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Heather Drive | I'm Heather. And this is my life. | Page 2

Dear Vivienne,

I hope you don’t mind that I’m a few days late in writing this letter. You see, we were on vacation and out of town on your birthday. It was low key, it was special, and it was fun just to be with you. You smiled a lot, played a lot, slept a lot (recovering from a week at the beach, I think!), and ate a lot. A good day by many measures.

So yes, the beach. We took our first “real” vacation as a family of four during the week leading up to your birthday. We traveled to the Outer Banks in North Carolina to spend a week at the beach with friends and their children. It was baby’s first trip to the beach, and you were so good—content to hang out at the house, be by the pool, or (your favorite) sit in the sand and the surf. You were completely perplexed by it at first, and definitely cried a little bit the first time I dipped your toes into the ocean. But by the end of the week, we could plop you in the sand or surf and you were happy to sit there for a good solid hour, just pinching the sand between your fingers and toes.

You’ve changed so much this month. Your two top front teeth came in, completely altering your smile. Speaking of which, you do a hilarious “cheese face” now—ALL THE TIME—where you scrunch up your whole face and show off all of your teeth in a big, crazy grin. I don’t know how you learned or why you like it so much, but it’s adorable and we’ll eat it up while you still do it.

Food? You love it. All of it. Leading into our vacation, you started eating a greater variety of things, and then suddenly, when we were at the beach, you were ravenous. You literally ate anything we put in front of you and then yelled at us for more. Pasta. Hamburger. Tacos. Chicken. Peppers. Tomatoes. Pizza. Shrimp. Mahi mahi. Rice pilaf. Cheese. Any kind of fruit there is. You were usually one of the first to be put at the table, and somehow always the last to be removed. So.much.eating. Oh, and on your birthday? You LOVED your cake. LOVED. We gave you a small slice and you smashed it, alright. And then you shoveled it in and begged for more.

Two thumbs up for the two of us, as we also made it all the way to a year with breastfeeding. I no longer pump, so you just nurse in the morning and at night. I have a frozen milk stash that will probably last for several more weeks to make you bottles and sippy cups for daycare. But while we were at the beach, it was an interesting predicament. I tried to nurse you during the day when it seemed you wanted/needed to, but because my body is no longer accustomed to needing milk during the day, it was tough. I actually gave you some whole cow’s milk in a sippy cup and although you made funny faces sometimes, you drank it down when you were thirsty. Anyway, I’m so glad to have had the nursing relationship and experience with you, just as I did with your sister. It’s still special to me so I’m not quite ready to give it up completely—and I don’t think you are, either. In the mornings when you’re starving, and in the evenings when you’re tired, you really WANT to nurse and you make that known.

You’re pulling to a stand on everything. You’ve also started taking steps with the support of walker toys—SCARY. You are all over the place and into everything. You love playing with my keys, and rifling through my purse. You try to play with shoes that we leave by the door, so we have to be good and put them in the closet now! You like toys or activities with lots of pieces that you can take out and/or put back in. You love dolls, which is adorable; you hold them in your lap and they are not much smaller than you are. You’re on the move constantly, so much so that we had to keep you busy with puffs in order to even get your last set of monthly photos!

Your latest is that you are really starting to be verbal. You’re still not saying any “real” words, but you are making consonant sounds. Your favorite right now is GAH. GAH GAH GAH GAH GAH! You shout at us with conviction. You’re trying to tell us something, we assume, but we don’t know what yet. You have also started to make N and M sounds the last few days, so you have me really excited about the prospect of hearing “Mama” soon. You clap your hands, and sometimes we’re pretty sure you’re doing it to tell us “more” (the sign language is similar).

I think you are starting to give kisses. You’ve answered my requests for them the last few days, putting your little mouth on mine. Before that, you would do “foreheads”—if we leaned our heads close to yours, you’d lower your head and lean in to touch foreheads with us. You were gentle about it, and it was clearly a sign of affection. Your grandparents certainly loved it. :)

You’re smart. Sassy. Stubborn. Goofy. Smiley. FUNNY! Determined. Flexible, but also demanding. Completely adorable (I mean, seriously). You don’t have a ton of nicknames, because Viv, Vivi, and Vivienne already give us a lot of options. But I do call you “Mush” and “Baby” sometimes. Oh, and sometimes? Vivi May.

At bedtime, you’ve been a dream about letting me snuggle you lately. Usually not for long, but it’s enough time to make my heart full. You rest your head against my chest and I’ll sing a couple of songs to you—usually Twinkle Twinkle and Jesus Loves Me. Thank you so much for giving me those moments. You’ll never know how much I cherish them.

When Nora turned 1, I distinctly remember rocking her the night before her birthday, sobbing over her. I was a huge mess of emotions—both happy and sad—and it all spilled out through my tears. I’m going to be honest: I didn’t cry for your birthday. But you know what? It’s not because I love you any less. It’s not because I wasn’t emotional. It’s because I have been through this before, and now I know. I know that although it makes me wistful to watch you leave your babyhood behind, there is so much to look forward to. I know the joys that lie ahead. I know the blessing that is your life and how lucky we are to have it, and that there is really no reason to cry. So instead of giving you a crying, bumbling mess of a mother on your first birthday, you have the gift of an experienced mother who now has a greater perspective on this whole “my baby is growing up” thing.

Don’t get me wrong—it still makes me a little sad that you’re growing so fast. Particularly because I’m pretty certain you’re our last baby. But crying isn’t going to change anything, my love. Having the presence of mind and heart to live in the moment and be thankful for each day we have together? That’s how I’m trying to live my life now. Sure, I’m not perfect at it, but I’m trying. I’m still learning. So when I sat with you on your birthday and snuggled you before bed, all I could think about was how happy I am to have had the experience of your first year, and how much I am looking forward to the rest.

I pray that you will have a long and healthy future full of many joys and few sorrows. I will be with you to celebrate the happy times and help get you through the sad ones.

Thank you, sweet girl. Thank you for being my daughter, and for being distinctly you. I’m so privileged to be your mommy and thankful for being given the chance to do this again, this time with the wisdom I lacked the first time. Thank you for teaching me that love like this is possible for a second time. (The love really does multiply—your heart just doubles in size.)

Happy Birthday, Vivienne May. I love you more than you can imagine.

Love,
Mommy

 

“Mommy, why do you have earrings?”

The question came while I was tucking Nora into bed at my dad’s last weekend. I hadn’t really considered how I would answer, so I kept it simple. “Because I like them,” I replied.

“I want earrings, too!” she said with a big smile on her face.

And suddenly it was upon us.

I had my ears pierced when I was 3 years old. My mom said I asked for them, so she took me—plain and simple. I always figured we would take a similar approach. Whenever I’d see this question or debate—on Facebook, on moms’ groups or whatever—I would always say, “We’re waiting until she asks for them.” I didn’t know if that would be when she was three, six, ten, or seventeen. I just thought we would cross that bridge when we came to it.

Now we’re there.

There’s an excited part of me that thinks, Perfect! She’s asked. Her 4th birthday is coming up soon. We can make it special. Let’s do it. But then another part of me is putting my foot on the brakes thinking, Wait! Really? Not yet! She’s only four.

I’ll begin this by saying that there is definitely not a “right” answer here, which is true for most issues in parenting. That’s what makes it so hard, right? They don’t come with a manual.

Personally, I chose not to pierce my daughters’ ears when they were babies because I didn’t see the need for it, and it was something permanent (and purely cosmetic) being done to their bodies—I felt like they should have a say in it. Hence my position about waiting until Nora asked. But now that she is asking, I’ve found myself reconsidering that line of thinking because, Hello! She’s only 4! Is she really capable of making a decision like that for herself at this age? But then again, in all seriousness, at what age are children actually capable of making a decision like that for themselves? Because there are teenage children who make some pretty stupid choices they go on to regret, so clearly even they can’t be trusted.

My boss’s daughter had her ears pierced this past spring, on her 8th birthday. Out of curiosity, I asked him at the time: “Why 8?” He shrugged his shoulders and laughed, “A few years ago, we just randomly determined she could get earrings when she was 8. It seemed like a good age to do it.” It was completely arbitrary, you guys.

So is that how this goes? Michael and I just have to pick a random age?

Is it now? Why not do it? Where’s the harm in it?

Or is it later? Why the wait? When is the “right” time?

This is a tough one. I thought I had it all figured out, but I don’t. I think a big part of my hesitation is just my struggling to come to terms with the fact that she’s actually old enough to ask for them. *sigh*

If you have a little girl… when did you pierce her ears, or when do you plan to? And, of even greater interest… how did you make your decision? What are your reasons for the timing you have chosen?

 

Today is my beloved Vivienne May’s first birthday.

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year already. It’s funny to think about how a year ago at this time, I was in labor—just an hour or so away from meeting my baby for the first time. I didn’t even know if she was a boy or a girl and wasn’t positive about what her name would be, so I certainly didn’t know anything about who she would be. And I still have much to learn as she grows.

But today, I wish the happiest of birthdays to my sweet, loving, smart, spunky, trouble-making, adorable Vivienne. I love her so much.

I’ll talk a lot more about her and my feelings about the big birthday in her 12-month post (with pics!), which realistically probably won’t be coming for another day or two. Because in case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been quiet the last 10 days or so. Why? Because we’ve been at the beach!

We traveled down to the Outer Banks in North Carolina to spend a week at the beach with friends. Nine adults, seven children. It was a ton of fun, but also exhausting (a “vacation” with kids is not really a vacation at all, is it?!).

If you follow me on Instagram (@heatherkj), you’ve already gotten a pretty good taste of what we were up to all week. But for everyone else, here’s a quick peek:

These are only a handful of my favorites. So many more photos. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to sift through them all very soon and choose many more to share. Right now, we’re at my dad’s in Virginia (his house makes a very good pit stop between the OBX and home!) to enjoy Vivienne’s birthday before we head home tomorrow.

So, excuse me while I go snuggle my baby toddler. I’ll leave you with one more pic of the birthday girl…

She cracks me up. I love her so much!

 

Michael completed his first-ever triathlon a few weeks ago. I wish I could say it had been me, but the fact of the matter is that I’m in horrible shape, and Michael is in great shape. So much so that he did the darn thing without even training for it, whereas if I did that, I would probably die.

He was up super early on triathlon morning and headed to the race site. Nora, Vivienne, my mom and I followed a few hours later, aiming to get there by the time he came out of the water from completing the swimming portion. We were late—got on the road later than planned, then parked in the wrong place at first—so we missed him during the first transition, but we were there and ready for when he returned from the cycling.

While we waited, we had Nora work on a sign for her daddy.Vivienne was content just to empty the markers container, fill it back up again, empty it again, and so on. She does that with everything these days—including my purse if she can get her hands on it!

After a little while, we finally spotted Michael coming down the way.While he was in Transition 2, we were able to cross over so we were there when he took off for his run. And then we were right at the finish line when he came back.Michael was definitely happy to be done! It was “only” a sprint triathlon—so a 750-meter swim, a 16.1-mile bike, and a 3.1-mile run. He’ll be the first to say that his time was not great, but given that he didn’t even freakin’ train? I’m still pretty impressed. And Nora was proud of her daddy, even though she told him afterward, “Next time, I want you to win!” :) It was my first time ever attending a race like this, and it was actually really inspiring. As soon as he was done, Michael was already talking about going back to do it again next year—he plans to train next time!—and who knows? Maybe it’s something I’ll be disciplined enough to train for some day, too.

I’m still working on figuring out what kind of exercise is going to fit into my life with my full-time job and commitment to my family. I have yet to find a good solution that doesn’t involve me compromising in areas I don’t want to compromise. It’s tough. Now that Vivienne is about to be a year old, and my job is more flexible than my past one, I’m hoping that I will be able to start something soon. I’m considering CrossFit—Michael does it and loves it, as do some of my friends—but the schedule is still a little problematic. And it’s kind of expensive! :(

Anyway, I digress.

After the triathlon, we ended up at a restaurant on the lake to eat lunch. It was such a beautiful day, so it was a perfect afternoon for it—and a great way for Michael to celebrate his accomplishment.

Overall, a great summer day with our family’s triathlete! :)

 

When I was growing up, we NEVER used sunscreen. NEVER.

{Me, circa 1990, when summers were made for non-stop sun and swimming}

Every summer, my brothers and I spent eight weeks with my dad in Virginia. My dad, grandparents, and cousins all lived on the same street (small town!) and my grandparents had a great in-ground pool. While my dad was at work, we spent the entirety of our days with our cousins, in the pool. ALWAYS IN THE POOL. In all of the photos of my childhood summers, we are BROWN. So brown. The most amazing, gorgeous tans you can imagine. A tan I would kill to have in my adulthood—if I was OK with getting skin cancer. Which I’m obviously not OK with. But when we were kids, no one worried about sunscreen or sunburns.

It’s amazing how drastically things can change in 20 years, huh?

Today, as a mom, I’m horribly concerned with protecting my children from the sun. I know the damage UVA rays can do, and just how risky exposure to UVB rays can be. So I’ve been pretty good about using sunscreen on Nora (and now Vivienne). http://goddessgarden.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Effects-of-UV-rays-on-skin1.jpg

Then I started learning more about sunscreens themselves, which was a complete eye-opener. It’s SO DEPRESSING, you guys, to learn that the products you’re putting on your child to protect them can actually be doing more harm than good. I may have been protecting her from the dangers of cancer-causing UVB rays… but I was using sunscreens with cancer-causing ingredients to do it. My former favorite? The spray sunscreens. So easy, so fast, so convenient. Come to find out they are like the WORST possible thing you could be using. Go figure.

If you’re curious about how your current sunscreens rank in the safety department, check out the Environmental Working Group’s 2014 Guide to Sunscreens. When it comes to this guide, the lower the score, the better. Scores 0-2 (green) are considered “low hazard”; scores 3-6 (yellow) are “moderate hazard”; scores 7-10 (red) are “high hazard.”

The sunscreens we’ve used in the past are all in the “high hazard” category, unfortunately. Since I was armed with this new (to me) information, I couldn’t NOT make a change this summer. I knew I had to find something more safe for my kids. I started searching for safe sunscreens that also happened to be sprays. As it turns out, that’s a very tall order. If you ask the experts, sprays in general = unsafe. Period.

But then I found Goddess Garden.

http://goddessgarden.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/WIYS-11x17.jpgGoddess Garden is a mineral sunscreen. The bad, dangerous kinds are chemical sunscreens. When you classify them like that, it’s easy to tell which one you should avoid, right? Chemical sunscreens sound icky by default. Unfortunately, many of them are “chemical cocktails” that can do more harm than good. Apparently, the biggest danger in chemical sunscreens is an ingredient called oxybenzone. It’s a hormone disruptor that can negatively impact the immune system and mimic estrogen. Other common harmful ingredients include: octinoxate (hormone disrupter, reproductive toxicity); retinyl (reproductive toxicity, organ system toxicity, possible carcinogen); synthetic fragrances; and alcohol.

Goddess Garden sunscreens contain none of these things.

As I mentioned, I first found Goddess Garden through a search for mineral sunscreen sprays. And as far as I know, they are the only ones to offer mineral sunscreen in a continuous spray like this.

Now, I have to point out that it’s not the same as the sprays you come across with other brands—and that’s why it’s safer. The nice thing about the continuous spray over a traditional lotion is that it helps to evenly disperse the sunscreen over the body (just like the nasty sprays). The difference is that with Goddess Garden, you still have to rub it in after you spray. If you actually read the directions on traditional spray sunscreens, you’re technically supposed to rub those in, too—but I never did.

http://goddessgarden.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Sunny-Kids-Sport-6oz-Continuous-Spray.jpgGoddess Garden Sunny Kids Sport Spray

Pros: IT’S A SPRAY! Rubs in easily. A little bit goes a long way. It’s safe!
Cons: You have to rub it in. But like I said, you’re supposed to do that anyway, so it’s hard to hold that against Goddess Garden.

One thing to note about the Sunny Kids Sport Spray is that its EWG rating is “only” a 3. That puts it just out of the “low hazard” range and into the low end of the “moderate hazard” range, unfortunately. However, Goddess Garden says this: “…our sprays (both trigger and continuous sprays) have an EWG rating of 3 instead of 1 like the rest of our sunscreens. The only actual difference between our continuous spray and our traditional lotion is that the sprays don’t have Shea butter. Other than that, the ingredient list is exactly the same. The EWG is concerned about inhalation of airborne particles—namely zinc and titanium. … The zinc and titanium that we use in our sprays is actually the EXACT SAME NON-NANO zinc and titanium that we use in our lotions. The average particle size is 120nm. The range in particle sizes is 100nm to 130nm. Most definitions of “nano-particles” are under 100nm.”

Honestly, I really believe it’s fine. When we spray this sunscreen, there is no “cloud” of mist. You don’t feel like you are breathing anything in like you do with typical spray sunscreens. I think EWG is docking Goddess Garden Sunny Kids Sport Spray’s rating simply because it’s a spray—and to be better safe than sorry. In comparison, though? This spray has a rating of 3, while our old sprays were rated at 7 or more. HUGE improvement.

Although I would feel perfectly fine using the spray on Vivienne, we’ve been using another one of Goddess Garden’s sunscreens on her—Sunny Baby.

http://goddessgarden.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Sunny-Baby-3.4oz.jpg

Goddess Garden Sunny Baby Natural Sunscreen

Pros: Easy to spread and rub in. Much less greasy than a lot of sunscreens. A little bit really does go a long way.
Cons: Sometimes seems to “reappear” on the surface of the skin when the kids get wet in the pool or whatever. Its consistency is a bit thin, which is great as far as the rubbing in is concerned, but also means you can sometimes accidentally squirt out WAY more than you need. So be careful; squeeze the tube gently. :)

The price for this can seem steep when you look at the size of the tube, but I’m not kidding when I say that this will last a while. You don’t need a lot to cover those little body parts!

Goddess Garden Sunny Baby has an EWG rating of 1. Considered very low hazard!

http://goddessgarden.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Sunny-Face-3.4oz.jpgGoddess Garden Sunny Face Natural Sunscreen

Adults are not left out! Goddess Garden makes sunscreens for us, too. Of course, you can also use any of the stuff labeled Sunny Baby and Sunny Kids as well, but should you be looking for yourself, check out Goddess Garden Sunny Face Natural Sunscreen.

The pros and cons are honestly exactly the same as those I’ve listed above for Sunny Baby. Goddess Garden Sunny Face also has an EWG rating of 1.

Goddess Garden has been keeping us protected from the sun for several weeks now, and I’m very happy with this family of products. I feel much better about what I’m slathering all over my kids now. And good thing, because we’ll be going on vacation to the beach very soon! A week in the sun, sand, and water means we’ll be really putting this stuff to the test.

I want YOU to be able to put it to the test, too. And for one lucky winner, Goddess Garden will be making that possible. Three cheers for a giveaway! Up for grabs is a Goddess Garden product package. If you win, you choose ONE of the following packages:

  1. Goddess Garden Sunny Kids Sport Spray (6 oz.); Goddess Garden Sunny Face Natural Sunscreen (3.4 oz.); Goddess Garden Sunny Baby Natural Sunscreen (3.4 oz.)
  2. Goddess Garden Sunny Kids Sport Spray (6 oz.); Goddess Garden Sunny Face Natural Sunscreen (3.4 oz.); Goddess Garden Sunny Body Natural Sunscreen (3.4 oz.)
  3. Goddess Garden Sunny Kids Sport Spray (6 oz.); Goddess Garden Sunny Face Natural Sunscreen (3.4 oz.); Goddess Garden Sunny Kids Natural Sunscreen (3.4 oz.)

http://goddessgarden.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/WholeFamilyGrp.jpg

The differences between the packages lie in the third product—you can choose whether you want Sunny Baby, Sunny Body, or Sunny Kids. Truthfully, any of these can be used on any member of your family; it’s all in the name! :) Still, your choice.

One winner will be announced next Friday, July 25 (giveaway ends at noon on that same day).

To enter to win, use the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: Goddess Garden provided sunscreen for us to try at no charge in exchange for my review. However, opinions expressed within this post are my own. Goddess Garden is also sponsoring the associated giveaway.