he was to see me. I had somehow convinced myself during our time apart that he didn’t miss me as much as I missed him. That I had been such a hormonal nightmare that he was enjoying his time away from me. But that wasn’t the case at all. The way he looked at me when he opened up the door to the van and saw me, and the way he hugged and kissed me. I was so happy.

We were reunited at last.

The road for us to get here was crazy as fuck. We sacrificed a lot to get here. Jon and I were apart for 3 months. He was away from his daughters. We were basically homeless for 6 weeks while we waited for our house in Florida to sell and then close on our house in Arizona. And I remember telling Jon that first night we were together in our new house:

“I don’t ever wanna fucking do that again.”

In front of our new house in Arizona

As hard as it was to be apart and deal with all the shit that we did to move here, it was worth it. Arizona is such a beautiful state and it is so much more than just a desert. I am loving our new home state.

Isabella in front of all the cactuses!

-Toniann

Being a Stay-At-Home Mom is Hard as Fuck

Why do people always assume being a stay-at-home mom is the easiest job in the world? I’ve been a mom for over 7 years and I can honestly say it’s one of the most difficult jobs I’ve ever had. And I’m fucking sick of people, especially other mothers, who try and say that being a SAHM is some glamourous life, because it isn’t.

I knew right away that I would be home with my kids, that’s a reality I had no problem accepting. Childcare is expensive and I don’t trust anyone to watch my kids, unless they’re family. Many people feel its a luxury that I get to stay home with my kids, and maybe it is. My schedule has a lot more leeway, even though I try to follow a strict one. And I haven’t missed any firsts with my girls, and I am thankful for that.

But all that doesn’t mean my role as a SAHM is easy. I wear many hats: cook, maid, driver, laundry manager, nurse, teacher, psychologist and janitor, just to name a few. A 2018 article from Salary.com priced motherhood at a salary of over $162,000 annually. That’s a shit-ton of money! But despite all that I do, I still hear:

“Oh, I’d just love to stay at home all day and do NOTHING.”

And let me just say FUCK YOU! It’s hard dealing with tiny versions of yourself all day. There are lots of meltdowns, screaming and constant meal preparations. Most of my days, Jon comes home and I literally hand him the kids and I’m just done. And for me, the days I do “nothing,” the kids are still fed and entertained, which is a lot. So please, if you value your life, don’t ever say to me or any other SAHM that we do “nothing.”

In addition to all the work, being a SAHM is really lonely sometimes. I don’t have any family here and I don’t have any other SAHM friends so most of the day, the only social interactions I have are with my kids. And only one of them talks. So the first adult conversation I’ll have on a weekday is with my husband when he comes home from work.

“But didn’t you want to do something more with your life?”

Yes, I want to get back into the fitness industry, as I was a personal trainer for a brief time. I also want to show my daughters that they don’t have to feel limited if they decide to become mothers. They can achieve whatever they want in their lives, and I want to be a good example of that.

No matter what job I get in the future, none will be as thankless as being a SAHM. I know I’ll always feel like I’m not doing enough. Shit, even my oldest daughter thinks I do nothing all day. But I am not a SAHM for the prestige or the thanks. I do it for now because being here for my daughters is important.

My wonderful girls

-Toniann