Anna H.When my world was crashing down 2 years ago it was Anna that helped me stay on my feet and be there for my daughter. When Lou was born we had a very very rough 5 days of basically living in the NICU. We were in complete fear and each day brought new fears and new tests. Joey and I are very lucky to have wonderful friends and family that were there for us. And then there was Anna. I have never met Anna, in real life. At the time she was living across the country. But somehow, for some reason we had found each others blogs and that lead to Facebook friends and she was amazing during the time Louella was in the hospital. She sent me a message that basically said that she had been following our family story for so long that she felt like part of it. She was worried for us and she sent me encouraging messages and in a way was right next to me throughout the entire ordeal. I don't think I ever told her this, but just knowing that Anna was out there, a woman with a life and a family of her own who had never met us, was thinking about us and pulling for Louella made me feel better. She wrote to me...
"I am so sorry that you've had this experience. It's going to be one of those stories that she wants to hear over and over again as a little girl. She's going to want to hear all about how she's a tough, strong little warrior who made it through the storm! "
So much better. It was what I needed to hear at the exact time I needed to hear it. It gave me enough strength to be there for my Louella. And even when I read it now it brings tears to my eyes. Recently Anna and her beautiful girls and husband, packed up and moved to California. Maybe now we can meet one day.
I interviewed Anna and here is what she had to say.....
How many kids do you have?
I have two children. They are sixteen months apart in age. Bunny turned 8 this month and Lila will be 7 in August.
Will you have more?We tried to have another child, but with no luck. We spent 2011 in fertility treatments, but facing month after month of failed pregnancy attempts was too hard on my family. Eventually we decided to stop
trying and decided to enjoy what we have rather than focusing on what we wish we had.
I probably walk the line of being a helicopter parent, though I should be ashamed because it's perceived as being such a negative thing. I will admit that I am probably a helicopter parent. My thought is that I try to be as accessible to my children as possible. I don't love that my girls are away from me for so many hours of the day and I do tend to do a lot of volunteer work at the school for this reason. I have one daughter who always wants me to be in her classroom and one daughter who never wants me around. That said, I never impose on my daughter who asks for more space. I listen to the wants of my children and respond to them.
Are you a Nap Nazi?
Nope. My girls are too old for naps now anyway, but I have one child who rarely napped, even as a newborn. I remember taking her to the pediatrician at about two weeks old and questioning all of that information out there that said that babies sleep for 20-some hours out of the day. She told me that babies who don't sleep become children who don't sleep. I am sad to report that this was true for us. People require different amounts of rest.
Stickler for routine and schedules?
No. I do like routine and schedules, but I will vary ours to a degree when necessary. The only thing that I insist on is that my children do their homework immediately after coming in from school and that they have a reasonable bed time. If they can't sleep, I'm okay with allowing them to just chill out in bed until they feel tired, but they need to be bathed, brushed and in bed by 8:30 each night.
Most surprising thing about parenthood?
Everything about parenting surprised me. I hadn't spent much time with kids previous to getting pregnant with my first daughter and I doubt that I had ever held a baby until I held my own. We were the first of our friends to have children and neither of us come from huge families. Though this probably sounds very generic, I'd say that I am the most surprised by how much I enjoy my children and how much I learn about life from them. They have both stretched my heart more than I ever imagined possible, and they also tested me in ways that have made me realize my breaking points and boundaries and in turn grow as a person.
Is your partner the type of parent you imagined them to be?
No, definitely not. I'm not sure what kind of parent I thought Jay would be, but he surpasses my expectations at every turn. He's a very hands on and present parent, more so than most dad's I meet. I can really lean on him and depend on him and always have been able to. He's creative and loving and definitely steps up to meet me in the middle so that my girls can have as strong a relationship with him as they do with me.
Where did your kids names/nicknames come from?
Bunny's actual name is Kaitlyn. She was named after my sister who passed away the year before she was born. No one was ready to call her Kaitlyn yet, so when she was born on Easter Sunday we all began referring to her as my Bunny. Who knew that it would stick!? To this day, all of her teachers, peers, doctors, dentist, friends and family call her Bunny. She knows that her name is Kaitlyn, but has never felt connected to it and doesn't use it. Lila's name is from the Sweet Valley High character, Lila Fowler. Also, it's the name of the "coolest girl my husband has ever known."
Did you enjoy pregnancy?
I had THE MOST MISERABLE pregnancy with Bunny imaginable. I gained 80 lbs and everything ached. I was sick and gross and swollen and uncomfortable and so emotional! I ended up breaking my ankle at 8 months pregnant and spent the last month of my pregnancy in a cast, unable to drive myself anywhere!
My pregnancy with Lila was the exact opposite experience. I felt so beautiful and was active until she was born. I didn't' get terribly sick and stayed pretty emotionally stable throughout the entire pregnancy (though my husband may disagree). When it was time to have Lila I cried because I didn't feel ready to give up my pregnancy (and maybe my sleep) yet.
What’s the best parenting advice you have ever received?
Your kids don't care if the cookies you make with them are from scratch. They only care that you're making them. And everything is more manageable after a full nights sleep.
What is your favorite baby gear? Must haves?
The boppy pillow. I give one to every pregnant women I know. And the Ergo Baby. These are simple things that I leaned on and wouldn't have wanted to live without.
What is your parenting philosophy?
This is a tough question. I guess if I had to define my parenting I'd say it's most inline with attachment parenting. I try to listen and value and respect my children. I always want my girls to feel that they are responsible for themselves and have control over their bodies and lives. They set their own expectations and as long as their actions reflect the people who they want to be, I am supportive of them. I don't push them into anything, but I do follow their lead. As a parent I feel that I am here to guide and support. I don't feel that it's appropriate for me to choose who my children should be, but to help them and encourage them. This has worked well for our family so far.
When you were 16 did you imagine your life would end up where it is now?
Oh lord, no. I thought that I'd be a soap opera star living in New York City.
What is the ideal Mother’s Day gift?
There is nothing in the world that makes me happier than flowers. They truly make my heart beat pure joy. Traditionally, I always get plants and lovelies to use in my backyard. I'm the sort of person who is almost always outside and the functionality and aesthetics of my yard are extremely important to me. I spend every day outside doing yard work on Mother's Day and can't think of anything I'd rather be doing.
How do you keep the romance alive in your relationship after kids?
This question has me stumped and I think it's because we are not at all romantic. Like, my husband calls me "babe" as a joke. We are affectionate and nice to each other, but not romantic to any degree. We are silly and ridiculous and laugh a lot, but we don't do romance. I guess there are small romantic gestures, like my husband will download a book he knows I want and I'll make him those special potatoes he likes... but that's more about consideration and less about romance.
Jay and I were only dating for three months when I became pregnant with Bunny, so we haven't known life without kids. I think it might be easier that way because we never had to make that transition into parents. This is just how it's always been. That said, we used to drink more, that's for sure.
What is your favorite thing to do with your kids?
I love going on adventures to nowhere. I like getting in the car and driving without any true destination. We stop at any place that catches our eye, try new food, meet new people and enjoy our spontaneous adventure! This is especially fun in our brand new state.
What was your favorite book from childhood?
I loved The Velveteen Rabbit when I was very small. And in Elementary school I really ate up those Christopher Pike books. Of course, I also read the Sweet Valley Twin and Sweet Valley High book and by the time I was in 5th Grade I had devoured every VC Andrew book that I could get my hands on.
How do you deal with discipline in your house?
We try not to yell (though we're not always successful). Our kids are pretty reasonable and we're usually able to talk to them about what has happened. If they are honest with us, they often do not have consequences for their actions. We hope to teach them at an early age that they can be honest with us and that they can use us to clear their conscience and give them good advice. If we do have to dole out punishments, we can usually withhold things like playdates and tv. That's pretty effective. I think that kids need to know what to expect from their parents in terms of discipline and consistency is the key to success.
Do you have a picky eater? How do you handle that?
I am arrogant enough to say that I think picky eaters are made (and I can imagine all of the parents of children who only eat nuggets and pizza rolling their eyes at me). Of course, I have been blessed with two children who will try anything and like most things... so what do I know? We have never allowed our children to have "special food." They eat what we are having and have done so since they were under a year old. I always have meals with an assortment of food on their plates, so if they don't like one thing, they can eat the other. If they don't like the other, they can be hungry. No exceptions.
What is your favorite meal to make for your kids?
Lila loves chicken pot pie and Bunny like citrus stuffed chicken. I once made the girls Chinese food and though it was terrible, it remains legendary in their imaginations.
Who is your Mom-spiration?
I hope that this doesn't sound like a copout, but I am sincerely inspired by every mom that I know. I am inspired by women who are mindful and feel good about their parenting choices, even and (maybe especially) when they differ from my own. I like women who are true to themselves and comfortable in their skin.
Where do you go first when you need parenting advice?
I definitely go to my mom first. If she doesn't pick up I call my friend Julia and listen to what she has to say. Then I ask my friend Laura. Both of these women parent similarly to me and I can trust them not to judge myself or my children when I'm honest about situations and reactions that I don't' feel good about or proud of. By the end of these conversation I usually have it figured out.
You recently moved to a new state. How did you prepare your kids for the move?
My poor, poor children. We were living in the city of Philadelphia for years before deciding to move out to the burbs. Last summer we packed up our urban family and moved to rural NJ. The girls were okay with the change and transitioned pretty smoothly into their new school and neighborhood. None of us knew that just four months later we'd be packing up to move AGAIN. With only one months notice we moved from New Jersey to California. My girls were devastated. There was little notice and because it was a corporate transfer, we had to live in temporary housing for a month while we shopped for a house to live in. Everyone was upset, but we explained to them that just as we had moved out of the city because it would lead to a better life, we were moving to California in order to give them a better life. We moved the week between Christmas and New Years, which was very difficult on us all. Truth be told, my girls have settled in beautifully and California is responsible for their great transition. I mean, it is more wonderful here than we had expected and our lives are about 1 million times better in every respect. Myself, my husband and our girls left the east coast and never looked back.
Anna you helped me get through the worst 5 days of my life. I am very grateful for that. Happy Early Mother's Day and I can't wait to read all about your first summer here in Sunny California.And for the record I really thought Bunny's name was Bunny all these years!
You can find Anna and follow her California Adventures over at her blog The Rocky Holler Picture Show!